Essential Test Taking Talking Points For Your Upperclassmen
June and July passed us by so fast we hardly felt the breeze, and schools across the country are now shifting into gear for the fall semester. As educators and counselors get back to work (although, who are we kidding, the work never stops), here are five important things to discuss with returning juniors, seniors, and their parents/guardians.
1. Testing Timeline
Have a list of official SAT/ACT test dates and registration deadlines in your office. It’s good, for example, for students to know that December is generally the last chance for Seniors to fine-tune their ACT/SAT scores for college applications. On the other hand, Early Action/Early Decision applicants will want to have a score on file by September or October at the latest. Here is a convenient link to information about SAT test dates and registration, as well as ACT test dates and registration
Make sure students with IEPs apply for extended time accommodations on the SAT and/or ACT. It’s best to go over this with juniors, but certainly some seniors may have slipped through the cracks. Every student with an IEP or 504 Accommodations Plan should apply for extended time on standardized tests, as both College Board and the ACT recently changed their procedures dramatically. It can quite literally make a life-changing difference.
3. The PSAT
Target high-scoring sophomores and juniors and discuss the PSAT with them. A lot of parents or guardians of some of the brightest students don’t realize that National Merit Recognition and Scholarships are based on the October PSAT, which is taken in every high school across the country. For some of the top juniors in the country, National Merit can be a really nice feather in the cap that can help with college admissions and often lead to additional scholarship money. It’s easy to get caught up in SAT and ACT prep and overlook this test, since scores don’t get sent directly to colleges and it’s not a crucial test for the vast majority of students. Most schools are offering the 2017 PSAT on the morning of Wednesday, October 11th.
4. Student-Focused Test Plans
Develop a strategy with parents and students. There are many things to consider, including extracurricular schedules, school workload, potential tutoring options, college goals, and burnout. Giving the student some choice in the matter can have a dramatic impact on overall attitude. Even letting the student have input as to whether he or she will focus on the SAT vs. ACT can make a big difference. If students are unclear about which test is best for them, we have an SAT vs. ACT guide that highlights some of the key differences between the tests.
5. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Keep things light! Lots of students are not only feeling scared about standardized tests and college applications, but are also dealing with new classes, new teachers, and the pressures of adolescent life in general. Many kids also get pressured by their parents, and it may take the calming words of an IEC or school counselor to help parents let their child own the process and give him or her some room to breathe. We want to ensure we help students feel supported throughout the process should they need our help and guidance!