Key differences between the SAT and ACT: which test is right for you?

Key differences between the SAT and ACT: which test is right for you?

If you’re or having a child preparing for college admissions, you might have heard of the SAT and ACT tests, and might be curious about their differences.   The SATs and the ACTs are the two different tests that students are required to take for admittance to a US university.  When it comes to the SAT vs. the ACT, both exams are widely accepted by U.S. colleges, which often prompts students to ask: Which test should I take?

The answer to that question lies in understanding the differences between the two tests.  While both are standardized tests that colleges and universities use as a benchmark when making admissions decisions, there are some differences. 

This article will provide you with a brief overview of the basic structural and logistical differences between the ACT and SAT, to help you pick the right one as you get ready to apply to college.

The SAT vs. the ACT

At a glance, the two tests aren’t that different.  Both the ACT and SAT are nationally recognized standardized tests and common admission requirements for US schools.  Catering primarily to high school juniors and seniors, each test measures students’ proficiency in various critical skill areas – such as problem-solving and reading comprehension – that are necessary for college success.

Because all US colleges and universities accept scores from either the ACT or SAT, there’s no advantage in taking one test over the other.  This means you can apply to the same schools, regardless of which test you decide to take.

Despite all these similarities, there are still many ways in which the ACT and SAT differ from each other.  For one, the SAT is overall slightly longer than the ACT.  What’s more, the number of questions and time limits are different for corresponding sections.

Need a quick side-by-side comparison of the tests?  Check out this ACT vs. SAT Comparison Chart.




Content-based test

Type of Test

Content-based test
Reading: 1, 65-min section; Math: 1, 25-min section (no calculator) & 1, 55-min section (w/ calculator); Writing & Language: 1, 35-min section; Essay: 1, 50-min section (optional)

Test Format

English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 40-min essay (optional)
Reading, relevant words in context, math, grammar & usage, analytical writing (optional)

Content Covered

Grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional)
Questions are evidence and context-based in an effort to focus on real-world situations and multi-step problem-solving

Test Style

Straightforward, questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher
Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing are each scored on a scale of 200-800. Composite SAT score is the sum of the two section scores and ranges from 400-1600


English, Math, Reading, and Science scores range from 1-36. Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges from 1-36
No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers

Penalty for Wrong Answers?

No – you do not lose points for incorrect answers
Yes – you can choose which set(s) of SAT scores to submit to colleges. However, some colleges require or recommend that students submit all scores. Students should review the score-reporting policy of each college to which they plan to apply.

Score Choice?

Yes – you can choose which set(s) of ACT scores to submit to colleges.  However, some colleges require or recommend that students submit all scores. Students should review the score-reporting policy of each college to which they plan to apply.
Math questions generally increase in difficulty level as you move through that question type in a section. Reading passage questions generally progress chronologically through the passage, not by difficulty level. Writing & Language passage questions do not progress by difficulty level. 

Difficulty Levels

For the English and Reading sections, the difficulty level of the questions is random. For the Math section, questions generally increase in difficulty as you progress through the section. For the Science section, passages generally increase in difficulty as you progress through the test, and questions generally become more difficult as you progress through a passage. 
Arithmetic, problem-solving & data analysis, Heart of algebra, geometry, pre-calculus, and trigonometry; formulas provided

Math Levels

Arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided
Seven times per year: March or April, May, June, August, October, November, December 

Offered when?

Seven times per year: February, April, June, July, September, October, December 
Typically about four weeks before the test date

Registration deadline?

Typically about five to six weeks before the test date

More Information

Neither the SAT nor the ACT is harder than the other – but each test benefits a different type of student.  It’s essential that you figure out which test is best suited for you, so that you can achieve the highest scores possible.

ACT vs SAT: Which Test Is Right for You?

The best way to decide if taking the SAT, ACT, or both tests is right for you is to take a timed full-length practice test of each type.  Since the content and style of the SAT and ACT are very similar, factors like how you handle time pressure and what types of questions you find most challenging can help you determine which test is a better fit. 

Another quicker way you can determine which test is right for you is to take a short quiz. In the chart below, check whether you agree or disagree with each statement.

Statement     Agree    Disagree
I struggle with geometry and trigonometry.    
I am good at solving math problems without a calculator.    
Science is not my forte.    
It’s easier for me to analyze something than to explain my opinion.    
I normally do well on math tests.    
I can’t recall math formulas easily.    
I like coming up with my own answers for math questions.    
Tight time constraints stress me out.    
I can easily find evidence to back up my answers.    
Chronologically arranged questions are easier to follow.    

Now, count up your check marks in each column to find out what your score means.

Mostly Agrees — The SAT is your match!
If you agreed with most or all of the above statements, the SAT is what you’ve been looking for. With the SAT, you’ll have more time for each question and won’t need to deal with a pesky science section or a ton of geometry questions.

