Preparation is the key to success

Preparation is the Key to Success

Preparation is the Key to Success

Whether you’re taking your ACT, SAT, AP tests or your History final, when it comes to education and testing, preparation is the key to success.  Here are some ways to be prepared for any class or test:

1)      Get organized.

Have a dedicated binder or folder for each class you are taking. File each class’ notes followed by the assignments related to that material. By keeping your school work organized, you will be able to refer back to your class notes and materials to review the concepts. When you finish your assignment, put it in the appropriate binder to avoid forgetting to take it with you.

It’s also a good idea to keep a calendar at the front of your binder with all your assignment due dates written down. For long term assignments, set a reminder to go off on your phone 2 weeks, 1 week and 3 days before the assignment is due to avoid procrastinating on the project.

2)      Put pencil to paper.

While you’re in class, take notes. When you do your assignments, take notes and show your work. There’s no point in taking notes if you can’t understand them later.

3)      Prepare your materials.

When you do your homework, find an uncluttered work surface, and organize your materials before you begin. Have a pencil (or two) and an eraser handy. Make sure your calculator batteries are working. Get some scratch paper.

4)      Give yourself some time and some quiet.

I know you’re busy. Volunteer hours and extracurricular activities don’t leave as much time for homework as you might like. Write a homework appointment in your schedule, and don’t stand yourself up! By setting aside time for homework each day, you won’t overbook yourself. (Share your calendar with your parents, so they know not to schedule activities over your homework time).

When it’s time to do your assignments, turn off the TV. Silence your phone. Focusing on one thing at a time is a lost art in our multi-tasking, over-stimulated culture, but focusing on one task at a time and eliminating distractions makes you more efficient. Because we aren’t used to focusing on one thing for an extended period of time, this might be hard for you at first. Try this: set a timer for 15 minutes, and work diligently during that time. When the timer goes off, set another timer for 5 minutes, and take a break. Repeat. When focusing for 15 minutes gets easier, gradually increase the work time by five minute increments.

Since everyone has a different learning style, your best method of preparation might look a little different than this. You can learn what your learning style is and learn how to best apply that style to all your classes throughout high school (and on into college) with one of the many Study Skills Tests found online. Study skills like time management, organization, and homework planning will serve you throughout high school and college, and will even be great skills when you enter the work force. Study skills can also cover speed reading, reading comprehension, and writing skills.

For more information about Get Smarter Prep, contact one of our tutors

Read More
Short-falls of Test Optional Policy

Short-falls of Test Optional Policy

Short-falls of Test Optional Policy – Data Driven Approaches Benefit All Students

The newly popularized test optional policy seems super enticing to the average high schooler. No more testing anxiety, or stress over getting the highest score possible, or countless hours devoted to studying and taking practice tests. But despite the test optional policy’s appealing traits, the cons outweigh the pros. There are so many more reasons why standardized tests like the SAT and ACT are, ultimately, our best bet for creating a more equalized and fair college admissions process.


One of the biggest short-falls of the test optional policy is the lack of objectivity. The college admissions process has never been fully objective, but without an ACT or SAT score, universities are left to rely solely on extracurriculars, letters of recommendation, essays, and grades. Letters of recommendation and essays are great for measuring a student’s character, but don’t contribute as accurately to a measurement of a student’s academic readiness for university. And every high school has a different grading system, with different levels of grade inflation and deflation, and different classes offered. Many schools in lower-income areas, for example, don’t have the capacity or the demand to offer as many AP and honors courses as a school in a wealthier area. This affects measures of class rigor and GPA.

Extracurriculars are a difficult measurement as well- many after-school activities cost students and their families a lot of money. Sometimes this looks like spending thousands of dollars a year on sport costs, like a team or club fee, equipment, out-of-town tournaments, etc. But sometimes it is simply that a student spending hours after school playing a sport or acting in a musical or taking part in a science olympiad isn’t feasible due to familial responsibilities. Students might have to work to support their family, or babysit younger siblings. These are the kinds of things that interfere with a student’s ability to create the “perfect” college application. They are also things that wouldn’t necessarily hinder one’s ability to do well on the ACT or SAT.


