Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cross Post! How to Increase Your GRE Verbal Score (for Non-Native English Speakers)

Hi readers!

Here's another cross post from my website about higher education, WE'RE GOING TO COLLEGE!:

1. Are you taking the GRE?

2. Do you need to increase your GRE Verbal score?

3. Is English your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language?

If you answered Yes to these questions, then we need to talk.

The GRE is a typical standardized test made by Americans for Americans. All of the sections of the GRE—Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning—are written in standard American English, with idioms, phrases, sentence structures, syntax, and vocabulary familiar to individuals who have lived or studied in the United States. Without strategic practice, students who have not grown up with English as their first language, particularly American English, will likely stumble on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE.

But don’t worry! You can improve your GRE Verbal score, even if English is your second language. There are lots of tips and tricks out there to help students with their performance on the exam. To get you started with the fundamentals, here are three basic steps for non-native English speakers to increase your Verbal score on the GRE.

1. Take a full practice GRE exam.

Go the ETS website, download the software, and sit for a full, official practice test, not just the Verbal section. Complete the two essays along with each of the Verbal and Quantitative section, and take the practice breaks as well. You need to see how you perform during that 3 ½-hour time constraint. This will be your baseline so that you know where you currently stand on the GRE.

2. Examine your test results.

For now, look at your performance in the Verbal sections, and determine what you need to work on. Organize your results by type of question: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence. Did you answer most of the Text Completion questions correctly but get stumped by the Sentence Equivalence? Were you better at certain types of Reading Comprehension questions than others? Did historical passages keep your attention more than scientific ones? Were there questions you answered correctly, even if you didn’t know what all of the words in the question meant? Identify your strengths and your weaknesses so that you know what areas you should spend more time studying.

3. Build your Vocabulary.

Start at the beginning of your practice exam, including the instructions, and write down EVERY word in the test you are unfamiliar with. This includes the Writing sections, the Verbal sections, and the Quantitative sections. Make a list of these words, and add to it as you continue preparing for the GRE.

Use The Official Guide to the GRE as your main study material. As you work through the chapters in the book, keep writing down EVERY word you don’t know, and add it to the list. Each day, take ten words from the list, create a definitive sentence with each word, and read your sentences to a friend or family member. For example, one vocabulary word than commonly appears on the GRE is ENERVATE: Although outdoor exercise gives Julia energy, a jog through the countryside enervates Mary Jo, leaving her weakened and burnt down.

Additionally, outside of GRE material, consume media in English. Watch American movies. Listen to American podcasts. Read American newspapers and magazines that are popular among academics, like The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other publications from New York or that have New York in the title. This will help familiarize you with new vocabulary in context. And, add any new words you encounter to your list.

The GRE is tough. 3 ½ hours plus breaks make for a long day, especially when you’re taking an exam in your second or third language. Studying strategically for the GRE will make the experience much easier. For non-native English speakers, knowing where you stand on the GRE, examining your strengths and weakness, and improving your vocabulary will help you increase your score not only on the GRE Verbal section, but also on the GRE Writing section and the GRE Quantitative section as well!

What are you struggling with on the GRE?

Are you a non-native English speaker? Do you have a question about How to Increase Your GRE Verbal Score? Please write us a comment down below!

If you need personalized help with the GRE Verbal section, you can email us at for more advice. And, keep reading our website at for additional insights into the graduate school application process.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Cross Post! How to Get Your Daughter into College (for Smart Moms)

Hi readers!

Here's a cross post from my website about higher education, WE'RE GOING TO COLLEGE!:

1. Are you a Mom?

2. Do you have a daughter?

3. Do you want her to go to college?

Then we need to talk.

If you’re a mother or an auntie or a grandma or a tia or an abuelita raising a young lady who wants to go to college, you are in the right place.

If you’re wondering, “What’s the secret to getting into college?”, you’re in the right place.

I’m going to tell you the Secret to Getting into College.

Are you ready?

Here it is:

Find a college that you want to go to and that wants you to go there.

It’s that simple.

Well, the concept is simple; the execution takes some work.

The pressure and competition to get into the right college increases every year, right along with the cost to go to college.

