Podcast: Let’s get Tactical: Standardized Testing for the class of 2024 and beyond

Does standardized testing help or hurt your college admission chances?

When it comes to standardized tests for college applications, your high school Freshman or Sophomore has choices looming in front of them you never had to face, and you’re not sure how to help them make the right decision.

Should they take the SAT or the ACT? Or both? Or neither?
What about the digital SAT? Do colleges prefer one type of test over the other?
If a college has a “test optional” policy, do they mean it? Or does opting out give them a bad impression?

These questions can be overwhelming! And the last thing you want to do is overload your child unnecessarily.  If they’re going to have to go through the pressure and stress of standardized testing, you want to be sure it’s going to be worth it. So tune into this episode, where I take the guesswork out of this confusing process and provide practical guidelines for making data-based decisions you can feel good about.

TRANSCRIPT

 

Sheila Akbar 0:00
A lot of students are telling me oh, the SAT doesn’t matter anymore, so I’m just not going to do it. And they can believe that it doesn’t matter, we know that it does matter at some institutions still. But before they make a decision just based on feelings or a desire to avoid the work that goes along with studying and preparing for a test, my encouragement or my recommendation is to get some data, let’s see how the student is going to do on these tests. And if it’s just not worth it, it’s not worth it. But in some cases, students will surprise you and they’re not so far off from a score that will help them then I would recommend doing it right, we’ll get into that in a little bit, get the data, talk to an expert, somebody who not only understands how testing works, but also how college admissions works, because these two things are not separate.

Sheila Akbar 1:05
Hi, everybody, this is one of those tactical episodes where you get to listen to me the whole time. And I’m gonna give you a lot of insight on how we guide our students at Signet through certain parts of the college admissions process. And today, I want to talk to you about standardized testing. Now, I could talk for hours and hours and hours about this. This is actually where I got my start in education. I did very well on my SAT back in the 90s. I won’t give you an actual year. And ever since then, people have asked me, Can you help my kid? How did you get that perfect score, like, you know, looking to Me for guidance, all my cousins and family, friends and things like that. And I decided to capitalize on that when I was in graduate school. And I started tutoring with several different companies and over the years have really honed my process of getting students huge gains on their test scores. I’ve helped many, many students get perfect scores. And we all know that can be an important part of a college admissions profile is strong standardized testing scores. But what’s happened over the last couple of years has really thrown a lot of people into confusion. So we have the rise in the test optional movement, which has actually been around since the 60s. But it became very popular right before the pandemic, there was a big swing in that direction. And then of course, during the pandemic, when students couldn’t take tests, we got, you know, 90 some percent of colleges going test optional. And many colleges today are still test optional. But as we look ahead for sophomores, the class of 2025, we have some changes in the landscape that are really worth talking about and understanding before you just dive into taking whatever tests the SAT or the ACT. So in today’s episode, I’m going to lay out that landscape for you help you understand that there are four choices ahead of this year sophomores the rising juniors for next year and help you figure out how to navigate that. So we’re going to talk about the differences between those four pathways, which are digital SAT, paper SAT, paper ACT or test optional, I’ll help you understand how to decide which pathway to take using data and using information that you already know about your student and how these things tie into college admissions. Because, of course, that’s the goal. So take a listen. And I hope you find this helpful.

