Tagged: ACT

Ace the ACT Science Section

According to A+ Tutoring, a test prep company with a solid reputation, the science section doesn’t ask detailed information about various disciplines in the science curriculum. More questions are directed toward an understanding of the scientific method.

Do you know what a hypothesis is? Its the question an experiment is designed to answer

Can you describe the steps used in setting up the experiment?

How do you observe the results and interpret those results?

What conclusions do the data lead to?

General knowledge about science and its various disciplines is a good thing but understanding how the material in your science class was derived (experimentation!) will go a long way to succeeding on this section of the ACT!

Applying To College In An Electronic Age

The article below was written by a fellow admissions consultant and summarizes some of the details you need to know about electronic submissions.  I’ve added the photos.


by Lisa Bleich

Written by Lisa Bleich

When I submitted my applications to college in the mid-eighties, I filled out my application on a typewriter, put in in an envelope and mailed it to my prospective colleges.  My guidance counselor gathered my letters of recommendations, transcripts, and SAT scores, put them into a manila envelope and mailed them to the schools.  Then I waited and assumed that the post office would deliver my applications in good faith.

For current high schools seniors, those same pieces still need to get to the colleges, but with transition to electronic applications, score choice, digital portfolios, and eDocs the process has become in some ways easier, but in many other ways more confusing.

Here are some resources to help make the process go smoother.


Common Application  

With over 500 members, the Common Application is the dominant electronic site for submitting applications to colleges.  The benefit is that students can fill out one application and submit it to all participating schools. Several state schools also participate including the University of Michigan, UMASS Amherst, UNC Chapel Hill, and University of Delaware.  Here is a video that demonstrates how to submit your CommonApp application.

The Coalition Application  

Several state schools, e.g. University of Maryland and University of Florida, have started using the The Coalition Application exclusively for students to submit their applications.  If you scroll down to the bottom of this link, you’ll find some videos that show you how to start a an application, manage document uploads, and submit an application using the Coalition.  If you’d like to do a preview of the entire application before you submit, you can do that after you have paid, but before you actually submit.  After you submit the payment, click on the Expand All button in the top right hand corner and that will allow you to see the full application before you submit.

State and School Specific Electronic Applications

Many large state schools such as UCLA and Berkeley, along with Georgetown and MIT have their own applications that can be found on their website. Several universities also you to input their transcript, eliminating the need to send a transcript from their high school.


Many high schools are using eDocs through Naviance to send the transcripts electronically to the schools, but many high school guidance departments still require that students fill out a paper form with all the information so they can send the transcripts by mail.

It is important to understand the process at your high school and allow at least three weeks before the deadline to make the request.


Students must request that test scores be sent to all of their colleges by the appropriate deadline. Your application will not be read until the colleges receive the scores.

Request SAT scores

Request ACT scores


Colleges like to receive your financial aid forms along with your application so they can provide financial information when they notify you about their decision. Here is a great article on how to fill out the FAFSA.


Consistency the name of the game. When you sign up for the ACTs or SATs using your full legal name and e-mail, use that same name and e-mail for all subsequent application materials.

“The biggest problem is that various pieces can get lost and the easiest way to avoid mistakes is to have the same name and e-mail on everything. So if your legal name is Jonathan Brett Silver, but your nickname is JB, make sure to use Jonathan Brett on anything related to college.” Said J. Scott Myers from Susquehanna University. 

Key identity markers are

1)    Legal name (does not include nicknames)

2)    Email

Electronic does not mean immediateEven though you are used to text messages and e-mails being delivered immediately, it doesn’t work like that when submitting applications.  The applications go to a processing room and from there the application gets “input” into the college’s own proprietary system either by electronically populating the fields, scanning documents, or printing them for colleges that do not yet read electronically.

1)    Every school uses a different system to input data.

2)    “Some colleges receive testing information by mail and then enter scores into the student’s file.  Others receive test scores electronically and automatically integrate them into their system.” Nancy Rehling, a Director from ACT.

Follow up is key!   Once you submit your application, most schools will send you a unique school ID and login information to check on your application status.  “Do this immediately and keep track of what pieces are missing” advises Deryn Pomeroy from Syracuse University.  Here is a link to an article about how to tracking your applications.

1)    Assume it will take from 2-4 weeks for your application to be processed. The closer to the deadline you submit, the longer it will take.

2)    If you do not get the green light within in four weeks of submission, call to follow up on the missing pieces.

Somehow the manila envelope that we all complained about does not seem so bad (just kidding!)

Top Test Taking Strategies For ACT or SAT

Test day is full of anxiety but here are a few things you can do as you prepare and on test day, too.

1. Write on the test booklet (or practice test).  You can work math problems on the booklet, underline points the you want to refer to as you  answer the questions.  Make notes of anything that will help you on the questions.

2. Each question is worth the same one point: the easy questions and the hard ones.  Read through the section, doing the questions you can answer as you go and saving the others to work on later.  Mark the questions you skip and go back through and work on the marked questions.  If time remains, guess on questions that you couldn’t answer on the second pass: there is no penalty for guessing.

