Q: What Are The Differences Between The ACT And SAT?

A: The ACT is an achievement test that measures what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test that focuses on reasoning and verbal abilities. The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing section. The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing section. While the ACT is scored based on the number of correct answers with no penalty of guessing, the SAT takes off points for wrong answers.

Q: Should I Take The ACT Or SAT?

A: Since both tests are very different, we recommend taking diagnostic tests for both. The PLAN is a practice test for the ACT and the PSAT is a practice test for the SAT. Students can talk to their school counselors regarding how to register for both tests.

Q: Do All Colleges Accept The ACT?

A: Colleges will accept either the ACT or SAT.

Q: Do I Have To Take The Writing Section For The ACT?

A: While the Writing section is optional, some colleges may require it. We recommend signing up for the Writing section each time.

Q: Are SAT Subject Tests Required?

A: SAT Subject Tests are not required at the majority of colleges. However, many of the top tiered colleges may require two or more SAT Subject Tests (see admission requirements for each university).

Q: When Should I Start Taking The ACT Or SAT And How Many Times Should I Take It?

A: We recommend taking the test twice during your junior year, and maybe one last time during the beginning of your senior year if you think you can improve your score. However, keep in mind that this varies based off of each individual student’s situation. Some colleges may require that you send in all your test scores, so taking a test multiple times may not look as good. Check with all the universities your thinking about applying, before you take your tests, regarding their standardized testing requirements.

Q: Where Do I Go To Sign Up For The ACT?

A: http://www.actstudent.org

Q: Where Do I Go To Sign Up For The SAT?

A: http://Sat.collegeboard.org

Q: What Is Superscoring?

A: With this policy, a college will select a student’s highest subscores across multiple ACT/SAT test dates, and using those numbers, create a composite score.

Q: Which Colleges Consider Superscores?

A: Whether a college will consider a student’s superscore depends entirely upon the college. Unfortunately, most colleges do not publish their policy regarding superscores. However, colleges will answer this question when specifically asked, so it is definitely a worthwhile question to ask admissions officers or campus tour guides.

Q: Do I Have To Send In All Of My Test Scores To Colleges Or Just My Best One?

A: For many colleges, you can just send in your best test score. However, many of the top tiered colleges may require you to send in ALL your test scores (see admissions requirements for each university).

Q: What Are The Benefits Of Taking AP Tests?

A: Depending on the college, passing an AP test can earn you college credit. It also shows admissions officers that you have the academic drive to succeed in college. However, some colleges set limits on how many AP credits they accept. Some many also limit the AP scores that qualify for college credit.

Q: Do I Need To Send My AP Test Scores To Colleges?

A: You do not need to send in your AP test scores to colleges until after you have been accepted and they request them from you

Q: Which Colleges Require Letters Of Recommendations?

A: UC and CSU schools do not require letters of recommendations. However, many of the private schools do. When researching colleges, make sure to see which ones require them and how many they require.

Q: How Many Letters Of Recommendation Do I Need?

A: The number of letters of recommendations required vary with each school. When researching colleges, make sure to see which ones require them and how many they require.

Q: What Teachers Should I Ask For Letters Of Recommendation?

A: We recommend asking any academic teachers (English, Math, Science, Foreign Language, etc.) from your sophomore or junior year. Also consider what major you are planning on going into and try to get letters of recommendations that reflect that subject matter. For example, if you are planning on majoring in engineering, we recommend asking your Math and/or Science teachers for letters of recommendations.

Q: When Should I Ask My Teachers For Letters Of Recommendation?

A: It is best to ask your teachers for letters of recommendation during your junior year before you leave for summer break. If you hold off until the beginning of your senior year, your teachers may already have numerous students that have already asked them before you, which may delay the process. Do not forget to send the writer and hand written thank you note for their assistance.

Q: What Is A Secondary School Report?

A: A secondary school report allows your counselor to tell colleges about you and your high school. The information from this form also sets your academic experience in context for colleges: how many of your classmates go on to attend a four-year college, what kinds of advanced or accelerated courses (if any) are offered at your school, and the size of your class.

Q: What Is A Brag Packet?

A: Due to the large number of students that each counselor works with, some schools require students to fill out a “brag packet” that can help their counselor write a recommendation for them to use for college applications. The brag packet contains information regarding the student’s honors and awards, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, etc.

Q: What Are Colleges Looking For In Regards To Extracurricular Activities?

A: In regards to extracurricular activities, the main factors that colleges are looking for are school involvement, community involvement, leadership experience and any special talents.

