Sunday, July 15, 2018

Is Community College Transfer Right for You?

Not all students can or should go straight to a four-year college after high school graduation. Maybe cost is a concern, or you're uncertain about moving away from home, or you just aren't ready to choose a college yet. For kids who want to begin college but find the timing isn't right for a "traditional" college experience, following a transfer path at a community college can be a smart choice.

How Does It Work?

Increasing numbers of kids attend community college as a pathway to transfer to a four-year college or university. State community college systems are designed to enable students to complete the first two years of general education and prerequisites required to transfer to a state college or university; by offering courses that are “articulated” to specifically fulfill the lower division requirements of a four-year university, they offer a straight “pipeline” into earning a four-year degree. Many state colleges and universities even guarantee a spot to community college students who successfully complete a transfer program and meet a minimum GPA requirement.

Many private and out-of-state public colleges and universities also welcome transfer students. While some, like Stanford, accept only low single-digit numbers of transfers, others, like USC, accept close to a quarter of those who apply. Some private colleges have “articulation agreements” with state community colleges that are similar to those shared between community colleges and state public four-year institutions, which facilitate a smooth transfer of credits.

While students traditionally choose to transfer to a four-year college as juniors, some colleges do accept students as freshman or sophomore transfers after they have completed a semester or year of community college courses. This is more common at private colleges; at some public colleges, like the University of California and CSU system, it is very rare that a student will be accepted as a transfer with fewer than 60 credits (junior standing).

Working with an on-campus transfer counselor is crucial for students planning a transfer to four-year college; it’s essential that kids take the right classes to fulfill the requirements of their future college or university, and the path can often be challenging to navigate on their own.

The Benefits of Community College Transfer Path

Lower Investment

Community college can save thousands of dollars off the cost of the first two years at a four-year college. Completing two years of lower division coursework at a community college is inexpensive (and, in some states, may even be free). In California, the cost of one year is around 11% of the cost of attending a University of California campus and 20% of attending a California State campus. At a state college where the cost of four years of attendance is $100,000, for example, spending two years at a community college before transferring would bring the cost to nearly half. Because students typically attend community colleges near their homes, many choose to live at home while they complete their degrees, lower overall costs even further.

Support & Connection

While community colleges are bustling places, class sizes are generally small and afford students close contact with professors and peers. This is great for kids who value teacher support and the chance to build connections that can result in outside opportunities and strong letters of recommendation that can be useful when applying to four-year colleges.

Growing Room

Some kids need more time to mature before moving straight to college, and community college can be a great “stepping stone”. Kids build academic and personal independence, but generally still live at home and have the benefit of family support as they prepare to launch. Just as a gap year can be a great way for kids to mature and find their feet before heading off to college, community college provides the same opportunities in a more academic, structured (and less expensive) way. For kids who have faced mental or physical health challenges in high school, this interim educational phase can be even more important, as it affords additional time to adjust after high school and make sure everything is in place to meet a student’s needs before she moves on to the independence of a four-year college experience.

A Fresh Start

In addition to providing a slower transition to college, community college can also give a student who has had academic challenges a “clean slate”. In most cases, once a student begins community college classes and has earned a certain number of credits (which varies by college) they are no longer required to submit high school transcripts or SAT/ACT scores when applying for admission to a four-year college. This means that regardless of what happened in high school, a kid who does well at community college can end up being accepted to many great four-year colleges that would have denied him admission as a freshman.

Improving Your Odds

In states like California, where admission to top-tier public four-year universities is increasingly competitive and out of reach to even the most highly qualified high school students, spending two years at community college can greatly improve the likelihood of acceptance. In fact, the UC recently announced that it will now guarantee a spot at a UC to all qualified transfer students, hopefully as soon as 2019. Currently, this benefit is extended to some California community college transfers through the Transfer Admission Guarantee program (TAG). Several UC campuses participate in TAG, which guarantees students a spot at a single campus of their choice provided they meet all general education requirements and achieve a minimum GPA. Students can "tag" one campus and still apply to other UCs in the system. UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego don't participate in TAG, but it's an option at the other six campuses.

