Varsity Advice

“Empowering The High School Student Athlete”

When kids cheat on SAT, ACT April 5, 2010

Filed under: News — Varsity Mentoring @ 12:32 pm

What happens to students who cheat on the two college admissions exams, the SAT and the ACT? Not as much as you might think.

It isn’t particularly easy to cheat on these exams, but that doesn’t stop some students from trying.

They do it in all the ways you might imagine: Copying off someone else’s paper, texting on a cellphone for answers, bringing in cheat sheets, having someone else take the test for them.

And some cheat in ways you might not consider: In South Korea, a test prep tutor was investigated for allegedly buying scanned copies of sections of the SAT and then emailing them, with the answers, to South Koreans in Connecticut who were going to take the test 12 hours later.

Another SAT tutor in South Korea was arrested for getting students taking the SAT to put test questions into a calculator they were allowed to use, and to hide small blades in their erasers that they used to cut out pages of the test.

So, you ask, what happens to students suspected of cheating on the SAT or the ACT?

I asked both the College Board, which owns the SAT, and ACT Inc., which owns the ACT, to explain what triggers suspicion of cheating and what happens to students found to be cheating.

Ed Colby, spokesman for the ACT, said he couldn’t tell me exactly how many investigations are conducted each year for security reasons. Tom Ewing, a spokesman for the Educational Testing Service, which administers the SAT for the College Board, said there are a few thousand questionable test scores each year out of more than 2 million tests.

Both said a review of a student’s test could be triggered in one of several ways, including an audit that flags scores that have risen dramatically, or by a tip from outside parties, such as a guidance counselor, college admissions officer or NCAA official.

Test supervisors also report any irregularities that occur on the day of the test. And both organizations have anonymous hotlines which anyone can call with information about breaches in test security.

In some cases, handwriting experts will be called in to check whether the handwriting on the written portion matches other work by the person who was supposed to take the test.

Sometimes, the student is able to answer the questions and the case is closed. Other times, a student is given several options:

*He/she can retake the SAT or the ACT free of charge.

For the ACT, if the new composite score is no more than 3 points lower than the questioned score, then the questioned scores are deemed valid, Colby said.

Ewing didn’t say how close the new SAT score had to be for the questioned score to be accepted. But the score has to jump a few hundred points to be questioned in the first place, he said.

*The student is given a chance by both organizations to provide an explanation and documentation of how the scores jumped.

*Students can decide to cancel the scores, which is not seen by ACT or ETS as an admission of guilt. The ACT and the ETS can also decide unilaterally to cancel the test scores, and notify the student (who can request arbitration from an independent party if desired) as well as the schools that received the scores.

But–and this is a big but–the schools aren’t told why the scores were cancelled.

In fact, both organizations tell the schools that there are a lot of reasons that scores are cancelled, including a student’s illness or disturbances at the test center.

A student can cheat and get caught–but the college or university that has accepted him or her won’t find out from the ETS or the ACT.

What do you think of this policy?

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Is ACT or SAT best for you? –

Filed under: Study Tips — Varsity Mentoring @ 12:30 pm

Is ACT or SAT best for you?

The ACT has always offered Score Choice; students can take the test as often as they wish but only report their best single test date to colleges. Beginning with this year’s graduating class, the SAT now offers the Score Choice option. However, many schools are still requesting all scores from all test dates. Check the policies at each college.

SAT fits student who …

Did well on the PSAT with little or no prep work.

Is a strong reader with a good vocabulary.

Has good recall for historical or literature examples for the essay.

Possesses strong deductive reasoning and is test-savvy.

Is focused and good at puzzles.

Has ear for languages; easily identifies sentence errors.

Is a bright underachiever.

ACT fits student who …

Did well on the PLAN (the PSAT for the ACT).

Earned a PSAT score that is inconsistent with grades and effort.

Reads fast but is not so strong in vocabulary.

Knows grammar and punctuation.

Performs well academically but is likely to experience test anxiety.

Is a “book-smart overachiever” but not the best test-taker.

Is great at writing argumentative essays about everyday issues.

Works quickly – more questions and less time, but less reasoning required.

Test strategies for both

Take practice tests and learn the test directions now.

Write in the test booklet. It’s okay to do scratch work and cross out wrong answers.

Check the grid sheet often to make sure you’re answers align correctly.

Don’t spend too much time on any one question – the easy, medium and hard questions are all worth the same.

Know when to guess. There’s no penalty on the ACT, so respond to every question. On the SAT there is a 1/4 point penalty, so try to eliminate at least one choice, hopefully two. There is no deduction for omitted answers.

Reading sections: Try to complete the fill-in-the-blanks with words that make sense to you, and then look for their synonyms.

Comprehension sections: The first and last sentences of each paragraph are critical.

Math: Questions go in order of difficulty with easy questions first.

SAT Student Produced Response (Grid): No penalty for wrong answers, so guessing makes sense.

