Test Preparation

, , ,

Should You Take SAT Subject Tests?

Should You Take The SAT Subject TestsSAT Subject Tests are hour-long content based tests which allow you to demonstrate just how awesome you are in a given subject. There are 20 Subject Tests in all and unlike the SAT where you have to complete all three sections, you get to choose which Subject Tests you would like to take. Subject Tests are offered on the same dates as the SAT and you can take up to three tests in one sitting.

You can check out a complete list of all Subject Tests on the College Board website here.

Now that you fully understand what a Subject Test, let’s move on to the bigger question.

Should you take one?

The answer is an easy “yes” when you plan on applying to a highly selective college. If you review their admission requirements, a lot of these schools will require or recommend Subject Tests. Pay close attention to the fine print though as some of them will recommend specific subjects depending on your major.

For example, engineering applicants to Johns Hopkins University are strongly encouraged to submit two SAT subject tests: Mathematics Level 2 and one of the sciences. Applicants for Lehigh University’s combined BA/MD degree program are “strongly encouraged” to take Mathematics Level 1 or Level 2 and Chemistry.

So, in some cases, you do have to be very strategic about which tests you take.

But what if a college doesn’t strongly encourage them? What if they just recommend taking a Subject Test? What if they say they will only use them if the scores enhance your chances for admission?

In my opinion, you always want to go beyond the basic requirements. So while there is a difference between “strongly encourage” and “recommend”, in either case the college is making a reference to them as something they like to see in their applicants’ files. When a college is telling you what they want to see, you should listen.

And if a school is only going to use them in situations where they help you, well, you’ve got nothing to lose except for a couple hours on a Saturday morning.

In today’s competitive applicant pool, especially at the most selective colleges, you can’t afford not to put together the strongest application possible. SAT Subject Tests can and will play a role in that so review the requirements for your schools and take a couple tests in your strongest subjects. Do well enough and they may just help your chances.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free consultation. If you’re in the local area, check out my FREE college planning workshops coming up this spring in Cheshire and Southbury. 

Read More
, , , , , , ,

The Seven Parts Of A Complete Application

As I start working with a lot of juniors this time of year, we get to talking about the different parts of the application, how to approach them, when they are due and why they matter. Below is the watered down version of what we talk about:

1. Student’s Application– Applications need to be filled out accurately, completely and on time.  Nothing else matters if your application doesn’t accomplish these three things.

2. Academic Record – This includes grades and courses. The difficulty of the curriculum you have been pursuing can significantly affect how your application will be evaluated.

3. SAT and ACT Scores – All colleges will accept both, though some won’t require either. As juniors, taking a practice test for both the SAT and the ACT is a great way to figure out which one is better suited for you. There are differences between the two tests and you may find that one or the other is a better fit. Once you’ve made a decision on which one you want to take, be prepared to take it twice.

4. Personal Statement and Requested Essays – Between the personal statement, the activity essay and required supplemental essays, you need to produce some of your best writing. Speaking from experience, the majority of students produce poorly thought-out and sloppy essays. The essays are your opportunity to tell your story and show admissions counselors just how well you can write.

5. Recommendations – Colleges will typically require recommendations from the school counselor and at least one teacher. Depending on the school, a third recommendation may be welcome, but you should avoid a barrage of recommendations. The counselor recommendation should highlight significant facts about you, explain any issues of significance related to your transcript and, when necessary, introduce extenuating circumstances that might enable an admissions counselor to view your application with greater insight.

6. Extracurricular Activities – Colleges are increasingly interested in students who demonstrate a passion for one or a few interests and activities rather than applicants who have tried their hand at everything available. A very real and compelling case can be made for a student who has branded themselves through their VIPS.

7. Interview – While not necessarily required at most colleges, the interview (like the personal statement) is your opportunity to connect with admissions counselors and show who you are beyond grades and test scores. I always recommend that students interview where they can even if the admissions office says it will not factor into their decision.


Read More
, , , ,

College List Tip: What Are Your Chances?

Note: I will be conducting a college admissions workshop titled, “Navigating The College Admissions Journey” in several towns this fall. Please scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more.

