Undergraduate Admission Blog

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February 10, 2017

GUEST BLOG: SATurday Morning at USC

Why would two college educated professionals want to put themselves through the SAT Exam? That is a good question considering our 17 year old selves vowed never to take that exam ever again. The answer is simple: we want to be the best admission officers in America. To better understand our prospective freshmen, we took things to the next level and decided to spend a day (or half a day technically) in your shoes!

Here are our thoughts…


Things I noticed:

Maybe it was the fact that I am older, but the new version of the SAT felt less draining than the previous version – it might also be because I was doing it for “fun!” I liked the new addition of being able to fill in math problems without multiple choice options. I think it gave me the ability to demonstrate deeper thinking. I also recall the previous version switching between sections (ie math section, reading section, math section), and this exam didn’t. Having all of my left side of the brain activity at one time and then right side of the brain activity during another worked for me. At the same time, I understand how it might be fatiguing for others. Additionally, I found the reading excerpts were varied in terms of topic, which I think helps give different types of students the ability to connect with pieces and show their ability. For example, I would imagine it would be hard for a STEM oriented student to sit through only pieces that focused on arts and culture, so I appreciated that diversity.  I also realized that a decade after the fact, I’m still not a fan of trigonometry.


Adventures in Test Prep:

I decided I was going to try to study for the test this time around (which is not something I had really done much of in high school), so I signed up for the Khan Academy test prep option. Although I only logged on a few times, it was nice to get a quick refresher in geometry and algebra (it’s been over a decade since I took those classes). Like Clay mentioned, the format of the test has changed since we took it in the mid to late ‘00s, so I felt like the test prep was helpful for me to get a better sense of what the test would be like when we took it for real. In my experience, the most valuable part of test prep is getting a feel for the test so there are no surprises in the format and style of the test to throw you off on testing day.

Words of Advice:

  • Don’t bring your phone into the testing center. There are plenty of signs reminding you of that, but everyone in our room (excluding Clay and me) had phones that the proctor had to take from them. Save yourself the embarrassment.
  • Make sure you bring the right ID. I saw at least one person get turned away for not having the correct form of identification. The college admissions process is stressful enough, being turned away at the door of your SAT is not a good way to start the day.
  • Bring snacks! Clay was very hungry and had to eat some of my snacks, so he wouldn’t continue to distract the other test takers with his growling stomach. Even though the test isn’t that long, bring a snack or two and some water just in case.
  • Don’t forget a jacket or wear layers. You never know what the air conditioning/heating situation is going to be. The students in our room were really cold, which can be a distraction from the hard work you put in while preparing for the test.
  • Before you register, do some research on the testing requirements of the schools you’re considering. We decided not to take the optional essay section because USC doesn’t require it, but lots of other schools do. If the schools you’re looking at require the essay, make sure to prepare for that as well.

Final Reflections:

You’re more than a test score! Regardless of our scores, we are still very secure in who we are and what we are capable of doing, and you should be, too! We like to think we have 1600s when it comes to living our best lives.

Although standardized test scores are helpful in the admission process, they aren’t the only thing colleges look at when reviewing your application. Obviously, we want you to do well on the test, as it can be a good predictor of the type of college student you’ll be, but there are lots of other ways for us to gather that information: grades and rigor of courses, involvement, leadership, letters of recommendation, etc. So while the SAT or ACT are an important part of your college application, there are certainly many other ways for you to stand out in the process. We want you to feel prepared for standardized tests and present scores that accurately reflect your academic abilities, but please don’t spend every weekend of your junior and senior years taking standardized tests. We’d rather you spend some of that time on your essays, getting more involved in your extracurricular activities, or doing other things you love. Living your life will present you with many other tests that will help you navigate life after high school.

BY: Kelsey Bradshaw and Clay Busia