Why the ACT still matters: Facts and FAQ’s

Why the ACT still matters: Facts and FAQ’s

I don’t want to waste your time, so let me state some facts, answer a few common questions, and let you – the parent – make the right decision for your family. 

 

  • About 97% of four-year colleges in the United States have a test optional admissions policy. 
  • “Test optional” means you choose whether or not to submit an ACT or SAT score. 
  • If you choose not to submit it, it won’t hurt your chances – but submitting a strong score can help.
  • Here are the three main reasons why students prep for the ACT: 
    1. Higher scores mean better chances of admission;
    2. A strong score gives you an edge at highly selective colleges and in competitive “direct admit” programs such as business and engineering; 
    3. Points pay you back. Many colleges continue to award merit scholarships based on GPA and ACT/SAT. 

Q: How do I know if I should or should not submit my score? 

  • Don’t automatically share your scores by listing colleges when you register for the ACT. Colleges only see what you send them, and that can and should be done only after you’re certain you are done testing. Summer before senior year is early enough. 
  • Check the undergraduate admissions page or call to verify each college’s policy, and to see whether any of your colleges allow “super scores”, i.e. a combination of your highest section scores from any test dates. Most do not. 
  • Submit scores in the top half of the middle 50% ACT range. EX: If the middle 50% range is 28 to 32, submit a 30 or higher because the range represents the 25th to 75th percentiles of admitted students. In this case, a 28 means you’re below 75% of accepted students. That does not help your application. 

Q: My student has never been a good test taker. Is it even possible to raise the score? 

Yes, but like everything else she/he/they have ever done, it will take practice and energy. Most students we meet don’t think of themselves as good test takers, but nearly 100% improve their score and the average gain is 4 points. (BTW, that young man hitting the books is Jackson. He went up 8 points and his sister boosted her score by 5.) You can get better at anything if you practice, put forth your best effort and have solid direction. 

Q: What’s the best way to prep? 

The best approach is the one that meets your student’s goals, your budget, and gets buy-in from your student. That might mean a book and some self-study, an online course, or working one-on-one with a coach. You know your student best. 

Q: If my student is taking the state-mandated ACT exam on March 8th, when is the best time to begin preparing? 

You can’t cram for the ACT. A disciplined, self-starter can see good results starting 30 days prior and dedicating 3-5 hours per week. Our students start in late December or early January and meet with their coach for six to ten one-on-one coaching sessions over a 60 day period, completing an additional 3-4 hours of targeted assignments between sessions.

We’re offering a free full-length practice ACT on Tuesday, December 28th from 2:00-5:30 p.m. Scores will be emailed within 24 hours or you can schedule a free consult to sit down and review the test and discuss options. Schedule a Free Practice Exam now and use the same link for a Free Consult. 

Read more about how we help students reach their highest scores. 

 

 

 

 

 

Prospective College Student Athletes: What is the difference between Head Count and Equivalency Sports when it comes to NCAA athletic aid?

Prospective College Student Athletes: What is the difference between Head Count and Equivalency Sports when it comes to NCAA athletic aid?

by Stephanie Barth, Student Athlete Coach at OnCampus, former college athlete and college coach, and parent of three Division 1 athletes

Did you know that there are only a few sports and divisions where athletes are offered full ride scholarships? 

In fact, less than 1% of incoming freshmen earn a full ride. Full rides aren’t common unless you are signing with a Division I “Head Count” sport. A Head Count Sport is a sport that generates money for the athletic department. There is a set number of athletic scholarships available for each team in a Head Count sport.  

NCAA Division I Head Count Sports include Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Football, Women’s Tennis, Women’s Volleyball and Women’s Gymnastics.

Then there are “Equivalency Sports” where you can earn a partial scholarship.  All of the other NCAA I and II sports, NAIA and NJCAA are included with the exception of NCAA Division III.  These sports can give out partial or full scholarships.  Coaches often divide up the scholarships across their roster. Division III, on the other hand, may only offer academic scholarships to its prospective student athletes.

