College Essay Protip

​What makes a good essay topic?
In general, avoid focusing on negative experiences, the things that happen to you. Stray away from topics that include anything that might make a school worry about you or your potential for success in college. This includes, but is not limited to, issues about mental health, eating disorders, body-image, etc. While these are all important topics, and ones that we, as a society, should be better at discussing, the college essay is not the best place for that.
Your college essay should shine you in the best light possible. Picking the wrong topic could potentially cause concern and come across as passivity to those considering to admit you to their institute. It is best to focus on active and forward momentum! While one could make the argument that overcoming these problems is impressive, we would counter that you have far more impressive qualities than resilience! So, why not celebrate the absolutely awesome?  
If you find yourself struggling to find the right topic for your college essay–one that will showcase your uniqueness, speak to your character, highlight your individuality–then meet with one of our college essay experts today! We will help you find your voice and tell the story that only you can tell.

What is a “good” SAT score?

What is a “good” SAT score?

The CollegeBoard defines benchmark scores for both the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections of the SAT. Reaching these benchmarks means that a student has a “75 percent chance of earning at least a C in first-semester, credit-bearing college courses” (CollegeBoard) in related subjects. The College and Career-Readiness benchmark scores are 530 on the Math section and 480 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section (or Reading and Writing section on the Digital SAT).

Reaching these benchmarks is a good start, however, most competitive schools require significantly higher scores. In general, it’s best to check with each school to which your student is applying to verify its score requirements.  Click here to read more!

2023-2024 SAT and ACT Test Dates

Official SAT Test Dates 2023-2024

August 26th, 2023

October 7th, 2023

November 4th, 2023

December 2nd, 2023

March 9th, 2023 (Digital SAT)

May 4th, 2023 (Digital SAT)

June 1st, 2023 (Digital SAT)

Register for the official test at Register for SAT prep classes here!

The SAT changes to the new, digital format for the first time March 9th, 2023. Read more on the Digital SAT here!


Official ACT Test Dates 2023-2024

September 9th, 2023

October 28th, 2023

December 9th, 2023

February 10th, 2023

April 13th, 2023 

June 8th, 2023 

July 13th, 2023 

Register for the official ACT at

Register for ACT Prep Classes here!

ACT vs. Digital SAT

ACT VS Digital SAT

Want to know the difference between the ACT and NEW digital SAT? Read some of our most asked questions below and take a look at our new score conversion chart!

Which test is a better fit for me?

It depends! The best way to know for sure is by comparing scores. We recommend students take a practice test for both, then use our handy conversion chart to determine which test yields a higher score.

Score about the same on both? About 75% of students will score in about the same range. If this is you, let’s look at some other factors to help you determine which test to focus on. Was one test easier to get through than the other? Did one test seem easier for you? Did you feel rushed on one test over the other? These are all important questions to ask to help you figure out the best test for you. Need more guidance?  Give our office a call to schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation.

So how are they different?

The Digital SAT (coming to students in March of 2024) is a computerized adaptive test which consists of two sections: Reading and Writing and Math. Each section is divided into 2 equal length modules, and there is a 10-minute break between the Reading and Writing section and the Math section. Based on how students perform on the first module, the second module of questions will either be more difficult or less difficult. While the Digital SAT is a bit shorter than the ACT at 2 hours and 14 minutes, the pacing of the test is slower. Students will have more time per question (about 65 seconds) on the Digital SAT than on the ACT.

Have questions about the changes to the SAT? Read more here!

The ACT consists of four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Right now, the ACT is only offered in a pencil-and-paper format. ACT Inc. has just announced that they will offer an online testing option beginning December 2023. When registration opens for the 2023-2024 school year in July, students will have the option to test pencil-and-paper (current format) or online at select locations. The December pilot test will be available to only 5,000 students.  Read more on the online ACT option here.

Whether testing on paper or on a computer, the ACT runs longer than the Digital SAT at 2 hours and 55 minutes, including a ten minute break in between the math and reading sections, but is a faster-paced test than the Digital SAT. Students taking the ACT will only have about 49 seconds per question. Students who struggle with Reading may prefer the Digital SAT over the ACT. The ACT reading section includes a long passage followed by ten questions, whereas the Digital SAT has short passages followed by only 1 question.

The digital SAT is adaptive?? What does that even mean?

According to the College Board website, “The digital SAT Suite will utilize a multistage adaptive methodology.” That’s just a fancy way of saying the questions a student sees in the second module of each section will vary based on how he/she performs in the first module.

The ACT has a science section? What’s on that? Should I have paid more attention in my biology class?

Don’t worry if you dozed off a bit in the molecular genetics section of your biology class, the majority of the science questions will focus on interpreting data, assessing experiments based on the scientific procedure, and evaluating results from an experiment. Although advanced knowledge in the sciences are not required to do well, a basic understanding of introductory courses may be needed to answer some of the questions. More information on the breakdown of the science section can be found here.