If you are shooting for a top-tier school like UC Berkeley or UCLA, attending a community college can also make admission to these campuses much more attainable; a student who wasn’t eligible for admission to these UCs as a high school senior will find it easier admitted as a junior transfer as long as his or her grades are very strong.

No matter what path you choose to get your undergraduate degree, there will be pros and cons. Community college transfer students do miss out on some things, like the experience of living in a dorm and the sense of pride that can come with attending a prestigious college as a freshman. But for many students, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Community college can be a smart choice for kids in a variety of situations and who have a wide range of goals and ambitions. In college, as in life, there are countless ways to get where you want to go; community college might be the right one for you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

AP Classes: Maximizing Benefits, Maintaining Balance

The popularity of AP classes at U.S. high schools is booming. Most schools offer at least a few advanced placement classes, and many give kids the opportunity to choose from more than 20. Along with the increased availability of AP classes, so too has the pressure grown for students to take advantage of these advanced courses, which are now viewed as one of the keys to acceptance at competitive colleges and universities. As a result, many students pack their schedules with AP classes, often at the cost of sleep, social life and extracurricular activities. But are APs necessary to get into college? How many should kids take, and how many are too many? 

Colleges expect students to be actively engaged in learning and to demonstrate a high level of mastery in the courses they take. A common guideline is that students should take the "most rigorous courses available to them." This doesn't, however, mean that kids should take every AP offered at their high school. The key is to balance APs with regular college preparatory coursework, a process which should take into account the rigor of the class as well as students' interests, strengths, and tolerance for stress.

Some APs are more challenging than others and carry heavier homework loads. Not surprisingly, APs in "academic" areas like science, math, English and history tend to be more difficult, while those in the arts, languages and social sciences are considered "softer". Of course, the relative challenge or ease students experience in a course depends in large part upon the areas where they excel and those where they aren't as proficient. 

In general, students should build an AP course schedule that includes the subjects of their greatest interests and strengths. If a student is equally strong in math/science and the humanities, diversifying to include courses in two or three subject areas can demonstrate that he or she has a solid foundation across the curriculum. It's also important to be sure that the course load is balanced; no schedule for a conscientious student should regularly consume more than three to four homework hours per day.

If a student has already chosen a college major of interest, taking AP classes related to that field can be beneficial to demonstrate both strong interest in and aptitude for a subject (this is especially true of the sciences, computer sciences and engineering). While AP credit may be counted toward lower division major requirements at some colleges, don't be surprised if competitive majors at selective universities won't accept AP credit to waive foundation classes. This doesn't mean the classes aren't worth taking, however, as they will provide strong preparation for successfully approaching the major's coursework.

If a high school doesn't offer an AP class in a student's area of interest or if he or she wants the flexibility to pursue advanced study outside the regular school day, there are alternative ways to take classes. Several accredited online and independent high schools offer AP classes throughout the year. While sometimes expensive, this can be a great option for kids who want to complete work over the summer or are unable to fit a course into their school day.

Another frequently overlooked option is community college courses. While community college courses aren't APs (which is a standardized high school course), they are in some ways even more valuable in that they demonstrate a student's ability to master a college level curriculum as well as be successful in a college environment. Students can take general education classes or focus on a particular area of interest related to a potential major. When applying to college, students send their community college transcript along with their high school transcript, and the courses are "weighted" in the calculation of the GPA just as an AP class would be. If the courses are transferable, the credits earned can typically be used to fulfill lower-division requirements or even prerequisites for a major. Community college is affordable and students enjoy the freedom and independence they have outside the high school classroom.

