Paying for College: No Loan Programs

Over the last few years the recession has increased the concerns of the affordability and value of college. With the growing concern over the impending changes to government aid programs (such as Pell Grants and subsidized student loans)






Alice Lloyd College Rice University
Amherst College Sacred Heart University
Barclay College Saint Louis Christian College
Berea College Soka University
Bowdoin College Stanford University
Brown University Swarthmore College
Claremont McKenna College Texas A&M University
College of the Ozarks Texas Tech University
College of William and Mary University of California
Columbia University University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art University of Pennsylvania
Cornell University University of Texas
Curtis Institute of Music University of Virginia
Dartmouth College University of Washington
Davidson College Vanderbilt University
Deep Springs College Vassar College
Duke University Washington and Lee University
Franklin W Olin College of Engineering Washington State University
George Washington University Webb Institute
Harvard University Wellesley College
Haverford College Williams College
Lafayette College Yale University
Lehigh University The Armed Forces:
Macaulay Honors College at CUNY US Air Force Academy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology US Coast Guard Academy
Miami University of Ohio US Merchant Marine Academy
Michigan State University US Naval Academy
Princeton University West Point US Military Academy

ISEE Prep: Bromances, Frenemies, Stanines, and squishy terms.

Sporting a manpurse

When I first heard “stanine” I thought: “Oh, that poor lady. Did they name her after some guy named Stan?” It turns out it’s not a person, but a system for standardizing test scores. This makes more sense and is less upsetting than thinking some woman has gone through life saying “No, not Janine, Stanine.”

But turns out it’s actually pronounced “Stay-Nine” since it squishes the original title of the process called Standard Nine into one word (like romance and brother make bromance, murse = man + purse, friend and enemy make frenemy, giant + enormous = ginormous). Stanine is a way to explain test scores using just a single number from 1 to 9. The important part to keep in mind is that this isn’t the actual score, as in how many questions you got right or wrong, but instead it’s a way to see how your test score compares with everyone else who took the test.

October 2011 SAT: Reading Comprehension, a.k.a., Those Crazy Stories

Is this an SAT Passage author?

In part 2 of our report on the October 1, 2011 SAT, (part 1 is here) we’ve decided to answer the question, “From where do they get those crazy stories?”

If you’re like us, you’ve wondered where they dredged up the reading passages they use on the SAT. Were they some crazy 100-year-old professors of Shakespearean literature creating these passages? Or perhaps they hired some psychologist — one who specializes in torturing teenagers — to design these new unique ways to get under your skin. In truth, the passages are works of literature that have been written and published, typically, in the last century. Some have come from the hallowed halls of academia and some have come from popular culture (one test featured Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club).

October 2011 SAT Vocabulary: Cocksure Fallacious Killjoys

So the first SAT of the 2011 – 2012 academic year has come and gone and as usual it was full of words ranging from the commonplace (longevity) to the esoteric (recondite). We sent in our teachers to check it out and here are some of the words we remember. We’ve taken words from the reading passages as well as the Sentence Completions. Keep in mind that the SAT doesn’t simply tests random words, it tests words that are used in “well-written college level texts.”

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Radina Russell

Recently, we thought that many people out there battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we present On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Over the next few months we’ll be sharing stories in Q&A format from some of our favorite Bell Curves alumni.

Today’s featured Bell Curves alumnus is Radina Russell.

BC favorite and all-around superstar Radina Russell

Radina graduated from Columbia Business School and now works as an Investor Relations and Financial Communications consultant. Here is what she has to say about her business school experience, the GMAT, and more:

Why did you go to business school? My family was always trying to get rid of me as much as possible when I was a kid. When I was 16, all the cool kids got to go to fun camp, but I attended LEAD Summer Business Institute at The Darden School of Business at UVA (aka business summer camp). Ever since then, I’ve known I wanted to attend business school.

How has business school impacted your career?
  I was able to completely reinvent myself. I made the switch from technology to finance and developed a brand new set of skills in b-school.

GMAC Test Prep Summit 2011

On Thursday, September 15th, GMAC held the latest installment of its every-other-year Test Prep Summit. At the summit GMAC updates the test prep industry on the GMAT and business school. Bell Curves was happy to be in attendance, and the event was chock-full of info pertinent to anyone planning to apply to business school in the next year. Below is a blow-by-blow of the biggest news from the summit.