Mostly Disagrees — The ACT’s the one for you!
If you disagreed with most or all of the statements, you’ll most likely prefer the ACT over the SAT. On the ACT, you’ll never have to come up with your own answers to math problems, and you get to let your opinion shine in your writing.

Equal Agrees and Disagrees — Either test will work!
If you checked “Agree” and “Disagree” an equal number of times, either the ACT or SAT will suit you.  Unless you decide to take both, which does sound like a good option considering money and time constraints, try to take the official ACT and SAT practice tests to see which test’s format you’re ultimately more comfortable with.

All colleges require students to take either the SAT or the ACT and submit their scores to their prospective universities.  Despite the fact that many U.S. schools are going test-optional, an ACT, or SAT certification is still great-to-have for international students, as this is a concrete data point to compare you among thousands of applicants, and is what makes your application stand out more.  There is no advantage of taking one test over another, so it is important to choose the test that is best for you, whether you are a domestic US student or an international student. 


Updates on changed SAT requirements in 2020 and 5 common FAQ

Updates on changed SAT requirements in 2020 and 5 common FAQ

As dozens of U.S. schools dropped their ACT and SAT requirements, and many more are in the pipeline, is it the time for us to say goodbye to the SAT prep books?  What are the major changes to the SAT this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic?  What are the SAT score percentiles? And what is the good SAT score to apply to top colleges? 

These are the common questions that we often receive from our families and students. So here you are, in this article, we put together an SAT FAQ section to have all your SAT questions answered.  If you can’t find your questions here, let us know by commenting below!

Q: Some colleges are going to stop requiring SAT test scores for admissions. Is it true that the SAT is falling out of favor, and students don’t need to take SAT to get into college?

A: According to a list by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, or FairTest, a nonprofit organization working to end the misuse of standardized testing, about 51 universities, and colleges have dropped the ACT/SAT requirement for at least Fall 2021 in recent months.  Critics say the tests put less wealthy students at a disadvantage.  They acknowledge that SAT and ACT results follow a pattern of all standardized test scores: Kids from poor families do worse than kids with more money.  Wealthy parents can provide benefits that many poor families can’t, such as tutors, learning opportunities, the best schools with ample resources.  This comes on top of repeated SAT and ACT cheating scandals in the U.S. and abroad. The SAT in recent years has become the target of a sophisticated cheating system in Asia made possible in part because the College Board reuses questions.  Now, a growing list of colleges has announced they’re going test-optional for the class of 2021, meaning the SAT or ACT will not be required for admission.

Does it mean that students don’t have to worry about SAT/ ACT from now on?  When it comes to college admissions, we believe that the SAT/ ACT scores are still, not very inaccurate though, good indicators to compare students across disparate countries.  To compare students from totally different high schools, college admission committees can’t just choose the top students at each school; they need some way to compare students from across the nation and around the world, and that’s the history of SAT and why SAT scores are still important.  Therefore, even though more and more schools are going test-optional, we recommend students sitting the exam, especially if you are an international student and want to apply to competitive colleges, as this is a concrete data point to compare you among thousands of applicants, and is what makes your application stand out more.

That said, the fact that many schools are going test-optional has opened more options for applicants, and leveled the academic playing field.  SAT scores are not everything you need to apply to colleges – numbers can not tell the whole story.  If you think your scores are an accurate representation of your ability, submit them. If you feel they are not, don’t.  Instead, try to show your special-self in some other ways – which can come across in letters of recommendation, talent, extracurriculars, and college essays.

Q: When is the best time to take the SAT?

A: The SAT can be taken any time starting your freshman year.  We strongly recommend that all but the very strongest students do not take the first SAT exam until at least the spring of Grade 9, as this ensures you have covered the required academic content in school.  We also strongly recommend that all students should take their first SAT exam in either the spring of Grade 10 or fall of Grade 11. 

Doing so will give you enough time to take the test twice, which is highly recommended, as 67 percent of students improve their score the second time around. This also helps to unlock the power of Superscoring, which is a tremendous advantage for those who take the SAT multiple times.  

Once you receive your initial test results, you’ll know your weak points and can prepare to retake the test. 

The SAT exam is offered internationally every year in October, November, December, March, May, and June.  View SAT Test Dates and Deadlines here.

COVID 19 Update from SAT: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the College Board has canceled the May 2, 2020, and June 6, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administrations.   College Board has announced that they plan to provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August.  This includes a new administration on September 26, along with the previously scheduled tests for Fall 2020.  Learn more here.


Q: What Are SAT Score Percentiles? A: In addition to the composite score you get on the SAT (i.e., that number between 400 and 1600), you’ll get a percentile ranking, ranging from 1 to 99.  The SAT gives you a percentile ranking for your overall composite score as well as for each of the two-section scores: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) and Math. Your percentile tells you how you did on the SAT compared with everyone else who took the test. 


