For students who seek admission or want to transfer to middle/high schools in the United States, their only option is private schools, as public schools fundamentally prohibit international student admission.
There are many things to consider and prepare for when choosing a suitable school for your child, but most schools of certain caliber or prestige, which Korean parents prefer, ask for SSAT scores as part of their admission requirements. Unlike a regular school test, which evaluates the student’s achievements, the SSAT measures the learning skill of a student and provides standards to evaluate the student’s potential academic competency separately from the school records. The test consists of multiple choice questions designed by high school teachers, college professors, and other professionals from the SSATB (Secondary School Admission Test board), which administers the SSAT, and from the ETS, which administers the TOEFL test. The SSAT has an Upper Level Test for students who are applying to enter American private schools in grades 9 and 10 and a Lower Level Test for students who are applying to enter in grades 7 and 8.
The SSAT comprises 4 sections: Writing, Verbal, Quantitative (Math), and Reading Comprehension. Most Korean students tend to score high in the Quantitative section but significantly low in the Writing and Verbal sections. This is why they are recommended to invest much time practicing for those sections and steadily improve their scores. The classes in American high schools are particularly changing towards a direction that emphasizes group discussions and lab reports after science experiments. A student that does not prepare beforehand for the aforementioned sections is therefore more likely to fail when adjusting to school life and become frustrated, as he/she won’t be able to follow the class, even if he/she manages to get into an American private school.
|Lower Level||Upper Level|
|Math I||25 questions(25min)||25 questions(25min)|
|Verbal||60 questions(25min)||60 questions(25min)|
|Reading||40 questions(25min)||40 questions(25min)|
|Math II||25 questions(25min)||25 questions(25min)|
|Essay||one Writing prompt(25 min)|
Writing Sample (Essay)
Students have to write an essay making a case for or against the given prompt. Each student will have a different topic, and will have to support his or her argument with detailed examples from general personal experience, current issues, history or literature. It won't be scored, but still forwarded along with the SSAT score to the schools that require a writing sample, so the student must take the writing sample seriously. It entails writing on a given prompt within the given 25 minutes. The student must accurately understand the prompt in rather short words, and write their views on the given topic. Because the time is limited, students are recommended to write and conclude their opinion in a succinct manner, not too wordy.
40 questions will be given from 7 passages This section measures a student's ability to understand the overall content of the passage through questions that test the student's reasoning skill and ability to understand the topic of the given passage.
This section consists of 2 sections with 25 questions each, and includes arithmetics, geometry, algebra and other mathematical concepts. It includes arithmetics and percentile, prime numbers and integers, ratio, concepts of positive and negative numbers, elementary concepts of algebra, elementary concepts of geometry and measurement and graphs, all of which are relatively easy for the Korean students. Most of these questions are easily doable as long as the student accurately understands the question in English.
Of 60 questions in total, there are 30 Synonyms questions and 30 Analogy questions. The synonyms questions ask to select the word that has the same or nearly the same meaning as another word, and analogy questions test the ability to understand the connection between two words. The verbal section is relatively hard for Korean students whose native language is not English, therefore studying for prefixes, suffixes and stems of words will help students prepare for this section.
The SSAT imposes penalty for an incorrect answer. In other word, students will receive 1 point for each correct answer and lose 1/4 point for each incorrect answer. This prevents the students from guessing their way through the test when they encounter the questions they are not so sure about. However, guessing for the answer does not always work against the students. Students select one answer from 5 options in a multiple choice question, so they have 20% chance of selecting a correct answer when they have absolutely no idea about the answer.
But if they can eliminate one or two incorrect answers choices, then they would select the answer from 3 options, thereby increasing their chance of selecting a correct answer to 1/3. Then the students should try guessing for the correct answer. If the students can eliminate 3 wrong choices, then the chance of getting the correct answer will be 50:50, of course. If the students cannot eliminate any choice, then it is wise to leave the question blank.
How to register for the SSAT through the website - http://www.ssat.org
What you need for the registration
There is the student's personal information on the upper side of the report such as student's name, registration number, address, test center, test level (Middle Level, Upper Level), grade, gender, and date of birth, and the second part of the report has the score, which can be broken down to 4 parts to understand its details.
