New A&M Short Answer Requirements

What’s that old expression? The early bird catches the college acceptance to a prestigious university of their choice? Something like that? Every year, we encourage rising seniors to start writing their essays early. This gives them more time to craft polished and unique personal statements, allows them to get a major part of their applications out of the way before the school year gets too hectic, and can help them to be ready when the applications open. This is especially important for schools with rolling admissions, like Texas A&M, where getting your application in during the first few weeks can dramatically increase your odds of getting in and snagging your first-choice major.

At the same time, universities like to keep applicants on their toes. While some will publish their essay and short-answer prompts months in advance, other colleges are less forthcoming, and might even wait until the day applications open to spring new requirements on prospective students.

Texas A&M opened its applications on August 1st this year. When students logged on to a somewhat revamped ApplyTexas system, they found, buried deep in A&M’s application, a surprise set of new short-answer requirements.

Below are the three prompts that all A&M applicants, regardless of potential major, must answer:

Diversity 

Texas A&M University believes that diversity is an important part of academic excellence and that it is essential to living our core values. Describe the benefits of diversity and inclusion for you and for the Texas A&M campus community. Please share any personal experiences that have shaped your views.

Person Most Impacted 

Tell us about the person who has most impacted your life and why.

Life Event 

Describe a life event which you feel has prepared you to be successful in college.

The diversity short answer appeared last year and echoes questions at many universities, but the other two are new and rather unique. Many otherwise prepared students were likely caught off-guard. But this serves as a reminder that the entire college admissions process can be a bit unpredictable, from application to acceptance; the best applicants, though, can take surprises in stride and rise to the occasion. Though unexpected, these new prompts give students additional opportunities, however small, to distinguish themselves and give the admissions board a better sense of who they are as people and how they’ll succeed in college and beyond.

Need help with your college essays or short answer questions? We can’t write your essays and short answers for you, but we can help you brainstorm and edit. Call our office (512-453-7272) to set up a private tutoring session with one of our college essay experts.

Score Choice – To Send or Not to Send?

A question we hear a lot at MTAT is: “When I register for the official SAT, should I opt to send
my scores automatically or wait until I get the results?”

There are pros and cons to automatically sending your scores. If you opt to send scores to up to
four schools for free, those schools will receive your scores each time you test. If you choose to
wait, you may send your scores to colleges of your choosing—and pay a fee for each school—
after you’ve received all your scores. Take a closer look at the pros and cons below and decide for yourself whether or not you should send you scores automatically or wait to see the results first.

PROS:
• You show the schools that you’re interested, and they may reach out with merit-based
scholarship opportunities.
• You save money. But it’s only about $12 per school, which is a drop in the bucket
compared to tuition.
• Some schools will require you to send scores from every sitting anyway, so you could be
saving some time.

Scantron-Optical-Scan-Exam-and-Pencil-by-Natalie-Freitas-via-Flickr-CC-BY-SA-2.0

CONS:
• The biggest downside to automatically sending scores is that knowing schools are going
to see your score could add pressure to an already-stressful day. Nervous test takers
might be better off waiting.
• Some students may not know exactly what schools they want to apply to. In fact, some
students might base that decision in part on their SAT scores.
• Finally, if you do have a bad day and bomb the test, you probably would rather keep
that information to yourself—if possible. Again, some colleges will require you to send
your scores for each sitting.

Be aware that colleges are usually looking for reasons to accept you rather than reasons to
reject you. If you submit a low score and a high score from a later test date, most colleges will
see the improvement as a sign of your hard work and determination. But don’t panic if it’s the
other way around and your last score is your worst. Most college applications include an
optional essay to tell them anything you think they should know about your academic
performance. This is a great place to let them know, for instance, that your freshman-year
grades were low because you were in the hospital half the year, or that you had the flu the day
of your last SAT. Don’t make excuses, but do let them know of any extenuating circumstances.

Got questions? Book a college-counseling appointment today! Call 512-453-7272 or email
[email protected]

What is the 5th Section that Shows Up at the End of Some SATs?

How many sections are on the SAT?

As everyone knows, there are four sections on the SAT–except when there are five! The so-called “experimental” section shows up occasionally, after the Math-Calculator section, but it’s nothing to worry about. The test makers are simply trying out new questions. That’s how they know if a question is “easy” or “hard”–they see how many people struggle with it on the experimental section, which may be Reading, Writing & Language, or Math.

Does the 5th section count?
It will be a short section, and the questions will not count toward your official score–probably! The College Board doesn’t really say. They likely want to keep their options open. It may turn out that a question on one of the four main sections is unscorable for some reason (it’s happened before), and the test-makers might replace it with a question from the experimental section. Anything’s possible!
What should students do if they get a 5th section?
Don’t just fill in random bubbles because you think the experimental section doesn’t count–that strategy could come back to haunt you. If you get an experimental section, it shouldn’t be more than thirty minutes, and since there’s no essay anymore (yay!), it won’t kill you to stick around a little longer. (And if you just get up and leave during the experimental section, your scores will be canceled, so don’t do that.)
If you have further questions about the experimental section or anything else, give us a call at 512-453-7272 or email [email protected].

Score Optional Updates for Class of ’22!

With the lack of widespread availability for SAT and ACT tests in the last year, many rising Seniors have wondered how a shift in test administrations will affect their college applications. And this has gotten many people excited about the option for schools who won’t require test scores as part of a student’s admissions profile. But what do you need to know about applying to college in 2021?

 

“Score optional,” or “test optional,” means that a university does not require students to submit test scores from the SAT or ACT. But they do allow (and sometimes recommend) students to submit scores if the score reflects academic strength and contributes positively to their overall admissions profile. This is different from “test blind” colleges, which will not review test scores at all, even if they are submitted. The number of test blind colleges is relatively small compared to the increasing number (over 1000) of schools that are currently score optional (or have recently made the decision to be score optional only for the upcoming admissions cycle). It’s important to understand the implications of what score optional means before deciding whether or not to submit scores as part of the admissions profile.

 

Read on for Score Optional FAQ or scroll down for an updated list of Score Optional colleges.

 

SCORE OPTIONAL FAQ

 

IF I APPLY TO A SCORE OPTIONAL SCHOOL, DO MY TEST SCORES MATTER? Yes and no. If you choose not to submit scores, then your test scores will neither support nor condemn your likelihood of acceptance. But if you don’t submit scores, and other students DO, then the students with very high test scores will demonstrate an added strength to their profile than a student who didn’t submit scores at all. That is why when you look at the average scores for students attending a school like the University of Chicago (test optional for several years, before COVID-19), which consistently ranks in the top 20 of national universities and has <10% acceptance rate, you still see very high average scores for admitted students. Those students weren’t required to submit scores, but they did. And their very high scores emphasized the strengths of the academics already recorded on their transcript.

 

RECOMMENDATION: If you have strong test scores, always send to colleges. Scores that place you ranked in the 75th percentile and above are strong scores (1200 on SAT or 24/25 on ACT). And you shouldn’t be afraid to submit those scores even to a score optional school.

 

IF I APPLY TO A SCORE OPTIONAL SCHOOL, WILL MY EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AND ESSAYS WILL WEIGH MORE HEAVILY IN MY APPLICATION?