Another one of the short-falls of the test optional policy is the issue of a lack of transparency in colleges’ and universities’ motives. When a school goes test optional, they are able to raise significantly their average ACT and SAT score ranges. You’ll see a school post that their average ACT range is 29-32, when in reality the average is much lower, but the students scoring lesser are simply going test optional. Higher scores make a school seem more elite, and thus desirable. This earns the university more applicants, resulting in a lower acceptance rate (and more money from application fees!), which furthers this cycle. Going test optional also makes the application process for the student seem a little more accessible.

Schools that someone might have never considered before due to low test scores are suddenly within reach. While there are obvious pros to this, the reality is that thousands of other applicants are thinking the same thing. Students begin applying to more and more schools, spending more money on applications and lowering more schools’ acceptance rates. It makes the entire process so much more competitive. While colleges love the test optional policy, it’s not because they love their students. As with most things in life, the test optional policy tends to benefit the systems, businesses, institutions, corporations, etc. and not a whole lot else.

The truth is that, despite the inevitable stress, standardized tests are really the lesser of college application evils. Through fee waivers, extended time options, tests hosted in schools, and grading on a curve, the testing companies work hard to provide equal access to everyone. And they only take up a few months of a student’s life, as opposed to the years that extracurriculars or clubs might consume. There are few options for completely standardized measures of academic readiness, and while we should always continue to look forward and keep improving, I don’t think we should cross off the ACT and SAT just yet.

Read More
College Summer Prep

Summer College Prep

Summer College Prep! For many students summer means swimming pools, barbecues, camping trips, and general relaxation. For the class of 2024, however, summer is the ideal time to write essays and complete college applications.

Imagine, if you will, going back to high school in August. It’s your senior year. You’re the top dog on campus. It’s your last chance to participate in pep rallies, school plays, and high school sports teams. Your friends start to ask you where you’re going to school next year. Your teachers start to ask you where you’re going to school next year. You still don’t know where you want to apply. Your friends start to get acceptance letters. You start to freak out. Now, in addition to homework, tests, and all your extracurricular activities, you need to find time to complete your college applications.

Now imagine going back to school in August. It’s your senior year. You spent part of the summer deciding which schools would be a good fit for you next year. You honed your essay writing skills. When college applications were available on August 1st, you were ready to go. By the time school started, you were well on your way to completing your applications  Now with pep rallies, school plays, sports and volunteer work vying for your attention, you’re so glad that you have your college applications done  By the time winter break rolls around, you already know where you’re going to school next year. You no longer dread the question “where are you going to college?” because you know the answer.

Which student would you rather be?

Get Smarter Prep can help you navigate the college application process with ease. Learn what majors and careers are a good fit for you. Get help narrowing down your college list to the top schools that fit your personality. Learn to write a college essay that admissions officers won’t easily forget.

By starting early on your applications, you not only reduce your potential stress levels, but you also have a better shot at getting the money you need for the school you want. All financial aid has a deadline, and some aid is given on a first come, first served basis. Plus, a lot of scholarships require an essay submission, so it is beneficial for you to have an essay you can be proud of.

You can still hit the pool this summer, but don’t forget to take a break for your college applications!

Read More
Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Affirmative action in college admissions has been a topic of debate and discussion for many years. With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina cases, affirmative action in college admissions has been decided. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of affirmative action, its purpose, and the arguments for and against its implementation in college admissions.

What is Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action refers to policies and practices that aim to provide equal opportunities for historically disadvantaged groups, particularly in education and employment sectors. It is designed to address the disparities and inequalities that certain minority groups have faced historically. Affirmative Action was signed into law on March 6, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.

The Purpose of Affirmative Action in College Admissions

The primary goal of affirmative action in college admissions is to promote diversity and inclusion within educational institutions. By considering an applicant’s race, ethnicity, or socio-economic background, colleges and universities aim to create a student body that reflects the diversity of our society. Proponents argue that diversity leads to a richer learning environment, fosters greater cultural understanding, and prepares students for a diverse workforce and globalized world.

