Archive for the ‘Juniors’ Category

Why Would A Student Prep For the PSAT/NMSQT?

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

This year the PSAT/NMSQT will be administered on Wednesday, October 16th and Saturday, October 19th, 2013 at high schools across the country. Here in the Midwest people don’t get too excited about the Preliminary SAT test because we are in the land of the ACT. As a matter of fact, the SAT has planned changes to their test to become more like the ACT. The reason college bound students and their parents should want to see a better score on these October tests is because they are the initial screen for the National Merit®Scholarship Program.  What people don’t often tell you is that there are numerous scholarships available for National Merit Finalists and many schools even give National Merit Finalist students a 100% scholarship to cover tuition, room and board, and even a stipend—this could be worth as much as $100,000 over the four years of college for which you have this scholarship.

Still many people discount preparing for the PSAT based on the odds of qualifying with 1.5 million student entrants. Some 50,000 students or 3.3% with the highest PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores qualify for recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Granted the final 8,000 students that receive the awards are a much smaller number, but you need to qualify to be considered. In addition there are an additional 1,200 students which are not finalists that receive special scholarships, some renewable for 4 years and the others are one-year awards. On the plus side doing well on the test is a money magnet for many colleges. They are very happy to offer merit financial aid to students that score well so they can advertise that they attract high scoring students to their colleges.

I do not prescribe that all students need to prep for the PSAT. I do encourage any student in the top ten percent of their class to consider prepping for the PSAT/NMSQT to increase their opportunity for scholarship awards. To ensure that academically talented young people from all parts of the United States are included in this talent pool, Semifinalists are designated on a state representational basis.

Since the PSAT is an abreviated SAT we offer a basic SAT prep from New American School that teaches the correct method to take the test and the process of elimination designed to increase the students ability to score higher. The course is offered in a two DVD set that includes 2 practice PSAT tests on CD. It has been our experience that a student willing to practice these techniques over a period of a few weeks will increase their initial score and feel much more comfortable when taking the test that counts this fall. For more information or to order click here.


Monday, January 21st, 2013

This time of year I am asked repeatedly which test, the ACT or SAT is better for a junior in high school to take? The answer depends on the student. Most colleges will take the score from either the ACT or SAT  and your choice of test should be driven by the way the students tests. The ACT and SAT are different types of tests and they measure different skills. I recommend that a student take both the ACT and SAT each at least once by Fall of junior year to determine if they score higher in one than the other.

The ACT is a knowledge based test. This is why many times students score their best in the Spring of their junior year, by then they have been presented all the material in class to complete the ACT. Some people like the ACT better because they perceive that the ACT test more closely tests the core curriculum taught in most school classrooms. The ACT questions seem to more easily understood on first read compared to the SAT where the questions might need to be figured out as to what they’re asking you. The ACT requires higher level math skills and you will have to have some knowledge of trigonometry. This does not mean the math section is harder just that the students knowledge base should include this course information. The ACT has a science section which the SAT does not. The ACT science section is not pure science knowledge instead it measures your reading and reasoning skills based upon the information given in each question about science. The ACT writing is offered as optional, it currently isn’t needed for admission by all schools but, it is asked for by the colleges so they have a measure of the students writing skills when they consider remediation and class placement at the school. Admission counselors look more at the total score of the ACT and seem to be more interested in the composite score. This makes students feel they can have a weak section and still obtain a good score because of the other better section scores.

The SAT tests critical thinking and problem solving. The SAT is broken into more sections during the test which breaks up the testing compared to the larger sections of the ACT. Students need to be able to move from one subject to another more quickly to be comfortable and successful. As mentioned above there is no science section in the SAT, so if the student just has an overwhelming  fear of science the SAT could be the better test for them. Vocabulary is much more important in the SAT which can benefit the students skilled in writing and language. They also could benefit from the writing section included early in the test. Admission counselors look harder at the sections of the SAT looking for students strengths when considering admission.

Whichever test  a student takes they need to take some type of prep course. We have found that after a student takes both tests as practice and has a base score, they greatly benefit from really practicing the skills needed to take their chosen test successfully.  Remember that these tests only measure the students ability to choose the correct answer that day and that all the correct answers are offered on each question. This is why I believe that prep courses designed to prepare the student to have a strategy of how to attack the test and choose the correct answers work quicker and easier than trying to reteach high school based on the student weaknesses. For more information about the ACT/SAT prep courses we offer go to this link to see the first video of our DVD test prep courses. Scoring as high as possible  on the ACT or SAT is the easiest way a junior in high school can increase their chances of getting accepted into the schools of their choice and there is a lot of money in financial aid available to students that have scores that colleges are looking for.


Monday, October 8th, 2012

High school juniors are close to starting their series of tests that will effect their getting into college and the financial aid that they will receive. These tests are the PSAT/NMSQT, the ACT and the SAT. I am focusing on the PSAT/NMSQT for this discussion.

So what does PSAT/NMSQT stand for? It is the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. In 2012, high schools across the nation will offer all juniors the opportunity to take this test on October 17th or October 20th. This is the test that qualifies the top scoring students for the National Merit Scholarships and recognition. I generally do not hear of many schools that prepare their students with prepatory classes to take this test even though it can mean millions dollars of scholarships to students.

What is the PSAT? It is a shortened version of the SAT test cosponsored by College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation.

What is on the test? There are 3 sections to the test. Below are the explanations directly from the College Board website.

Reading:  there are 2 – 25 minutes sections.

1.      Sentence Completion questions measure your knowledge of the meanings of words and ability to understand how the different parts of a sentence logically fit together

2.      Passage-Based Reading questions measure your ability to read and think carefully about a single reading passage or a pair of related passages.

