Monday, May 28, 2012

College: SATs, Extracurriculars, and Majors

Here are few questions from some high schoolers:

1. What is the SAT? And how do I study for it?
2. Volunteer work?
3.  What is a major and how you choose it?

1.  The SAT is the standardized test for admissions into the university.  There is also the ACT which is a different test, and would apply if you want to apply to certain schools on the East Coast. For all UC's, you can take either the SAT or ACT, but most people take the SAT. 

I had a few friends take both since they applied to colleges on the East Coast. One regret of mine: not applying to schools on the East Coast. It wasn't because I didn't have the grades or scores....I just didn't.  So you may want to consider to start studying for both. 

How do you study? Find out if your school offers free classes (I know they started to for my sister's high school...they offered nothing of the sort when I went there). You can go to the bookstore (Borders, Barnes and Nobel, etc) to purchase an SAT prep book ($15-30).  If money is tight (which I know for me it was), see if you can ask the college counselor/school library to loan or check out an SAT prep book. There are also a lot of resources online. (I can't seem to put up the website right now, but just Google "SAT College Board" and there should be a resources tab).

2.  Extracurriculars: These activities make or break you on a college application. In terms of volunteering, you definitely need more than 8 hours/year.  If it's your only activity, 8 hours/week is reasonable and quite a few hours.  Think about what you are doing this summer: Volunteering at the local hospital/nursing home/senior center/homeless shelter/animal shelter/library would be great experience, especially if you worked 20-40 hours a week. If you get a job this summer, 10 hours of volunteer work/ week would be sufficient too. Think about how you can maximize this and next summer.  Plus, it gets you off the couch :-)

Also, think about joining a club on campus.  I don't know which specifics clubs you have at your high school, but maybe try to get a leadership position in the club for next year.  I know I got my sister to become the Treasurer for the International Club at my high school.  Honestly, it can be anything.

Do you play any sports/other activities like dance, band, drama? Those are also things that you can get more involved with.

3.  A major is the basically the line of study you pursue in college.  My major, for instance, is Mechanical Engineering.  When I graduate in December, I will have a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering.  Different schools offer different majors, depending on their specialties.  UC Davis specializes in the Biological Sciences and Agricultural Sciences.  However, the Social Sciences and Engineering Programs are still great.  UC Davis just offers some Agricultural majors that other schools don't have. It is good to note that some majors are more difficult that others....they require more work. However, different majors also put individuals in line for different jobs, hence the difference in difficulty. For instance, an English major cannot become an engineer upon graduation.  They would have to apply for a 2nd Bachelor's degree program to have all of the math/science/engineering requirements. A major does not bind you for life, though. You can change careers and there are lots of opportunities with most majors. 


  1. Great post. Very helpful. I'm studying for the SAT this year as a high school senior. I'm trying to get into my "dream college."

    1. Hey I'm so glad you enjoyed this :) I like your posts and I wish you the best of luck. My advice (and another soon to come blog post) is to also take the ACT. Students generally score higher on the ACT and most schools will accept the ACT as well.


      N. Riazi

    2. Also feel free to poke around the site for study tips, hints, and tricks that can definitely be applied to you study summer.