Summer ACT-SAT-SSAT Prep Is A Smart Way To Start

Vector sunset or sunrise icon. Vector sunset or sunrise icon. Sunset or sunrise logo design. Vector illustration.Why not start ACT, SAT or SSAT test prep this summer when students have their lightest workload all year? At Dogwood, we work with many rising juniors and seniors to prepare for ACT in September or SAT in August (a new date this year). We also help with SSAT for private school admissions, but more about this later. The ideal situation is to complete ACT-SAT testing before the college application process intensifies in 12th grade. There are two exceptions, described below, that call for testing later in 11th grade. For most students, however, it is practical and highly productive to prepare during the summer before junior year and take a test (or both tests, if desired) the recommended two or three times.  

What are the circumstances that should tell students to wait on starting ACT-SAT testing? For one, football players should wait until their season ends because they just don’t have enough time or energy to add test prep to their already demanding schedules. All students should try to schedule around their peak seasons so they don’t add test prep to an already full plate. For students who have conflicts all year long, try to start test prep early because procrastination is not your friend.

The other exception takes into consideration students with lower math skills. The math on both ACT and SAT is primarily algebra. If rising juniors struggle with basic math and plan to take Algebra II next year, they might want to wait until second semester to start ACT-SAT test prep. For students who will take pre-calculus or advanced math in junior year, there is no reason to delay test prep because there is no calculus on either ACT or SAT.

Take One of Each Test And Then Decide What To Do – A Bad Strategy

Some people think students should take the real SAT in August and real ACT in September so they can then decide which test to prepare for. We disagree. Why pay $50 per test and wait 4+ weeks for score reports that give you absolutely no detailed information? Come to Dogwood this summer and take ACT and/or SAT practice tests at no charge. Within a few days, you’ll receive a detailed score report that gives you much better information than the real ACT or SAT score reports provide. Our comprehensive diagnostic reports help you make informed decisions about which test is a better fit for your student and how professional test prep services can help improve the results. No cost, no obligation. Just reliable information you can use.

SSAT – Secondary School Admissions Test

Most Atlanta-area independent schools require the SSAT, a very challenging test that rewards good reasoning skills along with math, reading and verbal skills. Even the most talented students in grades 5-11 need tutoring help to achieve their best SSAT results. Because most private school admissions deadlines are around February, students should start SSAT prep in the summer. You should allow time for your student to take SSAT two or three times. We do not recommend taking the SSAT without proper preparation.   

Call Dogwood Tutoring and Test Prep today at 678-735-7555 to discuss your student’s needs and goals. We look forward to helping you navigate the complex maze of admissions testing.

How To Navigate a Gap Year

Illustration depicting a roadsign with a gap year concept. Blue sky background.

A College Application Guide for Gap Year Students

By Kyle DeNuccio — New York Times  April 6, 2017

Applying to college is onerous enough. Asking to defer enrollment for a year can be even more intimidating. Here’s how to navigate the gap-year process.

When to Apply to College

Delay freshman year, not your application. Students interested in a year off should still apply to college their senior year of high school, advises Michele Hernández, co-president of Top Tier Admissions and a former admissions officer at Dartmouth. It ensures that you’ll have access to your school’s resources and won’t be bogged down with applications and standardized testing during a year that may include travel abroad.

“You’d be surprised how quickly your high school forgets you,” Dr. Hernández said. “It’s really hard to go back and ask for teacher recommendations and the other materials you might need after a year has passed.”

It’s also a good idea to keep options open should plans suddenly change. You might not get that internship or job you were counting on, or you might get into a college with even better options for a bridge year, like the tuition-free international program at Princeton or Tufts’ “1+4” program, offering both national and international service opportunities.

When to Ask for a Gap Year

Harvard has long encouraged applicants to consider a year off, but that won’t increase your chances of getting in. While more and more institutions are seeing value in a gap year, it’s better to inform them of your intentions after you’ve been accepted.

 “It might work against you because admissions’ priority is filling that year,” Dr. Hernández said. “They don’t know what the next year is going to look like.”

If your plans have merit — education, work or service components — they are likely to agree. But, she said, “depending on what you’re going to do, a gap year can be viewed as slightly frivolous. So that’s why I say, get in first and then propose an idea.”

If a college has no gap year program, write to the admissions director before deposits are due. Describe plans for the year ahead, and ask whether time off will affect any scholarships the school has offered for freshman year.

Where to Find Resources

USA Gap Year Fairs organizes events where students can hear about an array of programs and speak with professionals in the field: 39 were held this winter; a list of locations for 2018 will be published in the fall (usagapyearfairs.org). The American Gap Association accredits independent programs that offer skills- or service-based learning experiences. It maintains lists of the programs, which run a few weeks to a year, and their scholarships, as well as university policies on deferring enrollment (www.americangap.org).

The association tracked $2.8 million in need-based support for gap year programs in 2015. Some universities even provide funding for service-based experiences. Florida State University offers $5,000 gap year fellowships, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers fellowships of $7,500, with a focus on students from rural school districts in the state.

