Will the University of California accept old SAT scores for the class of 2017?

Summary: No official announcement from the UCs yet: The University of California has not yet made an official decision about whether it will accept for admissions only the new SAT scores or both the current SAT and the new SAT scores. However, we can’t imagine why they would not accept both the 2005 (2400-point scale) SAT and the 2016 (1600-point scale) SAT, as many colleges have already announced that they will accept both.

If you’re a high school student in the class of 2017, you may be wondering whether you should take the current format of the SAT (which debuted in March, 2005 and is scored on a 2400-point scale) or the new format of the SAT (scheduled to launch in 2016 and scored on a 1600-point scale). It’s a good question.

Our official recommendation for most students is that they should take not just the current version of the SAT and be prepared to take the 2016 SAT, but also the ACT. Granted this is a lot of tests to prep for, and many students will simply not have the time. But for those of us who work with students every day to help them get their college applications in order, we frequently see distinct differences in scores among the various tests available. So, if it’s at all possible, please consider taking two or three of the tests available to you.

However, it is also important to know whether the UCs will even accept the 2005 (2400-point scale) SAT, since you wouldn’t want to prep for it and take it for no reason. To find out, we recently emailed the UC Admissions department to find out. We received a prompt reply basically saying that they had not made an official decision yet, and please check back on their admissions website in the future to find out.

What about other colleges and universities? Stanford has announced that they will accept both; so has Harvard.

On a related note, the University of California has announced that the essay portion of the 2016 SAT will be required for admission.


A new version of the Common App is coming. Thank goodness.

There’s a new version of the Common App coming on August 1, 2013, and they’re calling it CA4.

So, what’s wrong with the current version of the Common App? Well, a lot of things. It’s a noble effort, and it saves a lot of time for applicants and admissions committees alike. But it does have a few shortcomings. For example:

  • If you want to make a correction to your application, it’s difficult to do so. There’s a way to edit previous versions of your Common App, but it’s a bit tricky.
  • It does not have a rich-text editor. What’s that? In plain English, that just means that you can’t format your writing with bold, italicsunderlines, etc. Why does that matter? Actually, it matters a lot. In many situations, applicants need to write about books, movies, music pieces, etc., and it’s not only difficult or tedious to use quotation marks, underscores, or asterisks for formatting, doing so typically counts against your total character count, meaning you can’t write as much as you’d like.
  • The editor is tricky to compose in–it doesn’t save automatically, and if you compose in Google Docs or OpenOffice, slight formatting changes occur, which could make your application look sloppy.

I haven’t seen any news or previews of the new platform, but I hope it will address some or all of these issues. Of course, I’ll keep you updated with news when I learn more.

More information: https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/CA4.aspx

Sample email: I made a mistake on my application

Blurry TestMagic window sign, with flowers in focus.

So you made a mistake on your Common App? And the college you applied to has instructed you to contact the admissions office directly to make the correction? (Stanford does this, for example.)

As always, you must be professional. Whatever you write very well may become part of your application.

First, here’s an example of how NOT to write (and yes, I may exaggerate for effect):

First email at 12:14 PM:

*oh hai i made a mistake on my application, so can you fix it for me? my sat is actually 1920, not 1290. okay thanx.

Second email at 2:17 PM:

*oh hai, i forgot, my name is my full name. kthxbye!!!111

I hope that that communication is obviously wrong. If it’s not, please, let’s have a talk! Or talk to someone who has experience with writing for help (such as an English teacher or someone who has a professional job).

This is a better version of the email:

Dear Admissions Officer,

Unfortunately, I recorded some information incorrectly on my Common App. I tried to update it myself, but it’s locked, and I can’t make the change myself. I checked your site’s FAQ, and it said I should email you with corrections. My SAT score is 1920. The score of 1290 is incorrect.

Thanks in advance for your assistance .

Best regards,

My Full Name

Obviously, if you’re going to use this email, please use this as a template only. In other words, don’t just copy and paste this email–edit it to make it your own.

Think twice before you write that clever status message

TestMagic Daisy

Quick advice, everybody:

Anytime you make a post on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, your school website, some random essay website, or whatever, you’ve got to believe and understand that whatever you write could be seen by pretty much anyone in the future.

