Hi seniors! Sounds good, no? Perhaps just a bit scary?

Allow me to intrude upon your reverie and talk about what lies ahead this fall. Trust me, I’m enjoying the sun and the beach and the relaxed schedule (and my high flying NY Yankees!) as much as I hope you are, but hey, forewarned is forearmed so here are some items which may be of use to you.

Last week I sent you advice about beginning your common application, which went “live” at www.commonapp.org on the 1st of this month. Today I want to suggest that you formally begin a no-cost, do-it-yourself SAT preparation starting this week using Khan Academy in anticipation of the October 5th SAT test date (sign up deadline is September 6th, but do it now so you won’t forget**).

As with most of my rants, print this email out and read it carefully, and by all means feel free to forward it to friends and acquaintances who might benefit from them.

Many of you have met with me over the summer, and others may be thinking of doing so. I’m around and I look forward to talking with anyone who’d like some help sorting this stuff out and getting organized. I work by Skype and FaceTime for those of you who don’t live in the Greater Portland area. You can contact me by phone (in my signature below) or email, or through my web page (also in my signature below)

So let’s get to it, shall we?


SAT, SAT Subject Tests and the ACT

Most of you will retake the SATs this fall on October 5. The sign up deadline for the October test is September 6, and you do it at www.collegeboard.org.

Go on line (collegeboard.org) and register now. If you’ve been getting my rants since last spring you’ll recall that I recommend a “self-prep” method to get yourself ready for the test which involves putting in a little bit of time (45 minutes a day, three times a week) for eight weeks prior to the test date. Use the Khan Academy link from the collegeboard’s web site to set up your practice schedule. It’s easy, and it will customize your preparation to reflect the SAT score you received last spring.

Monday (August 12th) is the start of an eight week countdown to the October 5th test date. If you buy in to my suggestion, that’s when you should start your Khan Academy assisted preparation. If you haven’t yet linked your collegeboard account to Kahn Academy do so now! Log on to your collegeboard.org account and click on the link which says “Get Free Practice for the SAT with Khan Academy”. This will link your SAT and PSAT results to the Khan Academy (so you’ll get a customized preparation program).

Kahn Academy will take you through several steps and finally will let you design your very own SAT prep. Indicate the date you’re taking the test (October 5). Skip the four full length practice tests (others will tell you to do them but IMHO you have better things to do with your time then this). Sign up for three 45 minute sessions weekly – it will then customize an instructional program for you.

If you have difficulty with the above give me a call and I’ll try to walk you through it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t see any need for paying for test prep if you’ll religiously follow this system. Several years ago families were paying $800 for this very Khan Academy test prep program. Now it’s been made free for all. Use it!


SAT subject tests are also offered this fall on 10/5, 11/2, and 12/7. Note that December is not too late to take them unless you’re applying early decision or early action. In an earlier newsletter I gave you several reasons why honors level students may wish to take (or may need to take) subject tests – let me know if you want me to resend you that rant.

Here are two sites which list the colleges which require or recommend subject tests. Note that neither of these lists are comprehensive and there are several schools which are indicated as ‘optional’ or ‘recommended’. You’ll want to read on each of your schools’ web pages (look for “how to apply” on the “admissions” page) to get the precise response (an excellent excuse for sending a “pen pal” email to admissions at each of your schools).



Remember, although the Subject Tests are offered at the same time and place as the SAT Reasoning Test, you CANNOT TAKE THEM BOTH AT THE SAME TIME. Take one of the tests in October and the other in November.

Also, Subject Tests are ONE HOUR EACH and you may sign up to take ONE, TWO or (fun fun) THREE on the same day. I recommend you take two or three per sitting, since you’re getting up early and blowing a Saturday morning as it is.

For a description/discussion of what the heck the subject tests are all about, go to this College Board site:


Or, give me a call and I’ll do my best to put you hip, straighten you out, ease your pain, all of the above…and I’ll give you some suggestions for preparing for these bad boys as well.


And let us not forget the ever growing in popularity ACT test, which will be offered on September 14, October 26 and December 14 this fall.

You sign up at www.act.org (by August 16th for the September 14 test, by Sept. 20 for the October 26 test, and by November 8 for the December 14 one). You may have to travel to take the ACT, so check the ACT web site carefully to see where it’s offered.

The ACT is no more reliable than the SAT (both tests are poor predictors of college success or how bright you are) but some students, particularly those good at math and science do better on it than they do on the SAT. Colleges will accept either test, and in some cases the ACT subscores are accepted in place of SAT subject tests .

ALWAYS TAKE THE OPTIONAL ESSAY SECTION FOR BOTH THE SAT AND THE ACT. The SAT with essay costs $64.50 and the ACT with writing is $68. Fee waivers are available if you qualify for reduced lunch at your high school.

Confused? Call or email me and we’ll tawk.


The Common Application

I wrote you last week about this – show of hands: who’s started their common application?

Go ahead now and do it – don’t be scared. You’ll see it’s quite user-friendly. If anyone wants me to resend my last rant about getting started on the Common App, let me know and I will.


Okay, I’m going to end here. Next week I’ll send a “part two” of my August “Summer Bummer” College Guy Rant, offering you a sort of mellow “to do” list for your college search and application process.

Get cracking on this stuff, but leave yourself time for the beach as well. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

From Gary the College Guy

Gary L. Canter
College Placement Services
210 St. John Street
Portland, Maine 04102
(207) 772-9711

College Placement Services provides high school students and their families
assistance with all aspects of the college search, selection, application
and financial aid process.

P.S. If you’d rather not get these occasional missives, kindly let me know…and you won’t.