Yes. Not submitting test scores will ultimately mean that a university will take a more holistic approach to reviewing an applicant. For a student with a strong academic record, a broad array of activities and time spent outside of school, and many hours of service or volunteer work, applying to a score optional school is an excellent way to ensure that you get noticed for all of the awesome work you do outside of the classroom. But you should still know that your grades and GPA are the primary factors determining college admissions.

 

WILL I LOSE OUT ON SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES IF I DON’T SUBMIT TEST SCORES, EVEN TO SCORE OPTIONAL SCHOOLS?

Potentially, yes. Many schools might not require test scores for admissions, but they do use test scores in combination with grades/GPA to evaluate merit-based scholarships. For some “score optional” schools, in fact, test scores are only optional if a student meets a certain GPA requirement. These same schools will typically base who qualifies for assured merit scholarships on the GPA and/or test scores submitted with the admissions application. For the best information, you should always check the financial aid website for an individual college.

 

IF I DON’T SUBMIT SAT OR ACT SCORES, SHOULD I SUBMIT OTHER SCORES LIKE AP TESTS?

Absolutely, yes! Especially if those tests show exceptional strength in certain academic areas. In fact, if a student struggles with the testing criteria of SAT or ACT tests, but thrives in a specific subject matter, then showcasing your strength in that area is definitely a great idea. It’s important to remember that standardized tests are intended to allow a student to show academic strength in an objective way. Though these tests may not be required, if a student can show off their skills and knowledge, then that will only add strength to their application. AP testing only happens once a year, but there are other standardized tests that students can take such as CLEP tests and foreign language national exams that can highlight student excellence.

 

 

So the general consensus? The option to not submit scores can be very helpful for a student who struggles with standardized tests or for a student who wasn’t able to test and retest due to COVID-19 cancellations, precautions, or lack of availability for testing. However, there are still advantages to submitting scores and working to improve existing scores. If a student can prep and test in summer and maybe even early Fall (September and October), it is advantageous for that student to do so. Especially if they could improve their likelihood of gaining acceptance to more competitive schools OR if their grades/GPA aren’t as strong as they would have hoped. And then if a student applies to score optional or test flexible schools, which will already be approaching the application holistically, their scores will only add to their strengths. At More Than A Teacher, we are fond of saying that schools are looking for reasons to let you in, not reasons to keep you out. Knowing how a college or university will view test scores is the key to making an informed decision.

 

SCORE OPTIONAL, SCORE FLEXIBLE, AND TEST BLIND SCHOOLS BY GEOGRAPHIC AREA (updated March 2021)

http://fairtest.org/university/optional/state

 

TEST BLIND – Schools that will NOT consider test scores even if submitted for Fall 2021 or beyond

 

All California State universities (through Spring 2023)
All University of California (UC)* campuses (through 2021 state mandate, through 2024 by vote of Board of Regents)
CAL Tech (California Institute of Technology)
Cornell* (Agriculture, Architecture, and Business)
CUNY (City University of New York – all campuses)
Hampshire College**
Loyola University of New Orleans
Reed College** (2-year trial)
University of Washington-Seattle UW* (1 year pilot for 2020-2021, scores may be advised for waitlisted students)
Washington State University WSU (1 year pilot for 2020-2021)

 

SCORE OPTIONAL SCHOOLS BY GEOGRAPHIC AREA (schools that have chosen to de-emphasize SAT/ACT testing as a qualifier for admissions)

*indicates a top 100 nationally ranked university

**indicates a nationally ranked small liberal arts college (some of which can be found as part of the Colleges that Change Lives www.ctcl.org)

 

TEXAS

Austin College**
Baylor University*
Hardin-Simmons
Howard Payne
Midwestern State
Rice*
Sam Houston State
SMU*
Southwestern**
St. Edward’s
Stephen F. Austin State
Tarleton State (may be requested if student doesn’t meet GPA requirements)
TCU*
Texas A&M* – most campuses, including College Station (some campuses may request scores if min GPA requirements aren’t met)
Texas Lutheran
Texas State University (may be requested if student doesn’t meet GPA requirements)
Texas Tech University
Trinity**
University of Dallas
University of Houston
University of Mary-Hardin Baylor, UMHB (may be requested if student doesn’t meet GPA requirements or for placement/advising purposes)
UNT (may be requested if student doesn’t meet GPA requirements)
UT Austin* – and most campuses (some campuses may request scores if min GPA requirements aren’t met)

 

SOUTH

Babson College**
Belmont University
Eckerd College**
Emory University*
Florida State College (Must submit COMPASS, CPAT, TABE, WAIS, Stanford Achievement Test, ASSET and/or college entrance exam if not submitting SAT/ACT scores)
Full Sail University
Loyola University New Orleans (test blind)
Mississippi State University
Oklahoma State
Rhodes**
Sewanee University of the South**
State College of Florida
Tulane*
University of Kentucky
University of Mississippi (Ole’ Miss) – must meet min GPA requirements
University of Oklahoma OU
University of the Ozarks
University of Tulsa
Vanderbilt*

 

WEST

All Cal State Universities CSU
All UC schools* (test blind ONLY FOR CAL residents)
Arizona State – min GPA requirements
Boise State
Bushnell University
California Institute of Technology CALTECH*
California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Chapman College
City University of Seattle
Claremont McKenna** (check for other schools in Claremont Consortium)
Colorado College**
Evergreen State**
George Fox University
Golden Gate University
Gonzaga*
Grand Canyon University (must meet min GPA)
Harvey-Mudd** (check other schools in Claremont Consortium)
Hawai’i Pacific University
Idaho State
Lewis and Clark College**
Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston ID
Loyola Marymount*
Multnomah University
Nevada State College
New Mexico State
Oregon State
Otis College of Art and Design
Pepperdine*
Pitzer**
Pomona College** (check other Claremont Consortium)
Portland State University
Reed College**
Santa Clara*
Scripps**
Seattle University
Stanford*
University of Alaska – mult. campuses
University of Arizona
University of Denver*
University of Idaho
University of Nevada
University of New Mexico
University of Oregon
University of Puget Sound**
University of Utah
University of Washington (UW – Udub)*
University of Wyoming
USC*
Washington State – mult. campuses
Western Governors University
Whitman College**

 

NORTHEAST

Albright College
Allegheny College**
Amherst**
Bard**
Barnard**
Bates**
Berklee College of Music
Boston College*
Boston University*
Bowdoin**
Brandeis*
Brown*
Bryn Mawr**
Bucknell**
Cambridge College
Carnegie Mellon*
Colby**
Colgate**
College of the Holy Cross**
Columbia University*
Connecticut College**
Cornell*
Dartmouth College*
Davis**
Dickinson College**
Drexel*
Eastern University
Emerson College
Fordham*
Franklin and Marshall**
George Washington*
Hamilton**
Hampshire College
Harvard*
Haverford**
Hobart and William Smith
Indiana University of Penn
Ithaca College
Julliard School
Marist
Mass College of Art and Design
Middlebury**
Mount Holyoke**
New School
Northeastern University*
NYU* (score flexible – choose which standardized tests to send including APs)
Pace University
Penn State – mult campuses
Penn State at Penn State*
Princeton University*
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute*
Rhode Island School of Design
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rutgers – Newark and Camden
Sarah Lawrence**
Skidmore**
Smith**
St. John’s University
SUNY – multiple campuses
Swarthmore**
Syracuse*
Temple University
Thomas Jefferson University
Trinity College**
Tufts University*
UMASS* – Amherst*, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell
University of Connecticut*
University of Delaware*
University of Maine (multiple campuses)
University of New Hampshire
University of Pittsburgh – mult. campuses
University of Rhode Island
University of Rochester*
University of Vermont
UPenn*
Vassar**
Villanova*
Washington and Jefferson
Wellesley**
Wesleyan**
Williams College**
Yale*

