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Careers to Consider: Become a Teacher

Teaching is a vital and admirable career. As such, it comes with quite a bit of responsibility, both in practice and in preparation. Every state has specific requirements for teachers, and additional qualifications for public school K-12 teachers. The following steps provide a general breakdown of the requirements for teachers:

  1. Earn an undergraduate degree: You’ll need a degree with a specialization in education, and depending on the level you want to teach, you’ll need to earn a significant number of college credits in the subject area you want to teach. Many schools require minimum GPA and SAT scores for acceptance into any education program. You might also need to take basic competency exams, such as the PRAXIS Core before continuing your studies in education.
  2. Participate in supervised teaching: You’ll be required to complete supervised practicum/clinical requirements during and after earning your degree. The school you complete this practical training in needs to be approved by your university, and you’ll have to provide reports and assessments on your progress.
  3. Pass assessment and exams: If you teach at a public school, you’ll be required to fulfill all testing requirements. For advanced grades and subject matter teachers, exams in the specific subject and education-competency exams are required (PRAXIS II or state regents’ exams). Many states have recently adopted a further assessment measure known as EdTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment), which requires teacher candidates to self-assess their classroom performance.
  4. Obtain a state teaching license: Each state has specific teaching licensure requirements, and it’s important to know the exact details before beginning your degree program. States preclude candidates who can’t pass a criminal background check or those who don’t have the requisite GPA.
  5. Pursue graduate studies: Many states expect teachers to earn a master’s degree within a given timeframe of becoming certified teachers. For specific concentrations, like special education, a master’s degree may be required for initial teacher certification in some states.

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Teacher

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for obtaining a teaching degree in the U.S. For those on the traditional path, teacher education requirements include a degree in education or a major in the subject matter they want to teach along with a teaching component.

A 4-year bachelor’s degree in education (or a program with a teaching practicum) typically includes general education, teaching courses, and one or more supervised classroom experiences. Courses can include:

  • Fundamentals of teaching
  • Educational psychology
  • Student assessment
  • Instructional planning
  • Learning methods and intervention
  • Cultural studies and diversity

To maintain a teaching license, advance in your career, or become a special education teacher, you may need a degree in special education or a master’s degree along with specific certification or licensure endorsements. You can find schools with degree programs offering dual-licensure prep for both elementary and special education as well as those targeting specific student populations or disabilities. A bachelor’s degree can take up to four years, depending on your previous education. A master’s degree in education usually takes around two years. Course topics cover:

  • Teaching students with disabilities
  • Intensive support methods
  • Collaborative curriculum for student success
  • Prevention and remediation
  • Legal and ethical teaching practices
  • Assessment in special education

It’s very important to ensure that the program you choose is accredited by one of the national or regional accrediting agencies and recognized by the Federal Department of Education. Accreditation shows that a program or institution has undergone a rigorous independent peer review process on a regular schedule, usually every 5-7 years. In addition, education/teacher preparatory programs that qualify for teacher certification must be approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Teacher Certification

Licensure or certification is only required to teach in K-12 public schools. Education programs include the courses necessary to apply for a state teaching license or certification. Colleges and universities generally offer robust guidance for obtaining teaching licensure for their students. All teacher certification programs include a student teaching experience, which is required to make you eligible to apply for licensure. These programs typically provide test preparation, which is another licensure requirement.

Each state requires teachers to pass at least one teaching certification exam. Many states allow national exams, such as PRAXIS or NES. You might need to take a core exam that tests your general knowledge of teaching pedagogy, policies, and ethics. Depending on what grade level or subject you want to teach, you could also be required to take a more advanced teaching exam as well as subject-specific exams to add those endorsements to your license.

Information provided by, see additional information including online programs, scholarships for teachers and certification requirements and average salary by state here:

Two New Scholarships available to your students

A couple new scholarship providers contacted us with Scholarships available to your students. Here are the details:

The Rafi Law Firm Golden Gavel Scholarship


March 15th


In order to qualify for the Rafi Law Firm Golden Gavel Scholarship, you must:

  • Be a junior or senior in high school who has been admitted to a trade school, college, or university OR be currently enrolled in a trade school, college, or university
  • Have at least a 2.8 GPA
  • Submit a copy of your transcript, complete our online application, and submit an essay on one of the topics below

Essay Topics

In order to be eligible for the Rafi Law Firm Golden Gavel Scholarship, please submit a 500 to 1,000 word essay on ONE of the topics below:

  • What are your goals and how will a college degree help you achieve them?
  • How has your family helped you to create goals and achieve them?