Arguments for Affirmative Action

  1. Promoting Equal Opportunities: Advocates of affirmative action argue that historical injustices and systemic discrimination still put certain minority groups at a disadvantage. By giving preferential treatment to these groups, affirmative action seeks to level the playing field and provide equal opportunities for all.
  2. Diversity Benefits Everyone: Proponents argue that a diverse student body enhances the educational experience for all students. Exposing students to a variety of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds fosters critical thinking, empathy, and cultural understanding, which are essential skills in an increasingly interconnected world.
  3. Compensating for Structural Inequities: Affirmative action acknowledges the disadvantages that minority communities have faced due to systemic racism, discrimination, and limited access to quality education. It aims to rectify these issues by prioritizing underrepresented groups in college admissions.

Arguments Against Affirmative Action

  1. Reverse Discrimination: Critics argue that considering race or ethnicity in admissions decisions can lead to reverse discrimination. They claim that qualified students from different races might be denied admission in favor of less qualified candidates solely based on their race or ethnicity.
  2. Merit-Based Admissions: Opponents argue that college admissions should be solely based on merit, such as academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and personal qualities. They contend that affirmative action undermines meritocracy and places unfair emphasis on factors that may not be directly related to an applicant’s abilities.
  3. Stigmatization and Tokenism: Critics claim that affirmative action can often lead to stigmatization and tokenism, where minority students may feel that they were admitted only to fulfill diversity quotas rather than based on their individual merits and accomplishments.

What does this mean for students applying to college?

It’s too early to tell how colleges applications will be impacted, but students applying for colleges may see changes in the application process. For example, colleges may place a heavier focus on essays. Students are still able to note ethnicity and race in their essays. Although essays are on an individual level, students can craft well-written essays to indicate the effect that race or socio-economic background has had on their experience.

Objective Requirements

There are still objective requirements that most institutions will consider as part of the application process. These objective requirements typically include:

  1. High School Transcript: Colleges will request your high school transcript, which includes your academic records, grades, and course selections. This provides an overview of your academic performance throughout high school.
  2. Test Scores: Many colleges require standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, as part of the application. These tests measure your knowledge and skills in areas like math, reading, and writing. Some colleges may have specific score requirements for admission.
  3. Letters of Recommendation: Colleges often request letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, or other individuals who can speak to your academic abilities, character, and potential for success in college. These letters provide insight into your strengths and achievements beyond your academic record.
  4. Essay or Personal Statement: Many colleges require an essay or personal statement as part of the application. This gives you an opportunity to showcase your writing skills, express your motivations for attending college, and provide context to your experiences and goals.
  5. Extracurricular Activities: Colleges are interested in your involvement outside of the classroom. They may request information about your extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, community service, or leadership roles. These activities can demonstrate your interests, skills, and contributions to your community.
  6. Application Fee: Most colleges require an application fee, which covers the administrative costs of reviewing and processing applications. However, fee waivers are often available for students who demonstrate financial need.

It’s important to note that these requirements can vary from college to college. Some institutions may have additional requirements, such as interviews or portfolios for specific programs. Additionally, colleges may have different weightings for each requirement, placing more emphasis on certain aspects of the application.           

Affirmative action in college admissions is a complex and controversial topic. It aims to rectify historical injustices and promote diversity in educational institutions. While proponents argue that it provides equal opportunities and fosters a rich learning environment, critics raise concerns about reverse discrimination and the undermining of merit-based admissions. The debate surrounding affirmative action is likely to continue, as the goal of achieving equal and inclusive educational opportunities remains an ongoing challenge.

Allow our professionals to help you make sure each portion of your applications is complete & ready to submit to your college list. No need to worry that you aren’t putting your best foot forward any longer! Start the process today!

Read More
Meredith Vaughn

My College Application Process

My college application process was pretty chaotic- I ended up applying to 19 schools. I thought applying everywhere I was even remotely considering would give me the best spread of options when it came time to make a decision. Instead, I found myself spread way too thin, and I ended up getting rejected from most of the more competitive schools. Looking back, I think the two biggest components of the application process are demonstrating interest and wanting schools that want you. I wish I had devoted more energy and effort to pursuing these qualities more deeply in a smaller number of schools.

