# Stressed over nothing?

I'm taking the SATs again this june. I took them as a sophmore last year and did fairly well...980 combined, which according to the statistics was the same ball park as the average senior. I'm taking them again to improve my scores and my scholarship possiblities. I'm going to take the SAT IIs, but I need to make sure they are offering the test in my area. I'm also scoping out information about the ACTs.

Is there any hope for me getting into MIT at all? It sounds as though I've got a snowball's chance in hell of getting in. I hope there is a possibility of getting in.

I'm still going to apply to MIT even though the grades my junior year aren't stellar.
However, the grades from all my previous years put me in the 3.9 ballpark for a GPA. Because as I explained before, I've had a bit of health trouble that has affected my ability to regualrly attend school. We are working on correcting these health issues first, but there are people who are going to explain what happend, why my GPA dropped and all that jazz. In the meantime I'm pulling everything up as close or higher than what it was.

My list of colleges to apply to is about 19 schools long. I mentioned MIT, Northeastern, Ithica, Boston College, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, Berklee College of Music, University of Maine, New England Conservatory, Julliard, Sarah Lawrence, Harvard, Yale, Vassar, US Naval Academy, Alaska Pacific, Northwestern, Bennington, and University of Maine.

The spectrum of schools is so long because I'm looking at two possible majors: music performance and composition and engineering and business management. So I chose schools to cover both majors.

All of you have added valuable information for me. Thank you all so much! Please keep the advice coming, believe me I can use it.

980 is good for a sophomore...but i'd advise getting an SAT book or taking a course if you really hope to get into MIT. MIT usually looks for top 1-5% of scores...lol. so if you are really serious about MIT, enlist in a private Princeton Review course.

also, you should be discussing this with your counselor. my counselor really helped me understand how the whole selection process works. so definetely talk to teachers and adults who know a lot about this stuff.

Funny you should mention my guidance counselor, I have been meeting with her whenever she has an open appointment. I've told her what I've been doing and gave her all the basic information I gave you and then asked her what I should do because I've done everything I can think of and I need help on what to do next...she said I have no idea....she's a Guidence Counselor...she's supposed to Guide me on what to do next.

I think you guys have provided better help than she has.lol

Well you know, throughout high school I kept restraining myself from asking my counselor "if you're so good at making descisions why did you become a high school guidance counselor?"
Really though, getting an SAT book and just doing practice tests from it is a really good idea. That's because it's a rather formulaic process that you need to get into so you can learn to do problems quickly when it matters.

I second mathwonk's post. You guys care WAY too much about scores and stuff.

Bseides, you should be more worried about what you know than what grades you get.

I'm still lost on the idea that we care too much about scores. It's all part of the entrance. Blame the system.

Guidance counselors really should not be telling you what to do next.That is too much responsibility. Mine were just there to help out in selecting classes to help me get where I wanted to go and to help with paperwork if needed. This is all they should be doing. As for which college should I look at, that is something no one but you should decide. Go to Barnes and Noble and just cruise the books. It will show you nthe best schools for the major you want that also match the test scores you make. Research is invaluable.

I second mathwonk's post. You guys care WAY too much about scores and stuff.

Bseides, you should be more worried about what you know than what grades you get.

Deadwolfe, I'm sorry if I came off like I worry too much about my grades--the truth is, another user needed some advice, and seeing as how I'm a high school senior right now who has just gone through it all, I figured I would be a good candidate to help her.

I agree with Zach: You cannot blame students for grades being such an important factor in today's society. All colleges want good scores, and it is up to us, the students, to deliver them in order to earn admission.

That is the only reason why I care so much about my scores. Its because that's the only schools care about. Not to mention my guidance counselor lead me to believe that is the only thing that matters.

As far as what to do next, the reason I asked my guidance counselor what to do is because I have don't know anything about applying to college, where to look for scholarships, how to get my transcripts sent to my schools, all the things that come along with applying to college. I don't know anything about applying to college.

I too agree with Zach. Students are so grade and score oriented is because thats what they are lead to believe that is the only thing that matters. I'm still trying to remember that myself.

misskitty:

For undergrad test scores are one of the best indicators out there, along with letters of recomendation. I had to have 3 letters for my application. Build up a good relationship with some teachers and show them you care about school. 1-3 letters is all you will need. Another one is the essay. At some schools you can even clip out of freshmen comp if it is good enough.

