SAT II Subject Tests

"Should I Cancel My SAT or ACT Score?"

There are new and helpful options for how to cancel your SAT or ACT score. But don’t get carried away, because there’s a really important question you should ask yourself before you take advantage of them: SHOULD you cancel your score? Let me walk you through the decision the way I’ve helped my students tackle it.

6 Easy Steps to Get Into College

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Whether you’re about to begin your Junior year of high school or you’re only a Sophomore or Freshman and have considerably more time, I want to give you a quick landscape of the major steps to get into college that you need to take.

My intention here is that if you know what the crucial milestones are, you can methodically work to knock them off your list one at a time and not be a total anxiety-ridden stress case!  I’ve gone ahead and listed them in chronological order, though some steps may be ongoing and thus overlap with other steps.

Moreover, I’ve tried my best to provide an ideal timeline of when you should be doing each step and about how long it takes.  Keep in mind that “ideal timelines” may of course vary depending on where you are right now and your personal strengths and weaknesses. With my private clients, I can tailor this process to the perfectly bespoke little black dress of college admissions prep timelines—go here for an Ace the Test: Game Plan. However, if I do not know you personally, realize that you may have to adjust the dates just a modicum to apply perfectly to you.

Step #1: SAT I or ACT

Unless you are specifically researching colleges that don’t require standardized tests, you are going to have to take either the SAT I Reasoning Test or the ACT. (To find out which one, either go here or click on the cute teal pop-up in the bottom right of your screen.)

SKILLS NEEDED:

You are going to need to brush up on your math, grammar, reading comprehension, vocab and essay-writing abilities for both tests.

For the ACT, you should also brush up on interpreting charts and graphs and basic scientific method facts for the Science section. (NOTE: If you’re currently a Sophomore, you’ll need this skill too, regardless of which test you take, since you’ll be choosing between the ACT and the Revised SAT.)

IDEAL TIMELINE:

August before Junior year, if not before: Start reviewing content weekly.

January/February of Junior year: Focus on taking mock and practice tests (between 4-6) and going over them.

March/April of Junior year: Take first SAT/ACT for real.

May: SAT attempt #2

June: ACT attempt #2

Fall of Senior year: Attempt #3 if needed.

Step #2: SAT II Subject Tests (Depends on School)

Depending on the schools on your college short list, you may be off the hook for SAT II Subject Tests. Or, if you are applying to Harvard, you may need 3 of them!  Each college has its specifications, so make sure you do your research and write them down.  (Need help? An Ace the Test: Game Plan will do it for you!)

IDEAL TIMELINE:

May/June of Sophomore year: If you are taking any classes that would aptly prepare you for a Subject Test, go ahead and take it.  Give yourself about 2 months’ study time, and pick the test date that is as close to your final exam for the class as possible.

June of Junior year: Take another 1-2 Subject Tests in subjects that correlate to classes you are taking.

Fall of Senior year: If you still need to take more subject tests or improve a score, take them after you have secured the SAT I or ACT score you desire.

Step #3: College Visits

You want to make sure you get a feel for the type of academic environments ideal to your growth and development before you craft your entire testing timeline around them!

IDEAL TIMELINE:

June/July between Sophomore and Junior years: Try to do some of your college visits at this time to set your testing targets and complete all your requirements in a mellow, stress-free manner.

June/July between Junior and Senior years: Do the rest of your college visits at this time.

Step #4: College Application Process: The Activity List

This is where you break-down all of your passions, interests, community involvements, leadership positions, extra-curricular activities, jobs, volunteerism, sports, and talents so that the people in the admissions office know a) what you have to bring to the table at their institution and b) how exactly you’ve spent your time the past four years.  This is where you have the ability to explain some odd-ball hobbies and interests that make you YOU (competitive Pokemon, anyone?).  This is also where you get to demonstrate the actual number of hours you have devoted to your passions and the depth to which you have ventured to explore them.

IDEAL TIMELINE:

July/August between Junior and Senior years: Start keeping a running tab of your activities, denoting the description, length of time you were involved, hours per week, leadership positions and notable accomplishments.

November 1st: This is the beginning of early decision application deadlines.

January 1st: Most regular decision deadlines are due around this time.

Step #5: College Application Process: Common App Essay

Formerly called the Personal Statement, you’ll use this essay for the Common App but can tweak it for applications that are NOT on the Common App, too. This is the main college entrance essay you will write that will give the readers in your dream school’s admissions office a glimpse into you, your hopes and dreams, your mind, your life, your accomplishments, your character, and your essence. All in under 650 impeccably-written words! Have fun!

IDEAL TIMELINE:

July/August between Junior and Senior years: Start brainstorming and ideally have your first draft done before school starts.

