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How to Write your College Application Personal Essay

An application essay can help you gain admission to the college of your choice, provided that the essay is thoughtful and well written.  Most colleges regard the essay as quite important in determining which academically qualified students they actually admit. Your grades in school and SAT or ACT test score will be essential too, of course.  But a personal essay provides a more intimate and in-depth glimpse into who you are, and that can stand strongly in your favor.  Here in California, for example, the UCs give a lot of weight to your responses to the two essay prompts.

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SAT and ACT Prep: How Does Individual Tutoring Compare With a Class?

History of the SAT and ACT.  SAT/ACT preparation has been around for a long time.  In 1946 Stanley Kaplan started tutoring students in New York to do better on the SAT.  Kaplan’s business prospered and eventually offered classes nationwide. Princeton Review got into the act in the early ’80s, emphasizing “tricks” for “beating” the exam and advocating clever strategies to out-guess the test makers.  Recently Princeton Review was accused by Kaplan of false advertising. In the past decade there has been a proliferation of agencies offering SAT/ACT classes.  Many private tutors also offer lessons.   How does an agency class stack up against the instruction that a tutor offers?  

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Public Education: A Tutoring Perspective

As tutors who work one-on-one with students, usually after school hours or on week-ends, we are well positioned to witness the strengths as well as the weaknesses of American education. And we recognize that often our schools, public and private, are not educating well.

Too many students who enter high school are not among the ranks of the graduating seniors four years later. Too many students feel discouraged or distracted or defeated for one reason or another. And even those students who perform well in school are often not creatively challenged in their classes and are not learning up to their potential.

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Does Standardized Testing Interfere With Real Education?

Some critics argue that the obsession of the American educational system with standardized tests does more harm than good. These tests, including the ACT and SAT, measure learning only in numerical terms. But can a number tell us how much a student really understands? And should performance on a standardized test such as the SAT or ACT count so much in determining college admission? Although a student does not do well on a test, he or she may still have an interest in learning and a great potential to learn.

Standardized testing, then, is an instrument that has important limitations. Nevertheless, you will find that preparing for the SAT or ACT can contribute positively to your education.

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Facts and Myths about Preparing for College

Preparing for college is a project that many high school students, along with their families, find challenging, if not bewildering. What classes should I take to maximize my chances of getting into a college of choice? What extracurricular activities and community service will best strengthen my college application? Should I take the ACT or SAT? Should I take both of these tests? Should I attend a large university or a small liberal arts college? How many colleges should I visit during my junior year? Should I ask a teacher to write a personal recommendation for me? Can my family afford to pay for my college education?

These are all reasonable questions, and sometimes the answers to them are complex. I do find, though, when I speak with students and their families, that the following five mistaken beliefs are quite common:

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Welcome to Berkeley Tutors Network!

We have not yet begun blogging. But there is plenty to discuss. SAT and ACT preparation is not a static, unchanging project, either for those who take the test or for those of us who are tutors. Over time, the tests themselves change, and therefore preparation to do well on them needs to be kept up to date too.

In fact, the ways in which the tests have evolved might be a good subject for a blog entry. In any event, stay tuned!

Raymond Barglow

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