3. Use your calculator as needed and permitted.  Calculators can save you time and help you choose an answer.

4. There as several types of questions on both the ACT and SAT.  Be sure you can identify each type and the answer choice that each requires.  Pay attention to the types of questions that appear most frequently on the practice tests.

5. Using these strategies as you prep for your test will increase your comfort and make the process almost automatic.  The more familiar you are, the faster you will be able to go through all of the questions.

Good luck!

Lets talk about a testing schedule and strategies for using your scores to best advantage. stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.




What To Do When 2 Sets Of Scores Don’t Match

Duncan took the SAT twice.





January, 2017     Critical Reading/Writing  590       Math  650      Combined 1240

May,      2017       Critical Reading/Writing  690      Math   600     Combined  1290

The second set of scores showed an improved Critical Reading and a lower Math result.  Which set to send to colleges?

Colleges like to see higher math scores because that aggregate makes them look better. If  Duncan planned to study subjects that are math-intensive or where a science department would review his application, he should show the higher math score.

On the other hand if Duncan is interested in foreign language, international relations, literature or another language intensive major, he should use the higher Critical Reading.  Undecided, he would choose the higher combined score.

It would not be harmful to submit both sets and let the college choose how they evaluate the scores.

Claire took the SAT and the ACT. For simplicity we’ll use Duncan’s combined score of 1290 for the SAT and an ACT Composite  of 26.  This particular score pairs almost equally with the SAT of 1290 so either one is OK to send.  If Claire had earned a 28 on the ACT that would be a stronger submission.  A 24 on the ACT and a 1290 on the SAT makes the SAT a better choice.

There are published concordance tables that offer a comparison and most also indicate which score set is stronger.

Before deciding, consider your Writing score along with your ACT Composite and SAT Combined scores.

Some colleges use scores as an admission tool; some also use them as a placement instrument.  Knowing how your scores can affect your education may impact your decision.

Lets plan a testing schedule and review scores when they come in.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.


Inside Your Admissions Portfolio

Ever wonder what a college admissions office puts in the folder with your name on it?

In order of importance,  first is your high school transcript.  This document shows the difficulty of the courses you’ve chosen.   This is the Number One predictor of success at any college.  So, if  like me, you didn’t take much math because you really have no number sense, are you penalized?  Not at all if you’ve chosen AP, IB or challenging courses in  other subjects.

Taking upper level course work hints at your attraction or aversion to taking risks.  Are you willing to risk a B or C because you want to learn about something?   Even stronger is the suggestion that you can be motivated by curiosity – a very good sign!

Second, is your reported test scores.  The numbers on the score sheet indicate that you can read proficiently enough (speed and comprehension) to evaluate the material and answer questions about it.  Your math score measures how much math you have taken and understood.  Reading on the SAT and the three other subject sections of the ACT present passages based on concepts from typical high school courses.  Your scores indicate your ability to think critically.   Not all students test well making scores an imperfect benchmark.  However, aggregated scores from a high school offer some indication of possible grade inflation when they don’t support applicants’ grades.

Third, is your application and the materials that support it.   Most valuable are your principle and supplementary essays from which the reader gleans insight into who you are other than a brilliant student.  Your choices on your activities list, a portfolio or additional materials show what you value and why.  Adding a resume provides additional space to highlight leadership and accomplishments.

Fourth, the admissions rep who conducts your interview will add notes.  Not all colleges offer interviews on campus but most will arrange for applicants to  meet with alumni who live near the student’s home.

Fifth, are recommendations from the guidance counselor and teachers.  The admissions officers read the recommendations carefully.   Your guidance counselor can use this space to explain that a difficult situation caused your grades to drop for a semester or that an injury kept you out of school for a month.  From the teacher recommendations, admissions readers are looking for specific qualities that will help you in college such as persistence, curiosity, creativity, and independence.

The last piece is the High School Profile.  Each school sends this document along with the transcript and recommendations.  The profile contains a description of the demographics of the school district, a list of AP courses offered, per cent of graduates continuing to 2- and 4-year colleges, and other information that gives the admissions office a picture of your school.

When all the pieces are in place, the admissions officer who evaluates your application gets to know  you and how you have used the opportunities afforded by your high school.  With this picture in mind, a decision is made welcoming you or sending regrets.

As you can see, each section of your application reveals new information.  Let me help you showcase your unique personality in a winning application. 610-212-6679 or stephnaie@accessguidance.com


Deferred from EA or ED to Regular Decision? Here’s What To Do

Wishing and hoping encouraged to you to apply to your top colleges under the Early Decision or Early Action protocols.  6 weeks later you discover that your application has been held for regular decision review.  It’s a tough blow, having to wait another month or two without knowing.

Take stock of the acceptances you may already have.  Are these colleges strong enough contenders for you to be happy with the education and financial aid package?  If so then you only have to send a “No thank you letter” to the office that deferred you.

You may still have a preference for the deferring college.  The number of applications in the Regular Decision pool is larger than the Early groups so you will need to continue to communicate your strengths to the admissions office.