Sheila Akbar 3:38
Now, this is a complicated topic, and lots of people have lots of different thoughts about how do you approach this. So I’m going to share you kind of my rubric for thinking through this question. And then we’ll talk through what you need to know about each of these pathways, how to tell what you should do. And then I’m going to share a bunch of resources with you as well that you can use to educate yourself and make this decision in a healthy, sane, timely manner. That’s That’s my goal. This landscape is changing on a daily basis, not only as college admissions as a process, and as a competitive force in our education system changing all the time testing is also changing. We have some very real differences or changes in tests coming up and the way tests are used and the policies that colleges are using to evaluate candidates using test scores are also changing. So it’s important even if you feel you know this stuff or you’ve been through this before, it’s important to stay in touch with current trends and research and I hope that I can give you some of that today. So we’re going to cover all of these how test scores are used in the admissions process. what the differences are between the ACT and the SAT what is test optional. What does that mean? What does it mean for you specifically? What did these pathways look like? If you’re going to test what do you need to do if you’re not going to test? What do you need to be thinking about? And then how do you decide how do you bring a framework to this so that you are not just making guesses in the dark, but you’re actually using some data and relying on trusted opinions and expertise, so that you can make the best decision for your child, your family, your goals. So I want to start with how test scores are used in college admissions. Now, in the US colleges will describe their admissions process as holistic, what it really means is, they are going to evaluate a student based on a number of factors. And based on context of that student, other priorities that a university may have, they may give more or less weight to some area, or some piece of the application. And it’s not that there’s a formula, this is 40% of the decision. And this is 3% of the decision. But they may be paying a little bit more attention to or reading more into a different aspect of a student’s application based on those factors. So NACAC, which is the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, of which we are apart, they released a survey every year of a whole bunch of member institutions. And they asked them of these pieces of the application. What do you see as most important, what are you looking at the most to evaluate whether a student is a good fit for your college, and this is roughly the order starting with grades and going all the way down to financial need, though, of course, at different schools financial need might be a more important factor than at others. But for the past several years, the top factors have stayed roughly the same, of course, with the exception of SAT ACT scores, given that nobody could take a test right at the beginning of COVID, in the first years of the pandemic. So you can see here that SAT and ACT scores are not the only thing that matters, and they are also not the most important thing, generally, for students at even the most selective colleges.

So I’m gonna spend today talking about what do you do about testing. But I really want to highlight that for you that it is not all about testing, testing may not be the make or break factor for your student. We have had students, we’ve seen students get perfect scores, and not get into the colleges that they were targeting. And other students with less than perfect scores get into some of those very, very selective colleges that, you know, maybe they were below average for that college. So it’s not the end all be all. And I want to make sure you keep it in perspective, because I’ve seen people focus so much on test scores, that they miss out on, you know, a reasonable focus on grades, or on extracurriculars, or building teacher relationships, or being involved in their community. All of those things are quite important. Now, depending on your student and your priorities, even the types of schools that you’re going to try to apply to different things on this list may mean more to you, or maybe a place where you can do more than others. This is not to say you have to do all of these at the most extreme level, right, that’s just not tenable. So you need to be thinking about, again, your context your students abilities, strengths, interests, and their time and stress levels. So I wanted to give you that overview. Before we now dive into this one piece of the college application process, we’ll start with what’s the difference between the SAT and the ACT. Now I grew up in Michigan, and not many people took the SAT if you’re in Boston, other areas of the East Coast, even parts of the West Coast, you probably heard a lot more about the SAT than the ACT now that has changed quite a bit over the last, you know, let’s not age ourselves, but 20 plus years since we all took the SAT or the ACT depending on where you live. Now colleges don’t really care which test you take if they are requiring a test. I say don’t really care because there are a few that do care is a very small number. But there are some colleges that do prefer one or the other. The vast majority of colleges will take either test happily, and there is an official concordance that allows them to translate someone’s SAT score to an ACT score and vice versa. So they can compare apples to apples. But we have three options here, not just two and I’ll explain why in just a minute. Traditionally, we’ve had you can take the SAT or you can take the ACT but there is a change coming in March of 2024. If you’re based in the US, the SAT is going digital so it’s changing its structure. It’s changing the way it asks question, the length is different and then the format is going to be different. It’s going to be done on a computer. So for those sophomores right now you’ve got a choice here, you’re going to be able to choose between three things, not just two. So let me start by going through the structure here a little Then we’ll talk about some of the differences and similarities. They all kind of test the same thing. There’s a reading section, there’s a writing language or English section. And then there’s math. One of the major differences is that the ACT has a science section. Now, science as a title of a section may scare some people or students. But really what it is, is a technical reading section. It’s very similar in structure to the reading section of the ACT, you have a passage, you might have some graphs or charts to read as well, because the passages on the science section are about scientific topics or experiments. And then you have comprehension questions that test whether a student can understand what’s happening in the experiment can read a data point off of a graph can extrapolate a conclusion from some data that’s been given to them. But really, the techniques and strategies are very similar to what you would use in a reading comprehension section. So don’t be scared off by science, if that feels like it’s not a strength for your student.

