Tips, Tricks, and Info for Students and Parents
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.
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.
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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:
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.
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 Aid, How 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.
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!
With spring tests cancelled, and students unsure when (or if) they’ll be returning to school this semester, many students and parents are wondering . . . What now?
The May 2nd SAT has been canceled (the June 6th date is pending), and the April 4th ACT has been rescheduled for June 13th. While these changes may throw a wrench in the plans of busy students, the good news is that they have extra time to prepare! Many students are getting an extra week of spring break, and while it can be tempting to spend that time by the pool (or in front of the screen), the best advice we can give you is, “Don’t get rusty!”
If you’ve already invested time preparing for the SAT or ACT, you’ve got to protect those hard-earned skills. Use them or lose them! And if you haven’t started preparing, an unexpected break in your school work load is a great time to start!
More Than A Teacher is offering online tutoring at a discounted rate through April. All you need is an internet connection. We’ll set up the rest. Call or email us to schedule a virtual appointment today!
College Board (the producer of the SAT) and ACT, Inc. (the producer of the ACT) regularly compete as the nation’s top college admission testing companies. Recently, ACT and College Board actually collaborated to release new, accurate concordance tables to allow students, colleges, parents, etc. to compare SAT and ACT scores. What does that mean for you? For many of our students, it simply means that more research supports the score comparison they were already using, because much of the table didn’t change. However, at the high end of the score ranges, the equivalent ACT score is higher than was originally thought, and at the low end of the score ranges, the reverse is true: the equivalent ACT score is lower now.
Let me give you some examples.
Beyond allowing for the comparison of overall (total and composite) scores, the new Concordance Tables also allow for the comparison of some section scores (SAT Math vs. ACT Math and SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing vs. ACT English + Reading). This will allow students to make a more informed decision when comparing their performances on the two tests, rather than having to guesstimate what the “equivalent” score on the same section would be.
Okay, that’s all well and good, but what are you supposed to DO with the information in the new concordance tables? Well, we always recommend that our students try out each test—risk-free. We recommend that you take a free official practice test for both the SAT and the ACT (your PSAT can also serve as your “SAT” score for this comparison), and then decide which test is a better fit for YOU. Ignore the rumors you’ve heard: that the SAT is for reading/writing people and the ACT is for math people, or that the ACT is “easier”, or that the SAT is what colleges in Texas prefer (not true!). Instead, try out each test and let the data help drive your decision.
If you score considerably higher on one test than the other, your decision will be easy. If, like most students, you score comparably on the two tests, then there are other factors to consider. Which one did you feel more comfortable with (or prefer the most)? Which one have you prepared for the most? How attached are you to your calculator—or to your formula sheet? How do you feel about time pressure? All of these questions can help you choose the most appropriate test for you. We can also help you make this decision—we are happy to sit down with you and your parents for a free thirty-minute consultation, during which we will look at your scores and your goals and help you design an individualized test preparation plan. Just call our office at (512) 453-7272 and schedule a free consultation with one of our test preparation experts.
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]
Some of you may have heard about ACT Academy, the new, free, targeted online preparation for the ACT. I got a very excited-sounding email from ACT, Inc. a few weeks ago announcing that this feature was available for use. Since students (and parents) frequently ask me where to find additional practice for the ACT, I decided to check the site out for myself.
Unfortunately, I was very disappointed with what I found. My biggest complaint is that the quiz questions all appear to come from a released practice test (the 2012 test, in case you were wondering). Granted, I’ve only completed about a fifth of the quizzes so far, but all of the questions that I saw were disturbingly familiar. The practice test that is offered on the site is also reused—it is the 2015 test, the most recent practice test available. Not only is this problematic in that some students will have seen the questions before, but it also means that there are two fewer full-length practice tests available to students who have used ACT Academy.
Another concern that I have is the small number of quizzes available—for about a quarter of the topics, there is only one quiz available, making it difficult to assess learning. For almost half of the topics, there are only two. When you miss a question on a quiz, by the way, the only explanation currently available is “Rationale: incorrect”. Not very helpful!
The content on the Resources page is inadequate, to say the least. Nearly all of the content on the Resources page is videos, despite advertising about games and rap songs. (Actually, the lack of rap songs might be a good thing.) More concerning, though, is the fact that the videos don’t seem to be ACT-specific. In fact, I found a video in the resources for the Reading Test that was designed for an AP English class. Additionally, the Science Test resources include a video entitled “AP Biology Practice 5”. In it, the narrator describes what “the College Board will ask.” The College Board, maker of the SAT, is ACT, Inc.’s biggest competitor!