Each score is the Verbal, Quantitative, Reading, and Overall score. For the Verbal, Quantitative, and Reading sections, the score can range between 230-320 for 5-7th graders and 250-350 for 8-11th graders. For the overall score, of the upper level (Overall=Verbal+Quantitative), a total score is 1050 with 350 from Verbal, 350 from Quantitative, and 350 from Reading section350.
It is a percentile rank system in which the score is calculated in the lowest 1st to the highest 99th percentile. The highest percentile is the top 1% students when their performance is compared to other students who have taken the SSAT in the last three years, and the lowest percentile is the bottom 1% students.
The Estimated National Percentile Ranks refers to the estimated percentile of the score when it is compared to all students across the United States, not just those who have taken the SSAT.
It refers to the estimated SAT score based on the SSAT score. The private junior high or high schools in the US generally weigh the Verbal, Quantitative and Overall score more, and most prestigious schools require a high range of score although the score and GPA requirement may vary by each school. Many prestigious US schools in the East Coast tend to require 70~80% or higher for the score.
The SSAT scores are released to the corresponding schools generally two weeks after taking the test. The parent's copy of the score will be mailed to your house, usually 4 week after the score is released to the school. For now, it costs $162 to register and take the test at your convenience in Korea, and $20 more if you want to know the score in a week, although the score will be sent to you in about 2-3 weeks. You can write a check for this payment and submit it to the test center.
Testing Service Center:
Secondary School Admission Test Board 12 Stockton Street. Princeton, NJ 08540 Tel: (609)683-4440 Fax:(609)683-4507, 800-442-SSAT(7728)
|3||Phillips Exeter Academy||New Hampshire||671/684|
|6||The Thacher School||California||665/665|
|7||The Webb Schools California||(73%/87%)|
|8||Choate Rosemary Hall||Connecticut||(72%/80%)|
|9||Lawrenceville School||New Jersey||657/671|
|11||Noble and Greenought Schoo||Massachusetts||(83%/90%)|
|12||Hackley School||New York||650/680|
|13||Mount Michael Benedictine High Schoo||Nebraska||650/677|
|14||Georgetown Preparatory School||Maryland||(71%/67%)|
|15||Thomas Jefferson School||Missouri||660/660|
|16||Indian Springs School||Alabama||660/660|
|17||Oregon Episcopal School||Oregon||650/660|
|18||St. Paul's School||New Hampshire|
|19||Detroit Country Day School||MI||644/658|
|21||The Cambridge School of Weston||MA||(75%/66%)|
|22||Belmont Hill School||MA||630/660|
|23||The Taft School||CT||629/657|
|24||The Hockaday School||TX||640/643|
St. Albans School
|26||Pine Crest School||FL||628/653|
|27||Doane Stuart School||NY||660/620|
|28||The Athenian School||CA||640/638|
|29||Academy of the Sacred Heart||LA||625/651|
|31||Emma Willard School||NY||650/620|
|32||The Loomis Chaffee School||CT||(65%/ 71%)|
|33||Heavenly Mountain Ideal Girls School||NC||650/620|
|34||St. Stephen's Episcopal School||TX||630/640|
|35||The Hotchkiss School||CT||628/641|
|36||Manlius Pebble Hill School||NY||642/627|
|37||Westover School Middlebury||CT||645/620|
|39||St. Catherine's school||VA||640/620|
|40||The Hun School of Princeton||NJ||610/650|
|41||The Madeira School||VA||634/623|
|42||Shady Side Academy||PA||20/630|
|43||The Peddie School||NJ||620/630|
|44||Saint James School||MD||630/620|
|45||St. Andrew's School||DE||630/610|
|46||Saint Mark's School||MA||601/637|
|47||St. George's School||RI||610/624|
|48||Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart||IL|
|49||The Asheville School||NC||620/610|
The Boarding School refers to a private school where students study and live in a dormitory during the school year. In other words, it is a living community that requires the students to foster good relationship with other friends through communal life, thereby fostering strong leadership and responsibility.
The boarding school admission had been a privilege of children from wealthy, cleric or academic households, but nowadays its door is opened to all eligible students regardless of their socioeconomical background.