 

MID-ATLANTIC

American University*
College of William and Mary*
Davidson College**
Elon University**
George Mason
Georgetown*
Goucher**
Hampton University (must meet min GPA)
James Madison University
Johns Hopkins*
Loyola University Maryland
Maryland Institute of Art
Marymount University
Old Dominion
Queens University of Charlotte
Towson
University of Maryland*
University of Richmond**
UVA*
Virginia State
Virginia Tech*
Wake Forest*
Washington and Lee**

 

MIDWEST

Ball State
Beloit College
Bethel University
Carleton College**
Case Western Reserve*
Chicago State University
College of Wooster
Columbia College
Concordia University Chicago
Concordia University, St. Paul
DePaul University
Franklin University
Grinnell College**
Hillsdale College**
Illinois State University
Illinois Wesleyan University
Indiana State University – must meet GPA requirements
Indiana University* – Bloomington* and mult. campuses
Indiana Wesleyan
Knox College**
KState (meet min GPA)
Loyola University Chicago
Macalester College**
Marquette*
Michigan State*
Minnesota State
North Park University
Northwestern*
Oberlin College**
Ohio State University* – mult. campuses
Ohio University – mult. campuses
Ohio Wesleyan University
Purdue University
Ripon College
University of Chicago*
University of Cincinnati
University of Michigan – Flint campus (must meet min GPA)
University of Minnesota – mult. campuses
University of Missouri Mizzou – mult. campuses
University of Nebraska – mult. campuses
University of Notre Dame*
University of Wisconsin – mult. campuses
Valparaiso University
Washington University in St. Louis*

College Admission Recommended Timeline: Sophomore Fall to Senior Spring

COLLEGE ADMISSIONS RECOMMENDED TIMELINE

FALL SOPHOMORE YEAR – Focus on making wise academic choices, improving grades, finding passion and focus in extra-curricular activities, test prep indicator PSAT

  • Students should seek to plan for what their academics will reflect by the time they graduate high school. For example, do they want to focus on higher level math and science, fine arts, social sciences, etc. Also, starting Sophomore year is when students may begin to take more advanced courses like AP level – students should make wise choices about what classes they want to take AP or not. Transcripts should reflect passion and focus, as well as achievement.
  • Extracurricular activities are also opportunities for students to reflect their interests, and sometimes narrowing down activities can allow students to thrive more so than with an abundance of activities.
  • PSAT and other standardized tests – Scores of 200+ on NM Index show potential for NM achievement
    • Score of 180+ show potential for very high PSAT scores (1300/1400+)
  • Students should begin PSAT prep summer before Junior year IF scoring 1200 or above on PSAT

 

SUMMER BEFORE JUNIOR YEAR – Focus on test prep planning and college research, continued emphasis on academic strength and improving grades

  • Gather data – baseline scoring for both PSAT/SAT and ACT
    • Take practice tests or utilize pre-tests given on campus
    • Test prep consultations to analyze scores if needed
    • IF students have already completed Algebra 2, summer prep is a good idea
    • IF students have NOT already completed Algebra 2, then summer prep is recommended based on high baseline scores or to accommodate student schedule
    • IF summer prep isn’t recommended, then we aim for prep to begin in November/December or over holiday break
  • Test Prep Course: students should plan for a minimum of 20-30 hours for 100 points of improvement on SAT or for 2 points improvement on ACT
    • Students should plan to take post-prep practice tests as post-assessments to determine areas for growth versus mastery of skills
    • Additional classwork or private tutoring as needed to help refine skills and improve score
    • Students should plan to take the official AUGUST SAT or SEPTEMBER ACT as their first official test
      • Order SAT QAS report – will show every missed question for review
      • Order ACT detailed score report – receive copy of test and answers
  • College Research: students should research dream schools, potential majors, and areas of interest
    • Compile college list organized by Reach schools (dream schools but also competitive with lower admissions rate), Target schools (dream schools but with much higher admissions rates of 50% or better), and Safety schools (NOT back-up choices, but schools with guaranteed admissions)
    • It is important to look at test score goals for Reach schools to motivate students to set high score goals for test prep
    • Virtual tours and visits if possible – schedule premier weekends and register for organized information sessions (demonstrated interest)
  • “Real world” learning experiences – Students should seek to find community involvement activities, like informal or formal internships, shadowing experiences, camps, or volunteering, that will help them to get acquainted with working in the “real world.”

 

FALL JUNIOR YEAR – PSAT NMSQT Test administered in October

  • Students must continue ongoing prep if they engaged in summer prep work and courses
  • Students will test on PSAT in either mid-October or late-October as scheduled by their campus
  • PSAT scores released in December (digital) and early January (paper)
  • Take official SAT and ACT tests in November and December IF students have already completed PSAT prep and established baseline scores
    • IF students have not yet begun test prep process, then use PSAT scores as a baseline and recommend practice ACT to compare baseline scores

 

SPRING JUNIOR YEAR – Official SAT/ACT testing, AP testing, SAT Subject testing, IB testing

  • Official SAT/ACT Testing: use baseline scores from PSAT and Practice ACT – test prep consultation to analyze and determine plan for prep
    • Choose between SAT or ACT prep (both is NOT recommended except for special cases)
    • Plan to test at least 2-3 times on official tests until student achieves goal score (based on college admissions research)
    • Always order detailed score reports if possible
    • Private tutoring or repeated group classes as needed to refine and improve skills
  • AP Testing: May
  • IB Testing: May
  • SAT Subject Testing: NOT recommended for most students
    • ONLY IF required by the college
    • Should happen in May and/or June if a student has already achieved score goal for official SAT or ACT
  • Continued College Research
    • Students should refine their college list down to 7-10 schools (2/3 Reach schools, 2/3 Target schools, and at least 2 Safety schools)
    • College visits and information seminars (virtual tours and webinars if needed)
    • Plan for college applications and college essays
  • Plan for summer work, internships, shadowing, volunteer opportunities

SUMMER SENIOR YEAR – College Admissions, applications, and essays

  • Get organized – use a spreadsheet to organize college list, admissions stats, deadlines, required documents, and a timeline for completion
  • Begin college application profiles – once you have determined the college list, choose which universal applications to use and establish application profiles
  • College Essay – attend college essay workshops or private tutoring to help brainstorm and write college essays and supplements
  • Apply to colleges in Texas as early as July 1
  • Most other colleges will accept applications starting August 1
    • California system and some Pacific Northwest schools don’t open applications until October and November
  • August – request transcripts and letters recommendation according to high school specific process and requirement
  • Deadline – try to submit as many applications and documents before school starts as possible
    • Priority or Early Action deadlines are generally in October and November
    • Regular deadlines are generally in January-March
    • The earlier you apply, the more likely your chances of admissions UNLESS a student has special circumstances (like low GPA or the need for repeated testing during Senior year)

