“ACT has a reputation for stodginess. Its eponymous test hasn’t had any substantial changes since 1989. Today, ACT just blew up that reputation. It announced superscore reporting, online testing on national test dates, and most radically, section retesting. The changes would go into effect starting in September 2020. EdWeek has been first to share reactions and ACT has provided a detailed FAQ, but a wide range of questions remain unanswered and we will have to wait and see how colleges respond.”
Applying to college is expensive! There’s application fees, test registration fees, official score reporting fees. Some students are eligible to have these fees waived, but most students don’t qualify for waivers.
Colleges in the list compiled by Compass have stipulated that students may self-report their test scores in their applications. From Compass’ page, click on the name of the college to visit the school’s website where the policy is explained. Note: only colleges that have written policies on their websites or application materials are included in their list.
If you are working with us, you get a personalized action plan each month (and you can skip this post!). Here’s an overview by grade:
Keep writing! You should have quite a few applications completed by this time. Please do not save essay writing (or any part of this process) for the last minute. Submit applications as soon as possible.
Talk to your letter of recommendation writers and make sure they are aware of your early deadlines.
Continue connecting with students, faculty, and staff. Remember to interview where applicable and take lots of notes. The information you gather is often perfect material for supplemental “Why School” essays and interest letters after you apply!
If your school hosts a college fair or individual college visits, please attend and meet the reps from the schools on your list. If you have already met them, it is still beneficial to stop by and say hello to demonstrate interest.
Prep for interviews. Remember, if the schools on your list have on-campus or local interviews that are candidate-initiated, you must schedule them. Check the schools on your list. All of this information is provided on schools’ admissions websites.
Have standardized test scores sent to all of the colleges on your list, if required; please send scores now, so they arrive before deadlines. Some schools no longer require you send officials, so please review each school’s application instructions to confirm. You can also review the list here: https://www.compassprep.com/self-reporting-test-scores/ *there is no penalty if you send them and they are not required at the time you apply. Many students send them to all of the schools on their list.
If you look at your resume, are your academic interests clear? If yes, then your academic narrative is developed. A clear-cut academic narrative is beneficial; if you are undecided, then you should be exploring multiple interests. It is okay to be undecided as long as you are actively working on finding your niche. Please keep in mind that colleges aren’t looking for you to have it all 100% figured out; they are more concerned that you have interests and that you act on them (they want to see that you are intellectually curious and act on that curiosity!).
Now is the time to plan the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Will you need SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Now is the time to start!
Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and it’s a much more personal letter if you know each other. Talk about your plans for this year and next year; let them know about your preliminary college list, any visits you have scheduled, and your testing plan.
Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in, and explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major(s) of interest and how the activities you are involved in support these interests. If possible, we want to determine what major(s) options you will list on your applications sooner rather than later so you can best prepare yourself for talking about these interests in your apps. If you need suggestions for activities based on your interests (for example, Coursera courses, independent projects, etc.), let us know—we help with this!
Fall is a great time to visit colleges, so plan a few trips if you can. If you can sit in on a class, meet with faculty or current students, or schedule other experiences while on campus, please do. All of this falls under what I call “extended research and outreach,” and can be beneficial in the college search and application process. Also, whether you can get to campus or not, take virtual tours via CampusReel!
Do you have a plan in place to get more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Look for leadership opportunities in school clubs and activities outside of school too. Remember, leadership is far more than leading a school club or sports team.
Sophomores and Freshmen
An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. A rigorous course schedule shows intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. Your number one priority this year should be your grades!
If you haven’t done so already, get involved in activities in your area(s) of interest both inside and outside of school. Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but in which you are involved in a significant, meaningful way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. Avoid the laundry list resume.
You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Starting your own club, website, or community service project can show initiative, dedication, and leadership. If you are interested in creating an opportunity for yourself that is not available at your school or through a formal program, contact us, because we can help!
Many schools allow 10th graders to take a practice PSAT. The experience of taking the PSAT as a sophomore will give you a sense of what to expect on future exams. However, you don’t need to prep for it.
Schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your guidance counselor. Your guidance or college counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when you apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
FairTest just updated the master database of test-optional schools. The list contains 1,050 accredited, bachelor degree-granting colleges and universities that will make admissions decisions about all or many applicants without regard to test scores.
