FIRST CHOICE COLLEGE: "Applications do not require an ACT or SAT exam."
MOM & DAD: "So do we bother with either exam?"
TUTORING RESOURCES: "That depends...
SHOULD I BOTHER TO TAKE THE ACT OR SAT?
More and more colleges and universities are rescinding a previous requirement to include a college entrance exam score with the admissions application. This may be a bright spot in your student's path toward moving on to the next step in education. Some students shouldn't worry about the tests and move instead on filling in other areas of their curriculum vitae, like leadership, grades, and non-academic talents. Here's how to decide which, if any, exam to prepare for.
WILL THIS TEST HELP MY APPLICATION?
EMERGING STUDENT: If your student had a considerable change in grades since Freshman year, adequate ACT or SAT study could help to bolster a lackluster former performance. An exam score higher than the GPA, substantiated with an essay describing a viable reason for the positive trend and a preplanned discussion point for admissions interviews, would demonstrate the student's current intellectual commitment and status.
ADVICE: Begin studying for the test with at least 4 months of assessment, practice, original learning, and creating resources to use in college. The goal score for the ACT should be above 24 and for the SAT, above 1250.
AVERAGE STUDENT: If your student happily brings in C's and B's, GPA between 2.0 and 3.0, and is applying to a school that only requires an ACT of 21, it may be more constructive to invest time and resources on an activity in which the student excels. The goal of every college application is to help the student stand out from the thousands of other hopefuls. For many of us, academic work is only a fraction of our skills and talents and is frequently not what counts as success in life.
ADVICE: Consider a cost-benefit analysis to analyze your options, including whether the test results will be productive. If the entrance exam score would simply fall within the average range of 21 to 24 (ACT) or 1070 to 1210 (SAT) List your student's extracurricular activities and evaluate how these could contribute to the well-rounded applicant most colleges are looking for.
HIGH ABILITY STUDENT: If you are the lucky parent of a student who consistently achieves high academic grades without excessive prompting, a merely above-average score on a college entrance exam might survive only the first cut. High ability students (and their parents) quickly learn there are a lot of good students out there, each one of them representing the competition for admission. For the high-ability student, especially those with, for example, a 4.3 GPA on a 4.0 system, achieving a "nearly perfect" score can be crucial.
ADVICE: It is more difficult to raise an ACT score from 31 to 36 than it is to elevate a 21 to a 26. Same 5 points, but with an entirely different approach. High ability students study differently and need more focused preparation from a knowledgeable mentor.
The self-motivated student should be encouraged to find their own errors, correct them, and highlight a plan to avoid similar mistakes in the future. It is well worthwhile to engage a private tutor to guide the student through material that is new or presented in unique ways, someone who knows the test and can predict the concepts covered in the test and the ways in which understanding of the concept are tested, who has experience with retired tests and training in tailoring information to the student's learning style. For this academic approach, the homework goals should be stringent, with a maximum target of no more than 2 errors in any section of either test.
1. Check out the guidance provided by your considered schools.
a. If no test is required, seriously examine whether the time, effort, and cost of studying for and taking the ACT or SAT is worthwhile for your student and family.
b. Some schools with not even LOOK AT test scores, so don't bother to send one.
c. If a "good" score will enhance your student's application, weigh the benefit of the school's tuition reductions and scholarships based on test score.
2. Assess your student's academic history and commitment to set, strive toward, and achieve a realistic goal.
3. Start now to work smarter, not just harder or longer. For high ability and emerging students, studying with an experienced tutor can expedite progress to achieve a realistic goal score.