FALL SENIOR YEAR – PSAT NM Announcements, Scholarships and re-testing

  • PSAT National Merit scholars are announced: students must complete the NM application, essay, and short answers and submit by Oct 1st (deadline changes each year, school official may create earlier deadlines for students)
    • Official SAT/ACT scores must be submitted to NMSC by Dec 31st
      • “Comparable” score will be calculated using the selection index score model, even for ACT (when converted to SAT using concordance)
    • Submit high school paperwork – endorsement and transcript
    • Submit college coursework if applicable
    • Students will need to select their top choice school for NM consideration
      • College Choice – students are asked to report their first choice school, but may declare “undecided” and then notify the NMSC as soon as possible
      • Sponsor College as First Choice – students should research schools with National Merit scholarships to ensure that they make a wise choice – VERY OFTEN these schools are considered target or safety choices for a student.
      • College-sponsored NM awards are NOT transferrable if a student later decides to transfer schools, so they need to feel confident in their choice
    • All Finalists will be awarded the NM Finalist $2500 scholarship. Additional corporate-sponsored scholarships and stipends are awarded based on the NM Finalist application.
  • Scholarship applications – once applications have been submitted, students may need to submit additional applications for scholarships
  • Re-testing on SAT or ACT should only happen during Fall of Senior year IF students need to improve scores for scholarship purposes or IF students are applying regular admission with later deadlines
  • Financial Aid – students can complete the FAFSA (recommended for ALL students, even those whose families are not likely to qualify for aid) in October
    • FAFSA support not offered by MTAT, but likely offered by high school counselors

 

WINTER SENIOR YEAR – NM Scholarships Awarded, Admissions awards for Early Action

  • December-January – students who applied early action, priority, or early admission will receive admissions notifications
  • February – NM Semi-Finalists students will be chosen as Finalists and will receive a Certificate of Merit from their high school
    • Submit sponsor college as first choice college by March 1st in order to be considered for the first round of applicants
    • March and May – NM Finalist scholarship winners notified
  • March – regular decision notifications will be sent out
  • May – final college decision and all deposits should be sent, finalize financial aid

The FAFSA is Open October 1st!

Completing and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) doesn’t have to be confusing. Read on for advice from our college advisor and one of our trusted college counseling partners to help you navigate the FAFSA with confidence. First, let’s dispel a few myths about FAFSA:

  • I should wait to complete the FAFSA until I have decided on my chosen college — NO, you can submit the FAFSA now so that you will have a more accurate financial aid package for each of the schools you have applied to. This can help you to feel more confident in your decision, without leaving the financial questions up to chance.
  • I should not complete the FAFSA if my family may not be eligible for need-based aid — NO, in fact, many scholarships require a FAFSA application on file, even though they do not require a certain score to determine eligibility. Completing the FAFSA, regardless of the income situation of a family, is a good idea because colleges may still require it in order to finalize a financial aid package that includes merit-based scholarships.
  • I cannot submit the FAFSA until 2020 taxes have been filed — NO, actually, the FAFSA can be submitted as early as now with an estimated family contribution, but then would be finalized after taxes are filed.

We recommend that all students complete the FAFSA – it is only part of what colleges review when they create a financial aid package for a student, but for many colleges, it is essential that the FAFSA is completed.

Here is some expert advice offered by one of our partner college counselors, Marina Glava of St. Dominic Savio Catholic High school.

WHEN:

The FAFSA is open beginning October 1. Which means that it’s time to gather up your materials and fill it out – the sooner, the better!

This year, you can even file the financial aid form straight from your mobile device.

WHAT:

It’s important to gather all the necessary information and materials beforehand. Trust me, if you do have the necessary information on hand, filling out the form will become much simpler.

Depending on your circumstances (when you filed taxes or what tax form was used), you may or may not need the following information or documents as you fill out the FAFSA.

  1. Your Social Security card and driver’s license, and/or alien registration card if you are not a US citizen.
  2. Your most recent federal income tax returns (you don’t have to wait – you can use the most recent returns you have from last year), W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
  3. Your parents’ income tax returns, W-2 forms, and 1040 forms if you are a dependent (“dependent” means that you were claimed by your parents/guardians on their taxes; you are a dependent unless declared otherwise). If you or your parents have not completed your taxes yet, you can estimate your income and other tax return information, and then correct your application after you have filed your taxes.
  4. Records and documentation of other non-taxable income received, such as welfare benefits, Social Security income, veteran’s benefits, military or clergy allowances (if applicable).
  5. Any additional applicable financial information, such as taxable work-study, assistantships, fellowships, grants, and scholarship aid reported to the IRS, combat pay or special combat pay and cooperative education program earnings.
  6. Records of any additional nontaxable income, examples include: child support received, veterans’ non-education benefits, money received or paid on your behalf, etc.
  7. Current bank and brokerage account statements, including records of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments (if applicable).
  8. Business or investment farm records (if applicable).
  9. Records relating to any unusual family financial circumstances, such as anything that changed from last year or anything that distinguishes the family from the typical family in terms of unusual marital situations, living situations, separations, etc. Examples include: high unreimbursed medical and/or dental expenses, unusually high dependent care costs (e.g., for a special-needs child or an elderly parent), death, divorce, salary reductions, job loss, and private K-12 tuition. *With the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions, there may be significant changes for tax year 2020 that you may need to take into consideration. Remember that you can update/finalize the FAFSA after taxes have been filed for 2020.
  10. Title IV Institution Codes for each school you are applying to. You can get this code from the school (some have them listed on their websites) or you can use FinAid’s Title IV School Code Database.

HOW:

When filling out and submitting your FAFSA electronically, you’ll need an FSA ID to sign the form. If you don’t have one, you can create a FSA ID online. If you are applying as a dependent – and again, you are dependent unless declared otherwise – one parent is required to sign as well. To electronically fill out your FAFSA online, your parent should also apply for a FAFSA ID at the same site. 

Download the 2020-2021 FAFSA information sheet during your preparation process, to doubly ensure you have all of the information you need. https://studentaid.gov/sites/default/files/2020-21-fafsa-worksheet.pdf

Utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which allows applicants who have already filed their federal income tax returns to prefill the answers to some of the difficult FAFSAquestions by transferring the necessary data directly from federal income tax returns.

If you are a man, age 18-25, you must be registered with Selective Service.

According to the Selective Service System website, “men, born after December 31, 1960, who aren’t registered with Selective Service won’t qualify for Federal student loans or grant programs. This includes Federal Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Direct Stafford Loans/Plus Loans, National Direct Student Loans, and College Work Study.” Ensure your eligibility by following the guidelines detailed on the Selective Service System website!

Additional Advice:

I’d advise you to gather your materials and fill out your forms sooner rather than later because the entire process can take a while. Putting off your financial aid is not something you want to do!

Once you complete your FAFSA, save copies of your completed FAFSA form, along with copies of all the information you gathered in order to fill it out.

