Blog
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!

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels
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!
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 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

February 17th, 2015

Make the Most of Your Prep at Home

shutterstock_114474988Your parents have plunked down the money for prep, you’ve dutifully attended the sessions, now that first practice test is waiting to be tackled. Keep in mind that your score on the actual ACT or SAT will largely be determined by the work you do at home. Beyond conscientiously working to internalize the taught strategies and tactics and adhering strictly to time limits, what else can you do at home to maximize your prep? Try paying attention to your environment.

Study locations: If you usually complete your homework in your room, stick with it. If not, beware because no room contains more distractions. Then again, if you typically complete your homework in front of the tv, better find a different location. Ideally, you want to approximate the test location as closely as possible. This means finding a location with minimal distractions. Avoid spots where people will talk to you, where there is a lot of movement, or even locations that are too quiet. The test room will be quiet, but not silent.

Background noise: Research demonstrates that doing any kind of homework with headphones on decreases retention. Yet, background noise has been found to increase students’ focus. Some studies even suggest that certain types of music – Bach, Beethoven, or flowing instrumentals – may even increase intelligence and retention of material.

Lighting: The test rooms will be well lit. Turn those lights on if knocking those tests off in your room, or if in a library or cafe, sit where the lighting is good.

You want a great score, then give every effort. Find blocks of time that will allow you to complete entire sections, review the tactics and strategies right before practicing, time yourself strictly and avoid doing work on the bus or in front of the tv. Environment matters!

January 28th, 2015

Opportunity Knocking? – SAT Changes

“What this country needs is not more tests, but more opportunities.”

                                             – David Coleman, President, College Board

With these words a new era was launched at College Board, an era that will have a big impact on your child. So why the radical redesign of this venerable, 90-year old test? Lots of reasons, actually.

One well-researched criticism of the SAT is that it favors students from affluent families who can afford expensive prep. College Board, maker of the SAT, hopes to level the playing field by first offering income-eligible students four free college application fee waivers. They have also announced an “all in” campaign, the goal of which is to encourage Latino, African American and Native American students to take at least one AP course.

Another impetus for the wholesale change is one you might not expect. Through the influenceAllNew2016SAT of the SAT, College Board is trying to promote excellent classroom work and accelerate students who are behind. To this end, the company has aligned the new SAT with with the Common Core curriculum. In fact, the new president of College Board, David Coleman, was a key player in creating the Common Core standards. More concretely, College Board will support best practice in classrooms by working with teachers and college faculty to design course frameworks and modules for use in grades 6–12.

A cynic might claim that the changes are because the SAT’s growth has slowed. This is due in part to the above critiques which led a group of universities to adopt a tests-optional admission policy. Then in 2012, for the first time ever, more students took the ACT than the SAT. Many reasons contributed to the ACT’s ascendancy, but students discovered they scored better on this upstart with less prep because it is more direct and better reflects what students do in high school.

Will the redesigned SAT truly open up more opportunities for all? Parents, educators, and students will begin finding out in the spring of 2016.

January 16th, 2015

SAT Overhaul One Year Away!

Let’s have our dessert before dinner.  Be honest, you want to know about the SAT changes more than why it’s changing, right?  Bon appetit!

  • No penalty will be assessed for wrong answers. Currently one quarter point is deducted for a wrong answer.
  • There are still three sections, but now the first section is Evidence-Based Reading and Writing while section two is Math. These sections will be worth 800 points each and take three hours to complete. The last section is the essay which will be scored separately and take 50 minutes to complete.

Evidence-Based Reading

  • 80% of the reading passages will be non-fiction and include one passage from literature, two passages from history and two from science. The great documents of American history will be heavily represented. The reading section will also require students to cite support for their answers from the text and will include graphics and charts.5318d92306393.image
  • The reading section will now contain a writing portion that will “place students in the role of someone revising and editing the work of an unspecified writer.” It will include four passages from three categories — explanatory, argumentative, and narrative nonfiction — and 44 multiple choice questions.
  • The sentence completion section, notorious for asking about arcane vocabulary, is being eliminated. Instead, words “that are widely used” such as “synthesis” and “empirical” will be asked about, but in the context of passages.

Math

  • Two parts to the math section: a 55-minute, 37 question section that allows calculator use and a 25 minute, 20 question section that prohibits calculator use. Forty-five questions are multiple choice whereas the other 12 require answers entered into a grid. The scope is being narrowed and many more multi-part questions will be asked.

Essay

  • This will now be optional and placed at the end of the test. It will no longer be an opinion piece, but directs that “Your essay should not explain whether you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade his audience.”
  • Finally, the test will be offered in digital and print versions.

Just remember, dinner is next!

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