When Should I Take the SAT or ACT?

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 8/27/2018 5:23:16 PM

While most people would tell you that the “right time” for students to take the SAT or ACT is spring of their junior year, the reality is that it depends on a few things.  One of the most important factors in determining a student’s testing timeline is whether or not the student has completed Algebra 2.

If you’ve taken Algebra 2, you’re probably ready to start prepping!  And if you haven’t taken it, you aren’t ready and you’ll likely be frustrated, because you’ll be presented with math questions you have absolutely no idea how to approach or solve.
So here’s how we advise our clients:

If you take Algebra 2 in 10th grade, great!  During the summer between 10th and 11th, take a full-length practice SAT, and a full-length practice ACT.  These will not be fun.  And they should be real, retired exams (see below for explanation on this).  After you’ve taken both practice tests, it’s time to determine which you like better, and on which you sc...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
  • college admissions testing
  • SAT
  • ACT

Communicating with teenagers a/k/a Do you speak English?

Michelle Humbach
Posted at 8/23/2018 8:58:49 AM

As an Independent Education Consultant, my demographic is teens. Fortunately, I love and appreciate this age and often, my faith in humanity is literally restored by a one-hour college planning session with a high school student. Occasionally, I joke that they have a heavy burden of correcting many mistakes that my generation has made. I reassure them that I’m joking, even though I’m not, really.

Teenagers are a fascinating lot and I know from my work, as well as my personal life (my children are 25, 21 and 18), communicating with them can be a little tricky, if not downright exasperating. If I had a nickel for every time I nagged at my children, I’d have a ton of nickels. My logic stems from this: if they would just do as I say the first time, there would be no need to ask (nag) again. This factoid will make zero sense to them until they become parents.

I’m also keenly aware of the plight and suffering that can befall college freshmen. It’s not enough to be intellectually colleg...more

Categories: Comprehensive College Guidance
  • teenagers
  • high school student
  • parents of high school students
  • communication
  • gen Z
  • successful launch
  • ready for college

What Kind of Prep Will Raise My 34 ACT Composite to a 36?

Lessa Scherrer
Posted at 5/6/2018 11:43:09 PM

Your prep should include deep analysis of what types of questions you’re missing and then practice of those, particularly in your “lower” sections. I find the ACT Black Book to be very helpful in this kind of analysis. It’s a companion to the Red Book, so you need to have them both.

That said, I have a question for you: why do you want to raise your 34? If you’re thinking a 36 will make you more competitive for college admissions, as others have mentioned, it won’t. Even those top 20 name brand colleges don’t make a distinction between 34, 35 and 36. You will not be more of an automatic admit anywhere, simply because you have a 36 instead of a 34.

However, spending several months prepping unnecessarily can give the colleges a bad impression, particularly at those name brand schools. A student who only cares about his numbers—grades and test scores—and not his development as a whole person is not going to impress an Ivy-type school. As listed on Big Future.o...more

Categories: Comprehensive College Guidance  |  Test Prep
  • admissions
  • act
  • test prep
1 comment

Advice For Juniors Part II: Taking Notes & Taking Ownership

Tina Boyer
Posted at 4/25/2018 5:59:00 PM

In addition to practice writing, the other form of “essay prep” that naturally occurs during junior year is researching the colleges on your prospective list. While doing this research, take written notes on each school. Include the things that interest you most and make a note of anything unique to a particular school. Jot down the reasons why the school could be a good fit for you. Same deal for campus visits: take notes! These notes will save you precious time and energy when you’re ready to tackle the “Why Us” supplemental essays on your applications.
Now it may sound like my advice to date is adding extra work to your already busy life. And it can be tempting for a well-intentioned parent to want to step in and do some of this early prep work. But the college application process is a crucial step in a student’s growth and that growth starts with the student taking ownership of their process.
So, it goes without saying that you will be the sole author of your c...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
  • College Essays
  • Essay Prep
  • Supplemental Essays
  • Owning The Process

Advice For Juniors Part I: Journaling/Practicing Personal Narratives

Tina Boyer
Posted at 4/16/2018 6:26:17 PM

I’m a firm believer that the best time to work on your college application essays is the summer before senior year. But when that time comes, some juniors feel a little leery about shifting their writing style to personal narratives after spending their high school years focused on expository writing (aka thesis papers). Unlike most school assignments, your college application essays require you to tell stories about yourself.