Demonstrating Interest

When you apply to 10+ schools like I did, you can’t put a lot into each application. Colleges can’t see how many schools someone is applying to, but they can see which students are spending the most time on their websites. They can see which students are reaching out to admissions counselors, and doing online tours, and opening their emails. Focusing on a few select schools allows you the ability to commit to this more fully.

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 68% of colleges utilize demonstrated interest in their admission process. Some demonstrated interest involves expensive endeavors, like traveling to take in-person tours, or paying for the colleges’ summer camps. But there are plenty of easy, free ways to demonstrate interest that can have just as much of an impact. 

Here are some of the easiest ways to show a college you’re serious about going there:

  • Open emails from the school
  • Click on the links included in these emails
  • Follow the school on social media
  • Fill out any contact or interest forms they offer on their website
  • Take a virtual tour, or attend virtual information sessions
  • Reach out to an admissions counselor

          Basically, your goal is to get the college to notice you. Sending a few emails, even if they’re just to ask easy questions, puts you on a school’s radar and gives you an advantage over your peers. If, at the end of an admissions process, a college comes down to deciding between two equal candidates, they are always going to choose the person who they think wants to go to their school more. Demonstrating interest means making sure you’re that person.

          Ultimately, you should be learning as much as you can about your top schools anyway. Figure out what classes you would take, or what clubs you would join. Look into special programs, or opportunities for research or internships. Let yourself get excited about the school. It will help you gauge whether it’s really the right place for you, and it makes the application process way more fun.

          Wanting a School that Wants You

          Wanting a school that wants you is vital. This usually goes hand-in-hand with being financially practical, too, which is a big plus. When a school wants you to be there, they are going to go out of their way to pave the road so that you can be their student, whether that means offering more scholarships, or providing opportunities for smaller, more supportive groups within a larger school. This is something I wish I had understood better when I was applying: you hold a lot of power as an applicant, and there’s nothing wrong with using it to get what you want. Acting as if you are a valuable and noteworthy candidate will make a school think so too.

          Toward the end of my college application process, I had narrowed my choices down to SMU and UT-Austin. UT was the more prestigious option. Lower admission rate, higher rankings, more well-known. It was also going to be 60k a year, and I would have been middle of the pack among my peers. It isn’t self-defeating of me to admit I wasn’t wanted by UT. They had thousands of students ready to step in and fill my spot the second I backed out, and if I had encountered problems as a student there, I would have had to demand and fight for the resources I needed. Choosing UT-Austin would have meant, for me, 4 years of financial strain and constant vying for attention from the administration, with few opportunities to stand out or excel. 

          SMU was, initially, a school I hadn’t even wanted to apply to (proof that listening to your mom pays off). But, despite the school holding nicknames like “Southern Millionaires University,” SMU ironically ended up super affordable. They offered me 4 or 5 smaller scholarships that, combined, made a pretty big difference. And when I reached out requesting more financial help, an advisor was quick to find the necessary funds.

          They also offered me a spot in a smaller program- the Dedman Scholars Program– that provides an invaluable support system. With only 10-20 students per grade, the program allows access to a plethora of vital resources and gives students the opportunity to seek more personalized and accessible help, either from one of the four leaders or a member of their student-led leadership board. Plus, they host monthly social events! It makes the school feel small in all of the right ways. 

          I don’t think choosing the cheapest option is necessarily the best approach. But when a school goes out of their way to enable or compete for your attendance, especially financially, it’s a pretty sure sign that they want you at their school, and they won’t just abandon you as soon as you buy into their system. The more a college has invested in a student, the harder they are going to work to ensure that student’s success.

          It’s a tricky balance, trying to find a school that is going to want you enough to meet your needs, while also getting you to where you want to go. It depends on your field of study too- this is way more pertinent to liberal arts majors than a more STEM-focused student. But for me, at least, the school that wanted to meet my needs was the school that was going to get me the furthest. The way I see it, it’s easier to succeed when you feel like the people around you want you to succeed too.  

          For help applying to colleges, reach out to one of our tutors. We are happy to help you along your college application process. 