A boarding school is different from a public school in many ways. Compared to the public school, the boarding school can exercise a significant degree of autonomy in terms of its teaching philosophy or curriculum goals, so its operation is rather flexible and efficient. There are many boarding schools that have a low student-to-teacher ratio, and offer a rigorous college prep course with a variety of subjects along with abundant extracurricular programs, all in exceptional facilities indeed. Therefore they generally maintain a high quality of education, and meticulous management of the students' academics. Furthermore, most boarding schools are located far away from big cities or downtown, so the students can focus on their studies while cultivating their body and soul.
Due to the school environment that integrates classes, school assignments, sports, extracurricular and social activities all together in a student's daily schedule, the student can not only demonstrate his or her uniqueness and capability more efficiently, but also foster independent mindset as the student manages his or her day and take responsibility of it away from the parents.
I think the most parents or students, who plan for studying abroad, agonize over the thought, 'which school should I apply to?'
In general, many parents only go for rigorous schools regardless of their children's varying circumstances or conditions. Before deciding on a school, they must understand what their children are like. It is too risky to consider the reputation of the school to apply, without considering whether the school is suitable for each individual student.
The top boarding schools in the United States require even the native students to stress and obsess over their academic achievement, so the parents first need to decide whether their children can survive such intense academic environment well. When a student's academic capacity is suitable for a certain school, then that school may be a better choice than other, even if the school is less recognized. So you must choose wisely.
To list several things to consider when choosing a school, you need to check how big the school is, where the school is located at, what kinds of facilities the school has, how is its college acceptance rate, how intense its academic standard is, what kinds of subjects are offered, and how many international students are there.
The most awkward situation that can happen during the consultation with parents, is when they decide about the studying abroad and come for the consultation just a month or two before the admission deadline. As they decide to study abroad abruptly, they just want to send their children first, without any knowledge about the school or preparation for studying abroad. Among the parents I have consulted, there was even a parent who prepared for 3 years. A long preparation time does not always guarantee an optimal result, but it is not practical to go to the school you want without sufficient preparation. So rather than whimsically send your children overseas, I'd like to recommend at least a year to prepare for studying abroad.
Many prestigious schools or rigorous junior high/high school, which are preferred by Korean people, generally ask the applicants to take the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test), the most recognized admission test for the junior high/high school in the U.S., as one of the admission requirements. The prestigious private schools in the United States generally expect at least 70% or higher in average for the SSAT. The schools do not officially indicate the score as the admission requirement, but the accepted students usually score above the general range of the SSAT score. As Korean students do well in math but relatively less well in English; preparation for the SSAT English section is vital for their better performance in the English section. Nowadays, there is an increasing number of schools that require ISEE (Independent School entrance Examination), so students need to check what kind of the test is required by the school they apply to, then prepare for that particular test.
Let's not forget about the TOEFL as many prestigious boarding schools tend to additionally ask for the TOEFL score. For rigorous boarding schools, they usually require CBT score of 213~250 or higher.
The parents sometimes misunderstand the admission, thinking that their children can still go to a prestigious school because they have relatively high English proficiency while they don't have equally high academic skill. English proficiency is indeed an important factor when it comes to the school admission, but the most important factor is the applicant's own academic skill, his or her grades. The student's academic achievement is a direct indication of what kind of school life the student has pursued, so it's hard to get accepted to a prestigious school without good academic achievements. Therefore each student needs to make a long-term plan before studying abroad, and strive to maintain a good academic grades.
When applying to a school in the U.S., the academic achievement is not everything. Especially when applying to a prestigious school, the applicant must demonstrate various extracurricular experience and skills other than just academic achievements. Unlike the native students, international students are rather limited in the ways of assessing individual features; therefore, it's recommended to show as many aspects as possible about the applicant's talents. In order to assess how an applicant can contribute to the school, or how much potential the applicant has to become a leader in his or her specialized field, the admission officers consider various factors like recommendation letters from teachers, essay, extracurricular activities, individual talents and gift and achievements to assess the student from a non-academic perspective. Furthermore, if a student has other musical or artistic talents, adding an audition recording or portfolio, slides or CD to the application may help the admission officer to make a favorable decision.
