For Parents: Navigating Academics & Standardized Testing with your Student
Want to help your student succeed during their high school career but don’t know how? Join CollegeAdvisor.com as Senior Advisor Marisa Peryer offers strategies on how to help your student navigate high school academics and the world of standardized tests. The webinar will start with a 30-minute presentation and end with a 30-minute live Q&A. Come ready to learn and bring your questions!
2022-05-10 For Parents – Navigating Academics & Standardized Testing with your Student
[00:00:00] Good evening, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us for today’s webinar For Parents – Navigating Academics & Standardized Testing with your Student. Um, my name is Anesha Grant. I’m a senior advisor at CollegeAdvisor, and I will be your moderator today. To orient everyone with the webinar timing, we’ll start off with a presentation. Then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You can download our slides and you can start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab.
Now we can move forward with meeting our great panelists Marisa per year. Um, and I’ll let you go ahead and take it from here, Marisa.
Awesome. Um, hi everyone. My name is Marisa. I have been, uh, working with students on the college application process for the last. I think like four or five cycles at this point, um, graduated from Yale last [00:01:00] may I study biology and science history. I’m really excited to talked about Saturday testing. Um, it’s a huge stressor for a lot of students and hopefully, uh, aim to take some of that stress out of the process for, uh, parents tonight.
Um, all right. Uh, so our first poll.
So our poll is running.
What was your favorite thing to do in college when you were studying Maresa or did you have a favorite study spot or. Yeah. I was a huge coffee shop. Studier, probably not my bank account, but that’s where that was my Def my definite go-to during college. Um, there’s a lot of really cute coffee shops. Um, but I spent a lot of time there.
So [00:02:00] I think those were among my favorite spots on campus. You were, you were studying here then? I did. I don’t know why I prefer the stacks, like in the basement. I, that was the one place without the sun was where I could, I could focus. I don’t know why, but, um, yeah. Bank, account Starbucks, like Starbucks in college.
Um, and my bank account started to hurt after that. All right. Um, Oh, close our poll for now. Um, and, uh, it looks like the majority of folks are actually in 10th and 11th grade, which I think Marisa, you might feel is like ideal for this conversation. Um, so I will turn it back over to you and, uh, allow us to move.
Awesome. Great. Um, so our first slide here, um, so, uh, admissions, uh, I think as most people know, is getting more and more competitive with each passing year. Um, and I think COVID has kind of a desperate, um, has made that worse than. That would be the application process a little bit worse and more stressful for students, especially [00:03:00] considering a test optional policies that have, have, have kind of come up in questions around that.
So, um, I mean schools like Harvard, obviously, uh, you know, top schools are seeing these massive amounts of applications for, for very small, very small, a number of accepted spots. So, uh, Testing is one piece of the puzzle. Um, it’s certainly not, uh, you know, with holistic admissions, admissions officers are looking at many different things, but testing is a big part of that.
Um, even in this test optional world that we are in right now. I think it is important to say that emissions to any college is not guaranteed. You could have amazing stats. You could have a movie theater curriculars and not get into a top school that happens all the time. Um, but certainly having a stats, uh, You know, with, uh, matching with those, those really top and, and dream schools.
But, um, but even, you know, we’re seeing that students, uh, schools that students may classify as a [00:04:00] safety or target might not be as secure as a student once thought. So emissions, I think across the board is becoming more competitive. And I think COVID is, is, is part of that. Um, so, uh, considering test optional, uh, policies and sort of, uh, what the impact is there.
Um, my, my recommendation to the students is always, if you have the chance to take the sat or the act. Try it out, even if you are considering some schools that do accept test optional, uh, uh, that do have tests, optical policies, uh, I think a solid score is a solid score regardless. Um, especially in this test optional landscape, it’s still a plus on the application.
Being test-optional they still are going to look at that score. Um, some schools are test blind, which means they won’t even consider the, the test war and their emissions decisions like UC schools, for example. Um, but if it’s a test optional school, they’re still going to consider that if you have it. So, um, a good [00:05:00] score, you know, in quotes, it’s very school dependent as well.
Top schools, you’re going to need a really, really solid test score if you are going to submit it. Uh, but you know, for a lot of schools, there’s going to be a huge range of students that they do accept with test scores. So, um, that’s a huge thing to be on the lookout. And another thing, I don’t think a lot of students or parents kind of think about when considering test-optional policies is that some sort of specialty.
It was like BSMB programs, for example, might have a requirement where you do have to submit a test score. So that’s just something that. I keep an eye out when sort of considering, you know, do I go to this soccer? Should I take it, et cetera. Um, and the, the big caveat is that if you do go test optional admissions, officers need to have some sort of, of a benchmark to assess, uh, your academic prowess, I guess.
So the transcript does tend to be weighted a little bit more heavily. So that’s why it’s important. Students charge themselves with taking difficult courses, doing well in them. And different [00:06:00] things like that. So these are kind of some considerations to keep in mind in sort of evaluating this, this test-optional world that we’re in right now.
Um, GPA, the other big part of it, especially. Students who you apply test optional, met transcript. Um, again, like I mentioned, admissions committees are going to be looking for the rigor of the rigor of the, the, the courses, the performance, and then importantly, an upward trend as well. Um, discrepancies can certainly be explained on an application.
I think COVID has brought a lot of uncertainty to a lot of students, a lot of mental health challenges, a lot of personal circumstances, health issues. So there is space on applications to write about that admissions officers do care about it, but certainly an upward trend is preferable. If a performance did slip here or there.
