The ACT and SAT

Alright, let me go off on a little bit of a tangent.

My siblings are twins, both juniors in high school, 17 years old. My brother is currently on a path that will put him in the military this summer, scary yes but I’m crazy supportive. My sister, on the other hand, plans to finish her fourth year in high school and walk in the spring of 2018. I remember my junior year of high school as the most stressful year of my life.

My sister, like myself, is in an IB program. Junior year is technically the first year in the ‘real’ IB program, exams are going on through the entire year. It’s a crazy time.

Our mom is a career driven woman, which means she didn’t attend the parents information nights, she didn’t ask me about my homework, and she really didn’t know much about the SAT. A few months ago I asked my sister about the ACT and SAT and she didn’t know anything. AH! I freaked out. It was December, and she had no plans of taking the test!

A week or so ago my sister and I fought about her taking the SAT and how I don’t care how stressed or not stressed she is. I did it, she can do it too (not the way to approach that topic but hey, I’m human). A quick conversation with my mom showed that she also had no idea what was going on with the SAT but knew my sister needed to take it.

So, let me level with everyone and give you ten things you need to know about junior year, SAT and ACT. This list is for high school students who are confused about what’s going on, and for parents who are relying on their already stressed high schoolers to make these huge decisions.

  1. These exams cost money. Dollars. Benjamins. Coint. I don’t care what you call it, but get ready to cough it up. If your school is super awesome and provides either of these exams for free, be grateful! My sister’s school is providing students with the ACT. I had to pay for every exam.
  2. You should take both. “But he doesn’t need both.” Great… take both. It’s a good way to show colleges what you’re made of. And maybe in ten months, goals change, you decide that the college of your dreams isn’t what you thought it was, you tour another school and you’re so excited to apply for the perfect school… You pull up their application, you fill out the demographic information… And you need both an SAT and ACT score. But you only took the ACT. Don’t put yourself in that situation, just take both.
  3. Take the SAT twice. Most colleges will super score your SAT. That means that if you scored really low in math the first time you took the test, take the test again, focus on the math section, and do really well. The college will accept the highest of each section. This isn’t true of all universities but it is true of most.
  4. The SAT is only offered seven times in a year. You can’t just decide you’re going to take the SAT in July, it doesn’t work that way. You have to register for the test about a month in advance to avoid paying late registration fees. And then you won’t even get your scores until about a month after you take the test. So check the dates the exam is offered as soon as you start your junior year, then you’ll know and can plan accordingly.
  5. April/May is AP and IB testing season. Take this into consideration when you decide the dates you’re going to take the test, or for parents, seriously consider this when you’re registering your child for the tests. As an IB student, I took about a dozen exams my junior year, all in the months of April and May, taking the SAT on top of that is insanely stressful.
  6. SAT prep courses are cool and all… but I didn’t take any. I had a friend in high school who went to SAT prep three times a week in the months leading up to her taking the exam and she didn’t do any better than I did. It’s good to know the kinds of questions you’ll encounter, that goes back to number 3, when you take the exam again you’ll know exactly what to expect. Some people test well, some people don’t. If you don’t test well you’ll want to seek out some additional assistance when preparing. If you generally test well, use a gently used SAT prep book and call it good enough.
  7. Wear your PJs. Both times I took the SAT and the one time I took the ACT I considered wearing pajamas and then decided to wear real clothes… No. Don’t do it. It’s early in the morning, you’re surrounded by a mob of people, you only actually know a few of them. Just wear something comfy. Parents, let your kid wear what makes them comfortable. If you’re going somewhere nice after bring the clothes with, but don’t make them wear it into the exam.
  8. Eat breakfast! It’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you need the food to help you power through the long hours of testing you’re about to take part in.
  9. It’s totally cool not to share your score with anyone. The high school I went to was extremely competitive and SAT scores were one of the things we went for the jugular over. No one needs to know what your score was. Seriously. Also, it’s cool that you got a really great score, but it’s not okay to make someone feel bad for not doing as well as you. These exams cater to those who test well, just because you got a higher score does not mean you’re any more intelligent.
  10. Don’t compare your score to everyone else. I’ve said it multiple times, and I’ll say it again, if you naturally test well, you will score high. That means that if you’re not a super test taker, you might not score as high as your friend who can sleep through a multiple choice test and still get a 100. And that’s okay! The only person you should compare yourself to is the “average” student that the college you want to go to advertises. If you’re dying to go to NYU, know what the average SAT score of incoming freshman from the last year was, that will give you a good ballpark of where you want your score to land.

Okay, I know that was a ton of information all at once and some of it might not stick. Here’s what I want you to take away from this, you need to know when you’re going to take these exams. They are only offered a few select times per year and you don’t want to be the high school senior wondering why a college still hasn’t started reviewing your application. These exams might feel optional, but they’re really not. Just take them, it’s not that hard and at least you’ll know what your score is when it’s over!

Until next time! Xx

PS. If you’re about to sit for the SAT, ACT, or you’re launching into AP, AICE, and IB season, I wish you all the best! None of these exams determine your future, please please remember that. I wish that someone had reminded me that I didn’t need to lose sleep, skip meals, drink insane amounts of caffeine, or stress so hard that my hair started falling out, over a couple dozen exams. Do your best, trust that you are prepared, and breathe.

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