Your percentile score is not like a grade out of 100.  For instance, if you get a percentile of 90, this doesn’t mean you got exactly 90% of the questions right.  It just means that compared with everyone who took the SAT, you scored higher than 90% of them.  

Colleges use percentiles to compare you with other students.  If you got, say, an SAT score in the 90th percentile, this would make you competitive for many schools since you scored better than 90% of students nationwide.

Q: What is an SAT superscore and which colleges superscore

A: Superscoring is when a college chooses to consider your highest section score from multiple sittings of the same examination.  For instance, imagine you’ve taken the SAT two times, once in the spring and once in the fall. The second time around, your Evidence-Based Reading and Writing score increased 80 points, but your Math score came out 10 points lower. Colleges that superscore the SAT use your best section-level scores, even if they were from different tests. Many colleges that follow a superscore policy encourage students to submit all test scores, and some require it. This allows them to see and consider the highest section scores consistently and fairly across all applicants.

If you’re planning to take the SAT more than once, then superscoring is a beneficial policy.  You may incorporate this policy into your test prep strategy: If they superscore, then you can take the SAT on various dates throughout high school with a very specific section target score in mind each time.  In this way, you can use SAT superscoring to maximize your composite score and present a stellar SAT score on your college applications.  Make sure you research the standardized test policies of your colleges well in advance of applications.

Most colleges, but not all, consider your SAT superscores.  It’s always a good idea to review the SAT score-use policy for each college on your list so that you can come up with the best application strategy.  You can usually find this policy on the admissions website, usually in an “application requirements” section. Also, refer to this complete list of colleges that superscore the SAT

Q: What is a good score on the SAT?

A: Now, let’s look at the 25th and 75th percentile SAT/ACT scores for MIT, Stanford and all Ivy League schools:

If you’re scoring lower than the 25th percentile on either the SAT, you’ll have a really tough time getting accepted to an Ivy League school.  Unfortunately, you just won’t measure up to all the other highly qualified applicants who have extremely impressive SAT scores.

Clearly, these are very high standards.  In fact, all 75th percentile scores for Ivy League schools are in the 99th percentile nationwide.  To be at the top of the Ivy League application pool, you will need to be one of the top 1% of test-takers in the country!

While these SAT scores for the Ivy League can be used as standard guidelines, everyone has a different target score.  This means that you’ll need to know the SAT/ACT score target that’s right for you.  But how do you figure this out?

Your target SAT score will be based on the colleges you’re applying to.  You’ll need to find the average SAT scores of admitted students for all the schools you’re interested in attending, specifically their 75th percentile scores.  Aiming for the 75th percentile will give you the best chance of getting into all the schools on your list.

5 Things Students Should Do Before Leaving School for the Summer

5 Things Students Should Do Before Leaving School for the Summer

The school year is coming to a close and summer is just weeks away.  Before students empty out their lockers and embrace vacation, there are a few important steps to take to prepare for the next school year, especially for high school students who are going through the college admission process.  The end of the school year should be a time of review, reflection, and celebration.

Before you completely check out for summer, try these following action items that will help you reflect, unwind, and even get a little bit of prep done before back to school.  Then when August does roll around, your gigantic to-do list will already have a few items crossed off.  This article provides students with a handy end-of-school checklist that will help you get on track and make getting into the next school year a bit more manageable.

1. Grab a notebook and reflect on what went really well this year

As the school year draws to a close, it is an important time to stop and reflect on this past year.  It’s also an opportunity to take a deep breath and think about how to best direct your energies in the coming year.  Research shows that reflection is an essential part of learning.  That means that we need time to think about – and talk about – the ways we have processed and applied new information, concepts, and ideas.  When we reflect on what we have learned, ownership of that new knowledge increases – and with ownership comes more application and use of that new skill or knowledge.  Reflection is also a great way to consolidate learning, process our feelings, and share about ourselves.

So, grab a notebook and try to list at least five things that were amazing this school year. You can do this any way you want, perhaps in some writing or artworks if you are so inclined. You can consider these guiding questions:

  • What has been some of your most important learning this year?  
  • What have been some of your favorite experiences this year? 
  • How might you be able to apply what you learned this year in the future?
  • What was the most difficult challenge (or series of challenges) you faced this year? Who or what helped you address those challenges? What opportunities did those challenges create? 

2. Ask yourself what you want to focus on improving next year

The end of the school year is a perfect time to think about implementing new strategies.  Think of the end of the school year as the time to map out your training schedule.  Is there anything you need to improve?  A skill or content you want to learn more about?  Maybe it’s about joining a community service to give your college application a boost? Or developing soft skills, like delivering a great speech in front of the public?  Add it to the list.  This will also set you up for a productive summer vacation while still having time to enjoy, distress, and relax.

