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September 29th, 2020

Test-Optional Is Not Test-Blind

 

2020 has been a rough year for many, and if you are a high school junior, you have yet another challenge to face: deciding whether to take the SAT or ACT when so many colleges have adopted a test-optional admissions policy. So what’s the difference between test-optional and test-blind? And what does it mean for you?

In a nutshell, test-blind means a school won’t accept standardized test scores. At all. If you send them, they won’t look at them.

Test-optional means that standardized test scores are not required for an application, but they are welcomed and valued in the competitive process of college admissions.

So should a college-bound junior sign up for the SAT or ACT or not? In a word: YES.

 

5 reasons to try an SAT or ACT in 2020-2021

  1. Test-optional colleges will look at SAT and ACtT scores. All other things being equal in an application, a higher test score might earn the acceptance letter. Furthermore, test score submission rates at prominent test-optional schools indicate that the majority of applicants still submit their scores.

 

  1. If you are planning on applying to more affordable state schools, guess what? A lot of families are making the same financially prudent choice during these uncertain times. Having a solid SAT or ACT score can help a student distinguish themselves in the crowded admission process.

 

  1. Many schools require standardized test scores for out-of-state students and athletes. In addition, merit aid, scholarship applications, and honors programs may still require a standardized test score.

 

  1. Extracurricular activities and the grading system took a big hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic. After-school activities, sports, summer internships, and volunteer opportunities were canceled. Many schools adopted a pass/fail grading system, and a “pass” just isn’t as impressive as an “A.” It isn’t fair. (In fact, it stinks.) But students in the Class of 2022 need every available opportunity to distinguish themselves in the admission process, and the SAT and ACT offer that opportunity.

Finally…

  1. Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Take the test. If the score is great, send it. If it isn’t, apply test-optional! A 2020 win/win scenario…for once.

Test Preps remains devoted to our small-group, socially distanced SAT/ACT preparation programs. Our sessions begin 5-6 weeks before the test and our tutors would love to help you get a leg up on the college competition.

So get ready. Get set. Prepare for possibilities! Contact Test Preps to talk about a plan that fits your remote or hybrid school schedule and join us on Sunday evenings for a small group SAT or ACT Course. Private tutoring options also available.

 

July 29th, 2020

August is College Admission Essay Month

Well…not officially, but it should be! August is a great month for high school seniors to tackle the daunting task of grabbing a college’s attention in six hundred fifty words or less. And this year Test Preps is offering our College Essay Workshop virtually!

Why write the college essay now?

  1. Because we’re all waiting to hear what “back to school” will actually mean this fall. Why not set your sights beyond this school year and focus on all the possibilities of the NEXT fall? Battle uncertainty with action, and keep your eyes on the prize: acceptance to a great college!
  2. Because no matter what happens, it’s going to be something. The events of the past few months are fresh and uncluttered, and there is no better time to mine them for memorable details. In fact, the Common Application has added an optional Covid-19 question for students who have been greatly impacted. This fall, your teen will be adapting to a new set of school circumstances. Seize the last days of summer and get a jump on that college admission essay before school starts again.
  3. Because your teen probably has some extra time on his or her hands, and Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and TikTok are boring. Okay, maybe that last part isn’t true, but this is: many colleges have made ACT and SAT test scores optional for 2021. Colleges are going to need a way to get to know your teen, and the essay may be the single best way for college seniors to reveal themselves as individuals to prospective colleges.

When it comes to writing an essay for a college application, getting started is the hardest part—we promise. If your teen needs a hand, a nudge, or a cheerleader, Test Preps can help. Our team will guide your teen through brainstorming, editing, and polishing their essay in just one week during our College Essay Workshop.

Class starts August 3rd via Zoom! Space is limited to maintain the small-group focus of our programs, but we still have a few spots left. Refer a friend, and both students receive a free copy of the text we use in class.

Register today! We can’t wait to get your teen started on the next chapter of their college career.

February 24th, 2020

Great College Visit Questions (Part One: Student Life)

“Boots on the ground” was one of the best pieces of advice I heard while my oldest child and I were beginning the college process.College visits - Boots on the ground!

I looked blankly at the woman who said it to me. “Go on some college visits,” she repeated.

Ahhhh. That made sense! I promptly started scheduling college visits to my daughter’s prospective campuses. This is also an important way to show interest in a college to Admissions. Learn more about demonstrated interest as it can be an important factor in boosting a college application. Another perk: some schools will waive the application fee if you make a registered college visit to the campus.

Your teen can learn a lot about a school’s culture by walking around the campus, talking to students, and asking questions. Of course, which questions to ask will depend on what’s important to your student. My main question probably isn’t the one you might expect: I wanted to know where students hung out. Fortunately, my daughter has always done well academically, and I can reasonably hope that to continue in college. However, studying is generally done alone. I wanted to know where my daughter, a social creature, could find new friends and have fun. Don’t worry, I also asked where students like to study!