Here’s what I’d do

My recommendation is that students take both free practice tests online to determine which test suits them best. You can find a concordance chart to compare results at and type “SAT concordance” in the search box

Read more:


Colleges check social networking sites of applicants :: February 10, 2010

Filed under: News — Varsity Mentoring @ 1:13 pm

North Carolina State University senior Jennifer Thomas doesn’t just post anything on her Facebook page.

“Anyone can go on your page and look at it,” she said. “I don’t think people realize those things are gonna stay around.”

Thomas Griffin, director of undergraduate admissions at NCSU, said that in rare cases when admission officials have serious questions about a applicant, they look them up on social networking Web sites Facebook or MySpace.

“Social media is just one more way to verify information about students,” Griffin said. “They may reinforce our concerns.”

Colleges check applicant Facebook profilesWATCH VIDEO
Colleges check applicant Facebook profiles

Through social networking profiles, officials can see photos, job history and status updates.

“If their Web site shows them in some conduct we deem inappropriate for our students, that could be a red flag for us,” Griffin said.

Griffin said that while there are about 24,000 applicants in a typical cycle, the school only checks the Web pages of a few. The tool, though, might be used more in the future, he said.

Lauren Overton said her fellow students post “anything and everything you can imagine” on their social networking sites.

“It is really kind of scary for jobs and schools to look into that,” Overton said.

Mentioning certain things could hurt your chances of getting a job or getting into a certain school. Mentioning partying, drinking, fighting or a past history with the law could hurt your image with a college admissions office.

Experts say people should consider their Web page as important as their application


NCAA prohibits hiring associates of hoops recruits January 20, 2010

Filed under: News — Varsity Mentoring @ 4:45 pm

The NCAA has taken a first step to clean up basketball recruiting.

The Division I Legislative Council voted Thursday to prohibit schools from hiring anyone associated with a basketball recruit for a two-year period before or after the player enrolls at the school.

The council did not pass a proposal to limit who can be hired as basketball camp instructors.

Joe D’Antonio, the chairman of the council, says schools were concerned they would not be able to stage camps with a limited number of employees. D’Antonio says there is “overwhelming support” at the annual NCAA convention for other proposals to clean up basketball recruiting, which may be voted on in April.

The proposal passed by the council must be affirmed by the Division I board of directors.

By CHARLES ODUM (AP Sports Writer)
1-19-10 at 2:47 p.m


Does being an athlete help your chances of getting into college? January 19, 2010

Filed under: News — Varsity Mentoring @ 5:54 pm

Submitted by HS Counselor Week

A recent Associated Press study looked into college admissions and athletes. They concluded that at least 120 schools in the NCAA’s college football top tier shows that athletes enjoy a much better chance of having admission requirements bent on their behalf.

The review found that in 27 of those schools, student athletes had a 10% advantage over others. Student athletes fall into a “special admittance” group: they are students who may not necessarily meet the admission criteria, but have other talents. The big schools (especially, Alabama) defend the practice of special admits as a chance to get a kid into college who might not otherwise have a chance.

It sounds noble, but it’s a zero sum game: for every special admit that gets in, another [qualified student?] is left out. It could be construed as a bit self serving Other schools go on to defend the program of special admits saying it doesn’t matter if the student is an athlete or a musician.

If that student has a unique talent, they should be given preference because that special talent enriches the school. To be fair, not all the top schools in the report showed signs of preferences given to athletes.

The NCAA itself has very little to say on who gets in. They are mostly concerned with students doing well once they’re enrolled in school. So, as one might expect, a lot of these “special admits” need a lot of remedial course work.


The Truth Behind Sports Camps and Clinics January 7, 2010

Filed under: News — Varsity Mentoring @ 12:18 am

25 years ago sports camps were little more than summer diversions for kids who had too much sugar. Today, they represent not only a huge part of the youth sport landscape–with camps and clinics devoted to nearly every phase of the major participation sports–but can drastically impact a young player’s ability to attract attention from college coaches and eventually capture an athletic scholarship.

We spoke to Ronald Baum, co-director of GM Sports/Homerun Softball Camps and Clinics, to get the inside scoop on this million-dollar industry, to learn why he thinks sticking to one sport isn’t always a good thing and find out how parents and players can get the most out of a sports camp or clinic.

What’s the difference between a camp and a clinic? Camp is usually more than a day or two–like a summer camp. Whereas a clinic is a day or maybe a couple hours on a specific topic. (Such as hitting, pitching, etc..)

Have you seen camps and clinics change over the years? Definitely. Camps and clinics, like anything involving athletics, have become more specialized. You have more kids going to their own instructors for one-on-one hitting instruction. You have camps devoted exclusively to hitting, pitching, defense, etc.

Do you think it’s a good thing for kids to be that specialized? Yes and no. My philosophy has always been that kids should be playing more than one sport to enjoy themselves and avoid burnout. They should be playing sports because they want to.

There are times to specialize in one sport, but hopefully they’ll continue to play the other sports as well. They shouldn’t be pushed to not play a specific sport. Sometimes it’s good for them to play something they are not necessarily wonderful at. It’s good for them to see what their other teammates go through, when they’re not the best player on the field.