How can I leverage my grades and ACT to help pay for college?  

With the equivalency sports, athletes can combine multiple scholarships at an institution along with financial aid which could equal a full-ride.  Coaches can divide the money equally among their athletes, give more to veteran players, or reward more to their top performers.

A partial ride can be turned into a full ride by combining scholarships and financial aid to cover the cost of attendance.  For example, if you meet standards of a 3.7 GPA and an ACT of a 25 or higher, you may qualify for certain academic scholarships at that institution.  In some ways, this can be beneficial for the athlete because if they get injured or decide not to play they can still keep these scholarships.  Your offer from an institution may be a combination of athletic and academic aid in order to offset the cost of attending.  An important question for student athletes to ask in these sports is can my scholarship go up if I am performing well.  Some college coaches may choose to offer more and some may not.  This is something to know up front when you are weighing your decisions.  

The biggest thing you can do is to go in with a sound game plan!

Research all of the financial aid options at your prospective institutions.  Ask questions about how you can earn more scholarship money both upfront and while you are a student athlete.  

Student Athletes: Contact our resident Student Athlete Coach at stephanie@oncampuscollegeplanning.com if you have more questions about how to leverage your ACT and your high school grades to earn more financial aid and learn how to maximize your chances in the recruiting process with our student athlete coaching services

prospective-student-athlete-college-search-recruiting-sports-scholarship-ball-admissions-counseling-coach-team

 

Prospective College Student Athletes: What is the difference between Head Count and Equivalency Sports when it comes to NCAA athletic aid?

Get the Ball Rolling on the Student Athlete Recruitment Process

Most athletes think the athletic recruiting process is just like the movies: I show up at a tournament or national ID camp, a college coach discovers me out of the hundreds of kids that are there, the coach offers me a full ride scholarship, I go to the Division 1 college of my dreams, etc. 

The reality is that most college athletes learn how to actively promote themselves along the way. Most college athletes do not attend Div. 1 universities, and instead attend Div. 2, 3, NAIA, or Junior Colleges. Successful college athletes often start the process early and take responsibility for their own athletic recruiting. They gather as much information as they can and put in the work to promote themselves. They set both athletic and academic goals and reach out to those colleges and coaches that are the best fit. 

How do Prospective Student Athletes get recruited for their sport?

Your recruiting journey will likely be your own, even as compared to someone on your own team. Prospective student athletes get recruited in a multitude of ways, but there are two primary avenues that high school athletes can utilize to take charge of their recruiting process and present themselves in the best possible light:

Make contact with college coaches

This includes email, phone calls, filling out online questionnaires and other written communication. Many college coaches don’t even begin recruiting you until you fill out their questionnaire, send an email, or make a phone call, and we happen to have a College Coach Outreach Guide filled with useful tips on how to carry yourself in these exchanges! Make sure you’re thinking about the level you would like to participate at athletically, and be realistic, for good or for bad. Remember that at the end of the day, it’s up to college coaches to decide what level you are at.  

There are many options that student athletes and parents may not even be considering, which includes NCAA Div. 1, Div. 2, Div. 3, NAIA and Junior College. Once you’ve accurately determined what level you’re at, you can start exploring your options, which aren’t quite as limited as you may think. prospective-student-athlete-college-search-recruiting-sports-scholarship-ball-admissions-counseling-coach-team2

You’re probably very familiar with the NCAA, but you might not know that the NAIA is made up of smaller colleges and universities that function much like Div. 2, often with fewer restrictions, and these schools offer athletic scholarships. Similarly, Junior Colleges (NJCAA) are 2 year institutions that have lower tuition rates and can provide students an opportunity to improve their grades and then transfer to a NCAA or NAIA school. Explore all of your options and don’t count anything out. Current media drama aside, Aaron Rodgers started at Butte Community College after only being offered a walk-on spot by Illinois, then transferred to Cal, and now he’s doing pretty well for himself. 