Many of the resources seem designed to teach students the content that they should have learned in the classes that are supposed to prepare them for the ACT (their Algebra, Geometry, other math, and English classes, in particular), rather than teaching students about concepts that the ACT considers to be particularly important (and therefore is likely to ask questions about). For instance, I found videos about ellipses and parabolas, but none about circles—the one type of conic that is often included in the test. I also found videos about how to use a ruler, how to write a summary, and how to create a dot plot—none of which are relevant for the ACT. Additionally, while videos demonstrating a skill or explaining a concept can be helpful, they offer no way for students to practice the skill or test their understanding.
Interestingly, I have found no mention whatsoever of the Writing Test on this website. However, many of the resources for the English Test (which covers revising and editing) are more likely to be helpful for the Writing Test (the essay).
The Tips & Strategies page is helpful, but all of the information is included in the free “Preparing for the ACT” guide, which also includes the most recently released practice test.
One feature that could be useful, but that I am unable to test, is the option to enter results from an ACT or Pre-ACT (my scores are too old!). If this feature is actually used to guide a student’s practice, it has the potential to be useful. If it just means that the student doesn’t have to take the quizzes to have a starting point, it’s probably not going to be very helpful.
Overall, I would not recommend ACT Academy at this point. My recommendation (to get more benefit out of the same free materials) would be to come take a free, proctored practice ACT (or, if you’re not in the Austin area, download the test here [you’ll need pages 11-51, 57-60, and 64] and print it out—take it with a pencil, like you will the real test!). When you score your test, DON’T mark the correct answers! Just mark the questions you got wrong, and keep moving. Afterwards (and after you’ve taken a break), review the questions that you missed. Actually re-attempt each question, and see if you can figure out where you went wrong. For any concepts you’re really stumped on (maybe you don’t remember how to use a semicolon, or have forgotten the formula for area of a trapezoid), look them up online. Generally, you’ll be able to find an explanation from a quick Google (or YouTube) search. Once you’ve reviewed the concepts, take the second practice test by signing up for another free practice ACT, or downloading it here.
At this point, you will have used the same materials available on ACT Academy, but in a more focused and productive manner. And, as a bonus, you’ll have scores available from both of these practice tests, rather than just the first one (since you will have taken the 2012 test as a full-length test instead of as a series of untimed, unscored quizzes).
If you’re looking for even more preparation, you can explore our ACT class and private tutoring options, or call our office at (512) 453-7272 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation designed to help you plan your test preparation.
If the site improves (which I hope it will), I will post an updated review and suggestions for best use. But, for now, I would just avoid it.
The College Board is singing the praises of their partner, the Khan Academy. According to a recent article, 20 hours of practice on the Khan Academy website “is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the average score gain compared to students who don’t use Khan Academy.”
The article notes that Khan Academy practice is personalized. This is true: students can link their Khan Academy account with their College Board account to get personalized practice questions based on their performance on previous tests. You can also practice specific content areas, “leveling up” as you improve. For example, if you choose to practice linear equations, you will start at Level 2, and if you get five questions in a row correct, you will advance to Level 3, and on up to Level 5.
The problem is that some of the questions are much too difficult—even on Level 3. While it’s true that any student who could master Level 5 will probably get a near-perfect score on the SAT, some students could end up wasting a lot of time agonizing over questions that would never show up on the real test. Another problem is that the SAT has more than five problems per section—and it’s timed! While Khan Academy is a good resource, if you want a more accurate picture of what to expect on test day, it makes more sense to take official SAT tests.
Each SAT is 3 hours (not counting the essay), so you’d need to do 7 of them to get in 20 hours of actual test taking—BUT there’s more to studying than just taking practice tests. In fact, far more important than taking tests is reviewing them—looking at every missed question and figuring out why you missed it. Every official practice test comes with answer explanations, so if you can’t figure it out, you can look it up. The more questions you miss, the more time it will take to review, so the number of test sections needed to fill up 20 hours will vary from student to student. There are eight official tests available for free on the College Board and Khan Academy websites, so regardless of how much time you spend reviewing, you can definitely get in your 20 hours.
While you should take at least one full practice test in one sitting, replicating actual test conditions as closely as possible, you don’t have to take a complete test every time you sit down to study. If you take one section a day for four days a week and review every question you miss, you could get in your 20 hours (or close) in about six weeks.
Again, you can do this all on your own for free. But if you would like a little guidance, we’re here to help! And even if you don’t live in Austin, we do Skype tutoring, so we’ve got you covered. Give us a call at 512-453-7272 to schedule a free consultation.
