Chat with an Instructor: Preparing for your college application

By: Brynne (BRE-in) Harrison, Program Coordinator

Back-to-school commercials already? Really? Suppose it’s that time again. For the new high school seniors it’s an especially important year with thoughts of post-high school plans. The CPD reached out to our college test prep instructor, Melissa Hooper, with some important questions about preparing for college as a high school senior:

CPD: Who should take the SAT and when should it be taken?

MH: The SAT is currently required by more than 80% of four year colleges! Chances are the college you are interested in requires that you take the SAT. If you’re like most students you’ll take the test for the first time in your junior year and a second, or even third time, again in the spring of junior year or in the fall of your senior year. You may want to begin testing early so you have more test dates available if you are not satisfied with your score.   

CPD: What is a perfect SAT score?

MH: A perfect SAT score is the one that gets you into the college of your choice.  A quick check of a college admission’s website page will reveal if the school requires SAT scores and what score you should be aiming for. The middle 50 percent for first-year students accepted to Canisius College in fall 2011 had an SAT Combined Score (Math & Critical Reading) of 1110.

CPD: What’s the most common misconception about the SAT? 

MH: The SAT is a test of intelligence. Truth is your SAT scores reflect how good you are at taking the SAT and how much time you spend preparing. While it is true a smart student with lots of knowledge will hopefully do well on the SAT, intelligence can grow through hard work. Your first step in succeeding on the SAT is test preparation. 

CPD: Should students consider taking the ACT? Why? Who?

MH: Some colleges actually prefer ACT scores over SAT scores, while others want both. The ACT is a different test, not better or easier. While the SAT tries to assess innate ability and test-taking skills, the ACT strives to assess the knowledge you have acquired, meaning that the test focuses on subjects and skills taught in high school. If you are better at one test, it should become evident after some practice. Pick the test you feel more comfortable with and put your efforts into studying for that test. 

CPD: How much time should you spend on your college admissions essay? Is it really that important?

MH: For some colleges, the admissions essay is the most important part of your application. Admissions committees use it to get to know the individual behind the test scores and the grade point average. You should think of your essay as a chance to show yourself off. Admissions committees also use the essay to determine how well you write because good writing skills are important for success in college. Your essay is an opportunity to prove that you are an interesting person and that you can write well. It should not be written in a hurry or at the last minute.

Check out Melissa’s test prep and admissions essay prep classes here.

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