But no, one’s perfect. Um, even for top school admissions, uh, they’re not looking for perfect students. They just want to see that, you know, you are doing well in your classes and a bit challenging yourself. So, um, it’s okay to have a mistake or, you know, a blemish on your application. [00:07:00] Um, uh, but what matters is, you know, how you recover and you know, maybe how you talk about that and in the application.
Um, and, uh, and kind of what I’ve been saying before. Perfect grades are not everything. And I think the last few cycles have really emphasized in the broader trend in divisions in general, um, is that it’s not enough to just have the solid grades and the test scores. It’s not everything it’s a prerequisite for getting into really competitive schools.
Um, you have to students that really need to build themselves outside of the classroom and understand who they are, what their narrative narrative is, what extracurricular activities can help them explore that and build up upon it. Um, so they can craft a compelling application for admission. Even with all of that said, it sounds like you have to be sort of like a superhuman to, to kind of have the grades and the extracurriculars and different things like that.
It comes down to time management, but there there’s certainly a balance to be had between all of these things and mental health. So, um, no one’s academically perfect. It’s okay to, you know, be a few points off. [00:08:00] Uh, but certainly being strong in these areas is very important. And having the time management skills to prioritize these things, but also your mental health is very important as well.
Um, So the general timeline with standardized testing, I was going to vary for different students. But what I recommend to the students that I work with, uh, with CollegeAdvisor is I think students should ideally begin studying the summer leading into their junior year. The summer is when you are the least stress you don’t have school to worry about.
Um, and your time is a little bit more flexible and, and, uh, freed up. So it’s a perfect time to start studying. Uh, the first sort of like sat or act setting in the fall gives you plenty of time to recalibrate. If you don’t get the score you want and to continue studying throughout degree. Uh, certainly this is like the most like ideal world, uh, things happen.
That’s fine. Um, you’re not at a huge [00:09:00] disadvantage if, uh, if this timeline isn’t followed to the letter. Uh, but, but certainly, you know, as soon as, uh, juniors can, they should begin studying for these exams. I would say I taking the sat or the CT, uh, multiple times. That’s completely fine. Uh, most students do take it at least twice, and I think there is some data out there that shows students usually do better on that second city.
Um, especially I think psychologically, you kind of know what to expect and you’re kind of used to those tests, taking conditions, et cetera. Uh, so. The big caveat is that some schools do have different reporting requirements for multiple sittings of the exam. Some schools will say, you need to report all of your scores to us.
Some say, just report your highest score. Others say, report all of them, and then we’ll super score. It. We’ll take the best subsections of all of your settings and combine it into this, uh, your, your best possible score. So, um, it’s really important. Uh, [00:10:00] you are thinking about so many test scores that you are aware of what your, what, what the school is on your college list are, are saying for their reporting policies.
So, um, uh, those are just some, some important points there, I think.
Okay. So, um, Saturday’s test, I think a really big reputation of being a test about intelligence or, uh, aptitude, or, you know, different things like that. Uh, it’s completely false. Um, Exams can be studied for just like any other exam. Um, I think the social component of high school makes it really hard for students as well.
And everyone’s saying, oh, I got this. I didn’t even study. I scored so well. Uh, didn’t even put any time into it and I think that’s completely false. Um, but you know, for students, it’s a really hard thing to, to go through and it can affect your ego and your competence, different things like that, but it’s an exam just like any other.
Um, and it can certainly be, uh, I improved and, uh, you know, wherever a student is at, uh, I always had [00:11:00] parents asking me, what do you recommend for studying? Uh, and honestly, I think the best way, and frankly, the cheapest way as well is for students to prioritize seeking. Official practice exams. I go through this spiel with all of my students, but it is truly the best way to improve your score.
College board, I think has like 10 or something, free practice, free, full length practice exams on their website. And you know, if a student goes through. 10 of those exams, they take it under test taking conditions. They thoroughly review it afterwards, make a spreadsheet saying I got this question wrong.
Here’s why I got it wrong. Here’s the content it tested. And here’s my plan for making sure I don’t get a question like this wrong again. If you do that 10 times and really learn from your mistakes, there’s not much they can throw at you on test day. That’s different from what you’ve seen. So, um, you know, it does take a lot of grunt work, but, uh, for students who do want to submit a strong test score, I think that’s again, the highest yield and also the Jeep is a way to kind of, uh, see an improvement in the score as well.[00:12:00]
And then also practicing under time pressure testing conditions is also really vital as well. Um, you don’t want to be distracted while you’re taking these exams. I kind of want to simulate a little bit of that stress, uh, because if you’re not prepared for it, I think it can definitely affect performance as well.
And again, more than one attempt, it’s perfectly fine for admissions. I think I took the act like three or four times, uh, between junior year and senior year when I was applying. Um, for some students, they do that as well. Uh, for me it worked out just fine. So, um, it’s really no big deal to take it again. Um, and, uh, yeah, so I think that the biggest takeaway, like at least from this slide is that scores can be improved upon.
Um, and, uh, there are, there are so many resources out there beyond the, the practice exams as well, Khan academy, for example, YouTube channels, different things like that. Um, Uh, sat tutoring can be very expensive. So, uh, these are just kind of the, the resources that personally I use and that I recommend to [00:13:00] students as well.
Uh, the BSAT is another standardized exam and it’s aimed toward, uh, juniors typically. Um, and it’s used to qualify for a scholarship programs. It’s roughly a three hour exam, um, has a different scaling than a typical sat. Um, but it’s very similar in format. Um, not too, too much to say here. Um, especially I think because of the next slide.
Yes. Uh, SAP versus the act, obviously talking a lot about these exams. Uh, they’re the two that colleges are going to, um, uh, I had students take, if they do require test scores, um, schools do not have one preference for one exam over the other. It is not necessary for students to take both of these exams, uh, when I’m working with students.