Make sure to keep all documents in a safe place – you never know when you’ll need to reference them. It’s also a way to prove that you’ve submitted the form on time, since no late applications are accepted!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

*Information from Fastweb, FAFSA Checklist

 

FAFSA articles

https://blog.ed.gov/2018/09/7-things-you-need-2019-20-fafsa/

https://www.edvisors.com/fafsa/eligibility/filing-fafsa-deadline-2019-2020/

Overview of the financial aid process

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz9j-g1FIHQ

FAFSA mobile App

https://www.youtube.com/user/FederalStudentAid

FAFSA and FSA tips for parents

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdaGZASwjZU&index=4&list=PL23B9A23CD8DD82DD

After the FAFSA, what to expect

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1c1gNefSw78

Great website for lingering FAFSA questions

https://studentaidhelp.ed.gov/app/home/site/fafsa

SUBMIT YOUR INFORMATION:

When you are ready to complete your FAFSA, head to https://fafsa.ed.gov/

Test Cancellation Updates and Advice for Class of ’21

The SAT and ACT are typically offered a combined number of fourteen times during a given school year. This year, however, COVID cancellations and postponements eliminated at least half of those opportunities for the class of 2021.  Many test sites have announced that they are cancelling or postponing the August SAT. What does this mean for high school seniors? Well, it depends. Seniors who tested as juniors in the fall of 2019 or early spring of 2020 may not even notice the cancellations or changes in admission policies. They are the fortunate ones. Seniors who don’t have an SAT or ACT score yet aren’t so lucky. They have two options: 1) forget about it and apply to score-optional colleges/programs (more on this later) or 2) prepare and test this fall. But when will a test actually take place? No one can guarantee anything right now, especially when it comes to college admissions, but here’s our two cents for seniors who are either done testing, thinking about score-optional admission, or still hoping to take an SAT or ACT this fall.

Done testing:

Good for you! Seriously, good job. Your hard work and advance planning paid off. Finish up your college essays and plan to apply just like this was any other year. We recommend submitting everything by the end of October for this group of students.

Wondering about score-optional admission:

Many schools are going score-optional or test-flexible for class of 2021. This is great news for students who do not have scores yet or who are not satisfied with the pre-pandemic scores they have on record. Our advice to this group of students is to do your research and make sure your application is beautiful! Read what your top-choice schools are doing for your graduation class. If they have waived the score requirements, and you do not have the time or energy to take an SAT or ACT, you can put your energy into your application, resume, and essays. Will they be looking at these items more closely if you do not submit scores? You bet! Double check new deadlines and read every word of the admission requirements for class of 2021. Make sure you understand the new policy on testing before getting too excited! Will you need scores for merit-based aid or admission to a particular program (i.e. engineering or business)? If so, you might need to read the advice below.

Hoping to test this fall:

Don’t test cold! You may only have one shot at the test this year. Prepare by taking practice tests, attending a prep class, and/or working with a friend or private tutor one-on-one. If you are signed up for the August SAT, keep checking your College Board account and confirm with your school to see whether or not the test will be taking place. If you are faced with a cancellation, shift your focus to the September or October SAT instead. The adjusted deadlines might give you time to test this winter or early spring of 2021. Find out whether your high school is offering a school-day SAT for seniors this fall. If it is, sign up ASAP! Many schools are offering a school-day SAT for seniors on the same day that juniors are taking the PSAT.

We are here to help! Attend a free webinar or contact us to book a complimentary, thirty-minute consultation. One of our experts can help you create a custom plan for preparing, testing, and completing your college essays. Good luck, seniors. Take a breath and relax. You’ve got this.

Understanding the National Merit Scholarship Process

Do you have questions about National Merit and the PSAT? Read on to learn more about what National Merit is and how students can qualify for scholarships. At the end of this post you will find a list of colleges that have a reputation for offering generous scholarships to students who have earned National Merit recognition. Please note, colleges adjust scholarship awards every year, so it is always important to verify any information with the college directly.

WHAT IS NATIONAL MERIT?

National Merit is the largest private scholarship corporation in the country. The first qualifier for earning National Merit recognition is earning the qualifying score on the junior-year PSAT/NMSQT. Qualifying scores vary from year to year and state to state. High scores can also be linked to other scholarship opportunities. Read our blog post The PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index Demystified to learn more about scoring.

 

NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP MYTHS

MYTH: ALL NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARS ARE GUARANTEED HUGE SCHOLARSHIPS FOR THE COLLEGE OF THEIR CHOICE.

TRUTH: Students must select their top-choice schools from the schools that offer NM scholarships. And even then, they are competing with other NM scholars for those awards.

 

MYTH: THE ONLY WAY TO GET MERIT AID FROM IVIES AND ELITE COLLEGES IS THROUGH THE NM SCHOLARSHIP.

TRUTH: Most elite universities offer very little merit aid. If they offer merit aid, it is generally privately endowed, offered by the university (not NM), and competitive. There are ZERO ivy-league schools that offer NM scholarships.

 

MYTH: NM SCHOLARS DON’T NEED TO HAVE AN EXCELLENT SAT/ACT SCORE IN ORDER TO BE AWARDED SCHOLARSHIPS.

TRUTH: Many universities offer merit-based aid for SAT/ACT scores. And when compiling a financial package for students, universities will consider both a student’s NM Scholar status and their SAT/ACT scores to see what the best fit for the university and the family is. Need-based aid can also factor into how much NM scholarship money a student may be offered. It’s important for students to apply for multiple scholarships as NM aid is never a guarantee.

 

HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF EARNING NATIONAL MERIT?

  • Plan to do Summer and Fall Prep of some kind.
  • Take ALL the practice tests.
  • Take an official SAT in August, September, or October
  • Prep! (Choose from any combination of MTAT Courses, Boot Camps, Tutoring, Study Groups, or free online prep.)

NATIONAL MERIT SCHOLARSHIP TIMELINE

FALL SOPHOMORE YEAR: Indicator PSAT

  • Scores of 200+ on Selection Index show potential for NM achievement. Score of 180+ shows potential for very high PSAT scores (1300/1400+).

SUMMER BEFORE JUNIOR YEAR: Prep begins

  • Students should plan for a minimum of 20-30 hours for a 100-point improvement.
  • Students should plan to take ALL of the College Board released practice PSAT and SAT tests.
  • Students should plan to take the official August SAT. Order QAS report for $12; it will show every missed question for review.

FALL JUNIOR YEAR: PSAT NMSQT Test administered in October

  • Students must continue ongoing prep.
  • Students will test in either mid- or late-October.
  • Scores are released in December (digital) and early January (paper).
  • Take the SAT (or ACT). Students should test in the fall and only retest in the spring if needed to increase admissions qualifiers or scholarships.

FALL SENIOR YEAR: PSAT Finalists/Semi-finalists announced

  • Students must complete the NM application, essay, and short answers and submit everything on time (the deadline changes each year). Official SAT/ACT scores must be submitted to NMSC by Dec 31st. “Comparable” score will be calculated using the selection-index score model, even for ACT (when converted to SAT using concordance).
  • Submit high school paperwork: endorsement and transcript.
  • Submit college coursework if applicable.
  • College Choice: students will need to select their top-choice school for NM consideration but may declare “undecided” and then notify the NMSC as soon as possible.
  • Sponsor College as First Choice: students should research schools with National Merit scholarships to ensure that they make a wise choice. These schools are often considered target or safety choices for a student.
  • College-sponsored NM awards are NOT transferable if a student later decides to transfer schools, so they need to feel confident in their choice.
  • All Finalists will be awarded the NM Finalist $2500 scholarship. Additional corporate-sponsored scholarships and stipends are awarded based on the NM finalist application.

 

WINTER SENIOR YEAR: NM Scholarships Awarded

  • February: students will be chosen as finalists and will receive a Certificate of Merit from their high school. Students should submit NM sponsor college as first choice college by March 1st in order to be considered for the first round of applicants.
  • March and May: scholarship winners notified.

 

SPONSOR COLLEGE AWARDS BASED ON REGION (subject to change!)