Apply here:

Passion for Making Scholarship Overview

The Passion for Making scholarship is an annual $1,000 scholarship designed to promote craftsmanship. We’re looking for those who make things either professionally or leisurely to share their passion for creation with us. Students can detail what they create and why they enjoy it, or they can submit photos of a creation to us. Submissions can be in the form of: 

  • An essay
  • A photo
  • A video
  • An animation
  • A graphic
  • A poem

Students aren’t limited to the aforementioned media forms. Submissions will be accepted in other multimedia formats as well. Do you carve wooden sculptures? Have you built your own tiny home? Do you build model planes? Do you create your own clothing items? We’d love to see or hear about what it is that you’re passionate about making. 

Eligibility & Requirements

The Passion for Making scholarship is open to all US citizens entering or attending a university, college, or trade school in the United States as a full-time student. Applicants must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above. In addition to submitting a piece on creative passions, students must also submit a completed scholarship application form. The following materials need to be submitted to by August 15th: 

  • A completed scholarship application form
  • A media piece (essay, poem, photo, video animation, etc.) demonstrating or explaining your passion for making
  • A certified copy of the student’s transcripts


  • The recipient of the Passion for Making scholarship will receive $1,000 to be used only for university, college, or trade school tuition and related educational expenses. 
  • The $1,000 check will be made payable to the recipient’s school. 
  • The application period for the scholarship ends August 15th. The award recipient will be notified of selection by September 7th. 
  • By accepting the scholarship, the student agrees to allow Fintech Industrial Abrasives the right to use the submission content, the student’s name, the student’s school and/or pictures of any of the above on the company’s website and other marketing materials. 

Scholarship Deadline

Again, please note, all completed scholarship materials should be emailed to by August 15th. Any submission emailed after August 15th will not be considered for selection for the current year, but may be considered for selection for the following year.  Here is a direct link to apply –

Counselor Awareness Survey – Starbucks gift card winners

We recently conducted a survey of Counselors to determine their familiarity with specific Colleges & Universities in different parts of the country. 483 Counselors participated and took the survey. Thanks to all those that participated!

We randomly drew the names of 10 Counselors who took the survey and they received a $10 Starbucks gift card. Here are the winners:

Celia Collard – Texas
Sheryl Bond – Illinois
Kim Shipman – Texas
Mendy Stephen – Illinois
Jennifer Kirk – Pennsylvania
Leslie O’Connor – Kentucky
Christine Holladay – Missouri
Debra Wiggins – Alabama
Jama Franklin – Tennessee
Sarah Jane Gibbons – New York

Careers to Consider – Cartographer

According to the bureau of labor statistics, the cartographer field is set to grow by 15%, which is much faster than other careers on average. With the increased use of cartographers for maps in government planning, this is a great career your students that have an interest in geography might consider pursuing. put together a series of guides that provide a comprehensive overview of this career path.

Geography Degree Series

Program Guide:

If your students choose to pursue a degree in geography, they can expect to learn about everything from climate variability and urban development to deforestation and emerging infectious diseases. Many geography degrees have a geographic information system (GIS) component, which equips students to analyze mapping and spatial data.

A degree in geography covers problems such as world hunger, water management, and urban housing. Here is a link to the program guide:

Career Outlook:

A geography degree trains students to examine the Earth’s physical features and its human inhabitants. Geography majors learn geographic information system (GIS) mapping technologies, conduct spatial analysis, and gain valuable skills for a variety of career paths. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), geographers earn a median salary of over $80,000, with a bachelor’s degree meeting the entry-level educational requirement for the field.

The skills gained during a geography degree prepare graduates for careers like cartographer, GIS specialist, or surveyor. By earning a master’s in geography, professionals pursue job titles with increased responsibility, such as GIS manager.

Geography students should begin their career planning and job search while earning their degree. Choosing an in-demand specialization or completing an internship to gain professional experience can help geography graduates on the job market. By planning ahead, geography majors may improve their chances of finding a rewarding job in their field. Here is a link to the career outlook:

Bachelor’s Programs: Are your students considering getting their degree online. If so, here is a link to some online Bachelor Geography programs BestColleges put together:

Can One Semester of Low Grades Ruin My Chances of Admission to College?

