Issue 2: February/March 2013
RIH Guidance Newsletter
Mr. Michael Marano, District Director of Student Personnel Services
Ms. Kathleen Harrington, Guidance Supervisor
HSPA: March 5 – 7, 2013 @ Indian Hills
To SAT or ACT, That is the
SAT & Subject Tests @ Indian Hills
Question March 9, 2013
You might wonder why you have to choose between the HSPA Make-Up: March 12 – 14, 2013
SAT and the ACT--maybe one of the two is favored by the @ Indian Hills
students in your school. Ten or 20 years ago, choosing
which test to take wasn't even an issue. Until recently, the
AP Exams: May 6-10 & May 13-17, 2013
ACT was traditionally required by colleges in the Midwest,
@ Indian Hills
and the SAT was the test of choice in the northeast and on
the east and west coasts. But now an increasing number of
students are taking the ACT, and the majority of schools in Indian Hills High School
97 Yawpo Avenue
the United States now accept both SAT and ACT test Oakland, NJ 07436
This increased acceptance of the ACT gives today's savvy Fax: 201-337-9249
students a strategic advantage. The SAT and ACT are
significantly different tests, and in many ways, they measure School CEEB Code: 311041
different skills. So depending on your particular strengths
and weaknesses, you may perform much better on one test Guidance Office Hours:
7:30 am – 3:30 pm
than the other. As a result, many students embarking on the
admissions process are now considering taking both the
SAT and ACT--to figure out which test provides a better
showcase for their abilities.
Unsure whether to take the SAT or ACT? Here are some things to consider:
The American College Testing Assessment (ACT) is designed to test your skill levels in English, math,
reading, and science reasoning. On the test, you will have 2 hours and 55 minutes to complete a variety of
multiple choice questions divided into four sections, one for each tested subject area. The English, reading,
and science sections each include several reading passages with anywhere from 5 to 15 questions per
passage. The math section includes 60 questions, each with 5 possible answer choices.
You will actually receive 12 separate scores on the ACT: 1 composite, 4 subject scores, and 7 subscores.
However, the composite or scaled score is the most important. It ranges from 1-36. Nearly half of all test
takers fall in the 17-23 range.
The ACT may be best if:
• You did well on the PLAN, the ACT practice test.
• You’re ‘book smart,’ and/or you don’t feel your SAT score reflects your academic ability. The ACT is thought
to be more straightforward and curriculum-focused than the SAT, so it can better reflect past academic
• You have great verbal and reading comprehension skills. If you are a quick, thorough reader, the ACT might
appeal to you since three of its sections involve reading comprehension.
• You’re better at ‘common sense’ English than formal grammar.
• The ACT has a Science section, while the SAT does not. It is meant to test your reading and reasoning skills
based upon a given set of facts.
• The ACT tests more advanced math concepts. In addition to basic arithmetic, algebra I and II, and geometry,
the ACT tests your knowledge of trigonometry, too. That said, the ACT Math section is not necessarily harder,
since many students find the questions to be more straightforward than those on the SAT.
• On the ACT, you tackle each content area (English, Math, Reading and Science) in one big chunk, with the
optional writing test at the end.
• The ACT is more of a "big picture" exam.
• College admissions officers care about your composite score. So if you're weak in one content area but strong
in others, you could still end up with a very good ACT score and thus make a strong impression with the
The SAT is the most widely taken college entrance examination. It is designed to test your skill level in math,
vocabulary, and reading comprehension. The test is divided into seven sections: 3 math, 3 verbal, and 1 experimental
section. The math and verbal sections each have their own distinct question types, including quantitative comparisons,
sentence completions, grid-ins, and more. The experimental section, used by the test developer to try out new
questions, is not scored and can be either math or verbal. You will not know which section is experimental.
The SAT is scored on scale of 200-800 for both the math and verbal sections. The College Board sets the average for
all test takers at 500 for each. A perfect score on the SAT is 1600. However, in recent years, fewer than 20% of all test
takers achieve a math score of 600 or better. Fewer than 10% score higher than 600 on the verbal section.
The SAT may be best if:
• You did well on the PSAT, the SAT practice test.
• You have a large vocabulary and excellent grammar. Both skills are highly useful in acing the essay and
• Reasoning is your strong suit. Its official name is the SAT Reasoning Test, so success is based more on quick
thinking than memorization of facts or formulas.
• You prefer tests that are fast-paced. Even though the SAT is actually 20 minutes longer than the ACT, it is
broken up in a way that makes the pace feel faster.
• You’re better at writing essays that call for recollection of specific facts and figures.
• On the SAT, the content areas (Critical Reading, Math and Writing) are broken up into 10 sections, with the
required essay at the beginning.
Are You Ready For College?: A Guide to College Planning for New Jersey High School Students. Hobsons, 2012. Print
Best Foot Forward:
Six Rules for Contacting Colleges
Interacting with colleges takes a bit of finesse. When, for example, should you contact the bursar versus the registrar?