With extra daytime hours, summer is also the chance for you to narrow the “achievement gap”.  If you’ve got gaps in your knowledge from the material you’ve already covered, this is going to make it even more challenging to stay up to date, prevent yourself from falling behind, and help you prepare for your first lot of assessments.  On the contrary, continuing good learning habits over the summer positions students to succeed in the coming school year and can even put them ahead of your peers.

If you are a rising junior or senior about to study abroad, summer offers an opportunity for a slow and steady approach to test preparation.  Spending your summer solely preparing for standardized tests, such as SAT or IELTS, is not impactful in terms of strengthening your application, but interspersing some test prep in between your regular summer activities can go a long way toward helping you reach your goal score.

3. Compile a summer reading list

During the school year, most of the books students read may be assigned for class –  now’s the time to choose something you truly enjoy.  Summer gives you the chance to spice things up by reading that is more fun and tailored to your own interests.  Long hazy days of summer provide the perfect reading conditions.  It is also the perfect time to strengthen your reading skills, retain knowledge and skills learned in the previous school year. 

Researches show that students who don’t read are at risk of falling behind their classmates.  Just like exercising keeps muscles in shape, reading keeps the brain in shape.  If you don’t exercise, you lose muscle, and if you don’t read, you will lose literacy skills.  Reading over the summer is not a suggestion to keep students busy; it’s a critical requirement to help you stay on track for their entire educational career and beyond. It goes without saying that a few simple strategies help set you up for success:


  • Start early: Twenty minutes per day for 25 days sure beats 500 minutes in three days.
  • Schedule it: If you make time for reading, you’ll have time for reading.
  • Challenge yourself: A reading challenge journal will help you stay on track all summer long.  Students can also join the Scholastic Summer Reading-a-Palooza  to earn digital rewards for summer reading, or participate in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program, you’ll earn a free English book after reading eight books.

The local library is always a good place to start looking for book recommendations that might surprise you.  Most libraries sponsor summer reading programs that can be hacked to meet your needs.  Check the library calendar for special summer reading activities and events. Libraries also provide age-appropriate lists for summer reading.  Don’t limit yourself to books, either.  Include professional books, newspapers, magazines, graphic novels, audiobooks, or even emails, social media accounts, and blogs you want to read. 

4. Dream up your summer bucket list

Summer has always been about embracing a new challenge and then pushing yourself to overcome that challenge in a condensed period of time.  Let’s create a fabulous big summer bucket list.  Telling yourself, “This summer, I’m going to…” isn’t enough.  Instead, take an afternoon or an evening and really think about what project you want to get done, what skill you want to practice, what goal you want to achieve – and then write it down.  Write it somewhere you can see it.  Write it somewhere that’s part of your daily routine (like on your desk, or on your bathroom mirror).

Ensure that your summer has at least one sustained and meaningful activity on the calendar, so that your summer goals won’t be the same as the ones you have been set all throughout the year.  This can be a summer job, athletic training, or even a hobby with a goal in mind.  If your school offers a summer internship, jump on the opportunity! Otherwise, call some local companies that interest you and see if they are open to hiring a summer intern.  There’s no better way to figure out what you want to study in college or what career path you want to strive towards than participating in an internship.

There’s no right or wrong summer activity, just as long as you get something out of the experience.  You can even share your summer goals with your friends, your parents, or publish it on social media.  This positive reinforcement from your social network can motivate you forward to excel.  Find an accountability buddy if possible, having someone to check in with you no matter what your goals are, not only makes you more accountable, but it fills a need for social connection.  A text to your friend saying, “Hey, how’s your summer reading list coming?” or a call from one of your gal pals saying “Hey, I heard you wanted to do yoga this summer! Wanna go with me this week?” can be just what you need to push you towards reaching your goals.

5. Write a letter to your future self

A letter to your future self is a meaningful activity as a celebration of the way things were and the way things might be in the future in your own lives.  No matter how old, you are going to see significant changes in themselves over the next year.  The end of the year is a great time writing to our future selves, setting goals, making predictions, talking about family, dreams, and expectations. 

Write a letter to your future self, with encouragement about why you do what you do.  The little note might go a long way next winter when you need some extra encouragement.  You can record some memories and important learning from the experiences in your class.  You can also write their hopes, fears, and expectations for the next year.  If you have to write a letter to yourself next year’s class, what advice would you give to “him”, or “her?  What should the student do in order to be successful in class?  How about in life? What do you hope to learn in the next school year?