I, or what I recommend students do is take a pre, uh, fulling practice exam. See how they do compare their scores and see which one they feel most comfortable with. Um, as I [00:14:00] kind of outlined here, there are some slight differences. Personally. I preferred the act. I don’t think I ever took in sat though, actually, but I definitely had a preference for the act and I just stuck with it.
And, um, I don’t think there’s any sense in prepping for both. Um, I think once a student has sort of selected an example that you just kind of roll with it. It’s a save time, uh, a little bit less of a hassle. Um, And as soon as completely free to take both exams, uh, colleges, aren’t going to particularly care and to get there’s no preference.
So, um, the sat, um, has, uh, three sections, so math reading, and then a writing and language one it’s scored to a 1600 points. Um, allows for a more time per question than the act. Um, and I think it will be online in 2024. Uh, the act does not have two sections. Um, it has, uh, these four here, uh, but it scored up to 36 and it does have, um, an online option with a slightly faster turnaround.
Um, I will say that the [00:15:00] latest students can take it into their senior year. Um, I think there is. Uh, and October testing of the sat and the act. I’m not exactly sure on that. That’s really cutting it close for early decision deadlines, which typically can be typically around November 1st, somewhere, October 15th.
It kind of depends. Uh, but uh, students should be pretty good to go for. That’s the latest testing date, uh, but getting these exams. Right away far earlier than that is always preferable. Um, and if students are applying regular decision, those, uh, testing, these can be pushed, um, a little bit to accommodate for the application timeline.
So, um, this a little bit on the, uh, sat versus the act. Uh, so. Using grades and test scores to kind of determine safety, target and reach schools. Again, even in this really competitive, uh, [00:16:00] landscape that we’re in right now, it’s still important to kind of gauge where a student is at versus what the, uh, what the, the applicant profile of the average student that their schools are kind of accepting.
So. Again, GPA and test scores are one part of that, but it’s also a really important part to kind of gauge where a student falls in the applicant pool for a certain school. So, uh, well I recommend the students. So if your stats match or roughly matched sort of the average or the median that these schools accept, um, that’s typically a target school.
Um, often these schools have acceptance rates that are. I mean, it can vary widely per student, but, uh, if you’re looking at percentage of acceptance rate alone, I would say a target school is somewhere between maybe like 30 and 50% acceptance rate. Uh, those ranges definitely vary. It can also be based on stats desk and skew it kind of one way or the other, but that’s a solid target school.
[00:17:00] And your safety school is set where your stats are significantly higher than. What they typically accepted with student, uh, reach school’s a little bit more complicated, but if your stats fall below what typically they accept, it’s a reach school. Um, but also if it’s accepting less than, you know, maybe like 15 to 20% of applicants, then it’s a reach for any student.
It doesn’t matter if your stats aligned, um, any school accepting. Uh, any school that has that Logan acceptance rate is going to be a reach. Um, it’s not a school that any student can count on for, for acceptance. So, um, should not make up the bulk of the school list. I, and it’s also the least likely option for merit scholarships because of competitiveness.
Um, when I’m advising students, I do have them come up with. Three to four safety schools that they really like, uh, you know, by definition, if it’s a safety school, then it’s where you’re most competitive for those merit scholarships. And that can make a huge difference in [00:18:00] quality of life for students either during college or post or post-grad as well.
So that’s very important. And I think in general, thinking about the college list of big point is that. Parents should always sit down with their students, figure out what schools they’re applying to and understand what the net cost is. So there’s no surprises when you get those acceptances back and then you look at the financial aid package and then it’s this overwhelming number.
So, um, minimizing those surprises is really important. I think knowing the net cost of these schools is, is part of it as well. So, um, that’s my plug for financial aid and understanding that whole process, I guess. Um, but a little bit off topic. Um, Okay. So grades, let top schools expect, um, in wiggle room. So, um, again, like I’ve been saying, so admissions officers are going to be looking for students who will succeed in the rigorous environment that schools, uh, I think myself and many students were very jarred, uh, transitioning from high school to a school like Yale, where you’re graded on occurred.
You’re competing against your other students for, you know, those [00:19:00] small number of eight grades. And it’s completely different from high school. And it’s a lot more. It makes you a better student coming out of it. But, um, they, they admissions officers know this and they are looking for students who can succeed in that kind of environment.
So, um, uh, performance in high school, uh, is something obviously that they’re looking at, uh, It’s okay. If a student’s academic, you know, best-fit, isn’t a top school students don’t need to apply to schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, et cetera. That’s completely fine. Uh, students can find success anywhere they go.
And I’m a complete advocate for that. Um, so I, I think for parents and students, I think it’s important to also reflect on what the student’s goals are and where the student feels they can most thrive. Both academically, but also thrive with their mental health and it et cetera. So, um, uh, rigor and competitiveness is a big factor in that.
So I always like to give that plug as well. [00:20:00] On the flip side. So again, students do not need to be perfect for toxical admissions. Um, I, I think a lot of high achieving students put that pressure on themselves. I don’t think it’s super necessary. You obviously have to have really strong grades, um, and, and show academic merit and taking hard classes.
But, um, you know, if you, if your school grades on a hundred point scale and you have. Uh, a 98 average 97 average. Um, that’s completely fine. You do not have to be extremely perfect, but, uh, even those, those are still very, very competitive and hard scores to get. But, um, uh, again, strong stacks kind of opened the door to these schools, but it does not guarantee anything.