On average, girls are more prepared for the application process and to live on their own at school that their male counterparts. But, ironically, since a higher percentage of women than men are going to and graduating from college, some schools are actively recruiting men—not women—because they know they’ll have more than enough female applicants.

This means your daughter needs to stand out.

That said, there are over 3000 4-year colleges and universities in the United States alone. Most of them accept the majority of students who apply to their school. So rest easy. Your daughter will get in somewhere.

Now let’s look at how to get your daughter accepted to the right college for her. Here are the basics.

1. Talk with your daughter.

Ask her where she wants to go and why. What does she want to study? What would she like to do after graduating from college? Everyone involved needs to be on the same page. For instance, you might have in-state doctor or lawyer dreams for your child, but if she wants to work in paleontology or astrophysics out of state, you two are not headed in the same direction. Also, discuss the monetary prospects of attending college, including any college funds, financial aid, loans, grants, and who will be paying for her expenses over the next four years. Both of you should understand what college expectations you have on both sides.

2. Get the receipts.

Ask your daughter for her high school transcript; any other course transcripts from summer programs or community college classes; her SAT, ACT, and PSAT test scores; a list of her activities, achievement, awards, and leadership; and her list of schools. Discuss why she chose the colleges and universities she is interested in and how they will help her achieve her future goals.

Also, gain an understanding of who your daughter is on paper so you can see how admissions committees will view her. Even though your daughter is your special snowflake and the best girl in your world, she will be seen by some schools—especially large institutions—as her name, rank, and serial number. This is the time to identify your daughter’s strengths and weaknesses, and think about the type of application package you like to present to colleges for their consideration. Meet with your daughter’s college counselor so that you can all work as a team to create a game plan for the application process.

3. Research together, one by one.

Look at each school one at a time. Start by comparing her GPA and test scores to each school’s profile. Then look at the area she wants to study at the school. Note ways to connect with the admissions office, either through college fairs or campus visits. If possible, VISIT THE SCHOOL. This is the best way for your daughter to figure out whether she would actually like to spend four years at each college. It’s also a great way to let the admissions officers know that you are interested by interacting with them in person. It’s much harder to reject an application from someone you’ve met face to face rather than a piece of paper from a stranger you’ve never seen before.

4. Make your list: 3-3-3-1.

3 Likelies, 3 Matches, 3 Reaches, 1 Bonus. Likelies are schools that you are “likely” to get accepted to. Their average GPA and test scores are lower than their daughters, and they have a high acceptance rate. Matches are schools that have average GPAs and average standardized test scores that are approximately the same as your daughter’s. Reaches are schools that have average GPAs and test scores higher than your daughter’s and/or have low acceptance rates. The bonus is the one extra school that your daughter can apply to for fun. You can also use Naviance to help place schools in accurate categories for your situation.

Additionally, assess and access your connections to schools. Look through your network—and your daughter’s network—of family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and associates to find current students, alumni, professors, staff members, anyone linked to the colleges and universities that you are interested so that you can talk with them and learn about their experiences with the schools. This insider knowledge can help inform your daughter as she prepares her applications, writes school-specific essays, and eventually receives her acceptance letters and decides which school she would ultimately like to attend.

5. Apply to college.

All of the work you have done in advance will make this part easier. Let your daughter know that she will be the one completing her applications, but you will be there every step of the way providing support. Have your daughter start writing essays and securing recommendations (including backups) ahead of time. Dot your Is and cross your Ts. Fill out your FAFSA and CSS forms for financial aid as well. (Most families in the United States WILL QUALIFY for some sort of financial aid, whether it be scholarships, grants, loans, or work study.) Check, double-check, and triple-check your daughter’s application with your daughter before she hits submit. Then press that button—before the deadline(!)—and take a breath.


You did it.

Whew! There is so much for moms to think about and talk about and organize and fill out before they actually send their daughters away to get that higher education.

Are you a Smart Mom? Do you have a question about How to Get Your Daughter into College? Please write us a comment down below!

If you need help with this overwhelming process, you can email us at for more advice. And, keep reading our website at for additional insights into the college application process.

Thanks for reading!