- Enjoy yourself!
- Take advantage of a broad range of courses to propel you to internships, summer jobs and college.
- Don’t stress about the SAT; some students might want to take an SAT Subject Test in June of freshman year.
- Take Algebra I or Geometry, if you have not yet had both. These courses help prepare kids for standardized tests and college level math.
- Read during the summer! Too few kids read for pleasure and it hurts when it comes time to take the verbal sections of the SAT.
- If you’ve had a semester each of Algebra and Geometry, consider taking the Ivy Bound SAT course over the summer or in fall for the October or November SAT in 10th grade.
- If you have a chance to win a National Merit Scholarship award, consider taking the PSAT in October of Sophomore Year. There is no need to take a separate course for the PSAT; the skills tested are the same as the SAT.
- This year is KEY. Mediocre freshman year grades are often dismissed, but sophomore grades are not. Do well. Take challenging courses where you like the subject, especially if they carry extra GPA weight. Kids who have the chance to take “AP” courses and resort to the lower challenge course often regret it.
- Do make sure you are taking Algebra I or Geometry, if you have not yet already had both. Note to students stuck in a “blended math” course – for most kids, they do a terrible job at preparing for the SAT. If the teacher is anything less than stellar, consider getting into a traditional math class.
- In the winter or spring, try to line up a good summer experience. A job, an internship, or a summer enrichment program is not only beneficial for college admissions, it’s usually rewarding in itself, and often fun. If you still want to spend most of your summer playing recreational golf at Dad’s country club, make sure you get at least three solid weeks of volunteer experience or academic enrichment. Admissions officers are punishing qualified kids who don’t seek to improve themselves over the summer.
- Assuming you’ve had a semester each of Geometry and Algebra I, there is nothing wrong with preparing for, and taking, a fall or winter SAT, or a fall, winter or spring ACT. With preparation, there is no inherent reason why that SAT/ACT sophomore year score would not be strong. Whether you want to spend a lot of time preparing is your decision. Colleges do not hold it against you for having multiple SAT test scores. The Sophomore year SAT can thus be a “practice test” or an attempt to nail a good score early.
- Avoid SAT testing in the spring. Use the May and June dates for Subject Tests instead. You can’t take SAT and Subject Tests in the same month (they are given on the same day). You can take ACT and Subject Tests in the same month (they are given on different Saturdays).
- Given that every college accepts multiple SAT score reports, the PSAT is of little use. Though it’s considered a practice test, the format differs from the SAT. Unless you are a real high flier with a shot at a National Merit scholarship, or a recruitable athlete, there is no reward for doing well on the PSAT. For most students, our advice is to prepare for and take the SAT test instead, and not get worked up about the PSAT. Some colleges prefer not to see students take SAT I more than three times. The best way to do a practice SAT without it counting is to come to an Ivy Bound Practice SAT session. In many locales, we offer these free of charge two and three weekends prior to the October, November, and December SATs. (Taking an SAT and cancelling has merit, but you do not get to see your scores.)
- Take SAT Subject Tests in which you are proficient in May or June of Sophomore year. If this is the last year of a language in which you have done very well but don’t care to continue with, then May/June might be the best time. We don’t like seeing kids take more than two SAT Subject Tests on a single test date (three is okay they are Math L1, Math L2 and one other). If you feel a need to take three truly separate subjects, prep well for each – don’t “wing it”.
During the summer following Sophomore Year:
- Enjoy yourself, but be businesslike in doing some academic enrichment and having a game plan for the fall. A job, an internship, or a summer enrichment program not only benefits college admissions, it’s usually rewarding in itself and often fun. If you still want to spend most of your summer hanging out/relaxing, make sure you get at least three solid weeks of volunteer experience or academic enrichment. Admissions officers are punishing qualified kids who don’t seek to improve themselves over the summer.
- READ! Too few kids read for pleasure and it hurts when it comes time to take the verbal sections of the SAT.
- If you don’t choose to prep for SAT/ACT as a sophomore, consider taking the Ivy Bound course over the summer in preparation for the August or October SAT or the September or October ACT. Testing by fall of Junior year still puts you ahead of the curve. Plus, studying early helps for life: some of the skills we work on, particularly in reading, are beneficial for the rest of high school.
- Say hello to the college guidance office by early fall. Find out the exact dates when SAT and SAT Subject Tests will be given and schedule yourself to prepare for and take both. Preparing for most Subject Tests is a matter of opening your textbook and enlisting a teacher or tutor to prep you for the few areas you did not cover well. Familiarize yourself with the format and consider taking a mini-course for an SAT Subject Test.
- The PSAT is of little use as a practice test. The format differs from the SAT test, and unless you are a real high flier or a recruitable athlete, there is no reward for doing well on the PSAT. The best way to do a practice SAT without it counting is to come to an Ivy Bound Practice SAT session. We offer these two and three weekends prior to the October, November, and December SATs.
- In enjoyable subjects, take challenging courses, especially if they carry extra GPA weight. Kids who have the chance to take “AP” courses and resort to the lower challenge course often regret it.