Uh, again, strong stats, open the door, but what actually gets you to acceptances? What else you bring to the table in terms of extracurriculars and narrative and in different things like that. So, um, this, uh, the, the stats are sort of, one piece of the puzzle is an important piece, but again, it’s not the full story.
And just having strong [00:21:00] test scores and grades is not going to get you into, you know, your dream schools most likely anyway. Um, so. In terms of standing out in this really competitive and rigorous sort of landscape that I’ve pictured. Uh, I think it’s important for parents to encourage the student to be genuine.
Um, I love essays that I read from students where I can hear their voice and I can really get into their perspective and see how. Uh, something they experienced transformed them, um, in different things like that. So I think that’s really important things like that take time to develop. And I think sort of side-by-side with this is encouraging students to get started on their college application essays as soon as possible.
Um, and actually by that, what I mean is I, I, I, when I work with students, I have them start writing essays. Uh, the. Uh, right when the summer begins the summer leading up to senior year. Um, and ideally getting a lot of the essay writing done the summer [00:22:00] again the summer before senior year. Um, so when students are less stressed, ideally they have testing kind of out of the way, and that’s a stressor that’s kind of eliminated, but, um, uh, that’s by recommendation at least.
So I encourage students to be genuine biggest thing. Uh, helping students identify how. Use descriptive language and engaging stories. I think a lot of students, uh, when I first started working with them and I asked them, uh, about sort of what makes them take their most important experience from high school and say, oh, well, I didn’t really do much.
I feel like I don’t have sort of an X factor, you know, things like that, but every student has a story and, uh, you know, I’ve talked with students and then all of a sudden they just like tell me this random thing that they did in high school. And, um, Florida. It’s the most amazing thing. So, um, there’s a way to tell these stories.
And I think working with students and talking with them to understand what were sort of those key aspects of, uh, of an experience that is engaging. What’s a scene that a reader can be [00:23:00] placed into. And how can that student sort of build out that scene to help whoever’s reading their essay feel like they’re there in the moment with that student.
So, uh, that’s a lot what I do with, uh, the students that I work with and thinking about essays and, and helping them stand out and connect with their reader. Um, the other biggest thing is, uh, I think can be really hard for parents, but do not dictate students’ essays. Um, I can certainly tell when a parent has been, uh, Uh, having a little too much involvement with the essays.
I think it can kind of stifle the student’s voice. Um, I think, I mean, every parent wants to see their child do well, but this is one thing that students I think really do need to do on their own. Um, uh, so, uh, parents, family members, friends, et cetera. Uh, no one should be making, uh, significant changes to the essays or over editing them.
Um, other than the student. I think it’s certainly advisable that students have their essays read by a good number of people. [00:24:00] Uh, but the changes should come from the student and not anyone else. Otherwise I think it risks, uh, uh, again, impacting the, the tone and the sort of feel of the writing. Um, and I, I can tell admissions officers can also tell as well.
I mean, they’ve read. Hundreds of thousands of, of these essays. And I think you can become really obvious from the student’s voice or writing it their own. So I think these three are kind of my big three points in terms of, of crafting really good essays to help stand out beyond test scores and things like that.
Uh, so final tips for parents on kind of helping students navigate through all of these stressors. Um, and certainly academics and standardized testing, I think are like the biggest stressors of students. Um, these are kind of just qualitative and a little bit lousy pair suggestions, but I think it’s honestly some of the most important things parents can do.
Uh, the biggest thing always, um, offer support and empathy for students. I think. [00:25:00] Uh, right now for juniors and seniors, especially, this is one of the most stressful periods of their life so far. Um, and I think it’s really important that parents are a safe Haven for that. And, uh, foster a space where. You know, their child can come to them with these stresses and parents try to be understanding of, of how challenging it is to juggle academics and do really well in that.
But then also standardized testing and also writing essays and extracurriculars, um, and adding COVID into the mix as well. So I think that was a really challenging time for students. So I think the biggest thing is just all bring your support and. And all of this, uh, another big thing kind of going along with that is just wellness, good sleep hygiene.
Um, I personally can not, right. Well, when I am very sleep deprived and I think as we’re sort of heading into when students write their college essays, I think sleep is very important. I think having hobbies and meeting outside of academics is very important for mental health and, [00:26:00] um, all of these things help improve.
Often help improve productivity when it comes down to studying and being focused and feeling good about your work and different things like that. So I think that’s also a big point for parents to kind of encourage and help their students build. Um, it’s a good, obviously a good life skill to have the students move to college as managing, you know, all of these stresses really well.
Um, the biggest thing, and probably the hardest for parents is just accepting that, you know, some things are out of your control. Um, I think parents can do. Uh, you know, everything they can in terms of providing resources, uh, uh, structure, uh, leading by example, different things like that. But, um, there is a factor that parents can not control, which is, you know, the final outcome.
Uh, Again, like with college admissions, there’s no guarantee of a student’s test score or different things like that. And that uncertainty can be really hard, but, um, I think parents should take solace and, you know, providing the students with what they need and listening to them. Um, and I think parents had done their job if [00:27:00] they do that.
So, um, these are kind of, again, my, my three biggest things for parents to kind of keep in mind in this very stressful time. Um, yeah. And that’s all I have. Awesome. Thank you so much, Marisa. Um, that ends the presentation part of the webinar. Uh, we hope that you found, um, Marisa’s comments and thoughts helpful.
I found them helpful as far as reminders for some things for my students that I’m working with right now. Also just want to remind folks that the handouts are available. Um, in the tab section, uh, I think they weren’t shared earlier before, so apologies for that, but you should be able to access them now.
Um, and we do want to move on and give you all an opportunity to ask some questions. So this will be the live Q and a portion of our webinar today. So if you have questions, please feel free to publish them in the chat and I will share them. Marisa, read them aloud and then we’ll take a stab at answering as many as we can for the time that we have left.