Make campus visits 

Visit colleges when you are traveling, contact those college coaches and let them know you will be on campus. College coaches want to hear from you and they want to know you are interested in their program. Take responsibility for your athletic recruiting process early and go explore college campuses! 

Once you meet the coaches, they will take a deep dive and look at the athletic, academic and character of the student athletes they are recruiting. They will talk to club and high school coaches. Then they will extend offers and get commitments from prospective student athletes based upon the needs of their programs, and these offers can vary from a full ride to a partial scholarship to a walk-on offer. They also can be combined with academic merit aid in some sports at some of the levels.  

To make this process easier, we’ve developed a handy list of 10 steps that you can take to ensure that you make the most of your campus visits!

prospective-student-athlete-college-search-recruiting-sports-scholarship-ball-admissions-counseling-coach-teamRemember that you’re a student athlete – you’ll need to perform both athletically and academically to succeed, and the goal here is not only to play sports in college but to set yourself up for success later on with a strong education. Does your school of choice have the major and academic programs you’re looking for/does it have the academic rigor that fits your abilities? Don’t just check the box here. Fully explore the major and compare it to the same major at different colleges. What are the requirements to get into the nursing school or business school? What is the job placement rate from this college or university? Are their graduates getting into the graduate schools that I would someday like to attend? While your experience as a student athlete will inevitably differ from regular students, you’ll still be a college student capable of reaping all the benefits of post-secondary education. You should treat college the same way that everybody else treats it: as a stepping stone toward a satisfying career.

Important note: Know the high school courses and GPA you will need to participate by checking the NCAA Eligibility Center. The NCAA is not requiring standardized test scores this year, but know that many of the NCAA universities will require you to have them. Understand what you need to accomplish in high school academically to be able to participate in the NCAA.

Everyone’s recruiting journey will look different, but with perseverance and hustle you can make your goal of becoming a student athlete a reality. Let college coaches know you are interested in their university, because otherwise the ball will remain forever in your court. Stay motivated and persistent! 

As always, you can reach out to Stephanie Barth, our resident Student Athlete Coach, at stephanie@oncampuscollegeplanning.com for further student athlete guidance!

Pivoting From Pandemic to Purdue

Pivoting From Pandemic to Purdue

2020 was a tumultuous year that not even the most clairvoyant of planners could’ve expected. And even though this goes without saying (and you’re probably tired of hearing the phrase ‘in these unprecedented times’), the pandemic had wide-reaching and unpredictable effects, and the college admissions process was not immune to these effects. Even the best and brightest of students had to navigate a confusing mess of ACT cancellations, rapidly-changing university policies and uncertainty about what the future of post-secondary education would look like. Despite this uncertainty, our students refused to give up or be beaten down by a global pandemic.

College Planning Pandemic Pivot 2One such student is Kyle Bascom, a soon-to-be Purdue Boilermaker who kicked the pandemic’s proverbial butt and fought hard to regain control over his college destiny. Kyle is living proof that perseverance is key in dealing with what is always a difficult college admissions process, and we were lucky enough to sit down with Kyle on Tuesday to learn more about his resilience through an already difficult endeavor made even more difficult by an unexpected crisis. Here are our key takeaways from that conversation. The full video interview is available for free here! 

It was really, really stressful for EVERYBODY.

Every single one of us has been tasked with blindly navigating an unplanned crisis since early last year, and although some of us have felt the effects of the pandemic more than others, the truth of the matter is that everybody had to pivot. Many of us feel like the rug has been pulled out from under us and we’re stressed, exhausted and confused. It’s okay! You’re not alone in this, so just take a step back and a deep breath and just do the next right thing. Yes, Kyle came out on top when the dust had settled, but in his own words the process was ‘very, very stressful.’ ‘Nuff said…

“Have fun and enjoy it while you can!”

