Monthly Archives: April 2016

College admissions: What’s really important?

Laura and I talk a lot about what success means, and what our individual students should be looking for in a college. It may surprise you to know that though Laura’s an Ivy League grad, we rarely try to nudge a student in that direction. Instead, we’re mostly concerned about helping students get accepted to the colleges that will allow them to learn the things that are most important to them and to grow as individuals.

That’s why we’re encouraged to see the Washington Post following Brennan Barnard, a college admissions counselor at a top-notch private college prep school in New Hampshire. Barnard caused a bit of a stir when he suggested last month that the college admissions process looks too much like the Hunger Games. Yesterday, he discussed the Colleges That Change Lives list and what students should really be looking for when they make their educational decisions.

We consider one of our most important jobs in this college prep game to be helping our students figure out what they want out of college. Sure, we’ll prepare them for the SAT. But the first thing we tell them is that the SAT isn’t the be-all and end-all. A high school junior who wants to go into social work or filmmaking doesn’t need a 1600 score on the SAT–she needs a good-enough SAT score along with experiences and activities that show her passion for helping people, or a film portfolio that demonstrates her skill in visual storytelling. Likewise, someone interested in engineering should shoot for a good-enough score (especially on the math sections) and spend his extra time working on robotics, coding, or building things. We’ve even suggested to students that the name (and the cost) of their undergraduate institution doesn’t matter nearly as much as its ability to get them positioned for a competitive graduate program.

As for the meaning of success–well, that depends on the person. We’re convinced, though, that a successful college experience is one that teaches a student to think independently, prepares him or her for meaningful work, and feeds a passion that already exists. And for that, there’s no such thing as one size fits all.

Old SAT, new SAT…Samgsung SAT?

Sure, the stakes are high in the U.S., where your SAT score can determine which schools will look at your application and which schools won’t. But in Korea, big companies have their own aptitude tests, and how you do on them could determine whether or not you get a job.

Samsung, for example, has its own SAT: the Samsung Aptitude Test. Along with math problems that look a lot like the problems the College Board comes up with, it also includes questions on logic, rotated three-dimensional shapes, and Asian history. It looks hard (I scored a 60 percent on my first try), but with the right preparation I’m sure it’s just as beatable as the college entrance SAT.

If I wanted to get a cushy corporate job with Samsung, I’d bone up on key events in Asian history, probably by making my own Timeline game. I’d practice looking at 3-D shapes to see which features would have to show up in certain rotations, and play some Perplexus while I was at it. I’d also work on a logic grid similar to the one I used when I took the GRE a decade and a half ago.

Intrigued? Read the full NPR story (and take a mini-Samsung Aptitude Test) here.