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April 23rd, 2019

College athletics and the SAT/ACT: Get ready!

“I’m a top athlete… I don’t need to be concerned about my ACT/SAT score, right?”

While being a competitive athlete in a DI or DII collegiate sport can help you with college admissions, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the SAT or ACT. The NCAA (which governs college sports) has academic Eligibility Standards and dictates what SAT or ACT score you will need (based on your GPA) in order to play for a college. The lower your high school GPA, the higher your test scores need to be.

For example, if you are looking to play at the DI level but you are a middle “C” student with a GPA of 2.50, you would need your total SAT score to be 900 (out of 1600). If you are barely a “B” student with a 3.0, you need a 720 total combined score. ACT scores are comparable. 

The bar for a decent SAT/ACT score for an athlete isn’t all that tough. But keep in mind that if a coach is choosing between two great baseball players and one is close to the line of being academically ineligible, the coach is much wiser in giving his limited roster spots to the player who won’t end up on academic probation in their first or second semester of college. And no one wants to be sitting on the sidelines while their teams moves towards success, so why put yourself on the bench?

Therefore, it is important to put honest effort into your SAT/ACT preparation. Additional practice and retaking may give you an advantage when initially meeting with coaches and later applying to colleges. Just as you wouldn’t show up for a game unprepared or without your gear, don’t show up for the SAT or ACT cold and unfamiliar with the test.

Playing sports in college can be an amazing experience so make sure your SAT/ACT scores help you stand out to coaches in a positive way. Reassure coaches that you are recruitable and will be immediately academically eligible with a strong ACT/SAT score!  For more information about how Test Preps can help you achieve an SAT or ACT score needed for college sports, contact us today!

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash
April 4th, 2019

PSAT Primer for Accelerated Students

Everyone knows that high SAT or ACT scores can be rewarded with scholarships, tuition assistance and other great benefits. But the PSAT can also be worth money if you test exceptionally well. Standardized testing is a part of every high school student’s path to college. For strong students who are accelerated in their coursework, preparing for an SAT or ACT before taking the PSAT can be a savvy option. Besides getting an early start on test preparation before junior year becomes busy with AP work and extracurricular activities, early test prep can also ready a student for the PSAT and possible National Merit recognition and money.

About 1.6 million U.S. students take the PSAT each year. However, only scores achieved during junior year are eligible for National Merit rewards. If you score in the top 3 to 4% of PSAT test takers in your state, you move on to the Commended Scholar level. Every state’s required score is different and changes each year, depending on what scores are produced that given year. “Commended Scholar” is a nice line on your college application resume and your PSAT journey is over.

But let’s say you score really well and are in the top 1% of your state’s test takers – congratulations! You are then considered one of about 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists. That’s an even better line to put on your application, just from scoring exceptionally well on the PSAT.

Here is the tricky part. Those 16,000 National Merit Scholars are asked to take either the SAT or ACT and score high enough to validate that their PSAT score wasn’t a fluke. (ACT option just added for the class of 2020!) Also, there is an application package to complete which includes an essay.

About 8,000 (or half) of these National Merit Scholars will be given money. Some will earn $2,500 as a one time payment, straight from the National Merit organization. Some will get money right from their intended college. Others can earn money from corporate sponsors – typically $10,000 divided into four payments. Colleges may even reward National Merit Finalists in addition to the student getting a corporate scholarship. Click here for more information about the National Merit Scholarship Program.

Here’s where early test preparation can help a serious student excel not only on the SAT/ACT, but also with the PSAT. In my personal experience, my son took an ACT preparation course at the end of his sophomore year and got a great first score on the June ACT. With additional preparation and practice, he achieved a perfect score on the ACT in the fall of his junior year. When he tried the PSAT, it was easier because he already knew how to attack a standardized test. He seriously prepared for these tests and was rewarded for his efforts. First, a presidential scholarship from University at Buffalo, then as a National Merit Scholar, and finally, with an additional $1500 award by the college when the National Merit money was applied during his freshman year. It certainly added up!  Additionally, prepping early in junior year avoids a heavy load in the spring during AP exam testing and finals.