Some other questions we asked on our college visit about student life:

  • Do most students stay on campus on the weekend?

  • What’s your favorite thing about (insert university name)?

  • Is there anything fun to do off-campus?

  • How’s the Wi-Fi?

Our college visit questions will probably be different from your questions. Make sure you visit the school’s website and check out the FAQ. It’s a great place to start your list! Then think about what is essential to your teen’s happiness? A great gym? Make sure you visit the athletic center while you’re on campus. Find out what it offers and when it’s open. Is your teen particular about food? Ask your tour guide where to find the best food on campus. And the best latte… Is your teen a sports fan? Do tons of students attend games? Or is school spirit kind of meh?

As we continue to navigate the college process, I’m glad my daughter put boots on the ground at some of her prospective schools, so at least she had the answer to these crucial questions: how does the campus feel? Can she see herself as a student there for the next four years? If that answer is yes, then we can probably figure out the rest of it…and so can you. To get you started on this process, check out US News College Search to compare information from 1900 colleges!

As always, Test Preps is available to help with your SAT and ACT preparation needs.

Stay tuned for Great College Visit Questions (Part Two: Academics).

*Thank you to my bff Amanda for sharing her experiences as she navigates the college process with her own teens in this series of guest posts!

 

January 16th, 2020

Should Your Student Apply to an Honors College?

I asked a college sophomore in the Honors College at Duquesne University, and her response was: “Absolutely! You get priority scheduling, better class selection, and usually nicer dorms.”

So if your teen is a high achiever and is looking at schools with an Honors College, he or she should definitely consider applying. Academic benefits can include smaller class sizes with more meaningful discussions and interaction with their professors. Access to professors is limited in a larger lecture setting and office hours may be inconvenient. Other benefits can be priority class registration and nicer dorms or a dedicated space where honors students can study and hang out. Sometimes, honors students take a series of classes together, so faces become familiar more quickly in the smaller-group setting. Honors programs can have professional benefits as well. If your teen plans to pursue a higher degree, masters programs will look favorably on an honors program’s rigorous course of study. Similarly, potential employers recruit graduates with have critical thinking skills.

Now let’s consider the possible challenges of an Honors College program…

First and foremost, there’s no getting around that fact that an honors program is extra work. The classes are smaller and require more participation, which makes it more difficult to “coast.” If your teen hates public speaking, he or she might prefer to be in a large lecture hall where there’s less chance of being singled out. Often, there’s a required GPA to maintain Honors College standing or housing, and some schools may ask students to attend a certain number of Honors College events.

Honors College isn’t for everyone, but for motivated students who are accustomed to a challenging workload and high achievement, the benefits are undeniable. At Test Preps, we excel at helping students achieve their goals. Contact us today if you’d like to learn how your teen can improve their ACT/SAT score for any program!

October 25th, 2019

What Is “Demonstrated Interest” And How Do I Show It?

As if sending SAT/ACT test scores, high school transcripts, and applications isn’t enough to do, some colleges (not all) track how much “interest” prospective students show in their institution. This is called demonstrated interest, and while it might not make or break your teen’s admission status, what if it’s one variable that can set them apart from other applicants? So it certainly can’t hurt to show some enthusiasm and interest starting with the college search during junior year.

Traditionally, a campus tour is a great way to show demonstrated interest. If finances and time allow, visit prospective schools, and make sure your teen’s name is checked off on the attendance roster. If visiting isn’t feasible, sign up for an online webinar that might cover the same material and offer a virtual tour. Have your child reach out to an admissions officer via e-mail or phone with genuine, pertinent questions about the admissions process, provided that information can’t be found elsewhere. Other ways for your teen to show demonstrated interest: register for and attend college fairs and engage with counselors at prospective schools’ tables, speak with admissions officers if they visit their high school, and always open e-mails from schools on their application list. Some schools offer alumni interviews, another great way to show interest with the double benefit of also getting an insider perspective on the school.

Colleges appreciate demonstrated interest because it improves the chances of receiving a “YES” response to their acceptance letter. Students who accept offers make the schools look desirable, and demonstrated interest is a great way to predict an enthusiastic “YES.” However, demonstrating interest also has a great stealth benefit. Thoroughly investigating schools, talking to admissions officers, visiting campuses, and reading e-mails can help you and your teen figure out whether a prospective school is truly a good fit.

As always, Test Preps is here to help you lock down that best possible SAT/ACT score so that demonstrated interest is the bow on top of the already-awesome student package. Now get out there, get enthusiastic, and prepare for possibilities!

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