The following information is current as of January 2020. Colleges make changes to their National Merit Scholarships each year. Check the university webpage for the most up-to-date NM scholarship info!

TEXAS

ACU: National Achievement (full tuition), National Hispanic Recognition (up to $6000/yr), Semi-Finalists and Finalists guaranteed full tuition + $1500 stipend, Commended $2000

BAYLOR: Invitation to Excellence (competition for full tuition scholarships)

A&M: Finalist, must name A&M first choice ($42,000 + $1000 study abroad stipend + $3000 NMRA supplement for 5th year)

TEXAS TECH: Finalist, must name Tech as first choice for full tuition, fees, room/board, transportation and personal stipend

UTDALLAS: Automatic admission into Honors College, full tuition, $4000 semester cash stipend, $3000 NMSC scholarship, up to $6000 for study abroad, $1500 semester on-campus housing stipend

UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON: Finalist, full tuition and required fees, one-time $1000 undergrad research stipend, one-time $2000 study abroad stipend; must select as first choice

OUT OF STATE

ALABAMA: Full tuition up to 5 years, four years of on-campus housing, $14,000 stipend, $2,000 allowance for research or study abroad, $1,000 technology enrichment allowance

BOSTON UNIVERSITY: Finalist first-choice, $80,000 (over 4 years)

BYU: Full tuition, limited availability

FLORIDA ATLANTIC UNIVERSITY: Cost of attendance, regardless of residency

FLORIDA STATE: Cost of attendance ($80,000+), guaranteed admission to University Honors Program

FORDHAM: Full tuition with A/A- average and top 2-3% of admitted students, competitive

ILLINOIS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY: Up to three scholarships up to $160,000; $16,000 otherwise

IOWA STATE: Full tuition for residents, varies for non-residents

LOYOLA: Full tuition for one student, $8,000 if not selected

NORTHEASTERN: Competitive merit-based award

OKLAHOMA STATE: Finalists who select OSU as their first choice, up to five-year full tuition waiver

OLE MISS: Full tuition + room ($54,776 for residents, $118,592 for non-residents)

OU: Semi-finalists with 3.5 GPA earn $4000/yr; Finalists who name OU as first choice gain $68,500

UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: $72,000 (full tuition plus) + $1,500 for study abroad for residents, varies for non-residents + $1,500 for study abroad depending on GPA and test scores

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS: Finalists, first choice, $40.000

UNIVERSITY OF CINCINNATI: Full in-state tuition, guaranteed admission to honors program and $1,500 one-time allocation towards purchase of computer, research or study abroad. 60 available, first-come, first-served

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: Finalist, cost of attendance (full ride)

UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO: Basic cost of attendance ($66,976 for residents, $137,520 for non-residents)

UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS: $40,000 for residents

UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY: Full in-state or out-of-state tuition and housing stipend

UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: Full in-state tuition + $32,000 allowance for room, board and books or $80,000 for out-of-state students

UNIVERSITY OF MAINE: Full tuition and most fees

UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: Cost of attendance (for Florida residents only)

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Up to $40,000

UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA: Full tuition + $8,000

UNIVERSITY OF NEW MEXICO: $75,212 for residents, $137,792 for non-residents + iPad

UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA: Full tuition/fee waiver for ND and MN residents

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA: $40,000 for residents, up to $104,000 with tuition reduction for non-residents

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: Full cost of attendance, guaranteed admittance to honors college and on-campus housing

UNIVERSITY OF TULSA: Full tuition and basic room and board

USC: Finalist, half tuition (limited)

VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH: Cost of tuition/fees + room and board

WASHINGTON STATE: Finalist, full tuition

WHEATON COLLEGE: Finalist, merit-based coupled with need-based aid, $68,000-$72,000

Education and money relation concept. Isolated on white. High quality 3D render.

 

Applying to Score Optional Schools – Updated!

With the unprecedented cancellations of SAT and ACT tests this spring, many rising seniors are wondering how the situation will affect their college applications, particularly for schools that now do not require test scores as part of a student’s admissions profile.

“Score-optional” or “test-optional” schools do not require students to submit test scores from the SAT or ACT. But these schools do allow students to submit those scores if the student feels that their score reflects academic strength and contributes positively to their overall admissions profile. This is different from “test blind” colleges, which will not review test scores at all, even if they are submitted. The number of test-blind colleges is relatively small compared to the increasing number (over 1000) of schools that have gone score-optional (either permanently or just for the class of 2021 admissions cycle). Many news reports unwittingly imply that score-optional schools are test-blind, which can cause confusion. It’s important to understand the implications of score-optional status to successfully navigate the fall 2020 application process.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

IF I APPLY TO A SCORE-OPTIONAL SCHOOL, DOES THAT MEAN THAT MY TEST SCORES DON’T MATTER?

 

If you choose not to submit scores, then your test scores will have no bearing on your acceptance (the school won’t see them). But if you choose not to submit scores, and other students do submit their scores, you may be at a disadvantage. A student who submits high test scores will have a stronger application than a student who doesn’t submit scores at all. That is why when you look at the average scores for students attending a test-optional school like the University of Chicago (consistently ranked among the top twenty national universities, with an acceptance rate under ten percent), you see very high average scores for admitted students. Those students weren’t required to submit scores, but they did, and their high scores complemented the academic strengths indicated by their transcript.

 

If you have strong test scores, you should always send them, even to test-optional schools. Scores in the 75th percentile (1200 on SAT or 24/25 on ACT) and above are strong scores.

 

IF I APPLY TO A SCORE-OPTIONAL SCHOOL, THEN WILL MY EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AND ESSAYS WEIGH MORE HEAVILY IN MY APPLICATION?

 

Yes. Not requiring test scores will ultimately mean that a university will take a more holistic approach to reviewing applicants. For a student with a strong academic record, a broad array of extracurricular activities, and many hours of service or volunteer work, applying to a score-optional school is an excellent way to ensure that you get noticed for all of the awesome work that you do outside of the classroom. However, grades and GPA are the primary factors determining college admissions.

 

WILL I LOSE OUT ON SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES IF I DON’T SUBMIT TEST SCORES, EVEN TO SCORE-OPTIONAL SCHOOLS?

 

Potentially, yes. Many schools might not require test scores for admissions, but they do use test scores in combination with grades/GPA to evaluate applications for merit-based scholarships. In fact, for some “score-optional” schools, test scores are only optional if a student meets a certain GPA requirement. These same schools will typically award merit scholarships based on GPA and test scores submitted with the admissions application. Keep in mind that the situation is evolving. Some schools who have recently made the decision to go test-optional may not yet have made a decision on how they will award merit scholarships for fall 2020 applicants. For the best information, you should always check the financial aid information available on individual colleges’ websites.

 

IF I DON’T SUBMIT SAT OR ACT SCORES, SHOULD I SUBMIT OTHER SCORES LIKE SAT SUBJECT TESTS or AP TESTS?

 

Absolutely! Especially if those tests show exceptional strength in certain academic areas. In fact, if you struggle with SAT or ACT tests, but excel at subject-specific tests, it is a good idea to think about taking some of those tests in the fall in order to boost your admissions profile. AP tests are administered only once per year, but SAT Subject tests and CLEP exams happen throughout the year. Both are part of the College Board array of tests. You can view schedules and pricing at collegeboard.org and determine if one or more might help improve your admissions profile.

