Candidate Essay Advice/ ACT Scores

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by meganp98, Aug 25, 2015.

  1. meganp98

    meganp98 Member

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    Hello,

    I am Megan and a long-time reader of the forum. I have a few questions myself and figured why not post them, as any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    I am a candidate for USAFA, class of 2020. My application is close to complete- with only needing to submit CFA scores, essays, and ALO interview (I have a presidential nomination- still applying for all others, also medically qualified). I've been working on my essays and although they are finished, I would greatly appreciate advice from a fresh set of eyes, on how I could greater improve the content. If any of you would be willing to take a look at my essays, please send me a PM!

    Also, I am scheduled to retake my ACT in about 2 weeks (September 12th). I took it last spring and didn't score nearly as well to be considered competitive.
    ACT English: 21
    ACT Math: 23
    ACT Reading: 23
    ACT SR: 24

    My current GPA is a 3.82 (heavy AP course load, joint-enrolled in local community college), so I definitely need higher test scores to be considered academically competitive for the academy. If anyone has any advice on test-taking strategies, tutoring options, or study methods for the ACT- it would be very helpful! I have never been a strong test taker, but I believe if I work at it I will be able to improve my scores.

    Thank you very much!
     
  2. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Of course you know that you will NOT be competitive with those scores. Is there test prep available in your school? if not, can you afford help? Practice practice practice! Our local library runs a couple of practice tests, same format as an actual test, for free. Look around for one of those.

    Take the SAT, too. You may do better on it.
     
  3. meganp98

    meganp98 Member

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    I didn't score much better on the SAT (1590 - 500 M, 550 CR, 540 W) - But I am also scheduled to retake the SAT in October. I plan on printing out a few ACT practice tests, specifically math- and having one of my teachers help with a few concepts I need review on. I will look into the practice tests locally, that's a good idea.

    Thank you for your advice!
     
  4. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    If I were you, I would set aside at least 90 minutes every day of uninterrupted study time.

    I would also strongly suggest a Plan B. If you want to serve via ROTC, great. But with those SAT/ACT scores, things will be more difficult.
     
  5. MombaBomba

    MombaBomba Member

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    Since you have only 2 weeks, have you bought one of the act review books in a book store? Not only do they review the information with practice problems, but also have practice tests at the end. They usually contain test taking strategies as well. Mine used the book, but they had taken an SAT review course earlier that year as well.

    As for courses, there are many out there, on-line as well as through local tutoring agencies. And the prices vary as greatly too. It all depends on time frame, resources, transportation, etc. etc. etc. Some libraries and schools have access to review websites as well. You may want to check with yours.

    Good luck!
     
  6. Maplerock

    Maplerock Proud to be an American

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    Not meant to be discouraging, but I am always suspicious when someone makes the excuse, "I'm not a good test taker." I've always believed that if you know the material you can do well on a test.

    Every day in the military there can be "tests". They may not be on paper, but lives can depend on your answers.

    I also wonder (and no doubt the academies wonder too) if a student scores low 20's on ACT but has 3.82 GPA in HS, if that high school is weak.

    I doubt you'll find many with those credentials at a service academy unless they are a blue chip athlete or an underrepresented minority.

    You never know though.
     
  7. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I agree with others, you need to get that ACT up....big time. Take it every time that they offer it. The median superscore is @30.

    I get you have a Presidential, but that is a non-competitive nomination. For the 100 charges, they could have 500-600 on the slate. You get the nomination because 1 of your parents earned it for you via their service to the nation, it has nothing to do with you like an MOC nomination, hence non-competitive.

    If you do not make that top 100 charges, you may or may not go into the national pool. See above the median scores, they will be your competition too when they don't win the WCS.

    Had you not have the ability to get a Presidential, chances are you would still be an applicant, not a candidate due to that score. Think of any SA as you would an Ivy from a selection process.
    ~ Would they accept test anxiety as a reason for the low score with a high cgpa/heavy AP/joint CC credits? That is basically what you will be saying if you interview for an MOC nomination when they ask about the disparity.
    ~ What is your ALO saying about chances from your area? I would assume they know how you rack and stack against your peers. I would look to them before anyone here because they know your competition and your record. Maybe, a 26 ACT is average for your district/state.

    I am not trying to be depressing. I am trying to illustrate why it is time to walk away from the forums, and facebook , the tv and any other distraction that might exist in your life. It is time to practice the ACT exams until your eyes bleed.

    PS. Unless things have changed here, you will not be able to PM that essay to anyone until you hit the magic number of 10 posts.

    Most people will tell you to run it by your APENG/LIT teacher first.
     
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2015
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  8. frenzymando

    frenzymando Banned

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    When I studied for the ACT/PSAT, it helped me to think of it this way: studying for the ACT/PSAT is a job and colleges will pay me(in scholarship money) for doing the job. And it is a very high paying job at that. If you study just 30 minutes a day for a month and your score goes up to a 30, you can qualify for thousands of dollars in scholarship money(or possibly get into a service academy). 30 x 30 = 900 minutes in a month spent studying which is 15 hours. I believe a service academy education is worth somewhere in the 250 thousand dollar range. 250/15 = $16,666.66 per hour spent studying. That is a 15 hours well spent imo. Even if you don't get into a service academy, you can still get full tuition from some schools for a 30 ACT.

    The point is, studying for the ACT/SAY is a GREAT investment of your time. There aren't many things you can do to earn $16,666.66 per hour.
     
  9. eaglei84

    eaglei84 upwardbound

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    I'm also a 2020 candidate and I want to reiterate what someone already said about test prep books. They tell you what concepts to study and teach you test taking skills. There are also online tools to help prep, use them.

