Welcome to Edbrand's Newsletter. In this issue you can learn how to plan for upcoming SAT/ACT tests, discover how to avoid unnecessary college admissions stress, sign up for our upcoming events and workshops, and get to know Edbrand mentors.
Important: Dates for the three next SAT and ACT tests
1 Oct 2022 - Register by 2 Sep 2022
3 Dec 2022 - Register by 3 Nov 2022
11 Mar 2023* - Register by 24 Feb 2023
*Tentative date for the new Digital SAT
21-22 Oct 2022 - Register by 23 Sep 2022
9-10 Dec 2022 - Register by 11 Nov 2022
10-11 Feb 2023 - Register by 6 Jan 2023
*Please look up respective websites for more test dates in 2023. Always consult the official website to plan and register for these tests.
If you are an 11th grader then this timeline will be relevant for you:
If you are a 10th grader then this timeline will be relevant for you:
News: College Board announces big changes with the new Digital SAT
SAT will go digital from Spring 2023 so here’s what you need to know....
Meet Utkarsh Dube, our brand new in-house source of brilliant writing inspo! When Utkarsh isn’t dissecting the relationship between mathematics and poetry or cooking, he spends his time carefully reviewing student essays to make sure they convey students’ stories in the best way possible. He was part of the writing center at University of Washington, Seattle, so we’re in good hands! He majored in Comparative Histories, a unique major at an unexpected university. Utkarsh can’t stop talking about linguistics, travel, poetry, and Indian politics. If there’s one thing he wants students to keep in mind, it’s to not expect to have a great essay as soon as they start writing. The perfect draft is a work in progress. Hear him share some life gyaan on this Youtube video
Navigating College Admissions Stress - Arjun Seth In my 23 years as a mentor to high school students applying abroad, I thought I had seen it all. The stress during the current application season faced by students seem unprecedented....
These students tend to compare themselves to their peers and as a result end up feeling miserable. It only makes things worse when over involved parents, who helicopter the process with their kids, stoke the fire to an unbearable degree. A bright but concerned student, who reached out with an intent to work with me, confessed how working in this environment by herself had made her think that she wasn’t good enough. The recent pandemic only served to intensify the ways in which students pursued higher education. This only increased the levels of stress to newer heights, highlighting a genuine problem within the system.
Ironically, the process of college admissions wasn’t supposed to cause such distress. In all fairness, college admissions committees wanted to design a process that allowed applicants to showcase a holistic profile and enjoy the process of discovering right-fit colleges. Students were required to share information about their grades, test scores, extra-curricular activities and writing samples. An entrance test or cut-offs was replaced by a combination of objective and subjective factors that made the student 3-dimensional. The process was supposed to celebrate strengths, interests, achievements and backgrounds of a diverse range of students and not solely focus on one factor.
I have been mentoring high-school students with their plans to study abroad for over 23 years. Just before I thought I had seen it all, the pandemic hit and changed many things. The last 2 application cycles were intense, for everyone involved, to say the least.
High school students applying to highly-selective universities go through an unreasonable degree of stress during the application process. They constantly compare themselves with their peers and as a result end up feeling miserable. Over involved parents who helicopter the process with their kids stoke the fire to an unbearable degree. Ironically, the process of college admissions wasn’t supposed to cause such distress. In all fairness, college admissions committees wanted to design a process that allowed applicants to showcase a holistic profile and enjoy the process of discovering right-fit colleges. Students were required to share information about their grades, test scores, extra-curricular activities and writing samples. An entrance test or cut-offs was replaced by a combination of objective and subjective factors that made the student 3-dimensional. The process was supposed to celebrate strengths, interests, achievements and backgrounds of a diverse range of students and not solely focus on one factor.
Over time, the negativity bias prevailed and the college admissions process was unfortunately misinterpreted by counselors, students and parents. The search for a right-fit college for the student was no longer the goal. It was replaced by a frenzied race to make it to the highest ranked college and that too, at any cost. Social pressures fueled a sense of negativity, inferiority and enviousness - thus adding to the stress. Even high achievers today feel less accomplished intellectually, despite having top grades on their transcripts. Videos of successful candidates on Youtube or stellar profile summaries of seniors on “chance me” discussion threads aggravated this sense of underachievement. Often this leads to a mad scramble to do things that are fantastical and often over the top!
In this first inaugural article for this column I’d like to backtrack a bit and explain the basics. What do colleges mean by a holistic evaluation of candidates? I’ll be sharing insights from deans and directors of admissions from the most selective universities abroad.
Listed below are four factors that explain the admissions process.
Colleges look at the academic potential of an applicant and try to figure out if the student will be able to thrive in their intellectual environment.
Admissions officers wish to know how a candidate will contribute to student life on campus. They decipher this by reading the list of extracurricular activities/achievements or in some cases a resume. Examples of these could include athletics, visual/performing arts, leadership and social impact initiatives. Going overboard and just participating in a bunch of activities is not what makes a student stand out. Depth of the engagement and commitment over time to activities is more important. There is a saying in admissions circles “the thicker the file, the thicker the student” so less is more when it comes to showcasing your interests. Afterall you only have so many free hours in a week and a long list of activities can spread your case thin.
Letters of recommendations from teachers and counselors that help differentiate a student, are particularly helpful in the review process. Letters from teachers are most important because teachers often spend more time with you than your parents and who know you best as a student. These recommendations are an excellent place to validate certain important achievements, awards, work or volunteer experience or leadership positions. These recommendation letters are considered confidential and therefore are taken very seriously by the admissions committee.
Essays written by students make them 3-dimensional. Admissions officers wish to learn about the strengths, values, quirks, interests, growth stories and goals of students through their writing. The main Common Application essay and supplemental essays are forms of expository prose that have one goal - i.e. to make the reader like you as a person.
The first factor begs further explanation. The academic profile of the students is evaluated considering the following data points:
Curriculum (or board of education IB, Cambridge A-Levels, ISC, CBSE, state board or NIOS)
Rigor of courses
Standardized Test (ACT/SAT) Scores (thankfully these tests have been made optional)
Additional work that demonstrates intellectual interests of the student. This could be by doing academic projects, research, high olympiad ranks, internships, or attending selective summer programs offered by top colleges.
Next week I’ll explain what parameters to look for while sizing up your college choices. This will lend support to the much important topic of discussion i.e. to alleviate stress in the college admissions journey of a student. For a 17-year old the thought of stepping out of her comfort zone and settling in a campus community half the way across the globe is daunting enough. The pressure to apply to schools that they have heard of only leads to wearing blinkers and not being open to exploring a wide range of choices. This leads to a mad rush for popular schools and an increase in competition for those particular schools.
My focus will be on discovering right-fit colleges and meaningful tips on how to level set expectations while deciding on a college list.
Arjun Seth, Founder of Edbrand and CollegeFair.Live
Workshops are a great way for students to explore their fields of interest, especially when they’re conducted by experienced mentors who share insights and tips.
Here are a few workshops we’ve lined up.
Getting into UPenn’s Wharton Business School, Ankita Kumar, 21st September: 5:30-6:30pm - Theme: Profile building for students interested in Economics, Social Sciences and Business majors
Finding the Right Fit College, Arjun Seth, 30th September: 5-6pm
How to Google at Uni? Pradakshina Lakhanpal, 8th October: 5-6pm - Theme: Academic research and writing
Thinking through Bollywood, Pradakshina Lakhanpal, 20th October: 5-6pm - Theme: Appreciating the interdisciplinary nature of a liberal arts education. The aim of this session will be to show how critical thinking can be applied to mass consumed movies