Seal it up in an envelope, and one year from now, deliver it to yourself next grade.  The feeling you get from that delivery from the past is one you will never forget.  Some sentence starters to get you going: One year from now I hope to be… Next year, I will… Right now, I feel…

The end of a school year could be a festive event – a celebration of learning. The end of every school year, even this “special” year of the outbreak, should be climatic and exciting.  We hope you can take this time as a time of review, reflection, and celebration, and get ready for the happiest summer to come!

Whether you spend your summer working, taking summer classes, or attending a summer program, odds are that your summer schedule varies dramatically from the one you keep during the school year.  So choose your plan wisely, set SMART goals with measurable outcomes, and find for yourself an accountability partner if possible.  Last but not least, no matter what your plans are, don’t forget to get out and soak in the sun, find your summertime groove, and enjoy. 

COVID-19 is a crucible moment for high school and college students

COVID-19 is a crucible moment for high school and college students

As COVID-19 grinds society to a halt and shutters physical college campuses, today’s high school and college students are experiencing their generation’s crucible.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was a senior in college on 9/11. I can still remember the sense of fear I felt in the aftermath of that day. Before then, I didn’t have a strong sense of what I would do after graduation. 9/11 led me to step back from campus recruiting and focus on how I could positively impact society, which resulted in my decision to take a paid gap experience of sorts

After college, I worked for David Gergen for two years as his research assistant. One of the allures of that experience was, not only did I have the chance to contribute to the national dialogue around how America would respond to 9/11, but I would also just have the chance to learn—from David certainly, but also from the wide variety of people with whom he interacted, from politicians to business leaders and from those in the media to educators and entrepreneurs leading non-profit organizations. David also taught often about how crucibles could forge leaders—and how the leadership style of different generations could be formed in collective crucibles. 

After those two years I enrolled in the Harvard Business School, which ultimately resulted in a life working to improve schooling worldwide once I partnered up with another soon-to-be mentor, Clay Christensen.

Spurred by 9/11, many in my generation have similarly sought to change the world. Just as Pearl Harbor spawned the “Greatest Generation” and President John F. Kennedy inspired individuals to enter public service, historic events can shape the convictions of a cohort.

With uncertainty about whether campuses will open in the fall and the finances of many families and colleges in tatters, significant numbers of students will likely change plans and take a year off or attend college closer to home. In one survey, just 20 percent of students said they are confident they will be able to attend their first-choice school. Roughly 12 percent said they are considering taking a gap year or enrolling part-time.

As students reconsider their college choices and see their dreams dashed by the inability to pay or enroll, they should reframe a gap year or part-time enrollment not as a year off, but as a year on purpose. Rather than see it as a step backward, it’s an opportunity to take a “discovery year” to learn about themselves—what are their passions, what do they dislike, and how can they best contribute to the world?

I wrote in Forbes about what this year might look like and how important it could be in a piece titled “For This Year’s Graduates, A Year Of Purpose.” The piece offers recommendations for students (and implicitly for parents), but also for innovators seeking to create these types of experiences. I also recommend a piece that Brandon Busteed of Kaplan published in Forbes titled “It’s Time To Reinvent The Gap Year.”

Here are some other pieces, podcasts, and videos that may interest you.

Higher Education

Future U

What happens to enrollment and revenue for colleges and universities in the next few months amidst a recession and COVID-19 shuttering physical campuses remains uncertain. Deloitte’s Pete Fritz joined Jeff and Michael to talk through how universities should plan and what’s likely to happen.

K12 Schools

As always, thanks for reading, writing, listening and contributing. Stay safe and stay strong.

Michael Horn
Senior Contributor for Forbes on on future of #education

Meet the girl who received a full-ride scholarship from Harvard: “Just listen to yourself”

Meet the girl who received a full-ride scholarship from Harvard: “Just listen to yourself”

“Even the acceptance rate is just 5 or 10%, it’s still much higher than 0%. I think everyone should aim for the moon, because if you miss, you will land among the stars.”, said Le My Hien.

Earning full-ride scholarships from many top-ranked universities in the world: Harvard, Duke, Amherst…; Le My Hien, a 12th grade student from Tran Hung Dao gifted high school,  became the pride of the whole Binh Thuan province. Hien is also the very first student of Binh Thuan to receive a full scholarship from the prestigious Harvard University.

(*) Full-Ride scholarship is an award that covers the entire cost of college, including tuition, room and board, textbooks, school materials, and sometimes even living costs and study abroad fees.  These are highly sought-after, highly competitive awards that are only given out to an incredibly small fraction of students—around 0.1%, in fact.

Hien is a self-motivated student who is very energetic, always seeks for knowledge and proactively reaches out to other seniors to ask for experience.  Mrs. Le Thi Hao, Hien’s mother, shared that, “When it comes to studying, I never have to complain or worry about Hien throughout many years. Hien always works hard, strives for knowledge and directs her own studying.  My family’s financial situation is not that good. I can’t get time for Hien as well, since my job involves strenuous work and long hours. It’s fortunate that Hien possesses a good self-study attitude, therefore in spite of many hardships I have to get through, I’m still happy to see my child try hard and now finally achieve great success.” 

