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Identity Crisis: Administrators Take Steps to Prevent Cheating on Standardized Tests

by Kara Coleman

Okay, be honest: Have you ever cheated on a test? Last fall, at least 20 teens in New York State were involved in a cheating scandal for the biggest exams of their academic careers: the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. Five of those students were accused of taking the tests for others and the other 15 allegedly paid those individuals between $500 and $3,600 to take the tests for them. One of the test takers was a guy who had been taking tests for girls with gender-neutral names; he had also been presenting test proctors with fake IDs.

To combat this, the College Board and ACT Education announced on March 27th that some additional security measures will be taken when students register for the college entrance exams. The changes – which will come into effect this fall – include students submitting a headshot of themselves when they register for the ACT or SAT; these photos will be printed on the test proctors’ rosters and on the students’ admission tickets and on test day, the proctors will compare the photos to the photo IDs that the students present to the students’ actual faces. Students will also have to identify their gender, date of birth and high school to prevent any other chance of mistaken identity.

So what do you think? Will these new identity verification measures prevent students from having others take the tests for them? This situation also presents another question: Is too much riding on a student’s standardized test scores? When one point can keep a student out of their dream school or prevent them from receiving a scholarship, what other factors should be considered in the college admissions process? It will be interesting to see how the SAT and ACT continue to change in upcoming years and how well the new changes will work this fall.

This past summer, Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has also been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books.


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GRE to Debut ScoreSelect in July

by Alexis Mattera

College students who want to attend graduate school not only need good grades, excellent recommendation letters and related experience in the field they’re planning to enter but also a solid score on the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. But what happens if the score you receive isn’t what you (and the schools you’re applying to) were expecting? Starting in July, it’s ScoreSelect to the rescue.

Graduate programs currently receive students’ comprehensive five-year histories of GRE scores but with ScoreSelect, a student will be able to choose to send all scores or just the ones achieved during his or her most recent exam. ScoreSelect also lets students customize their score reports by school: Test takers may send their most recent scores to one batch of schools on test day free of charge and then forward a different set of schools either all of their scores or a specific score from the last five years after the exam for a fee. Why the change, especially so soon after last year’s format overhaul? “What we believe will happen is that students will have more confidence on test day,” said Christine Betaneli, a spokeswoman for GRE administrator Educational Testing Service (ETS).

There are additional details about ScoreSelect on ETS’ website. After getting all the facts, what do you think of ScoreSelect? Is it an option you’ll take advantage of when you take the GRE?


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Confessions of a College Graduate

by Jessica Seals

After my high school graduation, I could not wait to start attending college and gain more life experience by being out on my own. Before I graduated from college, however, I heavily anticipated the break that I would be taking before I began law school. I dreamed about all of the extra rest that I would be getting and became even more excited when I thought about all of the extra energy that I'd have. Today, I find myself missing college more and more each day...and I am only six months into my break!

When I first told people that I would be taking a break after I graduated, my decision was met with mixed feelings. Some people said that they were jealous of all of the free time that I would have and some stated that I would go crazy from having too much time to myself but I never would have guessed that the latter would be right! I began to miss school so much that I would dream about random classroom scenarios several times a week. It sounds crazy but I soon realized how much I loved learning new things and having my mind challenged on a daily basis.

Some students may need a long break in order to recover after undergrad but six months was more than enough time for me to realize that I am not one of those students! I have a full-time job but it does not even come close to comparing to what I experienced as an undergrad. I know that I am not ready to begin my journey in law school so I decided to pursue a master’s degree to compensate for the chaotic state that my mind has been in since I took my last final exam. Wish me luck!

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.


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Ready. Set. Apply!

Common App Now Live, Students Already Registering for Accounts

August 3, 2012

Ready. Set. Apply!

by Alexis Mattera

Sure, most high schools won’t be back in session for another month but some rising seniors aren’t wasting any time getting back into the academic swing of things: As of Tuesday evening, admissions season officially began with the launch of this year’s Common Application. According to the not-for-profit’s website, 300 individuals registered for Common Application accounts within the initial 30 minutes they were available this admissions cycle, with the first one coming in less than 60 seconds after the launch!

So should you use the Common Application? Seeing as though some of the most selective schools in the country (think UChicago and Columbia) have adopted it, we think it’s definitely worth it if you are applying to more than one school. The online system makes it very easy to complete and submit applications to multiple schools but some colleges and programs do require Common Appers to complete supplemental questions to gauge applicants’ knowledge of and interest in that specific school; these are NOT optional and neglecting to submit supplements means your application will be viewed as incomplete and will not be considered for admission.

Ready to get the application process started? Register for your own Common Application account today!


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Your College Application Guide

by Radha Jhatakia

For seniors in high school, it’s about that time to dive into your college applications. The process is rather involved and has the potential to become very stressful but here’s how you can go about it while retaining your sanity.

First, you likely already have a list of colleges you are considering but start narrowing down your top contenders. Look at the majors they offer and see if they have the programs you’re interested in. Check the cost – financial aid may play a key role in what college you attend – and also see if they have activities that interest you (a sport you want to play, a specific student organization, a Greek system, an honors program, etc.). What’s the on-campus housing situation and could you see yourself living in the dorms? Consider these questions and more when deciding whether or not to apply to a college.

Second, check all the application deadlines. Remember, besides the actual application, you must submit test scores, transcripts, recommendation letters and personal statements and you need adequate time to procure all of these items. Also, review the fees associated with each application; some schools let you apply for free or a discounted rate online but you should also consider requesting application fee waivers if money is tight.

Third, the personal statement is the biggest part of the college application because it represents your personality. You may have a high GPA, AP classes and extracurricular activities but so do many other students – what will set you apart from the rest of the application pool is how you present yourself in the personal statement. Have a teacher or parent review your personal statement and edit it for you before submitting it to your college of choice.

Fourth – and although this is fourth on this list, you still want to get it done early – request recommendation letters. Ask teachers you’ve worked with and trust well in advance if they can write on your behalf. Have two or three for each college that requires one. Along with your personal information/resume/school involvement list, give the teacher an envelope that is stamped and addressed to the college(s) to which you’re applying so they can submit their letters directly.

Last but not least, take all your tests on time. If you haven’t taken the ACT, SAT or SAT II tests, register for the next available date; check which tests your colleges require and sign up for those ASAP!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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