SAT Prep (34993)

College admissions are getting more and more competitive all the time, and it's not surprising that today's high school students are feeling anxious about getting admitted to their top choice college. Unfortunately, there's no magic wand to automatically prepare someone for college applications, but there are some key areas where students should focus their energies to maximize their potential for admission.

Of course they need to have excellent grades, but it's equally important for the students to take a rigorous course load during their high school years, starting as early as ninth grade. Students should enroll in as many college prep, Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses as possible. Students shouldn't take on more difficult courses than they can realistically handle, but at least one a semester is advisable, especially for the most competitive schools.

Excellent performance on standardized tests is important too. Students can get a good sense of how they will perform on the SAT by taking the PSAT during their sophomore or junior years. Even though the acronym PSAT has the word "practice" in it, students take this exam very seriously, as their score can be an accurate predictor of their SAT score and can qualify them for a National Merit Scholarship.

Depending on which schools a student is applying to, they may need to take the ACT and the SAT as well as multiple SAT II subject tests. It's important that students find out exactly which exams their chosen campuses require so that they may prepare accordingly.

Teachers can also play a major role in a student's college preparation. Besides the obvious of providing excellent instruction to prepare students for the rigor of college, teachers teaching Advanced Placement courses should make sure that they prepare their students as well as they possibly can for the Advanced Placement exams at the end of the year, as high scores on AP exams can be the extra something a student's application needs to move them from the "no" pile to the "yes" pile. That means AP English teachers need to deal with the groans and complaints of the student who don't want to slog through Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness or Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome, because it's almost certain that those two novels will be featured somewhere on the exam.

Finally, students should be well-rounded, and participate in extracurricular activities. These days, it's not enough just to be captain of the tennis team and on the yearbook staff; top colleges want to see sustained involvement in a variety of activities, with leadership roles in several of them. They're also looking to see if the student gets involved in his or her community or has won any impressive local, state, or national awards. Admissions committees know that not all students have the same advantages and take into account when a high school student has to work to help support his or her family.

Getting into the school of one's choice is not a guarantee for any student, but by taking a rigorous course load, performing well on tests, and engaging in interesting extracurricular activities, they can improve their changes immensely.