Standardized testing can be daunting! Follow these tips to reduce your stress and help you do best on your tests.
3 Times is Enough
Plan to take the SAT and/or the ACT no more than 3 times each. You should be done testing by fall of your senior year.
Try both the SAT and ACT
Take a diagnostic test or take the official ACT/SAT tests to see which one you prefer or do best on. Applerouth test prep created a comparison guide illustrating the differences between the two tests – one may suit your style more. Once you know which exam you prefer, put all your energy into it.
- Don’t waste time taking the official test before you’ve studied. At the very least, take a look at a prep book or take a practice test online. Know what to expect on the test and be familiar with the format.
- Practice test taking strategies. Practice your weaknesses. Don’t waste time practicing your strengths.
- Take advantage of test prep resources. There are many free resources available from CollegeBoard (for the SAT) or from ACT. You can also find great online or in-person classes from companies like Applerouth or Method Test Prep.
Know which other standardized tests you have to take.
Do you have to take SAT subject tests to be admitted to your school of choice?
Treat the SAT for what it is…a small piece of the picture.
Colleges use a holistic admissions process. They evaluate all parts of your application, including your test results.
Check out the study aids included in GuidedPath: Test Prep Resources. Here are just a few examples:
How do you describe where you live? City? Suburb? Country? As you explore colleges, one thing to consider is the location of the college. Location can make a significant impact on your college experience. Think about where you want to go to school.
Here are terms and definitions used in college “locations”:
- Major City: Population 300,000 or more: or within a 25–mile radius of a metropolitan area.
- Small-Medium City: Population 75,000-299,999 or within 15 to 25–mile radius of its metropolitan area.
- Large Town: Population 25,000-74,999 or within 10–mile radius of a large town.
- Small Town: Population 5,000-24,999 or within 5–mile radius of a small town.
- Rural: Population under 5,000, in or near a rural community.
How do you know what will be best for you? Search for:
- Nearest airport.
- Nearest large city.
- Nearest outdoor experiences (beach, mountains, etc.).
- Popular student gathering places on campus.
- Popular student gathering places off campus.
- Activities available on weekends at the school.
- Activities available on weekends in the community.
- Nearest tourist attractions.
- Movie, bowling or other recreational activities nearby.
- Employment opportunities.
- Your faith community, on or off campus.
Be sure to explore all the options. Look on the college website. View the college facebook pages. Most importantly, look it up on a map.
Use the Guided Search to explore the location of colleges you are interested in. GuidedPath offers search on location types. Also check out:
- How many freshmen live on campus?
- Fiske Social Rating
- Fiske Quality Rating
Summertime! Dreaming of sleeping in, hanging out with friends and producing YouTube videos? Time is precious! Plan now to use your summer time to explore careers, build upon your extra-curricular experiences, learn new skills or have new experiences. Here are some summer ideas.
- Take up a new form of exercise (swimming, biking, running, etc.).
- Volunteer to help in a political campaign.
- Take a college class.
- Do a job shadow.
- Explore your creative side through a class or project.
- Take a first aid class.
- Volunteer at a children’s summer camp.
- Take a class at the local arts center or theater group.
- Volunteer to coach or be an assistant coach for a sport.
- Do an internship.
- Take a study skills class.
- Take a speed reading class.
- Learn how to take notes.
- Take a computer skills or keyboarding class.
- Do a summer exchange program.
- Start a business.
- Participate in a simulation program like Mock Trial or Model United Nations.
- Do a language immersion program.
- Do a trek.
- Teach a new skill to children or senior citizens.
- Organize a family reunion.
- Volunteer at a community event.
- Write articles for your local newspaper.
- Volunteer for the city or other parks in your community.
- Write a family history.
- Create and publish a photo book.
- Organize and create a mural in your community.
- Organize a local youth event.
- Write and produce a video to support local conservation.
- Start a blog on a topic you care about.
Summer will fly by quickly – make a plan now to explore some of these options!
Be sure to add your activities to your course plan in GuidedPath.
The Washington Post recently published an article on choosing a college major titled “The most consequential, and least informed, decision that college students make.” The crux of the article is that major selection is often influenced by unimportant, or seemingly random, unrelated factors. Additionally, some studies show as many as 50% of freshman enter college without having declared a major and up to 75% of students will change their major at least once before graduating. Theoretically, your major will determine the course of your career and consequently your life. That’s a lot of indecision related to such a critical choice.
