FAQ for Parents

Parent | Frequently Asked Questions

What does Ivy Bound do?

We prepare high school students to do well on the SAT and ACT. The ACT/SAT is the biggest single test for determining whether good colleges will select the student.

Ivy Bound also helps with AP preparation, SAT Subject Tests, Academics, Grad School Exams and much more. We offer classes, semi-private tutoring, and private tutoring.

If a teenager doesn’t aspire to an Ivy League school, (or if a parent won’t let the child to go to the East Coast so soon), why does the kid need Ivy Bound?

Whatever university a child wants, a good SAT score will help. If there’s no desire to attend an elite school, there almost always is a desire to get money, and merit scholarships are largely based on SAT scores. Even if a kid right now wants to go to a trade school, taking the SAT while in high school will at least open up options if he later decides he likes the college idea.

When Should Teens Prepare for the SAT or ACT?

10th or 11th grade, as long as s/he has had a semester each of algebra and geometry. For ACT, having a semester of trigonometry is also helpful.

Busy students should consider using the summer BEFORE 10th or Before 11th grade for a large chunk of their prep. Summer is far less crowded than the upcoming academic year. Since ACT and SAT are largely testing SKILLS (as opposed to knowledge) and skills once learned tend to stay with you, June and/or July prep and a hiatus in August works fine.

What makes the ACT and SAT so hard?

They are not hard. The math is composed of basic skills, but the questions are asked in ways that require logic and sometimes creativity. Those are courses kids don’t learn in school. As for the verbal, it’s a test of reading comprehension and vocabulary. Reading Comprehension is rarely stressed in school. Some English teachers drill vocabulary, but rarely at the SAT’s level. So for many students, these skills are not hard, but NEW. Combined with the logic that SAT tests and the creativity that some ACT and SAT math questions reward, the insufficient skills are abundant. But all these are coachable, turning Hard into “easy” or “hard-but-I’ve done battle with it before”.

So… if it’s not so hard, why are so many kids afraid of this tests?

Because it means so much. 3 years of hard work can go out the window if a student with a high GPA does only mediocre on the SAT. And the trends are more dire – colleges are getting even more competitive.

Can you give any free advice here?

A) Know the test in advance. The SAT releases an abundance of practice tests that students can take under timed conditions and self-score. The ACT has a decent number as well.

B) Know your abilities in advance. These same practice tests allow students to assess how they can do battle with ACT or SAT. If unsure whether ACT or SAT is the better test for you, use a combined diagnostic test (Ivy Bound offers these to its students) or do two real ACTs and two real SATs on four consecutive mornings, in a semi-scientific experiment.

C) Start preparing early. For the SAT that means READ a lot or do a lot of vocabulary absorption. Ivy Bound holds a one hour “How to be a Great SAT Parent” session to start off each class “Form Your Own” class. No matter how adept he is, a kid who reads very little is at a huge disadvantage on the SAT. Now the Ivy Bound course can combat that, by intensive scrutiny of commonly used SAT words, but it’s much better when a student comes to us with a lot of SAT Vocabulary already “locked in”.

Your course is intensive. How do busy teens, with sports and plays and part-time jobs, fit this in?

Our students make this their number one priority for 2-4 months. They know that if they can pop a great ACT or SAT score in junior year, they can cruise through senior year with far fewer burdens, so they make the sacrifice. Some find it’s not a sacrifice at all, because we tell them to turn off the TV and all but one of their electronic games for six weeks. Even a middle course – 45 min a day of social media – can give the kid 40 free hours a month. We run a semi-militaristic class, so a lot of kids respect that, and it’s something many parents have wanted to do for a while.

Your course is expensive. How does a family of moderate means afford Ivy Bound?

We encourage families who want tutoring to do semi-private tutoring. Enlist with another student who has similar goals and is academically compatible. This becomes 1-on-2 tutoring, and the families split the tutor cost.

For families with deep financial need, we give tuition assistance for regular standing classes. It can be as much as 85% off. We don’t want to keep anybody out based on need, so parents shouldn’t be afraid to call. We’re at 877-975-1600.

Remember, at many schools even a 100-point increase vastly improves a student’s chances for both admission and merit scholarships. In the long run, many parents find that the value of Ivy Bound far exceeds the cost.

I understand Ivy Bound holds pro bono classes for students with limited means?

We encourage community groups who have diligent students to contact us about holding a low-cost class.

How much does taking honors and AP classes matter?

A lot. Honors and AP are significant for colleges. The good news is that most will carry a .5 or full 1.0 point “extra weighting”. We recommend that students take these in subjects they like, so long as they can avoid C grades.

Is it worth taking AP and/or Honors courses if the kid will be spending twice the study time?

Probably. Honors and AP classes on a transcript attest to rigor of coursework, depth of learning, and to some extent a willingness to accept challenge. When college admissions officers choose to look beyond numbers, they strongly appreciate these factors. At schools where there is a grade inflator for taking AP or Honors courses, the kid’s GPA is unlikely to suffer; indeed, for the hard-working kid, the GPA may be helped. To become more assured, find out from upperclassmen who took X course with Y teacher how the grade distribution went. You probably want to avoid a teacher who awards as many C minuses as As.

