7 Things You Need to Know about College Board’s New “Adversity Score”

7 Things You Need to Know about College Board’s New “Adversity Score”

First things first– it’s not actually an Adversity Score. It’s a tool that helps colleges interpret a student’s SAT scores. This “Environmental Context Dashboard” (ECD) uses data from a student’s school and neighborhood to calculate their level of “disadvantage.” This means average scores from other students at their school, graduation rates, crime rates in their areas, median income and more.


Students are then given a “disadvantage level” in the form of a score from 1-100, with 100 being the most disadvantaged. While this score is important, it’s only part of the whole story. The EDC contains a bunch of information, and there are many things to know about how it will affect the admissions process.  


Here are 7 things that you need to know:


1. The info provided in the EDC will not change a student’s SAT score.


2. Information about a student’s race, ethnicity, or individual demographics will not be included in the ECD.


3. Students are not able to access their ECD report. This information will only be shared with participating admissions offices.


4. Taking the ACT will not prevent schools from seeing a student’s disadvantage score. They will simply convert the ACT score to its SAT equivalent.


5. The program is being piloted to 150 universities during the Fall 2019 semester and will continue to expand to other public and private institutions in 2020.


6. Schools that already used the EDC had higher rates of admission for more disadvantaged students.


7. Two students living in the same neighborhood and going to the same high school will have exactly the same disadvantage score, regardless of race, individual family income or personal history.


Though it is difficult to determine what the exact impact of the ECD will be, especially from school to school, it’s important to keep in mind that the information included in the ECD has been available to universities for many years. Now, it is simply all put into one, easily accessible dashboard. If you would like to learn more about the data used by the College Board to calculate disadvantage level scores, click here.

Seven Mistakes to Avoid on Your Personal Statement

Seven Mistakes to Avoid on Your Personal Statement

Writing the personal statement for your college applications is a daunting task, but choosing a topic is even more challenging. It can be tricky to determine where you want to focus, especially if you don’t know what your readers might be looking for. You’re a complex, unique human being — How on Earth are you supposed to smash your entire being into a few hundred words? Unfortunately, we can’t write your personal statement for you, but we *can* help you avoid some mistakes that students make when deciding their topic!  


1. Spending too much time on various achievements. Remember: This is an essay, not just a second resume. I’m sure you’ve got a lot of impressive achievements, but this is not the place to talk through them all. Your best bet is to choose one topic and dive deep.

2. Choosing a topic that’s too big. All told, you really don’t have that much space. Make sure the story you’re telling is the right size, and not too big (or too small) to adequately cover in the space allotted. Get to the point quickly and stay on topic!

3. Telling a generic story. Stay away from topics that are too common and not unique to you. At worst, it’s plagiarism, and at best, it’s boring. Ask yourself questions like, “What experiences have I had that speak to who I am?” “What essay can I write that no one else could write?” “If I don’t feel strongly about this, why should my reader?”

4. Crossing a line. If you’re choosing a controversial topic, think critically about the subject at hand. Standing out is great, but make sure you don’t cross the line from edgy to offensive, rude, or indignant. Be smart when discussing issues such as race, religion, class, politics, etc.

5. Not being a particularly likable character in your story. Beware of complaining or coming off overly negative, or, on the opposite side, too arrogant. Your reader needs to be impressed by your writing, but they also need to like you. There’s a happy medium in there that will serve you well.

6. Making your reader uncomfortable. Some vulnerability can be powerful, but try to avoid oversharing. We understand the temptation to pour your heart out, but you need to be sure that all of the emotion you’re using is justified. You don’t know the people who will read this and you don’t want to make them uncomfortable for any reason. 

7. Silly mistakes. This shouldn’t even be here on this list, but please please make sure everything is thoroughly edited. Please.


Hopefully, these tips can help you zero in on your perfect topic!

One last piece of advice: If nothing else, think about what makes you, you! Good luck!

Your Ultimate Organic Chemistry Survival Guide

Your Ultimate Organic Chemistry Survival Guide

Whether you’ve just begun your Organic Chemistry journey or you’re looking to improve your current study habits, here are some useful tips for being successful in your Organic Chemistry course.


First and Foremost: Keep Your Cool!

Organic Chemistry is one of those subjects that somehow automatically elicits a series of fearful groans whenever mentioned. College students have vilified the course for decades, passing down horror stories like old folktales of a mystical, unconquerable beast. But just like folktales, these stories are often exaggerated and, at times, completely false. Organic Chemistry is not an impossible course. If you approach it with confidence and open-mindedness, you may realize that it can be quite interesting and even, dare I say, fun!

But even though Organic Chemistry may not be as intolerable as your peers make it out to be, it is still a very challenging course. Therefore, it is useful to be strategic in your approach.


Second: Forego the Flashcards

Up until this point, you may have been able to survive off the good old “memorize and regurgitate” method of studying for science tests. You find yourself waiting until the last minute to cram an entire semester’s worth of information into one night. Though this can be a fast and simple way to cut out hours of studying, this method will not work for Organic Chemistry.

Organic Chemistry is fundamentally more conceptual than most other science courses. Therefore, it is imperative that you have a firm grasp on not just what is happening but why it is happening. This takes time and practice, and it cannot be mastered in just one or even two nights of studying.

