'Sneak Attack': Cheating on the SAT is Easy

SAT Hackers

I remember the day and morning before my standardized test. I was almost in tears because of the Math section I feared so much. But perhaps others also taking the test had less to be worried about: such is the persuasive case presented in the new book “Sneak Attack” by Peter Wayner.

Technology is always a cat-and-mouse game between those with malice in mind, who use technological knowledge to aide their wrongdoing, and those who wish to maintain equity and use these advancements for good. Unbeknownst to many of us college students, College Board test takers have used technology to jump leagues ahead on our most important college preparation test by cheating.

“Sneak Attack” enters the world of these high school geeks. Taking a conversation with a Brooklyn Science grad, as well as many other technical sources, Wayner exposes the simple fact that “anyone could cheat on the SAT” by highlighting tactics that any savvy high schooler may employ:

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Do Admissions Officers Discriminate Against Asian Americans?

The Cons of Being Asian American

There are two very well-known facts about highly-selective admissions among Asian American applicants:

1. Asian American applicants and admittances, on average, score higher on the SAT than students from any other race.

2. While the percentage of students belonging to most other racial minorities in highly selective colleges have gone up over the years, the percentage of Asian-American students has not.

Taken together, these facts have spurred worry among many potential Asian American applicants and their families that selective college admission is biased against students of Asian descent—that an already very competitive pool is made even more competitive because of their race alone. This fear has been fueled by findings from the Department of Education’s investigation into allegations that Harvard and Princeton discriminated against Asian American applicants in 2012, as well as the recent national debate over affirmative action.

However, according to Jason Lewis, an admissions expert working for InGenius Prep with several years of admissions experience at Columbia and Washington University, all applications in his experience are reviewed on an individual basis.

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Weekly News Round-Up: Banning Affirmative Action, Questioning Ivy League Statistics, and Welcoming The Class of 2018

Supreme Court Weighs In

TO BAN OR NOT TO BAN? The decision is out! This week, Supreme Court justices voted, 6-2, in favor of keeping the Michigan law that prevents public colleges from factoring race into the admissions process. What does this mean for the future of affirmative action policies? Let the debate begin.

CIAO, COMMON APP: The idea of going to school abroad can seem daunting to some students. For international students applying to U.S. colleges, the U.S. college application process can also seem very foreign. Huffington Post writers offered their advice to international students applying to U.S. schools by suggesting that students plan ahead to make sure they meet all their deadlines and to make sure they know about all the different tests that U.S. schools accept (SAT, ACT, subject tests, etc.).

WELCOME, CLASS OF 2018: In this year’s admissions process, Harvard University accepted a record number of African American students for the Class of 2018 at 11.9 percent of all the accepted applicants. But wait, that’s not all! 14.3 percent of Williams College’s Class of 2018 are of African American descent as well.

COMPETING IN THE IVY LEAGUE: Are all Ivies made equal? Maybe not. Between the application rounds for the Class of 2017 and the Class of 2018, the University of Pennsylvania saw a 14.4 percent increase in applications whereas Dartmouth saw a 14.2 percent decrease. Harvard received 2.1 percent less applications. Will this trend continue into future years? Only time will tell.

AMBIGUOUS ADMISSION RATES: Harvard accepted 5.9 percent of its applicants to the Class of 2018. But what does that really mean? Nick Anderson from the Washington Post argues that admission rates can be misleading because of how different schools define an acceptance offer and an application to the school. Anderson says, “Various colleges define applications in various ways. Some are quite strict about only counting apps that have all required elements in a file–essays, test scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. Others essentially count anyone who starts the process and pays a fee.” So what does Harvard’s 5.9 percent refer to?

Applying Emotions to Applications

Heartbroken Admissions Officers

UPDATED: April 28, 2014 at 3:55 p.m.

Here’s something you don’t usually hear in discussions about the increasingly competitive landscape of college and graduate school admissions: rejection letters don’t only sadden students. They have the same strong emotional impact on admissions committee members as well.

Angel B. Perez, former Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Pitzer College in Claremont, wrote in his emotional op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that what “families don't see is the amount of emotion that admissions officers across the country pour into making these decisions. These students don't know that behind closed doors, we argue about these difficult decisions. Each of us fights for the kids in admissions committee meetings, and we're truly sad when we turn away applicants…”

Jean Webb—the former Director of Admissions at Yale Law School and current admissions counselor for InGenius Prep—felt similarly to Angel Perez when discussing her emotional reactions to making decisions on law school applications.

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211 Pages About The SAT

SAT Stupor

Drum roll, please.

The College Board has recently released details of a new, revised, and, potentially, improved SAT. In a horrendously long and frightfully dull 211-page PDF file, the College Board divulged details of the upcoming SAT that will be introduced to the stressful, acne-prone, nail-biting world of college hopefuls in the spring of 2016.

The new layout of the test shows off a slimmer, trimmer SAT: instead of a grueling three hours and forty-five minutes of examination, the new SAT will be three hours long. These three hours of testing will include a 65-minute critical reading section with 52 questions, a 35-minute written language test with 44 questions, and an 80-minute math section with 57 questions.

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Harvard Not On Top?