Being aware of the financial status of the family, as well as understanding that the application process to U.S. colleges requires a lot of money and effort. In 2019, Hien applied to College Compass – the college admission program by Everest Education – as per her seniors’ suggestions, and got a full scholarship from the program. 

Mr Don Le, CEO and chief adviser of College Compass, had a private interview with Hien, where she shared her own experience of applying to top colleges in the U.S., as well as gave some good advice for those who want to take on that journey.

Don Le: First off, congratulations to you and your family, how do you feel right now?  Can you share your feelings when getting accepted to such great college like that?

Hiền: Yeah, at this moment, I still can’t believe that I can receive admission letters from many prestigious schools in the world like that.  When reading words in the acceptance letters from those schools, my greatest emotion at that time was the feeling of gratitude. I felt grateful for all the sacrifices of my family, my mother, my teachers and friends, and everyone who put their trust in me and stood by my side along the way.  I feel like I’m continuing on with their dreams. 

Don Le: Now that you got all the results and have more time to consider, you’re in a great position – being accepted to 4 prestigious universities in the world, how do you feel right now?

Hiền: I believe there must be some reasons for the admission officers to decide putting their trust in me.  There are a lot of young, passionate, and hard-working students out there just like me. I think that I was lucky in this journey and got tickets to top schools in the world.  I think I have a responsibility, an obligation to pay back what I have received so far. The letter of admission to Harvard, to me, comes with that obligation and responsibility.  Not only do I have to improve myself day by day, but I also have to serve the community and people around me. 

Don Le: Obviously, what you achieved is very significant, not just for yourself, but for your family as well.  You know, Harvard each year will just offer 1 or 2 full-ride scholarships to Vietnamese students. What does it mean to you personally? 

Hiền: To me, the story is never about getting accepted to big name universities, it’s more about how much I grow up throughout the application process, as well as how I was able to reflect and understand more about myself.  I have learned to keep my thoughts more open, take time seriously to think about my own values, what I need, what I want and what I have to continue my path in the next few years. In my opinion, university is just a milestone, what is even more important is what you will do with the knowledge and experience that you’ve gained.  It may sound a bit too much to say it was a “life-changing” milestone, but I think I have been growing tremendously thanks to the application process. Through the process of applying for universities in general and applying for College Compass in particular, I realized that I am more mature.

Don Le: When you look back on the whole journey, I’m sure there are a lot of people who have supported you.  There’s a saying in English: “It takes a village to raise a child”, who enables you to get this far? 

Hiền: Looking back on the long journey to come this far, I think it’s my mom and my aunt who have always been inspiring me, taking care of me since I was a baby.  Their sacrifices, both physically and emotionally, have shaped me into the person I am today, either through my thoughts or my actions. They are my great motivation that pushes me forward and keep trying to make my dreams come true.

Don Le: Let’s go back to your junior year, what was the thing that you most worried about?

Hiền: To me it was my financial background.  In fact, to be well-prepared for one application to a U.S. college, you need to be ready in everything, from standardized tests to essay classes, which are obviously, out of my family’s financial capacity.  However, I was so lucky to receive a full scholarship from College Compass. The teachers and consultants at College Compass are very caring and dedicated, and always support me whenever I need help. Besides, I also received a lot of good advice from seniors, brothers and sisters who went through this process before.  I believe this is the most valuable thing I can get out of this program, because all those lessons and experience from them are the information that no book or internet can provide me.

Don Le: So, can you share one of your most memorable moments that you have during one year with College Compass?

Hiền: I think the experience of studying with other people was my most memorable experience at College Compass.  I’ve always enjoyed listening to everyone’s stories, I think everyone is special in their own unique way. By listening to their own stories, I can learn a lot from them.  My friends at College Compass were very open to sharing their own stories, and I think it was an amazing experience that I hardly have in real life.

Don Le: What is the biggest lesson that you could learn from College Compass? Hiền: The biggest lesson that I could draw is, do not let the fear of failure make you stay in your comfort zone.  Actually in the beginning, I never thought that I could have the chance to get into top universities, but the teachers, brothers and sisters at College Compass helped build up my confidence.  They made me realize that, even the acceptance rate is just 5 or 10%, it’s still much higher than 0%. I think everyone should aim for the moon, because if you miss, you will land among the stars.

Don: When you look at the application process itself, which part do you think for you was the hardest?  Hiền: I think it’s thinking of ideas for supplement essays.  The objective of the main essay is to introduce a memorable story about yourself.  The supplement essays are meant to add other aspects of yourself, so its ideas need to be original, unique and interesting.  