Check out just a few of the schools on the test-optional list:
3. University of Chicago (IL)
27. Wake Forest University (NC)
33. University of Rochester (NY)
35. Brandeis University (MA)
59. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (MA)
63. George Washington University (DC)
66. Clark University (MA)
78. American University (DC)
89. Marquette University
89. University of Delaware (DE)
96. University of Denver (CO)
96. University of San Francisco (CA)
102. Drexel University (PA) “Test Flexible”
106. Temple University (PA)
106. University of Arizona (AZ)
106. University of New Hampshire (NH)
115. Arizona State University (AZ)
119. DePaul University (IL)
119. Duquesne University (PA)
129. The Catholic University of America (DC)
136. George Mason University (VA)
140. Hofstra University (NY)
140. Washington State University (WA)
147. New School (NY)
The school year is almost here! Enjoy the final few weeks of summer. And, if you are a rising senior and want to make the most of August (this means completing applications!) contact us! We can help you head back to school with a long list of college application items checked off your to-do list.
Here’s what should be on your radar this month:
The Common App refresh is complete. If you have not done so already, register for the Common App (www.commonapp.org) and other school-specific applications as per your list (for example, the University of California), and fill them out.
Continue to complete essays!!! Senior year fall grades count. The more you complete before you go back to school, the more time you should have for your coursework.
Continue to visit colleges and connect with students, faculty, and staff. Remember to interview where applicable and take lots of notes. The information you gather is often perfect material for supplemental “Why School” essays and interest letters after you apply!
Begin to finalize your college list. It’s important to know which colleges you’ll be applying to so you can a) work on essays and b) finalize application strategy (when you will apply and where). Will you be applying early action? Early decision? Do you have an ED II school in the mix (you should instead of relying on RD)? If you still have tests to take in August, September, or October, confirm your EA schools and work on those apps.
Touch base with the teachers writing your letters of recommendation. They will be very busy once school starts; be proactive and drop them a note now reiterating your thanks, as well as letting them know when you plan to submit your first apps (this can be far in advance of actual deadlines, for example, in September if testing is complete).
If you haven’t done so already, schedule a meeting to discuss your 11th-grade game plan with your guidance counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation for college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
This year, try to get more involved with 1-2 main extracurricular activities (bonus if these support your academic interest). Look for leadership opportunities, but also keep in mind demonstrating leadership goes beyond leading a club or team. Consider activities outside of school as well.
Now is the time to plan the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Will you need SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Please contact us if you would like suggestions for tutors and other prep resources. Now is the time to start test prep!
Once you have some test scores, come up with a preliminary college list, so you can…
Begin to visit the websites of the schools you are interested in. Explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major of interest and how the activities you are involved in support it. You 100% should be exploring your academic interests outside of your coursework.
Fall is a great time to visit colleges and engage in extended research and outreach. Over the years, I have found that students who take these “extra steps” consistently get into their top schools…and many more.
Sophomores & Freshmen
An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor for the majority of colleges. A rigorous course schedule that is in line with your strengths can help demonstrate intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. Your number one priority this year should be your grades!
If you haven’t done so already, get involved in activities inside and outside of school. Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but ones that really interest you, where you are involved in a significant way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. You may also want to consider an internship, research position, job shadowing opportunity or part-time employment in an area that interests you. Starting your own club, website, or community service project are also lovely options, but keep in mind you don’t need to do it all.
Schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your counselor. Your counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when it comes time to apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.
One of the most significant factors in a strong performance on the verbal portions of the SAT and the ACT is independent reading. Enhancing your skills during high school will not only help you perform better on college entrance exams, but it will also prepare you for success in college and beyond. Regular reading of articles and editorials (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist) in addition to studying vocabulary lists and signing up for “Word/Article/SAT Question of the Day” can have a significant positive impact.
Many schools allow 10th graders to take a practice PSAT. The experience of taking the PSAT as a sophomore will give you a sense of what to expect on future exams. However, don’t feel like you need to study for this test. It is just practice!
Fellow IECA member Cigus Vanni is the master of lists. He created many that he shares with fellow IEC’s, and one sheds light on that almost no colleges continue to require or recommend the writing portion of the SAT or ACT. The biggest exception is the UC system, which still requires it.