  1. Demonstrate your interest by communicating with the representative who reads the applications from your high school.  Remind him or her that you are still very interested in attending and why.  Don’t repeat what you said in the original application; add something new.
  2. If you have taken the SAT or ACT again, remind the rep to look at the new scores.  Make certain that they have been sent.
  3. Add to your application new awards, challenges overcome, achievements and distinctions.
  4. Visit or visit again.
  5. Consider an additional letter of recommendation from an outside source like a boss or supervisor of a community service initiative.  One could also come from a teacher or coach.  Earn brownie points by asking the college rep if she or he will accept a recommendation before you ask someone to write the letter.

Admission, denial and deferrals are based on the characteristics of the applicant pool and the shape of the class that the admission office is building.  These are qualities that you have no control over and  admission decisions aren’t a reflection of your eligibility.

You are in a great position: you can choose to reject the deferral and select a college that wants you right off the bat or you can play the waiting game and see all the colleges that choose you before you decide.  Either way, you will end up at a great college or university because all of the schools on your list are good choices.

If you need help showing love to the admissions offices that deferred you, lets talk.  We can find new information to send that will strengthen your application.  stephanie@accessguidance.com or 610-212-6679.

ACT Launches Pre-ACT for 10th Graders

ACT has released a pre-test for students in the 10th grade. Like the PSAT, the practice test evaluation-1516644_640for the College Board’s SAT, the new one has the objective of giving students an opportunity to see what the test is like. Both pre-tests offer students, teachers and parents a look at college readiness.

Sections of the Pre-ACT are English, reading math and science.   There is no writing component.  This is a paper-and-pencil test and will be graded on the same 1-36 scale as the ACT.

Taking the Pre-ACT is an opportunity to discover academic areas where a student needs to improve in order to be college-ready upon high school graduation.  Many students will access test preparation help, including the online ACT prep directly from the test maker.

Combining the free ACT Interests Inventory with the results of the Pre-ACT can lead to an exploration of college majors and career choices.

The cost of the Pre-ACT, if passed along to students, is $12.

Which  tests are appropriate for you?  When should you take them?  Lets talk!  I’ll answer these and other questions about the value of standardized tests. 610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com.


Test Optional Variations

maybeMore and more colleges are offering applicants the option of applying without submitting test scores.  Each college has its own agenda and definition of “optional” .  The agenda can range from dropping the potentially lowest scoring admitted students when reporting the middle 50% of admits (which raises the score band and therefore selectivity and college rankings), to encouraging less prepared students to apply, to a genuine belief that scores don’t reflect college readiness.

Test Optional applications generally mean that the admissions office will look at GPA, rank, curriculum, recommendations and high school activities when making an admissions decision.  A few disregard scores if sent but most will consider them if they are part of the student’s package.

Many Test Optional colleges request the scores after a student has been admitted, either for statistical analysis or for placement in first year classes.  Not taking any admissions qualifying exam can be a handicap.

While not reporting test scores could lead to a “YES!” from the admissions office, it could also mean a “NO!” for merit aid.  Almost everywhere, merit aid decisions are based on a combination of GPA, scores and rank.  With no scores to boost a student into an automatic grant, non-submitting students don’t qualify regardless of their grades and the rigor of their high school courses.

If you are considering not sending ACT or SAT scores, ask questions of the admissions office.  Do you need scores to be eligible for “free” money?  Are there additional requirements of students not submitting scores? If you choose to submit, how are the scores used?  What will be substituted if no scores are sent? How will placement decisions be made?

The more you learn about the options at each college you plan to apply to, the better your decisions will be.

For explanations of admissions vocabulary and policies, make an appointment with Stephanie for a phone or in person talk to answer your questions.  610-212-6679 or stephanie@accessguidance.com.


Test Day Tips for SAT and ACT

Relax.  Let The Zen Take Over
Relax. Let The Zen Take Over

Everyone is nervous on test day, anticipating long hours and head-scratching test questions.  Trust that your test prep has gotten you ready for the challenge and relax into an easy rhythm.


Colleges know  your scores are just numbers that don’t define who you are or what your future holds.  At best, standardized tests  show your problem solving abilities and how you work under pressure.  If you don’t have high marks in either of these yet, you have a long time to learn them.

Find out how your colleges view your test scores.  Text or call Stephanie at Access College and Career Consultants at 610-212-6679.  This is just one of our services for students who want personalized, comprehensive college planning.


Screenshot Saves the Day

girl-504315_640For seniors who took the ACT in September and have waited patiently for their scores, there is advice from the makes of ACT: take a screen shot of your subject scores and send it to the colleges before the deadline.  However, it would be a good idea to check with the receiving college to be certain that they are Ok with the plan.

The hang up is that more students than usual took the September administration combined with a new scoring system for the optional writing portion. The new score will look like the other section scores, 1-36. The new scoring brings a new rubric that takes longer to score.

So, if you have a looming deadline and the college agrees, send the screen shot of your subject scores that you will find on the ACT website, along with the email you received from ACT explaining the situation, to your colleges showing that you are affected by the backlog.

You’d think that ACT could at least apologize for their poor planning, wouldn’t you?

Good luck!