It happens. A blip on the transcript. A semester or year of low grades. The reasons are endless: divorce, sickness, mental illness, homelessness, death of a parent or sibling, an abusive relationship, caretaking responsibilities, addiction, etc. And then the student pulls through, finds her strength and resilience and her grades go back up. But, her GPA has suffered. How will college admissions officers view this student? Will she have the same college choices she would have if her grades hadn’t suffered?

The Importance of Trends on a Transcript in the Admissions Process:

College admissions officers do not take your GPA at face value. Your grades are viewed in context with several other factors such as the academic rigor on your transcript, the availability of honors, AP and IB courses at your school, your socioeconomic status and your standardized test scores. Admissions officers also look for trends on your transcript. Some transcripts indicate consistency in grades while others show a steady improvement from freshman through senior years. Transcripts that have inconsistent grades or a semester or year of low grades can only be accurately interpreted with more information. Admissions officers will look for an explanation in your teachers’ letters of recommendation, your counselor’s letter of recommendation, your college essay or the “additional information” section of the application.

What You Can Do:

College admissions officers are reading your application and trying to find reasons to admit you to their colleges. They do not want to send you a rejection letter. Therefore, it makes sense to provide them with the information they need to accurately interpret your transcript and understand why your grades suffered. They need this information to determine that you are a good academic fit for their campus and that, if admitted, you will be an academic success.

The additional information section of the application is the best place to explain to admissions officers why you have an academic discrepancy on your transcript. Write a paragraph (or more) explaining what happened and how you handled the challenge. Your explanation should not focus on placing blame. Instead, it should emphasize what has changed in the situation or how you have grown such that you are prepared to take on the academic challenges of college.

Alternatively, you may choose to discuss your concerns with your school counselor and ask him or her to use part of the counselor letter of recommendation to explain the discrepancy on your transcript. While this may work in some situations and with some counselors, you lose control over the message sent to admissions officers. Therefore, I typically recommend that you offer your own explanation.

Some students want to write about the situation in their college essay. The adversity was such a powerful and influential part of their life that they can’t imagine writing about any other topic. While, for some students this may be appropriate, I prefer students use their college essay space as an opportunity to share their positive attributes and characteristics. There are many facets of a student’s life and identity that are relevant to a college’s admissions decision. Use your essay to elaborate on other parts of your story and personality and explain your grades in the “additional information” section.

Will My Explanation of Low Grades Ultimately Help Me Get Accepted?

You should not let one semester or even a year of lower grades hold you back from applying to a college that is a good fit for you. For MOST colleges, it is likely that a period of low grades will not prevent your admission if an explanation is provided and the overall trend in your grades and the level of rigor shown on your transcript matches the colleges’ criteria.

You are an intelligent and motivated student who faced a challenge that was likely not your fault and out of your control. The lessons, skills and maturity you gained from the experience have likely made you a better person. You will be bringing these gifts to college and sharing them with your campus community. You deserve the opportunity to apply so please don’t deny yourself the chance of admission because your GPA is lower than it otherwise would have been. If you are a good fit for a college and they value life experiences, they may well invite you to join the freshman class.

Good luck!

Michelle McAnaney is the founder of The College Spy, a full service independent educational consulting firm that assists students and families across the US and internationally with the college selection and application process. Prior to founding The College Spy, Michelle was a guidance counselor and educator for more than 15 years, including serving as the Director of Guidance at two high schools, an adjunct college professor and a GED tutor. Michelle holds a master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s degree in human development. She recently completed UC Irvine’s certificate program in educational consulting and is a MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) Certified Practitioner and a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner. Michelle visits over 40 colleges each year so that she has first-hand knowledge of the colleges and universities her clients will be considering. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

What Students Should Consider When Creating a Budget for College

When thinking about saving money for college, the budget includes more than the initial price of college courses. Students will face a number of costs big and small. If they aren’t familiar with budgeting, there is a good chance they can spend their savings within the first semester. To help high schoolers know what to expect, we have an introduction to the 50-20-30 budgeting rule and a list of college costs to consider. 

What is the 50-20-30 budget rule?

A classic budgeting tactic is to spend 50% of your income on “needs” such as rent and food, 20% on savings and 30% on “wants” like hobbies or travel. While most college students don’t have a full time job, this rule can be a good way to think of their spending. Knowing these guidelines can prepare them for when they are working full time and need to budget. 