Um, one question that came up a couple of times, [00:28:00] even in the registration that I’ll share with you, Marisa, that might be good to just start off with is, um, what do colleges really mean when they say standardized testing is optional? And when is there value for a student to submit standardized test, to test optional?
Yeah, I, I think, uh, tests, optional policies is a little bit of a black box for a lot of families and also to some extent for, uh, students and, um, uh, advisors like myself. Um, I, I think at this point in the admission cycle, or at this point, it’s sort of like the COVID landscape. Where students do have a lot of opportunity to take these exams and, um, have had time to kind of adapt to the challenges that COVID faces.
Um, I, I think a lot of colleagues are, um, you know, they say their test optional, but maybe expecting a little bit that [00:29:00] there are scores. And if there isn’t a score that there’s some significant explanation behind it. Um, I, it’s why I encourage all of my students to genuinely study for these exams. Uh, give it their best shy and then decide about test optional after the fact, um, if it’s clear that, uh, based on a student’s score, uh, and the amount that they studied for that score, uh, if their time would be better spent, uh, doing some other extracurricular, it’s more meaningful for their application for.
Studying another a hundred, 200 hours for a chance at increasing the score by a few points, then it’s probably worthwhile to go test optional, improve your application elsewhere and kind of roll with it. Um, but I think what tests, optional policies, uh, students at this point, especially in the pandemic students should really, really try to, uh, to take the exam, do well on it and make a decision about test optional after they have their score in front of them.
Um, That’s my [00:30:00] kind of take on test-optional policies at this point. Um, of course there have been students who get into really competitive schools, but that test scores, um, I don’t know the data on it. Um, I don’t know if colleges are even publishing that data. Um, but I, I I’d actually be curious if someone, um, or is it.
Uh, student email, the admissions committee and ask them what was the acceptance rate among students who didn’t submit test scores? What, what colleges would say, or if they would give you that data? So, um, that’s my take on that. Cool. Thank you. Um, sometimes they will, I will say sometimes they will share that data and asking, um, colleges directly.
Uh, it depends on how, how, how good they feel about the number. But, um, I think a follow-up to that, um, is another question about if it should, should have students still submitted, even if, if, even if it is optional for them to submit it to, should they still just go ahead and submit it? Do you have like a cutoff of like, don’t submit it to submit it, [00:31:00] looking at the.
Right. Yeah, it’s a good question. And what I advise students to do is, uh, it’s all based on the school and it’s all school. Um, like I said earlier, a good score is going to be very variable depending on the school. Uh, if you take the act for example, and it’s not a score you want, uh, but there are still some schools on your list where that is the average test score.
It makes sense to submit that. Um, but I would say. Uh, if you’re applying to a school that does offer tests, optional policies, and your standardized testing score that you do have is below the typical range that they accept. Um, then don’t submit it. Um, if it’s going to put you in a bad light, uh, compared to the average applicant, There’s no sense in somebody, you should probably go test optional.
That’s the advice I give [00:32:00] students. Um, and the, the biggest takeaway is give them the best information about yourself that they can, as long as the school staff’s optional. Um, I, if your testing scores align with the school, it makes sense to submit. But, um, if it doesn’t align, I, I would not submit those.
Yeah. And, uh, someone just raised someone reminded me that if it is truly test blind. So th that, I think it, then it’s also important to talk about all the different ways schools can be test flexible. Could they be a test optional and they can be test blind. So if a school is test blind, um, and you submit your scores, they won’t consider them at all.
If they are test optional, I think, you know what you shared, um, still aligns and still tracks. If you’re not within, within their typical acceptance, then it will, it would help you not to submit them. Um, rather than a significant. Um, and then I think you were getting at this when you first started to talk about the test optional, but a few questions also came in around what are [00:33:00] the ways that folks can focus on other aspects of their application if they’re not going to submit the test?
So one question was, is it better to take dual credit or AP classes rather than, than the standardized test? And then. That also led to a variety of questions about performance on the AP exam. So we can take the first half of, is it better to pursue college courses or AP classes in lieu of the standardized test?
Yeah, I think that is preferable. Um, I also think with that those students need to be really real students and parents and to be realistic of what the student can handle. Um, the, I think the worst scenario is that a student. Overload themselves with AP courses and then they go do as well as they hoped on them.
Um, so finding that balance is really key. It’s going to be very student dependent. Um, but certainly I think if a student isn’t submitting test scores, but is a really big English, boffin wants to take some English classes at their community college. Like that’s awesome. And it should be encouraged and chose, uh, [00:34:00] being able to hold your own in a college setting.
So, uh, admissions officers, I think would. Uh, look for that if, or would review that favorably if, um, if students submitted, uh, those grades in that transcript. Um, and, and no Saturday assessing.
Then I think one question that’s come up is just how do they, how do colleges, I guess, look at the full, the full length of your academic performance. Um, so. One person saying, well, I got fees in freshman year. So I’m thinking about the sat scores or the act scores, plus your performance overall. How are you seeing colleges look at the full scope of the student’s performance throughout high school?
They’re making that decision? Yeah, I, I think, uh, well definitely what colleges do keep in mind is your trend in GPA through the [00:35:00] years. I think there is. Some degree of flexibility when it comes to your freshman year grades, I think admissions officers do understand that it’s an adjustment between middle school and high school, um, in, in different things like that.
Um, in some ways students are completely different than completely different when they leave high school versus when they came in. So there is some flexibility there. Um, some schools. Uh, I think the UC system might do this, uh, where they recalculate GPA, um, based on sort of their own criteria. That’s sort of another black box in admissions.