    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk
     
  10. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Frenzy, when my sons were appointed in 2008, they then estimated the cost of their education at $415K. It's a lot of money but let's be clear: the education is NOT FREE.

    To our OP: Let's talk about your high school a bit: what is the average SAT for your Val for the past ten years?
     
  11. USMA Mom

    USMA Mom New Member

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    My DS is in the same situation. He has a >4.2 GPA, but his composite ACT is only 23. He is scheduled for ACT try #2 on Sept 12th. He is a junior, so he has a little more time.

    A few suggestions for the ACT
    1 - Look up ACT English and ACT Math on youtube - you can find some really good, helpful videos (don't go down rabbit holes ... youtube can be a real time killer, so stay focused and only watch videos that will help you)

    2 - Figure out what your issue is ... why did you score lower than expected?
    • Ran out of time: get a digital watch, do practice tests, concentrate on pacing - ensure you leave time to fill in guesses prior to running out of time
    • Ran out of time in math: do practice problems and if a problem takes more than a few seconds to solve, you are probably solving it the hard way - prep books will show you how to solve, so even if you get the correct answer, look at how the prep book solved it and learn the tricks
    • Didn't know what to expect on the test: Get practice tests, learn the format
    • You got bogged down with a complex question (wasted too much time on one problem): Learn the art of 'skipping' a question ... take an educated guess if possible, otherwise a wild guess ... flag it and come back to it, if time permits (don't waste precious time on a complex problem, and leave little to no time for a few easy problems)
    • Nervous and the first few questions 'psyched' you out: Glance at a few of the first questions to find easy ones, build up your confidence.
    • Knowledge gaps: If you tend to get the English 'comma' questions correct, but tend to get subject-verb agreements wrong, work on subject-verb agreements. If you do well on algebra, but not geometry, focus on geometry. Key here is to identify what is being tested, and learn your strengths and weaknesses
    3 - How many more times will you take the ACT test? You only have 2 weeks left for this test. Since the academies super score, perhaps you should focus on your one favorite subject and try for a 33-36 in that one subject. Then concentrate on a different subject or two for the Oct 24th test.

    4 - We signed our DS up for PrepScholar. It's $399, so I don't know if that is an option for you. The first thing they have you do is take a quick online assessment test. They then figure out what topics you are weak in, and 'assign' an individualized lesson plan. The online lessons take 15-30 minutes each. They go over the material, provide examples, then give a short 3 - 10 question quiz. You get immediate feedback telling you if your answer is right or wrong and why. So far it seems like a good program, but I'll wait till he retakes his ACT prior to fully endorsing the tool. Probably won't help you for Sept 12th, but you might want to consider as a resource for the Oct 24th test.

    5 - Might be too late for you, but ACT can send you your questions and answers (Test Information Release). This is only offered on the Dec, April and June tests and there is an additional fee. Great learning tool.


    Good luck on the Sept 12th test!
     
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  12. frenzymando

    frenzymando Banned

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    If you want to serve for you country, the 5 year service commitment is a privilege not a cost. So for those people, the education is free.

    I can't speak for the Air Force Academy, but the education at WP was worth $202K a few years ago. I'm shocked that the AFA education is worth more than double the WP education since they are pretty comparable schools. 103k a year for an education seems like a abnormally large number to me too. Are you sure that $415K number doesn't include education AND training?
     
  13. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    FWIW: Statistics "SUCK". They can be made to say anything. In theory, if you want to include tuition, room and board, medical care, dental, travel, and all other benefits the cadets receive, then you could probably come up with a $400K number.

    Now, for really what it's worth, this past year when I was presenting one of my applicants his appointment, the official letter I read from the academy, stated; and I QUOTE:

    "THIS APPOINTMENT IS EQUIVALENT TO BEING OFFERED A FULL 4-YEAR SCHOLARSHIP TO A TOP TIER UNIVERSITY WITH A VALUE OVER FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS PER YEAR."

    So now, it looks like they're trying to down play all the other benefits, so as to make the "SCHOLARSHIP" sound "More Believable". So officially, they say it's worth $160,000

    This was official as of 3 months ago.

    P.S. The appointment letter does go on to say, that the individual will be giving tuition, room, board, medical, dental, and a MONTHLY basic pay. It also mentions that the appointee will have the opportunity to participate in flying aircraft, parachuting, training, foreign exchange and travel around the world, etc....

    So, they are quoting the $160,000 to make it more comparable to other universities. Just like the army has said. BUT.... in reality, the individual will be getting the equivalence of a lot more. Close to $45,000 just in military pay alone. Then through in the average price of medical, dental, travel, room, board, etc. You can easily see that the FULL 4 years is worth close to $400,000
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2015
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  14. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Frenzy, gotta love your idealism.

    All I know is that the colonels who gave speeches said the "education" was worth $415,000, and that was in 2008. Of course, back then, they probably included the "hamsters" and cell phone usage.
     
  15. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    Who knows what the actual value is. The SAs tend to sway between using language Christcorp was given and then the $400k number. I think you can come up with the $400k number when you start to throw in all kinds of costs like prof salaries, summer training, facilities, athletics, pay, room and board, etc. As mentioned statistics can all be looked at and made to fit whatever you want them to be unless we know the fine print. Bottom line is, does it really matter what that number is? Bottom line is you go to a SA, yes it is a free education, that is paid back with service (and lots of find print attached to that regarding obligations and requirements). We can all argue about what free means, but it doesn't cost anything out of pocket, no expects a check at the registrars office when you sign up for a fun filled 21 credits per semester. There are lots of free things in this world with fine print attached to it. This one tends to have small print that says you can owe a huge amount of money if not completed per contract and the most important of all... this service may require you to make the ultimate sacrifice.
     

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