We got together with Juni and were able to share our thoughts on with them on how to think early about college prep. You can find the whole article here: https://junilearning.com/blog/how-to-get-into-elite-computer-science-program.html
Prepare for College as an Aspiring Computer Science Major
At Juni Learning, our goal is not only to provide our students a structured computer science curriculum that is fun and effective; our mission is to expose and prepare students for exciting careers in software engineering, data analysis, artificial intelligence, mobile and app development, and more. A common step on the path these careers is attending a university with a top-tier Computer Science department.
We consulted with Agnes Chen, Owner of Lucent Education and Stanford University graduate, to gather research on steps that your students can take to be competitive for admission into the top Computer Science universities in the U.S. Agnes’ team offers focused coaching to help students get into their reach schools, such as Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford.
Develop Passions Early Educational Psychologist Jacquelynne Eccles says that the years between early adolescence and middle school is a time of significant developmental advances that establishes a child's sense of identity and long-term interests.
In these years, it is important for parents to observe the natural talents their children possess and the activities in which they show a natural interest. From such observations, parents are encouraged to involve their children in activities that lean into those very interests.
Below is a guideline for steps you can take to provide quality exposure in content areas to your children.
Ages 5-11Introducing your children to coding games, toys, apps, and videos in their formative years can help stimulate a curiosity for Computer Science. Interactive, hands-on experiences and challenging problems motivate children to want to learn and grow. Some activities to promote a Computer Science education include:
In learning Computer Science early on, children develop a knack for computational thinking. The principles and concepts behind programming promote students to break down problems into manageable parts, observe patterns in data, identify how patterns are generated, and develop step-by-step intuition for problem solving.
Such exposure will help your children filter and refine their interests and hobbies as they progress into middle and high school.
According to Agnes, college preparation can and should start as early as middle school. By age 13, middle school students should embark on new hobbies and explore their natural aptitudes. Agnes gives some proactive suggestions below:
Through consistent exposure to both academic and extracurricular activities, a natural chosen focus will likely emerge. Whether it is coding projects or robotics, a student should have completed a few significant projects in a focused area by the end of middle school or at the beginning of high school.
Juni StudentsAt Juni, majority of our students begin coding with Scratch in elementary school and move on to Python in middle school. With these programming languages, students are able to build their own websites, animations, video games, and complex projects.
By the 8th grade, Juni students with enough experience are primed to begin preparation for the USACO Bronze division, and further progress through divisions over the years. While USACO is traditionally a competition for high schoolers, often the students who have been coding since the age of 9 and up are the ones who really excel in their competitions.
The same age range applies to the AP Computer Science A course and exam. Because many schools do not offer the AP course, or even CS introductory courses, middle school students interested in computer programming often look outside the classroom for a Computer Science education.
Studies have shown that the students who have taken coding classes outside the classroom are sufficiently prepared to take the AP Computer Science A course in their Freshman or Sophomore year of high school.
High School Steps to Get into a Top-Tier UniversityThough there are a variety of paths, lesson plans, and extracurriculars aspiring CS students can take to Get into An Elite Computer Science University, below, we explore a sample high school career that has proven success for students pursuing a Computer Science degree.
As first-year high school students, it is critical to explore a variety of Computer Science programs and extracurriculars. T
This includes participation in:
By Sophomore year, students should have a targeted sense of direction as to what they would like to study to further progress their professional development. A student should then seek leadership opportunities in their designated areas of interest.
By Junior year, students’ development of “passion hobbies” should culminate in competitions and meaningful projects that have significant weight. At this juncture, students should also be placing focus on:
In Senior year, students’ primary focus should be:
College advisors, like Agnes, consult students about long-term goals, schools that feed into their interests, and career trajectories beginning as early as middle school. To ensure progress continues in an upward trajectory, it is not uncommon for students and advisors to meet for ongoing coaching throughout the four years of high school.
Sample Computer Science TrackA sample grade-level plan for a student who is interested in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Game Design, or Information Science may look like the following:
Middle School: Explore a variety of extracurricular activities
We're so excited for our students who are making decisions on where to head to college with amazing choices such as: Cornell, USC, UChicago, Yale, Caltech, FIT, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, Boston College, Cal, Emory, CMU, JHU, and more! Below is a more lengthy list of our successes over the last 5 years.
We track our own performance through putting together an academic index for each of the students (test scores + grades + difficulty of coursework + etc.) and comparing it against the 25-75% range (of stats such as testing/GPA) for each school's accepted class. This is in an effort to articulate “outside of #s” performance on the application (and a more accurate picture of where Lucent can have an impact on the application process).
