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August 12th, 2017

Getting The Most Out Of Your College Visits: 3 Great Questions To Ask Your Tour Guide

It’s that time of year again when many families make room in their late summer schedules to visit colleges, even incorporating them in family vacations and weekend getaways. However, what most people forget is that asking the right types of questions is critical for getting the most out of college visits and making informed decisions about college choices. There are many basic inquiries you’ll want to have addressed regarding academics, cost and dorming – but there are also some questions you may not have thought to ask.

Whether you’re a parent or a student, here are three of the best questions to ask your tour guide during your college visits:

1. What types of internship programs are available to students? With the workforce now more competitive than ever, it’s imperative to inquire with each college about internship placements. Students should know what types of internship programs are available, as well as what percentage of the college’s students get internships during and after their degree programs. Because internships have become a key component to securing full-time employment, having this information is essential in making the best college decision for future career opportunities.

2. Do many students go home on the weekends? Just because dorming exists at most colleges does not mean there’s an active residence life on every campus. There are many colleges often referred to as “commuter schools” where students who dorm on campus tend go home frequently on the weekends. If you’re visiting a college far from home, you’ll likely want to pick a school in which students are regularly engaged in campus activities during the weekends. Get a sense of the residence life culture during your visit by asking your tour guide and students on the campus for their thoughts.

3. What is your graduation track record? The whole point of going to college is to earn a degree you can use for your future, right? Well, you’d be surprised as to how many people fail to ask about graduation rates! Be sure to ask each college about their respective four-year and five-year graduation records. This is important, as it will give you an idea about the quality of each college’s academic advisement and how equipped the students are in completing their degree programs on time. Remember, the longer it takes to graduate, the more money and time you’ll spend in college!

These are just a few of the many important questions to keep in mind during college visits. By planning your questions ahead of time, you can make the most out of your visits and ensure you have all the information you need to effectively evaluate the colleges on your list.

In addition to college visits, is SAT or ACT prep part of your plans? Enroll in one of Test Preps’ programs today by contacting Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

June 27th, 2017

What You Should Know About Test Optional Colleges

 

 

Though standardized testing has been considered a critical component of the college admissions process for years, you may not be aware that “test optional” colleges do indeed exist. For a few different reasons, many colleges throughout the U.S. have opted to drop the SAT or ACT requirement as criteria for admission. This 2015 New York Times article on “The Test-Optional Surge” discusses some of the many reasons colleges are taking the test optional route. Here are answers to three common questions regarding test optional policies:

 

  1. How do I benefit from a test optional policy?

Students who perform very well academically, but who score below average on the SAT or ACT, tend to benefit the most from a test optional policy. Though most colleges take a holistic view of each student, test optional schools look more heavily at applicants’ grades, essays and extracurricular activities in making admissions decisions. Therefore, a student with a strong academic record who is simply not a good test-taker may find test optional colleges most appealing.

  1. Should I still submit my SAT or ACT score to a test optional school?

The whole point of pursuing a test optional college is to avoid the submission of a low test score. However, there are certain factors to consider before deciding against a test score submission. Many test-optional schools still require the submission of SAT or ACT scores for certain circumstances, such as qualifying for merit scholarships or playing a sport at the Division 1 or Division 2 level. Always check with admissions officers about the individual policies of their respective institutions.

  1. Can I just avoid taking the SAT or ACT?

If you are strongly considering test optional schools, it may be tempting to completely forgo taking standardized tests all together. However, it’s best to take a practice SAT or ACT at least once. This will give you an idea as to what test you’re best suited for, as well as your test-taking abilities. Once you get a sense of your test scores, you’ll be able to plan accordingly and decide if you should only apply to test optional schools.

Even though test optional schools can be a great option for some students, taking the SAT or ACT will provide the most flexibility as you explore and visit many different colleges. Remember – no matter how you perform on a standardized test, there is a college option for every student.

For more information and a complete list of test optional colleges, be sure to visit www.fairtest.org.

Do you want to learn more about the role of standardized testing in the college admissions process? Contact Melissa Cook, owner of Test Preps, at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349 to have all your questions answered.

June 19th, 2017

Summer Is The Perfect Time To Relax, Reflect & Complete Your College Essay!