Do colleges prefer one over the other?

Nope! Colleges will accept either test for admissions. We recommend students determine which test yields the highest score and/or they are most confident taking and then work to improve on that score to submit with their college application.

Should I prep for both tests?

Generally, we advise that students focus on one test or the other, unless the school or program a student is applying to requires it. If a student does decide to take both, we recommend they complete testing on one format before switching to the other so they are not confusing strategies and timing when testing.

How do I convert my SAT score to ACT (or vice versa)?

We’ve made it easy for you! Once you have scores to compare, use our score conversion chart!

The Importance of an Expanded Resume for Admission to the University of Texas at Austin


The University of Texas at Austin is one of the most esteemed universities in the world, with over 51,000 students across 18 different schools and colleges. A unique aspect of their admissions process is the request for an expanded resume. While it is not required, submitting an expanded resume is highly recommended for admission to the prestigious school and especially for gaining acceptance into your preferred major.

What is the Expanded Resume and Why You Should Submit One?

The expanded resume is not part of the ApplyTexas application system and may go unnoticed. Once you have submitted your application, you will receive an email to submit supplemental documents, including your expanded resume, into the MyStatus portal.

A pro-tip to increase your chances of being noticed is to attach your UT EIN at the top of your expanded resume and upload all supplementals together, as sometimes they can get misplaced.

How to Create an Expanded College Resume: Tips and Examples

So, what is an expanded resume? Contrary to its name, it is not a traditional resume, but rather a catalog of every experience you have been involved in since the summer before your freshman year. Unlike a standard resume which is usually 1-2 pages, an expanded college resume can range from 3 to 4+ pages. This provides students with an opportunity to expand on their high school experiences and highlight activities and accomplishments that are directly relevant to their chosen field of study.

When Should You Start Compiling Your Expanded College Resume?

It’s never too early to start thinking about your expanded resume! To create a comprehensive overview of your accomplishments and experiences, start by building an activity list. Be sure to include your role in every activity or event, the time spent in that role, and a brief description. Always quantify using action verbs along the way.

“The expanded resume is a catalog of everything you have been involved in since the summer before your freshman year and will allow you to add more information than will fit In the space provided on the initial college application.” — Dale Price

Access College America (ACA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping students with their college application process. They provide personalized guidance, advice, and support to students and families to help them navigate the complex process of applying to college.

If you’re looking for help with your expanded resume or have any questions about the University of Texas application process, ACA can be a valuable resource. They have a team of experienced college advisors who can provide guidance on how to make your expanded resume stand out and help you present yourself in the best possible light to the UT admissions committee.

In addition, ACA offers webinars and other resources that provide a more extensive look at the expanded resume and how to create a compelling application for UT Austin. These webinars cover topics such as how to select the right activities to highlight in your expanded resume, how to quantify your accomplishments, and how to make your application stand out in a competitive applicant pool.

Attending an ACA webinar can be a great way to get more information about the expanded resume and the UT application process, as well as to ask any questions you may have. ACA’s team of experts is always available to provide support and guidance throughout the college application process, and they can help you achieve your goals of getting accepted to the University of Texas at Austin.

Download their FREE Guide here! 

Pro-Tips to Increase Your Chances of Being Noticed

Illustration 1:

Austin High School UNICEF Club

10th & 11th, 3hrs/week, 5 months


  • Oversaw weekly meetings with planned curriculum

  • Coordinated weekly virtual meetings following the transition to online school

  • Managed communication with UNICEF and local businesses

  • Raised 700 dollars for UNICEF within first year with 20 members

The expanded resume should be organized into different categories including internships, clubs, leadership, employment.

Illustration 2:

Model United Nations


Delegate (10th-12th), Under Secretary Chair of Communications (12th-elected)

  • Participated in various conferences throughout Texas

  • Communicated with administration and participating schools

  • Organized the attendance of hundreds of delegates

The expanded resume should be viewed as a catalog, not a bullet list. Viewing your expanded resume as a catalog will help when it comes to making everything quantifiable. You want to be able to expand and put numbers to everything you did in high school.

Illustration 3:

MUNSA Distinguished Delegate

  • Participated in two day Model UN Conference

  • Recognized for diplomacy and advanced communicative skills

  • Competed against 30 delegates in debating two topics

Where you selected to be in an officer position for an organization? Then tell how many people you were up against in the election. Did you compete in track? Elaborate by listing your best times. Were you on the robotics team? Expand on your experience by explaining the types of competitions and the software you used. It is not just about listing your activities but about showing what you brought to the table.