- Visiting college campuses is a matter of choice. Many students already know they are going to apply to a bunch of highly-ranked schools and will make visits only to the ones where they receive acceptances, in senior year. If you do want to make visits prior to then, make sure you note the college’s schedules. You don’t want to visit during finals time. September (or even late August for schools that start then) is a good time as the students are not under academic pressure that early.
- In the winter or spring, try to line up a good summer experience. A job, an internship, or a summer enrichment program is not only beneficial for college admissions, it’s usually rewarding in itself, and hopefully fun.
During the summer following Junior Year:
- A full time internship, volunteer work, job, or study program has become almost standard for college bound kids following Junior year. If you can afford a foreign study program, we highly recommend it. Foreign programs are among the most broadening experiences possible, particularly when the participants have daily interaction with non-American students and families. Kids who come back from even a one-week program often have a lot to talk about in college application essays.
- If you have yet to nail down a great score on the SAT test, sign up for a summer class. You don’t need to study for Math if your Math score is already a keeper. Concentrate on the Verbal by doing a partial course.
- Hopefully, you’re all done with the SAT test and can devote yourself again to school academics and school activities. Some kids even take on an after-school volunteer position one or two days a week. Whether you have a current work or volunteer activity or not, assess your past experiences and ask one or two of your supervisors to provide a recommendation. Do this early in the fall semester. Your goal is to get them back by mid-October so they can be part of an early admission packet.
- You have fall semester for a final crack or two at the SAT/ACT. If your SAT or ACT scores are already strong, concentrate on making senior fall the best set of grades so far. Colleges respect improving GPA trends (but not as much as overall strong GPA). If both GPA and ACT/SAT scores are not where you want them to be, at this point your guidance officer is the best person to help you structure your senior fall. Keep in mind that some college admissions offices are more GPA-oriented and some are more ACT/SAT-oriented. All other things being equal, recognize this: even perfect grades in one final semester can only do so much, since at least 4/5 of your record is already set in stone. By comparison, a good score on the SAT / ACT can greatly compensate for mediocre GPA.
- You have fall semester for a final crack or two at the SAT. If your SAT scores are already strong, concentrate on making fall of Senior Year the best set of grades yet. A good score on the SAT test can greatly compensate for mediocre GPA.
- If Junior year scores are not yet strong, but you are still aiming high, we typically suggest taking the two earliest exams available. For SAT these are August and October. (August testing is new as of 2017; this helps students avoid a November test date, which can be too late for ED). For ACT the first dates are September and October. Though too late for “Early Decision,” all colleges accept ACT and SAT scores from December.So long as you can devote a few summer weeks to Test Prep, August (or Sept for ACT) should be your target test. But you always plan on doing two tests following your test prep. Parents can frame the situation as –A) “We’re scheduled for September and October. If you do great on the September test, you don’t have to take the October; you’re done and we’ll just cancel October.”
B) “We’re scheduled for September and October. You have two opportunities to shine, so there’s no pressure on this upcoming test.”
- Students sometimes resent the fact that after working hard for 2 or 3 years they STILL have to prove themselves on a test like the SAT. At most competitive four-year colleges, the SAT/ACT is almost important as three years of GPA. The high schools that recognize this and that foster targeted test prep are doing well for their kids. Schools that eschew “teaching to the tests” can rightfully be scorned as doing a disservice for their college-bound kids.
- We don’t contend that it’s good that the SAT/ACT carry so much weight. But given the reality of school admissions, the fact that it does carry so much weight means we want to give every teenager possible the opportunity to maximize her or his score.
Ivy Bound offers three $1200 college scholarships to the three students who show the greatest percentage improvement from pre-Ivy Bound to post-Ivy Bound test.*
* Students may use the best ACT result. ACT composite scores will be translated onto the most recent ACT-to-SAT conversion table. For example an ACT 31 = SAT 1380, and ACT 27 = SAT 1220.
Award is for current high school students based on best pre-Ivy Bound SAT/ACT to best post-Ivy Bound SAT/ACT through the end of the calendar year. Where no SAT or ACT was taken prior to starting the Ivy Bound course, we use results from the prior PSAT, if taken as a sophomore or junior.
“Percentage Improvement” is the additional points divided by the points separating your best pre-Ivy Bound score from 2000. Thus a 1000 score that improved to a 1250 (250 points out of a possible 1000) will have a 25.00% improvement. A 1200 score that improved to 1400 (200 points out of a possible 800) will have a 25.00% improvement. An 850 score that improved to 1160 (310 points out of a possible 1150) will have a 26.96% improvement. A 1420 score that improved to 1570 (150 points out of a possible 580) will have a 25.86% improvement. In case of a four-or-more way tie, the $3600 will be split. Where two or more tests are taken after the start of the Ivy Bound course, the percentage improvement will be based on the BEST math combined with the BEST Verbal. For ACT it is the best composite single-day score (not a super-score). The Essay score is not included in our calculations.
This does not apply to students whose pre-Ivy Bound SATs were all prior to 9th Grade. Should these rules not cover all nuances of the awards, a discretionary decision will be made by Ivy Bound that is final.