With so many facets involved in the college admissions process, it can sometimes be difficult to know when to start completing certain application tasks. The summer presents an ideal time to focus on the college essay, without the pressures of school, homework and extracurricular activities. In fact, many students find that they’re more inspired and motivated to write their essays during the summer when they have more time to reflect on possible essay topics.

Remember, writing your college essay is a personal task and much different than a school assignment. It’s critical that you make the time not only to write your essay, but think about what you want to write about. Choosing a topic can within itself be a process, so it’s best to start early – before the next school year gets into full gear. Here are three reasons why it’s in your best interest to complete your college essay during the summer:

1) Brainstorming.

The idea that performance is best under pressure does not ring true when it comes to the college essay. Formulating a well-written, high quality essay requires significant amount of time and thought. In fact, you may want to take a couple weeks just to review the Common Application’s 2017-2018 essay prompts as you decide on a topic for your essay. Many students brainstorm essay topics with a couple prompts in mind as they consider different ideas.

2) Receiving feedback.

With the fall being a busy time for everyone, it’s in your best interest to receive feedback about your essay from teachers, tutors or other trained writing professionals during the summer months. Always be sure to have at least one or two people whom you trust review your essay and provide their thoughts. It’s especially helpful to seek feedback and insight from others who have experience reviewing many college essays, as they will be able to provide the most valuable insight. How you decide to make changes is up to you, but having an outsider’s perspective is critical to producing the best possible essay.

3) Editing and rewriting.

Chances are you’ll have to rewrite your essay several times until you have a finished product. The summer is a stress-free time to work on your essay and make changes, without having to worry about completing other academic tasks. Because you won’t be on a set deadline, you’ll be able to take a couple breaks in between your re-writes and revisit your drafts at your own pace.

Being proactive about completing your college essay this summer will take a lot off your plate this fall, giving you more time to focus on completing other college application requirements. Plus, you may even enjoy the essay process more when you can relax a little and write at your leisure.

Are you ready to get a jump start on your college essay this summer?

Check out Test Preps’ College Essay Workshop this August in Williamsville, NY. And, if you have any questions about the college essay, please contact Melissa Cook, owner of Test Preps, at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

May 30th, 2017

Is SAT or ACT Prep Part of Your Summer Agenda?

 

Summer may be around the corner – but, like it or not, standardized testing doesn’t take a break! This year, for the first time ever, College Board is offering a summer SAT on August 26th.  Next summer, ACT also announced a July 14, 2018 test option. It’s best to make your testing arrangements ahead of time, and because schedules are often less hectic in the summer – many students find it easier to buckle down on their study plans during July and August.

If you’re a rising junior and would like to start the testing process early, this summer you’ll want to take SAT and ACT practice tests to determine which test you prefer. Or, if you’re heading into your senior year, you can take advantage of the summer to prepare for some final testing opportunities offered in the fall.

For optimal testing results, you must make testing preparation a priority – even when it’s more appealing to go to the beach with friends. Keep these 3 preparation tips in mind:

Stick to a strict study schedule. Summer vacation can undoubtedly be distracting for many students, which is why it’s critical to maintain a strict weekly study schedule. Whether your study preparation method is self-study, small group classes or private tutoring sessions, it’s critical that you’re vigilant about reviewing content and completing practice tests under timed conditions each week. This will help to ensure that you’re covering all necessary test prep material.

Know all your deadlines. Making yourself aware of all test dates is important not just for preparation purposes, but to ensure that you meet all registration deadlines. Additionally, rising seniors must keep track of all college application deadlines. You’ll want to take the SAT or ACT early enough so that your scores will arrive before final college application deadlines. You can check the official SAT and ACT websites for approximate score release dates.

Check for scheduling conflicts. Before spontaneously signing up for a test, be sure to check your upcoming school and activity calendar(s) first to make sure there are no potential conflicts on or around your test date. For example, if there are hockey tryouts during the time of the September ACT, you may want to consider choosing another test date in which you will feel more focused and prepared. And, once you do register for your test, be sure to avoid scheduling any big commitments during the couple weeks leading up to your test date.

Using the summer to plan for an upcoming SAT or ACT will be one of the most valuable uses of your time during the college admissions process. If you balance your schedule properly, summertime test prep can be very effective.

