Monday, September 16, 2019

Stand Out on College Apps with Personalized Essay

High school students in the midst of the college application process are most likely working on The Common Application that is accepted by more than 800 colleges, including the majority of institutions most popular with New Jersey students.  It requires one essay, and students can choose from a variety of topics or one of their own creation.  Due to the importance of writing an interesting, grammatically correct, essay most students get help from a variety of sources. In many schools, the writing of this essay is incorporated into the English IV curriculum with teachers editing their students’ rough drafts. Often parents, relatives or friends offer their input as well. At times, a private counselor is hired to insure that an impressive essay is submitted that is likely to garner the approval of college admissions officers.  The end result, according to colleges, is that most of the essays they receive are good enough to be published. The problem: they seldom reflect the students’ independent work.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Get Paperwork Ready For October 1st FAFSA Launch

Families of college-bound students can soon learn exactly how much the federal government thinks they can afford to contribute to their child’s college education.  The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, usually referred to as the FAFSA, will go live at 1:00 a.m. on October 1st at This is the one form that all parents must file if they hope to get any federal money for college. 

The newest FAFSA will use financial information from a family’s 2018 taxes.  Most people will be able to make use of a “shortcut” offered on the FAFSA, which is the I.R.S. Data Retrieval Tool.  As long as you have already filed your 2018 taxes, you can check off that you want the FAFSA to link into your previously filed taxes and automatically fill in the numbers on all of the financial questions.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Cut Time, Money and Stress on the Road to Success

College bound students who know what they want to do with their life can often cut years of education, a great deal of stress, and a substantial amount of money from their higher education experience.

Many colleges offer dual degree programs whereby students move right into a Masters or Doctorate degree program upon completing their undergraduate education.  They often do not have to take entrance exams, eliminating the need to repeat the stressful process of preparing for, and taking, standardized tests.  Basically, as long as they meet certain requirements during their undergraduate years, they move right into the advanced degree program in their chosen field.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Student Checklist for Early College Planning

Labor Day Weekend has arrived, and in many ways it’s similar to New Years Day.  It’s the start of a new year -- not the calendar year, but the academic year.  For students, it’s the perfect time to make mental (or paper) checklists to be sure that they’re on track to meet all of their future goals.

Students should carefully consider their schedule for the new school year, to be sure that the courses they will be taking will allow them to complete all of the courses they want to have under their belt by graduation day.  For example, students with dreams of attending a top college to major in engineering should be sure to get through calculus while in high school.  If they’re not on track to do so, perhaps they should double up on math this year.

Students who recognize that demonstrated leadership is an important quality to college admission officers may want to join a club or organization, of which they are particularly passionate, early in their high school years. Through dedicated involvement as freshmen and sophomores, the opportunity for leadership roles will be great in junior and senior years.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Strategies for Scoring High on the PSAT/SAT Exams

More than a million students nationwide, including almost every Sophomore and Junior in Montgomery, will anguish over the PSAT or SAT exam in October. What all of these high schoolers need to do is go into the test feeling confident and well versed on the strategies for success.

First of all, students should be sure to answer each and every question – whether they know the answer or not. They are not penalized for wrong answers so even random guessing will, according to the Laws of Probability, give students credit one out of four times. Intelligent guessing – eliminating poor choices and then taking an educated guess – results in even better odds!

On the Reading section, students should pay extra attention to the “duo” questions where two points are at stake.  Students are asked one question based on the passage, and then a second question asking in which of four lines the answer can be found.  It’s often easier to read the four lines first and identify which one answers the previous question. 

Students should likewise carefully consider the “vocabulary in context” questions.  For example, if asked to choose between “retire,” “evacuate,” “vacate,” or “depart,” students need to consider the context of the sentence as all of these words mean “to leave,” but are seldom interchangeable.

On the grammar section that is titled, “Writing and Language,” it’s vital that students recall the proper use of the comma, semi-colon, colon and hyphen.  It’s also important for students to examine each question for correct tense, structure and word choice. Students should think of themselves as journalists for this section, as the correct answer is usually the shortest, most succinct way of wording a sentence.

On the two Math sections, one that allows the use of a calculator and one that does not, students should use their test booklet as scrap paper as none is provided.  Students should also refer to the box of math formulas that is provided on the direction page, but should memorize two important formulas that are not included: the center-radius form of the circle equation and the quadratic formula.  The highest level of math on the test is trig, and students usually just need to know that, in a right triangle, sin x = cos y.

The best strategy is to prepare, well in advance of the test day, with prior tests written by College Board, in order to be proficient in the material tested and knowledgeable of the directions for each section.

To download a free Strategy Guide, with detailed advice and examples for each test section, visit 

Susan Alaimo is the founder of SAT Smart. For the past 25 years, SAT Smart’s Ivy League educated tutors have prepared students for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, Subject Tests, AP courses, and all high school subjects. Visit or call 908-369-5362.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Experience An Unbelievably Luxurious College Life

College living is not what it used to be.  In fact, students at many colleges and universities across the country may find themselves experiencing such a luxurious lifestyle that they will have a hard time replicating it any time soon after graduation.

While most colleges host a rec center, the one at University of Missouri was named the best in the country by Sports Illustrated.  It includes a gym that’s almost 300,000 square feet, and a palm-tree shaded lazy river complete with a waterfall.

Students who are avid skiers might look towards Dartmouth College, which has sent student skiers to the Winter Olympics in past years. They get plenty of practice right at school, as this Ivy League institution owns Dartmouth Skiway where students can get a season pass for only $99.

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Most Beautiful College Campuses in the Country

If you want to live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, why not do so during your college years? There are college campuses that are waterfront (Eckerd College in Florida, Texas A & M, University of California – San Diego, University of Hawaii at Manoa), others that are nestled in mountain ranges (Washington and Lee University in Virginia, University of North Carolina – Ashville, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Bates College in Maine), and still others that are center stage in the midst of thriving urban environments (New York University, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Georgetown in our nation’s capital).

Although beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, there are some college campuses that are universally considered to be among the most attractive in the country.  Princeton University in Central Jersey, the fourth oldest university in the country, is typically on every list of stunning college campuses due in part to its Gothic architecture.  This same architecture also graces the grounds of Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, another school with an extremely impressive campus.