If a student wants to take an AP class but is worried about the challenge, consider adding the course to the school year schedule and then taking an AP "pre-course" over the summer through a platform like EdX. These MOOCs (massive open online classes) are offered by major universities and are often self-paced. Students can get a head start on understand the AP material and hopefully relieve some stress and homework time during the school year by laying a strong foundation before the first day of school. 

AP classes can be a valuable aspect of high school education, but it's important to maintain a healthy perspective when choosing classes. Earning a B in a tough AP class is usually better than getting an A in a regular college prep class, but Cs should be avoided. Kids shouldn't take on so many APs that the place their sleep, sanity or GPAs at risk. They should choose classes that that will deepen their learning and help them develop as confident students rather than focus on racking up AP credits. In education, there is no single "right way" to do things, so don't be afraid to take the "less is more" approach at times or to look for non-traditional ways to show colleges that you are a curious and self-motivated learner. By pursuing the courses that are right for you in high school, you can trust that you will get into and thrive at a college that is the best match for you. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Summer College Planning for Rising Seniors 2018

Summer is almost here! If you're a college-bound senior, now is the time to begin key college planning tasks and alleviate the stress and chaos of the coming fall admissions season. There are numerous ways you can use your summer break to get ahead of the curve on your applications.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

SAT Subject Tests: A Crash Course

What Are They?

The SAT Subject Tests are one-hour exams designed to test your knowledge in specific subjects. Students can choose from among 20 different tests in five subject areas. The tests are based on material that is taught in high school, and they give you the chance to showcase what you have learned and demonstrate to colleges how you are uniquely qualified in your best subjects. If you're doing well in your classes (and especially if you're taking advanced classes such as honors or AP) you're probably prepared to take subject tests and do well on them. 

Should I Take Subject Tests?

Around 160 colleges and universities require or recommend that students provide two (and sometimes three) Subject Test scores along with their SAT or ACT scores. They may also require scores if you are applying for a specific major. Check the websites or call the admissions offices of the colleges you are planning to apply to to see if you will need to submit scores. 

Even colleges that don't require Subject Test scores will often consider them when reviewing your application. This can be a great opportunity to differentiate yourself from other applicants and give colleges are more complete picture of your academic interests and abilities. If you're planning to apply to a particular major or program, subject tests can also let you show your preparation in those areas. 

In short, if testing doesn't make you a crazy person or a complete basket case, it's probably worth it to spend an afternoon taking Subject Tests in areas where you excel. 

When Should I Take The Tests?

Since Subject Tests are based on material taught in high school, it makes sense to take the tests in subjects you are currently studying (and doing well in) as close to the end of the course as possible. For example, if you take Chemistry as a sophomore and are getting great grades, take the Subject Test in May or June of sophomore year when the information is still fresh in your mind. After taking the main SAT reasoning test in March of junior year, you might take Math 2, US History, literature, or some combination of tests in May or June. 

If you're taking AP classes, you're exceptionally well-prepared to succeed on the Subject Tests, but the college-level knowledge that AP classes teach isn't required to score well.

You can take up to three Subject Tests at a single administration, but you can't take the reasoning test and Subject Tests on the same day. 

Am I Prepared?

For the Literature Subject Test, 3-4 years of college-preparatory study is recommended. The test reflects what is commonly taught in high school, but due to differences in high school classes, it's likely that you'll find questions on material that you've never studied. Don't worry about this: It's possible to do very well on the test even if you haven't learned everything that is covered (you can even get an 800 without answering every question correctly). This also applies to the U.S. and World History tests. 

After taking one year of Biology, Chemistry or Physics, you are ready to take Subject Tests in those areas. Again, don't be concerned if you haven't learned all the material that is on the test. 

There are two Biology tests: Biology E and Biology M. Take Biology E if you feel more comfortable answering questions about biological communities, populations and energy flow. Take Biology M if you feel more comfortable answering questions about biochemistry, cellular structure and processes, such as respiration and photosynthesis. You can't take both tests on the same date, but you can take them on two different test dates.  