Is phone or email preferred? What questions should you ask when you do reach someone? Reach for this quick list
when it’s time to reach out.
1. You should be making the contact. Bottom line: Schools want to hear from you – not your parents. Let
others speak for you in letters of recommendation and the like, but not during routine correspondence or
2. Get the right department. Don’t waste time calling the bursar’s office with a scheduling question. Double-
check that you’ve got the right information – like phone numbers, email addresses, and office hours – before
contacting a particular office.
3. Dress/behave for the occasion. Treat all face-to-face interviews like they matter by showing up on time,
wearing appropriate attire, and being polite and respectful to everyone you meet.
4. Manage your online persona (in advance!). In many cases, admissions reps look at more than just the
application. Make sure your online presence is one you wouldn’t mind an administrator seeing.
5. Bring notes. Come prepared to in-person or over-the-phone interviews with a list of top questions. Being
direct and specific will save time for both you and your interviewer.
6. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Writing a standard cover letter or personal essay is totally acceptable, but
failing to change the details to match a specific school is not. Don’t insult an admissions rep (and potentially
hurt your chances) by accidentally referencing another school – or worse, including a lot of spelling and
Source: Are You Ready For College?: A Guide to College Planning for New Jersey High School Students. Hobsons, 2012. Print
College Cash: What You Need to Know
Want to get a great education while minimizing your financial burden? Welcome to the club! Here are three things
you need to know to keep your college budget in check.
Know the deadlines. No matter how stupendous your grades, test scores, or athletic achievements may be, you won’t
win scholarships if your applications are late. When applying to a college, check to see if there is a separate
scholarship application and what the deadline is – then put a reminder in your calendar so you don’t miss it. Hint:
Naviance Family Connection’s scholarship search allows you to sort by deadline, so you can see which apps you need
to finish first.
Know the real cost of college. Look for the NetPrice Calculator (NPC) on schools’ websites (colleges that participate
in federal financial aid programs are required to have an NPC). Answer a few financial questions, and the NPC will
give you these key numbers:
• A median expected family contribution (EFC).
• The average grant and scholarship aid the school awards to students like you.
• The school’s “Net Price” – the difference between the total cost of attendance and the average aid award. This
is the amount you will have to come up with for your freshman year; you can do this through a combination of
cash, loans, and scholarships/grants.
Know when it’s too good to be true. If a scholarship offer promises you money for little or no work or asks you to
pay a fee to receive an award, just walk away. Focus your hunt on scholarships from colleges and reputable
Source: Are You Ready For College?: A Guide to College Planning for New Jersey High School Students. Hobsons, 2012. Print
What to Do if You Are Deferred to the Regular
By Brennan Barnard
December 18, 2012
Brennan Barnard is the director of college counseling at the Derryfield School in Manchester, N.H.
From small liberal arts colleges to Ivy League schools to large universities, I have yet to speak to a college that has
seen a decrease or remained stagnant in early applications. I am no statistician, but this seems like fuzzy math.
What I do know is that institutions of higher education are rethinking their traditional enrollment management models,
wondering what the winter and spring will bring in terms of application numbers and yield.
This means that, over the next two weeks, many early admission college applicants will receive a decision letter that is
neither thick nor thin. Instead, they will tear open the mail (or log into a Web site) to find that they have been deferred
to the regular decision pool. The question then becomes: what does this mean for their candidacy, and how do they
One meaning of the verb “defer” is to put off or delay. This is exactly what colleges will do to an increasing number of
seniors this year. The decision to admit or deny them admission will be postponed until the early spring.
Perhaps a college wants to see how the applicant’s grades are trending; maybe it is awaiting new and improved test
scores. It could be that colleges have had an overwhelming number of strong candidates in the early pool and have
opted to delay their decisions until they can assess the caliber of the rest of the applicant pool.
A deferral could also indicate that the admission office considers the applicant admissible, but is being cautious in
predicting the final application numbers.
Another meaning of the verb “defer” includes the idea of submission. Now is not the time for a candidate to surrender,
succumbing to what may seem like a lost cause. I encourage students to view this as an affirmative outcome, one that
puts the ball back in their court to make their case. Students, however, must be sure to submit other college
applications to ensure that there will be options in the spring.
Here are some proactive steps that deferred students can take:
· Follow directions. If the deferral letter requests additional information to be added to your file, be sure to submit the
appropriate materials. If you are directed not to send further documents, heed this advice.
· Stay focused. This is not the time to contract senioritis, allowing grades to slide or making poor decisions that might
lead to disciplinary action.
· Keep the admissions office updated. Unless otherwise discouraged (see above), it is wise to send recent grades or
test scores if they have improved (which they should).
· Submit more recommendations. It is often helpful to submit an additional letter of support from a teacher, coach,
director or employer. Unless you are asked to withhold further recommendations, send one more that provides a
unique perspective on you as an individual. Do not, however, inundate the college’s office with multiple letters that
simply reiterate what it already knows.
