This is a fairly intense topic and I’ll provide extensive prep material on the blog. With that said, a few pieces of information on the topic:
YES! Not all universities require an interview, however, even if it is optional, do the interview. The interview gives the university the opportunity to put a face and personality to an application, and it gives students the opportunity to share anything that they may not have on the application. If you put in enough practice, it’s a win-win situation.
Most interviews have to be scheduled by late November or December so it’s important to look into those deadlines.
If location is an issue and you cannot go in for an interview at the university, you’ll have the option of interviewing with an alumnus in your area or conducting an interview via Skype. Options vary per university.
There are a couple different application cycles and terms you need to know about.
Even with a regular admissions deadline, I recommend applying as early as possible. Why? Because the admissions committee will be able to give more time to each application. As more and more applications start coming in, the committee now has to sort through them a bit faster to meet the deadline for releasing decisions.
Quite a few high schools use Naviance – a college-readiness software program linked to your high school.
It is free for students and is maintained by the high school’s guidance or college counselor. Once he/she updates the students GPA & SAT/ACT information into the software, you can run a search for any university of interest and receive applications and admissions data. The feature allows you to see how many students from your high school applied at that particular university, how many were accepted, waitlisted, and denied. You’ll be able to compare your GPA and test scores to those admitted to provide you with a solid idea of where you stand.
Note: Just because your Naviance account shows that you are a perfect candidate for the university does not guarantee admission. There is more to an application than a GPA and an SAT/ACT score.
Alternatively, if your high school does not offer Naviance or if you’d just like more admissions information, take a look at the university’s class profile. In this profile, you’ll find key admissions statistics, including SAT/ACT score ranges, applications received vs accepted for the various admissions cycles, and a demographic breakdown. If you look closely at the admissions statistics, you’ll notice that students who apply Early Decision or Early Action have a slightly higher acceptance rate than those who apply Regular Decisions.
I recommend taking a look at the academic side. You want to know if the university will provide you with a great education in your field of choice. If you’re completely starting from scratch but have a vague idea of what you’d be interested in, Google “Best universities for [insert field of interest]”. US News is a reliable resource to click on for a list. You do not have to apply to the top universities in the field if you don’t want to but you now have a list of 100+ to choose from. If you genuinely have NO idea of what you’d like to explore, then simply use the College Search Tool mentioned in the previous response to create a list.
If you’re a science student, take a look at the research opportunities available to a student. Afterwards, search for the Student Organizations available on campus. Do you see anything you’d be interested in? Depending on the size of the university, options may range from 60 -200+, so it’s important to figure out how you can explore your interests and hobbies once you’re there.
Finally, what else are you interested in? Study Abroad? Sports? Take some time and just explore the university’s website. By simple shuffling around the website, you’ll learn about what the university values and the general atmosphere the university is trying to create.
Good question. There’s a lot of information to process and quite a few factors to consider when considering the universities that would best fit. I recommend using Collegeboard’s College Search Tool. It allows you to select filters such as test scores, location, university size, academics, sports, etc, and pulls from its database of 3,806 universities to give you the ones that best fit. You are not required to choose from every filter, instead you can just choose from your 2-3 priorities.
Once you’ve gotten an initial list of universities, it’s time to start researching further. You can explore the statistics on the Collegeboard site or you can visit the university’s website to get an idea of its core values, academic structure, and student life.
Without the optional essay: $46, SAT with Essay: $60, ACT with Essay: $62.50. Fee waivers are available for test-takers from low-income families, so please see your school’s guidance counselor to obtain them.
At the time of registration, both the SAT and ACT allow students to select four universities to send free score reports to.
For the SAT, the free report option can be used up to nine days after the test date. After that, all reports must be paid for. The ACT allows the free report to be used up to five days after the test date.
Note: You would be sending the free score report BEFORE you see your score.
With that said, each additional SAT report costs $12, and ACT report costs $13. Priority reports cost extra, and general non-priority processing time is approximately one week for both.
Fee waivers are available for those from low-income families. Please speak to your high school guidance counselor to obtain the waivers.
For more information about fees (rush order, ordering via phone, etc) please see the links below:
Log on to your Collegeboard or ACT, you should see an option to “View Scores” or “My Scores”, once you click on that, you’ll be given the option somewhere on the page to “Sent Your Score”.