Make sure that you are setting yourself up for success by building a strong foundational and conceptual understanding of the principles of Organic Chemistry early on. This will help you when you move on to more complex concepts like mechanisms, especially in the second-semester Organic Chemistry course.


Third: Take Really Good Notes

Unlike the General Chemistry and Physics courses you may have taken in the past, Organic Chemistry is primarily concerned with the physical nature of molecules. This means that, rather than using formulas and functions, Organic Chemistry uses molecular structure and 3-dimensional shape to explain scientific concepts. A good way of orienting yourself to this change is to take notes that will supply you with a rich visual understanding of the concepts that you are learning. In this way, you may find it useful to take color-coded notes or use a whiteboard when studying for tests. You can also watch instructional videos online that provide visual aids.

Bonus Tip: If you are finding it difficult to draw out molecules or if you’re interested in having a more tangible representation of reactions, you should consider buying a molecular modeling kit. These can be easily purchased online and allow for you to build out molecules as a visual aid.


Fourth: Practice Makes Perfect

It doesn’t matter how much you’ve read or how perfectly drawn out your notes are. If you do not practice, your chances of being successful in Organic Chemistry are very slim. The more practice that you can get, the more prepared you will be when it comes to exam time. This means completing your assigned homework, textbook problems, and practice tests when available. In total, the time you spend studying outside of class should equal to approximately twice the time you’ve spent in lecture. So if you’re taking a 3 credit hour class, you should be spending about six or more hours a week studying.


Finally: Ask for Help!

If you are having a hard time grasping Organic Chemistry concepts on your own, don’t be afraid to reach out to your classmates, TAs, or professors for extra help. Often, an alternative explanation or demonstration can clear up any confusion or misunderstanding.

Additionally, you may find it useful to find a tutor who can guide you through the ins and outs of Organic Chemistry, providing additional support when needed. Check out the tutors we have available through Smart Alec! Our top-of-the-line tutors provide in-home and video tutoring services in a wide variety of subjects, including Organic Chemistry.

Unfortunately, there is not a simple plug and chug formula for getting an A in Organic Chemistry. Just give it your best and don’t give up! If you’re ever feeling stuck, remember these tips and don’t forget to ask for help. Good luck out there!

How to Write Like Ernest Hemingway

How to Write Like Ernest Hemingway

Have you ever had an English teacher make any of the following comments on your paper?

  • “Unclear”
  • “Run-on sentence”
  • “Rephrase”

If so, chances are that your paper could be improved by sounding a bit more like Ernest Hemingway. His clear, economic language carries both beauty and efficiency, as you can read in the passage below

“In the morning I walked down the Boulevard to the rue Soufflot for coffee and brioche. It was a fine morning. The horse-chestnut trees in the Luxembourg gardens were in bloom. There was the pleasant early-morning feeling of a hot day. I read the papers with the coffee and then smoked a cigarette. The flower-women were coming up from the market and arranging their daily stock. Students went by going up to the law school, or down to the Sorbonne. The Boulevard was busy with trams and people going to work.”

                                                                              – The Sun Also Rises

Luckily for you, there’s a powerful online tool that can help you clean up your prose. The Hemingway Editor is an online tool that will help you edit a text in pursuit of clean, clear writing in the style of the cherished American author.

So, how does the Hemingway tool work? It’s as simple as his prose. Take whatever text you are working on and copy and paste it into Hemingway. Your passage will be given a score on readability and an estimation on how long it will take on average to read. The Hemingway app will highlight different aspects of your text that need attention, and explain different ways to sharpen your work. Whether you need to simplify your writing, strengthen your prose, or shake up your literary style, Hemingway is here to help! Here are the issues that the app will help you overcome:

  1. The adverb. Hemingway will go through your text and highlight in blue any uses of adverbs, suggesting you keep them to a minimum. As we know from Schoolhouse Rock, adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. While it may appear odd to disavow an entire part of speech, adverbs can often be a symptom of weak writing. Why use an adverb when you can just use a stronger or more accurate verb? By drawing attention to the adverbs, Hemingway is going to help you reconsider your verb choices.
  2. Second is the unholiest of unholies and the bane of your English teacher’s existence: the passive voice. The passive voice is a grammatical voice where the subject appears passive in regards to the predicate, as opposed to actively carrying out the action. For example, “Our troops defeated the enemy” is active, while “The enemy was defeated by our troops” is passive. The passive voice with be highlighted green so you can strike it out and turn it active, just like Ernest would have.
  3. The last three tools will draw attention to sections of the text that are messy or lack clarity. Highlights in purple and yellow will address hard to read phrases and hard to read sentences, respectively. Just like your school teacher’s red pen, the red highlight is reserved for sentences that are particularly unclear or hard to read.

Here’s an example of the tool in action:

Billy closed the classroom door firmly, and there was an excruciatingly loud noise that prompted everyone to cover their ears. Billy was looked at by everyone with their menacing stares. 

Using the Hemingway tool suggestions, the paragraph could be rewritten as:

Billy slammed the classroom door. There was an excruciating noise that prompted everyone to cover their ears. Everyone looked at Billy with their menacing stares.

So give it a shot! Try this tool and before you know it, you’ll be putting the final touches on The Sun Also Rises 2. Just take it easy on the booze and the big game hunting.