The other difference is that there’s still an optional essay on the ACT, the SAT got rid of its essay A couple years back, but the ACT has maintained it virtually no college requires the ACT essay, but it’s worth you checking the testing policies of each school you plan to apply to to see if you need it or not. Like I said, vast majority don’t need it. And I don’t recommend students do it. In those cases, you don’t get bonus points for doing extra here. In terms of the kind of tone and pacing of these two tests, they are quite different. Now, while they do generally cover the same type of math topics or with a few differences, the way that the ACT and SAT tests math is a little bit different. The SAT has this sort of history of being a puzzling test, there’s cleverly written questions, and you have to kind of treat it like a brain teaser almost to understand how to solve the problem. Usually, there’s a trick involved, there’s a hidden piece of data that if you pay attention to it, it kind of unlocks the problem for you. And that’s true kind of across the board on the SAT. It’s not as straightforward of a test as the ACT is the reading section of the SAT draws on slightly more sophisticated passages. And I personally find the reading questions on the SAT to be a little bit more nuanced, a little bit more read between the lines than the ACT, which is quite an empirical test right? You can go and find the evidence and choose your answer much more easily I think on ACT than the SAT but every student is going to have their own preference. So we’ll talk about how to choose this. But these are the kinds of factors that might make one student prefer one test to the other. Some students really love that brain teaser kind of puzzle aspect to the SAT. The other thing that’s different is that you get more time per question on the SAT. So even if it does take you a little bit more time to understand how to do the problem. They give you that time, right so students who struggle with time pressure might prefer the SAT to the ACT. Now, on the flip side of that the ACT is like I said far more straightforward, far more empirical. But you have to do it all a lot faster. The time per question is less. The overall length of the test is less if you ignore the essay, it’s a shorter test than the SAT not by much but you do have to move pretty quickly. So it’s worth you figuring out which one your student can do better on it’s not a case where you want to do both. So let’s put a pin in how do you decide and talk about the digital SAT. The PSAT which is essentially a practice SAT usually given to juniors in October is going to be digital this October of 2023. And that will be most students first experience with a digital test at all. In this particular format of the SAT, they did roll out the digital SAT internationally in March of 2023 haven’t been too many bumps in the road. So most people are thinking this is going to be a pretty smooth shift. But that remains to be seen. So the digital SAT is coming out in March of 2024. The same structures, the same sections, but it’s much shorter, so two hour and 15 minute test about whereas the current SATs three hours, so this is much shorter. And most people who’ve looked at example tests and they are out there, you can get them on the College Board website because they want people to be able to practice. Most people say that the questions are a little bit easier. So that’s something to consider as you are choosing this, the SAT are going to be scored out of 1600 and the ACT is scored out of 36.

So we’re talking about different scales here for comparing scores as well. So that’s what the tests are, but what’s test optional. Now that’s an admissions policy where students can decide whether or not to submit test scores. So colleges that are test optional do not require students to submit a test score. And there are some variations on this too. There are test blind colleges that I will not look at your test scores, you can’t submit them. There are tests flexible colleges, where instead of an SAT and ACT, they might accept some other set of tests. But let’s focus here on on test optional tests option has been around for a very long time to 60s. But it has really picked up steam in the last two decades, where research has come out that shows colleges can’t predict success better with test scores in a significant way. So when colleges are evaluating students for admission, they want to know, hey, if we admit this student, are they going to be successful here, and different colleges define success in different ways. It’s some colleges, it’s a C average, by the end of your sophomore year, some colleges might be a slightly higher grade. But they’re measuring that when students come in and they look at their grade point averages again, at some point in their college career. And of course, when they graduate to see how correlated are these things. And this research that was done, the early 2000s showed that test scores don’t really predict that success, much better, maybe a little bit better. But not much better than grades do alone. And removing that barrier of the SAT ACT actually helps more students apply and in theory brings a little bit more diversity enables better access for students who for whatever reason, testing is not their strong point, or it’s not as accessible or they don’t have the time or finances to invest in test prep, which is a big barrier for a lot of people. So before COVID, and these are rough numbers, there were already more than 1000 test optional colleges in the United States. And currently, there were over 1800 test optional colleges for this year’s seniors who are starting college this fall. And in the near future, what I think we will see is that many of these colleges that put in temporary test optional policies because of the pandemic, many of them will adopt those permanently. Others have already pledged to be test optional for several more years, and maybe more will extend that sort of temporary policy. And then some colleges are already returning to requiring tests, right. So like I said, a shifting landscape where we really need to keep our finger on the pulse and make sure the colleges that your student is a fit for and wants to apply to. They have a policy that matches what you guys are doing. And I’m going to give you some examples here. Harvard is one of those that tends to set the tone for what a lot of other colleges do. When they decided to go test optional, they committed to be test optional until the 2025 26 application cycle. So that covers a lot of students. And it’s very clear, you know, your student is a sophomore right now. Okay, great. We know we can be test optional, if we want to other schools didn’t set as long of a window. So UMD until 2425. Others have stopped in 2023. So this year, seniors were the last ones to be covered under this test optional policy, USC still has not announced what they’re going to do for next year, same with Duke their policy went until this year, there is still no information about what they’re going to do next year, or when they will announce what their policy is going to be. So that puts students in a little bit of a precarious situation because, well, if Duke or USC is a wonderful match for you, and all the other ways do we do a test, do we not do a test, it’s a little bit tricky to see.