Budgeting for College Needs

There are many needs that will come with college life. Be sure you are budgeting enough to cover all these. If planned properly, this will take up half of your budget.


Be sure you know how much tuition will be each semester. This should be a set cost, but there is a chance that prices will fluctuate a little with added fees. Be sure you know the price based on if you are going to a college in-state or out-of-state. Factor in and scholarships you’ve received. Be sure to inquire when these will be paid and if they go directly to the school. 


Book costs can add up, especially if your professor requires a new version of the textbook or a unique book that they are the author of. BigFuture allows you to look at the estimated cost of textbooks for your school. 

Get thrifty by finding used textbooks online and keep your old textbooks in good condition so you can sell them online. Oftentimes there are electronic versions you can purchase that are cheaper as well. Books are a cost you’ll need to budget for, but taking the time to find a cheaper option could save you hundreds. 


Rent is one of the biggest costs you’ll face. Many schools require students to live in on-campus housing the first year or two. While this is convenient and a fun environment, it will also cost more. Do research to find what these rent prices are (they will usually be per semester). It’s also helpful to know what rent will cost for apartments in your college towns. Use a rent affordability calculator to find how much you should be budgeting for off-campus housing. 


Another large cost will be food. Research what the college meal plan is and how much it will cost you. If you have a packed schedule it could be worth investing in this because it’s convenient. It could also be helpful if you don’t have a full kitchen in your dorms. If you have the time in between classes and a full kitchen, grocery shopping and meal prepping will be the cheapest option. Be sure to remind kids to budget for this cost. They may be shocked at how much eating out and not planning can cost. 

Budgeting for College Wants

These college “wants” are items that you don’t need, but they will add to your college experience. Be sure to budget for these so you can get everything you want out of your college years. 


If you want to live away from campus, transportation to and from school will need to be accounted for. If you are bringing a car, you’ll need to consider the price of a parking permit and gas money. You’ll also need to pay for registration and maintenance on your car. These costs can eat up your budget if they aren’t accounted for. 

Joining a Club or Sport

If you are planning to rush a sorority or fraternity, there will be dues that you are required to page. Fees are also required for joining other clubs and sports teams. These are not necessary to graduate so they are classified as a want, but they will add to your overall college experience if you budget for them properly. 

Social Events

As a college student, you’ll have more freedom to have a social life. There are also more events available to you. Although students get in free to school-sponsored events, there are additional costs of food or other items once you attend. Be sure to consider budgeting for your social events.

Study Abroad

Many students choose to study abroad during their time in college. Each study abroad cost varies, depending on the program you choose. Encourage students to visit their future school’s study abroad site to research how much they should be saving for this experience. 

As you can see, these costs can add up. Be sure you are counseling your students on budgeting so they are prepared for these costs. By being financially prepared, they can make the most of their time at college. 

College Fly-In Opportunities for Counselors

One of the questions we often get asked is if we know about any fly in opportunities available to Counselors. I recently came across a guide titled “College Fly-In Opportunities for Counselors in Rural Communities” that was put together by NACAC’s Rural & Small Town Special Interest Group. Many institutions will generously fund a trip for Counselors to visit their campus so they can get a feel for it and advocate it to their students that may have an interest in what that school has to offer.

Only 30% of LINK for Counselors readers say they are members of NACAC (Spring 2019 Paramount Research Study) so we wanted to share this guide with Counselors who may not have seen it.

Schools included in the guide are: Allegheny College, (Brandeis University, Emerson College, College of the Holy Cross, Simmons College, WP), (Colby, Bates, Bowdoin), US Naval Academy, (University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Xavier University), Clemson University, Vanderbilt University, (Saint Michael’s College, Champlain College, University of Vermont), (Caltech, Occidental, Whittier, Redlands, Pitzer, Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Scripps), Grinnell College, Johns Hopkins University, Juniata College, (Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, University of Dallas, Austin College), (Skidmore, Union, Colgate, Hamilton), (Marist College, Vassar College, West Point, Culinary Institute of America), NC State University, (Willamette University, Lewis & Clark College, Whitman College, University of Puget Sound, Reed College), University of Richmond, University of Saint Louis – Madrid Campus, Southern Oregon University, Franklin and Marshall College, (Barry University, Eckerd College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Flagler College, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida Southern College, Jacksonville University, Lynn University, Nova Southeastern University, Rollins College, Saint Leo University, Stetson University, University of Tampa), (Carleton College, Macalester College, St. Olaf College), University of Chicago, University of New Hampshire, University of Notre Dame, Washington & Lee University, Williams College