While the SAT offers two levels of Math Subject Tests, Math 1 and Math 2, almost all colleges are only interested in Math 2, which covers three years of college-prep mathematics (two years of Algebra plus Geometry) as well as trigonometry and elementary functions (pre-calculus). For most students, this means that the earliest the Math 2 Subject Test should be taken is the end of junior year. 

There are also two types of foreign language tests: With listening and without. Like Math 2, almost all colleges want only scores from foreign languages "with listening". You should have at least two years of strong preparation in the language (more is better). Ideally, take the test as close to the end of the last level of the language that you plan to take in high school. 

Just to make things even more fun, the College Board only offers foreign language tests with listening in November. In general, this means the best (and probably only) time to take the tests are in November of senior year.

The College Board website has a wealth of information to help you learn about and sign up for Subject Tests. 

Even if you find you don't need to take them, Subject Tests are probably worth the time and brain fatigue. When it comes to college admissions, you never know what might make the difference between getting in and getting passed over. It can pay to take advantage of every opportunity you've got to shine. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

IRS Data Retrieval Tool Returns to FAFSA

Families who plan to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for the 2018-19 academic year may find the process easier this year, thanks to the relaunch of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool. After being shut down last spring following ID hacking that may have put up to 100,000 tax payers at risk, the tool has been revamped to address security issues. Starting October 1, families can use the tool to upload their tax information for 2016 directly from the IRS to their FAFSA, saving time and the potential headaches of entering data by hand.

As part of the new process, the exact income numbers from filers returns will be "masked" once they have uploaded. The data fields on the student aid report will simply say "transferred from the IRS". This new data security measure is worrying to some, who are concerned that potential errors in their tax returns that they are unable to see on the FAFSA could damage their eligibility for financial aid. If accuracy is a worry, however, entering data by hand directly from returns is still an option.

Whether you decide to utilize the Data Retrieval Tool or not, it's a great idea to get started on your FAFSA as soon as the site goes live on October 1. You'll be well ahead of submission deadlines and you'll be able to determine your family's expected family contribution toward college costs prior to submitting college applications, which can be valuable if you are trying to adhere to a budget and want to be sure your college choices are affordable.

Want to learn more about financial aid for college? Check out my previous blog posts on understanding financial aid and tips for planning a successful financial aid process. Additionally, here are some useful links to help you navigate financial aid.


Expected Family Contribution Calculator

How Federal Student Aid Is Determined

Smart Tips for College Financial Planning

For many families, the cost of a college education today is daunting. The total cost for a year at a CSU is now around $26,000; at a UC, $33,000; and many private colleges have sticker prices of $40,000 or more. 

To help manage college costs and make informed financial decisions, I recommend families do three things: 
  • Plan ahead
  • Set clear priorities
  • Understand actual costs
Planning ahead means not just saving money for college, but understanding early on what the cost of college is likely to be and how much financial aid through scholarships and loans your student can expect to receive. You can get a head start by using the FAFSA Forecaster to determine how much colleges expect you to pay toward the cost of college (your Expected Family Contribution). Knowing your EFC can help you estimate what your actual costs will be at various colleges and use this information to make smart choices about where to apply. 

Setting clear priorities early can also help guide a successful college search. What are the top three to five things that matter to your student and family? If cost is one of those factors, be sure to make it a priority in your search. Looking only at schools that are within your financial parameters or that you can reasonably assume might be with the assistance of scholarship dollars can help you avoid disappointment and wasted time. 

Understanding the actual cost of colleges can be tricky. While at a public college you can generally expect to pay close to the "advertised price" (most public colleges offer few scholarships), the actual cost of a private college can vary widely and is usually far less than their "advertised price" (thanks to plentiful scholarship offerings). But many other factors such as graduation rates, travel costs, and extremely varying costs of living at certain campuses also impact the overall total cost. 