 

ARE UT AND A&M SCORE-OPTIONAL?

 

Yes, but only for Class of ’21 applicants. UT and A&M have both recently announced that they are not requiring SAT or ACT scores for Class of ’21 admissions.  Both universities are still going to offer assured admissions for students with certain grades/class ranks. High test scores may still be useful for placement in specific programs (for example the School of Engineering or School of Business at either campus). “Students may continue to submit standardized scores from their SAT and/or ACT tests for consideration for admission. Submission of tests scores will not create any unfair advantage or disadvantage for those students who provide them.” Chris Reed, executive director of admissions, TAMU.

 

CONCLUSION

 

The option to not submit scores can be very helpful for a student who struggles with standardized tests or for a student who wasn’t able to test in the spring due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but there are still advantages to submitting scores and working to improve existing scores. If a student can prep and test in late summer and early fall, it is advantageous to that student to do so. Especially if they are applying to the big public universities in our state, as both UT and A&M are still requiring students to submit test scores for SAT or ACT. If a student applies to score-optional or test-flexible schools, impressive scores will only add to their strengths. At More Than A Teacher, we are fond of saying that schools are looking for reasons to let you in, not reasons to keep you out. Knowing how a college or university will view test scores is the key to making an informed decision.

 

SCORE OPTIONAL SCHOOLS BY GEOGRAPHIC AREA (schools waiving testing requirements for 2020 admissions ONLY) https://www.fairtest.org/sites/default/files/ACT-SATWaiversfor2020Admissions.pdf

 

TEXAS

Baylor University

St. Mary’s University, San Antonio

Schreiner University (applicants with GPA of 3.25+)

Texas Tech

University of Texas

Texas A&M

 

SCORE OPTIONAL SCHOOLS BY GEOGRAPHIC AREA (schools that have chosen to de-emphasize SAT/ACT testing as a qualifier for admissions)

*indicates a top 50 nationally ranked university

**indicates a nationally ranked small liberal arts college (Colleges that Change Lives)

 

TEXAS

Baylor University

Austin College**

Concordia University

SMU

Southwestern**

St. Edward’s

TCU

Texas Lutheran

Trinity**

UT-Arlington

 

SOUTH

Eckerd College**

Florida State

University of Miami

Loyola University New Orleans (test blind)

Tulane*

Davidson College**

Elon University**

Wake Forest*

Rhodes**

College of William and Mary*

University of Richmond**

Virginia Tech

 

WEST

Arizona State – min GPA requirements

University of Arizona

CAL TECH

All Cal State Universities*

Claremont McKenna (check for other schools in Claremont Consortium)**

Loyola Marymount

All UC schools (test-blind for California residents only)

Colorado College**

University of Denver

Lewis and Clark College**

Oregon State

University of Oregon

Evergreen State**

Gonzaga

University of Puget Sound**

University of Washington (UW – Udub)

Whitman College**

USC*

 

NORTHEAST

University of Connecticut

American University*

George Washington*

Amherst

Boston University*

Northeastern University*

Brandeis*

Cambridge College

Tufts University*

UMASS

Smith**

Goucher**

Bates**

Bowdoin**

Colby**

Bard**

Barnard**

Colgate**

Cornell*

Wesleyan**

Fordham

Davis**

Hamilton**

Marist

NYU (score flexible – choose which standardized tests to send, including APs)*

University of Rochester*

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute*

Sarah Lawrence

Skidmore**

Vassar

Allegheny College

Bryn Mawr**

Bucknell**

Haverford**

Swarthmore**

Temple University

Villanova*

Middlebury**

 

 

MIDWEST

Columbia College

DePaul University

University of Chicago*

Ball State

Indiana University – Purdue

KState (meet min GPA)

Michigan State

Carleton College**

Case Western*

Oberlin College**

Navigating College Admissions Amid COVID-19

College Admission Test Cancellations

It may seem difficult to plan for college when everything keeps changing. While important admission test dates have been cancelled or postponed, we want to encourage students to keep their goals in sight and focus on a strong finish!

Here is a review of some of the recent changes affecting students and the college admissions process, and ways students can stay on track and achieve their goals.

Spring SATs Cancelled

The College Board has cancelled all remaining test dates for the current school year, which means that the next anticipated testing opportunity is not until August 29th. What does this mean for students? Use the time you have now to prepare for the August SAT! With fewer testing opportunities and a smaller window to submit test scores, why wait? Gain essential test-taking strategies now and use this time to refine your skills to ensure your August test score counts! All MTAT prep classes have moved online until we can safely meet in person. You can view all SAT course offerings HERE. Remember,  previous MTAT students have unlimited, FREE return privileges to future SAT classes. Prepare now, and review later. This will alleviate the stress of cramming for a test while preparing to submit college applications, writing college essays, visiting campuses, etc.

Is the ACT a good option for you? Take this time to find out. Take a practice ACT so you can make an informed decision about which test to target! Download a practice ACT from ACT.org or email [email protected] to get a printable version you can take from home.

 

Spring ACT Options

ACT cancelled the April test date due to COVID-19; however, unlike College Board,  ACT plans to follow through with June and July testing. As we are all aware, plans are continually changing. Like the SAT classes, all of our ACT classes are also moving online until we are able to meet in person. A complete list of ACT class schedules is available HERE. Students currently enrolled in an ACT class should plan to continue their preparation so they can gain a strong foundation in the strategies they’ll need to conquer the test, and plan to take advantage of our free return policy should they need to test again, or should their test date be postponed.

 

What about Test Optional Schools?

Some schools have adopted a Test Optional policy for Class of 2021 applicants. What does this mean for you? Colleges understand the situation that juniors are in right now. They know that at least four major testing opportunities have been cancelled. For this reason, some schools are dropping the SAT/ACT requirement for Class of 2021. Some schools are going test optional permanently! Keep in mind, even though SAT/ACT scores are not required, you may still benefit from submitting your scores. Do your research to make sure that you understand the requirements for the schools you will be applying to. Check to see what their average SAT/ACT scores typically are. If your SAT/ACT is close to the average (or better yet, higher than the average), go ahead and send your scores. SAT/ACT scores might still be necessary for your desired major or ensure your eligibility for certain scholarships.

If you are struggling with your online coursework or if you find yourself overwhelmed because of the test cancellations, a test optional or test blind college might be a great choice. Your mental health is your top priority. Just make sure to do your research.

 

College Research, Applications, and Essays

Students have a unique opportunity to overcome the challenges of this season and to show colleges their grit and tenacity during challenging times. One of the ways you can keep moving forward is to spend time researching colleges and make a plan for completing your applications and essays. Become an admission expert when it comes to the colleges you want to apply to. Our college advisor prepared a great resource you can view for free to help you get started (College Admission Prezi by Kim Lewis).

Want to get started on your essays now? Year after year, our college essay coaches see students struggle with what to write about and how to make their essays unique when everyone is answering the same, broad essay prompt. Taking this time to get a head start on your essays may allow for more time later to focus on summer testing, postponed college visits, and completing applications! We are offering our College Essay Workshop package in a one-on-one, virtual platform so students can get ahead . Click HERE or contact our office for more information.

While essay prompts can vary slightly from year to year, our experts will focus on crafting essays that will be widely applicable. If there happens to be a dramatic shift to the application process, we will adjust accordingly to ensure students needs are met and essays meet the necessary requirements.

