SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Dr. Anna Wulick

Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.

Recent Posts

Which Year of High School Is Most Important for College Applications?

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Aug 15, 2018 6:34:00 PM

Coursework/GPA

To figure out which year of high school academics is the most important, it helps to think of high school as a marathon.

In order to win a marathon, of course you have to run the whole time – if you stop running, then lots of other people will pass you. But because you’re human, when you’re running a marathon, you can’t really run at the same speed the whole timed. Instead, you learn to pace yourself early on, and then really bust out your best sprint when it counts – at the finish line.

So which part of high school is that all-out sprinting finish line? Read on for our answer.

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How to Write a Perfect UC Essay for Every Prompt

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Aug 13, 2018 12:00:00 PM

College Essays

If you're applying to any University of California campus as an incoming freshman, then you have a special challenge ahead of you. Applicants need to answer four UC personal insight questions, chosen from a pool of eight unique prompts different from those on the Common App. But not to worry! This article is here to help.

In this article, I'll dissect the eight UC essay prompts in detail. What are they asking you for? What do they want to know about you? What do UC admissions officers really care about? How do you avoid boring or repulsing them with your essay?

I'll break down all of these important questions for each prompt and discuss how to pick the four prompts that are perfect for you. I'll also give you examples of how to make sure your essay fully answers the question. Finally, I'll offer step-by-step instructions on how to come up with the best ideas for your UC personal statements.

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Important: Read This Before Sending ACT Scores to Colleges

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Jun 13, 2018 5:30:00 PM

ACT General Info, ACT Logistics


No college application is complete without test scores. But sending scores to colleges doesn't have to be a confusing and frustrating process! Read this article to understand all the options for sending out your ACT scores, to get help with the many decisions you will have to make, and to know what to do if you run into problems.

I'll describe the basic process of how to send ACT scores, how to take full advantage of the ACT's individual score reporting, when to send scores, and how to make sure your scores don't get lost. At the same time, I'll go through the pros and cons of every option and suggest a recommended course of action. 

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How GPA Conversion Works, With Charts

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Jun 5, 2018 1:30:00 PM

Coursework/GPA

Because final class grades are usually given either as letters (A-, B+, etc.) or as percentiles (87, 92, and so on), you might be a little stuck on how to convert them into the decimals used to calculate GPA. No worries - this article is here to help! Keep reading to see how to translate all your grades into GPA-ready numbers.

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Important: Read This Before You Send SAT Scores to Colleges

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Jun 4, 2018 9:00:00 AM

SAT Logistics, SAT General Info

No matter how stellar your transcript, no matter how mastered your extracurricular activities, no matter how lyrical your essay—no application is complete without your SAT scores.

So how do you make sure your SAT scores are sent properly, at the right time, and with only the scores you are most proud of? Read on for our best advice on the decisions you'll be faced with and what to do in case something goes wrong.

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How to Write Perfect ApplyTexas Essays

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Jun 2, 2018 8:00:00 AM

College Essays

The ApplyTexas college application contains many essay prompts, and each of the most popular colleges in Texas has different requirements for which essays they expect applicants to answer.

So how do you get advice on writing your best ApplyTexas essays, no matter which school you're applying to? Look no further than this article, which completely unpacks all five possible ApplyTexas essay prompts. We'll explain what each prompt is looking for and what admissions officers are hoping to learn about you. In addition, we'll give you our top strategies for ensuring that your essay meets all these expectations, and help you come up with your best essay topics. 

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What Does a Rigorous High School Course Load Look Like?

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Jun 1, 2018 8:00:00 PM

Coursework/GPA

Chances are, you've heard the phrase "rigorous course load" before. You probably even know that this is something colleges really look for in applications for admission.

So how can you ensure that your high school course load is rigorous or challenging enough? How do you balance this with getting a good GPA? How do you balance the need for rigor with your limitations, extracurricular interests, family and friends, and desire to not overwhelm yourself?

Read on for our advice on choosing between harder classes and more classes, and harder classes and better grades. We also go over how many AP classes and electives you should take.

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101 College Essay Examples for 13 Schools + Expert Analysis

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | Jun 1, 2018 12:00:00 PM

College Admissions, College Essays

The personal statement might just be the hardest part of your college application. Mostly this is because it has the least guidance and is the most open-ended. One way to understand what colleges are looking for when they ask you to write an essay is to check out the essays of students who already got in—college essays that actually worked. After all, they must be among the most successful of this weird literary genre.

In this article, I’ll go through general guidelines for what makes great college essays great. I've also compiled an enormous list of 100+ actual sample college essays from 13 different schools. Finally, I’ll break down two of these published college essay examples and explain why and how they work. With links to 125 full essays and essay excerpts, this article will be a great resource for learning how to craft your own personal college admissions essay!