Here is a checklist: (Things that will make your application very sound.)

GPA - If you have a 3.5 you can get into a really good school. The Ivy league is no longer the only way. State schools have caught up tremendously. At 3.75 schools will start looking at scholarships although they may be small depending on the SAT or ACT scores. A 4.0 is great grounds for money.

ACT & SAT - Along the same lines of GPA. Decides money and what classes you should be started at. Someone will have to translate the ACT scores to the SAT for me. The ACT should be at about a 22 to look at entrance. 27+ will begin to look at money and possible clipping along with a good GPA and possible AP classes. 34+ you should definately be getting money.
As to which test to take. It depends on the region. The way I always here it said is if you are looking at a school along the coast go SAT if you are looking at the central US go ACT. For what schools you listed I would go for the SAT. That seems to be more af a standard that is used everywhere anyway. If you decide on a few in the central US the ACT is all you really need. This was my case as the only school that really uses the SAT that I looked at was Stanford but still was not my first pick and the others were more ACT oriented. So, I went that route. You have a large gamut of schools so I would attempt to take both.

Letters of rec - This will probably help you out a lot more than you might think. Try to get some letters going at the start of your senior year. Pick teachers that really believe that you could flourish in college and your major. Otherwise if the teacher likes you but doesn't really know who you are you will get a mediocre letter. It won't be bad but not phenomenalWhat I did is I picked two teachers in the field I was going into. One was my physics and chemistry teacher. I knew her well because she taught 2 classes I took and attended meetings at a university that I went to also. Then my AP computer science teacher. Which is a somewhat applicable field. She loved me because I went through with no lower than a 98%. Then pick one that is completely different. Art, English or music will do well. I went with my english teacher. Do you see how to pick them now. pick teachers you left a mark on and it will leave a mark on the college. And as in stocks, diversify.

The essay - Start early. Schools post the topics early. And the topics are close enough that you can do one and use it as a core for the rest if you needed to. Mine took a few months to write because I felt there was always something else I could do to make it better. Some schools want an app in by November. I believe it is like this with MIT, Berkeley, etc. Check that out. Start on those essays in the summer and the rest I would begin in September as you are finishing up the first batch of apps. The second batch won't be needed in until January - March. Watch for rolling decisions though.

These are just extra things to do: (Make life easier on you.)

Look for scholarships now - Don't wait until your senior year. This is a mistake I made.

Decide that this is what you want to do - Some things seem interesting until you do it. Find an old text book and try to self teach if you can do it and enjoy it at the same time then you will have fun. If not, think it over.

Which school would be best - MIT may not be the best for example. Did you want a combination in physics and business? If you wanted this and the school name, check out Harvard or Princeton. MIT will be lacking in business. It's not their field. If you are undecided between music or physics then go to a state school. If you change your mind the money won't be as big of a shock. And you can always transfer when you are sure. Money will go farther on this route.

Sure you should do it for the physics itself. No one is denying that. However, you should still try for your best. Don't blow off grades because doing homework would be a waste of your time for other subject matter.

Mathwonk, are you ok. The connotation I get from your post seems to be harboring some animosity teetering on the edge of malice. Although the rhetoric is obvious please provide some examples that people could use in your last two posts. Purely using your profession as credentials seems analogous as a student using grades to get into college. Sorry to speak like this but...

reading these posts makes me sad. you guys seem to be obsessing over things that do not matter.

one guy regretted not retaking the sats even though he got into the school of his choice! how pointless can you get?

posts like that coming from a college professor to a high school student trying to give advice seems a bit immature. Perhaps we can all hit this level of maturity some day if we try hard enough. Sorry, for all this. Your first contribution was good. However the second seemed like an attack to a post that was not pointless. It was someone giving advice from their experience. That should never be looked down upon. And the 3rd one seemed like a bashing towards the topic starter for listening to the advice.

Zach, that's awesome advice. Thanks so much... yay for direction.

Do you know where I could get copies of the college essays for my schools and where to look for scholarships? I've been to the websites for all my schools, but I can't find the essays. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Your advice is greatly appreciated/I].

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Mathwonk, please be honest. Are you really a professor? Your behavior in this thread is quite erratic for an educator. I don't know why you're discouraging these young people, but I'd appreciate it if you'd stop.
You people stress grades upon us, and it serves you right if we think more about grades, than the actual material being taught.

