This is the final post in a series of monthly blog posts designed for members of the high school class of 2014, and excerpted from Preparing for College in High School: A To-Do List for Eleventh Graders. It highlights planning steps that you can take now to make your college application process easier and more effective.
As the summer stretches out in front of you, think for a few minutes about your SAT and ACT exams. As a rising senior, you probably have a few tests on your record at this point, and that’s a good start. Are your scores where you’d like them to be? How might your expected college applications benefit if the scores were a bit higher? While your scores might already be at or above the ranges by your college choices, higher scores may make you a more competitive candidate for merit scholarships or awards.
With planning your testing calendar comes the inevitable question: how should I best prepare? There is truth to the idea that scores on the SAT or ACT are likely (in most cases) to rise when you take the test multiple times. The higher your scores, the less room for dramatic improvement, but familiarity with these exams can be to your benefit.
There are several ways to prepare for standardized tests: There are large national and international companies that specialize in test prep; there are one-on-one tutors; there is a wealth of books at your library of local bookstore. Which route is best for you?
Consider your strengths. Do you work well in a group setting or do you prefer individual attention? Are you looking for guidance and a sense of accountability or are you able to focus and stick to a routine on your own? You can gain familiarity with the test by working through commercially prepared resources on your own; however, you have to spend the time with the material to make the most of it. Look for an example in your own life. Are you an athlete? If your coach suggests running 3-5 miles several times a week during the off-season, are you out doing it on your own, or are you waiting for the team captain to organize the group that will hold you accountable for being there?
Whether you sit in a classroom or complete practice tests at the kitchen table, familiarity and preparation will likely lead to higher scores in the fall.