Uh, but I, I, some schools, for example, don’t even take into consideration their freshman year grades. So, um, so it can’t be school dependent. I think there is some leeway in terms of, uh, freshman year performance. But, uh, I, I think what is also. I worthwhile to keep in mind is the cumulative GPA as well. Um, I do think the most competitive schools would [00:36:00] have a really hard time overlooking a low GPA, even if it was pulled down by grades earlier on in the school year.
Um, that’s never sort of a hard rule at all. Um, but I think it’s worthwhile to kind of keep in mind when setting a good and reasonable school list. Um, I think that’s my, my take on that. Um, but, but certainly there’s, uh, uh, if you had a bad year for personal reasons or, you know, things like that, there are places to explain that on the application.
Um, and again, I think if some not so great grades happened earlier on, um, that’s, uh, okay. As well, as long as you show improvement, ended up with trend. Thanks for that context. And now I’m remembering also that some colleges also allowed students to see. Um, I’d say specific to COVID if they felt like they were significantly impacts during the pandemic and they feel like that influenced their, um, their [00:37:00] performance.
So I think especially if earlier on that was, that was, uh, uh, the case for you then know that there’s an additional essay you can submit as well, to clarify and contextualize that. Um, we have an interesting kind of softer question that came in earlier of how do you counter testing anxiety. Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s a good, yeah, it’s a good question.
I, I actually took the cat, uh, about, I think a week and a half ago. Um, and that was, uh, one of the most stressful experiences I’ve had so far. Um, and so that’s, I think my it’s definitely my most recent, um, uh, experience with the standardized, uh, exam. Um, the last standardized exam I took was the act I think so, or like my AP exams.
So, um, I think the biggest thing to help students kind of cope especially that day before is, uh, I think exercise is a big thing. Getting out all of that nervous energy before, so you can have a good night’s rest. That’s really [00:38:00] important. Um, and I, and useful for managing anxiety. Um, I think practicing mindfulness, uh, meditating are all really good examples as well.
Um, I think a lot of students do struggle. I mean, I shouldn’t say a lot. I think many students do struggle with anxiety at one point or another in high school. And I mean, I would say if students are also, they feel overly anxious, if they feel like they don’t have control over things, it could also be worthwhile to, you know, have a conversation either with, um, uh, parents who they’re talking to their students, or maybe looking for some outside help to kind of manage that, that stress or anxiety as well.
So, um, anyway, I guess those are my tips for kind of managing anxiety and, uh, uh, test taking stress and different things like that. So, um, I think the biggest thing is, uh, exercise and getting out that nervous energy. That’s the biggest thing for me. Yeah. I love the mindfulness. Yeah. Um, I tell my students not to [00:39:00] stop studying seven days before the test, like whatever you don’t know, learn in this last week.
Um, but I think also just taking the time to check in with yourself is that also. Really valuable as well. A few other questions that I think is interesting. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to speak to it, but some folks asked about navigating standardized tests for students who require accommodations. Do you have any thoughts or advice there?
Yeah, I’m not as familiar with how college board or the act kind of conducts their accommodation review process. At least sort of my perception and dealing with sort of the bureaucracy of these kinds of tasks companies. I think if you anticipate needing accommodations to get that squared away, as soon as possible with the testing centers and the people who administer the exams, um, just because again, there can be a lot of lag time.
There can be a lot of bureaucracy. There can be a lot of unfortunately questioning of why you need [00:40:00] accommodations is completely unfair, but it’s, uh, Kind of an aspect of, of, uh, uh, some students’ experiences with, uh, requesting accommodation. So, uh, my biggest advice is to start researching and understanding the process as soon as possible and, um, initiating it, um, I in advance before your testy, uh, to avoid any sort of hiccups or, um, additional frustrations, I guess.
Uh, but, uh, as far as specifics, I don’t know the specifics of the process. No, I think, okay. That’s helpful knowing what the accommodations are, being sure that the testing site can, can provide them. Um, uh, we have a questions that I guess are related to extracurricular activities. I’m wondering if it’s along the same lines of like, if we don’t take the test, should we be focusing more on doing more activities or building up the application in these other ways, if the test is not going to be something that the students feel that they can anchor themselves.[00:41:00]
Yeah, absolutely. That’s what I encourage students to do. Um, I think, uh, maybe sort of the first line is looking at the class schedule. Um, if I have a chance to look at a student’s course selection before, uh, they, they make it final and they decide that they want to go test optional. I think that’s a huge opportunity for students to add more rigor without having to jump through the hoops of taking a community college or a community college course.
Community college courses are also a great option too. Uh, the extracurriculars are huge. I think students should. Thinking of ways to think a little bit outside the box to get a experience related to what they want to major in, or, uh, building up their hobbies, uh, to be something that they can talk about, uh, that makes them interesting.
Helps them stand out a little bit. Um, again, I think any sort of like work experience, significant volunteering, where you are in direct service to others, there are things like this can be really impactful on an application and can really help with this narrative. So, uh, I think, uh, if a school is [00:42:00] testifying.
If the student has amazing extracurriculars and a good academic background on the transcript, um, I think that can be certainly overlooked and, um, evaluated before. Thanks for that. And I’ll just take a moment here to pause and share that, um, for those of the, those of you who aren’t already working with us a great way to get more of that context and individual support is knowing that we know that the process of admissions is overwhelming for parents and students alike.
We have over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts, myself included, um, who are ready to help you and your family navigate. The process through one-on-one advising. And so if these questions are raising things for you, you have more questions you want to get into specifics about your child’s process.