Study Tips: Brain Space

Image by Zillafag

In this installment of our new (and ongoing) series of study tips, we bring more cognitive neuroscience (Ooooh! SAT vocabulary makes everything sound big and fancy, but cognitive neuroscience simply means the study of how we think) to bear with distributed learning.

Test prep tips: How parents, counselors, and mentors can help

One of the biggest challenges for parents and mentors is how to support a student as she transitions to high school and later to college.  The older the student is, the more she studies content that the parent or mentor no longer remembers, or has to navigate a system that is new or different from what parents and mentors experienced (we all know college admissions looks very different than it did 20 years ago).

Overwhelmed parents often mistakenly leave the preparation for SAT, ACT, and college admissions to schools or tutors. Many parents will be shelling out money to provide children access to test preparation tools and educational support, but we can’t let that be the end of our involvement. These tips will help you support your child’s test preparation (and college readiness) efforts even when you don’t fully understand the content or know the system. Here are two tips for helping your child even when you don’t quite get it:

Be the Planner

One of the best roles for parents as students approach high school and college should be as the “keeper of the calendar.” A parent should help the child make a plan and stick to that plan. This plan should be jointly created by you and your child (and maybe even an admissions counselor) and be revised periodically. You should include registration deadlines, filing deadlines, recommended test dates, summer enrichment activities, sports, etc so that both of you will have target dates readily available. There are lots of online college planners available online to give you a starting point. One such site to check out is .  In general, all planning for transition from one level of school to the next should start at least 18 months before you expect to start. So to go from junior high to high school, parents need to have the calendar planned out by the spring of 7th grade. Here are a few things the parent or mentor can help schedule and plan for:

Academic record: Make sure the right classes are taken and excelled in.

Enrichment activities: Help find enrichment activities for the summers and weekends that will help students prepare for school and life (internships, academic summer programs, creative outlets, etc).

Extracurricular activities: Guide students to explore their areas of interest via programs and clubs that will allow them to participate for the long term and gain leadership experience.

Interviewing skills: Practice for the types of questions asked will put the child at ease.

Applications: Be the monitor and proofreader and make sure applications are filled out properly and submitted before deadlines.

Test scores: Make sure they reflect the student’s abilities by preparing in advance and taking the exam more than once if necessary and applicable.

Be the Student

One of the best ways parents and mentors can help a student prepare for admissions tests (and concurrently make sure that the student is doing their work) is by having the student teach them. We often learn more and better when we are forced to explain to others. You can help your child lock in classroom lessons by not simply asking him if he did his homework, but instead by asking him to teach a problem to you. This way you can participate actively in his learning, support him by letting him see you struggle, encourage him by letting him see you figure it out with his guidance, and reinforce the work by helping him “study” by teaching. Since you know your child best, you’ll know best how to motivate him. You can make this competitive (by challenging him to get more of the questions right than you), you can make it supportive (by showing him that you struggle with the test as well), or you can make it a bonding experience (by sharing the challenge of figuring out problems). The key is to work with them and allow them to show you what they are learning from their prep book, prep class, or prep tutor.

Blog connections:

An awesome example of a parent helping their child with testing can be found by checking out our friend Debbie’s blog. To help and support her son she took every SAT offered in 2011 and blogged about the process.

We cross-posted this blog by Lawrence Watkins, who traced his success, summer program by summer program.


For more advice about college admissions, testing, and supporting your students, check out our free events, courses, and tutoring options.

SAT Prep Tip: SAT Pacing

Art by Dale Eadeh (BC Teacher and Artist)

One of the most-discussed strategies for test preparation is pacing. Here we’ll delve a bit more into what pacing actually means and how you can use it to maximize your SAT score.

What is pacing?

Pacing is your pre-planned strategy for answering the greatest number of questions with the highest level of accuracy. Pacing should not be confused (or conflated) with speed or efficiency. When we refer to pacing we don’t mean how quickly you answer an individual question, but rather your plan for how many and which questions you answer during the test. Read on for our tips on how to make an effective pacing plan!

Revised GRE: Part Deux

Pearson View Center at 675 3rd Avenue

On August 1st, the much-ballyhooed Revised GRE launched with little fanfare except among the test prep community. Given that we’re career test-takers and test prep teachers, I and our Director of Graduate Programs decided to take the test (and take advantage of the 50% discount being offered in August and recently extended through September 2011). After you finish reading my account of my latest battle with the GRE, you can read Ajani’s review of his test here.

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