An appropriate timeline is an important part of any successful testing plan. It’s easy to assume that you will follow a typical timeline, but that only works for a typical student, and is there really any such thing? The right plan for you will depend on your individual goals, commitments, priorities, and preparedness. It may make sense for you to test when the majority of your peers do, but you also may be someone who would benefit from testing early. Read on to find out.
First, you may be wondering if you will even take the SAT or ACT. Perhaps you’ve heard that many schools are going test-optional or even test-blind these days. But the fact is that most schools continue to at least accept college admissions test scores, and for any that do, strong test scores are a great way to distinguish yourself. Like extracurriculars, standardized test scores add another facet to your application. Even when they’re not required, they can still help your student profile stand out.
Even if you have your heart set on a test-blind school—one that does not even allow applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores—you will still need these scores if you intend to apply for certain scholarships, or sometimes even to certain departments or majors within a university.
In short, SAT and ACT scores are not just for listing on your college applications, so be sure you will have time to earn the scores you deserve!
If You’re a Student Athlete
If you hope to earn a scholarship or a place in a class based on your athletic record, you should be aware that test scores will likely still factor into the process. You will generally need to provide qualifying test scores in order to receive or formally accept an offer of admission. And, of course, student athletes who hope to get admitted to college on the strength of their scores can’t afford to miss a game or a meet in order to sit for the SAT or ACT. Get it done early! You don’t want to be scrambling to squeeze a test into your schedule or feel pressured to perform your best on short notice with little prep.
September and October of your junior year are typically a quiet period for college recruiting, making this a great time to aim to nail down your scores. After that, you’ll enter the contact period, and you’ll be busy juggling recruiter visits. You’ll need to be sure you’re playing your best and, of course, maintaining your GPA, as “likely letters” generally make it a condition that your academic performance not falter.
Remember that most students test multiple times in order to build experience and maximize their superscores. If you’re aiming to get your scores locked down in the fall of your junior year, you’ll want to start testing even earlier.
If You Have a Big Event Coming Up
If you’re starring in the school play, for example, or helping to plan prom, you won’t want to find yourself forced to choose between a test date and an important dress rehearsal or committee meeting. Plan ahead to avoid the stress.
If You’re Applying to a Program That Requires Scores
Students who would like to participate in some gifted and talented programs, like the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, will need to supply test scores for admission. CTY considers SAT and ACT scores from students as young as 7th grade! Of course, the expectations for lower grades are different, but if you’re applying to a program like this as a sophomore, you may want to kill two birds with one stone and check an item off your college applications to-do list while you’re at it.
If You Know the Material
Students who are ahead of the curve in math should give some real thought to testing early. There is a strong argument to be made for taking the test while the material is still fresh in your mind, and before you move on to more advanced topics that aren’t relevant to the SAT or ACT. If you’ve ever felt like you needed to re-learn material from the beginning of the year to succeed on a final, you’ll know what we mean.
If You’re Taking AP Exams
AP exams are offered only once a year, so they take priority on students’ schedules. It’s not easy to switch gears when it comes to test prep, so you won’t want to be counting on the June test date. Plan to get your SAT or ACT scores earlier in the year to free up focus for AP tests in the spring.
If You Plan to Study Abroad
Studying abroad is a great experience, not to mention excellent fodder for a college admissions essay. If that’s something that interests you and you’re lucky enough to have the means and the opportunity, go for it! Just be sure that you have a plan to secure your test scores. It is possible to take the SAT or ACT while abroad, but you will need to be sure you have every single detail worked out—or you could just get it out of the way early. The upside to that route is that you won’t have to miss any of your exciting new cultural experience sitting for the test.
If You’re Applying Early
Of course, students who plan to apply Early Action or Early Decision face earlier deadlines than those applying Regular Decision. Deadlines for Early Action are typically November 1st or November 15th, but in some cases, they’re as early as October 15th. You’ll want to have a great score to go along with your application, so you’ll want to save fall test dates as a last resort and plan to meet your score goals before then.
If You Struggle with Testing Anxiety
One of the best ways to combat testing anxiety is to take the test several times. Just like with a rehearsal or a scrimmage, practice helps get comfortable. Of course, you can—and should!—take all the proctored practice tests you want with Summit. If you find that a practice test just doesn’t replicate the pressure of an official testing experience for you, you’ll want to have time to take the official test repeatedly.
Summit’s Program Directors are experts at crafting testing plans for individual students. After assessing your free diagnostic tests, they’ll be able to make a recommendation that will allow you to maximize your potential on the time frame that makes the most sense for you and your goals. And they’ll connect you with a tutor who can help get you through every step of the way.
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