We just purchased and moved into our new home a few years ago. Prior to the actual search in the market, we prepared ourselves for many years: took a home buying education class, received first time home buyer pre-purchasing counseling, met with a lender, researched locations, learned about financial responsibilities and ramifications. With college costs averaging $15K – $60K/year, it’s not an exaggeration when we compare college search to home shopping experience. For students, keeping your GPA commendable and working to get the highest possible standardized test score will be foundational activities as you start to look for an academically right-fit college. Unlike some Asian country’s tradition (only 1 national exam offered once a year for seniors in high school – speak of test anxiety!), in the U.S. there are many options available with no age limit throughout the year. ACT and SAT tests are the two standardized tests college will accept, but some competitive schools will sometimes require 1 or more SAT Subject Test scores and/or AP Test scores.
Although these tests are available throughout the year, depending on whether the test is offered only once a year or on whether the student is taking a specific subject in a particular grade, timing can be very critical in preparing for these tests. Especially for juniors in high school, April through June testing can be a game changer. If you receive a desired score before the summer going into your senior year, it’ll be a huge advantage in looking for those academically right-fit schools because it will free up so much more time and give you a more focused search criteria. Perhaps, the family can prepare the student by visiting some schools of interest, getting involved in significant summer activities, or working on the college application during the summer to alleviate pressures during senior year.
For students in Illinois (and many other states), there’s a mandatory test (PSAE, Prairie State Achievement Examination) offered for free in April of their junior year. Many high schools are trying to prepare their students for this test because this is one of the major assessment tools used to measure the school’s academic and college-readiness progress. Please note that there is no ACT Writing portion on the PSAE, so if you need a Writing score, you must prepare for one of the national test dates.
Considering the impact that your test scores can have, not only on which schools you may apply for but also the financial aid you may receive, investing in your ACT test scores is one of the best uses of your time right now. A higher test score has the potential to open new doors for you and possibly make you eligible for more financial aid. So make the commitment to do your very best. A few extra hours of your time during these next few months is a good investment in your future.