Our goal is to have a significant impact as compared to these numbers. We aim to have students gain admission to at least one school in which their academic index falls below the 50% mark at a given school. (Oversimplified example: a student with 1400 on SAT would gain acceptance to a school in which the 25-75% range is 1375-1500). From 2014-2019, all but one student received acceptance into at least one of these schools on their list.^
We stay away from statistics stating that x% of students get into their top 3; we believe that each student’s strategic approach to school selections needs to be tailored to their specific circumstances. For example, students interested in Ivy League admissions might apply to nearly all of the Ivies knowing that admissions is competitive. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, we have had several students each year that apply to just 3-4 schools outside of their backup (e.g. knowing that they did not want to leave a certain region).
A few notes:
^ Many high school counselors working with competitive high school populations benchmark student scores against the 75% of a school’s given a range as opposed to 50%. Nearly all students that work with us are from these types of schools; including major city magnet schools, competitive boarding schools, high schools in the SFBay, and technical high schools in NYC.
We get this question a lot - should we be preparing for the ACT or SAT exams earlier on in high school as opposed to waiting until Junior year to take a test prep class? Well, that depends. Some students decide to take their PSAT exam as their first indication of what to do in preparation for other standardized tests that will be a more important factor in their college applications. That means waiting until sophomore or junior year to get a baseline. And, for most students, this is the right path. Many students are busy with keeping their grades up, time management between activities and academics, and it makes sense to push this until later. If you know your student has generally tested well on standardized tests in the past, this may make the most sense.
However, if you are worried about the student as a test taker, we suggest taking a diagnostic practice test during or just after 9th grade to see whether the additional practice, earlier, would make sense. This might mean sitting down for the Khan Academy SAT test offered free or the many resources and practice exams that are likely found at your local library. The diagnostic practice test will help indicate if there's a need for additional tutoring/test prep studies that need to occur outside of the usual school work preparation.
For all students, consider the following:
You've been soul searching about transferring schools. One factor that's likely going to contribute to your decision making process is what challenges may lie ahead if you do decide to go for it.
Here's a list of possible challenges to think about:
However, there are lots of positives that come along with transferring, especially if it's the right decision for you:
While there are lots of challenges to consider, with the right self reflection and research, you may come to the conclusion that it is the best possible decision for you. In which case, you'll be glad you did it!
There is a lot of narrative out there on thoughts for and against transferring schools - so you're not alone if you're reading this (about 25% of students actually transfer!). We've compiled it here into several topics to consider as you go through the process of deciding if putting in applications is right for you:
There are lots of components of the Common Application and some look at it as simple and straightforward, others feel daunted by the amount of work ahead of them. Here are some basic things to keep in mind as you start to put together the application.
You can definitely utilize technology to help you through the standardized test prep process - it’ll literally be at your fingertips during any down time that you may have. The first question we usually get is whether a student should take the ACT or the SAT. The best way to check this is to go through several questions of each section of both exams so that the student can get a feel for which they prefer. Most people can easily come to a conclusion on which exam "speaks to them" more. Then, I'd go all in! After all, study for 2 exams?? In some cases we may suggest a swap to the other exam if the practice scores aren't quite matching the academic rigor achieved at school.
Generally, my first recommendation is go to to Khan Academy, they work directly with the college board on SAT test prep. However, there are tons of apps out there as well that are interactive and give you lots of opportunities to practice test questions. We've done a bit of sleuthing for you to weed out the apps that don't have much usage or are poorly put together. I'm an android, so these are all through the Google Play Store. Hopefully a few of these will work out for your needs.
Note of caution - apps are a great way to get breadth. However, once you spot a weakness, you'll need to drill down to really understand how to solve the problems that you're most commonly getting wrong. These apps sometimes do not allow for you to do that in the most productive way.
Utilizing the internet has made all parts of our lives easier - finding long lost friends, making reservations for date night, and finding x or y product with the best reviews. Similar to our daily lives, admissions officers have also started using the internet in higher numbers to aid their admissions process. From a Kaplan Test Prep research study, 35% are searching out applicants and 68% consider it fair game to do so, but not all of them actually put it into practice. From the same study, they found that admissions officers were finding positive supporting information for applicants as often as they were finding information that would negatively impact a student’s application.
Generally, admissions officers are hoping to find a more holistic version of some students through online searches and social media accounts - looking for additional, positive information about applicants. However, it’s possible to turn off an admissions officer with remarks, posts, and images that violate (or do not align with) the expectation of how students are in a school's student community. Here are some tips and cautionary words about social media for those applying to college/university.