~5 YEARS from the day they are taken.
NO!!!! Take a free exam first! Competitive universities ask students for their entire score history,
therefore, any low scores will be visible and could be a disadvantage.
Beginning of Junior Year (or after completing Algebra 2, whichever comes first). Grades are crucial this year, so it’s a huge advantage to get the testing out of the way as soon as possible.
The test company will wipe any record of the test being taken. Colleges will NOT see that.
YES. Unless you with absolute certainty that all universities you will be applying to will not require the essay, I recommend testing with the essay. You don’t want to finish testing only to later learn that ONE of the ten universities you are thinking of applying to requires the essay. Students have to take the entire exam to reach the last 40-50 minute essay section, there is no separate essay option, so it’s just a good idea to have at least one good essay score on record.
When multiple sets of scores are sent to a university, the university takes the highest of the individual section scores across multiple exams, and combines them to create an ultimate superscore.
For example, if an SAT student receives a Reading score of 700 and a Math score of 600 on one exam, then later receives a Reading score of 650 and the Math score of 700 on another exam, the university will take the Reading score (700) from the first exam and the Math score (700) from the second exam to create an ultimate superscore (1400) to be considered for the student’s admission.
At the moment, this is more common for the SAT than for the ACT, however, ACT superscoring is starting to gain popularity. For more information, check out The Troll, The Boy, The SAT & The ACT.
It depends on the university you’re planning to apply to. Some universities – the more competitive ones (think Ivy League) – ask students to submit their entire “Score History”, meaning you’d be sending ALL your scores – the good & the bad. Other universities only ask you to send your best scores – meaning you could’ve taken the tests 10 times but you’d only be sending your best 2-3.
With that said, 3 is the norm. More than that can just prolong the process.
The College Application Process has 3 major parts: GPA, SAT/ACT, and Personal (extracurriculars, honors & achievements, community service).
Since every high school has a different curriculum and difficulty level of the courses it offers, your GPA is recalculated based on your course load. Harder courses weigh more than easier ones do.
As for extracurriculars: who’s to say that 500 hours spent training for Varsity Soccer are better than 500 spent serving food at a soup kitchen? How can you judge that?
So, basically, SATs/ACTs are the only consistent part of everyone’s application. With that said, not all universities require them so it’s important to check a university’s admissions page for its list of application requirements.
The SAT & ACT are exams required by most (but not all) universities as a part of the admissions process.
Each exam is approximately 3 hours long and includes an optional (recommended) essay section (40-50 min).
Topics tested include:
Math: Algebra I & II, Arithmetic, Geometry, Basic Trigonometry, and Data Analysis
English: Grammar, Vocabulary in Context, Editing Skills
Reading: Reading Comprehension, Command of Evidence
All SAT Subject Test-related fees can be found on Collegeboard. Note that fee-waivers are available for
those who qualify and can be received from your high school’s guidance/college counselor.
The Subject Test is scored on a scale from 200-800 with 800 being the perfect score. Average scores tend to range from 600-650 depending on the subject, but overall, a good score is a 650 or above. Competitive universities prefer a 720+.
Students can choose from 20 different subjects in the areas of math, history, English, science, and languages. Here is the full list of subjects students can test on.
It is important to note that while most subject tests are offered every SAT Subject Test date, languages are offered a limited number of times. The upcoming test dates and subjects offered can be found here.
Also, students applying to certain majors or universities may have specific Subject Test requirements to fulfill, so please take a look at a university’s Admission’s Requirements or Checklist page before registering.
On SOME but NOT all of the regular SAT dates and since each exam is only an hour long, students can take up to three SAT Subject Tests in one sitting. Here are the upcoming SAT Subject Test Dates to help you plan accordingly.
The SAT Subject Test is a 1-hour long multiple-choice content-based exam. Unlike the SAT and ACT, which allow for shortcuts/strategies, the Subject Test requires that students have a strong understanding of the material.
SAT Subject Tests are used as additional criteria for admissions at highly competitive universities. Some universities also tend to use the Subject Tests as placement exams after the student has been accepted or if the student is applying for a math- or science-heavy major like engineering. Some universities – called “Test Flexible” also allow 3 SAT Subject Test scores to be submitted in lieu of one SAT or ACT score.