Here’s his list as of 6/27:
Abilene Christian University (TX) – recommend
Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (NY) – recommend
Augsburg College (MN) – recommend (note: Augsburg is a test-optional school)
Berry College (GA) – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT
College of Charleston (SC) – recommend
Duke University (NC) – recommend
Eastern Illinois University – recommend ACT; neither require nor recommend SAT
Manhattan College (NY) – recommend; used for placement in writing courses, not for admission to school
Martin Luther College (MN) – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT
Michigan State University – recommend
Montana State University – recommend; used for placement in writing courses, not for admission to school
Oregon State University – recommend SAT; neither require nor recommend ACT
Rhode Island College – require ACT, neither require nor recommend SAT
Saint Anselm College (NH) – recommend (note: Saint Anselm is a test optional school)
Saint Norbert College (WI) – recommend
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania – recommend
Soka University of America (CA) – require
State University of New York at Buffalo – recommend
Texas State University – recommend ACT
United States Military Academy (NY) – require
University of California Berkeley – require
University of California Davis – require
University of California Irvine – require
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) – require
University of California Merced – require
University of California Riverside – require
University of California San Diego – require
University of California Santa Barbara – require
University of California Santa Cruz – require
University of Evansville (IN) – require (note: Evansville is a test optional school)
University of Mary Hardin Baylor (TX) – require
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – recommend
University of Montana – recommend
University of Montana Western – require ACT, recommend SAT
VanderCook College of Music (IL) – require
Webb Institute of Naval Architecture (NY) – recommend
NOTE: All information current with the updating of this list on June 26, 2019. Be sure to check with each college to which you apply before you register for any standardized test as requirements can change.
The first SAT Subject Test date is less than a month away. The Subject Tests — sometimes referred to as “SAT 2s” — are often required for admission to top-tier universities, but they are much less discussed in education circles and online. Because of this, we get lots of questions about what’s on them, how are they used, and how to prepare for them.
Noodle Pro, Nick Bacarella, has developed an SAT Subject Test series exclusively for the Noodle Pros blog. In this series, students will learn everything they need to know about these subject-specific cousins of the regular SAT. Within the series, Nick tackles each subject test individually to familiarize students with the content and test structure.
More and more schools are going test-optional—and we love that. More than 220 colleges have de-emphasized the ACT and SAT since 2005, and the list keeps growing. Even uber selective schools like the University of Chicago have dropped standardized testing as a requirement*. Why? As the recent Chronicle of Higher Education ‘Trends on the Horizon‘ report notes:
One reason the list is likely to keep growing: data, data, data. Colleges are using ever more sophisticated statistical analyses to better understand how their students perform. On many campuses, deep dives into enrollment data have helped admissions offices determine which pieces of information they collect from applicants actually help them predict a variety of student outcomes, such as first-year grades and progress toward a degree. Chicago found that ACT and SAT scores didn’t tell it much about who would succeed and who would struggle.
*Always a caveat!!! Although we wholeheartedly support the test-optional movement, we have reason to believe that not all test-optional policies are created equally. Many skeptics of test-optional policies see them as applicable only to certain student groups, for example, students who are disadvantaged in the admission proicess—not middle to upper-class students who have access to test prep and other resources but just don’t “test” well. We have heard through the grapevine that this is the case at quite a few schools. If this is true, it is just one more way that the college admissions process lacks transparency. We are working on finding data that reveals who is admitted without test scores at some of the schools in question (Chicago, Wake Forest, Bowdoin, Wesleyan) but it is not readily available.
Anyway, we want to shoutout a few of the test-optional schools that we have found to be genuinely test-optional, and where we have students who are thriving both inside and outside of the classroom. They are:
George Washington University
The University of Arizona
University of Delaware
For a comprehensive list of top-tier schools that are test-optional, and to stay up to date on the test-optional movement, head to FairTest.org.
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We’ve seen too many students wait until the summer after 11th grade to try to develop and implement the strategies needed to tackle the college application process successfully and with ease. Often, there is just not enough time to do the pre-work that results in the most effective essays, outreach, and positive admissions outcomes.
The best time to start prepping to apply? Now. Seriously!
Juniors, right now you can:
Develop relationships with admissions officers and regional reps (the people that make key decisions on your application) as well as current students and faculty (ask us why these connections are so important)
Create a testing plan that has you ready for apps due on 11/1 and not taking tests last minute
Make the best of campus visits and leverage contacts at colleges on these visits
Craft a preliminary college list that maximizes the 5+ application plans colleges now use