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Does a High ACT Score = Freshman Year Success?

Standardized testing, such as the ACT, is a major factor in the college planning process. Most colleges require either an ACT or SAT before considering admission to their schools. Does a higher ACT score mean you’ll have more success your first year in college?

 

A higher ACT score may equal a more selective school, however there are more items to put into this basket such as your Grade Point Average (GPA), extracurricular activities, how stellar your college essay is, if you chose to volunteer throughout the past four years, if you took AP classes and how well you did in those classes, etc. A fantastic score on the ACT could make you a more impressive candidate for scholarships, especially those based on merit and academic achievements, but your score is one out of a number of items that colleges look at.

 

If you are scoring a composite score of 30 or higher, you’re already in the top 2% of high school graduates. The chances of getting selected into a top-tier school will be higher with greater ACT scores. Is a 4.0 GPA better or 35 composite ACT score better? Colleges look at both. Your GPA is more reflective on how hard you’ve worked over your high school career. Your ACT score can be a good indicator of how much you’ve studied for the ACT in general. Some students spend months studying for the ACT. Other students totally wing it (which we don’t recommend).

How does a high ACT score affect my freshman year of college?

Once you’ve selected your school and been accepted, what role does the ACT play in your first year of college? Most likely, if you received a high ACT score, you’ve taken challenging, higher-level courses in high school which is associated with increases in students’ chances of success in first-year courses. You’re ready to tackle college courses because you’ve taken tough classes in high school. If you have a high GPA, that means you’ve had success in the AP and higher level classes.

 

One of the biggest challenges that lies ahead of you is translating those stellar grades from high school to college. It’s easy to lose focus in college, since you’ve already been accepted, however, if you’ve received an academic scholarship there is far more to lose than you may imagine. Now is the time to focus on the same good habits you’ve created in high school such as attending class, completing your homework on time, attending study hall or office hours, and asking for help when you need help.

Conclusion:

Yes, a higher ACT score can be an indicator into how ready you are for college courses. However, just as colleges factor in more than your ACT score, freshman year success is more than just attending classes (there can be a lot of distractions). One surefire way to have success your first year of college is to stay focused on your schoolwork, which will ultimately translate into good grades and securing your academic scholarship for your second year in college.

 

To The Class of 2020

Your Sophomore Year is most likely going to be awesome!  You may start to think about college in the aspect that it’s not too far away and you have to start to prepare soon, but nothing really has to be done right now…right?!?  Actually, now is the perfect time to start taking action steps towards college.  Here are five tangible goals to achieve your sophomore year: Continue to do well in school, take as many AP classes as possible, join clubs and sports teams that interest you (don’t sign-up for everything!), develop a list of potential colleges you would like to attend, and lastly, take a practice ACT or SAT test. Let’s further break down those steps.

 

Step One: Continue to do well in school. This one seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, some high school sophomores seem to fall into a slump often pegged, “the sophomore slump”.  Students find their stride as sophomores and are content with their classes, schedule, and homework levels.  Some students tend to hit cruise control and coast through the year. After all, everyone knows you take the ACT/SAT next year and get “really serious” about looking at colleges as a Junior. Not true. Now is the time to focus on your grades to build the foundation you’ve already set as a freshman. Sophomores need to at least maintain, if not improve their grades to set the standard for the rest of their high school career.

 

Step Two: Take as many AP classes as possible. Taking AP classes is a great way to beef up your high school resume and challenge you throughout your high school career. These college-level classes are a great way to gain experience that colleges will recognize on your high school transcript. If you can maintain a good grade in these rigorous classes they are worth it.  However, if you find they are bringing down your grades, which will lead to a lower grade point average, then it may not be worth your time.  Know your limits and decide if it’s right for you.

 

Step Three: Join clubs and sports teams that interest you.  Let me preface, I didn’t say sign up for every club and sports team imaginable.  Only sign up for ones that you are genuinely interested in and you will enjoy. If you sign up for everything, you will get burned out, especially if you are keeping your grades up and challenging yourself with AP classes.  Start an activity resume you can use in a college interview and applications process. Activities are an intricate part of athletic recruiting and fine arts opportunities. Don’t be afraid to join a club that isn’t well-known or popular. If that’s what piques your interest, go ahead and join! Colleges will find a lesser-known club perhaps more interesting than a well-known club half of the college applicants are a part of. Stay interesting!

 

Step Four: Develop a list of potential colleges you would like to attend.  Start with local colleges, state colleges, ivy-league colleges, or just a college based on location! The point is to start looking to see which schools you may be interested in. Many factors play into deciding on a college that’s right for you, such as a college major, size of college, location of college, religious beliefs, your own ACT/SAT score and/or GPA. Create a list that is both realistic and challenging for you.  Resist the urge to settle for a school that’s so-so.  As a sophomore, you have time to increase your GPA, study for the ACT/SAT, take AP classes, and join clubs, but if you don’t have a list of potential colleges, what’s the point of working so diligently?