If you want to get into a “personal narrative mindset,” you may find it helpful to do some journaling. Journaling is simply writing down your experiences, thoughts and reflections. You can spend as much or as little time as you like and you can write in whatever form you choose: by hand, on your computer, your phone, etc. It’s helpful to have a central location (whether it’s an actual journal, digital document, etc) to keep all your entries. I strongly recommend not posting your writing to social media; journaling is for you, not the rest of humanity. In add...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance
  • College Essays
  • Personal Statements
  • Juniors
  • Writing Practice

28 Super Sites to Jump Start your College Scholarship Search

Lessa Scherrer
Posted at 1/31/2018 9:33:41 PM

Guess what my number one question was this month? Scholarships! Paying for college is no joke, even if you have savings in the bank. The average college student takes 5 years and 8 months to graduate from college these days. I don’t know about you, but I was only saving for four years—the money just doesn’t go as far.

Since I can’t magically fill your bank account, I’ve collected a bunch of resources that you can use to begin—or turbo-charge—your scholarship search. Remember that finding and applying for scholarships can begin long before winter of senior year and does not end at graduation. Yes, there are fewer scholarship opportunities for students in grades 9-11 and those past senior year, but the well is not dry. Keep searching!

The first thing your student should do is approach local businesses and organizations. Local scholarship are likely much less competitive than those on the major scholarship search sites, simply because not so many people know about them. Search for” [y...more

Categories: Financial Aid & Affordability
  • financial aid
  • scholarships

New Year's Resolutions for High School Students - Alliteration Style

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 1/29/2018 3:56:22 PM

Contribute to a Club
This comment typically results in a giant eye roll from high schoolers, but hear us out!  It is a small investment on time that could potentially reap great rewards.  If you haven’t participated in a club thus far, now’s the time to do some investigating and commit to participating in something new for the spring semester.  If you’ve already been participating in a club, take it to the next level by raising your hand for a leadership position or simply diving deeper into the club.  It’s important to realize that any type of participation is important and meaningful if you make it that way – you don’t have to have a title next to your name.  More importantly, it’s worthwhile if it speaks to who you are.  Who knows, you may discover a hidden talent or new best friend along the way!

Ramp up the Rigor
Now’s the time:  show colleges you can handle tough academic work!  Colleges are looking to see that you are challenging your...more

Categories: Application & Essay Guidance  |  Comprehensive College Guidance
  • college advice
  • new year's resolutions

What's my GPA for College Admissions? Weighted or Unweighted?

Evelyn Alexander, M.A.
Posted at 1/8/2018 4:09:26 PM

When a parent first calls us, they invariably report to us their child’s most recent semester GPA – in weighted format.  We usually have to break the bad news that the GPA for college admissions purposes is a student’s unweighted, academic, 9th grade through 11th grade GPA.  And it’s almost always lower than you think it is.

The problem is that there’s no ‘standard’ way for high schools to report GPAs, and there’s no ‘standard’ way for colleges to require them. So that leaves us in the horrible gray area where high schools can calculate students’ GPAs however they want – and report whatever numbers they choose to parents and students.  In some cases, high schools report multiple GPAs on a student’s transcript.  In the worst instances, some high schools report ONLY the weighted overall GPA.

On top of the weighting issue, many high schools include EVERY class a student has taken in high school in their GPA, such as athletics and non-academic electives.&n...more

Categories: Comprehensive College Guidance  |  Application & Essay Guidance
  • GPA
  • weighted GPA
  • unweighted GPA
  • weighted vs. unweighted GPA