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Applying to College Begins with the SATs
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College Entrance Exams

Many students are excited to enter their senior year of high school. They look forward to finishing their education, or perhaps preparing for more education in college. For those looking forward to life at college, there are steps that must be taken to ensure acceptance to their college of choice. This process begins with college entrance exams.

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Prepare for Testing

In tenth grade, sophomores across the country gear up for the PSAT, which is the practice test for the SAT. In your junior or senior year, you will take the SAT. When preparing to take these tests, you may consider a prep course. There are thousands of books, online courses, tutors, and other services that can help you practice for the PSAT and the SAT. Most courses give you review materials, as well as practice questions, to help you get familiar with what to expect on test day.

When reviewing, it is important to focus on each section of the test separately. Don’t try to review for the entire test in one sitting. Cramming the day before is also not helpful. Allow at least two weeks for studying and then spend at least two to three hours on each section every day: reading, writing and language, and math. If you are taking the essay portion of the test, consider using free practice tests available online. Simply Google “free PSAT practice test” or “free SAT practice test” and you will have thousands of sites to choose from.

The night before the exam, make sure to get lots of rest. Last minute studying will only keep you up and anxious about the next day. In the morning, prior to leaving for the exam, keep your morning routine the same as any other day; don’t go out of your way to make it special, as that will simply add more pressure.

Do not drink excess amounts of caffeine or eat a lot of sugar. Both of these tend to interfere with concentration. Eat a high-protein, balanced breakfast. The test is three hours long, and you need to be focused for the entire test.

SAT Scores

After you have taken the SAT and have your score report, it is time to start applying to colleges. Many universities have minimum score requirements to even be allowed to apply. That is why it is so important to prepare for the SAT: the higher your scores are, the more colleges you could be accepted to.

SAT scores can also have an effect on scholarship applications. If your scores show your ability to succeed in college is high, you are more likely to receive financial aid in the form of scholarships.

Applying to College

Initial applications to college vary depending on the school and its enrollment procedures. Some applications require essays, references, SAT scores, and processing fees. Others have “pre-applications” that ask for basic information, and then the college will follow up to request additional information.

Applications need to be completed in the fall of your senior year of high school. Many schools are inundated with applications in the spring and summer for students wanting to begin classes in the fall after they graduate. By applying early, you avoid long waiting periods and you will receive your acceptance/rejection letters more quickly. The sooner you know where you have been accepted, the more time you will have to make your decision about which college is best for you.

Ivy League schools are particularly difficult to apply for. According to the Harvard University website, “All freshman applicants—both international and U.S. candidates—must complete the Common Application, the Universal College Application, or the Coalition Application along with the required supplements. You will need to submit: Common Application, Coalition Application, or Universal College Application; Harvard College Questions for the Common Application, Coalition Application, or the Universal College Application Harvard supplement; $75 fee; ACT or SAT (with or without writing); 2 SAT Subject Tests (recommended, except in the case of financial hardship); AP or other examination results; School Report and high school transcript; Teacher Report (2); Mid-Year School Report; and Final School Report.”

Comparatively, applying to community colleges generally only requires basic contact information, proof of GED or high school diploma, and that you take placement exams for math and English.

Next Steps

Whichever direction you decide to go, keep in mind that college is not simply an extension of high school. College is an opportunity to grow mentally, emotionally, and intellectually as you prepare for the career you choose.