You’ll spend a great amount of time considering what college you will attend. You can use steps from that same process to determine what major suits you best.
- Assess yourself
There are many tools available to help you think about career and major choices. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a classic personality assessment that can help point you in a career or major direction. You may have taken this at school, but you can find variations of the assessment online.
YouScience is another great tool that measures your interests as well as your aptitudes. Knowing what you like and what you are innately “good at” can help you determine the best fit for your major and career. Ask you college counselor if they use YouScience. If not, you can take the test yourself for a fee by going to their website.
- Prioritize your likes and dislikes
Think of your current classes. What classes or assignments do you enjoy and which ones do you loath? Do you love diving into writing, or creative projects? Do you prefer assignments that have strict parameters? Do you like crunching numbers, researching a new topic, building an argument to support your opinion, analyzing works of literature? List out some of your likes and dislikes related to your classes.
- Gather Information
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is an amazing resource published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It provides information on career trends, salaries, growth prospects, required education, and even day-to-day responsibilities.
You should also talk to the adults in your life – parents, friends’ parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, neighbors, etc. Ask them what they like about their jobs, what their college major was, and how they landed in their current position – their answers may surprise you.
- Do “Career Visits”
Shadow a person in a career you are considering (a day in the life) or do an internship. These are chances to “try-on” a job or career field. You can also conduct an “informational interview” with someone in a job you admire. Ask questions about their college and career path. How did they get their current role? Did their career follow a straight path or take an unexpected turn?
You want to find a major that maximizes your joy of learning. Ideally your classes will drive your desire to ask questions and learn more, while your assignments will be a rewarding challenge. Some students may find the right fit on the first try, others will adjust course during college or even after. Thinking about these choices now will set you up for success.
The Find My Spark survey in GuidedPath can get you started thinking about majors and careers, as well as what type of college may be a good fit. Take the Find My Spark, or other surveys like YouScience, and review the results with your counselor and parents.
It will soon be time to ask your teachers and/or your counselor for letters of recommendations. But before doing that it helps to have done some self-reflection. Think about your three favorite classes on campus. Answer the following questions about yourself and how you have performed in each class.
What contributions have you made in class that this teacher could praise?
Describe the ways you have made the class better. Focus on specific contributions, including:
What positive character traits have you displayed in this teacher’s class?
Which of the following character traits have you demonstrated in class:
How have you used your intellect in this teacher’s class?
Describe ways you have demonstrated your love of learning in this class. Can you describe how you have demonstrated each of these intellectual traits:
What was challenging for you in this class?
Don’t just focus on the “easy” classes. Think about some of your more challenging classes. What was most challenging in this class? Tests? Assignments? Course content?
- How did you overcome the challenge?
- How did you (or how can you) improve your performance?
Reflect on your answers. Would you change your “student style”? How can you grow as a student and where can you ask teachers for help?
Record your answers to these questions directly in GuidedPath under the Optional section of the Recommendation survey. Later, you will have concrete information to share with teachers when you ask for letters of recommendations or have essays to write.
Hoping to get a great recommendation letter for college admission or a scholarship or even a summer program? It’s hard to write a recommendation for someone you don’t know. You need to have strong relationships with your teachers and counselor. Here are 3 tips to building good relationships.
- Face Time! No – not that kind of FaceTime. This face time is the time you spend in face-to-face contact with your teacher/counselor. Make sure your counselor or teachers know you personally by being present and on time for class, appointments, or school activities. Drop by the teacher’s room or your counselor’s office during lunch, breaks or after school. Get to know your teachers/counselor and give them opportunities to get to know you.
- Speak up! Make your voice heard by asking questions in class. Share thoughts and ideas. Be an active participant in class or on campus. Don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts or opinions.
- Stand out! Make yourself known. Be involved in a club or student body activity. Each activity has a faculty/staff advisor. Get to know that person. Pick 1-3 things that pique your interest and be a productive and committed member to those activities (rather than doing every activity available). Volunteer for leadership roles in those activities.
- Update your Activity Record in GuidedPath. Be sure to list all your activities. Who are the advisors for each activity? Focus on getting to know your faculty advisors better.
- Start adding teachers’ names to the Letters of Recommendation form in GuidedPath.