4 months ago
Admissions Advice

What Do I Do to Prepare?

Hi! I'm a sophmore who is already very anxious for college. My dream is going to Barnard in New York. I know it's a little stupid to commit so early but it's my dream school. I don't have the best grades and I haven't taken any super important tests yet, so I figured this was the best time to ask for help. What do I do to prepare for these big tests like the PSAT, SAT, and ACT? What do I really need to focus on to get into a school as competitive as Barnard? I have a vast list of activities and I have volunteer work set up for months, but is it all enough? I really want to do well and go to a good college but I'm not really sure how. You never really get straight-forward advice on how to succeed. I've done my research on average stats for all the schools I want to go to and yet all the alumnis I've spoken to say that stats don't matter in the admissions process. Do they? And how do I know if applying for early decisions is a good idea? Sorry that's a lot of questions, but if anyone would be able to answer any of them that would be a huge help. Thanks so much :)

🎉 First post
Let’s welcome @jkamoie to the community! Remember to be kind, helpful, and supportive in your responses.
@tanvi.m4 months ago

sorry this totally irrelevant to the question you are asking, but Barnard is my dream school as well! hopefully, we work hard and we can get in!!

[🎤 AUTHOR]@jkamoie4 months ago

yes!! its so nice to know theres other people who are trying just as hard, yk?

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4 answers

Accepted Answer
4 months ago

Hi there!

I am currently a junior going to take my PSAT and SAT this fall and spring respectively, and so I have been studying a bit on my own.

A few things I recommend:

1) Buy a prep book- I would suggest the Barron's strategy and practice for the new PSAT/NMQST. You want to do well on the PSAT because if you do well, you can qualify for national merit scholar and there are tons of scholarship opportunities.

2) Or you can do a prep course for the SAT ( studying for the SAT is basically studying for the PSAT). Prep expert is a good one, but can be pricey.

3) PRACTICE!!!! The test is designed in such a way you need to know how to answer the questions, not the knowledge itself. College board will give some practice tests, but I would advise taking them cautiously, as they may be easier than the actual test.

4 months ago[edited]

It's good to have goals and a dream school to attend. 10th grade is not too early to prepare for a top women's college like Barnard. Most admits have been preparing much earlier than 10th grade.

I'm a Columbia matriculant and have a couple of friends at Barnard so I can share with you the most important things you need to have in your application file to be admitted.

The most important things Barnard admissions care about are 1.) Grades GPA, 2.) How difficult your course rigor was 3.) Personal Character, 4.) Essays and 5.) Recommendations.

These are important criteria but not as high as those 5: 1.) Standardized Tests, 2.) Class Rank 3.) Extracurriculars, 4.) Talent/Ability and 5.) Volunteering 6.) Work Experience.

Things they care less about are 1.) Alumni relationship (legacy) 2.) Religion, 3.) Interview, 4.) Personal interest in the school, 5.) Race/Identity 6.) Where you live, 7.) First Generation applicant

You can verify this on their Common Data Set

The most successful admit have the following in their application file

1. Completed 4 years English, 3 years each of History, Langauge, Sciences, and Math,

2. Have taken a good number of Honors or AP classes and scored well on the tests.

3. Are in the top 10% of their school rank (about 90% of Barnard admits)

4. Have an SAT score between 1400-1500 or an ACT score between 32 and 34 (keep in mind that 2 cycles ago the SAT middle was 1360-1510 and the ACT was 31-34 but it's gotten more competitive since then)

5. Have a GPA that is unweighted between 3.85 and 4.00 (keep in mind that most college admissions portals state that having a 4.0 GPA is average while I think the middle is closer to what I have written. I don't know where the other poster has pulled their stats from)

Barnard is the hardest women's college to get accepted into in the US at 10%. And if you apply Early Decision the acceptance rate is a little over 20% but the application pool is very competitive with those who have Barnard as their top choice.

