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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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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Setting a Goal

Setting A Goal

It’s one of the main questions we ask every single one of our students before we start any kind of ACT prep. What’s your goal? Why do you want that goal? Is it because you’re trying to get into a certain college or are you trying to obtain a scholarship? Either way, having a goal in mind makes it a lot easier to distinguish what to do and what not to do when students start preparing for the ACT.

When do I choose a goal?

As soon as possible. Keep in mind, that may look different for every student. However, for the majority of students the best time to start preparing is the end of sophomore year or beginning of Junior year. It also depends on your academics and which classes you’ve already taken in high school. The math portion of the ACT is heavy in Algebra, so if a student is taking Algebra II as a sophomore, then end of your sophomore year is a perfect time to start. If you are a Junior and taking Algebra II, then the end of your Junior year is more appropriate.

If you already have a college or university in mind and know what type of ACT score you need for admittance, then you might be a step ahead of everyone else. Or, if you need a certain ACT score for a scholarship, that is a fantastic reason to reach your goal!

The best way to start preparing early is to take a Free Practice Test to establish a baseline score. We offer those every Saturday morning at Get Smarter Prep. Once you have a baseline, we can determine how best to prepare for the ACT. Some students may need a full 15-hour Private Tutorial to reach the highest score possible. Other students are a good fit for one of our Standard or Advanced Courses. We won’t know how best to prepare until a baseline is established, so take advantage of our practice tests.

Why set a goal?

Setting a goal is one of the most assured ways of meeting a goal. A Harvard Business study revealed amazing statistics relating to goal setting and success. The study found that 14% who have goals are 10 times more successful than those without goals. Go ahead and write down your goals and then share them with your tutor, parents, and those who are supportive of your goals.

Is my goal realistic?

That depends. Are you willing to shift activities around to accommodate sessions, complete homework, and put in the effort? Our tutors have seen increases up to 12+ points for students who are dedicated to their goals. If a student only wants a 2-3 point increase, the same dedication applies to the student who wants a larger increase, it may just look a little different. It depends on the level of tutor, the length of test prep, and if students are willing to put in the work to meet or exceed their goals.

If you’re having a difficult time setting a goal or don’t know what a good goal should be, then contact us. We are happy to help students figure out what an appropriate goal is for them and work towards reaching that goal!

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Get Smarter Prep Partners with Tamara Day

Get Smarter Prep Partners with Tamara Day

Get Smarter Prep today announced a new partnership with Tamara Day. This partnership will help local students and parents meet and exceed their goals for college by learning proper techniques and methods to study better, retain knowledge, and prepare for their future.

“We are thrilled to work with the Day family and help the boys reach their educational goals,” says Caleb Pierce, President at Get Smarter Prep. “The college prep process can be confusing for most families, and we are glad that our amazing team can be a reliable resource to families.”

“My husband and I work full time, and with four kids, our evenings were total chaos between homework, practices, and events. Homework was by far the most stressful part.,” says Tamara Day, Host of HGTV’s Bargain Mansions and Owner of Growing Days. “Get Smarter Prep has lifted that weight off of our shoulders. We know our boys are getting the guidance they need, and our world is peaceful again!”

By working with Tamara, we hope to help even more students reach their potential by understanding the college prep process and clearly identify steps they need to take in high school to make college preparation not only understandable, but more importantly, attainable.

About Get Smarter Prep:

At Get Smarter Prep, our goal is to customize students learning experiences to help them score better, and the techniques and methods we teach will help students going forward into college. Our tutors help build up confidence, beat test anxiety, and identify strengths & areas students want to improve.

About Tamara Day:

Designer Tamara Day is a purveyor of the glam and cozy. This busy wife and mother of four styles for the spirited home, mixing glam, comfort, and family. Tamara’s sense of style and eye for what works has created an insatiable demand for her interior design expertise, furniture and décor. On HGTV’s Bargain Mansions, Tamara and her crew transform big, old houses that she finds at bargain prices. Tamara also owns Growing Days, her interior design, furniture, décor and lifestyle business.

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ACT Prep

It’s that time of the year again. School is starting, students are getting back into the swing of things, the weather is starting to cool down (okay maybe yet not in the Kansas City metro) and students are starting to think about the next step towards college. To be honest, that’s going to look different for freshman that it is for sophomores than it is for juniors and last, but not least, seniors. We’ve put together a road map to college as a visual to guide students through their high school career. Not sure where to start? Look at the roadmap.

Road Map to College

Freshman Year

A great place to begin is by building a resume as a freshman. Keep track of your classes, make notes of the courses you liked and didn’t like, put a star next to your favorite teacher. Your resume doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect and polished, but make sure you take notes. You’ll thank yourself in three years.

Sophomore Year

As a sophomore, your classes may start getting a bit more difficult and the thought of college a little closer. How best to prepare? Keep going. Keep taking classes that challenge you and keep getting good grades. Join a club, volunteer, try out for a sport. Keep in mind, you should be including all of these opportunities in your resume. If you’ve taken Algebra II as a sophomore, the end of the school year is a good time to start thinking about the ACT. You can take a practice ACT test at Get Smarter Prep to establish a baseline score. We offer Free Practice ACT tests every Saturday morning.

Junior Year – ACT Prep

Okay, we’re going to say it: Your Junior year of high school is important. It’s the time in your high school career when students start preparing for the ACT, put together college lists, and perhaps start visiting colleges. If you didn’t take Algebra II as a sophomore, then you will take it as a Junior, which is important because the math section of the ACT is heavy in Algebra. We have multiple options to start preparing for the ACT including courses with set curriculum, Semi-Private Tutoring and Private Tutoring.

Senior Year

Senior year and the countdown is on! If you still need to increase your ACT score, the first semester is the best time for ACT Prep so you can crush the ACT and get to your ACT goal. Hopefully as a senior, you have a college list prepared, you are working on your college essays, and are ready to start applying to some of those colleges. Then sit back and enjoy the rest of high school!

At Get Smarter Prep, we are here to help. We want every student who walks through our doors to succeed. Whether that means a 2-point ACT increase, 5-point ACT increase or help with college essays, our tutors are readily available to help students reach their goals.

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Common App Essay Update

Common App Essay Update

If there is one thing the pandemic has taught nearly everyone, it’s that there is room in your life to focus on other people. Be outward focused. Get groceries for your elderly neighbor. Self-isolate if you’re feeling sick. Be nice and say kind things to others. Reflect on what you can positively do for other people and be thankful for what others do for you.

Common App has certainly taken this into consideration when creating a new essay prompt.

“Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?”

They retired the seldom used option about solving a problem.

Here’s what Common App President & CEO Jenny Rickard has to say, “Particularly at this challenging time, we can help students think about something positive and heartfelt in their lives,” she explains. “And we can do it explicitly.”

Below is the full set of essay prompts for 2021-2022.


  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?

  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

If you have “extra” time in the summer or on the weekends, take a look at the essay prompts and start thinking of your response. Once you’ve thought about it, quickly jot your thoughts down. From there, take a few more minutes to mindfully construct a paragraph. Once it’s time to sit down and write your essay, you will already have a good portion of the essay already written. After that, it’s only a matter of fine tuning before you have a beautifully written essay.

If you need help crafting a well written essay, our college experts are here to help. Learn more about college essay writing here


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