Alright, so now you kind of understand the landscape and what test optional is, but let’s look at these pathways. If you are going to test, you’ll have to decide another pathway within there, you’ll have to decide whether you should do the ACT, or the SAT. And as we saw, there are some differences that can make an impact on how a student performs on those tests. And I’ll talk to you about how do you decide that once you’ve decided which tests you want to do, you’re gonna have to prepare for that test. Most students prepare for three to four months. And what I suggest is that you kind of diagnose the areas of weakness, the places where we need to improve performance and make a plan based on a diagnosis, you’re going to study. And then you’ve got to practice so much of this is about taking the knowledge that they have and applying it under time conditions in a stressful situation. So practice is really really key. Now a lot of people will hire a tutor or take a course or even self study for this and there are lots of actually very good free resources for students to self study. There are also books and there are free or low price classes and then you’ve got a range of tutoring options that range from you know, pretty affordable to extremely expensive. So that’s a decision you’ll have to make as a as a family. What are your goals? How much time, effort money are you willing to put into this process? And how important is this test score going and be in your process and then make the decision that works for you.

So once you’ve done all of that for usually three to four months, you’ll take the official test, most students do take it two, even three times, I usually don’t recommend more than three. But there is usually a difference between the first test and the second test, the student just feels more comfortable, they know what to expect, the second test usually goes a little bit better. And however many times you’re going to take it and whenever you’re going to do it, you will need to lock in your scores by the fall of your senior year. If you plan to apply early to colleges, most of those deadlines are November 1 November 15. So you’ll need your scores before then if they’re due with your college applications. If you’re planning to apply regular decision, those applications are due January 1 January 15. So you’ll need scores by them. They’re offered several times a year, the ACT has a test September, October, December, February, April, June and July. And then the SAT has August, October, November, December, March, May and June. And generally the SAT is the first Saturday of the month with a few exceptions, and the ACT is the second Saturday of the month. And of course there are religious exceptions or might be Sunday testing their school day testing. So there are a lot of other kinds of exceptions to this. But this is the general testing schedule. So you need to think ahead quite a bit so that you can plan your at least two test dates, your preparation, and everything else before your college deadlines. Now, if you’re not going to go the testing route, and you’re gonna go the test, optional route, this is the path I recommend what you want to do, instead of worrying about testing, prepping, studying practicing, you need to actually start looking at your college list. So you want to start identifying colleges that are a true fit for students. And that’s quite a nuanced question, I think I did a presentation on it last month, you can find a video of it on our YouTube channel, finding the True Fit, and make sure that they are test optional, or test blind or something that does not require an ACT or an SAT. So you’re going to invest your energy on building that list of schools that are a good fit for your student varying ranges of selectivity, but they also meet this test optional policy requirement. And then I really recommend that you just commit to that decision. You don’t want to have regrets. You don’t want to have second thoughts. You don’t want to decide two months before deadlines to add a school that is not test optional. And then scrambled to try to do a test. Like that’s not fun for anybody. So really think it through, build that list and get excited about that list. Commit to it. Now you can always add, you know, let’s take off, things don’t have to be set in stone. But you need to commit to your decision of going test optional, because you don’t want to put yourself in a bind. And then you also want to double down on your strengths. And by you I mean your child, write double down on their strength, help them see what those strengths are, help them demonstrate those strengths everywhere they can and help them build upon them. So you want to find ways to demonstrate their academic talents, the values that they share with the colleges, all of those things that a college we’ll see as Oh, that makes this kid a really great fit for our student body, our campus our mission, those are the things you want to make sure your students demonstrating all the time. And truthfully, this is very important, even for students who are going to test this is kind of what sets them apart from everyone else who maybe has the same score and the same grades and similar leadership. These are the things that show a college a we’re a great match for each other. So grades matter, grades matter a lot, renew a focus on those academics and make sure that they’re as strong as they can be for that student take on extracurriculars, they may be academic extracurriculars, right? If you’re worried about demonstrating a strength in math and science, well, maybe you do something related to math and science outside of school to show that this is an interest. This is a strength and you demonstrate it that way through the things you do outside of school. And then very importantly, live your values in your community. That’s easier said than done. Most high schoolers don’t understand what a personal value is, or they don’t know what their own values are. That’s something that we focus on a lot at signant, right? We have our own values. We want students to find theirs. And that’s a great way to identify what colleges might be a good fit, they share some values. And then if you’re living them out in your community, you’re engaged, you’re helpful you’re giving back and a college will be able to read that as Oh, not only is this a really interesting and engaged student, but look, they believe in the same things that we do. They believe in being this kind of person that we really want to try Back to our college. So find ways to do that. And that’s not always community service, a lot of times it is. But it can be a lot of other things. It can be family engagement, it can be a part time job, it could be a research project, it could be, you know, summer camps that focus on certain things that your student finds really important, whether they’re learning and participating in the summer camp, or they are actually, you know, a counselor or participant in putting on the programming a lot of different ways to demonstrate those values. So that’s the two main pathways, how do you decide between them? Now a lot of students are telling me oh, the SAT doesn’t matter anymore, so I’m just not going to do it. And they can believe that it doesn’t matter. We know that it does matter at some institutions still. But before they make a decision just based on feelings or a desire to avoid the work that goes along with studying and preparing for a test, my encouragement, or my recommendation is to get some data, let’s see how the student is going to do on these tests. And if it’s just not worth it, it’s not worth it. But in some cases, students will surprise you and they’re not so far off from a score that will help them then I would recommend doing it right, we’ll get into that in a little bit, get the data talk to an expert, somebody who not only understands how testing works, but also how college admissions works. Because these two things are not separate, right? The only reason we’re doing the SAT or the ACT is to help a student in the college admissions process and get a lot of kids who are like, Oh, I really want a perfect score on the SAT. And they may already be at a very good score, you know, that’s maybe you get some bragging rights for a year. But if you’re still talking about your SAT score as an adult, I think maybe your priorities are a little off, right, the only reason to do well on that test is to enable some college admission result that you really want. So stay focused on that goal, and talk to somebody who can speak to both of those processes. And then take that information from the expert, you don’t have to take their recommendation, you know, straight but take that recommendation and that data and what you know about your student and their life and your priorities and your goals for them, and make the right decision for that situation. Right, you got to take into account all of those different variables and contexts.