But because of the large number of required supplement essays, I felt a bit overwhelmed during the application process. However, College Compass has weekly individual discussions, where I was able to work privately with my consultant via Zoom.  He helped me discuss and develop ideas for supplement essays. If I had to do it all alone, I don’t think I could be able to make it. 

Don: What is the most valuable advice that you receive from Mr Việt Anh – who spent most of the time to support you?

Hiền: It’s about choosing schools.  Because I feel like the main problem here has never been the school’s name and its reputation.  My opinion is to choose a school that has core values aligned with my own. Defining the value of those schools was a very challenging task for me. Mr Viet Anh has helped me with orientation, given the criteria that I need to consider when choosing a school, such as the student community, the class size as well as the location of the school. I really appreciate his help. 

Don: If you had to give one advice for the next generation of College Compass, what would you say?

Hiền: I would say just listen to yourself.  Because the world outside is very noisy, isn’t it?  It’s hard for us to listen to what our heart really wants, listen to our true-self.  Additionally, we are easily affected by plenty of different advice from people around us. I agree that you should listen to advice, but you should also keep your true colors, do not let it be too dim among dozens of people’s advice.  I hope you all see this as an opportunity to grow up, so whatever the outcome may be, be consistent with what you believe in yourself. And instead of thinking about factors that are out of your control, just focus on what you can do well.  Regarding managing the application deadlines for all schools, my only mantra is: “Don’t procrastinate.” I will try to split my day into certain scopes of work. I also keep a notebook with me whenever I go to note down ideas that come up in my head at any time, so I can save time thinking of ideas for supplement essays.

Don Le: Thanks Hien for your interesting and thoughtful sharing today!  I think the best thing you can do to express your gratitude is “pay it forward. College Compass has helped you, and we hope that you can keep helping other people.  Keep learning, improving yourself, and give the opportunity you have received to others, that would be the best “thank you” that we are honored to receive from you.

College Compass is a college admission consulting program by Everest Education – guides G11 students step-by-step through the rigorous application process with a high quality, cost-effective package. Our alumni have been successful in their application to the most competitive schools in the world (Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Cornell, Williams, Amherst, New York University, Northeastern University, Bates, Minerva,…), and we’ll guide you to succeed too. With the lead of our experienced counselors and excellent graduates themselves, you can control your application process effectively, and turn your dream schools into reality.


College Compass is now offering 10 scholarship for the next cohort of students 2020, learn more at:

7 best Youtube channels for kids of all ages!

7 best Youtube channels for kids of all ages!

Subscribe to these YouTube channels to ensure you always know your kid is watching safe, appropriate and high-quality videos online.

YouTube is a free, amazing resource for children to learn everything, from baking, singing and unboxings to nature, crafts and cartoons, and of course, English!  Unfortunately, there’s a bunch of awful stuff that may happen on YouTube, everything from pedophile-approved videos of preteens to videos that promote self-harm. Of course, there are a few steps you should take before letting your little one loose on the Internet, like setting your parental controls and downloading a child-focused YouTube app for kids.  (Check out our top internet safety advice for your kids.) With millions of channels available on YouTube, it’s important to set up the appropriate parental safeguards, filters and best practices to protect your kids.  But it’s equally important to choose the best channels and content for them to watch. So what are the best channels?  In this article, we compile a list of 7 great Youtube channels and playlists for kids that parents will love, based on recommendations from parents, educators and English teachers around the world.  Best of all: All of these channels are available on YouTube Kids.

For Toddlers

1. Super Simple Songs

There is a reason that this YouTube channel has racked up millions of views.  Super Simple Songs is a collection of original kids songs and classic nursery rhymes made simple for young learners.  Combining captivating animation and puppetry with delightful music that kids love to sing along to, Super Simple Songs makes learning simple and fun!  These animated videos are designed perfectly to help either keep your kid occupied with an afternoon of sing-alongs or sending them off to sleep with a lullaby like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. 

Nursery rhymes and children’s songs are just the beginning of what Super Simple Songs has to offer.  You’ll also find a range of educational shows and videos featuring original music and animation. Smiley Little Monsters teaches kids about eating healthy and sharing, while the adorable animals of the Treetop Family shows kids the wonders of the animal world.

Each video is just three to four minutes long, so they are very bite-sized. Kids will want to watch their favorites again and again, so be prepared to bookmark their favorites

2. Sesame Street

“Sesame Street” has long been used by the Japanese as a way to study English.  Nearly 50 years strong, Sesame Street is a staple of children’s programming and, happily, its essence carries over to its YouTube channel too. The gang’s all here—Elmo, Big Bird, Abby, Oscar, Snuffy, Cookie, Bert & Ernie and all their famous friends—with new videos uploaded daily to teach kids many of the life lessons they’ll need, like Robin Williams helping the Two-Headed Monster understand conflict or Mark Ruffalo and Murray learning about empathy. 

