Week Leading up to the test

Planning for the Week Leading Up to the Test

The week leading up to the ACT can be very stressful. Here are some tips for focusing on the most important things to help ensure your success!

  • Sleep.

I know, you’ve got a thousand things to do and it’s Simply. Not. Possible. But here’s the truth: there are an immutable number of hours in each day. Only a certain number of things can fit into those hours. If you have more things than hours, you have to prioritize. Making a decision to sacrifice sleep is also a decision to sacrifice test performance. This is science, and you’re not exempt from scientific reality.

If you’re already in the habit of ruthlessly going to bed on time, that’s fantastic! If you aren’t, it’s time to begin to cut down on your sleep debt this week. Please don’t think you can stay up all week studying and go to bed at 8:00 PM on Friday night and make it all up. The math just doesn’t work. Think about what you might be able to skip or postpone until after the test, and get to bed earlier.

  • Keep studying.

If you’ve been preparing, you should feel pretty ready by the week before the test. (If you haven’t been studying, and you know you’re not prepared, consider not taking the test.)

Continuing to practice your strategies this week is a great idea. Pick a couple of specific things that you feel you could still improve on. This isn’t the time for radical changes, but maybe you want to decrease your time per Reading passage by one minute. Maybe you need to review punctuation questions one more time, or spend some more time with geometry formulas.

Spend a bit of time each day studying, if you can. But don’t skip sleep to study, don’t plan to take eighteen practice tests this week, and don’t practice when you’re not feeling at least mostly calm, focused, and alert.

  • Eat well. (But don’t make drastic changes).

This is not the week to start a juice cleanse or to cut out sugar completely. It won’t hurt, however, to eat a few more fruits and vegetables. And if you’re not in the habit of eating breakfast, start now! Breakfast on test day is important, and starting a week ahead will give you a chance to see what works best for you. Does cereal leave you hungry ninety minutes later? Do eggs and bacon make you feel sluggish? Maybe smoothies are more your speed?

  • Get everything ready ahead of time.

Make sure your admission ticket, ID, pencils, calculator, watch, and snacks are all ready to go, well in advance. Double-check batteries in anything that needs batteries. Make sure your calculator is approved by ACT. Put everything in one place Friday evening, so that the morning is as simple as can be.

  •  Take it easy on Friday, and wake up early on test day.

Don’t plan to spend Friday working on ACT prep. Use Friday to relax and get to bed early.

In the morning, leave yourself plenty of time to wake up, eat breakfast, and get to the testing center. If you end up with extra time, take a quick walk or read a bit – anything to make sure you’re fully awake, especially if you’re not a morning person!

The ACT can be a stressful experience, but preparation is key! Having a clear plan and getting plenty of rest can ensure that you’re ready to face the test and reach your goals.

By: Audrey Hazzard, Premier-Level Tutor

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Early Decision vs Regular Decision

Early Decision or Regular Decision?

Early decision or regular decision? What is the difference, and which one is right for me? You’re not alone if you aren’t quite sure which one is going to be a good fit for you. Let’s break it down.

Is Early Decision For You?

Early decision deadlines vary slightly, with most falling on November 1 or November 15. Colleges will notify you usually mid-to-late December. This option is ideal for students who have clearly identified their first choice for college. However, students may only apply to one school and that application is binding, meaning that if a student is accepted under ED, they must withdraw all applications to other schools as they are now committed to attending that school.

Statistics show that there is an increased acceptance rate for applicants who applied during early decision deadlines, compared to those who applied to those same schools during the regular decision deadline.

Other advantages to ED are that your application will be seen by admissions officers sooner and you will be competing with fewer applicants. Students will also know sooner if they are accepted.

On the flip side, there are a couple of disadvantages that students do need to be aware of. You can only apply to one early decision school and if accepted, you must attend, which means you can’t compare financial aid offers between multiple schools.

Is Regular Decision the Right Choice?

Regular Decision application deadlines usually fall between January 1 or January 15 of your senior year but can range from November 30 to March 15. Notification dates are typically by April 1. Regular admissions are one of the most common application options since students can apply to as many schools as they want under this option. 

There are advantages to this choice. This option gives students more time to submit applications and achieve higher ACT scores for additional scholarships. If students aren’t sure which school is the best fit for them, it gives them more time to decide. Unlike early decision, there is no pressure to commit early if accepted. Another big advantage is being able to compare financial aid offers from multiple colleges.

A couple of downfalls of RD are that students will have to wait until later in the spring to hear back from colleges, which is always a busy time of the year for seniors. Most students submit their applications for RD, so your application may not stand out among the majority of applications.

Bottom line, the application process will be different for every student. Before you apply make sure you weigh out the advantages and disadvantages to each option. As always, if you need help deciding which option is right for you, reach out to us. Our college counselors are here to help!

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Asking for Recommendations

How to Ask for Recommendations

It’s that time! Time to start thinking about and asking for recommendations. Many colleges require two recommendations; some even require three! Additionally, while a college may not require a recommendation for admission, it may require one for scholarships.