So let’s break that down a little bit more get the data. By that. I mean, take official practice tests. They are freely available on each test makers website. So you could go to college board, or the ACT website a quick Google will get you there. And you can download a practice test and answer key a bubble sheet, the timing rules, and have your student take a test of each I don’t recommend they do both on the same day, not even back to back I usually like to see at least four days between the two tests, it doesn’t really matter which one they do first, but try to create realistic conditions right quiet environment timed, they’re not using a calculator when they’re not allowed to use a calculator. But they do have a calculator available for the calculator approved sections. And use the bubble sheet to this is a great way for them to get a taste of what it’s going to feel like. But also to get the data we need to assess requisite content knowledge. Do they know the math? Do they know the basic science concepts? Or how to do a reading comprehension exercise? Do they know enough to do well on this test, it will help you see their testing skills and their strategic insights, including timing, which as we talked about is a big differentiator between the SAT and the ACT. And then what their general comfort levels were like, I felt better on this test. Or it was easier for me to understand what these questions wanted me to do. And I felt confused by the way the other questions were phrased. And then of course, the scores, we want to compare the scores, we can use the official concordance to see which one is relatively stronger. And a real testing expert will be able to tell you based on how the student did maybe not just the number but looking at where they missed questions. If there are patterns, if they you know ran out of time, if they felt stressed and made a lot of careless errors. A testing expert will be able to tell you should be able to tell you if they were to prep study and practice. What could they get what is a reasonable expectation for a final score based on that practice test.