Q: Can You Include Work Experience In Your Extracurricular Activities?

A: Yes. Some applications will even specifically ask you if you have had work experience.

Q: How Many Volunteer Hours Should I Have By The Time I Apply To Colleges?

A: There isn’t a specific number of volunteer hours that you need to have, however, we recommend having at least 100 hours. Keep in mind that some of the more competitive students might have 200 or more.

Q: What Are The Main Factors That Colleges Look At When Making Admissions Decisions?

A: There are many factors that colleges look at when making admissions decisions, however, the main ones are grade point average (GPA), standardized test scores, and extracurricular activities.

Q: How Many Colleges Should I Apply To?

A: We recommend that students apply to 10-12 schools. However, if you have a good amount of safety and target schools, your list can be shorter.

Q: What Are The Differences Between Applying Early Action, Early Decision, And Regular Decision?

A: With early action, you can apply early and receive an admission decision early in the admission cycle. You do not have to commit upon receipt and are able to apply to other colleges. With early decision, you can apply early to your first-choice college and receive an admission decision from the college well in advance of the usual notification date. You are also able to apply to other colleges under regular admission plans. If you are applying early decision, it is binding and you are agreeing to attend the college if accepted and must withdraw all other applications. Regular decision is the normal process by which you apply by published deadlines, with promise of receiving an admissions decision no later than April 1st of your senior year.

Q: What Are The CSU Application, UC Application, Common Application, And Institutional Applications?

A: The CSU Application is used for all the Cal State and Cal Poly universities. The UC Application is used for all the UC schools. The Common Application is used mostly by private schools and a few out-of-state schools. Institutional Applications are used by some private schools and some out-of-state schools as well.

Q: If I Am Applying To Multiple CSU Or UC Schools, Do I Have To Submit An Application For Each School?

A: No, for the CSU and UC schools, you only need to complete one application that will be sent to all the schools that you mark in the application.

Q: What Are Supplements To The Common Application?

A: In addition to the general Common Application, some colleges may require “supplements.” These are additional questions that colleges ask.

Q: What Kinds Of Essay Topics Are There For College Admissions Essays?

A: Essay topics vary for each college. Some topics may include your background, a person of influence, an accomplishment, a personal quality, an area of interest, etc.

Q: How Many Essays Are Required For The CSU Application?

A: The CSU application does not require any essays.

Q: How Many Essays Are Required For The UC Application?

A: The UC application requires two essays. Both essays must be a maximum of 1,000 words total. If you choose to write one that is greater in length, the shorter one must be no less than 250 words.

Q: How Many Essays Are Required For The Common Application?

A: The Common Application requires one short answer essay expanding on an extracurricular activity or work experience and one personal essay on a topic of your choice or on one of the prompts listed. The short answer essay must be 1,000 characters maximum and the personal essay must be 250-500 words. In addition to these two essays, some colleges may require supplemental essays that can vary in topic and length.

Q: What Is The Difference Between Weighted And Unweighted GPA? Which One Do Colleges Look At?

A: Weighted GPA’s include extra points for honors or Advanced Placement courses. Unweighted GPA’s are calculated with the assumption that all courses taken will receive equal weight, with no extra points.

Q: Do Colleges Take Into Account Freshman Year Grades When Looking At Applications?

A: Yes. A low freshman year GPA can negatively impact a student’s overall GPA.

Q: How Do I Request Transcripts?

Every school has their own way of requesting transcripts, so visit your school’s counseling department and ask them what their preferred method is.

Q: If I Took Courses At A Community College, Do I Need To Send In Those Transcripts As Well?

A: If the community college courses show up on your high school transcript, you will need to send them in. Keep in mind that every college is different, so you will need to check the admissions requirements for each.

Q: What Are Mid Year Reports And Final Reports?

A: Mid year reports are given to the students’ counselor halfway through the year, more than likely after the first semester in January/February. This report looks exactly like the secondary school report except it asks for the student’s updated GPA. Final reports are given to the students’ counselor at the end of the year in June. This report looks exactly like the secondary report and mid year report except it requests the student’s end of the year GPA.

Q: When Should I Start Visiting Colleges?

A: We recommend visiting some colleges during your junior year after doing some research on the ones that you are interested in. If you are unable to visit during your junior year, try during the beginning of your senior year when you have a long weekend or break.

Q: How Do I Sign Up For College Tours?

A: Visit the website of the college that you are interested in and each home page should have a “Visitors” or “Visit Us” section. This section should include information on campus tours and how to register for them.