Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scores! For Real, This Time.

After refreshing my collegeboard page for a few consecutive hours (having forgotten about time zones) my scores finally showed up. Here they are:

Reading: 740 Not too shabby at all.

Math: 650 Not good enough for the schools I'm after.

Writing: 580 I did explain about my essay, right? Worth 30% of this score.

I read a lot. I mean a lot. A whole bunch and almost constantly, so my reading score isn't a surprise. I should have done better on math, though, and since I bought a score report, I got to look over the questions I got wrong and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Apparently, I don't know what an integer is, I can't do conversions, and don't know how to find the area of a square. Wow, I feel like an incredible idiot. I could have done so much better. On the other hand, there were questions deep in WTF territory, but only about two, and thus this is not an acceptable excuse.

Writing has its reasons, if we accept the premise that I lost most of my points on the essay, on which got a score of 6 (highest score is 12), so it's a pretty stable premise. I don't get much of a chance to write it English, at least not essays, and not in under 25 minutes. My English teacher sometimes asks for short essays, but we get a full week to turn them in. Hell, I'm not used to writing fast in Spanish. The ministry test requires an essay, but we get to chose one of 4 topics, and 3 or 4 hours to write it (yeah, it gets hard to sit still that long). Basically, I've never had to write a coherent English essay in a short time on a given subject. I suppose I'll do better on that next time, now that I know how to prepare.

An interesting (if often depressing) statistic on CollegeBoard is the "How Do I Stack Up?". It lets you put in some information (mainly GPA and SAT/ACT scores) and then tell you how you compare to the middle 50% of a college's incoming class of last year. Mine was pretty interesting, my reading score was above average, by math score average (except MIT, more on that later) and my writing score low. I forget what my GPA was, but it's something like 3.75 or 3.8, which is mainly thanks to ninth grade, where I got straight As, while I dropped to mostly Bs and some Cs last year, due to my change of school from normal public to Nerd Academy. Not too bad, anyway.

About MIT. The middle 50% were somewhere in the range of [something]-800. Which means that more than a full 25% of last years freshmen got 800s on math. Holy freakin' cow, do my grades pale and faint in comparison.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Scores! No. Just the reports.

I have to send my scores now, and I haven't actually seen them yet. In fact, I don't get to see them for another 10 dyas or so. I'm limiting myself to four schools for a couple of reasons:

  • Free. My first 4 score reports are included in the price of the test.

  • Still unsure about where I'm headed. I can always send the scores later.

I finally decided on:

Air Force Academy: tough, right? There are more problems involved with this than you think. I'll explain them later. It's the one school I'm absolutely sure I want to go to, although the next one looks pretty damn good, too.

Naval Academy: close second, if not tied, with the Air Force. Interestingly enough, the eye-sight requirements for flying are stricter than the Air Force's. I do want to fly, but I'm a bit myopic (20/40, I barely make Navy requirements).

MIT: because who doesnt want to go there? Honestly, it's a cool school, tough (yessss) but rewarding,and an engineering school, which is great for someone who wants an engineering degree (I do). Not first choice because I can't stand having my heart broken into that many pieces. It also has ROTC.

Cornell: because an Ivy League had to be in here somewhere. Just kidding. Also a good engineering school, it's the only Ivy League with ROTC on campus (the others offer ROTC scholarships, but you have to travel to a nearby university to attend classes. Inconvenient when some start at 5:30 in the morning).

You may have noticed two things:

One: that is one tough list. Really.

Two: Military. Academies and scholarships, all pointing at one Ambermutt wanting to be an officer in the Navy or Air Force.

And one more university:

State. Which is actually the best school in the country, since this place's education system is nothing like the US. All private schools are held in contempt and my Social Studies teacher enjoys making fun of them. I could be a practicing doctor in 6 years, and graduate debt free, if I get in. My high school is known as "pre-college", basically its only reason for existing is to get its students into college, and that's practically a guarantee. There'll be another post soon about the admissions process to get into the State school. It's incredibly simple, if unforgiving.

Now I have to handle four different sets of deadlines. I can't start my online application to MIT until August. I already started the AFA one (which includes a marvelous Pre-Candidate Questionnaire). I haven't started the other two yet.


Monday, May 3, 2010

SAT: Student Applied Torture

After arduous research, I discovered that this actually stands for Scholarly Aptitude Test. I just assumed it was Standardized Admissions Test. Close enough. Anyway, it has an essay and a lot of sections, timed to about 25 minutes each (some are less) and tests math, reading and writing. I didn't prepare. I just took the first one to get my bearings (because you can take it as many times as you like and those mysterious people in charge of your future only look at your highest scores) and plan on taking it again sometime in November. If I really screw that up, I can try in January one last time as well. (Remember my weird school schedule? The one that throws everything off 6 months?).

Absolutely everything can be done online. Internationally, there are a few less dates available, but that's the price you pay for living on the outskirts of civilization (just kidding, no cannibalism here). One of my classmates, also applying to schools in the US, whom I'll call Rat (after the computer geek in the movie The Core, my friend loves computers), did in fact have to contact the collegeboard call center because for some inexplicable reason he decided his middle initial was J when filling out the forms. His middle name is actually Andrew (Rat Andrew, has a ring to it, doesn't it?), which is pretty far off from the admittedly cooler J. The lady who answered was extremely sweet and helpful. Thanks, whoever you are.

So I took it in May. The Proctor that watched us was a bit intimidating. He read everything exactly as it was in the booklet and nothing more, with a mild Spanish accent, and very somberly. This wasn't encouraging at all. You feel as if any mistake will get you sent outside in shame.

We begin with the essay. 25 minutes to expound intelligently upon a given subject. One girl asked whether she could print, or had to write in cursive. At least I think that's what she would have asked if she hadn't been interrupted mid-sentence by The Intimidating Proctor and told not to talk during the test. Of course, that question hadn't occurred to me until she said it, and then I was baffled. I eventually printed. The answer, by the way, is write any way you like, as long as it's legible. I plan on writing in cursive next time.

I also plan on finishing my essay. That's right. I didn't finish it. And it didn't help to see that all around me these kids' hands were flashing across the pages and filling them seemingly effortlessly while my floundering brain was still trying to get its ideas straight. Which took about 20 minutes too many, since I didn't even complete the first page.

The rest was all right, though. Math I could handle, reading was wonderful (I read really fast), writing wasn't too bad. Although the variety was incredible, from:

Find the error: She rhunnedk to the store. (the k is silent)

to asking me to correct stuff that sounded awkward and unwieldy no matter what you tried. For those I chose the shortest option with least punctuation. The simpler the better, right? Although I admit that one where I was completely baffled I choose the one with a semi-colon, because I never get to use those (and I was wrong).

Of course, there are mildly annoying things that I over-notice whenever I have to do something important. I always write with pen or mechanical pencil, Number 2s are uncomfortable. The paper for the essay is thin and low quality. My watch alarm might go off. My cellphone might go off (I don't even have one, but I swear for one panicked second I thought "Oh, God, I forgot to silence my phone") You also get 5 minute breaks between every two sections. Which meant I ran to the bathroom between every two sections despite the fact that I hadn't drunk anything since 6 in the morning and went before I even started the test. I left my snack in the car (yogurt, I was afraid of it after the test, probably sour). Once I got past the essay (the confidence shredding first section) I was fine. Time ran smoothly, I worked at a steady pace, double checked questions and only left one blank.

Also, on a completely unrelated note, the person to my right had incredible dark blue eyes. Made all the more attention-grabbing because this country's population has black or brown eyes across the board. Myself included. So I'm not used to seeing blue eyes. Wow.