Now the practice test, I really make sure to stress this to students. It’s not a fortune teller, right? It doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about how a student is going to perform. But it can give us some good indication of that. Now, just because they have a rough time out of practices, doesn’t mean they can’t score well, right. It’s really about why did they have a rough time? What were those factors? Are those things that they can change or improve upon? Or is this In a situation where any look at a bubble sheet induces a panic attack. And maybe we don’t even want to go there, because it’s going to be too stressful and difficult for a student, right. So go through the exercise of doing the two practice tests and comparing them with an expert. I will say, if students are considering or will only be able to take the digital SAT, based on the timing of when that is released, they’ll want to do the digital SAT, as well, which again, is freely available on the College Board website. For sophomores, you’ll have the choice to test a little earlier and keep with the paper version. So if you test you take your official SAT, before March 2024, you’ll be taking the paper version that’s out right now. So it’s worth you trying that to see if that’s a fit for you. But then also trying a digital SAT to see if you score even better because then maybe you wait until after March of 2024, so that you can take advantage of that test. Right? So for sophomores, we’re comparing three things for freshmen and younger, hopefully you’re not thinking about this yet. But if you are, and that’s why you’re here, they’ll only be two things. There’ll be a digital SAT and a paper ACT for them to do. Okay, so you’ve gotten the data. Now you want to talk to an expert. So when a student takes a practice test, we put it through a spreadsheet that tells me and my team, a lot of very useful things, right, we can see how a student did question by question where their errors are whether they guessed if they answered after time was called, which helps us understand, is this a content issue? Is this a timing issue? And then we get a lot of charts that also help us understand, okay, what are the things we need to be thinking about here in terms of understanding question types, or specific types of content that we want to focus on? What’s the low hanging fruit? Where do we want to focus our attention if we were to work with a student and tutoring capacity, but like I said, from a diagnostic test, or a practice test, you could understand potential scores, what to study, when to study and how to study when a student should test. And we’ll think about first test and maybe a backup second test date, and then how those potential scores will impact the college application process, right. If you’ve got a list of schools that you’re already thinking about, we can help you understand, yeah, this, this would probably be a good score for the school. Or you might consider going test optional, because that school is looking for something much higher than what we think the student is capable of in the next three or four months. So this, I think, is a really essential piece of the process at Signet, we do this for free, we want you to have the information to make the decisions you need. Now you got some data, you talk to an expert, you still have a decision to make. We use this rubric of required important and helpful to help you make a decision here. So one, if a college or a scholarship program, you’re sure you’re going to apply to require assessing willing, you’re gonna have to do it, no need to make a difficult decision here, where it doesn’t need to be difficult, if it’s important might be a situation like maybe a student had some rocky grades, and a really strong test score might help show their strength, right? Maybe the rocky grades are not because they struggled to understand the concepts, but maybe they were injured in a sports related thing. Or maybe they had an illness or something like that, that caused these challenges. And you really want to show their strengths. And they’re really good tester maybe testing Well, I won’t say counteract because it’s not like a one to one relationship that test scores can cancel out bad grades. It’s not what I’m trying to say. But it can show a strength where students transcript might not show that this is probably the broadest one to use to make this decision. But you want to make sure your student can score well enough to be helpful in their application, right. And the way we usually look at that is well, what’s the average test score at these institutions that they’re looking at? Generally, if they’re at or above the average? Yeah, that test score should be helpful. If they are below well below the average test score for the colleges they’re looking at, well, this test score probably won’t be helpful. And maybe it’s not worth submitting, even if you do take the test, because you’ll apply to a range of colleges. And maybe it will be helpful at some and not others, right. So you can make a nuanced decision there as well. There’s a bit of a process and a number of decisions you have to make. And then the student also has to prepare for the test and maybe take it twice. So you need to start early enough thinking about this to allow for the work you may have to