In an effort at transparency, colleges now provide a net price calculator to help families get an estimate of the total cost of attendance based on the college's financial aid policies. These tools are very helpful and can easily be found on the financial aid page of college's websites. 

If you need help navigating the complex world of college financial planning, I provide basic guidance on the necessary forms and timelines as part of my comprehensive packages. For families in need of more extensive guidance, I offer three options to provide you with in-depth understanding of the financial aid process and your expected costs, detailed financial comparison of various colleges and expected scholarship dollars tailored to your specific situation, and much more. I'm happy to work with your family to make college a rewarding and affordable experience!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Legal Housekeeping for College Students & Their Families

There's a lot to think about when your kid goes off to college. In the scramble to take care of the big things -- packing, shopping for dorm decor, negotiating travel logistics, trying not to have a nervous breakdown -- it's easy to forget some of the less exciting but nonetheless essential signing advanced health care directives.

When kids turn 18, they are legal adults, which means that parents lose the legal authority to make decisions for them. You won't legally be able to access their medical, academic or financial information or represent them in these areas. Should the student have an accident or become otherwise incapacitated, you won't be able to act on their behalf unless documentation is in place. You may not be even be able to get information from hospitals about their condition in the event of an emergency.

You'll need the following to be able to continue to assist your kid with regard to medical and financial information and decisions: 

Durable Power of Attorney
This document will able you to act of behalf of your adult child in legal and financial matters without them losing any ability to act on their own. It gives you the ability to do things such as pay bills, apply for loans, and access or transfer funds, which can be useful if your child is studying abroad, sick or injured, or just overwhelmed with school work and in need of some help managing his/her affairs. This document can be drafted to become effective immediately upon signing and can be revoked at any time, as long as the adult child isn't under a disability. 

Advanced Health Care Directive
If your adult child has an accident or other health emergency and is incapacitated, this document gives you the authority to make decisions on their behalf. It can also include information about the child's wishes regarding organ donation and end of life decisions. A HIPAA waiver will give you access to your child's medical records so you are able to make informed decisions regarding care. 

You might also consider as a separate document an Advanced Directive for mental health care, which would enable you to make decisions and direct care for your child should they experience a mental disability and need you to represent them. 

FERPA Release 
Parents are sometimes surprised to learn that they are not able to speak to colleges to discuss their adult child's grades and academic progress. A FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) form must be signed for you to access records and talk to colleges about your child. The forms may be requested from colleges. 

While most families see the benefit of advanced health care directives and durable powers of attorney, the FERPA release can be tricky. Should students have privacy regarding their academic records and progress? Is it healthy/valuable for parents to monitor adult children in this way? At what point do students become responsible for their own educations? 

While we all hope there will never be a need to intervene in a medical or legal situation on behalf of our children, for many families, knowing that you do have the ability to make decisions and direct care in an emergency is comforting. Clearly, whether or not to create these documents is a decision that should be made only after clear discussion and agreement between parents and adult children. For young adults, privacy is often a sticky subject, and it may be difficult for them to see the benefit of what may, on the surface, look like intrusion into their new adulthood. 

Regardless of what you and your child decide, this is a worthwhile conversation about issues that all responsible adults should address. None of us can predict the future, and thorny situations and emergencies unfortunately do arise. Investing a small amount of time and energy now can enable you to contribute to your child's well being in critical times, and by negotiating and navigating the process, they'll take another small step on their path to becoming a grown up.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

SAT or ACT: Which is Best for Me?

Many college and universities require applicants to take the SAT or ACT (for a list of those that don’t or are test-optional, check out Fairtest). All colleges that require a standardized test will accept either the SAT or ACT. There is no need to take both!

Until recently, there were significant differences between the two tests. The SAT, introduced in the 1920s, was a “reasoning” test designed to assess “college readiness”, not what students learned in school, while the ACT was aligned with high school curricula. In 2016, the SAT changed its purpose and format and is now much more like the ACT. However, there are still differences that may make one test preferable for students. Here are some things to consider:

Overall Testing Experience
The SAT is a “slower” test, giving you considerably more time per problem than the ACT does. If you like to pace yourself and take your time with each question, the SAT will probably be better for you. If you can move through problems quickly and with good focus, the ACT will suit you.