Illustration 4:

May 2020 Independent Learning Project


  • Designed a simple prosthetic using three dimensional design software

  • Completed a research paper analyzing my process

Viewing your expanded resume as a catalog, rather than a bullet list, will help you make everything quantifiable. You want to be able to expand and put numbers to everything you did in high school.

For example, if you were selected to be in an officer position for an organization, tell how many people you were up against in the election. If you competed in track, elaborate by listing your best times. If you were on the robotics team, expand on your experience by explaining the types of competitions and the software you used. It’s not just about listing your activities but about showing what you brought to the table.

Unlike traditional resumes, the expanded resume does not have to be in chronological order and is not limited to 1-2 pages. Your expanded resume should be organized by depth and impact. It is a catalog through which you are making your pitch as to why you belong in your first choice major.

College Admissions Timeline!


The key to not getting overwhelmed with the college admissions process is to stay organized and know what to focus on when. The focus in 9th-10th grade should be on academic success, extracurricular interests, and exploring career ideas. College visits and gaining real world experiences through volunteerism and job-shadowing can happen anytime. 11th grade can be tough because students will typically be faced with standardized testing, taking more rigorous courses, and possibly more intense extracurricular schedules. In 11th grade, students should also narrow their college research to a final college list of 7-10 schools (reach, target, and at least 1 safety choice), establish first and second choice majors, and determine eligibility for any special university programs (such as honors colleges, dual degree programs, etc.). Students should begin working on college applications and the necessary supplementary materials the summer after junior year, with application deadlines in fall of senior year. Waiting to begin the application process until the start of senior year can result in added stress, tight deadlines, and some missed opportunities.


Students can submit the FAFSA as early as October of senior year. Even when a family isn’t likely to qualify for much if any financial aid, we still recommend completing the FAFSA in order to ensure they qualify for any and all scholarships. Financial aid awards packages are often sent out with admissions offers. Most scholarships are awarded based on academic merit using information provided on the admissions application, but colleges also offer additional scholarships that may require applications. Applying for scholarships is a year-round process as deadlines can occur anytime. Students should use scholarship searches to help match with scholarships. 

For more information please view our College Admissions Timeline presentation here:


It’s important to gather data and organize your research. We recommend using a spreadsheet to keep track of college visits, information sessions, and admissions requirements with deadlines. There are many information tracking templates available online or you can easily create one yourself. Students should take advantage of opportunities to meet with college recruiters on their high school campuses as well as signing up for campus tours and preview weekends. Colleges track demonstrated interest from prospective students, so signing up for events is a great way for a student to show interest. Students should also plan to follow colleges on social media, especially if the admissions committee has a social media following. 


A robust college list should include 7-10 choices, including Reach schools (dream schools that might have a <30% acceptance rate), Target schools (or match schools in which a student meets the GPA and test score averages, approx 50% acceptance rate), and Safety schools (which shouldn’t be backup choices, but schools with guaranteed admissions policies). We also recommend students choose at least 1 Texas safety choice, even if they are mostly planning to apply out of state. Keep in mind that the likelihood of acceptance is based mostly on high school course choices and GPA. Standardized test scores, resume info, and college essays help round out a student application and show off strengths and passions. 


Don’t put off college visits until Junior year – start early and often! Make sure to get students on campus at colleges nearby or a drive away. If a student is interested in visiting colleges that would require travel planning, start with virtual tours and virtual information sessions first to help a student narrow down their choices. If travel isn’t an option for college visits, then students should also set up alumni interviews and read student reviews online to find out more about the student experience on campus. 


Most colleges accept universal applications, which means students may only have to complete one application and submit to multiple colleges. A personal statement or personal narrative essay is almost always required, but the good news is that with the universal application, students can often craft one excellent essay to submit to all schools. Students can diversify their narrative using the supplemental short answer essay that may be required for some applications. Recommended but not required materials often include resumes, letters of recommendation, and portfolios. “Recommended” should always be read as “submit if possible.” Deadlines are deadlines, but as applications are generally reviewed in order of submission, earlier can often meet more likely to be accepted as long as a student meets the GPA and test score averages of a university. Students should generally plan to apply to Safety and Target school earlier than the Early Admission deadline. For some students, an Early Decision application might be a great idea to help improve acceptance for their first choice Reach school, but other Reach schools should be submitted under Regular Decision in order to take more time to craft an excellent admissions application. 


The college essay is a student’s opportunity to relate who they are as a person, their passions, their skills, and is the best way to help them shine and differentiate their application from the thousands of others. Students should always get help revising and editing any college application writings. High school English teachers often help prepare students for essays, but one of the best ways to prepare for writing an excellent college essay is to read multiple essays from students who were accepted to their top colleges. Students should read the prompts and sample essays and find writings that inspire them and sound like something they could write. More Than A Teacher has a College Essay Workshop to help students craft the perfect essay to submit with their applications. Learn more here.