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Student Blog Post: Tips on the College Application Process Part I

Owen

Hi! How’s everybody doing? This is Xiaoou. Long time no “blog.” I was quite busy preparing for my SAT I & II and college applications. I finally survived all of these complicated things. So, today I will spend some time talking about what is necessary for your application process, or rather to say how to build your personal portfolio. I will divide this post in to several sections and publish them periodically.

First, let’s talk about tests. It is quite ironic that most of us “escape” from a country bombarding us with tests to another country which also has a ton of tests. There are a lot of funny names that we invented for making fun of the American standardized tests, many aren’t appropriate to post in this blog post. Even the ETS (not CollegeBoard) who actually makes the test cannot get away without being “praised” as “Evil Testing Serpent.” Though as it is, your test grades are an indispensable factor that accounts your possibility of being accepted by a good college, so for the prospective seniors, who have come or will come to the United States mostly as sophomore and junior, you have to use your time wisely.

In this blog post, I’ll talk about what sophomore students need to do, since I came to the U.S. as a sophomore. The first and foremost thing you need to do is to pick up a TOEFL vocabulary book, and try your best to practice for the TOEFL and get a satisfactory score before junior year. If you do not get a score required for a certain college, try anything possible to reach that expected score as close as possible before the end of the first semester of your junior year. During your preparation for TOEFL, you also need to start memorizing SAT vocabulary after completing the TOEFL vocabulary. I recommend that you complete TOEFL vocabulary in duration of one and a half semesters. Otherwise, the time will be very tight for you to finish your SAT words. If you plan accordingly, you will have another one and a half semesters, plus a summer, to finish the SAT vocabulary. Then you will find that you have sufficient time to practice for the SAT test. For juniors, the process is similar, but you have to devote much more time to study more intensively to catch up. Of course vocabulary is not the only thing that matters, there is much more you need to learn. Please check out my previous posts about how to improve your general English skills.

Of course your test score is not the only factor accounted in your personal portfolio, you need to find or even create opportunities for yourself to become comprehensive as well.

The very first step of getting started is to ask somebody at your school or at New Oasis whenever you have questions. Usually each school has its own unique student body, and its student body forms its own unique system and organizations, whose rules sometimes are very confusing, such as clubs, drama groups, and Model UN. You need to step out of your comfort zone to ask what they are and how to participate. Gradually you will find you begin to know a lot about them and when you understand the whole student system, you will be able to handle different tasks and even become leaders in the student body. So be brave and ask questions, a lot of unexpected things will happen and will add a beautiful stroke in your personal portfolio.

In the next post I will tell you guys more about how to find volunteers opportunities and how to do something special and build it into your personal portfolio.

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New Oasis Student Blogger: How to Prepare for the TOEFL Part 1

owen

New Oasis Student Blogger Xiaoou “Owen” Chen

Hi! This is Xiaoou Chen. So happy to talk to you guys again. Previously, I have made a brief introduction to the big picture about how American high school works and a reminder to student about how to get along with host family and protect who you are. This time I want to talk about part of my experience as a test taker and how to get yourself prepared and ready to confront the barrage of tests.

Generally speaking, TOEFL and SAT are the two most important standardized tests that we must take in order to get into a good college. They are interconnected, but each of them has its own unique features.

Since I can say goodbye to TOEFL at the moment, (I will probably pursue a higher score in TOEFL later) and I am currently preparing for the SAT exam, I have more confidence in talking about my experience with the TOEFL test.

It’s true that TOEFL, with a duration of roughly four hours, is definitely a time consuming “activity.” It is divided into four parts—reading, listening, speaking and writing. For each of the sections, there are certain ways to succeed. But if you are a prospective American high school student, the most important skill, I think, you need to be proficient in, is reading. As it is, reading is the ability to collect and gather information; it is to convert what you see into what you can conceive and understand. If you have a hard time with gaining proficiency in reading, no doubt you will have difficultywith the other three sections. For listening, there are hard words in each very long and “tedious” parts. It requires you to have a good amount of vocabulary and you must be able to comprehend the general picture and acquire detailed information from either conversations or lectures. If you cannot read, there is no possibility you will be adept at listening. As for speaking and writing, if you cannot read, that must be because you have not read enough. If you have not read enough, there is no way, i.e., you have no source in your mind, for you to speak and write. I am not saying that the other three sections are less important than reading, but actually in some degree they are at a higher level of comprehension for an English leaner, and all those are dependent on good reading skills.

“Reading” is not just a simple word. It embodies complexity. To be able to read, the first thing you need to do is have the ability to command a decent amount of vocabulary. As you find and read an article written in English (absolutely not from your Chinese English Textbook, they are way too easy, compared to TOEFL.), if you find you can hardly read without looking up words in a dictionary and even after knowing all the meanings of each word, you still have no idea what the passage is talking about, now it is time for you to sit down and grab a vocabulary book and study it everyday! It is not very important what kind of book you can use (usually most of the vocabulary books on the market are good enough), but it is important for you to have the persistence in memorizing words everyday. I am saying everyday! If you do not review your vocabulary book every day, you will find that you forget what you remembered two days ago. After a long period of time, even if you reach the end of the book, without reviewing daily, you will remember virtually nothing. All the effort you paid, in some degree, would be wasted and in vain. This condition absolutely highlights the KING PRINCIPLE in vocabulary studying. It is periodically reviewing. The words you memorized today, have to be reviewed on the next day. But that’s not it. You have to review them again and again after every two days or three days. There are many methods where you can find online for memorizing words. But the key of all of them is to review persistently.

For memorizing words, I think there are generally two ways which are efficient. The first is to memorize a large amount of them in a short period of time with reviewing in high intensity. For example, if you decide to memorize three thousand words in a month, you at least have to memorize one hundred of them per day. Virtually you also have to review all of the previous words everyday in order to retain them in your mind. The other is to memorize certain amounts of word in a long period of time, such as memorizing three thousand words in half of a year, along with reading. You don’t have to memorize a lot of them everyday, but still have to review them periodically. However, the time left is very good for you to gain proficiency in reading. After memorizing, let’s say, thirty words everyday, you need to find something to read—essays, papers, novels, whatever you like (but at least you find it not very easy to read). Don’t worry if you cannot understand it. Just read, but still you need to try your best. It is to foster your aptitude in comprehension. I guarantee that you will improve your English skills if you do this.

Please remember persistence is always the soul of studying. I think that’s it for this post. I will complete the introduction for how to prepare for other standardized tests in the next several posts. As always please feel free to leave comments, I will try to respond to you at my earliest convenience.

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