The PSAT can be more than a warm-up for the SAT, it can be an avenue to additional accolades and money for college. If your teen is accelerated in their high school coursework and ready to diligently prepare for college testing, Test Preps can help! Contact us well before their junior year to talk about how they can benefit from early preparation for the SAT or ACT.

*Thank you to my colleague D. Cicero for sharing her wealth of knowledge and her son’s PSAT experience in this guest post!
December 6th, 2018

Coming Soon: PSAT Scores! Now what?

College Board releases PSAT scores on December 10th in New York! 

While you’re waiting for your scores, make valuable use of your time and try a practice ACT, if you haven’t already done so. Your high school Guidance Office will have free booklets with an actual ACT exam. Make sure you strictly time yourself and answer every question. There is no penalty for wrong answers so guess before time runs out! You can also find online options to try a free, abbreviated ACT to get a predictive score.

Once you have PSAT and practice ACT scores, you have data to make an informed choice about which test may be better for you. Remember – ALL colleges accept scores from both SAT and ACT. By preparing for just one test, you will save time and money! Not sure which test is the one for you? College Board (SAT) and ACT collaborated on Concordance Tables with equivalent scores. If your scores are similar, then go with the test you felt most comfortable with. Check out Test Preps’ ACT vs. SAT chart to also help you with your decision.

Didn’t do as well as you hoped on the PSAT? Rest assured that the PSAT scores are never released to colleges. It is strictly practice and you should use score report details to see what you are doing well and what you need to work on. Remember, this is a process and the PSAT is just the first step. Feel free to contact us if you need help interpreting results. We are here to help you start your test prep journey!

October 23rd, 2018

Living on Campus or Commuting?

College admission involves many big decisions and for high school seniors who will be attending college locally, determining whether to live on campus or commute is certainly one of them. Some students and parents define the true “college experience” as living on campus, while others are resistant to dorm life for a variety of reasons. If you’re torn between living on campus or commuting to college, here are some key factors to keep in mind.

Community and social life

One of the main benefits of living on campus is the opportunity to connect with peers and become immersed in the school community. If a student’s social life is a priority, dorming is a great way to make friends and partake in new activities. For obvious reasons, living right at the college makes it easier to join clubs, study with friends at the library, and attend social events on campus. However, commuters can also do all these things – as long as they make an effort to get involved in campus, rather than go home right after class. Many colleges even offer programs and perks specifically designed to support commuters – like a dedicated commuter lounge for studying in between classes and meeting other local students.

Cost

Cost is one of the most predominant factors involved in making this decision. Annual room and board costs can be significant, with average costs in 2018 ranging from $10,800 at four-year public schools to $12,210 at private schools. If a student’s goal is to reduce the amount of loans they’ll need to take out, cutting out room and board expenses can be very cost effective.

For students with financial limitations, there are still some potential campus living options to consider. For example, a student can choose to live on campus during their freshman year and then commute or live in off-campus housing (such as a nearby apartment) during the remainder of college. This is often an ideal option for students who want to make new friends their first year and become acclimated with their campus community. Another factor to consider is the cost of the college itself. With tuition costs at private schools being higher than those for public schools, many students opt to attend their local state university, so they can more easily afford to live on campus.

Independence

Living on campus certainly affords students a sense of newfound independence. It is often a life-changing experience in learning how to live on their own, managing their time effectively and expanding their horizons in ways that encourage personal growth and development. While living on campus inherently fosters independence, commuting can also have the same benefits. Students who commute to class every day, especially those who also work a part-time job, must manage a busy schedule while staying on top of their studies.

No matter how you look at it, the choice to live on campus or commute is a big deal. Ultimately, every student needs to make a decision that’s best for them academically, socially and financially.

