Bound to Organize
The college process can be filled with chaos, but it becomes simpler when you are Bound to Organize. Keep on track with tips and hints from two women who have learned the ropes and lived to tell about it.
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- Researching Schools (68)
- Testing (247)
- The Home Stretch (61)
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- about the authors
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- Bound to Organize
- Bound to Organize The College Bound Organizer
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- The College Bound Organizer
The best way to take control of standardized testing hanging over the months ahead is to create a testing plan for yourself. By having a schedule to use for prep and tests, you’ll be better prepared and with less stress.
STEP 1: Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor. He or she can help you get a better understanding of the which tests are offered when, how they differ and which ones are appropriate for you.
STEP 2: Take a practice SAT and ACT. You will be able to compare and then determine which test you’re more comfortable with and will be able to get the best score. Kaplan Test Prep offers free SAT and ACT online events and tests to help you compare. The Princeton Review also offers free SAT and ACT online tests.
STEP 3: Set up a schedule. If you can take either the ACT or SAT and SAT Subject Tests (SAT IIs) in junior year, you’ll have more time to focus on applications and financial aid when you’re a senior. Of course, you will have the option to take additional tests during senior year should you want to improve your scores. If you’re planning to take SAT IIs, take into consideration any AP or IB exams as well as your course finals when planning your schedule. This way, you can study for those exams and corresponding SATIIs at the same time. Also keep in mind that while you can take up to three SATIIs on any given test date, you can not register for the SAT and a SATII on the same date. The upcoming SAT test dates are March 14th, May 2nd and June 6th. SATIIS are given on the May and June dates. So, if you’re planning to take SATIIs, choose the test date that best lines up with your AP, IB and/or final test schedule in order to free up the other test date for the SAT.
STEP 4: Ask your parents and guidance counselor for input. Choose test dates that don’t conflict with any of your own personal obligations and talk to your parents to clear the test dates you are considering with the family calendar as well.
STEP 5: Register for tests as soon as possible to ensure your spot at the location of your choice. Keep a master calendar of the tests, test dates and locations that you register for and store your registration ticket in a place you’ll remember on test morning.
STEP 6: Find test prep resources. Search for ones that will work best with your learning style and also your budget. There are many free resources around. Test prep books are available on public library shelves and you can also purchases them online and in your local bookstore. Use these resources to take practice exams. Take as many timed practice tests as possible to get comfortable with the test and develop a good sense of how to pace yourself. In addition, there are many online prep programs as well as classes in your local area. Ask your guidance counselor, and also friends and relatives who have done this before, for recommendations.
STEP 7: Keep track of your scores. Once you have your results, record all your test scores on a master calendar like the one included in The College Bound Organizer. From this list you’ll choose your top scores, even if those scores are from different test dates, to submit with your applications.
STEP 8: Learn about test-optional schools. You many decide in advance to opt out of standardized test taking or if you’re not happy with your scores, test optional schools may be a good choice for you. There are more than 1000 colleges and universities that don’t use the ACT or SAT in their admissions process.
Remember, that while there is so much talk about testing, your test scores are only one piece of your application. Admissions officers are also interested in your grades, your curriculum, your participation in extracurriculars, and what you express about yourself in your essay.
See what what’s happening on a college campus by visiting. This is the best way to learn about different types of schools and to get an up close look at what really goes on at a college. If your schedule and budget allow, plan a road trip. If you’re not able to travel far, take a look at schools close to home. The tips below to will help you plan and get the most out of your visits:
- Make a list of schools to visit.
- Ask your guidance counselor for help.
- Read the admissions sections of school websites for info session and campus tour schedules.
- Sign up for info sessions and tours, if required.
- Meet with a faculty member or a coach, if appropriate, and reach out in advance to schedule an appointment. It makes sense to coordinate your meeting with the tour and info session schedules.
- Explore the campus— eat in the cafeteria, visit the student center and sit in on a class (ask Admissions how to arrange).
- Take the time to explore the surrounding neighborhood and town.
- Take notes and photos to help you remember details.
- Collect and save business cards from school reps you meet should you want to follow up with them.
- Send thank you notes and respond to anyone who has asked you to provide additional information.
A tour will give you the chance to see a school through a current student’s eyes and have a chance to ask questions, including:
- Does the school provide housing for all four years? If yes, do most students stay on campus? If no, how hard is it to find off campus housing?
- What portion of the students join sororities and fraternities? Do students feel pressured to join Greek life? What’s the process like?
- What clubs and extracurriculars are offered?
- What’s your favorite thing about the school? What, if anything, has disappointed you?
- How available are professors for extra help?
- Are tutors available?
- Are you assigned a freshman advisor? Is there a supportive advisory system?
- Where do most students study? How much time do you spend on school work each day?
- Do students stay on campus for the weekends? What do you do for fun?
- What are the biggest campus traditions?
- Do students get involved in the surrounding community?
- What do you like best (and least) about the school?
Info sessions give you the chance to learn about the school from the admissions office staff who will make a formal presentation followed by Q & A. Ask questions, but ask only those that can’t be answered on the school’s website, such as:
- What is the average class size?
- What percentage of classes are taught by professors versus teaching assistants?
- Is study abroad encouraged? What percent of students participate?
- What is the total cost of attending?
- What type of financial assistance is available?
- What percentage of students receive the aid they require?
- What career service support is offered for summer and full-time opportunities?
- What jobs are available on campus for students who want to work part-time?
Congratulations to the nine counselors selected by Colleges That Change Lives as their 2020 Counselors That Change Lives.
School counselors provide the necessary support for college bound students to navigate the college admissions process and achieve their goals.
- Blythe Butler — Catlin Gabel Academy (OR)
- Eli Clarke — Commonwealth Academy (VA)
- Jennifer Ewing — Cristo Rey Baltimore (MD)
- Adrienne Fluitt — BASIS Oro Valley (AZ)
- Kent Jones — Emma Willard School (NY)
- Rodney Joyner — Baltimore City College (MD)
- Derrick Kang — Mid-Pacific Institute (HI)
- DeVonta Lee — Bellaire High School (TX)
- Joy Maguire — Westside High School (TX)
- Toni Marie O’Daniel — Hmong College Prep Academy (MN)
- Tobi Oves — Ocean City High School (NJ)
- Andrea Rusk — Mundelein High School (IL)
- Tela Thigpen — Freedom Preparatory Academy (TN)
- Lenni Yesner — City Polytechnic High School (NY)
Recently, we had the pleasure of meeting with a group of parents and administrators at the Manhattan Center For Science and Mathematics. We talked about how parents can best help their students find their way through the college search and application process. Following our presentation we had a Q & A that gave us all the chance to cover more of the many details and we are thankful to the well informed, prepared group for adding so much to the evening.