Curious if taking the ACT/SAT exam is still a good decision for your child? Here are some things to think about and a FREE ACT test for them to take if it’s the right decision.
I know that so many of you are in a stage of life in parenting, where you’re talking and thinking about high school and college plans for your son or daughter.
So I wanted to bring in an expert when it comes to the ever-so-popular topic of ACT and SATs, to help with you and your child’s decision.
COVID was rough on students and schools, and, to make things a bit easier on students, a good deal of schools completely relaxed their ACT/SAT requirements during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.
This was great news for a select subset of students – namely, those who had robust extra-curricular’s, stellar grades, and good proof of their commitment to pursuing challenging learning activities.
But, for the average student, the removal of a major piece of the application leaves them with one less chance to stand out, and, in some cases, may actually disadvantage the students.
In this piece, Strategic Mentoring breaks down the pros and cons of choosing to take a standardized test in 2021 and beyond, and provides an offer for a free exam & answer sheet for your student to take a shot at!
1. If the ACT/SAT is optional, should I still take it?
“My dream school is ACT/SAT optional now, why would I waste time taking a diagnostic to see where I land?”
Great question! This is top of mind for students and parents across the US coming out of COVID. Many schools are now test-optional, which means that you can either choose to submit or not submit your scores.
This does not mean that scores are irrelevant – far from it!
Scores remain an integral method that schools use to evaluate and rank applicants. If a student takes a diagnostic ACT/SAT test, and we determine that the student has the work ethic to substantially improve their score to at or above the average score at their target school, it is always worth it for that student to take the ACT/SAT.
Don’t believe it? Consider two students, completely equivalent in all other respects. When those applications hit that admissions counselor’s desk, if the only differentiating aspect from one student versus another is an above-average test score, you can bet that counselor will almost certainly prefer the student with a score every time.
It’s always worth it to take the diagnostic and consider your
2. Is the ACT/SAT a waste of time?
“Sure, but what are the colleges actually saying about it? I don’t want to waste my time.”
Take Cornell, for example. Their policy (revised 1/25/21) has a bunch of interesting nuggets that we feel are broadly representative of a number of schools. We’ll highlight some of them here.
Cornell [admissions counselors] will consider with increased scrutiny their other application documents, looking for different evidence of excellent academic preparation, including:
– challenging courses and excellent grades in each secondary school (high school) context. Note: there will be no negative interpretation for schools and students who have had only pass/fail or similar grading options during this current term;
– evidence of commitment and effort to pursuing other challenging learning experiences;
– results from other kinds of secondary, college-preparatory, and university-qualifying testing where available and verifiable;
– care, craft, and authenticity in their writing submissions;
– and wherever practical and available, details, insight, and analysis from secondary school counselors and teachers.
Applicants with no test results might more often be asked after review has begun for additional evidence of continuing preparation, including grade reports from current senior year enrollment when that can be made available in time for Cornell admission review.
Cornell overall has not planned to adopt a test-optional admission policy permanently. As appears to be true at test-optional colleges and universities, we anticipate that many students who will have had reasonable and uninterrupted opportunities to take the ACT and/or SAT during 2020-2021 administrations will continue to submit results, and those results will continue to demonstrate preparation for college-level work.
In summary, Cornell recognizes that some students would like to opt out of testing, but emphasizes that those applications will require other evidence of commitment. For students who are average, missing out on submitting an above-average test score could be the difference between acceptance and rejection.
We encourage you to see the test-optionality as a tool to help better leverage the time you have before applications are due, and to shore up some of the weaker points in your application. Test scores are unique in that you can take them multiple times as you prepare, and the majority of students steadily improve over time. When that time leads to higher acceptance rates, new scholarship offers, or future job offers, it is absolutely not a waste of time.
3. Should I hire an ACT/SAT tutor?
“Tests really stress me out. I can’t imagine ever scoring higher than the average at my target school. Do ACT/SAT tutors work?”
This is completely natural. We’ve only very rarely seen students who come in saying anything different than this. And, in those cases, those confident students usually end up doing about as well as the unconfident students.
Why? Because these tests tend to be less about what you know and more about
how good you are at taking the test. This is a key component of our test prep strategy at Strategic Mentoring.
We’ll fill in the gaps teachers leave on core topics like geometry and interpreting scientific data, but the big point gains come from understanding the logic of the test.
Just like learning to swim or riding a bike, these logic skills are things you won’t learn in class. And, because of that, students usually see these logic topics as significantly less stressful, and more of a playful game we play against those sneaky test-makers. We know stress. We work through it with you – that’s what we’re here for.
4. “I won’t even use the ACT/SAT after high school”
Ever heard or have the thought of:
“The content on the tests is worthless and no one will ever care about this after high school. Is an ACT/SAT worth it?”
We genuinely wish this were true. This is, unfortunately, false. We’ve seen a surprising multitude of applications for professional job postings that require “silly” items like ACT or SAT scores – but take them deadly seriously. Top financial firms are a notorious example of this. While the actual content on the exams is, admittedly, not particularly important or relevant to the rest of your life, the logic systems you use to quickly evaluate answers and weed out distractions are tools that will be with you forever.
And, the score itself can also become a tool for later in life when you need quantitative proof to demonstrate your proficiency in logic to a recruiter that is weirdly obsessed with your high school performance. So, yes, while the content itself may be worthless, the method of taking the exam at an expert level has immense value, and, surprisingly, the test score itself can help carry you even after college.
5. Skip the Prep?
“OK – you make a good case, but why shouldn’t I just take the diagnostic and be done with prep? Who should I hire for ACT/SAT tutoring?”
Did you know that starting with the middle answer (C) on some problems on the math exam lets you solve them in half the time? Or that the big secret to the science exam is to not actually read the super long and confusing paragraphs? These are just two of the tidbits that we’ve collected over the years, and there are loads more that we train students to recognize and use to their advantage to boost their test
We absolutely do not claim or promise any absolute number increase to a student’s score, and we see prep companies who do this as deceitful, but what we can say is that our team is almost exclusively PhDs from primarily Ivy League institutions with extensive tutoring experience with multiple awards.
Take the diagnostic, see where you land, and make this consideration: “If my score moved up to meet or exceed the average at my target school, how much happier would I be with that better chance of getting in?”
Free ACT Exam
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We know tests aren’t particularly fun, but our team of PhDs, startup founders, and masters is ready to show you the playful way to beat down these tests and stand out amongst your peers.
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