Like many camps, yours offers instruction to a wide variety of skill levels and ages. How do camps such as yours accomplish this without sacrificing individual attention? We do a lot of the same stuff with the little kids that we do with the older kids, we just alter the intensity. A lot of the skills we teach are important from the beginning to the end. In softball, you use a lot of the same drills with the training clinics that you use for the college camps. Fundamentals don’t really change.

Same thing when I used to work the basketball camps. A pick and roll is still a pick and roll. A jump shot is a jump shot. If we can teach them the same skills, but at a younger age, we can help them avoid mistakes. It’s a lot easier than trying to break a 15 or 16-year-old of those flaws.

How does a typical day at your softball camp break down? (Is there a certain amount of time devoted to individual instruction–a certain amount of time devoted to scrimmaging?) Unless it’s a summer camp, all of our camps are technique and training-based. If I’m doing a summer camp, we’ll do training in the morning and in the afternoon we’ll usually let them get into games. The reason you do so much training with baseball and softball is because it’s tough to get kids into games. In soccer and basketball, you can get into games pretty quickly. You can’t get eight and nine-year-olds throwing a ball that quickly in a camp setting.

For parents and players choosing a camp, any tips on how to decide what kind of camp would be best for them? Depends on what they’re looking for and what kind of camp they need. There are camps that are just babysitting camps and there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ve got other camps, where kids will be trained specific skills in a given sport. If that’s the case, you want to find out about the instructors. Who will be in attendance? What sort of background do they have? Will they be actually be instructing–or are they just lending their name to particular camp?

If you’re looking for a camp that is specifically designed to help the player get noticed it’s important to realistically assess a player’s skill level. It’s the toughest thing for a parent to do. Every parent thinks the highest of their son and daughter. One of the best things they can do is get out there and watch some college sports. It’s easy with basketball and football, but it’s important that they check out the college level for a given sport. It’s a whole different level of play out there. How does your son or daughter match up? It’s tough, but important.

What’s one misconception parents and players have about the effect a camp or clinic will have on a player’s ability? That it’s a quick fix. Camps or clinics are there for a bunch of reasons. They are there for the player to have fun, to learn something new. They can also be there to reinforce a principle the player has heard before, but from somebody new. Players don’t walk away with 10 different things all the time. We hope they do but it doesn’t happen all the time.

You mentioned principles a player might have heard before. How do your instructors work within the framework of instruction a player has received from their own coach? We don’t want to change the players and contradict what their coaches back home are telling them. If you’re here, please be open to what we’re trying to show you. Hopefully we’ll give you something to think about, but it doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do something. You still need to do what your coaches tell you to do.

What homework would you recommend a parent/player do to ensure they pick the right camp for their kid? Check with people who’ve gone to the camp. Word-of-mouth is huge. Look at the camp’s website, get as much information about the camp you can. Call the camp. They should be happy to give you as much information as you want. Another thing you want to check out is the ratio. Find out how many players will be there, and make sure your kid will get enough attention.

What about college camps? If you’re looking at a college camp, with the hopes of being recruited by that university, make sure that college is still looking at you. They might be done recruiting that year. Check out the school’ s website. You can get all kinds of information now. If you’re a pitcher, you can see that they’ve got four pitchers coming back next year. Chances are they’re not recruiting a pitcher for the following year.

What’s one thing you would recommend to players to get the most out of their camp/clinic experience? Come there with an open mind and be ready to learn and work. Want to be there. Don’t expect it to just happen. Enjoy yourself and get ready to work hard.


How to Study better. January 4, 2010

Filed under: Study Tips — Varsity Mentoring @ 2:56 am

Here are some tips that will help you get better grades.

Know your teachers : Research which teachers are the most interesting and fairest graders. It is also important to know which teachers are the most easy to meet with during office hours and for help with coursework.

Attempt to schedule classes in blocks

If possible, schedule your courses in chunks of time so that you have free hours of uninterrupted time for studying.

Plan your week

Choose blocks of time for studying and schedule them so that they are uninterrupted. If you do not schedule your week, you will often waste much of your time.

Sit in the front of the class Sitting in the front is an excellent way to ensure that you pay attention to the professor andthat your mind will wander less.

Don’t cut classes Many absences from class convey the message to the professor that you don’t care aboutyour grade or the course. Also, you may miss some important information.

Understand how the professor grades What are the most important items, tests or quizzes? Ask to look over past exams or to getexamples of test questions. Pay close attention to specific topics that you think will be covered on exams.

Take great notes and review them Carefully take notes and learn how to take notes if needed. Try to review your notes within24 hrs to help remember them and consider questions you may have for your professor.

Meet students in class with whom to share notes All students miss a class here and there. To keep up with your studies, find a good student in each class to get notes from when needed. You can also return the favor.

Study with friends or other class members Discussing what you are learning is a great way to learn. Try to find students that are at your