Um, please definitely. Look, sign up for a free consultation with us by registering for our free web platform on app.CollegeAdvisor.com. Um, in the last year’s admission cycles, our students were accepted [00:43:00] into Harvard at three times. The national rate accepted into full court and accepted into Stanford at over four times the national rate.
Um, and so. With, um, on our, on our website, you can explore the webinars, keep track of application, deadlines, research schools, and everything, and more. Um, so I just want to do that quick PSA for folks, and then we’ll return back to our Q and a thanks for allowing me to take that break. Um, Another question that was coming up, which I, you know, I think parents are thinking ahead about majors and things like that.
If my student is interested in science and medicine where their application would be stronger if they take the act because it has a science section. Um, yeah, I don’t know if admissions officers evaluate, um, uh, put that much thought into the tasks. Uh, [00:44:00] my intuition at least, is that students, even if they are interested in studying.
Should take the exam that they can do the best in, uh, the science section of the act, uh, is honestly just like data interpretation. So, um, even if you were a humanity student, it just shows you can interpret data really well. Um, from what I remember, at least there wasn’t a lot of, like, I don’t think there was any sort of like specific like facts or concepts or like really.
Like things like that, that, that student had to know. So, um, my first advice, even if you are someone interested in stem or your student is, uh, take the exam that you feel most comfortable with, it doesn’t matter if it’s the act or sat. Um, I think doing well in the act science section, I mean, it helps, but, um, I think admissions officers, if they’re evaluating a stem student, Much rather see higher scores [00:45:00] and your classes, or maybe like AP exams, um, showing that that science rigor, uh, inability to, to succeed in an environment like that.
Um, versus just like a high, uh, subsection score. I think it gives them a little bit more context on the trends. Thanks. Yeah. Um, uh, the next question is related, going back a little bit to looking at looking at all of those floors. Um, do you know if and how colleges are looking at AP scores and those testing alongside city scores?
Um, yeah. Yeah. I colleges, I think, um, I w. With AP exam scores students have, they typically have a little bit more control over what they report and what they don’t report. Um, and w I advise students is that if they have that flexibility, that they probably shouldn’t be reporting, they should not be reporting anything [00:46:00] under a three.
And if they do have some threes, it could be worthwhile to them. Think about it, they do want to submit it if they don’t want to submit it as kind of three is sort of the gray area. But certainly if you have four or five, you should, you should always submit that. Um, but colleges are gonna want to see that you’re doing well on those exams.
I don’t think there’s any way around that. Um, but if you have, if you didn’t do well and you have the flexibility to not submit it, then, um, don’t offer them that the information. Um, uh, but again, they, they want to see that you’re doing well in these exams. College classrooms are going to be a lot harder.
Um, so it’s important that students do well on those. Um, so another question, I guess, around managing anxiety and thinking about planning for folks, but other than studying for the sat, what should students be doing during the summer? Should they take a break? Should they take college courses? Should they do enrichment program?
So clearly practice for the sat, but what else could they be doing to set themselves up? [00:47:00] Right. Um, I think students should always be doing some sort of extracurricular, whether it’s getting work, experience, volunteering, experience, uh, research, uh, working with a local professor, for example, um, Or just having a job in the service industry or something like that.
I think a lot of students and families kind of overlook it, but I think it’s such a great opportunity for students to learn about themselves and about other people as well. And it shows a lot of maturity too. So, um, I think there are, there are certainly tons and tons of options for students to do for extracurriculars.
The most meaningful are ones that students kind of, uh, Opportunities that students make for themselves, uh, whether that’s networking, emailing cold email. Local professors or organizations, whatever it may be. Um, I encourage students to do that over sort of a summer program that parents have to pay for and they have to apply to, and it can get really messy.
So, um, it also, I think doesn’t [00:48:00] hold as much weight, um, or have as much meaning in sort of the application process. So, um, extracurriculars are a big thing. Uh, standardized testing study. That’s a big thing. If you are. A student who is going into their senior year, working on your essays. That should also be a huge priority.
But if you are an underclassmen, I think taking you a little break during the summer is also really important, same for rising seniors as well, but, um, they kind of have a little bit more juggled, but I think the biggest thing is a little bit of rest, a little bit of studying a little bit of extra curriculars.
Those were the biggest things. Um, because you do want to capitalize on the time that you do have in the. The less stress burden, I guess you have on yourself during the summer. So those are the most important things that I recommend for students to do. And then I’m wondering, um, how folks can balance between expectations within the school and expectations from [00:49:00] parents.
I think sometimes I had a student recently who the school did not offer the PSA T so. Um, are there, are there ways for parents to, I guess, advocate for their students find resources for their students, if there are holes in the system at the schools where their students attend? For sure. Yeah. I, I think, uh, students, uh, or families being a team and kind of understanding what the expectations for the student are, can be really important for the exact reasons you mentioned, right?
Sometimes school. Um, have gaps in the resources they offer. And, uh, I think parents can be really instrumental for advocating for their students. Um, I. For the parents who are watching this, I would always try to collaborate with your students and try to see them as sort of like a team member of this process.
Um, I think naturally high schoolers, I can get a little combative. If they’re told you have to do this, you have to do this other thing. Um, but I think if [00:50:00] it’s sort of seen as sort of team, you are all on the same team and trying to work towards this, the school. I that that can be maybe a little bit different of a tone that can help a student.
So, um, but, but certainly parents are great advocates for students and, um, should encourage the student to advocate for themselves. If they know they’re missing a resource and want to use the guidance counselor to help them connect with, there are different things like that. So, um, yeah. Um, I think you spoke to this a little bit earlier, but I’m not sure if we need to drill it home with like, are there, is there, is there a limit to how many times you can take the test or is there a point at which you should stop taking it after?