November 1st: This is the beginning of early decision application deadlines.

January 1st: Most regular decision deadlines are due around this time.

Step #6: College Application Process: Supplemental Essays (Depends on School)

As delineated by the admission requirements of your particular dream schools, you very well may have additional “essays” to write and include in your application.  I say “essays” with quotation marks, because some are incredibly brief, like describing yourself in 5 words.  Stanford University has a supplemental essay like that.  In fact, Stanford has 10 supplemental essays! (Don’t worry, they’re not all mammoth.)

IDEAL TIMELINE:

August 1st: The Common App opens.  You will be able to look up your list of colleges and compile all the supplemental essays you have to write.  Please plan ahead before you start typing away – can one essay for one school be marginally tweaked and reused for another supplemental essay?  Let’s be a little pragmatic, shall we?

November 1st: This is the beginning of early decision application deadlines.

January 1st: Most regular decision deadlines are due around this time.

So, yes, this DOES seem like a lot, and you may be wondering how I dared to claim these were “6 Easy-Peasy Steps”… But seriously, if you take a long-range look at these, there are a few tests, a few trips, and a few essays that just need to happen at a few designated times.  If you start doing what you can during Sophomore year and the beginning of Junior year, you will be sitting very pretty by the time those acceptance letters start rolling in.

I hope this was able to ease some of your high school stress and help you plan. Remember that though I’m able to offer this one-size-fits-most information for free, you can get more tailor-made advice by working with me. And if you found this helpful, please do me a huge favor and pass it on to 3 of your friends!

Xo,

Kristina

Kristina's Must Haves to Bring on Test Day

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It's almost Test Day!  With the SAT coming up this weekend, aren't you excited?? I sure am!  And in an effort to mimic those celebrity Q&A’s where Cosmo asks Taylor Swift for the contents of her bag, I decided to do the same, in the form of a checklist.  So here are the contents that SHOULD be in YOUR bag before you leave the house this Saturday (or Sunday, if you observe the Sabbath) to take the SAT. This check list of what to bring on test day applies whenever you take an SAT or ACT.

7 Things to Bring on Test Day:

1. Your Admission Ticket! After all, you have to make sure you’re really registered for the SAT or ACT.  This should have your photo on it and necessary information so the testing Powers That Be don’t accidentally let in some 50-yr-old engineer dude sporting a pocket protector to take the test for 17-yr-old Kelly. The College Board and ACT get a bad rap when they let things like that happen.

2. Your Photo ID! This is the 2nd line of defense to make sure you are really you and not creepy previously-mentioned engineer dude.

3. Your Calculator!  Preferably a graphing calculator you are comfortable using. There are several from Texas Instruments, like the TI 83, TI 86, etc. Your calculator can be scientific and graphing, but it cannot connect to the Internet, be attached to a laptop or phone, or have a QWERTY keyboard. Please make sure you check the batteries to make sure they don’t run out on you… that totally BLOWS!

4. Pencils, pencils, and then more pencils. I always used to use mechanical pencils, but the SAT doesn’t like those for the Essay.  Feel free to use them for the multiple choice.  And make sure the eraser actually erases, please.

5. Layers of clothing.  I don’t care if it’s 20 degrees right now, you ever know which testing center (i.e. high school) is going to be too cheap to use the heat, or so over-zealous as to cook you alive.  The same fear abounds when it’s sweltering out.  Some places will freeze you to over-compensate, while others try to save on their AC bill and hope your sweating and panting doesn’t force you to bubble outside the cute little circles. The best remedy? Dress in layers that you can remove or add on as needed. A trusty hoody is great for this.

6. Water. If you’re taking a 4 hr long SAT, you really need to make sure you don’t get dehydrated.  Do you know what happens when you get dehydrated, little SAT Vixen? That’s right: you get tired. Or else you start getting thirsty on a conscious level, in which case your random thoughts are “I’m thirsty! When is this section over?!” – while you reread that short passage 4 times in a loop because you can’t hold your focus.  You get the idea. Just hydrate.

7. Snacks.  Guess what’s worse than getting thirty or deciding you need to use the restroom the moment the math section starts? Getting hungry rumblings in your tummy.  Not only is it embarrassing when everyone looks searchingly around the room to uncover the source of your loud hunger pangs, but the moment you notice you’re hungry, it’s too late! You’re now thinking of that instead of cross-multiplying those proportions.  Bring something nourishing and easy to eat, like a Luna bar or an apple, and eat a little bit during each of your breaks to keep your blood sugar and energy (and thus, focus) steady.

So, now that you’re ready, good luck and show that SAT who's boss!!

I love being able to help as many high schoolers as possible reach their testing goals, so if you've found this list of what to bring on test day at all useful, please pass it along to 3 of your friends!