Other amazing women's colleges are Wellesley, Smith, Mt. Holyoke, Bryn Mawr, Scripps and I'll add Vassar into that group although they are co-ed today but originally one of the Seven Sisters colleges.

I would err on the side of caution listening to those that informed you that stats do not matter at Top Colleges including Barnard. They absolutely matter. From the admissions data from last year, it's clear that those applicants that submitted high SAT/ACT/ or AP or IB test scores had a definite advantage over those going full test-optional. Also if 90% of admits are in the top 10% of their class, and have "A" GPA averages, even rank matters. They are just not the most important factors.

I don't know what you mean by not having the best grades so you can take this information and decide if you still have enough of a GPA to qualify. For some students, a 3.95 means not great grades and for others, it's a 3.2 UWGPA so you need to decide for yourself whether this is a school you should apply to or not.

I and others on here are happy to help with answering your questions so feel free to ask more as you get a better handle on where you stand and compare to other applicants for the schools you are interested in applying to.

Remember, where you go to school doesn't define you and there are literally hundreds of excellent colleges to choose from in the end.

4 months ago

Hey there! I know how you feel, my dream school is Harvard, but with these prestigious schools, the big thing they look at is the test scores. If you do great on the tests, you should be OK. Maybe have some backup schools in case you don't make it in. I hope this helps, and good luck!

4 months ago

Hi there @jkamoie,

These are all good questions! It's perfectly fine to start thinking about prospective colleges in 10th grade and it's a good way to prepare so that you can optimize your chances of admission. I would suggest doing ample research and familiarizing yourself with the admissions process so you can navigate it in a way that is most efficient for you. This will save you a lot of stress in the long run. I've linked some resources below in response to your specific questions to help you get started.

GPA is one of the most important factors in the admissions process, so you'll want to take rigorous courses that can boost your GPA. It's okay if you don't have the best grades at first, as long as you demonstrate an upward trajectory and your GPA hits Barnard's median, which is 3.75 to 3.92.

Although Barnard is test-optional this cycle (and the Fall 2023 cycle), if your GPA is not quite up to par, you'll want to take standardized tests to boost your Academic Index score, which is the threshold colleges use to see if your application qualifies for more intensive review. You can learn more about the Academic Index here: https://blog.collegevine.com/what-is-the-academic-index-how-is-it-calculated/

For Barnard, you'll want to aim for test scores that are pretty high, in the 1330-1500 range for the SAT, and the 30-33 range for the ACT. Higher scores are always better, especially if you're compensating for a lower GPA. To prepare for standardized tests, I'd recommend taking diagnostic exams as early as possible. These practice exams will help you determine which test you should take (ACT or SAT) as well as identify areas of weakness so you can make your studying process more efficient.

As for your extracurriculars, you can input them into our chancing engine to get a better idea of how yours stack up against typical candidates. You can do so here: https://www.collegevine.com/admissions-calculator. Our chancing engine also has fields for SAT and GPA, so you can get a holistic review of your chances at getting into Barnard. For more extracurricular-related help, check out our Blog guides on this topic: https://blog.collegevine.com/category/extracurricular-activities/extracurriculars-grade-10/

As for early admission, for elite schools like Barnard, applying early is a great way to set yourself apart and demonstrate a commitment to the school. Historically, Barnard has accepted between 40-45% of their freshmen class from the Early Decision pool. Regular Decision has more applicants, so statistically, ED applicants have a higher chance of admission. This doesn't mean it's easier to get in, however - ED applicant pools are usually self-selecting, so they're usually filled with stronger applicants who would still be admitted should they apply Regular Decision.

I recommend applying early if you're set on Barnard. Barnard's Early Decision program is binding, so you do have to commit to the school, but your application will also be reviewed earlier, and you potentially have another shot at admission if you get deferred. Then, you can submit additional materials, such as updated mid-year grades and an expanded essay reiterating your interest in the school. Regular Decision candidates do not get these additional opportunities.


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