Source:
www.Collegeboard.org
September 17th, 2018

Developing a College List

 

It’s easy to develop a college list. But to develop YOUR college list may require more THINKING and DOING.

The THINKING involves an introspective examination of you and your lived experiences. You need to reflect on several dimensions of self, related to academic, personal, social, and career aspirations; And for some, familial aspiration and expectations of you need to be resolved. Working through most, if not all, of these areas requires YOU to process the following set of sample questions:

Academic: What set of institutions match well with my demonstrated abilities as reflected in my high school achievement and in test scores?

Personal: What set of institutions align well with my personal interest and desire for greater interaction with students and faculty? Will I have this intimacy at medium to large schools? Do I want a single sex school or co-ed school? How close/far do I want to be from home?

Social: What types of institutions will enable me to meet other people with similar interests? For example, if I play the erhu, a classical Chinese string instrument, will I find opportunities to continue my musical interest at a small school or at a medium to large institution?

Career: What school will provide me with the foundational knowledge and experiential learning to pursue my career aspirations? For example, if you want an undergraduate business education, does applying to Harvard make any sense, considering that the only Ivy League schools with accredited undergraduate business programs are at Cornell or UPenn?

After you’ve done some THINKING, then its time to begin the DOING, which relates to the active engagement of learning and exploration.

  • Do utilize the resources of US News and World Report Ranking, The World Ranking, Barron’s, Princeton Review, Forbes, Times, etc., BUT seek to understand how they calculate/rank schools. Don’t just accept them at face value. Schools’ ranks should not be the primary factor.
  • Do consider reach schools, target schools and safety schools when creating a list of 10 schools. Consider a ratio of 3:4:3 to ensure a balanced school list, as a top-heavy school list can yield disastrous outcomes. Be realistic.
  • Do talk to your counselors, teachers, parents and other relatives that have gone to college. Ask them about their collegiate experiences, from application to graduation. Keep in mind their information may be outdated but their lived experience provides valuable insight and perspectives.
  • Do visit college websites and explore them in greater detail. Go beyond, the ‘Admissions’ page; look at “student life” for clubs and organizations. Do they have club/organizations of interest? Visit academic departmental webpage for your major to gain insight on faculty expertise. Look into their published and ongoing research for possible alignment with yours. This comes in handy for integration into your supplemental essay of “why us?”
  • Do look at colleges and universities in your area. Which one impresses you the most and why? How do other schools you’re considering stack up to what you’ve just described in previous questions?
  • Do visit, especially ones you’re considering for Early Decision or Restrictive Early Action. Take a campus tour and admissions information session. If you can, try to visit during the academic year when semester is in full swing. Stay overnight in the dorm, eat in the dining halls, attend classes and speak to faculty for a truly immersive experience.

Having a great school list requires thoughtful reflection on what you value in your education. It requires you to go above and beyond rankings and to dig deeper into an institutions’ soul, asking does it align with yours?

 

Solomon Admissions Consulting is an international college admissions consulting company based in New York, which helps applicants apply to and be accepted by colleges, MBA and MD programs, and private schools.

 

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August 16th, 2018

Superscoring: What you need to Know!

Is your teen currently preparing for the SAT or ACT and wondering how all their scores will be looked at by colleges? They are not alone! One question we are often asked by both parents and students is about superscoring.

Superscoring is the process in which colleges will only consider a student’s highest section scores from each SAT or ACT test they’ve taken.

Let’s illustrate superscoring with this example: On Jennifer’s first SAT, she scores 650 on the critical reading section and 550 on the math section. On her second SAT, she scores 610 on reading and 590 on math. A college that superscores will only look at Jennifer’s two highest section scores from both test dates, which would be her 650 reading score and 590 math score.  Although her composite score for both sittings was 1200, her superscore is now a 1240. As you can see, superscoring can benefit students who have taken the SAT or ACT several times, as only their highest section scores will be considered in the admissions process.

Superscoring can also offer an advantage for test preparation in terms of targeting more time and attention on a specific area of weakness. In Jennifer’s case, she may decide to focus her studying for the second SAT mostly on her weaker section (math), since she already scored well on her reading section the first time around.