Xo,

Kristina

From Listless to Ivy-Bound: How to Conquer the Infamous Sophomore Slump in 5 Easy Steps

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After the novelty of high school wears off (that’d be Freshman year), you might feel as if you’re in a long tunnel with no light in sight, trudging along with seemingly no direction, no goal, no end.  But lots of drama. Welcome to the Sophomore Slump!

It’s not your fault that you might feel this way: popular culture emphasizes this pattern with every major movie, book series, or show that comes out…

For example:

Remember how subdued “New Moon” was in the Twilight series? Being the 2nd book – no longer the introduction to the crazy world of Edward/Bella/Jacob/vampires, yet not far along enough to see the bigger themes of saving hybrid babies, conquering Volturi, and general good vs. evil – one could say this edition has its own unmemorable version of the “Sophomore Slump”.

It was the same thing with Harry Potter.  We all remember horcruxes, quidditch, and Sirius Black, but how many of us would say Chamber of Secrets was our favorite?  How many of us even remember it at all?!

You see, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, being book (and movie) #2, had its own “Sophomore Slump”.

Need more proof of how this is a racket ingrained in our culture?  Ask any friend who is a middle child!  (Or ask yourself, if that’s you.)

So it must be settled then: Sophomore year is just inconsequential and pointless, right?

WRONG! And nothing could be further from the truth.

Sophomore year is a very special time, and this uniqueness actually comes from the origins of the word itself. 

“Soph” means “wise” in Ancient Greek. Think “Sophocles”, one of the 3 greatest Greek playwrights from ancient times.

The root of “more”, on the other hand, means “fool” – just like the word “moron” ;)

So as a Sophomore, while you are “wise” enough to not be a clueless Freshman anymore, you are also a –

JUST KIDDING!  You are NOT a “moron” – you just have room to grow.

What does this mean for you, right here, right now?

You need to turn this lackluster year into a launching pad for a superlative high school career that can open doors to your dream college.  Here’s how:

Step #1: Find Your Focus

You may have tried out lots of clubs and activities Freshman year.  Now that you have those experiences under your belt, you can “wisely” determine which ones you want to pursue seriously during the rest of high school.  Colleges love to see commitment, passions and initiative (read: leadership), so if you hated fencing last year, you still have time to start bowling and maybe make it to team captain by Senior year.

Step #2: Use Your Course-load To Your Advantage

Lucky for you, the coursework you’re taking this year is not going to match the demanding nature of what you’ll encounter next year as a Junior, so celebrate!  This means it’s easier this year to score killer grades than it might be next year.  So get them while they’re easy!  Nailing top grades Sophomore year pumps up your cumulative GPA, so even if you struggle in Junior year Trig, you’ll have your stellar Sophomore grades to help bring up your average.  Also, rocking out your coursework this year will catch the eye of your teachers: if they see you excel while your classmates are slacking off, they will give you the benefit of the doubt (and killer college recommendations) later on down the line.

Step #3: Consider Taking SAT Subject Tests and/or AP’s

This may or may not apply to you, but if you are taking any AP classes or otherwise demanding courses, see if there is a corresponding SAT II Subject Test that you can take at the end of this year, while it’s fresh on your mind.  If your score sucks, you don’t have to submit it, but if you do well, you can relieve some of the pressure you’ll have Junior year.

If you are already taking an AP class (or a few), aim to take the AP test at the end of the year.  During admissions, colleges only see the AP scores you earned Junior year and earlier, so an extra AP score (or 4) looks really REALLY impressive.

Step #4: Read, Read, Read!

Want to know the most foolproof way to get an SAT Critical Reading score above 750? BE A VORACIOUS READER. Reading high quality texts (the “classics”, articles from the New York Times, New Yorker magazine, for example) is the most painless way to expand your vocabulary naturally and learn to understand sophisticated writing styles… the same type of dry writing you’re probably going to encounter on Test Day.  If you never crack open a book except when you have to for school, you can still improve your score with lots and lots of elbow grease during your Junior and Senior years, but it is very doubtful that you will increase it to the really impressive 750+ range.

Step #5: Visit Colleges

Say what??  Yep, I said it.  I know you may not know which colleges you even want to apply to yet, but visiting during the summer between Sophomore and Junior years is one of the best ways to start figuring out what you like and what you hate.  I recommend scheduling a handful of college visits in June and July – not August, when everybody is scrambling last minute to check out schools before admission deadlines.  Also, do you really think it’s “wise” to wait until next year and miss out on several days of Junior year AP US History and Physics, when you’re already prepping for the SAT, the ACT, SAT II’s, and your demanding course-load is killing you??

I thought so.