Underclassmen: What do your PSAT Scores Tell You?





It’s pointless to take a test if you can’t learn and improve from your experience.  The PSAT is meant to help you do just that. Be smart by using your PSAT scores to improve your score on the “real” SAT.  Your score report explains what areas you need to review before taking the next test.  

How did you do?  

Look at your PSAT/NMSQT Score report and answer the following questions: 

  • What is your total score?  
  • What is your sample percentile?   
  • What was your Evidence based Reading/Writing Score? 
  • What was your Math score? 
  • What sample percentile are you in for your Reading/Writing and Math Scores? 

Your PSAT scores are your baseline – a starting point to improve from there.  The sample percentiles indicate how you performed compared to other students. 

College and Career Readiness Benchmarks 

Find your Reading, Writing and Language and Math test scores. They include bars that are green, yellow and red.  

Green scores indicate you have met the benchmark; yellow means you are approaching the benchmark, and red means you have work to do to meet the benchmark.  

Your Scores: Next Steps 

Review this section carefully. It gives you suggestions for ways to improve your skills.  

Take Action 

Record your PSAT scores in GuidedPath, and schedule your next SAT or PSAT test.

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Underclassmen: What do I need to focus on in my second semester?



Now that your first semester is under your belt, it is tempting to take it easy during your second semester. Why does it matter if some of my grades slip this semester?  

What You Do Now Matters 

Colleges are going to ask the following questions of you: 

  1. Did you challenge yourself?  Did you take the hardest classes you could! 
  2. Did you get the best grades you could?  This includes both first and second semester. 
  3. What did you do extra in your classes?  Are you contributing to the class?  Will your teachers discuss your contributions in your recommendations? 

Finish Strong 

Keep your grades up and your enthusiasm going as you start in your spring semester.  You will be glad you did! 

Take Action 

Mark down your classes and your grades in your Course Plan in GuidedPath.

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How much I will pay for college?

A Thanksgiving Thought 

 Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.  Brian Tracy   

Keep this thought in mind during the Thanksgiving season. Strive to find a lesson in each of life’s experiences – good and bad – to make you a better and stronger person. 

Happy Thanksgiving from the GuidedPath team


And now for our regularly scheduled post –

How much will I pay for college? 

Paying for college is often compared to paying for airline tickets. No two people pay the same price.  What will your costs be at college? How much you pay for college depends on many factors. Knowing what those factors are, and how college will look at your family’s financial situation, will help you know what the price of your “college” ticket will be. Knowing how it will differ from one college to another will help you compare one college to another. 

Am I eligible for financial aid? 

What do colleges look at to determine how much you pay for college? The FAFSA or the CSS Profile forms are used to determine how much your family can contribute to your college education.  The forms include questions about: 

  • Your parents’ income 
  • Your income (if any) – even babysitting counts 
  • Your parents’ savings or investments 
  • Savings or investments in your name 

What is an “Expected Family Contribution”? 

The data from your FAFSA is used to calculate your “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC).  This is the number is the amount (according to the federal government) that your family should be able to afford to pay for one year of college.  Colleges use this number to determine how much (if any) need-based financial aid you will receive.  

What else is considered? 

Besides income and assets, these factors are also considered: 

  • Your parents’ age. The older they are, the more savings they should set aside to retire. 
  • Size of your family.  Large families need more money to live than small families. 
  • The number of children in college at one time.  If more than one child is enrolled in college simultaneously, the EFC for each child will be less.  Unfortunately, parents enrolled in college don’t count.  

When do I file my financial aid forms? 

Timing is everything when it comes to financial aid. Watch for details about when colleges require the FAFSA or the CSS Profile form to be filed.  Plan to file the FAFSA as early as possible (You can begin to complete your FAFSA as early as October 1). This is the form needed to qualify for financial grants, work-study or student loans from the federal government.  The CSS Profile (a financial aid application by the College Board) may also be required by the college (or a scholarship program). This is the form colleges use to help know who needs money from the college itself. It is their way of distributing their own funds to the students with the most need.  Deadlines for the CSS Profile vary college by college. Check GuidedPath and check college websites for deadlines. 

Take Action   

Financial Aid Updates 

The formula for calculating financial aid is updated every year.  GuidedPath uses the latest tables available in the EFC Calculator.  Use the EFC Calculator to get an estimate of your financial aid eligibility.  Your parents will be glad to know ahead of time what to expect. 

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SAT Subject Tests

SAT Subject tests are based on curriculum you have in class.  It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of a particular subject. According to the College Board, 

“The SAT Subject Tests offer you an additional opportunity to show colleges what you know and what you know you can do. Many colleges use the SAT Subject Tests for admission, for course placement, and to advise students about course selection. Some colleges specify the SAT Subject Tests that they require for admission or placement; others allow applicants to choose which tests to take.” 

Only a handful of colleges require SAT subject tests from students, but many will use SAT Subject test scores as a part of your admissions profile or for placement purposes (especially in foreign language). 

What subject tests can I take? 

There are 20 subject tests to choose from.  A majority of the tests are in foreign languages, with English, History, Math and Science thrown in too. The subject tests are broken down as follows:

Are the subject tests the same as the AP tests? 

No. There are more AP tests than there are subject tests.  For example, there are five Arts AP tests, and no Arts Subject tests. 

What about the ACT? 

The ACT does not offer Subject tests. They are only offered by the SAT/College Board. 

When should I take the Subject tests? 

The best time to take a subject test is right after you finish the class. It is also good to take the subject test at the same time you are taking an AP or other subject exam.  Schedule subject tests in May of your sophomore or junior year, and November of your senior year. 

How long is a subject test? 

Most subject tests are 1 hour in length. 

How many Subject tests can I take at a time? 

