College Essay Protip

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

What is a “good” SAT score?

What is a “good” SAT score?

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

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

2023-2024 SAT and ACT Test Dates

Official SAT Test Dates 2023-2024

August 26th, 2023

October 7th, 2023

November 4th, 2023

December 2nd, 2023

March 9th, 2023 (Digital SAT)

May 4th, 2023 (Digital SAT)

June 1st, 2023 (Digital SAT)

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

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


Official ACT Test Dates 2023-2024

September 9th, 2023

October 28th, 2023

December 9th, 2023

February 10th, 2023

April 13th, 2023 

June 8th, 2023 

July 13th, 2023 

Register for the official ACT at

Register for ACT Prep Classes here!

ACT vs. Digital SAT

ACT VS Digital SAT

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

Which test is a better fit for me?

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

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

So how are they different?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do colleges prefer one over the other?

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

Should I prep for both tests?

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

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

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

College Admissions Timeline!


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

Updated SAT/ACT Concordance Tables… What do they mean?

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.

  • High-scoring student: Under the original concordance tables released by the College Board in May of 2016, a student who scored a 1550 on the SAT was considered to have scored the equivalent of a 34 composite on the ACT. However, under the new tables, that same 1550 on the SAT is considered to be the equivalent to a 35 on the ACT.
  • Low-scoring student: At the other end of the score spectrum, a student who scored a 650 on the SAT was originally considered to have the equivalent of a 12 on the ACT. The new tables have revised this 650 on the SAT to be the equivalent of an 11 on the ACT.
  • Student near the national average: In the middle of the score distribution, a student who scored a 1000 on the SAT was considered to have scored the equivalent of a 19 on the ACT. Using the new tables, that 1000 on the SAT is still considered to be the equivalent of a 19 on the ACT.

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.