  • How quickly can you read with a high level of accuracy and comprehension? The ACT is a fast test and is text-heavy, so students who read more slowly will probably do better on the SAT.

Science Reasoning
  • The ACT has a science section, while the SAT doesn’t. The ACT science section tests critical thinking ability rather than specific science knowledge, and requires students to read accurately and with strong comprehension at a fast pace.

  • Both tests cover arithmetic, Algebra I & II, Geometry and Trigonometry. The SAT also covers Data Analysis.
  • The SAT has math sections where you may not use a calculator. If you need a calculator for math, the ACT is a better choice.
  • On the ACT, all questions are multiple choice. The SAT has 13 “fill in the blank” questions as well as multiple choice.

  • The SAT writing section tests comprehension of a source text; it requires you to come up with an argument and support it.  The ACT writing section, on the other hand, tests your ability to analyze and evaluate complex issues; it gives you an argument and asks you to evaluate it.

The easiest way to determine which test is best for you is to take full-length practice tests. You’ll get the most useful insights if you take the tests under realistic testing conditions. Many test prep companies offer proctored practice tests free of charge. You can also use practice tests from the Official SAT Study Guide and the Official ACT Prep Guide.

Remember, standardized tests are just one piece of your college application. Do your best, but don’t stress. If your college list is well-balanced and includes schools that are great fits for you, you’re sure to be accepted to the colleges where you will thrive.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Staying Safe at College: Simple Ways to Be Prepared & Protected

Kids have many things on their minds when they head off to college, from what classes to take to how to decorate their dorm rooms. In all the excitement, it can be easy to overlook one of the most important aspects of being a college student: Safety. While college campuses might seem like special worlds where real life is far away, they aren't exempt from emergencies and natural disasters. Students can also face dangerous situations in their personal lives both on and off campus. While you don't want to spend your college years worrying about the worst that can happen, it's just smart to be well prepared.

All campuses have plans in place to respond efficiently and protect students in the event of an emergency. Pay close attention when emergency preparedness comes up in orientations (especially if you are attending college in a part of the country whose potential natural hazards are unfamiliar to you--Californians, for example, know how to respond in an earthquake, but may be clueless about tornadoes). If you need a refresher, find the campus safety page on your college's website and check it out. The Office of Emergency Management page at UC Berkeley is a great example of the kinds of information you should be looking for. Be sure to sign up for text and email alerts so you (and your parents) can receive immediate information about emergency situations on campus; these notifications have proven vital in many recent campus incidents. Some colleges may also have a "crisis management" app that can assist students with information and instructions during an emergency.

What else should you do to protect your safety at college?