Make sure you’re fully informed about the 2017-2018 SAT test dates and ACT test dates and learn how Test Preps, based in Buffalo, NY, can help with your testing preparation!

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May 12th, 2017

Conflicted About College Standardized Testing? We’re Dispelling Five Common SAT & ACT Myths!

In the past few years, college admission standardized testing has changed quite a bit, and you may have come across many conflicting opinions about the SAT and ACT. With so much new information about both tests, it can be stressful and overwhelming to get the facts. As you start this process, it’s critical that you have all your questions answered so you can make well-informed decisions about your testing options.

Below we are dispelling five of the most common SAT and ACT myths:                                                            

  1. Colleges prefer the SAT over the ACT (or vice versa). False! Because the SAT used to be more common in the Northeast, many people assume it’s more widely accepted than the ACT. You’ll be happy to know that both tests are equally accepted at colleges across the country, no matter what region or geographic area.

 

  1. You must be good at science to do well on the ACT. If you’re not strong in the sciences, don’t fear! The ACT’s science section does not evaluate your academic science knowledge, but rather includes science-based questions and passages to assess your critical thinking abilities. By honing your test strategy skills, you can master the science section in no time!

 

  1. The ACT is “easier” than the SAT. Some students perform better on the ACT while others achieve higher scores with the SAT. Your performance will be heavily dictated by your test-taking abilities rather than the test itself. That’s why it’s important to take ACT and SAT practice tests to determine which one is a better fit. All high schools offer the PSAT in October. Check with your district to see if they will be offering the Pre-ACT this year!

 

  1. The math on the SAT is harder. The mathematical material is comparable on both tests, requiring a solid foundational understanding of arithmetic, algebra and geometry. However, the SAT math section is heavily common-core based, having a narrower focus on algebraic problems to test knowledge of mathematical concepts. Another notable difference between the two tests is that the ACT allows use of a calculator on all math questions, while the SAT only allows calculator usage for certain parts of the test. Therefore, students who are highly dependent on their calculators to solve even basic equations are likely to find the SAT’s math section to be more difficult.

 

  1. The writing portion doesn’t matter on either test. Though the essay portions on both the SAT and ACT are optional, it’s a good idea to complete the writing section regardless of which test you take. Certain colleges will evaluate your writing score, so you won’t want to hurt your admissions chances by skipping out on the essay.

Remember, your testing success will be determined by your effort and preparation – not the type of test you choose to take. It’s important to evaluate your performance on each test and choose the one that’s best for your individual testing abilities. It may not be necessary to prepare for both tests.

Are you ready to start preparing for the ACT or SAT? Get in touch today with Test Preps, a Buffalo-based test prep services company offering SAT/ACT small group courses and private tutoring services. We’re happy to answer all of your questions. Let our team get you on the track to success!

June 2nd, 2015

Thorough Test Prep Tends To Your Body & Mind

As the SAT/ACT 2014-2015 testing season hurtles towards completion, time to take stock of your preparation. Attended every session of prep class? Check. Practice tests diligently completed? Check. But much more should be done to ensure you get the best possible score on test day. You need to attend to your body and mind by sleeping well, keeping hydrated and eating healthy. Each is supported by copious research and each will improve your score.

We all know teenagers are chronically sleep deprived. They go to bed late, get up early for school, and binge sleep on weekends. Not a healthy pattern, especially heading into a SAT or ACT. One site on sleep puts it bluntly, Well-rested brains do a bunch of tasks better than sleepy brains.  In tests of response time to stimuli, agility, ability to remember new material and to perform things like mental arithmetic, the superiority of the rested brain has been shown again and again.”1 Don’t believe the research? Every year we have students sign up for SATs and ACTs not realizing their prom is the night before. Regardless of how they practiced, their scores range from abominable to abysmal. A week or two before the test, shift your sleeping patterns. Go to bed at a more reasonable hour and wake up at least ninety minutes before the scheduled time of the test. You’ll find your mental abilities sharpest right when it counts, when the proctor says “Go!”

