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Sal Khan's story: Making high school count

Sal shares how to make high school count. For a strong, well-rounded college application, it's important to take challenging courses, participate in extracurricular activities, show leadership, write a meaningful college application essay, and not wait until the last minute to take standardized tests. 

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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Renny Wilder
    When should I start studying for the SAT?
    (20 votes)
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  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user TheLonelyMailbox
    What Does AP and IB mean?
    (8 votes)
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    • hopper cool style avatar for user maceden
      AP stands for Advanced Placement. IB stands for International Baccalaureate. Now, you may be wondering what is an International Baccalaureate. The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), is an international educational foundation offering four educational programs for children aged 3–19. Consequently, "IB" can refer to the organization itself, any of the four programs, or the diploma or certificates awarded at the end of the program. I think in your context, IB stands for the diploma awarded at the end.
      (21 votes)
  • aqualine seedling style avatar for user Riju
    I wanna get into Harvard university, I'm actually a bit worried about my GPA. I'm studying in 11th grade now, in India. My past scores aren't so impressive, but I improved well in the last grade and now I'm working hard for this 11th. I've made good progress, so if I start to make some really great scores from this grade and if I do well enough in the SAT, is there a chance for me to get into Harvard? Well I know I gotta do many more things apart from that, I'm just asking if my past gardes will matter more.
    (12 votes)
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    • leaf red style avatar for user Eric N.
      Maybe... possibly not. For a school like Harvard, they are looking for students who are willing to learn, and where ones grades are outstanding. They are looking for people who are the most outstanding of the class. For a case like you, it would depend. I would say your grades depend. If you got lots of A's, then you should be fine. However, F's, C's, and even B's and MAYBE low A's will not help. If you had lots of B's, then I would say you have a slim chance of entering Harvard. The ONLY chance for this slim chance to possibly occur, then you would have to get LOTS and LOTS of VERY good grades. And by "good grades", I don't mean grades like 90, 92, 95, etc. I'm talking about 98, 99, 100, maybe something above a 100 (if possible). You have to show to Harvard you CARE about education, and you really want to enter their school to study law, English, etc. So yeah. Get perfect grades, completely destroy (meaning do very well) your SAT AND your ACT, and do stuff you can do now to help you in the future. For example: If you want to be a lawyer, teach yourself United States government(12th grade course) when you're in 8th grade, 9th grade, and in your case, 11th grade. So... yeah. Good luck!
      (9 votes)
  • starky tree style avatar for user Nithish
    What should you do if you want to get into a college like MIT if you are from a country like India? What tests should you take up apart from TOEFL and SAT to get a scholarship or to enhance your application?
    (8 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Shrushti Kaul
    In CBSE...We have a given set of subjects...There are 4 sets and we need to choose from them...1) Phy. Chem. Math. 2) Phy. Chem Bio. and so on....Every child has english and has one optional subject to choose...
    I have chosen physics chem maths english and webtech.
    All children study at the same level..WE even don't have Algebra-1 or algebra-2...It's all combined into 1 book each for 11th and 12th grade..that we have to study from..Same goes with the other subjects...How would the college admission guys judge me now... ?
    (7 votes)
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  • leaf red style avatar for user Rebekah Dykes
    what is the average ACT score for a sophomore?
    (0 votes)
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  • winston default style avatar for user afifnoorahsan
    Can i take SAT in my junior year??
    (3 votes)
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  • male robot hal style avatar for user Viraj Aditya
    I'm a student in India and will be beginning my High School (Grade 11-12) in a month. I'm moving to a different school for exploring better opportunities.
    I've been performing good in my academics securing A's and have also been involved in extra-curricular activities - heading clubs, projects, classes, doing social/environmental projects for the school, being selected for debates, acting in plays, participation in sport events, etc.

    Out of the classroom, I'm just super passionate about computers and technology. I've taught myself Web Development, Programming and have also been taking MOOCs from Harvard, MIT and other universities.

    Would my "out-of-the-classroom" activities be considered as extra-curricular? And, what more can I do in High School that would set my application apart from the rest? I'm thinking of applying in the Students Council at my new school as I want to explore and grow my abilities.
    (3 votes)
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    • aqualine sapling style avatar for user Sanya
      It depends, if the website offers a certificate after completing the course, then yes, otherwise the answer is probably no, however, you could buy a domain and build your own websites or go to places like "Hack-a-Thon" and compete to win prizes in coding.
      (2 votes)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user Xi An Niles
    I do a lot of ballet seriously after school, would it be a bad idea to be a part-time student in high school? To just take the core classes and a world language and then just dedicate the rest of my time to dance?
    (2 votes)
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    • starky tree style avatar for user Niki Nayer
      You might want a backup. The arts are a tricky business so try getting another topic you really enjoy and then use that as a backup. I suggest you take the core classes, a world language, and a major you enjoy outside of the arts industry. Then dedicate the rest of your time to dance. But you should still study as well. I think this is a good plan.
      (4 votes)
  • leaf grey style avatar for user infinity
    is there anything in this course for homeschoolers?
    (3 votes)
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    • leafers tree style avatar for user L. E.
      As @David Alexander said, this entire course is useful for homeschoolers. You just have to adapt the tips in it for homeschool.