When you are looking at colleges and trying to decide where you will apply, how you will apply and whether or not you will even get in, one of the first things you will want to do is to try to get a handle on your chances of getting in.

To figure this out, head over to the College Board website and pull up schools you are looking at. Go to the Applying tab and then look at the SAT & ACT score averages. These are good numbers to understand because they represent the score ranges for the most recently admitted and enrolled class. When you are on this page, enter your own scores and you will see whether you fall in the top 25% (very strong candidate), the middle 50% (a likely candidate) or the lowest 25% (chances aren’t so hot). For example, let’s look at Trinity College. Trinity is a great liberal arts college here in Hartford which admits about 30% of applicants. You will see that applicants really need to score 700 or better on all three sections of the SAT in order to be considered a top candidate while scores in the 600’s would place an applicant in the middle of the pack. Now, Trinity is also a test-optional school which does not require SAT or ACT scores if you submit two SAT Subject Tests.

However, on their website Trinity says very clearly that submitting one of the SAT, ACT or two SAT Subject Tests satisfies the minimum requirement. If you want to be a top candidate, don’t hem and haw over it. Go beyond the minimum requirements. In this case, SAT scores and two SAT Subject Tests may enhance your chances.

This is just one way (out of so many) to research schools on your college list so that you can make an informed decision about your applications. Take the time to understand the information that is out there so that you feel good about where you are applying and increase your odds of receiving an acceptance.

If you have any questions about college lists and how to gauge your chances of admission, please use the comment box below. You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com – I would love to hear from you!

Learn More at Dobler College Consulting’s College Admissions Workshops

For parents who can make it, I will be holding a workshop titled, “Navigating The College Admissions Journey” on the following dates through each towns’ Adult & Continuing Education Program:

Sept 27: Newtown 6:30-8:30PM 
Oct 1: Wolcott 7-9PM
Oct 10: Cheshire 7-9PM
Oct 16: Meriden 6-8PM
Oct 23: Wallingford 6-8PM
Nov 5: North Haven 6-8PM

The workshop shares strategies to help your son or daughter navigate the college admissions process while eliminating mistakes that tend to reduce their chances of admission. Topics include college lists, online resources, essays, interviews, campus visits and what you need to know about making college more affordable.

All workshop participants will receive information handouts and will be eligible for discounts off of any of my college counseling services.

To register for a class, contact the Adult Education Office for the town you reside in.

Don’t live in one of these towns? You can easily get in touch with me to set up a free 60-minute consultation to help address your pressing college admissions-related questions and issues.


Read More
, ,

SAT and ACT Prep

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this by now, but your SAT or ACT scores will play an important role in your college applications. They are just one piece of the admissions puzzle, but they can very often be an important one.If you haven’t registered for your SAT or ACT yet, you will want to do so shortly. Registering for the test is the easy part. Being prepared for it so that you do well is the hard part. So, just how do you go about preparing for the test that everyone dreads? I’m glad you asked.

For the SAT, buy yourself a copy of The Official SAT Study Guide. You can buy it for about $12 and it’s money well spent. The guide contains 10 practice tests and while you may not have the time or intestinal fortitude to complete all 10, the more you do complete, the better off you will be. The key here is to go through and answer all the questions and then go back and figure out the answers to the ones you got wrong. Actually invest the time in figuring out where you went wrong and then work at it until you understand it completely and could arrive at the correct answer the next time.

For the ACT, you can purchase The Real ACT Prep Guide. For about $15 you get 5 practice tests and your goal here is the same with the SAT guide. Use the practice tests to practice your abilities. What do you know and what do you struggle with? If you can identify some weaknesses and then work on them, you will find greater success when you take the real test.

There are also some great online resources. In this case, great also means free! Check out PWN The SAT, Craig Gonzalez Tutoring, the Perfect Score Project, and FreeTestPrep.com. Each one is chock full of tips, drills, resources and strategies you can put to use right away. You just have to be willing to spend the time.