 

Need help staying informed when it comes to College Admission Testing? Sign up for our blog or follow us on FaceBook!

10 Ways High School Seniors Can Stay On Track During COVID

Our current situation is a worldwide health crisis. The word crisis comes with a host of negative feelings: doubt, paranoia, anxiety, fear, and stress. A time of crisis is a time of change, no matter the outcomes. For many graduating seniors, this time of your life is a huge time of flux and transition, regardless of this label “crisis.” Even if your world hadn’t been turned upside down, you would likely still be experiencing many of those same feelings: fear of the unknown, excitement or anxiety about the coming months and years, or indecision and doubt about how to choose your best future. Our current situation is bringing all those feelings into a sharper focus and a harsher reality, but they would be there still.

At More Than A Teacher, our mission has always been to allay the fears and stress of the college admissions process in the best way that we can. By teaching, by offering advice and support. So we have collected advice gleaned from the brightest minds we know: your high school counselors and admissions experts from major universities. A big thank you to the college counselors from Hill Country, St. Dominic Savio, St. Andrews, Ann Richards School, LASA, Austin High, and Dripping Springs High!

While the situation is rapidly changing, here are ten tips for what you can do right now to feel confident in your college choice:

1. COMMUNICATION

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Check your email OFTEN and collect all notifications from any school that you are considering. It’s a good idea to create an email folder for each school. Pay close attention to communication that comes from their social media accounts as well. Add dates and deadlines to your calendar to help keep track.

2. EMAIL COLLEGES

Although college campuses may be shut down, the college admission officers are still working to finalize admissions lists, organize waitlists, review appeals and deferrals, and send out more notices of “YES YOU HAVE BEEN ADMITTED!” If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call or email the admissions office. They’ll be happy to hear from you. Remember to check (and follow) their blogs and social media accounts for the most up to date information.

3. ONLINE/VIRTUAL/DIGITAL VISITS

Many students were relying on campus visits in order to help them make an informed decision on where to go. Although campuses are closed and many of these events are canceled, the reality is that much of our world these days has gone VIRTUAL. Most colleges are replacing those activities with online events like live chats, web panel discussions, and virtual live tours. Take advantage of these opportunities to continue to show a demonstrated interest in your top choices.

    • Check your email/social media accounts for “rescheduled to online” formats of these events.
    • Check out these general (open to anyone) virtual campus tours through sites like youvisit.comyouniversitytv.com
    • Check your applicant portals (“my status” sites) and social media – ADVICE: following your schools on TWITTER is one of the best ways to get information

4. EXTENSIONS AND FLEXIBILITY

You have likely heard that many universities are extending deadlines, specifically decision day deadlines. You may now have until June 1st to submit your decision to attend. Watch for emails from the colleges or contact each school for deadline and/or extension updates. Colleges are generally responding by being more flexible and understanding than ever before. The National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) has created a database for colleges to report any changes to deposit deadlines and visit opportunities, as well as how to connect with each admissions office. The tool is here.

5. COLLECT NOTIFICATIONS

Use this time to collect all your acceptance and scholarship notifications. Be organized. Use a spreadsheet or calendar to keep track of all the info. Most of your college counselors actually NEED you to update that information with them (maybe via tools like Naviance, Texas Connect, Renweb, or Scior).

6. ASK FOR HELP

You have so many people who can help guide you and support you throughout this process. As you are notified of college acceptance and financial aid, it’s common for questions to arise, and your first line of thought should always be to ask your college counselor. Even though they aren’t on campus, they are still available by email. And they are excited to hear from you. If you have questions about a financial aid package, don’t hesitate to contact the college itself. Here are some other resources which may help: Accepting Financial AidHow to Break Down Financial Aid Award Letters, and Award Comparison Worksheet. Some students have found that they need signatures from school officials. But you won’t be able to get those – so email your counselor! Use their name plus their email. Colleges and scholarship awards know that you can’t collect signatures right now.

Getty Images used with permission woman with computer

7. UPDATE YOUR INFO

You need to make sure your contact info is up to date, and you need to check your email regularly. Also, it’s recommended that, if you haven’t already, you change all of your contact info from your school email to a personal email. You won’t have a school email after you graduate!

8. ONLINE SESSIONS

Your counselors might be available for video/virtual sessions – CHECK the school counseling portal or email them and find out!

9. GAP YEAR/DEFERRED ADMISSIONS

Many students may opt to defer their admission for another year. You can find out more information on deferring your enrollment from the college itself. Some schools even offer credit for taking a gap year if you choose to participate in certain programs. If the state of the world right now has shifted your priorities, there’s nothing wrong with making a different choice. No doors are closed to you if you defer. Talk to trusted advisors, know yourself, make a choice that fits the future you want to enjoy next year.

10. APPLY FOR MORE SCHOLARSHIPS

Did you know that there isn’t just ONE deadline for when to apply for scholarships? You can apply for scholarships year-round. Applying for scholarships can be a daunting task. So daunting, in fact, that it may be something you have put off all year, simply because you didn’t have the time. But now, you may have more time, so why not use it to find more money for college? Check your school’s financial aid webpage, check your financial aid packages, check for local scholarships available to you, and take this gift of time (if you have it) and apply for more scholarships.

Good luck, seniors! We’ve always been impressed by our students’ intelligence, courage, resilience, creativity, and joy. This is especially true for you, Class of 2020!

Congratulations Class of 2018!

Congratulations to the class of 2018!

In the last two years, More Than A Teacher worked with over 2,000 students from this year’s senior class.

We are so proud of each of them and excited to hear what they are going on to do next. A special congratulations and thank you to the graduates who shared their success stories and let us know about their plans!

Aaron R. – University of Texas Arlington, Scholarship Recipient
Abby S. – Tufts University
Alan J. – Austin College, $100,000 Scholarship
Alex S. – Texas A&M
Cheryl C. – Texas A&M, Visualization
Christopher L. – National Merit Scholar, University of Texas Dallas, Scholarship Recipient
Cole T. – Ole Miss
Cooper B. – University of AK, Honors School of Business
Corinne S. – Evergreen State College, Awarded Five Scholarships
David J. – Texas A&M, Biochemistry
Drew B. – Texas A&M, Computer Science
Ellie N. – National Merit Scholar, University of Texas at Austin
Emhely G. – St. Edward’s University, Biomedical Engineering
Grace D. – University of Texas at Austin
Isabel K. – San Diego State University
Jack M. – Texas Tech, Honors Program
Kai F. – Samford University
Kaylee K. – Texas A&M
Lauren H. – Presidential Scholar, George Washington University, Elliot School of Public Affairs
Libby M. – National Merit Scholar, University of Texas at Austin, Economics
Matthew Z. – Austin College
Nathan H. – Willamette University
Nisha K. – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Electrical Engineering
Rylan D. – University of Texas in Austin, Arts and Entertainment Technology
Sharika M. – University of Texas at Austin, Business and Plan II

Meredith S. – Texas A&M, Mays Business School

Corbin S.  – National Merit Scholar, Stanford

Tara W. – Commended Scholar, Trinity University

Joseph S. – University of Texas Dallas, Scholarship Recipient

Trenton N. – University of Texas Dallas, Computer Science

Alyssa R. – Chapman University, Honors Program, Provost Scholarship Recipient

Spencer S. – University of Chicago, Economics and Cancer Biology

 

Want to share your admission or scholarship story with us? Email [email protected]