Those in parenthesis above offer joint tours of their Colleges for those visits. Here is a link to the guide which provides specifics about each fly-in program and a contact person: Fly-In Programs for Counselors

One of our marketing partners, Landmark College, also offers a similar program for Counselors called “Professional Visit Days”. They have 3 dates for these which are : March 5-6, April 2-3, and April 30-May 1st. The visits include the opportunity to:

  • Meet current Landmark College students
  • See presentations by Landmark faculty and staff on educational technology, coaching, our language intensive curriculum, college planning services, and much more
  • A campus tour
  • Information about their summer programs for high school and college students
  • Details on programs for Visiting College Students

Here is the registration link with more details:

For more information you can contact Carroll Paré , Senior Director for Outreach, Partnerships, and Short-Term Programs,,

Three Myths About College Visits…Debunked!

Myth #1: Visiting colleges is a waste of time and money. I can learn everything I need to know on the Internet and from books and guides. Looking at the buildings will not help me decide if a college is right for me.

Visiting campuses is an essential part of the college selection process. You will spend several years of your life as a student at the college you ultimately choose. It will be your home and choosing a home “sight unseen” is not wise. There is no substitute for walking a campus and interacting with students and professors.

There are over 4,000 colleges in the United States and they are NOT interchangeable. They differ in terms of size, culture, location, the interests of the student body, the strengths and interests of the professors and how much freedom you have in choosing your courses. You can choose from women’s colleges, historically black colleges, colleges that are a part of a consortium, urban colleges, rural colleges, colleges with a graduate school and those without. Colleges and universities also feel different from one another. Southern colleges feel different from those in New England. A student body of 300 feels different than one of 50,000. Liberal arts colleges feel different from large universities. The point is that colleges in the United States differ wildly from one another and you will likely have preferences. You might think you know what type of college you would like best, but if you do not have experience with the opposite, how can you be 100% sure? The answer is by visiting and experiencing the campus firsthand.

Myth #2: It makes the most sense to visit colleges after I am admitted so that I only visit colleges that truly are possibilities for me.

Visiting a college before you apply can increase your chances of being admitted. Admissions officers prefer to admit students who are likely to attend their college. Admissions officers rightly assume that students who visit a college before applying have a real interest in the school and are more likely to attend if admitted.

Colleges weight admission to students who they trust will choose to attend because they are concerned about their standing in the college rankings in US News and World Report and other publications. The fewer students a college accepts, the more selective it appears in the rankings. But, colleges must admit more students than they have space for in the freshmen class because they know that some of those students will choose to attend college elsewhere. In order to admit the least number of students to fill the freshmen class, colleges look specifically for “demonstrated interest” when choosing between equally qualified applicants. A college visit is a key indicator of demonstrated interest.

Note that if you absolutely cannot visit, there are other ways to demonstrate interest: talk to admissions counselors at college fairs, meet with college representatives when they visit your high school, call and ask questions, open emails from colleges and follow colleges on social media. Colleges are tracking this data. Make sure you hit as many of the demonstrated interest data points as possible.

Myth #3 The tour guide is not a trustworthy source of information because she/he is just “selling” the school.

I’ve been on approximately 200 college tours and my experience is that most tour guides’ enthusiasm is genuine and not a canned sales pitch. It is true that dissatisfied students do not apply to be tour guides, so you should of course expect a positive presentation of the college, but that does not mean that the information will be inaccurate. You can expect that your tour guide will share facts with you about the college that you will not find on the college’s website or other materials. Yes, they will point out buildings and quote some statistics, but they will do this from a student’s perspective. You will learn how the students interact with the campus and how they view those statistics to be relevant to student life. Importantly, the tour is interactive. The questions and responses of the parents and students on the tour will impact the information you receive. I always ask my tour guide this question: What would you change about this school if you could? I am often given an honest answer and sincere criticism of the college.