· Present your latest accomplishments. If you have won any awards, gained recognition, completed a unique project
or perhaps solved the national deficit since you first submitted your application, be sure to provide these details to the
admission office. Keep in mind, these individuals have a lot of reading to do this winter, so do not overwhelm them
· Demonstrate interest. It could be that you were deferred because of a lack of demonstrated interest. If you failed to
convince the admission committee of your desire to attend the college, perhaps it tabled your application until it had a
better sense of your enthusiasm. If the college is your top choice, express this to the admission office in a letter or e-
mail. If it is not your No. 1 school, show your firm interest in the college without being disingenuous. Unless
instructed to withhold contact, an occasional e-mail to ask an intelligent question and reiterate your desire to attend can
· Don’t show up unannounced. Martha Merrill, the dean of admission and financial aid at Connecticut College,
advises against showing up at the admission office to “plead your case.” Unless the deferral letter suggests that you
visit campus for an interview, do not arrive at the admission office’s door during what is a busy time of application
review for regular decision.
Source: Barnard, Brennan. “What to Do if You are Deferred to the Regular Decisions Pool.” The Choice: Demystifying College
Admissions and Aid. Dec. 2012. The New York Times. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.
Guidance Office: Advice to High School
Juniors, Part 1
by Robert Bardwell
May 11, 2009
QUESTION: How do you highlight a special skill that may be attractive to a college? And how do you figure out
which colleges care about that skill, such as public speaking and debate experience?
ANSWER: The best way a student can highlight a special skill is to talk about it in his/her application, personal
statement or, if possible, a personal interview. Students may also ask folks to write letters of recommendation that
detail a talent or skill (i.e. debate coach). Including citations or newspaper articles that highlight the talent or skill may
seem like a good idea, but I caution you to not send too much of that kind of thing. Many admission officers don't have
time to read the information beyond what is required.
The easiest way to know what a college is looking for is to ask, but don't expect to get a clear answer, as most colleges
want talented, well-rounded and interesting students, so to narrow it down to one special talent would be a challenge.
However, if your child is a superb debater, then some colleges may be very interested in having more debaters on their
campus and would be able to articulate that to a prospective student. If the admission staffer can have an in-depth
conversation about the debate team, then consider yourself lucky, and I would encourage you to give that school a
At particularly large schools with hundreds of clubs and activities, it is a challenge for even the most senior admission
staffer to have detailed knowledge about all of the available activities.
QUESTION: If you apply early decision, are you willing to take the school regardless of the financial aid
package they deliver? If the package doesn't work and you can't accept their offer, what is the penalty?
ANSWER: The only way an applicant can be released from the early decision contract is if the financial aid package
is not adequate to cover the cost of attendance. This can be a bit tricky, as some colleges will not be able to give you a
definitive financial aid award along with your early decision acceptance, which means the student may have to wait a
While there is no penalty from the college that the student has withdrawn from for financial reasons, the timing may
not allow the student to apply to other institutions with earlier deadlines. My advice would be to ask specifically how
the school handles financial aid awards and at what time is that information made available. In addition, it is important
that a student applying early decision is absolutely certain that school is clearly his first choice.
E.D. is not for everyone, and if all an applicant wants is an early answer, then he should consider applying early action,
if that option is available.
Source: Bardwell, Robert. “Guidance Office: Advice to High School Juniors, Part 1.” The Choice: Demystifying College
Admissions and Aid. May 2009. The New York Times. Web. 24 Jan. 2013.
Update on Heroes & Cool Kids
by Matt Kohlbrenner and Tom Kersting
For the past four years, high school students at both Ramapo and Indian Hills have served as mentors to
6 graders in all three FLOW area Middle Schools through the Heroes & Cool Kids Program. Although
none of the Heroes & Cool Kids wear capes or possess any superhero powers, positive outcomes have been
evidenced by both the mentors and mentees in terms of improved relationships and communication,
increased sensitivity, and vital education regarding issues such as harassment, bullying, and alcohol, drug
and tobacco prevention. It is important to note that although New Jersey passed the wide-reaching
Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying law just last year, Heroes & Cool Kids has addressed this topic as
one of their key points of concern throughout the program’s ten-year existence.
Over the course of the school year, Heroes & Cool Kids students from Ramapo and Indian Hills take part
in specific training conducted both at Bergen Community College and their home school in order to prepare
them for three separate 6th grade classroom visits. Besides the thorough preparation, we’ve found that the 6th
grade students seem able to hear the important words of advice and warning from our high school mentors
on these important topics, better than they might be heard coming from an adult. Additionally, the informal
connection made between the high school student mentors and 6th grade students has developed beyond the
classroom. Students see each other at sporting events and community functions and other activities that
regularly take place in the area, further strengthening positive relationships fostered at school.
Due to the program’s length of success, we are approaching the point where students who have gone
through the experience as 6th graders will soon be able to serve as high school mentors. Significant funding,
in addition to Board of Education support for Heroes & Cool Kids, continues to be provided by the FLOW
area Municipal Alliances and is greatly appreciated. We hope to see this important program, and the positive
community relations that it encourages, continue well into the future.