Tag Archives: SAT I

A Visit to Georgetown University

13 Apr

When we visited Georgetown University in February, a gentle sprinkling of snow dusted the grounds and buildings of this prestigious Catholic university, rendering an entrancing effect to its traditional campus of collegiate Gothic and Georgian redbrick.  Located in the tony Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. overlooking the Potomac River, this university has become one of the most selective schools in the country.  It seems to combine all the desirable elements of top-notch academics, a nationally ranked basketball team, and a location in the nation’s capitol.

That morning, my daughter ventured into her first college class in elementary Chinese.  Georgetown offers prospective students opportunities to sit in on classes, a list of which can be found on its website.  As we waited for her to get out of class, I eavesdropped on two students sitting next to us.  They were discussing the on-going turmoil in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and American policy.  The earnestness of their conversation sparked a memory of listening to similar discussions thirty years ago at college: the on-going turmoil in the Middle East (Iran-Iraq war), Afghanistan (the Soviet invasion), and American policy.  Plus ça change…

Unfortunately, my daughter could not get a good feel for the Chinese class because it was too easy.  The professor conducted the class in Chinese and according to my daughter, she was funny and made jokes.  But since my daughter was the only one who understood the professor, she was the only one who laughed at the jokes.  Later, the professor said that she should have sat in on a third year class instead.  The professor also questioned whether my daughter should pursue a Chinese major because she already knew a lot of Chinese.  This confused and discouraged my daughter and I wished I had been present to ask follow up questions.  But we were trying to let her approach professors on her own.

Afterwards we met up with a friend’s daughter who attends Georgetown.  She brought us to a popular Georgetown hangout, The Tombs, for lunch.  Bright and articulate, Amy is a senior majoring in Russian with a minor in Chinese.  Over hamburgers and pasta, Amy shared the highs and lows of her Georgetown experiences with us.  She told my daughter not to worry about what the Chinese professor said because when she came to Georgetown, she had had a few years of Russian language instruction already.  She was able to take graduate level courses in Russian as well as advanced language courses in Chinese.  Overall she praised Georgetown’s language programs where class sizes are capped and everyone quickly gets to know one another.  Because of its location, she has taken advantage of internships in the Washington D.C. area and has received a job offer.  Georgetown was the right choice for her.

She warns though that the medium sized university of 6,400 undergraduates can be bureaucratic and because of the expensive tuition – about $39,768 for the 2010-2011 academic year – it attracts students mostly from upper middle-income families.  Room and board costs average $13,000 or more.  Because the University’s endowment is smaller than similarly ranked universities, it is less able to offer generous financial aid than its peers.

The university is better known for its international relations, language, business, and government and political science programs than its science and math programs.  A new science building is scheduled to open in 2012.  There are four undergraduate schools: arts and sciences, foreign service, business, and nursing and public health.  Each school has core curriculum requirements and in arts and sciences this amounts to taking English, theology, and philosophy courses.  In addition, the university offers early admission into its law and medical schools for qualified Georgetown undergraduates, an attractive option for pre-med and pre-law students.

As one of the highly selective colleges in the country, Georgetown admitted less than 18% of applicants this year.  It has a non-binding early action program but according to an admissions officer, the admission rate for early action is the same as regular decision.  The University requires either the SAT I reasoning test or the ACT test (writing portion optional) and three SAT II subject tests.

Check back for photos.

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Testing 1, 2, 3

18 Mar

Last Saturday morning the alarm on my cell phone chirped brightly at 6:15 a.m.  With a muttered oath and groan, I stuck my arm out from under the warm cocoon of my blankets to turn it off.  Five minutes later, it chirped again announcing that my snooze time was up.  Time to make the donuts.  Like Fred the baker from the 1980s Dunkin Donuts commercial, I stumbled into the bathroom, shuffling in my slippers.  In my pre-dawn haze, I wondered how swimming or ice skating parents do it every day, waking up at 4 a.m. to take their children to practice.

It was SAT exam day and it seemed like my daughter’s entire junior year class was taking it.  After weeks of test preparation and tutoring, this was it.  I made my daughter a hot breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast and packed some snacks and water.  By 7:30 I dropped her off at the test site and watched as she and other students disappeared into the school building.

Taking the SAT is a rite of passage for American teenagers applying to college.  Most colleges require submission of either the SAT I Reasoning test or ACT scores, although a growing number of colleges are now standardized test-optional.  According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing’s website, there are over 830 colleges that no longer use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of first year college students.  The list includes highly selective schools like Bates College, Bowdoin College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College.  These colleges have evidently determined that standardized tests are no longer a good predictor of college academic success.

In my posts I often compare the way things are with the way things were, if only because I’m at an age where I can.  Thirty years ago, everyone I knew took the SAT and dispensed with the ACT, which was more popular with students in the south and Midwest.  Thirty years ago, there was only one SAT; now there’s the SAT I Reasoning test, and myriad SAT II Subject Tests from biology to U.S. history.  The good news is, because colleges today will accept either the SAT I or ACT, students can pick the test that will better highlight their abilities.

Neither test is easy and the consensus is that the ACT tests knowledge while the SAT I tests aptitude.  There are other major differences:

  • The ACT does not penalize wrong answers while the SAT deducts one-quarter point per wrong answer.  So guess away on the ACT.
  • The ACT math section tests up to trigonometry while the SAT I tests up to geometry and algebra 2.
  • The ACT includes a science reasoning section that the SAT I does not have.

Lots of articles have been written about which test may be better for your child and here are two that summarize the issues succinctly: one by NPR and one in the New York Times.  Both were written in 2007 but the information is still relevant.  To help figure out which test is more suitable, students can do free practice tests on the Internet (see the College Board and ACT websites).

To complicate matters – and what’s not complicated in college admissions? – many colleges require SAT I scores along with at least two SAT II subject tests in lieu of the ACT test with writing alone (e.g., Swarthmore College).  This means that a student will need to take at least three SAT tests.  But then there are schools, like Carnegie Mellon University, that require applicants who submit their ACT scores to also submit two SAT II subject test scores.  So always double-check each college’s testing requirements.

All of this is a lot to think about and keep straight.  What’s more, students can take the tests more than once and many colleges say that they will consider the higher scores.  And there are different testing strategies to consider: picking one test and taking it more than once, taking both tests and submitting the better score, and variations thereof.  However way you look at it, it amounts to a lot of testing and test preparation in junior year.

Test-optional colleges, anyone?

 

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