Should I take the ACT/SAT again?

A common question posed by parents and students is whether or not to take the ACT or SAT one final time. The answer to this question depends on several factors: which schools you’re applying to, which test you’re taking (SAT or ACT), and where your score sits respective to the middle 50%.


Question 1: Which school are you applying to (and what are their deadlines)?

Both tests will return scores back in approximately three weeks time. e.g. The October 6 SAT is returning scores on Oct 24th, and the Sept 21 ACT returned scores last week. So if the deadline for application is Feb 1, you can definitely still take the December ACT or SAT. If you’re considering applying for a scholarship or in the Early Action process, however, the deadlines are sometimes earlier.


Question 2: Which test are you taking?

If you are taking the SAT, you should consider if the schools you’re applying to want to look at every test date or just your best. If they’re looking at every test date, scoring lower might actually hurt your chances.

If you’re taking the ACT, you don’t have much to lose in taking it again (except approximately 4 hours and some $$).


Question 3:  Where does your score fall?

Confirm this with your guidance counselor, but from where I’m sitting, it seems advantageous to be in the median 50% listed on collegeboard’s Big Future. Yes, 25% of students get in with scores lower than that, but it only puts you in a better position if you’re within the middle 50% of the accepted students.


Ultimately, the decision should be made by the student and his/her parent after discussing with a guidance counselor. There’s not a hard and fast rule about whether or not to take it, but there is a right decision for you.


Do I Need to Know My Major When I Apply?

Some admissions applications ask you to list your intended major, some don’t.

Don’t be fooled though. Though you may not be required to list your intended major, you’d be surprised how much it may impact your chances of getting into your top choices.

You don’t have to have your major, or your life all figured out when you’re applying to college. In fact, a large part of the college experience is the beginning of figuring it out. However, you should be aware of how your academic interests, or absences of interests, effects your chances of getting in.

Read more to get one dean of admission’s insights on the process.


Choosing your Major

Many 4-year institutions don’t require you to declare a major until your sophomore (second) year. This means that you get almost a year and a half to explore different majors and degree options within your university or college. Obtaining your undergraduate degree is a lot of work – so, why wouldn’t you want to figure out what you’re passionate about and spend your time, money, and energy pursuing it?

Take the time to figure out what you like doing and find a school that offers a relevant degree. Look at it as an investment in yourself. Have some solid ideas of what you might like to do so that you can begin exploring those possibilities the moment you step on campus!

Here’s  a good article that offers up 5 tips in choosing a college major from U.S. News & World Report


Universities Stack Up Across the Globe

The United States is known globally for its higher education offerings, and rankings released this week by Times Higher Education reaffirm that notion.

Holding top positions on the list of schools ranked academically on a global basis are Harvard (1), Cambridge, Mass.; Stanford (2), Stanford, Calif.; and UC Berkeley (3), Berkeley, Calif.

And of the top 10 schools on the list, eight are in the United States, with the remaining two in the United Kingdom.

The academic shift toward competitive Eastern institutions is moving at a “glacial” pace, says THE, with the vast majority of schools on the list skewing west.

Want to see how your top choice measures up academically? Check out the full list here.


Seniors – Start Planning!

From The College Solution comes some great advice on making a plan for your application process.


While the advice seems common sense on the surface, they provide such gems as how much time to budget (hint: it’s way more than you’d expect!) and how to lower the total amount of time you spend.


Many schools are starting this week, but almost all will be in session within only a few weeks. Best to map out a solid plan now, before your first big AP tests, homecoming dances, and midnight movie premiers, than to try to jam everything in at the last minute.

You can find the full text of the article here:

Seniors Applying to College: You Need a Plan!


College Is Worth it, but How Do I Pay for it?

The debate that examines whether going to college is worth it has been around since higher education was founded, continues today, and will undoubtedly continue through the foreseeable future. Of course opinions on this topic vary, and valuable points are often made on both sides. The true discussion, though, centers around the cost of going to college and whether you (and your family) can afford it.

Not sure if college is worth it? Read this article from the Wall Street Journal for an economic/investment perspective

Okay, college may be worth it, but is it possible to graduate debt free? Here’s one account of how possible it is (here’s a hint – don’t simply accept that taking out loans and extremely large debt after four years is inevitable).





In-State or Out-of-State?

One of the biggest questions prospective students ask themselves is whether to stay near home or apply to schools out-of-state.

How do you decide?

Of course, this is a very personal decision that can involve a large number of variables, but the sooner you start seriously thinking about it the better off you’ll be.  Here are just a few examples of things you might consider:

  • Do you want to know lots of students at your institution, or do you want to reinvent yourself?
  • Is being able to get home easily over the weekend important?
  • What’s the cost difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition?

See what trends are happening in California – which California schools have the highest rate of in-state students, which have the lowest, and most importantly, does that matter to you?!



The 2013-2014 Common App… It’s Here!

The Common Application for those applying in 2013-2014 has been released, including new essay prompts a some other slight changes.

If you are applying in the 2013-2014 time period, this means it’s time to set up a new account.

The Common Application says: Accounts created before 8/1 no longer exist so password reset won’t work. Visit the Common Application’s website to sign up and start working through its six sections!






Which is better: the ACT or the SAT?

Which is better: the ACT or the SAT?

The answer to that question (of course) is that it depends. The folks over at CBS have some advice on which category you may fall into, however.

From the blog:

Teenagers who earn high ACT scores are more likely to:

  • Possess a strong memory.
  • Be fast readers.
  • Process information swiftly.

Teenagers who earn high SAT scores are more likely to:

  • Possess a strong vocabulary.
  • Be a strong reader.
  • Enjoy test-taking strategies.

As a test prep tutor, I tend to favor the ACT. Why? Because I believe it is more coachable.  The ACT mirrors actual classwork a bit more closely, but it requires a quicker pace. The ACT mirrors more of an AP exam, and has more difficult-to-see traps and tricks. If a student likes that sort of challenge, the SAT is great! But if a student just wants to get a decent score with the least amount of work, the ACT is the right test to take.

The only real way to know which one to take is to take a full length practice exam of each. Both the SAT and ACT have a single test available for free, available here (SAT) and here (ACT). See which one you like more. Unless there’s a huge score difference (and there likely isn’t going to be one), take the one you like the best. You’ll do better just because you’re more comfortable.


Transferring Colleges? Some Accept More Transfers Than Others

If you’ve started school and found—for whatever reason—your college or university of choice is not the right fit; don’t fret. Thousands of students transfer to different schools each year.

But some schools are much more likely to accept transfers than others, according to a report released last week by U.S. News & World report, which tracks college rankings.

And the proportion of students who do transfer at least once during their college experience is as high as one in three according to the report.

The largest number of transfer students ended up in California, Florida and Texas, with some California schools receiving high rankings for the percentage of transfers accepted in 2011, the last year tracked by U.S. News.

California state college Sacramento accepted nearly 87% of its transfer applicants that year. Arizona State had the greatest number of incoming transfers, at more than 6,700.

Are you considering transferring? Check out the full list of most transferred-to schools at U.S. News & World.