Keep these tips in mind for before, during and after college acceptances. Poor form after the fact can mean that a college rescinds their offer of admissions (this includes poor grades as well, don’t let senioritis get to you!):
Things not to do...
Last thought: don’t get too wrapped up in tailoring your presence as the research statistics don’t necessarily merit a lot of effort on this front (for now!).
As students transition from high school classes to the more challenging complexity and higher volume in AP and college coursework, many need to adjust their study habits to the needs of these more demanding courses. Here are a few tips that we’ve aggregated from several educational articles and studies that we think students can experiment with.
This isn’t a secret - but there are studies that show that when you distribute your studies throughout a period of time, the retention is higher. This is similar to the studies regarding summer learning loss, a phenomena many are familiar with.
Create a schedule.
This is taking the prior note a step further. Take the time to plan and strategize for when you’ll do homework, study, take additional notes, and review other materials. Since we know that cramming doesn’t work, plan for spurts throughout the week to study. Many studies show that finding the same space and similar times during the day to study have shown better results. In this section, I’d also include finding a space in which you’re able to consistently focus for long periods of time (such as quiet room at a library or noise cancelling headphones).
Once you do sit down to study, it needs to be productive and likely more thorough than in the past with courses that may have come more easily to you. There are several ideas to experiment with around this.
Try reading summaries of text before reading the entire section
Practice the same questions that will show up on exams.
Although it seems obvious, most students actually don’t do this. Creating flashcards and practice tests for a study buddy are a good way to practice this method. In many challenge courses in college will include exam questions in which students have never seen before, having a study buddy to stretch your understanding of the material through inventive practice questions will be helpful in exploring material that you may not have yet spent much time or depth in.
Known when you need help.
Learn to get a good feeling of when you’re falling behind or not grasping the material as thoroughly as you hope (or an exam shows). When a course moves quicker and with more depth, it can be easy to fall behind. And since material can oftentimes be cumulative, it’s best to stay ahead of the game! There are several options for high school or college courses to start off with such as joining a study group, finding a peer tutor (many high schools and colleges have this set up already), attending office hours, scheduling time with the teacher for additional support, and of course, tutoring.
Get enough sleep.
We've put together an easy to follow, high level overview of the college admissions process including the four major components that admissions officers evaluate: academics, extracurricular activities, standardized testing, and the application (and essays). This is actually a very truncated version of a presentation that we hold (for free!) in the spring time frame in both NYC and SF. We're hoping to add more YouTube videos in shorter chunks of time on the most asked frequently asked questions from our clients.
So you've made it through a few years of high school and you're feeling pretty solid about your classes, grades, and extracurricular activities. There are a few more things to now focus on if you're college bound. The most obvious - which schools should I be applying to? Fit is incredibly important and it's something that we stress when working with high school/transfer students. It's about a great match so that you get a lot out of the school, but the school and its community also get a lot out of you as a person. Outside of the usual check on your numbers (SAT/ACT, GPA, etc.), here are a few pointers to consider in the process:
Best of luck in exploring the different schools out there!
You're at the tail end of the undergraduate application process - the testing, the interviews, the essays are all behind you now. Whew - congrats on completing an intense process. And, if you're reading this article, my guess is that you also have choices ahead of you. Wonderful.
So, which college/university?
I've compiled a few tactics to thoughtfully review the choices at hand.
Best of luck on your decisions!
What does it mean?
Well, congratulations! It might feel like another rejection, but what the wait list means is that you're one of the applicants that the university finds qualified to be part of the community - just that there wasn't enough space for everyone. Due to the competitiveness of many colleges and universities, it means that there were several students just as qualified as you, and perhaps there was something else that someone else had that the admissions officers found would contribute to the mix of this particular class. Typically the difference between accepted students and those that are wait listed are arbitrary and minor. Pat yourself on the back for this accomplishment.
What to do next?
If you'd like to be on the wait list, you must actively notify the university. Follow the instructions included in the notice/letter and be sure to respond. There are several things to do and not do to better your chances of getting off the wait list. However, many competitive universities only accept small percentages of students off their wait lists, so be sure to put down a deposit at a school in which you'd be happy to go to otherwise. Most schools accept students off the wait list after the May 1 decisions requirements of those that were accepted before pulling from the wait list.
Things to keep in mind:
Best of luck on school decisions!
Nervousness and anxiety when it comes to standardized testing is pretty common - so, you're not alone. The anxiety or fear is actually a sign that your body is ready to focus on the task ahead, all that remains is how your harness that energy. Here are some tactics to keep cool and calm so that you perform your best on test day.
Months/weeks leading to the test:
College, Graduate School, and Career Coaching.