As you’re aware, the SAT and ACT are right around the corner. By now your students may feel comfortable in the standardized test arena, but may not feel confident about the two with the biggest stakes. Here are five useful tips to help equip them for the big day.
- Provide a study workbook. One thing that makes the SAT and ACT different is their unique format and timing. For this reason, we recommend SAT and ACT workbooks, found online or at your local bookstore. By letting students get familiar with practice test materials, they can master its cadence in a penalty-free space. That way they won’t be caught off guard on the big day.
- Recharge for optimum performance. Strongly encourage your students to get at least eight or nine hours of rest before the big day. As with any test, a student’s mind needs to be performing at its best, especially on the day of the exam.
- Offer an SAT prep class. Give your students an early jump on studying so they know the material along with the layout of the test beforehand. SAT preparatory classes are provided online or at most schools, and offer the ability to hone in on test-taking skills while boosting confidence. As you know, the tests don’t measure what students can cram in the week before, but instead, what students have learned throughout their education.
- Provide a reading list. The SAT is more language-focused than the ACT. It’s also chock full of words that your students may be unfamiliar with – that’s because a percentage of language is pulled from colloquialisms, region-specific nouns, or terms that don’t see much light in 2015. But this doesn’t mean you need to cram a ton of vocabulary lessons into their daily routine. Classic literature can help students improve their comprehension skills as well as expand their vocabulary.
- Guessing vs. skipping. In the past, guessing on the SAT was not recommended because it could hurt a student’s score. However, starting this year, the SAT has taken a new approach to the grading system and will only be counting the correct answers — just like on the ACT. Whichever test they’re taking, instruct your students to go ahead and give a difficult question their best guess instead of skipping ahead.
Do you have any useful tips to help better prepare students for the big testing day? Share your expertise with fellow school counselors and the Wells Fargo Community.
If your senior wants a final chance to take the SAT or ACT test, be sure he or she gets registered by the deadlines.
You can help your student prepare for these tests by encouraging them to study and take practice tests online in the weeks leading up to the test. There are online test prep options for the both the SATand the ACT.
Then, as the test gets closer, encourage your student to relax and take care. Talk to your student about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep before the exams, and eating a good breakfast on test morning.
Be sure to check out where the test site is located ahead of time, and have your student double-check that they have all their materials ready to go the night before the test. Here’s a checklist for ACT test takers. And here’s one for SAT test takers.
Senior year is a busy time for students as they get ready for college. Fall of senior year is a good time for parents to step in and help lay out the roadmap of the goals and deadlines that will guide your student through all the tasks involved in college preparation.
First semester: application time
Your student’s first semester will be focused on both college and scholarship applications, so talk with your student about making a plan for getting these completed:
- What tasks are involved with each? Help your student break down each item into manageable mini-deadlines.
- Who do they plan to ask for recommendations? Encourage your student to reach out to these adults early, to give them plenty of time to write a good recommendation.
- When is the deadline for completing essays? Keep the earliest deadline in mind, and help your student work towards that.
Encourage your student to look ahead and build in enough time to get their applications sent in without any frantic late-night sessions, or last-minute requests for transcripts.
Second semester: all the details come together
Things really kick into high gear during the second semester, so you’ll want to help your student have another plan of action ready for the upcoming deadlines and decisions. Among the tasks your student should plan for are:
- Completing the FAFSA. All students and parents should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1. Gather tax documents and other necessary paperwork ahead of time to streamline the application process.
- College selection. This may be the biggest task of the semester. Now is the time to compare award letters carefully and have your student make a decision. Next, be sure your student mails in the tuition deposit by the deadline in order to secure admission.
- AP tests. If your student is taking an Advanced Placement (AP) class, encourage them to take the test that may allow them to gain college credit for the class. Look ahead to testing dates, get registered, and have your student talk with his or her AP teacher about how to prepare.
- Orientation. College orientation can sometimes come up very quickly after graduation. Once your student has selected a college, look ahead to orientation dates and choose one that works with your family’s calendar. Register early to secure your preferred timeframe.
As you begin your junior year, your academics are still critical, but it’s time to also consider how your extracurricular activities could improve your chances of being accepted into your dream college.
If you need to work, don’t worry. Having a part-time job may help demonstrate to admissions that you have good time-management and other transferrable skills. Interning and volunteering are also great ways to stand out. Imagine you’re applying for a coveted pre-med spot at a top school. Steady volunteering with a local hospital would show your dedication, make your application more appealing and possibly even open doors to field-specific scholarships.
Colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals with focus and drive – who can balance work, hobbies, sports, and school. Having a plan for your extracurricular activities will give you a leg up during the college admissions process and a better opportunity for receiving a scholarship. Here are a few resources to help you form your strategy:
- Understand all of your options. Which activities do colleges want to see? Not only do colleges look at your grades and the difficulty level of your courses, but the activities you participate in during high school have an impact, too. Take a look at this list of extracurriculars that can impress admissions officers.