Though the exhortation to drink eight glasses of water a day turned out to be baseless, keeping hydrated is important. When I went to high school in Western New York in the 1980s, carrying a water bottle around the halls was unheard of. Research in the 1990s changed this, and now water bottles are ubiquitous sights in classrooms. Why? Adequate hydration has been proven to help us better handle stress and “a drop of just 2% in body water causes short term memory problems and significant difficulties with concentration.”2 Make a habit of bringing a water bottle to school, drink water the morning of the test and bring a bottle of water to the test so you can hydrate on breaks.

And speaking of morning, do not skip breakfast. It’s almost cliché to say that breakfast is the most important mCulture-Eats-Strategy-For-Breakfasteal of the day, but research has shown this to be true many times over. The statistics are eye opening. Students who eat breakfast regularly perform better academically, have increased attendance and less often visit the nurse’s office. Students who eat breakfast regularly also, on average, score more than 17% higher on math tests and are 20% more likely to graduate. 3 Common sense tells us that eating healthier foods leads to better physical and mental health. Eat better in the weeks leading up to the test and do not skip breakfast. Since you’re already getting up earlier, you’re sure to have the time.

Practice tests and tactics should only make up on part of your prep. Sleep, hydrate and eat well to make sure you’re at you very best on test day. Better yet, make them life-long habits.

1. “Sleep and Learning.” The Relationship Between. Web. 2 June 2015.

2.Roberts, Roger. “Benefits of Adequate Hydration Are Mind Boggling.” Streetdirectory.com. 2015. Web. 2 June 2015.

3. Bakies, Karen. “The Breakfast Benefit: Why Schools Should Make Morning Meals a Priority.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 2 June 2015.

May 8th, 2015

Higher ACT/SAT Scores Can Earn You Big Bucks & Other Benefits!

We all know your ACT/SAT scores help you get into college, but your score can reward you in many other ways. A few points gained on an ACT, forty or fifty on an SAT may earn you big scholarship money and admittance to honors programs in colleges throughout the northeast and across the nation. When parents balk at the hundreds of dollars required for test prep, they may be leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

College-money-630x551Most schools grant more money for better test scores. The best part is most of these scholarships are granted automatically with no further application materials needed. A peek around Western New York offers many examples. A jump from a 21 to a 24 on the ACT (1000 to 1100 on the SAT) at D’Youville earns students $3,000 more per year. The difference between a 20 and 24 on the ACT at Niagara University? $7,000 in free money per year. And a 27 on the ACT (1210 on the SAT) at Niagara earns you $17,000 a year. Rank in the top 20% of your class? Then a 28 on the ACT will earn you $9,000-$15,000 in scholarship money per year at RIT. A 28 on the ACT at SUNY Alfred gets you a free ride including room and board. Satisfied with a 32 on the ACT? One more point and you can go to UB for free, including room & board and books. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of college possibilities, spend time visiting their websites or give them a call to learn if a few more points on the ACT or SAT may earn you big bucks.

And while we all like to be shown the money, your ACT/SAT scores can earn you lots of other under-the-radar perks. A 28 on the ACT (1260 on the SAT) can get you admitted to the All-College Honors Program at Canisius College. What are the benefits? Special living accommodations, unique field trips, research grants and internships, and individualized mentoring. At Niagara University, a 27 on the ACT can get you into their Honors Program which allows you to attend special classes, enjoy lunch with campus lecturers and visiting notables, and gets you invited to exclusive mixers. Benefits of the University Honors College at UB include special interest housing, scholarship and teaching assistant opportunities, preferential class scheduling and specialized academic advising.

Do your research! Another test, a few more points on an ACT or SAT, the cost of test prep may well be worth your time, effort and money. And when researching, keep in mind that the requirements for in-state and out-of-state students may vary. Also note that many of the above opportunities have deadlines that differ from the normal application. Your ACT/SAT scores may not just get you into college, but may help you get the most out college as well.

April 20th, 2015

Are My ACT Scores Good Enough?

Students and parents ask me this all the time. My quick answer is “It depends”. Your test scores are an important piece for getting into college and should not be underestimated. Think of the chore college admissions officers have in comparing grades from high schools all across the country or weighing the merits of one student’s participation in band versus another student’s spot on the football team. And let’s not forget that colleges are getting thousands more applications per year due to the ease of the Common Application. The test scores alone compare students from all over the country by the same yardstick and provide an easy means for admissions officers to reduce potential applicants.