Um, I know you say you took it three or four times. Is there a point where you should like stop or how many assumptions you keep going? Yeah. I don’t know if there’s a limit to how many times you can take. Do you know if there’s a limit? I don’t, no, [00:51:00] there’s not a limit from college board or actsh perspective.
Um, how many times you can register it as many times as you want to take it from their perspective. I, I guess I’m wondering if you’ve seen students hit a wall of like improvements, um,
For sure. Yeah. I, I think this is, I, I mean, I would say, uh, I think taking it beyond three or four times would be diminishing returns. Um, I, I, I, I. Encouraged students should try to aim to take it no more than twice, just for their own wellbeing to not have to go through three or four rounds of testing. Um, but if a student is really, really intent and really motivated to get a certain score and it takes three or four times to get there, um, I think that is fine.
Um, but I think beyond [00:52:00] that point, it is diminishing returns and time maybe could be spent elsewhere. Um, so. I just, I do think it takes some reflection on the students and the parents part, but, um, I, I would say beyond, like for the absolute maximum is kind of pushing it, but, um, there, I don’t think there are really any hard and set rules.
Yeah. Um, I was also going to say, I think earlier you mentioned if there’s a test of October, so there is, there’s a test in September and October, which are the latest we would say, I think for seniors, um, I need the SATs in August and October. Um, but again, to your point earlier of looking at, if you’re pushing for an, um, an early deadline in early action, early decision deadline, October might be a bit too late.
Um, and I, I mean, to your point about the. Too many times, or if they’re not too many times, I think it’s good to look at the score report. That’s one thing I think folks don’t dig into for that. They look at the top number and it’s like, oh, it’s this? And [00:53:00] I want it to it’s, it’s a five 60 and I want it to be a six 60.
And so I’m just going to keep setting without going into looking at the specific areas that the student might be struggling in. Cause it’s a five 60, but they really should just be focusing on grammar or on vocabulary. Seeing the test as a holder, a specific chunks in skills that I think folks get focusing on that.
And that is sometimes taken for granted because they’re focused on the larger number and not understanding that the number is made up of an evaluation, those skills. I’m sorry. That’s my sidebar of the value of, of we have the score reports. Um, I think I’m trying to see if any other questions have come in.
There are some that are not specifically related to the test, but in the last few minutes that we have, um, we can ask them. Cause I think they’re just kind of general admissions pieces, but, um, thinking about strategies for taking AP classes. So how should one, or how can one pick the types of [00:54:00] AP classes they should take?
Should they align with your career field or stated interest on the application? Any that. Yeah, I think the two biggest things are, um, what one, obviously what the student needs to graduate. Um, what colleges are looking for in terms of, uh, how many years of like science courses and math courses and language courses, those are, those are sort of like the bare minimum requirements that all students kind of need to keep in mind as they’re picking and choosing their courses, especially AP courses.
I think it makes complete sense if you’re a stem or humanities student to choose your AP courses that gravitate maybe a little bit more towards one or the other. Um, but I do think there is value in having a strong education background with these AP classes. Straddle those two fields to taking some AP stem and math courses, but also taking some AP [00:55:00] English and AP history courses as well.
Um, I think. Gives students a more well-rounded education and it does give skills that students will use, um, well into college as well, regardless of what major you do end up choosing. But certainly it makes sense if you are a pre-med student to take AP chem and AP bio in high school, for example. So, um, there is some flexibility there.
Um, but, uh, again, the biggest thing is that you’re making sure you’re satisfying core. You’re satisfying. What colleges are saying. Um, the, the academic requirements or suggestions colleges are saying you need to be competitive in their pool. And then also, um, I, your own academic goals and, um, And then finally, probably most importantly is what your student can kind of handle in general in terms of workload.
So those are the biggest things. Again, there’s no hard and fast rules, um, pretty much with everything with the college admissions, but, um, those are kind of the guidelines I have students work with.[00:56:00]
Um, so those have been all of our questions. I know we may end a couple minutes early when, uh, give, wait, beat to see if there are any other questions that might come in last minute, before we wrap up.
Moment of silence for the potential QA. I was going to ask you, I, we are technically rivals and I was going to ask you about your favorite experience of Harvard, Yale, but, um, I don’t know. Do you have like a favorite har Harvard Yale moment? Um, from college? Yeah, I do. I. I, it wasn’t last iteration of it, but the one before, just before.
Um, when there was a big, uh, like protests that disrupted the game and I was actually taking photos for, um, I think our campus paper during the game. And I was like right on the field when it all happened. And I was like taking photos of this [00:57:00] protest. And then I sprinted from the field all the way up to the press box.
Uh, and it was just a. Very chaotic, but also very kind of fun as well. Um, and, uh, that was definitely my best, best experience at Harvard, Yale or Yale, Harvard, I guess. Oh, y’all harvest. It’s harming y’all for me. Um, no, that’s I, yeah, I think there are the best moments are usually the chaotic ones. I think mine was not a protest, but it was someone trying to steal the flag.
From just someone. And then I think they streaked across the fields with the, in an attempt to avoid being caught. So, um, yeah, the CA college is fun. Once you get in, once you get past the hump of. Um, and, and get through this stress. There are a lot of great experiences waiting for you and your students on the other side of that, of all football and protests and drinking occasionally.
Um, but Marisa, thank you so much for your time. That is going to [00:58:00] mark the end of our webinar. We had a really great time talking to you about the standardized tests, um, and we will follow up with you all. Um, if you want to access this webinar again, but thanks so much and take care and have wonderful.