A half of the parents, in general, consider about holding back a year when applying to the school. The Korean semester system basically differs from the US by 6 months. For example, if a student finishes the 2nd year of the middle school in Korea and tries to apply to 9th grade in US, which corresponds to the 3rd year of the middle school in Korea, there will be 6 months of gap because the US semester begins in March while the Korean semester begins in September. Therefore if a student decides to hold back a year, there will be a year and half gap in his or her education. Needless to say, the reason the parents still want to hold back a year for their children is English.
But holding back a year may help the student, or may not help the student depending on each individual student. Therefore holding back a year is not always recommended; rather, it is recommended for the parents to consult with the school regarding the suitable grade placement, in consideration of the student's academic skills and English language skill. During the actual application process, some schools will recommend placing the student in the corresponding grade, while some others will recommend holding back a year.
In a way, it is the most important factor when considering about studying abroad. A boarding school's tuition and housing fee may vary by each school but generally it amounts to $25,000 or more, annually. When planning for studying abroad for the primary or secondary education, it is rare for the student to come back to Korea after graduating from the high school; many parents and students plan to finish at least undergraduate studies overseas. Since most boarding schools in the U.S. are from Grade 9 to 12, it takes at least 8 years until graduating from the undergraduate program; therefore it is important to anticipate that and plan out a sufficient budget.
There are not many prestigious boarding schools with their own ESL (English as a Second Language) program within the schools, because they expect a certain level of English proficiency from their students once the students get accepted to their schools. In fact, a thorough analysis of Korean students' acceptance rate to prestigious schools shows that there are surprisingly many cases in which Korean students first enroll in local middle school or high school then transfer to other private schools, rather than advancing straight to the prestigious school from the schools in Korea. Even for the students who advance straight to the prestigious schools from Korea, most of them already have high English proficiency because of their previous experience of living overseas with their parents, in English-speaking countries.
If the parents or students aspire for a prestigious school but lack the qualification to apply right away, then enrolling in a less-recognized school, laying a solid academic and English language foundation then transferring to the prestigious school can be another great option.
When you look at the admission guide provided from the school or the official website, you will usually find a section about College Placement. Here, you will find the college acceptance status of the recent graduates of the school. Some boarding schools boast a tradition of sending 40% of their graduates to 8 prestigious colleges in the East Coast (Ivy League) every year. So some parents may think that getting into that boarding school will easily put their children into that lucky 40%, but the students need to be in the top 20% of the class in order to get into the prestigious college. Rather than selecting a school with a good college acceptance rate, you must check where the graduates of last 2-3 years have been accepted to, not just the recent graduates.
It is best if both parents and a child want studying abroad, but it is the child who has to adjust to the strange place and overcome the language barrier. Therefore studying abroad is likely to fail if the child does not have a precise purpose and firm determination. People tend to think that there will be no college prep academy and demand for education, not as high as ours, in the United States--but such misunderstanding is just from the cultural difference; American people's demand for education is never less than ours, if not higher. Even since the baby boomers began having their own children, even a newspaper once reported that professional or wealthy couples in the East Coast plan an elite course ahead for their children by registering for prestigious kindergartens in advance. It is one example that shows the reality of the U.S, its intense demand for education by American people; it's needless to say what kind of preparation or how much effort may be needed for Korean people to get into a prestigious school in the US. Therefore the key to successful studying abroad lies in the firm determination and effort of the child, more than how much his or her parents want.
SLEP ( Secondary Level English Proficiency Test)
- A test which assesses the English comprehension skill of the secondary schools students in non-English-speaking countries.
- Developed by ETS which has developed the official English proficiency test (ex, TOEFL); can be purchased by individuals or institutions; ETS does not provide a scoring service.
- Purchase of this test from secondary schools, language academy or other institutions or organizations, test registration, management, scoring, interpretation of the score and English comprehension test of the students from schools or academy
- The test can be purchased through ETS by an individual who wants to take the test or institution; the institution can administer and score the test on its own by following the test manual; there is no additional verification service, institutions, or procedures.
- Used as one of the references for assessing English comprehension skill of an individual or group, English proficiency of an individual student, and for the class placement; cannot be an alternative to TOEFL or other official English proficiency test but can be used to estimate the TOEFL score; used for eligibility requirements for various Youth Exchange Programs (ex, Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program) by the US State Department
Consultation Inquiry. 02-5386018