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Chats with Admissions Officers
We're introducing a new series at The Edge Prep. We're calling this series "Chats with Admissions Officers."
When I ask my students at the beginning of the application process what they think of admissions officers, they think of frightening people who are out to make their lives miserable. The admissions officer is cold and out to make your life miserable. His years of professionally rejecting thousands of qualified applicants have made it nearly impossible to excite him. You must impress him with your scholarly mind and incredible feats outside of the classroom, but mostly he yawns at your accomplishments and will eventually reject you.
This is funny, but understandable. Admissions officers have a well-earned reputation as rejection machines. And for good reason! If you flip through any college catalogue, you’ll notice that admissions rates are shockingly low. The admissions officers we’ve met with tend to be very warm people who like helping young people. If you speak with most of them, you hear stories about students they’ve pushed for and profiles that they found compelling. Rather than being heartless, a surprising number of them are caring, decent people who are trying to improve young people’s lives through education.
Students searching for scholarships will often find it difficult to find scholarships online. Schools may post scholarships, but it's difficult to determine whether you have a realistic shot. We'll try to push these admissions officers on exactly what they're looking for so you can determine whether you can realistically get a scholarship.
The other problem is that college websites and catalogues tend to look the same after awhile. There are usually shots of a green campus and vaguely diverse student body. You’ll see the words “learning” and “community” a lot. These interviews will try to cover ground that you can't find on the website or in the university catalogue.
We hope this series will allow you to get a closer look at colleges and universities from across the globe. There are a lot out there!
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When it comes to navigating American Test Prep, things are always a bit tricky. However, usually we can break things down into just "take the ACT/SAT, and if your not a native speaker, take the TOEFL."
However, when it comes to boarding schools, in particular the more prominent ones, students will need to take the SSAT or ISEE. While the ACT and SAT are rather straight forward, these tests can be a nightmare to navigate for both parents and students alike. In this article I will focus on the SSAT, its various versions, who should take them, and why its important to prepare for each of them.
How Many Levels are there?
There are 3 levels of SSAT, Elementary (Lower), Middle, and Upper levels. Unlike the past, all three of these levels now share a common direction, with the only difference being the difficulty level of the questions on the tests.
Who should take them?
This is actually a difficult question to answer. I often tell people that no one should really take any of them unless absolutely required, and the lower level test is almost never required.
The official guidance is as follows:
- Elementary - Grade 3-4
- Middle - Grade 5-7
- Upper - Grade 8-11
That said, its exceedingly rare for any boarding school to accept anything other than the upper level, so if your counselor is saying you need the middle level, you should double check.
What’s the difference between the different levels?
As mentioned above, there are 3 versions of the test with the primary difference being the level of difficulty. The Elementary test is quite a bit easier than the other two levels, but still includes the same core sections(Quantitative, Verbal(both synonyms and analogies), Essay, and Critical Reading) The Middle and Upper level tests share nearly all content, with the middle level test having a smaller range of overall content for the student to take. I have broken down the tests below.
- Math - Basic Algebra, Basic Geometry, Word Problems, and Arithmetic
- Reading - 30 questions in 1 passage-based section.
- Verbal - 15 Synonym and 15 Analogy questions
- Essay - On the elementary version of this test the essay involves writing a story about an image they provide. Only 15 minutes to write the essay.
For more information on the Elementary Level Test, you can read the SSAT's official breakdown of the test here.
Middle Level Test
- Only a Narrative style essay, 2 choices of topic. 25 minutes to write the essay.
- Math - Algebra, Geometry, Arithmetic, and more.
- Reading - 1 section with passage-based questions. These questions are very formulaic, and the strategies applied here will apply to any reading exam in the future. (Such as the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT)
- Verbal - 30 Synonym and 30 Analogy questions
For more information on the Middle Level Test, you can read the SSAT's official breakdown of the test here.
Upper Level Test
- A choice of a narrative or personal essay, 1 of each to choose from. 25 minutes to write the essay.
- Math is the same as the Middle Level Test, but offers a few more difficult question types
- Reading - Same as the Middle Level Test, but the passages are usually a bit longer and the questions more obscure.
- Verbal - Same as the Middle Level Test.
For more information on the Upper Level Test, you can read the SSAT's official breakdown of the test here.
Which schools currently require them?
This changes from time to time and the best advice anyone can give you is to check with the admissions team at that particular school. However, as of this writing, here are some of the schools which require the SSAT and which level is required for each.
- Hotchkiss School - Upper Level
- Blue Ridge School - Upper Level
- Cheshire Academy - Upper Level
- Concord Academy - Upper Level
- Cushing Academy - Upper Level
- Deerfield Academy - Upper Level
- Milton Academy - Upper Level
- Monteverde Academy - Upper Level
- Phillips Exeter Academy - Upper Level
- Salisbury School - Upper Level
For more schools that require the SSAT, you can go over to the SSAT's school search engine.
In a future article, I will write up more details on what type of preparation you should do for each of these tests. For this article though, I will only go into why its important to prep for any of these SSAT tests, something I can really sum up in just a few words.