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Best Analysis: Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | May 21, 2018 7:00:00 AM

Book Guides

In The Great Gatsby, between the glittering excitement of Manhattan and the stately mansions of East and West Egg, there is a horrible stretch of road that goes through an area covered in dust and ash from the nearby factories.

Why does the novel insist on spending time in this depressing place? Why, instead of simply calling it Queens, or giving it a fictional name, does Nick refer to it by the vaguely Biblical-sounding “valley of ashes”?

In this article, I’ll dissect this potent symbol of the failure of the American Dream, analyze the places it occurs in the text, figure out the characters who are most closely associated with this location, and give you some tips on writing essays about this image.

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Bad College Essays: 10 Mistakes You Must Avoid

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | May 18, 2018 9:00:00 AM

College Essays

Just as there are noteworthy examples of excellent college essays that admissions offices like to publish, so are there cringe-worthy examples of terrible college essays that end up being described by anonymous admissions officers on Reddit discussion boards.

While I won’t guarantee that your essay will end up in the first category, I will say that you follow my advice in this article, your essay most assuredly won’t end up in the second. How do you avoid writing a bad admissions essay? Read on to find out what makes an essay bad and to learn which college essay topics to avoid. I'll also explain how to recognize bad college essays – and what to do to if you end up creating one by accident.

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The Best Colleges With Low GPA Requirements

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | May 17, 2018 9:22:00 PM

College Admissions, Coursework/GPA

Do you have a low GPA? Are you wondering what colleges you can get into despite your low GPA?

Out of all the schools in the country, we've compiled a complete list of colleges with low GPA requirements and ranked the best ones. Even if you have a low GPA, that doesn't mean a great education is out of reach for you. Keep reading to figure out what your options are for higher education.

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Best Character Analysis: Myrtle Wilson - The Great Gatsby

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | May 9, 2018 4:00:00 PM

Book Guides

In most books and movies, the “other woman” – the woman having an affair with a married man – is often painted as a villain. But what about in The Great Gatsby, a novel in which both married women (Myrtle Wilson and Daisy Buchanan) are having affairs? Especially given that one (Daisy) ends up killing the other (Myrtle), is Myrtle just a one-note “other woman,” or is there more to her?

Myrtle’s role in the story isn’t as large as Daisy’s, Gatsby’s, or Tom’s. However, she is crucial to the plot of the story, and especially to its tragic conclusion. Find out more about Myrtle’s role in Gatsby in this guide!

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Best Analysis: Eyes of TJ Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | May 9, 2018 4:00:00 PM

Book Guides

In The Great Gatsby, in the middle of a strange, gray landscape, hovers a giant billboard of eyes without a face - the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. It’s a creepy image, and the fact that several characters seem disturbed by it means that it is very significant in the novel. But did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t make up this advertisement? If you image search “oculist shop sign,” you’ll see that this disembodied eyes thing was a pretty standard way to advertise places that sold glasses!

So how does The Great Gatsby transform what would have a reasonable everyday image into a sign of the macabre? And why does this billboard affect the characters who see them so much? In this article, I’ll talk about the places where the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg are mentioned in the novel, explain their symbolic meaning, connect them with the novel’s themes and characters, and also give you some jumping-off points for writing essays.

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How to Write a Perfect "Why This College" Essay

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | May 8, 2018 5:00:00 PM

College Essays

Did you think you were all done pouring out your blood, sweat, and tears in written form for your personal statement, only to be faced with the "why this college" supplemental essay? This question might seem simple but is in fact a crucial and potentially tricky part of many college applications. What exactly is the "why us" essay trying to understand about you? And how do you answer this question without falling into its many pitfalls or making any rookie mistakes?

In this article, I'll explain why colleges want you to be able to explain why you are applying. I'll also discuss how to generate and brainstorm topics for this question and how to make yourself sound sincere and committed. Finally, we'll go over some "why this school" essay do's and don’ts.

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How to Start a College Essay Perfectly

Posted by Dr. Anna Wulick | May 4, 2018 8:30:00 AM

College Essays

If you’ve been sitting in front of a blank screen, unsure of exactly how to start a personal statement for college, then believe me—I feel your pain. A great college essay introduction is key to making your essay stand out, so there’s a lot of pressure to get it right.

Luckily, being able to craft the perfect beginning for your admissions essay is just like many other writing skills—something you can get better at with practice and by learning from examples. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through exactly how to start a college essay. We'll cover what makes a great personal statement introduction and how the first part of your essay should be structured. We'll also look at several great examples of essay beginnings and explain why they work, how they work, and what you can learn from them.

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