Do No Harm: Your Guide to Being a Premed, Pt III

In this post, we’ll discuss the implicit extracurriculars needed for applying to medical school.

In today’s installment of Do No Harm: Your Guide to Being a Pre-Med, we’re going to be talking about the extracurriculars you’re expected to complete. These aren’t as absolutely necessary as the Big Two of shadowing and clinical volunteering, but they are needed to show admissions counselors that you’re a well-rounded and interesting individual.

Before we dive into the three extracurriculars of general volunteering, leadership experience, and research experience, I just want to caution y’all on a trend I see too often with premeds and high-achieving students in general: Don’t pad your resume! Don’t do activities just because you think admissions counselors might like it because it’s only going to hurt you in the long run. These admissions officers have been in the game for years, and they can smell fakeness a mile away. Further, during medical school admissions, you will be asked to interview, and if you can’t talk at length about an activity you put on your application, be it a leadership role in a club or an organization you were a part of, you’re going to be in for an awkward ride.

Continue reading “Do No Harm: Your Guide to Being a Premed, Pt III” »

Do No Harm: Your Guide to Being a Premed, Pt. II


As mentioned earlier, there is no set path to becoming a pre-med; medical schools accept a wide range of students. However, there is a “core curriculum” that pre-meds are expected to have completed, which we’ll be covering in this post.


There are a few courses every premed is expected to complete, but otherwise, there is no "premed degree" you need to worry about.
There are a few courses every premed is expected to complete, but otherwise, there is no “premed degree” you need to worry about.

Quite possibly the most important part of being a pre-med is keeping your grades up. GPA is one of the most important factors that admissions committees consider when you submit your application, and it’s for good reason too—you don’t want someone who’s lazy and inept to be in charge of saving your life, after all. While medical schools don’t necessarily expect you to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA, the median GPA of a med school matriculant is still pretty high (around a 3.7 for Texas medical schools). One or two B’s won’t sink your application, but always try and do your best and limit how much of a hit your GPA will take.

Continue reading “Do No Harm: Your Guide to Being a Premed, Pt. II” »

UPDATE: What PSAT Scores Make the Cut for National Merit in 2016?

We want to provide an update on our previous post: What PSAT Scores Make the Cut for National Merit in 2016? Our initial estimations were based on a “sliding scale” method. Because the National Merit Scholarship Corporation is not using your PSAT score (i.e. the score ranging from 320 to 1520) and is instead converting to a Selection Index Score which ranges from 48-228, we made those estimations with the mindset that the choice to use a convoluted Selection Index was so that these scores could more easily be compared to previous PSAT scores. The maximum Selection Index Score is only 12 points fewer than the previous maximum score, therefore it is reasonable to expect cutoff scores to be shifted by this amount.

Additionally, we have just computed a new set of Projected Cutoff Scores based on College Board’s Concordance table. Continue reading “UPDATE: What PSAT Scores Make the Cut for National Merit in 2016?” »

Identifying the Duke Talent Identification Program

By now, most 7th grade students selected for the Duke Talent Search have already taken the qualifying ACT or SAT exam. As you wait for College Board to report back scores, you might be wondering “what exactly is Duke TIP? What does it mean for my student to have been selected as part of this program?”

As a former Duke TIP participant and long-time employee of the program, I’m here to elucidate what exactly Duke TIP is and what exactly you’re entitled to if your student is selected.

Continue reading “Identifying the Duke Talent Identification Program” »

Is the Cost of Admission Worth It?

As your acceptances start rolling in, it's time to think about which college best fits your finances
As your acceptances start rolling in, it’s time to think about which college best fits your finances

As college acceptance letters begin rolling in, you might be faced with one of the toughest decisions of your life—which university you will attend. Just as admissions officers evaluate you on a multitude of characteristics, so too must you evaluate your schools based on their characteristics. You should consider location, degree plans, school size, and social life, but the one factor that might weigh on you more than anything else is the cost of attendance.

In a perfect world, finances would never affect someone’s decision on the college they will attend, and in fact, many schools make honest efforts to lower the financial burden of attending their institution. Unfortunately, however, even with generous grants and scholarships, some schools, especially private ones, may still have a price tag that’s intimidating when compared to those of public schools. Whereas public institutions are subsidized by their state’s taxpayers, private institutions rely upon alumni donors to lower the sticker price of attendance, but even still, many private schools will cost much more than their public counterparts.

