May College Guy Rant: should you take Subjects Tests and/or the ACT?

Hi Juniors - won’t be long before summertime and easy living, and after that like the hungry caterpillar you’ll metamorphose in to a senior! How about that?! (And if that sounds strange to you try being one of your parents: it seems like yesterday my daughter was starting kindergarten!!)

Hope everyone’s groovy and not overly stressing about all this college stuff. Remember the college guy maintains (with apologies to Duke Ellington who composed “It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Aint Got That Swing”) that it matters not where you go to college, it matters what you do when you get there. And I really mean that!

That said, you’ve all got your wish lists and (if you’ve met with me and followed my suggestions) your “Top 10 lists” and you’re hopefully cruising along with your college research and beginning to get this stuff sorted out. Remember my timeline is to have your final list of 6 - 10 schools (do you really need more than that?) finalized by November 1, have all applications sent out by December 1** (well before the earliest deadline, unless you’re applying to one of the seven U. California schools which have an 11/30 deadline).

**Early Decision and Early Action deadlines are between Nov. 1 - 15. That’s a separate discussion to be held in October - give me a call then if you want to discuss, and no sooner. Now’s the time to consider a wide range of schools, and not narrow in on one.

I advise juniors to be working on four college-related tasks now:

  1. put together an annotated resume,
  2. write your first essay,
  3. schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor to discuss your college process, your senior schedule, and the letter of recommendation he or she will be writing for you in the fall, and
  4. continue to sort schools in to reasonable and realistic lists of prospective ones you’ll apply to next fall. Remember to keep a balance between “reach” and “safety” schools, as well as keeping on eye on economic safety schools (speak with your folks about this). Other than that, sit back and enjoy the advent of spring, marvel at my New York Yankee’s derring do and slugging power, and keep your grades up.

And for those of you who could use a shove in the right direction, or need some help gearing up or calming down (that includes parents) - feel free to give me a holler using contact information at the bottom of this email. That’s why I’m here!

***

Now I want to call your attention to sign up deadlines this week on Thursday, May 3 (for the June 2nd SAT and SAT Subject Test); and Friday May 4 (for the June 9 ACT). Let’s review what I’ve told you in the past about these tests:

…well heck, if you’ve been reading my past rants (March 14th) you already know what I’ve told you about them.

  1. I don’t like ‘em,
  2. they’re not predictive of your likelihood for success in college, and
  3. for crying’ out loud they don’t measure how smart you are! It’s like if I’m a whiz at Sudoku (which I am!), and you’re great at Word Jumble. Who’s smarter? Um, we both could be genius’ or both dumb as a fencepost, right? We’re just particularly good at those puzzles. Same for SAT/ACT. They only measure a very specific, narrow type of intelligence.
  4. However,they’re important to the selective college game AND they’re important to the merit scholarship game.

So although I’m disdainful of all these fershlugginer tests, take them seriously, take them more than once, and if you aspire to selective colleges consider taking the ACT and the SAT subject tests in June. And prep for them - use Khan Academy and save your sheckles.

Now the ACT has more questions so you have to work faster, but folks say they’re easier, less analytical than the SAT - particularly on the verbal/writing sections. ALL COLLEGES will accept either set of scores, so the idea of trying both is to see which one you'll do better on. You can send just SAT scores, just ACT scores, or both, depending on how things turn out.

The SAT (and subject tests) will be offered again in August, October, November and December this year.

The ACT will be offered again in July (yeesh, don’t take it then!) September, October and December.

Tests taken before and during November will be scored and evaluated in time for MOST early decision and early action applications (check with individual school if you’re doing ED or EA to be safe)

Always take the optional essay section when you take either the ACT or SAT

And hey, if you don’t break 1200 and you aspire to selective colleges, check out the list of schools which are “test optional”, which means they don’t require you submit your standardized test scores at all: www.fairtest.org.

I advise juniors not to retake the SAT till the fall October date (use August and September to prep) but to consider June subject tests. If you’ve taken an AP course or courses this year, if you’re particularly aces in a foreign language, or if you’ve scored high on the math or verbal portion of the SATs (over 650) - consider taking the corresponding subject test. There are only about thirty colleges which still require them, but if you can score in the 600s you’ll impress all colleges whom you deign to share them with.

Read this about these tests:

https://blog.collegevine.com/what-are-sat-subject-tests/<

If you’re unsure whether you should take them, ask your guidance counselor or give me a call.

******

Honestly, I always feel a little “sullied” after talking about standardized tests, so distasteful do I find them. But my advice to you is to understand them, suck it up, tough it out, grit yer teeth and go boldly forward.

And smile, in the big picture it’s really not all that important…

From your garrulous guide, your extemporaneous exemplar, your collegiate cacique,

Gary the College Guy

P.S. If you know students/families who may benefit from reading my rants, please forward this on to them.

P.S.S. If you’d rather not receive these occasional missives, please let me know, and you won’t!

— 

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

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

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