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.  

Find Your Best Fit Colleges: Research, Research, Research!

With over 3,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. alone, students today have an almost overwhelming number of higher education choices to consider. When you first begin thinking about which schools might be good matches for your needs and goals, the possibilities might seem overwhelming. But if you develop a plan before you launch your research, you can minimize stress and keep your college search sane.

It's easier than ever to access information about colleges. Official websites, guidebooks, and online college resources like College NavigatorUnigo and Cappex offer many ways to learn about potential schools and explore whether they might be good fits for you.

If you have a list of things your future college must (or must not) have, such as a particular major or extracurricular, location or size) it can facilitate your search to use a search engine that will narrow down possibilities based on your criteria. The old standby, CollegeBoard, can be a good place to start.

Once you have this initial list, however, and you've narrowed it down to around 15 schools, your research should be anything but quick. It takes time and effort to learn about what a college has to offer, and even more time to reflect and assess thoroughly whether it is a place where you will thrive. As with most aspects of the college admissions process, be prepared for this step to take time--a LOT of time. Don't cut corners here, and you'll likely end up saving yourself time later on.

Your goal is to find 8-10 schools that will make your final applications list; 3 safety schools, 3-4 target schools, and 2-3 dream schools is a good mix. If possible, try to visit these campuses when school is in session to sit in on classes, check out the dorms and dining hall, and experience the unique atmosphere of each.

Be open-minded and thorough in your college search and take full advantage of the available resources in your research. It will pay off when you discover the college of your dreams.

Need suggestions about what to look for as you research? Check out these guidelines