 

Step Five: Take a practice ACT or SAT test.  Get Smarter Prep offers Free Practice Tests every Saturday morning. There is no excuse not to take a practice test.  The purpose of a practice test is to offer a baseline score of where you stand with either the ACT or the SAT. Are you much stronger in the math section than the reading section?  Or do you score evenly in English, Math, Reading, and Science? How do you feel about the timing piece of the test? Did you feel rushed on the ACT, but not the SAT? Are you comfortable with the score you received on the practice test or do you need tutoring? These are all questions we can give you answers to after you take a practice test. Plus, it’s always a bonus to take a practice test before the real deal to become more comfortable and acquainted with the type of questions the test makers are looking for. Sign up for a practice test today. 

 

Is your sophomore year going to be the best year for you in high school?  Of course we can’t answer that question, but we want you to be aware of the potential your sophomore year has on your college process. Now is the time to start planning for your future. Good luck!

Attending College in the EU

Making the Most of Winter Break

Finally, winter break has arrived! There is time to breathe, to sleep, and to think.

Also to study, spend time with friends and family, travel… a Winter Break To-Do List can become rather unwieldy, especially if you don’t have a clear plan. But managed carefully, winter break can provide the extra time you need to get caught up on everything from sleep to college applications. Here are some tips for making your winter break as enjoyable, and productive, as possible.

First, make a list or plan of what you want to accomplish. You may not be much of a list person, and that’s OK! Your list could be as simple as “sleep 9 hours per night. Finish college applications.” (January 1 is just around the corner!) Time can seem to evaporate when you don’t have a plan, so having a sense of your goals is important. Break up each goal into small, manageable sections, so that you’re not panicking the last night of break about how much work remains.

Try to be realistic when making your plans.  If you plan to catch up on your reading, visit two colleges, and travel to visit out-of-town family, this may not be the time to learn oil painting or start your own podcast. Similarly, if you plan to work on applications for an hour a day, keep in mind that you may not get that time on, say, Christmas day.

At the same time, keep a “no thanks” in your pocket for events or invitations that might not fit into your schedule. While we all have obligations that are pretty mandatory this time of year, if you’re feeling swamped, take a good look at everything on your calendar and ask yourself if you might politely extricate yourself from something in order to facilitate the rest of your agenda, even if that’s just getting enough sleep.

Some things you might consider including in your list of goals: catching up on (or even getting ahead on) school work in a challenging course, working on your college list (for juniors) or finishing up last-minute applications (for seniors).

You could spend some time researching and applying for scholarships, summer programs or internships. If you’re a Junior who hasn’t yet begun to prepare for the ACT or SAT, now is a great time to start with a practice test.

Getting caught up on sleep should be a priority, especially if you’ve been skimping to get through exams. Sleep can help you focus, be more efficient, and even affect how well your flu shot works.

Finally, try to make time for something fun that you might not have time for when school is in session. Check out a museum exhibit, like Pompeii at Union Station, Amazing Species at PrairieFire, or the Senior Art Exhibit at Park University. Go ice skating, drink some hot cocoa, or visit the penguins at the zoo. Whatever you choose, aim for a balance of rest, fun, and productivity to make sure you’re refreshed and ready for 2017.

By Audrey Hazzard, Premier-Level Tutor

An Opportunity You Haven’t Considered: Studying in the UK

The arrival of Fall means football, cool weather, and pumpkin spice lattes.  It also means it is time for seniors to start applying to colleges, and for juniors to realize that they will need to know where they want to apply.  For many people, that will mean taking I-70 west to either Lawrence or Manhattan or east to Columbia. 

But what about those who want to get a bit farther away?

Sure, you could go to St. Louis or Chicago, or even San Francisco or Boston.  By the time you’ve gone that far from home, you might as well go to a different country, right?

Exactly!

For many students, getting a degree in the United Kingdom, or elsewhere in Europe, makes perfect sense.  While it may sound like a bit of a pipe dream, there are a number of great reasons to do so:

  • With a few exceptions, you won’t have to take any tests that you weren’t already preparing for. AP and SAT subject exams are the basis of many UK admissions decisions, and the team at Get Smarter Prep is happy to help make sure you do your best!
  • Most obviously, a bachelor’s degree in Europe takes three years to earn. That is not with any AP or dual-enrollment credit, or with spending your summers on campus.  Three years is the standard length to earn a BA.  Some degrees take a bit longer, but they are the exception.
  • There is no concept of general education, or pre-law or pre-medicine for that matter. If you want to be a doctor, you start studying medicine right out of high school!  The degree transfers back to allow you to do your residency in the United States.  Meanwhile, while states have different requirements on permitting foreign-educated lawyers to practice, most of the major legal markets do permit foreign-trained lawyers (for example, Kansas does not, but Missouri, Illinois, California, New York, and Washington, DC all do).
  • British universities are among the best in the world. While there are typically more US universities on the list, Oxford and Cambridge are almost always near the very top.  Plenty of other great universities, like the London School of Economics and St. Andrews, make up the British educational system.  Also, if you are competitive, you stand a good shot of getting in based on the fact that few Americans study for an undergraduate degree abroad – 15% of Americans who apply to Cambridge are admitted, compared to 5.2% of Harvard applicants and only 4.7% of applicants to Stanford.
  • It is difficult to beat the international experience of earning a degree abroad. Unlike a one semester study abroad, you will become immersed in a completely different culture, with plenty of opportunities to travel further. While a weekend away in Omaha can be nice, a weekend in Paris sounds pretty incredible, doesn’t it?
  • Finally, the overall net cost of attending a university abroad is lower, in no small part because it is a three year degree. In fact, the overall savings over four years is approximately $14,000.  Here’s the math:  The total cost of attendance for a public university in Kansas for an in-state student is $26,000 a year.  That includes tuition, fees, room, and board.  Meanwhile, it is around $44,000 a year for a student at LSE, including two flights back to the United States and money for travel throughout Europe, as well as tuition and living expenses.  That comes out to a cost of $104,000 for a bachelor’s degree in the United States, compared to $132,000 for the same degree in the UK.  However, because you will be working a year sooner, you can subtract your salary to get the net cost over four years.  Using an average salary of $42,000 (admittedly low for an LSE grad), your net cost for four years in the UK is $90,000.  That’s a savings of $14,000!

 

While studying in Europe is a great opportunity, it’s not for everyone.  If you think college is just as much about pledging a fraternity/sorority or tailgating at the big game as it is about class, then you will find social life in the UK and the rest of Europe to be very different.  Still, that is not to say student life isn’t vibrant – there will be plenty of opportunities to meet people and build relationships.

Also, because you are applying to a specific course of study, you have to know what you want to do and be committed to it.  Otherwise, you’ll find it very difficult to change direction without starting all over.

That said, if you know what you want to study, are up for an adventure, and like the idea of finishing your higher education faster than you could in the States, studying in the UK could be for you!  If you’re ready to learn more, ask the Get Smarter Prep Staff (or your tutor) for information on how to get in touch with GSP’s partner for European education consulting, An Education Abroad.

-Written by: Kevin Newton, Founder of An Education Abroad

Is it better to get a B in an AP class…

In the course of tutoring we get asked all kinds of questions.  We do our best to answer them based on what we’ve read, what we’ve heard from colleges, what we see offered at high schools, and what we hear back from our students.  We’re asked to comment on the creativeness of a prom invite.  Or club fundraisers.  Or how to handle fights with a teammate.  Among academic questions, one frequently-asked question sounds roughly like this: “Is it better to get a B in an AP class or an A in a regular class?

They never like my answer, which is: “It’s better to get an A in an AP class.”  AP students are already in the most competitive bracket in the nation.  They are routinely among the best, top-ranked students not just at their high schools, but entering as college freshmen.  So, the very act of taking an AP class is both an act of bravery and (perhaps) an act of braggadocio.  You’re taking the class because you think you belong with the best.  And you very well might.

For some students – we all know them – APs aren’t an issue.  They sail through the classes seemingly almost without effort.  Studying might be optional for them, not just for these classes, but in general.  They have the highest grades in the class.  They may even be among the nicest people you know.  I’m not writing this article for them.

I’m writing it for the student who has to work hard for that A.  He/she studies all the time, takes excellent notes, arranges group study sessions, makes flashcards, asks for extra time with the teacher, etc.  At some point during the semester his/her stamina may begin to fade.  All the activities and sports and “regular time to be a teenager for once” (a phrase one of my students used with me last week to refer to her few weeks in between shows – she’s in theater) may start to take a toll and you may start dipping into “B” territory.

Don’t panic.  Do what you need to in order to raise your grades.  If it means trimming back on a class that’s less difficult for you: do it.  If it means seeking out a tutor – either student peer tutors offered at school or a private tutor – do it.  If it means cross-checking with your teacher on what you need to get in order to guarantee an A: do it.  The message is: get the A in the AP Class.

Why?  I promise it’s not just because of my upbringing and competitive nature that I stress this.  It’s because students who are in AP Classes are likelier to apply to elite schools.  Elite schools look well on AP exams: and have expectations tied to them.

AP Classes are in themselves a bit of a taste of college.  College Admissions counselors know that the amount of material covered, at the depth it is covered, among a competitive pool of students, is unlike most high school level classes.  Therefore, if a student can not just survive, but thrive in such an environment, then just maybe he/she will perform well at a university level.

In later articles I will speak about changing attitudes towards AP especially in light of the new much-heralded International Baccalaureate program.  But today I just wanted to stress: if you are in one of these classes and you’ve made efforts to improve and you’re in danger of a B – strongly consider – in consultation with your parents and your high school counselor – transferring to a non-AP version of the class.  I’m not going to speak to the issues of “quitting” or “finishing what you’ve started,” etc.  Examining the fine grains within each particular student and his/her motivations and personality is impossible to do when writing such an issue in a general manner.  I’m only offering my advice as someone who has been helping students get into their first-choice schools since 2004: do whatever it takes (within the bounds of morality, of course) to get an A in an AP class.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.