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.


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.


Attending College in the EU

Attending College in Europe

Last Minute Tips for AP Exams

Spring semester is rushing by, and AP exams are just around the corner. How prepared do you feel? While there isn’t a ton of time remaining, here are some tips for earning your best score!

First, make sure you’re familiar with the structure of each test. Some teachers spend more time than others on this piece. If you feel secure in the content but not as comfortable with the actual exam, the College Board provides a lot of information about the each exam. You should be familiar with each test you take before test day, as you don’t want to waste valuable time decoding complex instructions that you could have reviewed in advance.

If at all possible, if you haven’t done so, take a practice version of each exam before test day. You may not have time to take a whole practice exam in one sitting, so break it up. Take a Calculus AP multiple choice section today and a European History AP Free Response section tomorrow. Focus on the sections you’re most nervous about – AP Comp Synthesis Essay, anyone? – and make sure to leave some time to review what’s working for you and what isn’t.

It’s impossible to review every topic, but select a few key topics for review. Your practice may help inform what to focus on, but looking over your course notes can help as well. Don’t plan to make 15,000 flash cards in a week. Zone in on what is going to deliver the most impact in terms of points, and be realistic about how much time you have.

Practice is important, but so is rest. Heading into your exams in a state of exhaustion or overwhelm is not the best approach. Know when to put the books and flashcards down. Eat regular meals and get enough sleep. Especially if you’re taking several exams, the next couple of weeks can be a test of endurance. Take care of yourself, and good luck!

By Audrey Hazzard, Premier-Level Tutor

SAT Subject Tests: What You Need to Know

Whether the weather where you are is reflecting the arrival of Spring, it is on its way, and with it, SAT Subject Tests.  There is some good and bad information about these exams in internet-land and so we will, as always, try to give you the real scoop.


SAT Subject tests are an additional metric used only by the most elite schools in order to further differentiate the best applicants from the very best.  Unlike its well-known big brother, the SAT Reasoning Test, the SAT Subject Test, in its various subject-specific iterations, actually tests you on your knowledge of specific subjects.  It does that by asking multiple-choice questions across a one-hour time span.

The first question you should ask yourself is whether you need to take any of these.  That’s simple.  Look at your college list and cross-check the application requirements to find out if those schools want SAT Subject Tests.  I’ll save you a bit of time and tell you that all of the Ivies, Duke, some of the Claremont schools, Boston College, and Amherst all do (you’ll need to do some of your own research here – comprehensive “lists” I’ve found in research online don’t always include updates which reflect schools’ changing requirements).

If it’s Spring of your junior year and you don’t have at least a preliminary list, we need to talk.  But if you do have a list (good!) and not a single one of your schools requires a Subject Test, skip them.  Taking these tests is just more of a drain on your time, wallet, and spirit.  However, if even one of the schools on your list requires them, then you have to take them.


You’ve now figured out that you have to take these tests.  So – when?  We recommend the May Test Date of your junior year.  Our reasoning is that AP tests are at the beginning of May and that students, whenever possible, should simply piggy-back on the sunk cost of studying for those AP exams.  Meaning, if you’re studying for the quite difficult 3-hour multiple choice AND multiple-essay AP exam in US History, why not knock out the significantly easier 1-hour SAT Subject Test in US History at the same time? (The date is within a week or so, depending on when your AP Exam is and when the May test date is, as that varies year to year.)  We strongly encourage test-taking at this time – or in June as an alternative – because you are at the end of a full year studying the subject (June might also be more favorable for those students who are in IB, not AP programs).

There is no better time to take these tests than at the end of the academic year.  The reason we generally discourage June Subject Test-taking is because we like to keep that date open for another SAT Reasoning Test, should the student not have been satisfied with a previous result.  We discourage waiting until Fall of your senior year to put your best test-foot forward.  It muddies the water of the summer before Senior Year, which should be spent with your best test score “in hand,” not “in hope.”  You simply cannot get a sense of where you can/should apply without knowing your actual scores.


Which tests can you choose from?  You have Math, Science, History/Literature, and Language.


There is a Level I, but that is generally only going to be accepted by some schools, and even then those schools might express a desire for Level II.  If a student is looking at any major that has strong math and science requirements, they should take Level II.


You have your choice of Chemistry, Biology, and Physics.  Again, take the one you are currently studying.

History and Literature

You can choose from US History or World History (not always offered in May) and Literature.  Again, check your requirements.


These are simply “gimmes” to native speakers.  Median scores in these exams hover around 780 (out of 800) – nearly perfect.  So, unless you have spent at least 6 weeks speaking the language in an immersive environment, steer clear.  If you are planning to major in the language, however, you may be required to take this test just to place in a language level. (Some schools use SAT Subject Tests as placement tests for Freshman subjects, but those same schools often also have internal exams, written by their respective departments, which are more “fair” as tests.  Something to keep in mind.)

Take Three to get Two

A lot of schools want 2 scores, so, if you’re well-prepared, it makes sense to take 3 exams and grab your best 2 scores to send on to your schools.  By the same token, some schools want 3 so you might as well “max out” and take 3 on your test date of choice.

We realize there are lots of twists and turns in this process.  That’s why we’re always here if you have questions.  Just give us a call!

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

A Timeline for High School

Roadmap To Success:

Freshman year: Pick challenging classes and look for internships and summer programs that will make you stand out.

Sophomore year: Take the PSAT for the first time.  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!). Take ACT and SAT practice test sometime in Spring of sophomore year or the summer after.

Junior year: The tough one.  Take National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT) in Fall, take practice ACT and SAT (if you haven’t already taken them!).  Prep for and then take an ACT or SAT. Take AP/SAT Subject Tests.  Start seriously talking about college with a college counselor.

Senior year: Fight senioritis, get the applications done in August, September, and October so that by November you can enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas and not spend it with boring and inane essay prompts.  Enjoy your second semester but don’t slack off so much that your admission is revoked (it’s happened).