That said, it is also good practice to talk to students on campus that are NOT your tour guide to gather other perspectives. I recommend eating in the dining hall and trying to strike up a conversation. You can augment your on-campus experience by using social media to meet current students and ask them questions about the college. Many colleges also offer overnight visits to prospective students. An overnight experience puts applicants in touch with many students at the college and gives prospective students a chance to spend a meaningful amount of time on campus with actual students and in the dorms away from formalized tours and presentations.

A Final Thought.

College tours are a key element of your college search. By starting your college search early (sophomore year is ideal), you will have plenty of time to identify the colleges you want to visit and schedule visits at times that are convenient for you. Students who have done their research, including college visits, are typically more confident applicants who are excited about the colleges on their list as well as the next steps after high school.

Michelle McAnaney is the founder of The College Spy, a full service independent educational consulting firm that assists students and families across the US and internationally with the college selection and application process. Prior to founding The College Spy, Michelle was a guidance counselor and educator for more than 15 years, including serving as the Director of Guidance at two high schools, an adjunct college professor and a GED tutor. Michelle holds a master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s degree in human development. She recently completed UC Irvine’s certificate program in educational consulting and is a MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) Certified Practitioner and a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner. Michelle visits over 40 colleges each year so that she has first-hand knowledge of the colleges and universities her clients will be considering. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

5 Reasons Why Social Media Must Be Part of the College Planning Process

College-bound high school sophomores and juniors should now be dedicating time to work on optimizing their social media profiles to create compelling content accurately reflecting their activities, service, interests, and accomplishments for the college admissions process. Here are 5 reasons why:  

Reason #1: Admissions Officers Are Looking at Applicant Social Media

Whether it’s Kaplan Test Prep’s annual survey of college admissions officers or some other sourced survey, we know that at least 36% of college admissions officers in the United States viewed applicant social media during the last admissions cycle and 20% view social media “regularly and routinely.” We also know that up to 70% of college admissions officers consider applicant social media to be “fair game” in their decision-making process and are willing to look when invited to do so.

Reason #2: Social Media Should Be Used Proactively to Craft the Essay of Your Life

College admissions officers have neither the time nor the interest to search social media simply to find reasons to reject qualified applicants. When colleges look, logic dictates they look because they want to learn more about the applicant, opening the door of opportunity for the prepared applicant to set themselves apart from other qualified applicants. Having a digital presence that is hard to find and fails to tell colleges the story you would want to tell them is a missed opportunity.

Reason #3: Character and Fit

Many schools are placing an increasing emphasis on personal qualities that will lead students to succeed in college. This renewed focus includes examining “curiosity, love of learning, perseverance, good character, and grit” in addition to the standard “grades, rigor, curriculum, and other qualitative data.”

Social media is one way of delivering this missing and actionable information to admissions, enrollment, and financial aid offices. Not only can social media positively impact acceptance and scholarship decisions by showing an applicant’s readiness, abilities, skills, and character but it can also be used to gauge an applicant’s interest in attending a particular college. A student’s chances for admission will greatly improve once they understand how to utilize social media to demonstrate interest, convey good character, and showcase the skills and personal attributes colleges are looking for to set themselves apart from other qualified applicants.

Reason #4: Many Colleges Use Social Media to Proactively Engage With Students

Almost all colleges now have a prominent social media presence and encourage applicants to interact with them on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Interacting with college officials, alumni and current students is a positive for applicants if, and only if, their social media is in proper order. Remember that whenever an applicant sends a message to a college official using a social network’s native messaging system, that applicant is also necessarily transmitting a digital dossier containing all profile information specific to that social network. This includes all past posts, photos, friends and followers. As a result, colleges are routinely receiving full access to applicant digital DNA by way of these social interactions. By having their social media optimized for inspection, applicants can freely and safely interact with colleges using social media and may very well impress the right people as a result.

Reason #5: Enrollment Yield Algorithms

Schools can now get a complete picture of their applicants, including what they’re saying and thinking about them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter – which could be even more meaningful than traditional data points like GPA and SAT. Colleges have begun to use algorithms that work on an individual-student basis to profile and predict their behavior. They use social media data, as well as the data supplied by the applications, to compute the likelihood a given student will enroll if accepted, the extent of financial aid needed by the student – or needed to seduce a relatively well-off student.

The best generic advice for students is to create a discoverable social media presence designed for colleges that showcases their character, highlights their service, and/or conveys their commitment to an activity. Social media should be viewed as their digital college essay which can be appended to their college applications.