Of course, if you’re like me and standardized testing just isn’t your thing, you should also know that nearly 800 colleges are test-optional. Some don’t use standardized tests at all while others may waive them due to your awesome grades. Either way, be aware of all your options, the resources available to you and use them to your advantage!

If you have any questions about standardized test prep, the SAT or the ACT, please use the comment box below.

You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com – I would love to hear from you!

Read More
, , , , , ,

A Conversation About College Part I

Last week, at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, Connecticut, I conducted a workshop titled, “A Conversation About College.” There were about 35 people in attendance – mostly parents of high school sophomores and juniors –and the event was designed to be an engaging discussion about how to successfully navigate the college application process. The families who came to the event were great! They weren’t afraid to ask their pressing questions which covered just about every aspect of the college admissions process. Starting today, I will be sharing a take-away transcript of their most pressing questions from the evening’s discussion with you here in my blog.

Q: If all the pieces of the puzzle are in place, except for SAT scores, will most schools overlook a low score?

A: To be honest, this is a tough question to answer because whether or not a school is going to overlook a low score depends on several things:

1.) It depends on which schools your son or daughter is making an application to and what their average SAT scores are. The more competitive the school, the less forgiving they are going to be. What you want to know is how low the score is when compared to the college’s average score for admission.

2.) It also depends on the other pieces of the application. How strong are the grades? How good is the essay? What do the recommendations say? Has he or she done an interview? Is there enough here for an admissions counselor to say, yes, let’s overlook the scores – this is a very subjective situation and will be met with different responses depending on the college.

3.) One thing to consider is whether or not a college even requires SAT scores. There are a couple hundred schools in the country which are test optional. You can find a complete list of them at www.fairtest.org. A student can apply to any of these schools and choose not to submit test scores for admission. Some of the schools may want test scores at a later time for course placement so you would submit the scores later on, but for admission they would not be required. You may get lucky and find out that a school your child is interested in is already on this list. If not, he or she may want to go through the list and consider some of the schools.

4.) In the end, with a situation like this that is so gray, the best thing a student can do is contact an admissions officer and ask for their take on it. Go right to the source for the most accurate information. Definitely a situation where an interview could be very helpful.

Q: When is the right time to submit an application?

A: The right time to submit an application is before the deadline. Depending on whether your son or daughter will be applying Early Decision, Early Action or Regular Admission, there will be different deadlines and you will want to pay close attention to them. On the other hand, some schools will be on Rolling Admission which means you can apply whenever you want (though you will typically want to apply sometime in late November or early December). For the application deadlines for any school, you can go to their admissions office webpage or a website like the College Board or College Navigator.

Q: How can I find a reputable college that will accept a “C/B-” student?

Honestly, this is something that will take a little research and a little time because the search won’t just be about the grades as much as it will be about several other things including intended major, location, cost, size, type of student body, public or private – there are so many factors that go into prioritizing a college search and these are just a few of them. Once you have pinned down some of these items, you can then do a more thorough review of potential schools by reading reviews about them online, conducting college visits and attending college fairs. A C/B- student isn’t a terrible thing by any means, but it does mean that other parts of the application like test scores, the essay and recommendations may be leaned on even more so to help make a decision. Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not your son or daughter’s grades have been trending in an upward or downward direction. If they are trending up, a lot of schools will look favorably upon their academic record. If they are trending downward, then your list of potential schools will have to be very realistic.

Q: How can I motivate my child to enjoy looking at colleges?

This is really a question that is dependent on which grade your child is in and where you guys are in the college search process. For a younger student, such as a freshman or sophomore, your best bet is to check out a local school and at least attempt to introduce the idea of college. For a student who is already in their junior year, it may be best to just sit down and talk with them and see if you can get them to tell you how they feel about the college search and visiting college campuses. Are they nervous? Scared? Intimidated? Do they feel like they are under a lot of pressure? A conversation like this can be very valuable towards getting them pointed in the right direction. Here is an article from the NY Times about a dad who found some ways to introduce his 9th grader to college visits. I really liked his approach and hope you find some value in it.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on “A Conversation About College,” please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you! You can also email me directly at eric@doblercollegeconsulting.com.

Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

Read More