I was at a local middle school open house a few weeks ago when a worried parent approached the table where I was talking to other parents about college admissions. Her son was an eighth grader entering high school next fall, and like many other moms she had heard that starting next year students would have to declare a desired “endorsement” upon entering high school.
“What’s the deal with this endorsement thing?” She asked me. “Does it mean my son has to choose at 13 what he wants to study in college? How will this affect his chances at being admitted to a top-tier university?”
As the night went on, I heard this question repeated by other mothers, fathers, and even middle school counselors. It seems there is a real lack of clarity and information surrounding the new law (HB 5) in Texas. So, here is what we know and my best analysis for how this all will affect (or not affect) your child’s prospects as a college applicant. Read on!
What is HB 5?
House Bill 5 is a law passed by the Texas House in the 2013 legislative session aimed at reducing the time students spend taking benchmark tests, changing the accountability system used to evaluate schools, and revamping graduation requirements to give students more flexibility (this is where the endorsement part was added).
When will it take effect?
The new graduation requirements will take effect in the 2014-15 school year and will apply to students entering high school in that year. If your student is already enrolled, the old graduation requirements still apply. However, older students are able to take advantage of the endorsements (explained below) if they so choose.
What does this mean for my student and my student’s prospects for admission to college?
The idea behind adding in the endorsement specification was to help give students more flexibility and direction in their high school studies. The endorsement can be thought of as a “mini major” completed while in high school. Endorsements are selected in one of five areas: science and technology, business and industry, public services, humanities, or a multidisciplinary option. However, not all schools will offer each of the five endorsements.
When colleges view a student’s transcript, they are looking primarily at two things: which classes did a student take, and how did they perform in those classes? The added endorsement will not change your student’s strength or schedule or performance in the classes s/he has chosen, and thus it will not change the way colleges view your student. In fact, for a college bound high school student, the new endorsements do little to change the classes they would already select in preparation for college applications. Admittance to a competitive college still requires four years of science, three or four years of language, and three to four years of math. A selected endorsement will not impede or hinder progress toward college readiness. In other words, relax! The game’s still the same from the college point of view (at least for now!).
The Texas Tribune has a great article explaining the changes happeing under the new law, and a fun quiz to find out which endorsement is right for you. Try it out here.
Just when you thought you had a handle on this whole SAT thing (well, until it changes drastically again in 2016), someone drops the SAT TWO word at ya. Say, SAT what now?!
Oh yes, the SAT IIs, or single subject tests, are a real thing and you need to be real informed about them. That's where I come in. Allow me elaborate...
SAT II tests are one hour tests covering just one subject. There are 20 tests to choose from: everything from physics, to English, to history, to different areas of math. The question is, should you (or your student) take one?
Who should take the SAT II:
Some of the more selective colleges and universities require the SAT II (usually two tests). Check out your schools admissions requirements page to find out if you will need to take one. Even if your school doesn't require the test, it might still be a good idea for you to take it. SAT IIs are wonderful opportunities to augment your application. If you know you are strong in chemistry, taking the SAT II can be a good way to showcase that to a college. All college prep level courses are considered sufficient preparation for an SAT II exam. If you have excelled in a given area at the high school level in a course that is college prep level or more advanced, the SAT II is a great opportunity to show that off.
When should I take the SAT II?
I generally advise students to take the SAT II in May, along with their AP exams (or other end of the course exams if not in an AP course). The material needs to be fresh in your mind in order for you to perform your best, so May is a natural time to make that happen.
How many SAT IIs should I take?
Each test is only an hour, and you can sit for multiple tests in the same day, but I don't recommend trying more than two tests at a time. You probably won't want to take more than three, total, no matter how many you take in one sitting. There's no need to take more than three as colleges who require it require three at max.
Is there a downside to taking the SAT II?
Taking the test and performing poorly is a blemish on an application, and one that is hard to sweep under the rug. If you have struggled in a course, don't attempt the SAT II just for the sake of taking it. Stick to courses in content you have mastered. A score in the 600s or higher looks good. Anything below that is more of a detriment than a help to your quest for admission to your dream school.
Still have questions? Send us an email. We are happy to advise you along this crazy journal to college-town.
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