For example, this is BAD:

*half a grade off for one day late? (WTHeck) mr foshizzle????!!!!!! (hecka) (angry)!

This is better:

Note to self: Always plan for the unexpected.

Why? In the future, some admissions officer or job interviewer may come across your post and decide to reject you for it. No kidding. It happens.

8 great first lines from Stanford application essays

Stanford University Tower with stunning backdrop of sky
Imagine this view every day on your way to class at Stanford University. A dream come true?

It’s college admissions season and high school seniors all over the country are struggling to perfectly capture the essence of who they are in fewer than 1,001 characters, no easy task for anyone, let alone an overworked high school student.

Parents and university-hopefuls frequently tell us that they are unsure of what to write in their personal statements. While the standard advice is easy to give (Find something interesting and unique about you, and tell it in a compelling way), it is often painfully difficult to follow through on. Easier said than done, for sure.

We’ve all heard English teachers say that the introduction can be the most important part of an essay, as it focuses the reader, sets expectations, and grabs the reader’s attention. We often search for a hook, one that is at once unique and free of gimmicks. It is a tricky balancing act, and is certainly culturally influenced as well. Worse, we writers often lack the objectivity to effectively assess our our own writing (especially when we’ve labored over a single paragraph for hours or days), so we may not be able to tell whether our writing works or conveys the message we want.

Not helping matters at all is the conflicting advice we receive from the dozen or so English teachers we’ve had over the years. One teacher marks off for using second-person (e.g., You may not know how lucky you are until you’ve lost everything you once had), favoring the more stilted third-person (One may not know how lucky she is until she’s lost everything she once had). Another teacher may encourage you to eschew formality and find an “authentic” voice. Complicating matters is the fact that College Board has officially okayed the use of first-person (e.g., “I”) in the SAT essay, which for many students represents the definitive answer to the question of what is or is not acceptable in writing. (Folks, for the record, there are different levels of formality and myriad different styles of writing. There is truly no right or wrong in essays. My best advice to you, if you have any doubt at all, is to first learn what your particular teacher or test wants, and conform to those expectations or guidelines.)

So, what are the admissions committees looking for in writing? If you ask any of them, they will invariably tell you just to be yourself, to let your true voice come out. But… What does that mean? I could write a chapter on this topic, but for now I’ll just say that I think that that advice isn’t as helpful as it sounds. (What would happen if you were just being yourself and wrote I hecka want to go to Stanford! I mean, who wouldn’t? Dude, it’s an awesome school! You ever see those posers wearing Stanford hoodies, but you just know they didn’t go there? Yeah! I could wear a Stanford hoodie honestly, and then all my relatives would shut up about me never succeeding at anything. In yo face! )

Well, here’s some great news. Stanford published 22 opening lines of essays they liked, the writers of which were offered a place in the graduating class of 2012. Here are eight of those 22, chosen for their variety and uniqueness:

  1. On a hot Hollywood evening, I sat on a bike, sweltering in a winter coat and furry boots.
  2. While traveling through the daily path of life, have you ever stumbled upon a hidden pocket of the universe?
  3. Cancer tried to defeat me, and it failed.
  4. Flying over enemy territory, I took in Beirut’s beautiful skyline and wondered if under different circumstances I would have hopped on a bus and come here for my vacation. Instead, I saw the city from the window of a helicopter, in military uniform, my face camouflaged, on my way to a special operation deep behind enemy lines.
  5. I change my name each time I place an order at Starbucks.
  6. I was paralyzed from the waist down. I would try to move my leg or even shift an ankle but I never got a response. This was the first time thoughts of death ever crossed my mind.
  7. As an Indian-American, I am forever bound to the hyphen.
  8. Unlike many mathematicians, I live in an irrational world; I feel that my life is defined by a certain amount of irrationalities that bloom too frequently, such as my brief foray in front of 400 people without my pants.

Be sure to take a look at the rest of the opening sentences, as they offer a rare and invaluable peek inside the admissions office.

I hope those opening lines will give you some ideas of what to write and of what the admissions committees like. Remember, they are human, just like you. If you, your friends, or your family like something you’ve written, there’s a good chance others will too. And good luck with your admissions!