The Verbal Section of this Test is Terrible!
That is all there is to it. This test forces kids to memorize hundreds to thousands of vocabulary words which are almost certainly never going to be used in any form of real-world context. It then requires them to be able to classify these words and identify relationships between second and third definitions for these obscure words. In short, the Verbal section is an absolute nightmare. The other sections of the test are actually quite good indicators of comprehension and ability and are very similar to what we've seen the ACT and SAT become over the years.
However the inclusion of the Verbal section essentially mandates that students start studying at least 6 months prior to the exam. Please note this only applies to the Middle and Upper Level versions of this exam, as the Elementary version of this test is, as described above, a very different test. Preparation for the Elementary version of the test should you need or want to take it for some reason, can be limited to a small amount of time, usually 5 hours or less, in order to get a good understanding of the framework and practice some questions.
So thats about it for this section, if you have further questions please feel free to contact me at email@example.com
If your looking for help on the test The Edge Prep has an AI powered self-learning program available. If its more live help your in need of, The Edge Tutors has dozens of available SSAT tutors for you to choose from.
About the Author
Chris Fuller has been teaching since 2006, and the SSAT for over 10 years. He has an MBA from The University of South Dakota, a B.A. in Economics from Temple University Japan Campus, and holds multiple teaching and technical certificates.
College Admissions Advice
Given the current worldwide lockdown, I've been asked about what steps I think need to be taken to mitigate COVID-19's impact on the college admissions process. Let me give you a checklist and themes to consider:
GPA - Some high schools are moving to pass/fail to not penalize students during this difficult time. Keep track of what would have been your grade so that you can either self report or ask your high school counselor to report on your teacher's behalf.
SAT/ACT/AP - With the cancellation of the SAT/ACT/AP until further notice, you should continue to study for those exams as if they were going to resume in the summer or fall, and concentrate on improving your GPA since that will get even higher weighting as the academic portion of your application.
Extracurricular Activities - ECAs are being canceled since schools are not in physical session. Last and this semester is dead, but the summer may be salvageable. Search and plan to upskill yourself in your ECAs through community organizations, summer programs, etc.
Summer Activities - In the likelihood that summer programs are canceled, look for online replacements for your summer programs. Were you planning on learning a skill or course at Harvard or UCLA summer school? Do they have a summer alternative? Do other programs have an alternative? Go hunting and welcome to online learning!
Online Learning - Yes, its here. It's been here for a while. At The Edge, we installed our online system The Edge Prep a couple years ago to facilitate our courses online. Right now all our students are learning on that system during the Hong Kong/China quarantines. I'm grateful that we planned ahead. You should too! Are there AP courses you planned to take in the fall that you could pre-study online? Are there test prep courses (at The Edge!) that you can take online rather than going to a physical center? Are there sports training apps or online courses you can take to improve your skill set within the safety of your home? Enroll now!
College Application Season & College Essays - Since we expect to lose some GPA semesters and ECA activities in our college profile by fall, we should expect that college will need to de-weight those and weight more heavily towards other factors such as college essays and possibly interviews. So its time to sharpen up your essay writing skills and collect your life stories to make sure you're ready to share the real you! Also, you may want to avoid the "My Life under COVID" as a main essay as I'm sure we're going to have a TON of those essays!
Need more advice? Contact me for an Initial Meeting!
CEO/Admissions Consultant - The Edge Learning Centers
CSO - RISE Education
We at the Edge Prep are excited to announce the launch of our SSAT course. Following the successful launch of our ACT and SAT courses, which have helped hundreds of students score higher in the short time they have been available, we now focus our sights on those students taking the demanding SSAT in hopes of scoring their way into a top boarding school.
The SSAT, much like the other courses comes loaded with custom content written by a team of highly trained academics, hours and drilling and review, and mock tests for the ultimate form of practice. All tied together using the custom AI engine developed by RealizeIT technologies for use within the world's elite universities.
Enough of the talk though, here is what you'll get with the SSAT Premium product.
- 6 months of unlimited access to the platform
- 100s of Drilling questions in each section
- 2 Full length highly accurate mock tests
- Over 30 hours of training material covering every area of the exam with key proven strategies.
- AI-powered adaptive learning to ensure that you're only studying the areas you need to.
- Access to Highly Trained Tutors through The Edge Tutors*
*Live Tutoring fees on Edge Tutors not included in the course fee. However, with your consent the tutors you select on Edge Tutors can access your Edge Prep summary stats and quickly assess and correct any areas of difficulty. Email us for more info.
Are you planning on going to the US or Canada for university, and just found out you need to take the ACT or SAT to gain acceptance? You only need one, so which one should you take?
Here is a Free mini-quiz designed to help you better understand the fundamentals of each test, making the decision to study one or the other easier.
Also, if you would like to try out real questions and learn some key strategies free of cost, try out our Freemium ACT and SAT products. These include dozens of real questions, expert advice, and more all rolled into the award-winning RealizeIT AI technology to help you improve faster than ever before.