Chapel Hill is impressed with the results.

“Students in the gap year fellowship don’t struggle like other freshmen do with the transition into college,” said Richard Harrill, who helped design the program. Instead, he said, participants “become even more intellectually hungry.”

 

Changes on the ACT Math Test

Without any fanfare, ACT makes subtle yet significant changes to its test each year, which runs from September to June. The public gets its first look at specific changes when ACT releases its December test booklet to students who purchase it. There are two noteworthy changes to the 2016-17 ACT math test, as shown in questions 30 and 55.

For the first time, ACT is testing basic knowledge of combinations and permutations as shown in question 30 on December’s test (74H). It’s located in the middle of the 60-question test, before they usually start asking the more difficult questions. 

30

While ACT has included questions on determinants in the past, they also provided the required formula. December’s question 55 is the first one we’ve seen where students are expected to know the formula in this advanced math category.

55

Strategies for the College-Bound Student

boy w beatsFrom freshmen to seniors, there are worthwhile strategies that students can employ in 2017 that will vastly improve the college admissions process ahead.

 

For Freshmen

First-year students should create specific college application goals early on. Of course, their interests and plans will evolve as the high school years go by, but they can still make a timeline for college visits, scope out potential AP courses, extra-curricular activities of interest, and the like. By creating an overarching outline of their college preparedness plans now, freshmen can reduce the stress of college planning later.

 

For Sophomores

Many high school students wait until junior year before considering college admissions tests, but sophomores can get a head start. By encouraging your child to prepare for the PSAT, as well as research the right admissions test for their skill set (ACT vs. SAT), he or she can focus more clearly on optimizing scores in junior year.

 

For Juniors

Junior year is a tough balancing act. While maintaining a solid GPA and participating in activities, students must prep for the ACT and/or SAT. They should plan to take a test (or both tests) two or three times. At the end of the year, there are likely to be AP tests and possibly SAT Subject Tests.

 

For Seniors

Take a deep breath. For parents and students alike, the college application process has likely become a whirlwind. Don’t forget that the journey is just as important as the destination. The hard work and preparation he or she has put in will pay dividends in the future, no matter where he or she arrives for college in the fall.

 

At Dogwood Tutoring and Test Prep, we recognize that academic preparedness begins early on in a student’s life. That’s why we’ve identified and possess the tools and resources necessary to make your student’s high school career and college transition a positive and successful evolution. Whether your student is prepping for an algebra exam, the SAT or ACT, AP tests, or SAT Subject Tests, our one-on-one tutoring can make 2017 a year of life-changing academic growth. 

Test Taking is a Lifelong Skill

ben-girl-studyingFirst, a true story. A mom was waiting for her eighth-grade daughter to finish her tutoring session for SSAT test prep (for private school admission). As we talked about the strategies and testing methods we teach, she explained how impossible it was for her to pass the medical board exam on her first attempt. So she decided to do some test prep, where she learned the same test-taking skills we’re teaching her daughter… and she passed the boards on her next try.

Some people may think the benefits of test prep just evaporate after test day. In fact, professional tutoring builds skills that pay dividends for students throughout school, college and career. When Dogwood’s tutors prepare students for ACT, SAT or SSAT exams, we help to improve their lifelong skills in three main ways.

Identify and plug gaps in foundational skills

As part of our test prep process, when we help students improve skills in math, reading and writing, it also helps them perform better in the classroom. One-on-one tutoring can often explain and clarify challenging topics more effectively than a teacher can do in a classroom. For example, students with improved grammar and writing mechanics will go on to write better essays and papers in college and beyond.

Teach students how to apply appropriate test-taking strategies

Testing is complicated and frustrating for many people. Test-taking strategies help students approach questions more methodically and accurately so they can achieve their best test scores. Better test results in school and college classrooms lead to better grades. On graduate admissions exams like GRE, LSAT and MCAT, higher-scoring students will have better outcomes with admissions and scholarship money. Later in life, better scores on professional licensure exams will lead to rewarding careers in fields like medical, legal, financial, real estate, engineering and education.

Professional tutors hold students accountable

Without ongoing adult supervision, many students struggle with the tedious test prep process. Just like any sport or performance art, test prep requires practice, practice, practice. In their weekly meetings, Dogwood tutors coach and support students as they refine their study skills and remain accountable to the test prep regimen. When it really counts, we help students to establish priorities, organize workloads, manage deadlines and use scarce time more effectively. Test prep is hard work, but our students learn to remain calm and focused on demonstrating their hard-earned skills.

Professional test prep is an investment that pays dividends for a lifetime. In the short run, it will help your child become a better test-taker and stronger student in school. That means better chances for admission at more colleges as well as greater opportunities for scholarship money. Longer term, students will have the skills needed to become better learners and test-takers in college and career. Call Dogwood Tutoring & Test Prep today at 678-735-7555 to see how customized test prep can open doors for your child for years to come.