Keep in mind that only some colleges utilize superscoring and colleges have very different test score policies. Check their website or call admissions directly for clarification. You can also google a list of colleges who superscore the SAT or ACT. Most colleges only consider a student’s highest score from a single test date and some elite colleges even require all test scores from all dates. The good news is that each year, more and more schools are becoming “test-flexible” and are embracing superscoring. Therefore, it is important for students to fully understand the test score policy at each college to which they are applying and prepare accordingly.

Got questions?

We have answers! Contact us today at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or call Melissa Cook at (716) 574-7349.

 Sources:

https://www.princetonreview.com/college-advice/sat-act-superscore

https://blog.ivywise.com/blog-0/bid/123416/College-Admissions-Score-Choice-Test-Optional

July 9th, 2018

Summer Reading Can Improve Your Test Scores

Summer reading – just these 2 words alone can cause feelings of enormous dread for many students! Though you may shudder at the thought of reading during your time off, it may surprise you to learn that summer reading can have many benefits for improving your SAT and/or ACT score.

If you’ve been preparing at all for the SAT or ACT, you know firsthand that both tests place an emphasis on evidence-based reading comprehension. Active reading – the type of reading required to read a book – requires you to interpret a great depth of information in order to understand the story. Making a habit of reading during the summertime will help you improve your test performance, as you’ll enhance your reading comprehension skills and expand your vocabulary. The practice of reading dense language within the context of a story will get you in the mode of reading for information, a required skill for the critical reading sections of the SAT and ACT.

Reading will also help you prepare for the English and Essay portions of your test, as it reinforces proper grammatical usage and spelling. By seeing the way in which sentences are structured, you’ll become accustomed to correct writing practices and learn how to easily identify grammatical errors. Most importantly, understanding how to write clearly and concisely will help you effectively answer the test’s essay prompt and formulate an articulate response that conveys a compelling and engaging message to the reader.

Lastly, if reading books isn’t your thing, consider reading at least two or three magazine or newspaper articles per day. If you don’t have those in your home, search on Twitter for a topic that interests and then find an article that challenges your reading ability. An added bonus is you’ll learn something new and expand your horizons, setting you up for greater success in college.

Source:  http://www.eliteprep.com/blog/2017/1/28/one-habit-to-help-you-raise-your-sat-reading-writing-scores
June 19th, 2018

SAT/ACT Prep Doesn’t Have To Be Stressful: 3 Tips For Effective Summer Test Prep

The idea of SAT or ACT test prep overwhelms many students, especially during the summer months when they want to relax and unwind with friends. The good news is that preparing for the SAT or ACT doesn’t have to be stressful if you plan ahead. As you think about your summer schedule, here are three tips for making your summer test prep manageable and effective:

  1. Schedule self-study sessions. Every student learns differently, which is why scheduling study sessions that fit your individual learning preference is key. For example, some students learn best in short, 30-minute blocks of time while others prefer a weekly one or two-hour session. Block off time in your schedule each week to focus on test preparation. Most importantly, make sure these periods of time are free of distractions and allow you to be fully engaged in the learning process. PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY!

 

  1. READ! You may not realize it, but ramping up your reading can significantly help your test prep efforts. You’ll improve your reading comprehension and critical thinking skills, both needed to do well on the SAT and ACT. You’ll also advance your vocabulary and become more acclimated to reading passages with complex language. This will make the reading tests easier to manage when you’re under pressure.

 

  1. Enroll in a test prep program. While self-study works well for some, many students learn best in a formal test prep program such as small group sessions or private tutoring. In addition to learning directly from experienced teachers, these programs hold students accountable and keep them on a consistent study schedule. Through a test prep program, you’re guaranteed to stay on track with taking practice tests, as well as strategically improving your weak areas.

By designing your summer study schedule with these suggestions, you’ll set yourself up for success and have more confidence when taking the official SAT or ACT.