- Be strategic in choosing extracurriculars. Form a plan to choose and prioritize your extracurricular activities. Read these great responses on strongchoosing extracurricular activities from current college students and school advisors who have been through the admissions process.
- Think ahead and align your extracurricular activities with your career path.Position your job, hobbies, community service, and activities with a possible career path you are interested in. This will show college admissions counselors that you are focused and dedicated.
- Do things you enjoy. This is your future, so make sure your strategy starts with a foundation of passion. Find activities, jobs, and community service that you truly like doing. Watch this video from a Dean of Undergraduate Admissions discussing what he looks for in extracurricular activities.
The upcoming school year is approaching fast, and there’s no question that you have a lot on your plate. By simply outlining your academic year, you can equip yourself to better prepare your students for college. Here are six ideas to help you map out the academic year and to prepare your students for the year ahead.
- Improve your communication strategy. Plenty of communication resources are available to get the most from your interactions with students. With services like Remindand Hubspot, you can instantly and effectively connect with your students by allowing your advising office to streamline its messaging for the year. This will help you stay on top of your student communications, and it can even automate your tweets, texts, and emails.
- Eliminate frequently asked questions. Are you spending a lot of time answering common questions from students in your one-on-one meetings? Time with your students is precious, so to be more effective during meeting times, empower students with the answers to common questions prior to your student-advisor meetings. Flyers, brochures, and emails are great communication methods to answer FAQs.
- Provide your students with resources. Offer your students enlightening information on how to accomplish goals, stay organized, and choose the right AP classes. Help your students establish the right study skillsand effective time managementbefore taking on these more difficult classes.
- Know college admissions better than anyone. The more you understand the college admissions process, the more you can increase your students’ and parents’ knowledge and confidence in the year ahead. Step into the shoes of your students and research all you can about applying to college.
- Be present on social media. Plan out your posts ahead of time to remind students of application deadlines, testing dates, and even guest speakers. A professional Twitter or Facebook account will help you keep up with your students’ college interests as you post your own thoughts, along with resources for both students and parents.
How are you making the most of the upcoming year with your students? Take to Twitter and the Wells Fargo Community to share your advice.
Junior year is the time when most students start getting truly focused on college planning. With only two short years to go before they begin their college journey, it’s time to start making a checklist of things to be done to prepare your student for college. Check out some of the ideas listed below to get your student started on the major items to tackle during the first semester of junior year.
- Take the PSAT/NMSQT. This standardized test is taken by high school sophomores and juniors every year, and the scores are used to determine whether your student qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Check with your school counselor to find out when and where the test will be administered and what your student should do to prepare.
- Plan for the SAT/ACT. Typically, students will take the SAT or ACT in the spring of their junior year. Check out the test dates and sites at collegeboard.org or actstudent.org and help your student plan for when to take the test. Then, talk with your student about how to prep for the test, whether it’s to take a class or use online resources.
- Consider scholarship options. Talk about the importance of securing as much free money for college as possible, and what types of scholarships might be appropriate for your student to seek out. Find scholarships that fit your student at tuitionfundingsources.com, a scholarship database with over 7 million scholarships totaling more than $41 billion to help pay for college.
- Start mapping out college choices. Your high school junior might not have a clear idea of what college he/she would like to attend, but now is the time to start getting serious about looking at schools and determining which ones may be worthy of a campus visit this spring. Talk with your student about the different types of schools out there – large universities, small private schools, those in urban areas, those in small towns, and get them thinking about what they might prefer. Work together with your student to look over college literature, pull up websites and talk with your student’s high school counselor to get some ideas about schools to explore.
Your junior year is a good time to start preparing in earnest for college, and making a step-by-step plan to work through next year’s applications.
Meet with your school counselor about the year ahead. Ensure that your courses and your grades put you on the right track for college admission; there is still time to pull your grades up if you begin now. Also ask about test dates for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT, and find out if your school offers any test preparation classes, or if you qualify for a fee waiver.
Take the PSAT. You’ll need to register up to six weeks ahead of time, so look into this right away. Taking the test as a junior will qualify you for some scholarship consideration and identify you to colleges as a potential applicant. When you receive the results (usually in December), review them to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. Discuss the results with your family and school counselor to make a study plan for the ACT or SAT.
Consider your extracurriculars. If you haven’t participated in many activities outside of class, now is the time to look at signing up. Decide which clubs at schools, team sports, leadership roles, or involvement in your religious or civic community group would best fit your interests and talents and make a commitment. Colleges prefer to see serious involvement, over shallow engagements.
Begin researching scholarships. Start bookmarking links and keeping track of the names and due dates for scholarships that need to be completed in the future. You may find some that you can qualify for with one additional class or activity, and now you have the time to get that extra qualification. To get started with an online scholarship search, go to Tuition Funding Sources. This website offers students access to over 7 million scholarships totaling more than $41 billion in scholarship awards, along with a career aptitude test and detailed college and career information.