inspiring the next generation of science, technology, engineering, arts, & mathematics (steam) leaders

Applying to College and the SAT

By Aida Yoguely Cortés-Peña
Fall 2010

Many students ask me for advice on the college application process and the SAT. Given my unique background and experiences, my great desire to pursue a degree in a recognized university in the United States, but lack of preparation, I will be explaining my experience on the process of applying to universities.


Dear students,

I write to you because in forums I only read about students with high SAT and GPA asking to chance them, totally discouraging those with not a very high score. Also I write because I want to inspire others and encourage them to apply anywhere they want. I hope that this will calm you in the wait for your admission decision.

I was interested in pursuing a degree in Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.


Background: Previously in Puerto Rico, I had studied at a bilingual elementary and middle school. We can read and write in basic English, but Spanish tends to kick in whenever we try. I arrived to the United States on August 2009. I began studying the book Gruber's Complete SAT Guide 2009 by Gary Gruber from September to November (3 months). Additionally, I was taking all my senior year classes in English and an accelerated English course that provided me with 20 vocabulary quiz every two weeks.

1. Be time efficient: Listened to SAT words while you ride the bus/car.

2. Every day, for at least an hour, take index cards and write a word, and behind write its definition, the part of speech (noun, adjective, and verb) and its root meaning. Then play with the words.

3. Complete a practice exam, in testing conditions, once every 3 weeks. After every practice exam, it is very important to go over every the strategic solution of each exercise, and pay attention to shortcuts.

4. Every other day, complete a section of the reading, writing, and math strategy chapter and complete its practice exercise.

5. Graph your score to display progress and reward yourself with an hour of running. This will help keep your body health, help circulate blood and relax your mind.

The Score: The first time I took a practice SAT test I scored 1540. I admit, this almost gave me a heart attack.

My final score turned out to be an improvement of 240 points.
SAT: 1780 Math 700 Critical Reading 540 and Writing 540

Schooling and GPA

I studied at CROEM a selective residential (boarding school) public high school specialized in math and science. Despite being a top high school in Puerto Rico, they did not provide any honor, accelerated, or gifted classes. Only advance English, Spanish, and precalculus whose AP credit only counts toward the University of Puerto Rico. Yet I challenged myself by taking 2 math and 2 science classes per semester with a total of 9 classes in block schedule (college style). At Lakeside High School, I took AP Physics and AP Calculus AB.

Stats: Check out my High School Resume at the bottom of the page to see extracurricular Activities, awards, sports involvement, volunteering and summer experiences.

Class Rank: My school did not rank.

GPA: 3.95 UW

Essay: I dedicated a lot of effort on the essay. It is the most important factor in admission. Tell your unique story; demonstrate the passionate, hard-working individual that you are, and how you will contribute to the world.

After the Application

I applied for the November 1st Presidential Scholar deadline for GaTech. I received my online acceptance letter on December 16th, 2009. This is a wonderful Christmas gift, I could not be any happier. I had my hopes down seeing people with 1900+ SAT be rejected... and others accepted. I had no idea what would happen with me. I wished that I was aware of factors for college admission and the opportunities that are rarely spoken about in Puerto Rican schools.

I know people with my SAT score range that have made it into MIT, lots of other factors are in play in college applications, so remember that you can do whatever you want if you work hard for it, think positive and use "the secret".

SAT Materials

Aida @ GaTech