A recent article on the College Admission Book website gives three key pointers for asking for recommendations:

* Ask in person. No emails. A personal request is most thoughtful.
Do not ask for more recommendations than you need. Pick two teachers and use the same two for all your applications.
* Say “please” when you ask and “thank you” when the teacher agrees.

Additional Pointers:

There are four more pointers I would like to add to their list:

* Choose your recommenders wisely: someone who know you well, a teacher who taught you recently, perhaps a teacher who teaches a core subject.
* Give your teachers ample amount of time to write your recommendation. Don’t make them feel rushed for your lack of planning.
Give them 90 days
. The more time they have, the better your chance of getting a wonderful recommendation will be.
* Make sure to send them a hand-written thank you note after they have written your recommendations.
* Let them know which college you decide to attend.

Recommendations are also important for internships and jobs. Future employers want to know that that information on your resume is truthful and true to your real life experience. They want to know not only if you are qualified for the job, but also if you will be a good person to have around the office. Different jobs and industries place differing levels of strength on the resume versus interpersonal skills. For example, a human resources manager works with other employees all day and needs to have strong communication skills, whereas a forest fire lookout does not interact with people as frequently.

If you would like to know more about which jobs would be suited to your skills and interests, a good resource is our Career Assessment!

Although asking for recommendations can be intimidating at first, by following these simple steps you will get the hang of it in no time!

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30 ACT Score

The Infamous 30 ACT Composite Score

Everyone wants the infamous 30 ACT composite score. Why does every student desire a 30 on their ACT?  Just to say they have a 30? What does a 30 composite score actually get you?  More scholarships? Entry into a highly selective school? The ability to say you scored a 30?  Maybe.  Maybe a 30 composite score will get you all of those things, but let’s take a closer look to see if that score is the right score for you.

Did you know that the National average ACT score for college bound students is a 20.6? The average for the state of Kansas is 20.4 and the average score for the state of Missouri is a 20.7. The average for Blue Valley District is 24.2., the average for Shawnee Mission District is 21.5, and the average for the Olathe District is 22.1, the three largest districts in JOCO.

ACT Average Scores

Overall, Johnson County is performing well above the state and national averages.

Scholarships

So why does a 30 ACT score haunt high school students?  For most students, scholarship money is what drives a student to achieve the very best score they can. For example, The University of Kansas gives a break down of scholarships related to ACT/SAT scores, plus their GPA score.  The funny thing is, the break down doesn’t provide any more money for a 30.  The additional scholarship money is awarded when a student goes from a 28 to a 31. If a student already has a 28 on their ACT, the infamous 30 shouldn’t factor into the discussion.

Make sure you at least have an outline of the types of colleges you would like to attend and then take those schools’ scholarship requirements into consideration. Most students would be shocked to realize the break usual isn’t at 30, but closer to 31, if not a 32 or higher.

The same principal applies to college entry.  Highly selective schools typically don’t look for a standard of a 30 ACT (or it’s SAT equivalent). They look for higher scores starting at a 31 or 32, plus a fantastic GPA of around 3.75 or higher. For example, Vanderbilt University in Nashville typical accepts students scoring in the 32-35 range. The middle 50% of scorers at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois is 31-34, similar to that of Duke University in Durham, NC. The bottom line is, do your research on the schools with which you’re truly interested and figure out if a 30 is sufficient or if you need to score even higher.

It’s so important to set proper goals based on what you are interested in, your ability, and what is tangible for you. If you take a pretest and score a 17 composite score, a 30 is big stretch – to say the least! Do you have endless amounts of time to study? What about your class schedule in high school? You don’t want to fall behind on your regular classes to study hours and hours for the ACT.

Extracurricular Activities

Another factor to consider is all of your extracurricular activities. Studying for and taking the October ACT while you are in football or volleyball will be totally overwhelming. How full is your schedule this semester? Do you even have the time and energy to spend on achieving a 30? The ACT has several test dates from which to choose throughout the year; choose one that makes sense for you and your schedule. Get Smarter Prep has different prep options for any type of student: from a small group course to semi-private and private tutoring. Select an option and test date that will set you up for success, not overwhelm you.  Setting a tangible goal score will the best way to assure success, whether it’s the infamous 30, a solid 26, or a Kansas average of 21.7. 

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SAT Test Dates '22-'23

SAT Releases Test Dates ’22-’23

If you have your mind set on taking the SAT, CollegeBoard has released all the 2022-2023 test dates available to students. Registration is open for all students for the 2022 SAT dates and will be open for spring 2023 dates in the fall. Take a look at the test dates below and in particular the registration dates attached to those specific dates.

SAT Test Dates '22-'23

Deciding Factors

There are several items to think about when deciding which test date is right for you including, your academic load, sports schedule, extra-curriculars, job schedule, etc. Only you can determine if you are able to handle adding test prep for eight+ weeks on top of your schedule.

Keep in mind, you and your tutor will meet once a week for an hour and a half, plus you will have about 2-3 hours of SAT homework to finish each week before your next tutoring session.

No matter which test date a student chooses, it’s important to prioritize those 8-10 weeks of test prep in order to put your best foot forward for the SAT. If you need help figuring out which test date is best for you and how best to prepare for the test, please reach out to us. Our SAT experts are here to help!

