Archive for November, 2017


Thursday, November 23rd, 2017
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, Lord,
like streams in the Negev.

It is a heart-wrenching psalm–the speaker is obviously a farmer who is struggling to make ends meet. Every year, the harvest is iffy and year after year he barely makes it.  One thing he must do, though, is save the seed barley or wheat.  He can eat some of his crop, but he dare not eat all of it–or he will not have anything to plant next year. Perhaps his children are hungry, some even may die. But he holds on to the seed, to the dream. He must. Or the dream dies.

So the farmer suffers, watches his family suffer, but he holds on to the seed. Waiting. Watching. Hoping. Believing.

And then, finally, it is spring! Water fills the Negev and Palestinian hills with fresh, new, vigorous growth.  The wait is over!

Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.

Then with tears of joy, of remembrance, and of hope, the farmer plants again! He suffers in the winter because he believes in the harvest. Those who sow with tears . . .

This Thanksgiving season we are still waiting. Waiting for that long-delayed but inevitable harvest that surely will come soon. We must just keep working hard, holding the seed in our hand until that time of bountiful blessing comes, until our Lord comes!


Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Admission to competitive universities has been the subject of numerous movies, including Risky Business, Paper Chase, Love Story, and, a movie my wife Karen and I saw this weekend, Admissions. While I do not recommend any of the aforementioned movies (especially Risky Business), they often highlight some of the difficulties connected with college admission.

In the movie — starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd — Princeton University’s admissions office seems woefully behind the times when it comes to technology, with applicant records kept in folders (orange of course). Admission or rejection is accompanied by a dramatic checking of a box (or in one case where an admissions officer is angry at an applicant’s false claim, stamping the rejection twice on the folder). Princeton’s admissions dean (played by Wallace Shawn) is traumatized by a drop from No. 1 to No. 2 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings (when the only rankings indignity real-life Princeton suffers is being tied for the top spot with Harvard University).

Of course very few of us are going to go to Harvard or Princeton—although it is not as hard as you might think—both universities favor homeschool students and offer generous financial aid packages—but I want to highlight a few things I observed in the movie that are true.

  1. While I would never denigrate the ACT, it is not as prestigious a college admission exam as the SAT. Prestigious colleges prefer the SAT and ordinary/good colleges give larger financial aid packages to students who take the SAT and score high. My advice: Take both.
  2. Consider accumulating AP credits instead of CLEP credits. The former are far more prestigious. I still have openings in my AP classes. Visit and click on “Distance Learning.”
  3. If you opt to ignore the SAT and ACT—which is the only legitimate college admission test for the best colleges– and do something like College Plus, you jeopardize your financial possibilities and admission to prestigious graduate schools. Pray about it.
  4. College admission officers look at the essay portion of the ACT & SAT in lieu or in addition to the college admission essay. You should really, then, give a lot of attention to both.
  5. Choose the 5 colleges you would attend and apply. I recommend having 2 “long shot” choices, 2 “possible,” and two “in the bag” choices. Visit all 5 if you can. Arrange for interviews.
  6. Do not think about financial aid until you are accepted. Apply to a college—any college you feel God is calling you to—and then apply for financial aid if you are accepted. NEVER pay an independent agency to find financial aid or scholarships for you. The admitting college will help you gratis.
  7. Know the difference between early action & early decision. Early decision plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early action plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1. Therefore, apply to one early decision school and many other (5?) early action schools. After all, early action/early decision applicants have a much better chance to be accepted and to receive scholarships than regular admission students.

If you find the above insights helpful, feel free to visit Consider inviting me to conduct an SAT/ACT/College Admission Seminar for your COOP, school, or group. SAT/ACT Seminar. I will conduct an ACT/SAT seminar for you at a time that meets your schedule. Since I am a grader for the SAT many new insights are fresh in my mind. I will administrate a real SAT /ACT, evaluate the SAT/ACT score, and offer specific test-taking strategies. Parents attend the seminar free! Contact me directly if you are interested, or 814 479 7710.

I am also presenting a college admission workshop on I would love to have you join me!

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

By the time that you read this blog, I will have evaluated over 1500 SAT essays. I personally evaluated 2-3% of all the October essays. I am a fast and, I wish, a more accurate grader. I am paid per hour according to accuracy and productivity. So you should listen to me! My advice is not based on online wisdom or hypothetical anecdotes – I do the real thing!

I work for Pearsons/CollegeBoard and evaluate SAT essays for them. English teachers with attitude all over America are grabbing a cup of tea and trying their best to evaluate what is, by all estimations, a very subjective assignment.

The SAT and ACT, college admission tests, are approximately three hours long—three hours and fifty minutes if you write the optional essay. The essay portion is given at the beginning of the test. The score is factored into the writing section.

The SAT and the ACT essay are critical components of the college admission portfolio and students ignore them at their own risk.

For one thing, it is no small comfort to admission officers to see that students can actually write and, at the same time, SAT/ACT essays allow students to showcase their writing skills.

At the same time, many colleges purchase SAT/ACT essays as an addendum to the anxiety ridden college application essay. In other words, not trusting students to submit an honest, clean appraisal of their writing abilities in 650 words, colleges revert to using the spontaneous SAT/ACT essay. After all, colleges can be certain that no one assisted students in these creations!
Therefore, the SAT/ACT essay is critical. Students, you simply must take it.

Each SAT Essay consists of one passage between 650 and 750 words that you will read and then respond to. You will have 50 minutes to complete the SAT Essay.

The purpose of the new SAT Essay is to assess your ability to analyze an author’s argument. It is not merely a paraphrase of his/her argument. To write a strong essay, you will need to focus on how the author uses evidence, reasoning, and other rhetorical techniques to build an argument and make it convincing. Three components are evaluated: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. A perfect score is 4 plus 4 plus 4, or 12 times 2 (since there are two different graders), or 24 total.

The essay task will be the same in every test. What will change is the reading selection you’ll be asked to analyze. If you are familiar with the Essay prompt ahead of time – and understand exactly what your task is – you will save time on Test Day and write a stronger essay.

If you are interested in talking more about the SAT/ACT essay join me for an online webinar/discussion @ 1PM EST, Tuesday, November 28, 2017, e-mail for an invitation. During this webinar I will give you more specific writing strategies and I will be available to answer any of your other questions.