      1) Document! You should have a highschool transcript, 9-12th grade, explaining the courses you took, what curriculums you used, and the grade you got based on your/the course's/your parents' grading method.
      2) Participate in extracurricular activities, bonus points if they correlate with the career you're wanting to go into! I don't know how old you are, but career-related jobs and internships also look great, and depending on your homeschool schedule flexibility, you may be able to use that to your advantage for year-round opportunities.
      3) Take tests! Standardized tests, the PSAT, SAT, ACT, etc. You can do that by signing up through Collegeboard or through your local highschool. If you really want to dive into a particular subject and feel that you can prepare yourself for it, you can also take AP tests (the exam only option) at your local highschool.
      4) In your junior and senior years of homeschool, your parents may let you take community college courses to supplement whatever you're doing at home (this will also show colleges that you are "challenging yourself," and may actually transfer with you and count as credits in their institution).
      5) Visit your local colleges, and any college you are planning on attending, if possible. Start setting up those connections now in highschool; talk with any other homeschoolers you know who have gone to college.

      Stay diligent with your grades and practice time management, and you shouldn't have a problem with the college admissions process. As a homeschooler, you do have to keep up with transcripts and really be on top of college applications, but it'll just be more practice for the real world ;)

      One last thing: admissions pages on college websites are very helpful. Usually they have a phone number or an email so you can contact them if you have any questions.

      Hope that helped, and good luck!
      (2 votes)

Video transcript

- So what did I do in high school that I guess optimized my college application? And I could talk about it now in hindsight, you know, more than 20, oh, boy, I'm getting old, more than 20 years after the fact. But I will say, especially earlier on in high school in ninth and 10th and 11th grade, I really didn't fully appreciate, I actually didn't know what was good or bad. But now I think I have a better lens on what actually did help. You know, even entering high school I had a strong interest in math and science. In fact, I was just curious in general. I just liked learning things. And so I was always eager to take the most challenging courses that my school had to offer. So I think that was really important. One, that prepares you for college, but it also shows admission officers that you're up for stepping out of your comfort zone and stretching yourself. And as I got into my later years in high school, as I'd kind of maxed out a few of the math classes that my high school offered, I went to the Universtity of New Orleans and I took classes there. And I think, once again, and I think I actually even met a few folks from my university later that said, no, that really made your application look good, that you continued to challenge yourself. You didn't just say, oh, I did as much as I could do with the resources at hand. You looked for new ways to challenge yourself. And so I think that's always a good idea. Whatever your circumstances, try to push and figure out and pool resources that allow you to grow. On the extracurricular side, some of you all might have guessed, I was on the math team. I was the captain, which I enjoyed. And, you know, it's about math. But it's also about leadership. It's about motivating other people. It's about mentoring other people. So I think that reflects well in an application. But it wasn't just about math. I also was really into art. And so we had a school newspaper, a very good school newspaper, actually. And so I became the art editor of it eventually. the guy who writes the cartoons or draws the cartoons and does a lot of the layout. And, you know, one, I didn't do that to get into college. I did that because I just really enjoyed it. It was one of the best experiences I had in high school. I learned a ton, but I think it did help my application. You know, other things I did extracurricularly, I ran for class president my junior year and lost. So that was just, I guess a good experience. I didn't think it was a good experience when I lost. And actually, I don't know if that actually helped my application because I think I was too embarrassed to write that I lost. But in hindsight, I probably should have written. I could have probably written a pretty good essay about just what I learned from that experience. And then the last piece is on the standardized tests which are clearly an important part of applying to college. I think what really helped me is I didn't wait until the last minute to take the SAT and the ACT. I took them, I left a little bit of room, so... I took them once earlier in my career, you know, before my senior year. And I got okay scores, but I felt that I could get better scores. And so I had room so I could take them again before the actual college applications were due. And in both the cases of the SAT and the ACT I did much better the second time. So I think it was really important that I left that flexibility open. So, yeah, that's my best guess of what helped my college application.