Math: there are 2 – 25 minute sections. The math section of the PSAT/NMSQT requires a basic knowledge of number and operation; algebra and functions (though not content covered in third-year math classes–content that will appear on the new SAT); geometry and measurement; and data analysis, statistics, and probability. You can use a calculator to answer math questions, but no question on the test requires a calculator.

1.      Multiple Choice questions ask you to decide which is the best of the five choices given.

2.      Grid-ins, or student-produced response questions, requires you to solve a problem and enter your answer.

Writing Skills: There is 1 – 30 minute section. The multiple-choice questions on writing skills measure your ability to express ideas effectively in standard-written English, to recognize faults in usage and structure, and to use language with sensitivity to meaning.

1.      Identifying Sentence Errors questions test your knowledge of grammar, usage, word choice, and idiom. You are required to find errors in sentences or indicate that there is no error.

2.      Improving Sentences questions ask you to choose the best, most effective form of an underlined portion of a given sentence.

3.      Improving Paragraphs questions require you to make choices about improving the logic, coherence, or organization in a flawed passage.

Unfortunately, many students do not take the PSAT/NMSQT seriously which is a mistake since there is millions of dollars worth of scholarship money at stake. I have seen students prepare for months for the ACT and SAT after they take the PSAT. Had they just prepared for the PSAT for a short period of time they could have qualified for more scholarship money. There still is plenty of time to prepare for the PSAT with a course that teaches students proper test taking techniques designed for the PSAT/SAT. For more information concerning PSAT prep go to I will discuss the ACT and SAT and the benefits of each next.

What is Selectivity and It’s Meaning for You

Monday, September 10th, 2012

When we begin a discussion about college admissions we need to understand the college vocabulary and one of these words is Selectivity. Admission officers evaluate applications in different ways, depending in how selective, or competitive, their college is to get in. The following are the current levels of selectivity you will see as you look to colleges to attend.

Most  Selective:    At these schools there are as many as 10 to 15 students applying for each spot available. These are the 25 dream schools that are looking for the very top students from their graduating class that had grade point averages of 4.0 and the perfect ACT of 36 and SAT 2400. Admission officers look carefully to every aspect of a student’s high school experience since all applicants are strong academically, other factors, especially the essay, are critical. These are the schools that will have student interviews to make final decisions of applicatants. This group of schools receive a great deal of publicity yet they are really a small number of schools with generally small freshman class sizes around 1200 students.

Highly Selective:   These schools also have high numbers of students competing for a spot, these days, about 4 to 5 for each chair. Many of these schools are the number one school in the country for different majors and attract very high quality students and have great competition. The admission officers are looking for students to have graduated in the top 10% of their class with high 3 point grade averages and an ACT test score of 27+ or SAT of 1220+. As with the Very Selective schools, the whole high school experience is considered where essays can be the key to getting in. Highly Selective schools number around 100 in the country and have freshmen class sizes of 1200 to 7000+.

Selective:   Schools that are selective are looking for students that have graduated in the top 25% of their high school class. The test scores range they are interested are an ACT of 22-27 or SAT of 1030-1220. They consider course work, grades, test scores, recommendations, and essays. The major factor may be whether you are ready for college-level study. It’s possible to be denied admission because of a weakness or a lack of interest in higher education.

Traditional:   Students should be in the top 60% of their high school class with an ACT test score of 20-23 or SAT of 950-1070. Acceptable grades are considered with these test scores and counselors are generally looking for a 2.5 high school GPA.

Liberal:   Liberal colleges focus on whether applicants meet minimum requirements and whether there’s room for more students. Acceptable grades are often the only requirement beyond an interest in college study. The SAT® I or ACT may be required, but test scores are usually used for course placement, not admission. Student graduating in the lower 50% of their high school class and an ACT of 18-21 or SAT 870-990 may be accepted.

Open:   Everyone is accepted with a high school diploma. There are no GPA or ACT/SAT requirements at all. Test scores and courses completed are used to determine if the student needs remediation. Generally these schools are found in the Junior College System.

Admission Factors

Selective colleges consider these factors for admission:

  • courses taken
  • counselor/teacher recommendations
  • ethnicity
  • grades
  • application questions and essays
  • geographic location
  • grade point average
  • personal interview
  • alumni relationship
  • rank in class
  • activities outside the classroom
  • major/college applied to
  • admission test results
  • special talents and skills

There’s no general agreement about which of these factors are ranked more important. However, most admission officers place the most weight on your high school record.

How Important Are Extracurricular Activities?

The significance of activities has been exaggerated. While schools do consider them, they’re looking to see if you’ve shown a long-term commitment in one or two areas. Schools are looking for busy students that are engaged with their interests that also get good grades. If I can offer a rule of thumb it would be that you should show about 40 hours a semester in an outside activity if you are not active in any school sports, clubs or leadership activities. Do not use just any activity or cause, make sure that it supports your true interests and beliefs, preferably related to your future studies.

 Matching Admission Standards:   I want to make sure that you understand that higher selectivity does not mean that a school is better than another. It does mean that a school will have a higher percentage of high–achieving students that you will be competing with for your college grades. Just as there are a number of selectivity levels there are now more schools offering admission to students than any time in history. The goal is to find a number of schools that meet your needs for your college education instead of focusing on one school and limiting your choices. Our society often associates exclusivity with higher value, but that notion isn’t true for college. Find colleges that provide a good match with your interests, objectives, characteristics, and needs.

Please look for more information concerning picking the right school on this blog. You can see more information on this subject and being College Ready at

Free Websites You Need to Look At

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

The following websites are available to parent and students who want to go it alone with their college planning. Here are resources that will help you with financial aid and admissions. Good Luck!

These are by no means all the sites you should look at, but it is a start.