This was from a blog originally published by Social Assurity. Check them out at

The College Board and PSAT Scores: Oh, No, Not Again!

The proximate cause of our expression of exasperation with the College Board is the incongruous scoring results of its 2019 Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), which was administered last October. and the “Again” part of the title to this blog is a little complicated, so bear with us while we explain.

Both the SAT and the PSAT are products of, wholly developed by, and administered by the College Board. The tests are very similar, though their usages are largely different. Both can be “high stakes” affairs for students that take them, and this is not the first time recently that we’ve seen strange scoring results on one of those two standardized test products: Our blog titled Is Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter in Charge of SAT Scoring Curves? discussed the crazy scores on August 2019 SAT, and our blog titled Wacky Scores on the June 2018 SAT discussed the peculiar scores in the June 2018 SAT. This blog will discuss the incongruousscoring results of the October 2019 PSAT and why they matter.

Two mandatory requirements for important standardized tests, such as the SAT, PSAT, and ACT, are that they accurately measure students’ performances (but not necessarily their abilities) at the time of testing, and that there is cross-test congruity. By the latter, we mean that a student’s scores on any testing date of the SAT, PSAT, or ACT should be consistent with student scores on any other testing date, and that the same should true with the scores for similar cohorts of students. While we have no reason to question that the October 2019 PSAT accurately measured student test-takers’ performances at the time of testing, it’s crystal clear from the data that the October 2019 PSAT failed the congruity test – and failed it in a major way.

About 3.5 million high school students take the PSAT each fall. Roughly 1.7 million high school juniors sat for the October 2019 PSAT, and the number of them scoring 1400 or better (out of a 1520 maximum possible) dropped 30% from the 2018 PSAT. The drop for sophomores taking the PSAT was even steeper, at 36%. High-performing students scored lower by as much as 30 points compared to previous years – years during which there was cross-test congruity. Juniors scoring 1200 or better dropped by 15%, and sophomores dropped by 21%. The average score for the 1.7 million juniors dropped by 10 points, which is a whopping difference given that the average score change on a well-constructed test with a stable group of student test-takers is only one or two points.

Because it would stretch credibility to the point of breaking to posit that the October 2019 cohort of student test-takers was that much less capable than was the 2018 cohort, the conclusion is virtually inescapable that there were problems with the test. And we will have to draw our own conclusions because, other than reporting the scores, the College Board makes public almost no information about PSAT results, provides no information on whatever, if any, self-assessment it does, and has offered no explanation of why/how the score drops occurred on the 2019 PSAT.

We want to note here that the score drop was particularly steep for the PSAT’s Math section: The drop for that section was nearly twice as steep as was the drop in the scores for the Evidence-based Reading and Writing section, meaning that if the score drops were due to poorer student performance, it was significantly selectively so — and that makes it even more likely that the test, not the test-takers, was the reason for the drops. We want to further note that the College Board’s test score woes on the SAT and PSAT occurred after it stopped using the Educational Testing Service (ETS), an independent, outside firm, to test and validate questions and brought that function “in-house.”

The incongruous PSAT scores matter because it’s a high-stakes test for the student test-takers: More than $100 million in National Merit and other college scholarships is determined by PSAT scores.  Further, there’s another significant effect: The College Board has strongly proposed to high schools that they use PSAT scores to determine whether students are allowed to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and enrollment and performance in those classes are considered by colleges when making admissions decisions. And PSAT scores, when they’re consistent measures, unlike the October 2019 PSAT scores, can provide good comparative data to students’ performance on the SAT and ACT and are used by schools and school systems nationwide to track student performance over time.

It’s far too early to appreciate the full ramifications of the October 2019 PSAT’s incongruous results: We don’t know exactly how they’ll affect National Merit and other college scholarships or how schools and school systems will view and use them. And we might never know how they’ll affect AP class enrollments and, thus, college admissions.

What we do know is that the College Board has demonstrated that it’s unwilling to and/or incapable of addressing a serious issue with its high-stakes PSAT and SAT tests.

Jason Robinovitz is the Chief Operating Officer of all of the Score At The Top Learning Centers and Score Academy schools and is the team leader for Score’s staff of more than 100 tutors, educational consultants, directors, and other staff. Jason is also directly involved in providing educational consulting services for college, boarding school, and law school clients, and he’s an active member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and the Secondary School Admission Test Board. Jason can be reached via email at

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