While school the cost of attendance might concern you, as it absolutely should, I’m here to reassure you that cost doesn’t necessarily have to be your main criterion for choosing colleges. Ultimately, you want to attend a school that you will allow you to flourish, academically and otherwise. If you’re the type of person who might be overwhelmed by large lecture courses or who would be flustered at having to navigate sprawling campuses, then perhaps the price difference would be worth it to you. You should go to the school where you’ll be most comfortable, where you feel confident you can carve out your own academic and social niche. If you never quite click with a school, and your grades and activities suffer for it, those tens of thousands of dollars you saved will have meant nothing, or at least far less than they would otherwise. Conversely, if looming debt loads make you unduly anxious or if you’re forced to hold multiple part-time jobs to pay for astronomical tuition, then perhaps the private school wouldn’t be right for you.

College might cost racks on racks on racks, but it's worth it! You're worth it!
College might cost racks on racks on racks, but it’s worth it! You’re worth it!

As trite as this sounds, only you fully know where you would be able to succeed at. Tuition cost is an important consideration, but in the end, it is just another consideration. When attending college, the end product is you. You need to decide where you can best grow, where you can best advance, so at the end of the four years you’ve matured into the smartest, most well-rounded You you can be. Consider class sizes and research availability; consider Greek life and campus life. Consider the cost of attendance, but don’t hang your hat solely on that issue. University is all about investing in yourself, and while you don’t want to overpay for the final product, you also don’t want cheap out that which cannot be replaced—you.

I missed the PSAT! Am I doomed?

Too sick to take the PSAT? Don't worry!
Too sick to take the PSAT? Don’t worry!

To those of you who are at home fighting illness and frantically combing the internet to find out if you’ll ever be a National Merit Scholar, TAKE A DEEP BREATH! You can makeup the exam! Yes, if you had to miss today’s PSAT exam due to illness, emergency, or other extenuating circumstances (alien abduction, mauled by tiger, etc.), you haven’t missed your only chance to be a National Merit semifinalist.

The National Merit Scholarship is a highly prestigious $2,500 scholarship prize given to 2,500 students around the US every year. The PSAT (also known as the NMSQT — National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) is used as the preliminary decider in who qualifies for the test. If a junior in high school takes the PSAT and scores above the cutoff score for his or her state, he or she has a chance to receive the scholarship. Even being a semifinalist or finalist can open doors in terms of other scholarships and college admissions—some colleges will even grant a finalist full tuition! Continue reading “I missed the PSAT! Am I doomed?” »

Multiple Choice Writing Tips—Subject-Verb Agreement

Don't get distracted! You could misses a subject-verb agreement error!
Don’t get distracted! You could misses a subject-verb agreement error!

Many people finds that subject-verb agreement errors is easy to spot. They makes our sentences sounds weird. So how can the SAT get away with quizzing you over subject-verb agreement? By distracting you!

One of the easiest ways for the SAT to trick students into not noticing a lack of subject-verb agreement is to separate the subject and the verb enough to where we don’t immediately pick up on the error. Consider the following example:

The population of American alligators, (A)dangerously small a few years ago, (B)are (C)now estimated at (D)more than one million. (E)No error Continue reading “Multiple Choice Writing Tips—Subject-Verb Agreement” »

College Compass Welcomes New Writer, Katherine

College Compass is very happy to welcome new writer Katherine! Katherine graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology and Plan II Honors from the University of Texas. She earned a 2350 on the SAT in 2008 and has earned perfect scores in both the Math and Writing sections (if only she could read!). She absolutely loves helping people reach their potential, finding new books, and exploring the outdoors when her Netflix schedule allows it. She will be starting a graduate program in primatology in the fall. Katherine is a former Test Masters student and current Test Masters Math instructor. Be sure to keep an eye out for her awesome SAT and ACT Math example problems and solutions!

If you guys have any questions for Katherine, be sure to Ask Test Masters!



Extra Hard SAT Math Question – Combinations

Surely, with all those fencing lesson they didn't have time for math...
Surely, with all those fencing lesson they didn’t have time for math…

At the end of every SAT Math section, the test makers try to come up with an extremely difficult problem that will leave even the cleverest students scratching their heads. The really evil part, though, is that even these problems can be solved in under a minute without a calculator – if you know what to do. This means that once you “figure out the trick,” these difficult problems become easy. So, while those test makers are busy cackling with sadistic glee, let’s see if we can’t beat them at their own game. Continue reading “Extra Hard SAT Math Question – Combinations” »