Learn more about Test Preps’ options by contacting Melissa Cook via email at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or by phone at (716) 574-7349.

Source: http://time.com/3906983/summer-sat-study-tips/

May 31st, 2018

College Recommendation Letters 101

With so much going on in the college admissions process, it’s easy to forget that acquiring college recommendation letters requires strategic planning. Experts suggest that students give thought and attention to their recommendation letters as early as junior year.

Letters of recommendation serve as a complement to your college applications, showcasing your character, skills and abilities. Typically, most colleges will require two letters from teachers, as well as a letter from your guidance counselor. However, colleges have different requirements, so it’s important to refer to each school’s website or admissions department.

Who to ask?

Start with teachers you have known for a long time and have developed a meaningful relationship with throughout high school. This may be a teacher who has served as a mentor to you in a particular subject area, or even a teacher who helped you get through a difficult course. Any instructor who has witnessed you either excelling or working hard to overcome academic challenges is someone who could be well suited to write a letter on your behalf.

Additionally, many students choose to ask coaches, club advisors or employers for a third letter of recommendation. Letters written by these individuals can speak to your talents outside the classroom and highlight your commitment to extracurricular activities, such as a sport, music program or internship. Employers can write about your work ethic and responsibility.

When to ask?

Each year teachers are asked by multiple seniors to write recommendation letters. To avoid “competing” with other students’ requests, it’s best to reach out to recommenders at the end of junior year, rather than waiting until fall of senior year. This will give you an opportunity to pass along your resume and share with them your goals and achievements. Most importantly, it gives your teachers time over the summer to write your letters – before they receive a flood of requests in the fall!

General tips

After speaking with your recommenders, be sure to provide them with all the information they need to submit their letters. It’s critical that they are aware of your colleges’ deadlines and have access to the forms or links required for submission. Be sure to send hand-written thank you notes after your applications are completed!

Your recommendation letters are a key component of your admissions profile. Planning ahead will help both you and your recommenders manage the process in the best way possible.

Source:
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/your-high-school-record/how-to-get-a-great-letter-of-recommendation
April 18th, 2018

How to Navigate the ACT Essay

With so much emphasis on the multiple-choice portion of the ACT, many students are quick to dismiss the test’s essay requirement and think they can simply wing it. However, the ACT essay is unlike most of the essays you’ll write in your English class. With only 40 minutes on the clock, you’ll need to have a strategy in mind for writing a clear and comprehensive essay that addresses all elements of the prompt.

Here’s a breakdown for how to effectively navigate the ACT essay:

Make your case. The ACT essay prompt requires that you take a stance regarding three perspectives outlined in front of you. You’ll be expected to analyze all three perspectives; state and define your own perspective about the issue; and explain the relationship between your perspective and the insights provided. You can choose an existing prompt to support either fully or partially – or offer an entirely different perspective to make your case. As you state your case, you should support your ideas with logic and reasoning by providing specific and detailed examples.

Be organized. It’s important that you organize your ACT essay in a structured and coherent format. Typically, an introduction, two body paragraphs and a conclusion are needed for a comprehensive essay that fully addresses the prompt and allows you to convey your message. At the beginning of your body paragraphs, it’s best to use transitional phrases so your ideas flow naturally and make sense. Throughout the body of the essay, you’ll also want to incorporate examples that support your opinion and add value to your perspective.

Proofread if time allows. When you’re writing on the clock, sometimes proofreading can seem like the last priority. However, glaring errors can take away from the quality of your essay and leave the reader struggling to decipher what you’re trying to say, potentially having a detrimental effect on your grade. Taking even just five minutes (if time allows) to read through your essay and correct any spelling or grammatical errors can be the difference between an average essay and an exceptional one.

Our test prep experts can help you prepare for the ACT! Learn more about Test Preps’ ACT small group and tutoring options and get in touch with Melissa Cook at contact@testprepsbuffalo.com or (716) 574-7349.

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