  • Trust your instincts & take care of yourself. Sometimes the most important things you can do to stay safe are listening to your gut and doing what it takes to protect yourself. If the little voice inside your head says, "I don't know if I should" or "This doesn't feel right"...listen. Don't be afraid to ask for help or walk away when you need to. Taking care of yourself is part of being a responsible adult. 
  • Use campus escort services and shuttles when out and about at night. Find out how to contact transportation and escort services and keep this info on your phone. Many colleges offer door-to-door service throughout the night, and some also provide students with transportation via services like Uber and Lyft.
  • Memorize the phone numbers of key people. Thanks to "intelligent assistants" and cell phone contact banks, many people don't even know their parents' phone numbers, let alone their friends'. Commit the numbers of some key people to memory in case you lose or are separated from your phone and need to contact someone for help.
  • Consider using a personal safety app like Companion. It lets you enter a destination and enable friends and family to check in on you as you travel. You can alert your companions if you're feeling unsafe and also call 911 with a single tap. 
  • If you choose to drink at parties and social events, have a designated "sober friend". The vast majority of sexual assaults, medical emergencies and accidents on college campuses happen in situations where there is alcohol and drug use. Discuss in advance what constitutes a dangerous situation and then take turns looking out for each other. When you are the "sober friend", don't hesitate to call for help if you feel anyone is in danger. You could be saving someone's life. 
  • Know your limits. It is easier than you'd think to overdose on drugs and alcohol, and consuming to the point of impairment also makes you far more vulnerable to sexual assault and violence. Know when to quit. Also be sure to watch your drinks. Never leave a drink unattended or drink something that you didn't pour or watch being poured yourself. Incidents of drinks being spiked with drugs are not uncommon at college parties.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. When you go into a restaurant, party or concert, it only takes a few seconds to locate your closest exits in case you need to leave quickly during an emergency. If you sense that something isn't right or someone seems out of place, don't hesitate to leave. Never stay at a party or event where you can't find clearly marked and easily accessible exits.
  • Lock your doors. In dorm or co-op situations where you feel comfortable with your fellow students and have the added security of locked main doors and even security guards, you may feel like it's safe to leave your door unlocked at night. It isn't. Non-residents can and do access dorms. Your neighbors might also not be as trustworthy as you think. Always lock your door when you leave your room (even if you're just going to the bathroom down the hall) and never go to sleep without locking up. 
It can be difficult (if not impossible) to prevent or predict dangerous or threatening situations, and you can't go through life constantly looking over your shoulder or worrying about what-ifs. But it's easy to be prepared and maximize your safety both on and off campus. The added peace of mind and sense of personal responsibility that comes from taking care of yourself will make your college experience even more rewarding and enjoyable. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

More Changes to the SAT

Just when we think the dust is settling around the new SAT, more changes come our way. Fortunately, the latest changes bring good news! While I'm still not a big fan of standardized testing, I think these developments will benefit kids and families and make what can be a "necessary evil" of the college admissions process a bit less stressful.

Added Test Dates

It might not seem significant, but the addition of a late August test date is something to smile about. In the past, the first time the SAT has been offered during the school year is early October (the last test administration each year is in June--no testing over the summer). For the 2017-18 school year, College Board is adding a test date of August 26.

This addition is important for a few reasons. First, it gives students a chance to take the test before (or shortly after) the start of school, when workload hasn't kicked into high gear yet. Kids can prep over the summer and take the test right after, without worrying about losing the knowledge they gained or struggle with trying to balance homework and test prep before the October test. Second, for those who plan to applying to colleges using Early Action or Early Decision, they now have an additional chance to take either the main SAT or SAT subject tests and have their scores arrive in time for the November 1 or November 15 deadlines, which was always hit or miss with the October test date.

Want to plan your testing schedule? Check out the test and registration dates for 2017-18 below.

Test Date
Normal Registration
Aug 26, 2017
Jul 28, 2017
Oct 7, 2017
Sep 8, 2017
Nov 4, 2017
Oct 6, 2017
Dec 2, 2017
Nov 3, 2017
Mar 10, 2018
Feb 9, 2018
May 5, 2018
Apr 6, 2018
Jun 2, 2018
May 4, 2018

Changes to Accommodations

It's sometimes been difficult for students with learning differences or special needs to get accommodations for the SAT; at best it involved a long and complicated process that was a challenge for many families and school counselors to navigate. The College Board has announced that, as of January 1, 2017, they are making changes to the accommodations process, creating a streamlined process that allows for automatic approval of accommodations in more situations.

From the College Board press release: "The vast majority of students who are approved for and using testing accommodations at their school through a current Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan will have those same accommodations automatically approved for taking the SAT®, PSAT10, PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT Subject Tests, and AP®Exams. Most private school students with a current, formal school-based plan that meets College Board criteria will also have their current accommodations automatically approved for College Board exams."

To learn more about the recent changes and how the benefit students, visit the College Board website.