do. And for that reason, I usually suggest we do this sort of diagnostic and planning process right after 10th grade is done. Now, this is not to say they’re going to study in prep right after 10th grade. This is to say we’ll do the practice tests. We’ll see what they mean. And we’ll think about a plan that could extend from you know, the summer after 10th grade all the way through senior fall, right they don’t they have time to take the test, but because sometimes there may be a good amount of work involved. You gotta start early enough to leave time for that. So I recommend doing this right after 10th grade. selective colleges with test optional policies have seen their average test scores rise. So I think a good example of this is you Chicago was already quite a rigorous school very selective. They went test optional, I believe in 2015, or 2016. And when they did that, their test scores started to go up. And if you think about it, logically, it makes sense. The only people who were submitting test scores were people with really, really strong test scores, where they knew it was going to be an impressive factor in their application, it was going to help them. And so colleges only report the test scores that they actually get from their admitted students. And so the average is going to go up, because you know, they’re not counting zeros where people aren’t reporting test scores. Related to that we do see over the last couple of years that admin rates are a bit higher for those with test scores than for those without, but you also want to remember that, again, the people who are submitting test scores have really strong test scores. And one of the things we know about the SAT and the ACT is strong test scores are typically correlated to wealth, family socio economic status, where they put an emphasis on testing on a certain type of education, and have the ability to pay for expensive test preparation services. So those students with those very high test scores, the majority of the time, come from very privileged backgrounds, where they have great opportunities to get the best educations and can do expensive summer camps, and have enrichment opportunities. And they’re in strong school districts or at a private school. So they tend to be these applicants that are very, let’s say, competitive compared to maybe the average student. So you want to keep that in mind. It’s not just that you have to have this score in order to be considered. This data can tell multiple stories, and you want to think about the reality here, I share this kind of advice freely and frequently on my LinkedIn page. So if you’re not following me already, please follow me. There’s a lot of good stuff. And then on the Signet blog, and in our newsletters, and we do a webinar once a month on a different topic related to high school and college admissions. So get on our mailing list, you’ll know when these are happening, I am always available to you for a free consult, I talk to every single client who works with us. So email me, we’ll set up a time to talk we’ll see if my team is a fit for what you need. Or even if we’re not, I sort of live and breathe on just helping people. So talk to me, I will help you as much as I can, even if it means I’m connecting you to another company or another resource. As I mentioned, our diagnostic tests and the analysis process are free to everybody whether or not you have any intention of signing up with us. We also have a totally free grade level specific weekly newsletter. So every Saturday, there’s an email that goes out to parents of freshmen, parents of sophomores, parents, of juniors, parents of seniors with different topics that are related to what’s happening, or what those parents should be thinking about right now, for their students. We call it your just in time guide to high school. So I highly encourage you to sign up for that. And then a note that sometimes our kids are just not ready to think about this a lot is very complicated. So your 15 year old child is probably just going to glaze over when you start talking to them about this. And they may not be ready to engage around this process. But if you want to, you know, have a really good understanding of the timeline and what you can do to kind of create the conditions for success in your home, we can work directly with you to help advise you on what might be helpful for your child. And when you really want to think about intervening and getting them to think about something even if they may not be ready yet, or how to get them ready.

Sheila Akbar 38:59
That was a lot. And I know that this can be overwhelming. So check out our blog, we’ll walk you through each step of this process. At Signet, we do diagnostic testing for free. That includes testing the analysis of the results and a call with me to discuss what this all means for your kid and what I recommend. And we can take into account nuances of their educational history, their schedule, all of the things that I told you to think about earlier in this episode, and I can help you figure out what you actually should do. So check the show notes for links to those helpful resources and a link to sign up for free diagnostic tests through my company Signet Education and I hope to see you back here next week. Thanks

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