Kyle dealt with a tremendous amount of uncertainty and upheaval throughout this process, but he kept his cool throughout and just kept getting up whenever he was knocked down. His advice to current high school students: “You just gotta keep livin’ man…L-I-V-I-N.” Okay, maybe that’s a Matthew McConaughey quote, but it’s essentially what he was saying. Never forget that this is about outlining the next season of your child’s life, and if you follow Mr. McConaughey’s advice, it can actually be FUN. Although this past year was particularly capricious and stressful, lots of people still managed to find the silver lining, and it’s all about seeing this process for what it is. You don’t have to torture yourself to be successful in this process, and if possible it should be looked at as an exciting time full of endless possibilities and opportunities. The world is your oyster!

Hindsight is 20/20…especially in 2020.

Here at OnCampus, we’re in the business of ‘removing unknowns’. This process is made significantly easier when you’ve already sat down as a family to discuss your child’s college trajectory and figure out what steps need to be taken to find, be accepted to and afford the University of You. Nothing puts a bigger smile on our faces than seeing students and families that have decided to seize the day and take on an active role in the college search process. Kyle and his family are living proof that staying ‘active’ throughout this process does pay off, and they actually drove as far as Sioux City, Iowa, just so Kyle could take the ACT! In our experience, it’s hard to get beaten down by the system when you keep getting up every time. Although we’ve all lost a considerable amount of control in our respective spheres of influence, one of the ways to regain some control and plan ahead is to schedule a free consult! The best way to stay active is to actually be proactive, and the best problem-solving is always done before the problem arises. It’s always better to put in the blood and sweat now to avoid tears later on down the line! Schedule your free consult with Tom here, we’d be more than happy to address any questions or concerns you may have.

Hilary is an all-star!

While she is the mother to our children and I’m contractually obligated to praise her, Hilary really does serve an invaluable role within our system. Throughout our conversation, Kyle couldn’t seem to help himself from bringing the focus back to her and how helpful the essay work they did together was. It was clear that she’d really made a positive impact on his college process. Here’s Kyle on what it was like to work on essays with Hilary: “I worked with Hilary

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on my essays and that was so helpful. I was so stressed about my essays. My big thing is once I get a couple sentences on paper I’m fine. I just can’t get that first sentence down and the fact that she was able to help me do it so quickly was extremely helpful and then giving me the layout for the UW essay as well was also very helpful. Once I had that layout I wrote it very easily and I feel like I did pretty well on my essays.” This from a hardlined logical-mathematical type who excels in STEM but just needed a little guidance when it came to more abstract, nebulous fields like writing…and obviously, he crushed it.

Structure is key.

Finding, gaining admission to and affording the right college for you can be a very overwhelming and hectic process, but establishing structure (a timeline, goals, action plans for achieving those goals, etc.) is paramount. When Kyle was asked what he believed the primary benefit to partnering with OnCampus was he explained that, “For me, it’s kind of about taking a load of stress off because I know that I have a date where I’m going to get it done. I don’t have to do it on some Saturday where I wake up and watch YouTube for three hours and then I don’t want to do it. I have a date where I know I’m going to get it done so it just takes that stress off because I’m not waking up every weekend wondering whether or not I have to write an essay.” Most children, and frankly plenty of adults, aren’t great at getting ahead of big projects and breaking them into smaller, more manageable/understandable chunks. Structure is one of the most effective ways to avoid the pitfalls of procrastination and one of the benefits we’re most proud to be able to provide our students.

Hey Kyle, it was a privilege and honor to work with you and Purdue is lucky to have you!

4 keys to a more productive, less stressful college search process

4 keys to a more productive, less stressful college search process

The college search process can be fun and exciting. It can teach you a lot about yourself and what’s important to you. But for many high-school students, the college search process feels scary and intimidating.

I love helping high-school students discover great college options. I love helping a student to discover a school they never knew existed that turns out to be a potentially great fit for them.

College Search Process Get StartedIn more than ten years as a college planner, I’ve helped thousands of high-school students and families find their best-fit college options and earn merit aid that makes college more affordable.

Here are 4 keys to making your college search process more productive, less stressful and more fun.

Use your college search process to expand college options and delay making college decisions.