          Read More
          College Scholarship Search

          College Scholarship Search

          Where and when should students apply for scholarships? Generally, students should begin applying for scholarships in the summer between their junior and senior year. Starting the process in the summer gives students the ability to organize their thoughts, research which scholarships they qualify for and start thinking about who to ask for letters of recommendation. Students usually have more time in the summer than in the school year, which makes the process easier to manage.

          Another important aspect of this process is the scholarship essays. Well-crafted essays may be the key to getting the scholarship you need. Essays range from leadership essays to essays about volunteering to essays about yourself! We’d be happy to help you craft stories that help set you apart from the crowd and increase your chances of acceptance.

          While there are thousands of scholarships out there to apply for, it’s hard to pinpoint which ones to go after. So, where should students start? Before summer begins, a great place to start your search is with your school counselor. They will have numerous resources to get you going. If you’ve narrowed down your college search, you can also see if those specific colleges have scholarships available.

          Places to start your scholarship search:

          • a high school counselor.
          • the financial aid office at a college or career school.
          • the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool.
          • federal agencies.
          • your state grant agency
          • foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups
          • organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest
          • ethnicity-based organizations
          • your employer or your parents’ employers

          Merit-based vs. financial need

          Some of the scholarships you will apply for are merit-based, which means you earn them by meeting certain standards set by the scholarship-giver. Merit-based scholarships can be awarded on several different items including academic achievement, talent, interests, or traits.

          Financial need scholarships are based on the difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a school and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). For more information about Demonstrated Financial Need or to take a better look at Expected Family Contribution, visit our blog about Demonstrated Financial Need

          Keep in mind, every scholarship is different and has different monetary values. Some scholarships may be $250 and other scholarships may pay for your entire tuition.

          Our Tutors are here to help students better understand their goals and needs, provide insights to college admissions, and get them started down the best path. Reach out to us today.


          Read More
          Between Sophomore and Junior Year

          Between Sophomore and Junior Year

          The summer between sophomore and junior year is an important time for high school students to focus on their academic and personal growth. Here are some things that students should consider focusing on during this time:

          Preparing for Standardized Tests:

          Students should consider using the summer to prepare for standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT. This could include taking practice tests, which we highly recommend to establish a baseline score. Get Smarter Prep offers Free Practice Tests every Saturday morning. After establishing their score, we would recommend figuring out the best way to prepare for the test, which could include an ACT Prep Course, Semi-Private or Private Tutoring

          Exploring Career Interests:

          The summer is a great time for students to explore their career interests. Students could participate in internships, job shadowing, or volunteer work in fields that interest them. Take this summer in particular to lean in and find out what you enjoy and what you want to steer clear from, since next summer students will most likely be busy taking college campus tours!  

          Building a Strong Academic Profile:

          Students should aim to take challenging courses during their junior year, so the summer is a great time to prepare for these courses. This could include reading books related to the courses, taking online classes, or reviewing material from previous classes.

          Developing Leadership Skills:

          Students should consider getting involved in leadership roles during the summer. This could include volunteering for community service projects, participating in leadership programs, or starting a club or organization.

          Pursuing Personal Interests:

          The summer is also a great time for students to pursue personal interests that they may not have time for during the school year. This could include learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, or participating in sports. Also, make sure to relax and enjoy the summer. Go to the lake, hang out with friends and family or stay inside away from the heat and humidity to enjoy your favorite show. 

          Overall, the summer between sophomore and junior year is a time for students to focus on their personal and academic growth. By using this time wisely, students can set themselves up for success during their junior year and beyond.

          Read More
          2023-24 SAT Test Dates

          2023-24 SAT Test Dates

          CollegeBoard (Creator of the SAT) has rolled out the anticipated 2023-24 SAT Test Dates. Registration deadlines, deadline for changes, regular cancellation, and late registration have not yet been announced. However, now is a great time to start thinking about which test dates may be a good fit for you. Take a look at your class schedule, extracurriculars, and mental capability to see where you can fit in the SAT. Keep in mind, you’ll want to start SAT prep anywhere between 8-12 weeks before the test date.

          2023-24 Test Dates

          Our tutors are ready to help you reach your SAT goals. Get Smarter Prep offers Private Tutoring for the SAT. Contact our tutors today to start preparing for the 2023-24 SAT Test Dates.

          Read More