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College Entrance Exam

College Entrance Exams: How colleges know what you scored

If I were to ask 10 different families about the submission process of their student’s ACT or SAT results, I would almost certainly get an equal number of different answers.  How do you know what will be seen by admission professionals and what won’t!?  My philosophy, always assume the college(s) will receive your official scores!  Here are a few key points in which all other assumptions can be effectively null:

  1. Transcripts – For the 89% of students that attend Public schools, expect your high school to submit your scores to colleges on your official transcripts.  There are even a few Private schools that include this info on your transcripts.  In fact, some colleges even accept these as official test scores – as they’re coming from an official source, ie.  not the student, nor the family.
  2. Application – You’ll quickly find out that when submitting College Applications – whether the Common App or to a particular school – it will ask about the student’s academic background and college entrance exams test scores.  At the end of almost every application, the student signs it, declaring the information provided was complete and accurate.  I have known students to have their acceptances remitted because a school found out the information from the application painted a different picture than what truly exists.
  3. Collected – Often times, when students attempt to only send the highest scores, all of their scores are disclosed to a college – again because the college expects a complete and accurate portrayal of the student’s achievements and scores.
  4. Purchased Lists – It seems to be a little known fact, but one of the primary ways in which colleges get a student’s information is from the ACT, SAT, PSAT, and EXPLORE.  Colleges often times purchase student’s information based upon a score range – so even if they don’t know your actual score – they will most likely know a narrow score range in which you fall within.

 

So, how should a student go about sending their scores?  First off – I would recommend taking a FREE Practice Test for both the ACT and SAT – so you can determine a baseline and develop a strategy that is right for the student.  These scores are not recorded in the student record, but provide an accurate measure of the student’s ability with these particular college entrance exams. 

Secondly, I would never recommend that a student take an official test unless they felt prepared and confident in their ability.  While an abnormally low score won’t necessarily affect admission at most universities – why provide any university with a reason to doubt their admission decision?

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ACT Myths

ACT and SAT Myths

Periodically we hear ACT and SAT myths circulating around the Kansas City area, some related to us by parents, others related to us by our students. We’ve collected a few of them here – some to roast, some to verify as truth, but mostly to inform about disinformation. We hope it is helpful!

1. Isn’t the SAT for East and West Coast schools only?

Ah, one of the most popular and longest-lasting myths. Absolutely not.

One of the first items of research for us was actual verification of the fact that not one of the schools in the top 100 of US News and World Report had a preference for a particular test. My staff has personally called every single one of their admissions offices and the answer remains the same: We have no preference.

2. Don’t they take my best scores from various tests and create a “best score” for me?

Depends on the test and depends on the school. For example:

The ACT offers a Superscore – the average of the four best subject scores from each ACT test attempt—and counts it as your official score. However, not all colleges Superscore, so students still have to do their own research when it comes to their college lists.

University of Southern California – takes your best per section on the SAT. So, for example, if I got a 730 Reading, and 770 Math on one test, and a 710 Reading, and 700 Math on another, USC would pick your 730 Reading, and 770 Math to give you a score of 1500. A mythical score based on two different tests, but hey, we’ll take it!

University of California, Los Angeles – only takes your best composite. So, here score choice works well because you can send them your best score after you’re done testing for the last time.

3. Shouldn’t I just take the test over and over and keep trying to do better? I’ve got nothing to lose.

I can’t begin to imagine the stress of taking the ACT or SAT 2-3-4-5 times in the hopes of getting higher scores. Our philosophy is and remains, prep using us or some other prep program, take it once, maybe one more if you want AND need a higher score. Maybe a third time if we are one point away from a scholarship or an athletic spot or if you are trying to Superscore and need a higher score in one particular subject.

It’s not like students have a bunch of time to study for these tests over and over, or a surfeit of Saturday mornings to spend in a classroom for 3.5 hours testing. Three or fewer. That’s our general rule.

Sign up for a free practice test to find out where you stand!

4. Shouldn’t I just take this at the end of my junior year so I don’t stress about it? Junior year is supposed to be the most important year academically, right?

Right motivation, wrong strategy. Absolutely junior year is the year. It’s the toughest, most grueling, most relevant for college admissions.

The answer to this question is not cookie cutter. I can rephrase it to read: “When should we take the test for the first time?”

I would answer that by asking: “When are you most available to prep?”

Some people play sports year round and so summer is a great time for them to prep leading into a September or October test date.

Others prefer to prep in Fall or Spring. The answer depends on your student’s time resources to dedicate to prep. And, if you’re like some of my students, there is never any extra time, so the sooner we start, the better.

As far as prep goes, my only recommendation is to prep towards a given test date. It makes sense to go to summer clinics for sports because you might be competing in tournaments throughout the summer or because you want to keep your skills up for when the season restarts. But to do a test prep class and then not take the real test for months? What can be retained for all those months without constant practice? That’s why we never have classes at Get Smarter Prep without a test date that we are working towards.

Remember, if you ever have any questions about anything regarding standardized testing, feel free to contact our team.

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