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Mathwonk, I'm sorry to say this, but you have lost some credibility with your counter-productive posts in this thread. In which college are you a professor? Are you really also an admissions director? I'm not sure how you can say all of that and expect students to believe it...when one applies for universities, they rarely give you a physics test to see how much you understand.

I agree that understanding physics is important, yes, but because of the selection process used by thousands of colleges, standardized test scores and GPAs, and recommendations are important also.

misskitty said:
Zach, that's awesome advice. Thanks so much... yay for direction.

Do you know where I could get copies of the college essays for my schools and where to look for scholarships? I've been to the websites for all my schools, but I can't find the essays. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. Your advice is greatly appreciated/I].

To access the essays go to the undergraduate admissions sections. And most of the times it's under how to apply. At MIT I actually had to download an app. It was on there though.

Pick 1 of the 2:

Essay A Life brings many disappointments as well as satisfactions. Tell us about a time in your life when you experienced disappointment, or faced difficult or trying circumstances. How did you react?

Essay B An application to MIT is much more than a set of test scores, grades and activities. It's often a reflection of an applicant's dreams and aspirations, dreams shaped by the worlds we inhabit. We'd like to know a bit more about your world. Describe the world you come from, for example your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?

As far as scholarships go, this is where the guidance counselors are expected to take part in. They will have resources for you. However you will have to look. Some schools have a college and career guide. This is how I did it at my school.

mathwonk
Homework Helper
2020 Award
gee, i find it amazing how difficult it is to get some people to believe remarks based on years and years of experience.

In my experience success in life really is based on hard work, and real understanding, and dedication to what counts, not meaningless grades.

Recommendations are also far more important than scores, because those are letters written by people who should know you well.

Let me give you an example:

Say someone has a moderate score on some standardized test, but has a letter like this:

"....This extremely promising student does not test all that well for some reason, possibly a disinclination to hurry on uninteresting timed work.

But I assure you, in 20 years of teaching students who have gone to top universities including every Ivy league school, [e.g.....sample names.....], I have never seen any one with this much potential as a scientist.

She has the depth of mind, and the intellectual courage and tenacity to solve genuinely deep problems in any area of physics or applied mathematics. Her independent project in my senior honors physics class, was at least as good as that by [so and so] who went to Harvard last year on a merit scholarship."

If you accept her, I am confident you will not regret it for a moment."

See what I mean?

I hope this helps some.

best wishes,

mathwonk,

yeah i really am a college professor, but not at MIT.

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mathwonk said:
but in my experience success in life really is based on hard work, and real understanding, and dedication to what counts, not meaningless grades.

I find this statement rather naive, idealistic, and utterly detached from reality. The system places emphasis on "meaningless" things, like grades and SAT scores (which you are a big fan of anyhow). Blame the system, not the students who want to succeed within the system.

Are you always so grumpy?

Also - being a professor does not mean that one has any grounding in reality. I know more than a few professors at Caltech who are very smart and extremely good at their research, but are clueless otherwise, among other faults. They are truly in their own little worlds.

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You are misinterpreting what mathwonk is trying to tell you. He is not being "grumpy," he's trying to give you worthwhile advice. Thinking about grades won't get you much of anywhere. If you understand what you're doing, then the grades will follow naturally.

"Naive and idealistic" seems to be mutually exclusive with "grumpy" as far as I understand the terms anyhow.

mathwonk
Homework Helper
2020 Award
forgive me, but you sound a little cynical, juvenal. Idealistic is really not the equivalent of naive.

And I apologize for my pique at being ignored earlier. That was petty of me.

I am speaking from the perspective of someone who made what he now sees as the same mistakes I think I see expressed here. I had the grades, the scores, the paper qualifications, the grants and scholarships, but I did not realize there was no joy in pretending, and that the grades were not the brass ring. I became cynical too.

Until I learned to love the subject for itself, I was not fulfilled in my work, and ultimately I was not successful either.

Then when I finally found it, I found fulfillment everywhere I went. Every school I went to, prestigious or not, had excellent people wanting to teach me, because I was eager to learn, and willing to work hard.

Eventually the rewards started coming back, and soon I was being honored even above some people who had gotten into "top" schools but did not have comparable results to show for their advantages.

This may sound unbelievable to you now, but in fact tuition is only charged of people who do not realize it is not necessary to pay money to learn. People who want prestigious degrees from fancy places must pay for those. People who only want to learn, and can demonstrate their qualifications, are welcomed anywhere by the best teachers.