Assuming the GPA aspect is a wash, the main decision comes down to workload and intellectual interest in the subject. Taking honors classes in an elective you hate is just not worth it. Avoiding honors classes altogether is a mistake though – it’s very easy for a college admissions officer to say “no” to a kid whose transcript rings of “just getting by”, “had the opportunity to challenge himself, but didn’t”.

Does an improving GPA trend make up for a mediocre first two years?

Maybe. Many “numbers-oriented” colleges, particularly large state universities, do not take the time to make minute discernment at the “first cut”. Now, even the most impersonal admissions office will look at trends, essays, and letters of recommendation for the candidates who made the first cut and are “on the bubble”. But making the first cut there may be difficult if a poor freshman year has slapped the kid’s GPA well below the school’s median.

The best solution for kids in the medium-but-rising category is to get a second recommender to call attention to the strength of the last few semesters. An extra recommendation can never hurt.

What’s the difference between the PSAT and the SAT?

First, the SAT is seen by the colleges. The PSAT is not seen by colleges. Unless you get a tremendous score (top 1%), the PSAT is unimportant. The top 1% in each state qualify for National Merit recognition, and approximately half of these students ultimately win a “National Merit Scholarship” as a result.

Second, the format differs. The PSAT is shorter.

Third, the scoring differs, though not significantly. PSAT gives two-digit scores from 20 – 80 and SAT gives three-digit scores from 200 – 800.

There is no discernible difference in level of difficulty between PSAT and SAT. However we do find that SAT scores move towards the median – i.e., high PSAT scorers score slightly lower on the SAT, and low PSAT scorers usually improve. Since the SAT tests the same level of reading, the same type of vocabulary, and with a few exceptions the same math skills, we surmise that this “norming” owes to the SAT being a longer test.

What is the difference between ED and EA?

An ED (Early Decision) applicant is allowed to apply to only one ED school, and if the word is “yes” the applicant cannot matriculate elsewhere. Colleges like this because they get a certain portion of the class committed early, reduce their workload for the regular round, and in some cases get earlier cash flow. Early Action (EA) is not a binding commitment; it only allows students to hear early. Some schools offer “Single-Choice Early Action” (SCEA), which is identical to EA except that applicants may apply to only one SCEA or ED school.

How does ED affect ACT and SAT test scheduling?

Usually not at all. For students who plan early, and start early as we suggest, they are done with all SAT Subject Tests, and ACT or SAT by the end of junior year.

For those not done:

The October ACT is the last chance for ED. Students not done following junior year should take Sept and Oct ACT to give themselves two chances.

The November SAT is the latest time a senior can take the SAT for ED purposes.
Students not done following junior year should take the Oct and Nov SAT to give themselves two chances.

If a rising senior still has to take SAT and SAT Subject Tests in the fall, we recommend October be for SAT because SAT carries more weight at most colleges than SAT Subject Tests. But we’ll then recommend taking BOTH the SAT and ACT as well, to give multiple ED chances.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to applying ED (Early Decision)?

One possible advantage of Early Decision (ED) is that almost all colleges that offer ED have higher acceptance rates in the ED period than the regular time period. While that could owe to the best prepared students being more prevalent in the ED applicant pool, many colleges report a lower average GPA and SAT in the ED pool than the regular pool. For the student yearning to attend a school for which his numbers are slightly below the school’s average, the ED tradeoff may be worthwhile. On the other hand, the ability to apply to a multiplicity of schools means the chance for multiple offers. Occasionally a “reach” school comes through; occasionally one college awards not only an acceptance, but a significant merit scholarship as well. ED is a good option for kids who have enough zeal for a college that if accepted, they will have no regrets about spending four years there. ED is not good for students who need significant financial aid awards.

Is there any relationship between ED and the SAT?

The availability of ED affects the SAT in terms of scheduling. The November test is the latest time a senior can take the SAT for ED purposes, and we recommend October as the latest test just to be safe.

What accommodations are available for Students with Learning Disabilities?

Both the ACT and SAT try hard to fairly accommodate students who can’t be at their best under regular testing conditions. The most-frequently used is extended time, where students can be granted 50% or even 100% time extensions. ACT and SAT accommodate some students with human readers; they accommodate students with dysgraphia with the option for a dictated or type-written essay.

How do the ACT and SAT treat students with learning disabilities?

ETS (Educational Testing Service, the SAT makers) used to “flag” any score achieved under special conditions, including extended time or private testing. That stopped in 2002 following multiple lawsuits. Colleges cannot discern from just the SAT whether a student has regular time, 50% extra time, or 100% extra time.

The ACT operates similarly. There is no flagging. ACT has traditionally be more stingy about awarding extra time.

For Physically-challenged students, both the SAT and ACT are good accommodators. But requests need to be made WELL in advance of a student’s first test.

Do you have any advice for students with learning disabilities?

Our advice to a student who may have a learning disability has always been “see how much difference the extended time makes”. Since there is no disadvantage to having extended time, on the SAT, ACT or in university life (colleges often respect a history of extended time without post-high-school testing) if you suspect your child has a learning difference that impedes test success, it’s worth getting tested. With students whose disability is severe enough that extended time means getting an additional 2 questions right, then almost assuredly the extended time is warranted.

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