Q: Should I take the ACT and/or the SAT?

A: Many colleges and universities have transitioned to a “test-optional” policy, which translates to these institutions not requiring either the ACT or SAT to be submitted as part of a student’s application package. Student’s will not be penalized for not submitting test scores. That being said, submitting a test score may assist with an admissions decision and/or merit scholarship awards. Note that the University of California and California State school systems have moved to a “test-blind” policy, meaning they will not be accepting test scores as part of their admissions criterion for the 2021/2022 application seasons. We will continue to keep you apprised of any amendments to this information and weigh the pros and cons of test taking with each of our students.

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. While the ACT score is based on the numbers 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: We recommend taking diagnostic tests for both to determine which one best suits the student, as the do differ in format and content. Students should speak 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 or SAT?

A: While the writing section is optional, some colleges may require it. As of January 2021, the College Board eliminated the optional essay from its test. Due to the changes in the collegiate landscape please consult with us prior to enrolling.

Q: Are SAT Subject Tests required?

A: As of January 2021, the College Board is no longer offering the SAT subjects tests, making them irrelevant to the application process.

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 the score. Keep in mind, however, that this varies depending on each individual student’s situation. Some colleges may require that you send in a copy of your test scores, so taking a test multiple times may not looks so good. Check with all the universities to which you’re thinking about applying, before you take your tests, regarding their standardized testing requirements. 

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. We recommend consulting with us about the ACT’s new individual section/composite policy. Also, when your college list is finalized, we will identify those schools that accept superscoring, as each school dictates its own policy.

Q: Do I have to send in all of my test scores to colleges or just my best ones?

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

Q: What are the benefits of taking AP Tests?

A: Taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes and their corresponding exams demonstrates a student’s desire to challenge him or herself while in high school and his or her ability to master rigorous college-level material. Achieving high marks in the classes and on the exams shows colleges a student’s readiness to take on the next level of academia. Moreover, ninety percent of U.S. colleges offer credit for qualifying scores on AP exams, which can be both financially and academically beneficial.

Q: What Is a Brag Sheet?

A: Due to the large number of students with whom each counselor works, some schools require students to fill out a “brag sheet” which gives counselors information to help write letters of recommendation. The brag packet contains details regarding the student’s honors and awards, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, etc. The brag sheet is often found in Naviance or other similar tools used by high schools for college communications. Some high schools may request that both parents and students complete brag sheets.

Q: What are colleges looking for with respect to extracurricular activities?

A: When considering extracurricular activities, colleges are primarily looking for school and/or community involvement, leadership experience, and any special talents.

Q: Is work experience considered to be an extracurricular activity?

A: Yes. Some applications will even specifically ask about 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 assess when making admission decisions?

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

Q: To how many colleges should I apply?

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 (EA), Early Decision (ED) and Regular Decisions (RD)?

A: With Early Action, applications are submitted and an admission decision is received early in the admission cycle. Early Action is not binding and you may apply to other colleges. There is one small caveat–Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford are “Restrictive” Early Action, meaning you cannot apply to any other private institutions Early Decision or Early Action. 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 admission decision no later than April 1st of your senior year.

Q: What makes the Cal State (CSU), University of California (UC), Common, Coalition and Institutional Applications Different?

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 and Coalition applications are used by many private schools and a number of state schools. Institutional applications are used by some private and out-of-state schools.

Q: If I am applying to multiple CSU or UC schools, do I have to submit an application to each school?

A: No. For the CSU and UC schools, you only need to complete one application that will be sent to the schools you select 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 individual colleges ask.

Q: What is the difference between weighted and unweighted GPAs? Which one is preferred by colleges?

A: Weighted GPAs include extra points for honors or advanced placements courses. Unweighted GPAs are calculated with the assumption that all courses taken will receive equal weight, with no extra points. A weighted GPA demonstrates an increased rigor of curriculum to colleges, but is not necessarily preferred. Students must carefully select classes  in which they are challenged but not overwhelmed.

Q: Do colleges take into account freshman year grades when reviewing applications?

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

Q: How do I request transcripts?

A: Every school has its own way of requesting transcripts. Your school counselor can explain your school’s preferred process.

Q: When should I start visiting colleges?

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

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