A wise person once told me "attention will get you teachers". Do you understand this?

After hearing this i never again paid a dime to get the best instruction in the world. I went to some of the best schools on grants provided in part by the professors themselves.

So work hard, but do not worry too much.

Of course it is true that if you are in a place where the people are very foolish, or very exploitive, then you may not be well valued. Then it is time to move on.

good luck,

and best wishes,

I would really like to second what mathwonk has said here. It has been my experience as well that above grades and test scores, teachers recognize genuine interest and effort to actually learning the material. This can go a long way.

Of course I would not deny that society evaluates us mostly by our performance on standardized tests, and gpa, but I feel this is due to an absence of other criteria. I mean who wants to take the time to actually get to know you.

As mathwonk pointed out there are other ways, there are those teachers that are waiting to know you on a deeper level besides your statistics. I feel this number system of evaluation (test scores, gpa, etc.. ) ends anyway after you reach a certain point in your career.

The best thing to do, is do everything you can, explore all options. And in the end be satisfied with the result however it might turn out.

miskitty said:
Even with all these things going on, I have a GPA of 3.759 and a class rank of top 20. I can't help but feel like its not a good GPA at all. I feel ashamed that my GPA is only a 3.759. Am I stressing about something I should be proud of and happy with? Id having a 3.759 a good GPA? Do I have any hope of getting into these schools? Or should I just squish all my hopes? Please help out I really don't know what to do.

Statements like these are what make replies like those above so important.

There is small reason to be dissapointed in a low GPA just because it is low, or to be proud of a high GPA just because it is high. Try your best to learn what you want to learn. There isn't anything to be ashamed about with respect to a low grade on test. If you happen to miss entrance into your school of choice because of a low score, do not worry; if you work hard, and genuinely try to understand what you study, it will make little difference in the long run.

I only found these forums a couple of weeks ago, but there's a reason why I'm around so much now. Certainly it doesn't help me significantly improve my grades answering questions here. I do it because it is a way to learn new things, and an opportunity to revisit things I may have already learned, to understand them better.

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mathwonk
Homework Helper
2020 Award

Frankly, I'm more worried right now about finding ways to show my interest in the subjects I study than my grades :/

I do agree that the letters of rec and the essay are probably the most major criteria. Afterall, how many 4.0 kids apply? However, they should not be overlooked. I've known too many people who had to prove they could do the subjects at community college. I would not want to jeopardize my education like that.

Sorry, for typos and grammar. I typed fast.

Grades aren't any sort of indicator of understanding, at least not at high-school level. They're an indicator of how much time you put into practicing at answering specific questions. I probably had the tenth-highest grades in mathematics in my graduating high school class (of only ~130 students), but nevertheless, if one of those with higher grades had a question, they would invariably ask me.

I posted an interesting account of an encounter I had with a university student seeking math help in another thread. He could answer calculus questions, but he couldn't deduce what $\cot(\arcsin(x)), \ 0<|x|\leq 1$ simplified to, or how to plot $\ln(|\sin(x)|), \ x \neq k\pi \ \forall k \in \mathbb{Z}$. That is not "understanding."

I see many similar things happen to students at my university; People who graduated from high school with perfect math scores not being able to score higher than a vanilla B on second-year university exams (and many others who didn't make it out of first year at all). The way to succeed is to make sure that you are doing something that you want to do, and that you are willing to spend time to truly understand the subject.

Last week I made a pair of silly mistakes on a test. Certainly, I was annoyed with myself afterwards. But it didn't matter, because I still understood all of the material with perfect clarity, and my professors and TAs are perfectly well aware of it. Once you start university, you will discover very quickly that being able to answer practice problems correctly is not what wins you credit. Understanding and attentiveness is. Getting used to concentrating on your grades and not on understanding at the high school level will, as far as I have observed, only force you to make an extra adjustment when you get out. This is precisely why the top schools in their fields have so many criteria beyond grades.

Grades may get you through high school, but only understanding will get you through life.

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My grades are all I've got. Without them, I'm nothing. I measure my success not on the information I've picked up through the various years, but by the scores I've made. I know you must hate that, MathWonk. I'm the exact opposite of you. Yes, maybe later on in life I'll have a different perspective, but right now, GRADES ARE ALL I'VE GOT. Please, don't rain on my parade. I know your intentions were good, but now the time has come to stop, and leave us be.

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