Exciting news! The College Board has announced a new streamlined process for students to get accommodations for the SAT.
For years, when my students have asked about accommodations, I’ve told them, “You’d better apply now because it takes forever to get approval—if you do.” But, according to the Washington Post, starting in January 2017, most students who have accommodations in school (e.g. extra time, private testing rooms, readers for students with language processing disorders) will automatically be approved for accommodations on SAT and AP tests.
You can read the College Board’s announcement here.
Even more surprising is the fact that the College Board will now allow English Language Learners access to instructions in their native language as well as bilingual glossaries. For now, however, these accommodations will be available only during state-funded school-day tests that are given once or twice a year at participating campuses.
The Washington Post article notes that the College Board used the announcement to brag about the fact that students have 43% more time per question than on the ACT. True, but the ACT doesn’t have those “evidence-based” reading questions that everyone struggles with. I still think the answer to the question “which test is better?” depends on the student, but extending access to accommodations is a step in the right direction for the SAT. The two tests have been locked in a cat-and-mouse game for a while now, so I expect the ACT to follow suit shortly.
If you have questions about accommodations on standardized tests, talk to your guidance counselor or 504 coordinator. If you are wondering which test you should target (SAT or ACT), take practice tests for both. We offer free practice tests regularly. You can also schedule a free consultation by calling our office at 512-453-7272. We look forward to hearing from you!
Since the release of the Official SAT Study Guide for the revised SAT, there have been only four official practice tests available. That changed last week when Khan Academy published Tests #5 and #6 on their website. Update: The new tests are now available on the College Board website as well.
So if you’ve already exhausted the book and want some new material to work on before your fall SAT or PSAT, download these tests today!
Scores for the first new SAT, which students took in March, have finally come back, and, just in time, the College Board has released concordance tables (i.e. comparison charts) that neatly line up new SAT scores with their pre-March 2016 test equivalents. They’ve also got tables comparing scores from the new SAT to those on the ACT. It’s all very simple and intuitive. Ha ha, just kidding; this is the College Board we’re talking about! They’ve got 16 different concordance tables! But here’s what you need to know . . .
The big picture: new scores are higher than the old scores. Overall, new SAT scores seem to be inflated by about 30-40 points per section. On the old test, an average section score (e.g. Math or Reading) was around 500. On the new test, it’s 530-540.
Similarly, the ACT average of 21 would have been roughly equivalent to a 1,000 on the old SAT but is now in the range of 1060-1090. (This information is on Table 7.) It remains to be seen what effect this change will have on automatic admissions scores. For example, Texas A&M has traditionally guaranteed admission for students with a score of 1300 on the SAT or 30 on the ACT. But now a 1300 on the SAT is comparable to a 27 on the ACT. Presumably, they’ll update their requirements, but how soon? When the SAT added the Writing Skills section in 2005 (increasing the maximum score from 1600 to 2400), many colleges were slow to adapt and continued to base their admissions requirements on the 1600 scale (ignoring the Writing Skills section altogether). This is one reason there are so many concordance tables: there are 2400- and 1600-scale conversions (Tables 1 and 2, respectively).
There are, of course, tables comparing individual sections on the old and new tests as well. The Math table (Table 3) is fairly straightforward: a 500 on the old test is equivalent to a 530 on the new. But both the Reading and Writing & Language sections on the new test are scored on a scale of 10-40, so a 500 on the old SAT Critical Reading section translates to a 27 on the new SAT Reading test. That makes Tables 4 and 5 pretty confusing.
Here’s a better way to look at them. Since the new test combines the Reading and Writing & Language scores (on a 10-40) scale for a total of 800 points on the so-called Evidence-Based Reading & Writing Section (let’s just call it the EBRW Section), you can just take one of these two-digit scores and multiply by 20. The results are similar to the math-score conversions. Take new SAT Reading test score of 27:
27 x 20 = 540
According to Table 5, a 27 on the new Reading test translates to a 500 on the old test, so again, the new scores are about 30-40 points higher per section.
Table 6 compares the new EBRW Section (200-800) score to the old Critical Reading + Writing Skills (400-1600) score. If you double the new score, it’ll be about 90 points higher than the old score, so about 45-points higher per section.
Table 7 compares the new SAT to the ACT (see above). Table 8 compares the new SAT W&L score, which does not factor in the Essay score, to the ACT English/Writing score, which does, so this table makes little sense. Feel free to ignore it.
Tables 9 through 16 (old–>new) are just Tables 1 through 8 (new–>old) reversed. Basically, they tried to make things simple by duplicating everything. Typical!
The College Board also has a score-converter app. I’m sure it’s very user friendly . . .