The biggest college search process mistake I see students and families make is waiting too long to start their college search and then rushing to make college decisions. That’s a bad combination, but it happens all the time.

Delay decisions for as long as you can. Most students don’t need to finalize their college choice until late in the spring of their senior year. However, start exploring college options now. When you start your college search process as a freshman, sophomore or early junior year, you build your college knowledge base over time. Students often freeze up and have trouble gaining momentum on their college search process. They think, “I have no idea which college is right for me, and I don’t even know what I want to major in.”

Well, of course not! You haven’t done your homework yet. Take the pressure off. This isn’t about making decisions. It’s about expanding options. Focus less on finding the perfect college and more on finding colleges to which you want to apply. This makes it easier to get started on your college search process and build momentum.

College Search Process OnlineStart your college search process online in just five minutes.

You can start your college search now from wherever you are. Visiting one college website for five minutes is a powerful way to build momentum. Clicking on that first college website takes a dose of courage. Remember, you’re not going to break anything or commit to anything or make a final decision.

Visiting one college website, any college website, is the best place to start because it’s easy and you can do it right now from wherever you are. Type in the name of a college — any college — and spend five minutes looking around. Five minutes is an eternity on the Internet. If you don’t know which college to choose, type in “B-e-m-i-d-j-i-S-t-a-t-e” and check out my alma mater. I’ll give five bucks to the first person who emails or texts me and tells me something about BSU.

By the way, this was the first step to finding college options pre-Covid, and it’s still the first step.

College Search Process Stress FreeMake sure your college search process includes schools that weren’t already on your short list.

Another common misstep I see in the college search process is that students think they need to come up with a list of schools first and then go research them. This is backwards. It often leads to overlooking college options that could be a great fit for you, simply because you aren’t already familiar with them.

Here’s something I love to hear from the students we work with: “I had no idea that College XYZ even existed, but I’m so glad I found it, because it would be a great college fit for me.”

There are literally thousands of college options in the US alone, which I realize may be daunting. Don’t worry. I’m not asking you to look into ALL of them or even MOST of them. The point is, with so many options and since college is an investment of six figures and ffour years of your life, why wouldn’t you expand your college search process beyond what’s already familiar to you? Imagine the fun you can have imagining different possibilities while making your final college decision more complete and well-informed!

There are many ways to find great college options you’ve never heard of. Here are a few:

  • Talk to people you know, like older friends, cousins, your parents, aunts, uncles, or their friends. Ask them where they went to school and why, what they liked about it and what they studied. You might find a gold nugget or two that are worth exploring.
  • Use Google to search things like, “best colleges for nursing” or “colleges near mountains” or “best colleges for business majors”
  • Visit free college resource websites, like College Data and start poking around
  • Engage the help of a college planning expert. We specialize in helping students unearth great college options. Schedule a free consult to learn more about our college search process.

College Search Process College Planning ExpertsVisit colleges early and often during your college search process.

The campus visit is the most powerful tool in your college search, even as the availability of onsite campus visits has decreased. This is where we need to push harder to not let Covid derail our plans.

One of the biggest hurdles families face right now is the relative lack of in-person campus visits. “I really need to see the campus to know if it’s right.” No, you don’t, at least not initially. You can get 83% of what you think you need from the myriad virtual visit options campuses now offer:

  • Virtual tours in real-time where you can ask questions.
  • Info sessions hosted by current students in your potential major.
  • Live chat features staffed by salaried admissions officers, not bots.
  • Phone calls and email exchanges with admissions reps, faculty and students.

Virtual college visits are incredibly helpful. Learn how to do them well in this video tutorial which only takes 20 minutes to watch. When you want to learn more and become a campus visit pro like me, download my Campus Visit How-To-Handbook.

Engage the help of a professional college planner.

I hope these four keys to your college search process help you get started and gain momentum, but you don’t have to go it alone. Every year, we help hundreds of high-school students and families navigate an easy, low-stress path to the college options that are best for them. To learn more, schedule a free consult online today.