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.

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Upcoming Events

Advice for the Upcoming Digital SAT

The SAT is currently in the process of transitioning from its current format to a new digital version. Here are some key facts about the timeline of the change and how it might impact your (or your student’s) prep process. 

For more information about the difference between the two tests, please check out this post.


You may have heard that the SAT will soon transition to a digital format. Indeed, the transition has already begun. International students taking the SAT this semester (spring 2023) will take the digital version of the test.

For US students, the fall 2023 PSAT will be digital, and the digital version of the SAT will be administered starting in spring 2024.

What does this mean for students? 

Class of 2024

For students in the class of 2024, the digital version will likely not be a concern. These students took their PSAT in the fall of 2022. Future SAT administrations in the spring and fall of 2023 will all be using the current (paper) version of the test. This includes all test dates through December 2, 2023. Most students will complete any standardized testing for their college applications during that first semester of senior year. 

Class of 2025

Things get a bit more complicated for the class of 2025. These students will be taking the digital PSAT/NMSQT in October of 2023. We generally don’t recommend PSAT prep, as it isn’t a great use of time and resources for the overwhelming majority of students. 

However, if we do recommend PSAT prep for a student, we often suggest they take the SAT that is closest to that PSAT date, to make the most of the preparation time they have spent. For the class of 2025, though, the SAT administrations surrounding their PSAT will be quite different. Preparing for the (new) PSAT will not translate directly into preparing for the (old) SAT.

Our recommendations are always tailored to individual students, and we encourage you to reach out to us with questions! But the class of 2025 will be dealing with both versions of the test; the new, digital version will be what they see on the PSAT and in the spring of their junior year, while the old, paper version will be the tests administered during the fall of their junior year. This will make SAT prep for these students more complicated, and might be one of many factors that leads students to consider the ACT instead. 

Class of 2026

For the class of 2026, we would not recommend students begin their prep process until the spring of 2024 at the earliest (the end of their sophomore year). By this point, the transition to the digital SAT will be complete. 

At this point, the major concern for students interested in the SAT becomes the availability of practice materials. Any time a test is redesigned, a lot of the available material becomes obsolete. For a student who is already near their goal, this is less of a concern, but for a student hoping for a significant improvement, they might work through the available resources quickly and then be left scrambling for practice material. This will be a significant consideration in our recommendations for the class of 2026, and possibly beyond, depending on how much additional material is made available moving forward. 

SAT timeline

As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you have about these changes and what they mean for you! 

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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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This year has been rough for a thousand reasons! Let’s think about last January, which seems like a million years ago at this point. Students went back to school after Winter Break, some were already prepping for the February ACT, other students were active in sports and living their best life.

Fast forward to mid-March when the world paused. In-person school was done for the year, all extra-curriculars were canceled, Continuous Learning started at the end of March, beginning of April, and quarantine began.

Even when school started back up in September, it began three weeks later for most student. Some schools went hybrid, some went virtual, and a few, more rural schools, went in-person. So how can students get ahead and keep track of everything they are supposed to accomplishing this year?


Focus on the goal. Whether that means getting the ACT score you need for your reach school, excelling in virtual school, or taking the ACT for the first time. Set goals and start slowly moving towards the goals you’ve written down. Goals usually aren’t accomplished overnight. They take time.

If there is one thing we’ve all learned from COVID-19, it’s that we can’t plan more than a month ahead at a time, sometimes not even a week! That doesn’t mean your goals are squashed. There may be obstacles along the way, but if you’re passionate about those goals, they will slowly come into focus. Keep moving forward one step at a time.

We’ve had students who’ve studied for an ACT and the day before the test, their test site cancelled the test due to COVID-19. Those students put in 8-10 weeks of prep to be hugely disappointed hours before their test. However, they kept on going. They kept on preparing, they came into Office Hours, they studied and were diligent about taking the ACT. Every one of those students ended up taking an ACT months after they first started studying, but they did it. Their focus and drive led them to accomplish what they set out to do.

If you need help setting goals or need tangible steps to accomplish those goals, contact us! We are passionate about helping and empowering students achieve their best.

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A Road Map to Success

A Road Map to Success

High school can be confusing for many reasons, but at Get Smarter Prep, we want the road to success to be clear. That’s why we’ve created a Road Map to Success to help students put their best foot forward and easily navigate the college preparation process. From Middle School to the career you’ve always dreamed of, we are here to help you along the way.

Road Map to College

Middle School

Starting in Middle School, specifically seventh grade, students may be invited to be a part of Duke TIP, which is for a program for students who qualify for the 7th Grade Talent Search by scoring in the top 5th percentile on grade-level state standardized tests. If you are chosen, it will give you opportunity to be recognized for your academic talent and give access to multiple resources to help students connect with contests, scholarships, and other programs.

The eighth grade is when you want to start thinking about High School placement tests. If a student has been in a private school or home schooled and going to a public school for the ninth grade, then you must take a High School placement test. Check with your school and see if they offer the test, chances are they do.

If studying simply overwhelms you and you have no idea how to tackle subject tests or need direction learning how to properly study, then study skills tutoring is a great fit for you and something to consider. Now is the perfect time to obtain the skills it takes to study efficiently and properly.

High School

It’s time to dig into your classes and put your best foot forward. Every grade will count towards your overall Grade Point Average (GPA) and be a big part of what colleges and universities look at when considering applicants. 


Freshman year is a great time to start putting together your resume. Make a note of all the different clubs, organizations, volunteer groups, and awards you receive throughout your high school career. Starting your resume as a Freshman will give you a clear view of what you’ve accomplished and save you time from trying to remember what you’ve done throughout your entire high school career. 


If you are taking Pre-Calc or Calculus a good time to take the ACT/SAT is at the end of Sophomore year. Otherwise, plan key activities, take leadership roles within clubs, start thinking about visiting colleges, and make sure you are concentrating on your grades. 


If taking Algebra II take the ACT/SAT anytime your Junior year.  Get Smarter Prep offers multiple options for test prep including our ACT Course, Semi-Private Tutoring, and Private Tutoring.

Do not slack on your grades. We know your Junior year is super busy, but earning good grades throughout the year is so important! By now, you should have great study habits and effective time management, therefore your grades should be steady.


If you haven’t gotten the ACT score you need for the school you want, you have a couple more opportunities to achieve your goal. Once you’ve grabbed the ACT score you’ve been studying for, start the college application process. Don’t forget to maintain your good grades, volunteer, and of course, have fun! 

Sometime between your Sophomore and Senior year, you’ll want to start think about the college application process, from building a college list, to crafting your best essays, to submitting the button on your college applications. Students often find it helping to take a career/major assessment that will gauge your learning style, interests, personality, and career focus. A counselor will go over the results of your assessment and discuss possibilities and paths through your feedback and conversation – discussing careers, as well as possible majors.

Your Road Map to Success doesn’t have to stop after high school nor should it stop after high school! After you get into the college of your dreams, there are other options such as preparing for the LSAT, GRE, MCAT, GMAT or just study skills tutorials. Get Smarter Prep offers classes and private tutoring to help our students succeed through all walks of life.

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