“Sesame Street” has been created to help children learn English in a fun and creative way.  Each episode teaches expressions used in everyday conversation (e.g., “Good night” and “What’s this?”) as well as useful vocabulary. The show also introduces phrases and expressions that elicit a response, such as “Look at me” or “Put on your coat.” Simple grammar is taught, along with the alphabet and numbers from one to 20.

The curriculum uses themes that are familiar and interesting to children, including families, friends, pets, toys, food and weather.  “Sesame Street” is now broadcasting in 148 countries with 20 international co-productions to suit local languages, customs and educational needs. 

For Elementary students

3. Flocabulary

Flocabulary is a learning program for all grades that uses educational hip-hop music to engage students and increase achievement across the curriculum. Founded in 2004 by Blake Harrison and Alex Rappaport, Flocabulary takes a nontraditional approach to teaching vocabulary, math, science and other subjects by integrating content into recorded raps.  Flocabulary’s videos, which are organized by subject, use educational hip-hop songs and visual aids to teach specific lessons, like how to divide fractions. These lessons are designed to both introduce and review important topics, while also helping students to draw connections between different subjects.

Each video comes with a series of interactive activities intended to improve students’ retention of the lesson.  Specifically, lessons include fill in the blank exercises, opportunities for students to write their own educational songs, and Common Core aligned activities and games.  Flocabulary’s vocabulary program also includes assessment resources, which can be used to determine subject mastery. With all those amazing features, Flocabulary is definitely a creative teaching tool to captivate students, encourage them to think out of the box, and inspire them to create their own rhymes.

4. CoolSchool

“Cool School is the school of every kid’s dreams, because it’s the COOLEST school ever!”.  This wide-ranging Youtube channel has an outstanding collection of story-telling videos that teachers and parents can put to good use.  Children can watch classic stories like Cinderella and Rapunzel, or even play “Spot the difference” on this channel. CoolSchool turns reading into an enjoyable journey that your kids will love to take on.  Filled with a collection of digital books featuring read-along stories broken into easy reading chapters, children will love learning to read with their favorite Cool School friend, Ms. Booksy!  Storyteller extraordinaire Ms. Booksy guides kids on literature adventures they will never forget. The videos are over thirty minutes in many cases, and kids get a great treatment of popular stories.

For middle and high school students

5. TED-Ed

Probably best suited to kids at the top end of the school-aged range (9+), TED-Ed is an amazing resource for young thinkers in your family.  As the name suggests, TED-Ed is the youth and education arm of the TED foundation. The original animated videos on the site are creative collaborations between TED-involved experts and speakers, TED Fellows and various educators, producers and directors. 

The videos are beautifully animated and present kids and adults alike with thoughtful topics, riddles and tutorials that are sure to bake your noodle.  Titles like “What’s So Great About the Great Lakes?” “How High Can You Count On Your Fingers?” and “Why Doesn’t Anything Stick to Teflon?” are just the tip of the iceberg.

Now your kids can enjoy the smart, informative, big thinking joys of TED Talks too.  The TED foundation has created these educational editions of their highly popular lectures.  Each video is born out of a collaboration between experts in various fields and creative animators who create visuals that are just as captivating as the content.  They even take submissions for ideas if you have a particularly insightful kid. 


6. National Geographic Kids

National Geographic Kids is the online component to National Geographic Kids magazine. Among its educational games, kid-friendly information, and great footage, the site has many cool videos of awesome animals, fun science and colorful travel destinations.  They don’t just limit themselves to the exotic either, there are plenty of programs that explore the wonders in your own backyard and even your own house pet, like one episode called “How to Speak Cat.”  

There’s lots to explore on this animal- and geography-based site, thanks to its diverse array of activities.  Younger kids should enjoy playing the games, which include clear instructions and multiple difficulty levels, and they often reinforce memory, logic, and other skills.  The site’s videos are high-quality productions, and with many being only about a minute long, they’re perfectly timed for even the shortest of attention spans. National Geographic Kids have even created playlists depending on your kid’s interests so that they can binge-watch creature captures.

7. Brightstorm

Brightstorm is an online learning platform that offers a wealth of subject-specific videos keyed to high school level classes.  The channel provides short video lessons on various subjects that can complement and cement what your kid is learning in class. The lessons, which are offered in English, math, science, and test prep, are taught by seasoned teachers, who break the content into small pieces so kids don’t get overwhelmed.  The videos are white-board driven lessons taught at the high school level.

They feature real teachers in classroom-like settings.  The topics are explained clearly and concisely, and most are about five minutes in length.  Their English grammar and writing sections, together with their SAT and ACT prep sections that cover language arts topics, number past a few dozen videos.  With great quality video and well-taught lessons, this channel will give your teens the boost they need while staying at home.