You can schedule and take up to 3 tests in one sitting.  Most colleges will use your best two scores. Some colleges will use 3 subject tests for admissions.  Check college website for testing requirements. 

When are the subject tests offered? 

They are offered 6 times each year: August, October, November, December, May and June.  Subject tests are NOT offered in March. Only the SAT is offered then.  

Are all subject tests offered six times a year? 

No.  Not every subject test is offered six times a year.  Plan carefully when you want to take any of the following tests: 

Which tests can I take on any date? 

The following seven tests are offered every time a Subject test is offered.

Can I see my scores before I send them to a college? 

Yes. You can use score choice to see your scores and decide which scores to send to colleges.  Remember to check college policies. Some colleges require you to send ALL your test scores. 

What is the latest date I can take the subject scores in my senior year? 

The latest you should schedule subject tests in your senior year is December.  If you are applying to any of your colleges early (Early Action or Early Decision) you should schedule them for October or November. 

Do all colleges require the SAT Subject tests? 

No. Many colleges do not consider Subject tests for admission purposes. Check the college website carefully for each college’s policy on Subject tests. 

Do I need to take specific Subject tests for my major? 

Sometimes.  Many colleges have specific subject test requirements for specific majors.  Engineering, science and math majors often require or highly recommend subject tests.  This is particularly true if you are applying to any of the University of California campuses. UC’s can’t require a subject test, but if it is highly recommended for your major, you will be more competitive if you take the recommended subject test. 

How can I prepare to take the SAT Subject tests? 

You can prepare for the subject tests in many ways. The CollegeBoard website has subject test prep.  Check for local SAT Test Preparation options. Check online. Check with friends and create your own subject study groups. 

Take Action 
Update your Testing schedule in GuidedPath with all your tests: ACT, SAT and SAT Subjects. Include PSAT, AP, or other tests you are planning to take. 

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Underclassmen: What is your “Perfect College”?

When you think about the “Perfect College” what comes to mind?  Bucolic hills, palm trees, or urban energy? Classes with 12 students or with 120? Going to a football game, a political debate, an art show – all of the above?  How do you know which college is perfect? You need to know what is important to YOU. 

Here are the Top 10 factors to consider for your “Perfect” college: 

  1. Academics: If you know your major, that should be a requirement. But what about special programs such as honors, study abroad, co-ops or senior projects? Also consider the learning environment. Is the campus on semesters, quarters, or offer a May or January term? How do you learn best? 
  2. Climate: Think about what climate you will want to live in for at least three seasons of the year while at college. If you have never lived through winter in New England, think about how you will feel about months of snow, rain and later a very muddy spring. Or visa versa, how will a lot of heat and humidity feel for days on end. Will you melt? Believe it or not, climate can impact your experience. 
  3. Size: Think about what size college you would like to attend. Attending a school with 20,000 undergrads is not for everyone! What is your comfort zone? 
  4. Location: Think carefully about what type of area are looking for. Can you live without a movie theater in town? Do you need open spaces and access to nature? How about a variety of restaurants?  
  5. Financial Aid: Finances can make or break a decision. Be sure to discuss this with your parents before you fall in love with a specific college. (Take the College Affordability Survey in GuidedPath to see what your family contribution would be.) 
  6. Campus Activities:  Does it need a sports team? Or orchestra? Clubs, music, outdoor activities. Think about how you want to spend your time when not in class. 
  7. School Spirit: Do you want to attend a school with lots of school spirit? Or does your style lean more toward favoring a school with a school spirit focused on weekend music or club activities. 
  8. Social Scene:  What is fun to do with your friends? Go to a big concert in the city, or hang out with friends informally in cafes, sipping lattes? How important is having a greek life (sororities or fraternities) to you? What social life will be most comfortable for you? 
  9. Student Body:  When you walk on campus, do you feel you fit in?  Are you seeking diversity in the student body? Do you want a student body that is conservative, liberal or a mix of everything? 
  10. Housing:  Where will you live? What are the dorms like? How are the bathrooms set up? Co-ed or single sex dorms?  

Take Action

Using the Design a College Survey in GuidedPath will help you identify what is most important to you and your family in a college.  Find the Design a College Survey in GuidedPath Edge: 

  • log into your account 
  • Click on the SURVEYS tab 
  • Select Design A College from the drop-down menu 

Use the College Match Survey along with the Design a College Survey to get the most complete picture of your perfect college.

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When do you select a major?


Many college applications require you to select a major or state that you are “undeclared”. But what is the best way to choose a major? Here are 5 ideas to guide you. 

  1. Start early.  It’s never too early or too late to start exploring your interests and connecting them to majors or careers.  
  2. Learn about yourself. Take advantage of career surveys, interest inventories or other questionnaires or resources available to you. The more you understand yourself, the better prepared you are for next steps.  
  3. Research.  Use the Internet and other research tools available to you to explore what majors are needed for careers you are interested in.  Taking classes in subjects required for a major or profession helps you learn more too. 
  4. Try it on. Arrange to do a job shadow or to interview someone in careers you are interested in.  
  5. Make a short list. Once you have done your research and talked to people in professions, narrow your list of majors to pursue. Often there are many majors you can select from to get to a chosen career or area of interest.  

Ode to the Undeclared Major  

One of the most popular majors at universities is the “undeclared” major. Many universities or colleges recognize you may not be ready to declare a major when you start as a freshman. Often you do not have to declare your major until sometime in your sophomore year.  There are a few universities that don’t offer “undeclared” as an option. You will know which colleges require majors from their websites and applications. 

Take Action 

Take the Find My Spark survey in GuidedPath. Use it to learn more about your personality and preferences. Use the list of majors or careers to explore professions in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. 

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