Stanford vs. Harvard

“So, what do you think Stanford has over Harvard, besides location and the fact that they are in the heart of Silicon Valley?” a registered member of College Confidential asked on the online forum, stirring up the debate between which school is better. Even if it isn’t the weather, make out parties, or chances of becoming a reality TV star that is drawing students to the west coast school, something about Stanford’s popularity is definitely on the rise.

This year, Stanford recorded their lowest admission rate ever, accepting 2,138 of 42,167 students, or a mere 5.07% of their applications. And it isn’t just Stanford accepting fewer and fewer applications—Princeton, Penn, and Columbia all recorded lower admit rates than years past, compared to Harvard which saw a slight increase in admission rates. Perhaps this is a result of Forbes’s ranking Stanford as the top college in the United States, followed by Pomona, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Swarthmore, and the United States Military Academy. Harvard ranked sixth place.

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What If You Had To Take The SAT Again?

SAT 2.0

Current Harvard students responded with a lack of concern when reflecting on how the newly announced SAT changes would have affected their test performance, had the College Board implemented them before they took the test.

The College Board announced its plans in early March to make sweeping changes to the SAT starting in the fall 2016.

Past SAT test-takers at Harvard generally agree they would have scored higher on the new SAT.

“I would have done better,” Madhavi L. Narayanan '17 said. “The vocab was what I struggled with the most, and the writing I think would’ve suited me more.”

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Should Harvard Increase Its Class Size?

Harvard for All

It’s a fact: admissions rates at top colleges across the U.S. have declined dramatically in recent years. Elite schools like Harvard and Stanford rejected nearly 95 percent of the applicant pool for the class of 2018. But it isn’t that these schools admit fewer students; rather, it’s that these schools receive more applications than they ever have before. A number of factors contribute to this: a fear of the arbitrary nature of college admissions, a greater amount of financial aid available for low-income students, and the ease of pressing “submit” on the common app are only a few. Whatever the reason, though, many high school students these days feel pressured to apply to ten, fifteen, sometimes even close to twenty colleges to ensure that they won’t be disappointed when those admissions emails arrive.

In light of the rising rate of rejections and the increasing number of extremely qualified applicants in an admissions pool, the inevitable question has arisen: should elite schools like Harvard increase class sizes in order to accommodate these changes? It’s a tantalizing prospect that simply involves increasing the number of beds available at the college so that more of these incredible students can be given the opportunity to study here. Unfortunately, though, this approach is far from practical and would only hurt the student body overall.

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Social Media and Admissions: To Facebook or Not to Facebook?

Face What?

As the school year winds down and college application season draws near, so comes to mind one of life’s most central questions: Oh, crap, what do I do with my Facebook account?

Urban legend has long been that, as part of the application process, college admissions officers take a peek at prospective students’ social media profiles. You might have heard as much from your high school guidance counselors or even from current college students themselves, but before you go scurrying to delete that Facebook video of you and your friends having a 3AM dance-off at your sleepover last weekend, hear me out.

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Waitlists: Not the End of the World

Waitlist Woes

The day finally arrives. After months of waiting and years of preparation, you find out whether or not you got in to the school of your dreams. You then open the e-mail or letter only to find that your wait time has been further extended. You have been placed on the infamous waitlist, essentially telling you that the school likes you and wants to accept you, but perhaps there were better candidates or you were not a top priority.

Some would argue that this is better than rejection. There’s still a chance, still a hope that your dream could come true. Many, however, feel that this is a worse scenario. Accepting your spot on the waitlist is like accepting your place in purgatory. With all the painful waiting already done, it would almost be more humane to just reject students flat out. Put them out of their misery. But this defeatist attitude doesn't get you anywhere. There’s no harm in accepting your spot in the waitlist. Why close that door before you know for sure what’s on the other side? Keep your options open.

The waitlist does not have to be such a tragic fate, and there are many ways to improve your chances you’ve accepted your position. Here are some tips to living in limbo:

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Weekly News Round-Up: Admissions Rates, Affirmative Action, and At Least You’re Not Lincoln’s Kid

Honest Abe

8-POINT-SOMETHING-SOMETHING: According to the Washington Post, out of the 253,472 applications received by the eight Ivy League schools for the Class of 2018, just 22,624 were actually accepted. That makes the admissions rate an incredibly low 8.92 percent. Crazy, huh?

WHAT’S THE VERDICT?: The state of Michigan is anxiously awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on whether or not to uphold its voter-approved ban on affirmative action in public university admissions. This has, of course, caused a lot of controversy, but a verdict is expected any day now—stay tuned!

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Is Undermatching Overvalued?


It’s a fact that students in the lowest income quartile constitute less than 4% of enrollment at the nation’s most selective institutions. Among the many possible explanations, one of the most-talked about reasons is the theory of undermatching. In layman’s terms, this is the phenomenon when academically talented, low income students who could succeed at top colleges aren’t applying to, enrolling in, or graduating from them. Recent analysis, however, suggests that perhaps this theory isn’t as sound as we all seem to think.

A study done by Michael N. Bastedo and Allyson Flaster of the University of Michigan presents three key flaws in current research on undermatching. For one, they said, the research ignores an important choice that disadvantaged students frequently make between community colleges and four-year institutions, of which they prefer the former. Secondly, researchers often erroneously assume that they can predict which students would be admitted to a top college if they applied. Finally, researchers also wrongfully assume that a high SAT score and a purely meritocratic admissions process would close the gap for disadvantaged students.

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