ACT-AM-I-READYThe quality of your score depends on which universities you are applying to. The more selective a university, the higher the score required to be admitted. Once you’ve begun to make a list of schools you’re interested in, visit their websites or give them a call and ask what scores they require on the ACT. You can also check websites like College Simply. Just plug in your score and a list is generated of the colleges in every state for which you qualify.

Two other points to keep in mind. First, many colleges superscore the ACT, meaning if you take multiple ACTs, they will combine your top scores on each of the four ACT sections to make a “superscore”, (See Up Up and Away, Superscoring the SAT and ACT Tests, 10/9/14). Yes, you should be taking more than one ACT, especially when research shows that students score best on a second test after prep.

A final point to keep in mind is that higher ACT scores can earn you more merit scholarship money, and with no ceiling to college costs in sight, every point you earn means less debt down the road. Besides merit money, higher ACT scores can gain you admittance into honors programs with preferential scheduling or honors dorms as perks.  Our next blog entry will explore these last points in detail.  Stay tuned.

March 29th, 2015

Juniors! Time to Make a Plan!

Time is fleeting for the class of 2016, at least in terms of getting ready to apply to colleges next fall. If you’re a little late to the process or just need a refresher, you can easily get up to speed by the first day of senior classes. Just follow the timeline below.

Spring 2015

Ideally, you’ve earned a great score on the SAT and/or ACT. We suggest two tests minimum after prep. If you haven’t met your goal yet, or haven’t yet signed up for a test, time remains. Each test is still being offered twice: the SAT on May 2 and June 6, the ACT April 18 and June 13. Unfortunately, it’s late to begin prepping for the earlier of either test and registration for the April 18 ACT has passed. For further deadlines check out the tests’ respective sites:

https://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-us-dates

http://www.actstudent.org/regist/dates.html

Applying to one of America’s top universities? You might then need to take an SAT II test. They are offered on both May 2 and June 6, but note that you may not take an SAT II and the SAT on the same day. If this is all news to you, no need to worry. The SAT, SAT II, and ACT tests are all offered multiple times in the fall.

Summer 2015664

If work, a sport or vacation is taking up your spring break, then plan a road trip this summer to visit some colleges. Be sure to take the official tours and sign your names in their registration books so they know you’ve visited. Showing this level of interest helps your application. Also, be sure to ask questions and talk to as many students as possible. Make notes and whittle down your list of prospective schools.

August’s arrival should have you contemplating your college application essays. We highly suggest completing these with professional help before senior year begins. The application essays have become one of the single most important factors in the admissions process as they are the sole glimpse a prospective school gets of you the person, instead of you the student. August also means time to begin prepping again for fall tests, whether it be the September ACT or October SAT.

Still have questions? Concerns? Email us at contact@raisemysatscore.com

March 11th, 2015

How to Earn the Best Test Score this Spring

unnamedThe spring prep season has kicked into high gear. You’ve signed up for a class, bought practice books, heeded the words of your tutor, but what else can you do to maximize your score? Most tutors will say that your score will largely be determined by what you do at home on your own, by how conscientiously you apply the strategies and tactics when the tutor isn’t around. Our last blog entry discussed the proper environment for doing prep at home, but what you do after completing your practice tests is just as important.

You’ve bubbled in your last answer; a large chunk of homework is off your plate, but you should be doing more. Having scored the test, you gauge how you’ve done compared with past tests and with your overall goals. To be more productive, however, spend time reading over the answer explanations to the problems you got wrong. Your goal is to get a better score on the next test, and one way to improve is to understand the mistakes you made so you don’t repeat them. For example, the ACT is repetitive with similar question types from test to test. Learning a few simple grammar and mathematical rules can go a long way to improving your score.

Secondly, look for patterns to what you got wrong. On the SAT, do you always incorrectly answer the math questions with variables? Learning one math strategy can remedy this weakness. Your tutors will do their best to identify weaknesses, so they can then teach you tactics that address them. This is no substitute, however, for spotting these patterns yourself which allows you to better understand your errors and makes you more conscientious in fixing them.

A little effort beyond merely attending class and taking practice tests will greatly impact your score.

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