When it comes to researching colleges online, a word of caution. Much of what you find when you start typing words into Google is going to be junk, which isn’t exactly news to you. Instead of Googling “best colleges for future doctors” or “occupational therapy majors,” start with the best resources for information on colleges. These are the tools I use as a professional college planner for my first-step, basic research. Some are better than others for specific search functions, so plug in some criteria and test them out. Use the tools that you like best.
Whenever I turn to a website such as these, I always take the results with a grain of salt and use them only as a starting point. If you find that College X has biochemical engineering, go directly to their website and do more digging to confirm the initial results, and then make contact with someone at the school who can tell you more and answer some questions.
Get Better College Information By Going Beyond Online Research
After you’ve done your research online, including spending significant amounts of time on the college websites for the schools that interest you most, you need to make contact with the schools that interest you. Yes, this means picking up that 50-pound phone and calling someone you don’t know who is probably older than 30 and asking good questions. This is the first step in an ongoing dialogue between you, the prospective student and family, and the college.
Before you pick up the phone or fire off an email, consider these guidelines for effective college search dialogue.
Find the right person to ask. If you have questions about the college in general, ask admissions. If your questions are specifically about majors or programs, find a professor or administrative professional within the department, such as program coordinators. When applying to grad programs in the early 1990′s (read: largely pre-internet) I found myself communicating much more frequently and with greater success with administrative assistants than professors. They were easy to reach because they sit next to a phone, and they knew all the details about how to apply, deadlines, requirements, etc.
Don’t ask for answers that are readily available on the website. If what you’re looking for doesn’t jump out at you, ask another family member to search for it, or use the search box that is usually in the upper right-hand corner of each page. It’s a sign of laziness to ask, “How many students do you have at your college?” It also sends the message that you can’t find answers on your own. If you legitimately can’t find basic data, then by all means ask.
Keep your queries brief and professional. Whether you’re 17 or 47, a well-written email with a succinct introductory sentence and closing statement works best. A variation on the email template here always works well. Hello [salutation if available] My name is _____ and I’m a sophomore/junior at [high school] in [town and state]. I’m very interested in [name of college] and specifically in your [major or department]. I have three questions I’d like to ask:
How many of the students in your [academic program] enter the workforce immediately vs. going on to graduate school?
What sets [college]’s [major] apart?
What new classes or facilities could I expect to see if I enroll?
Thank you for your time and attention to these questions. Sincerely,
You may not get an immediate response, but you will get a response. If you don’t try someone else, or call to see if that person is traveling or on leave from the university.
4. Treat this as the first step in a larger conversation. My rule of thumb is to never ask more than three questions in a single email. Don’t deluge the person with so many questions that she can’t respond in a timely manner. When you receive a response, it’s likely to include a “please let me know if you have more questions”, and while you don’t want to take advantage of that person’s time, you should take her at her word. Thank her for her time and send a follow-up question if you have one.
Between diligent online and offline research, you’ll be well on your way to identifying some colleges that could be great fits for you. For help defining the University of You and exploring great college options based on your unique needs, goals and passions, email me about our College Search services or schedule a free consult here. This is my life and my passion to help students find their best college fit!
In 2020, more than ever before, your college essay matters. The college essay is 4th on the list of the things colleges look for in applicants, in order of importance. True, it comes after the rigor of your curriculum, your GPA and standardized test scores (if you’re submitting them). It ranks higher on the list than your extracurricular activities! It’s a great way for college admissions officers to get to know you. In the event that students are not submitting ACT or SAT scores, the essay is even more important. It conveys the type of person you are and what you’ll contribute to that school, if admitted.
We have an entire course devoted to college applications and essays. It’s called the College Applications & Essays Bootcamp, and it could help seniors still wrestling with the overwhelming task of writing killer essays and completing the Common App.
The college admissions office uses your college essay(s) to better understand who you truly are, what makes you tick, what your passions are and what you’d bring to their campus. They’re reviewing your essay in context with the rest of your college application, so tell them something they CAN’T learn from the other materials you’re submitting. Yes, you can write about an activity that’s already included on your list of activities, but make sure you say something new and deeper than what you’ve already told them throughout the rest of your college application.
Here are some college essay tips, if you want to do this thing right. There are 7 of them, plus a .5 bonus tip to make your essay truly one-of-a-kind.
7 College Essay Tips to Tell Your Story Well
Tip 1: Consider “optional” college essays to be required for you.
Assume “optional” = required. You’ll write essays for the Common App, for particular institutions and also for scholarships, both institutional and private. The Common App essays are more general, while the supplemental essays required by some colleges tend to be more specific, e.g. “Why Duke?” Any essay listed as optional should be considered required. You want to show you’re the type of person who’ll go above and beyond, not that you are simply willing to meet minimum requirements. Get used to it. That’s how most things go in life.
Tip 2: Don’t try to cram your entire life story into a 650-word college essay.
Pick your moment, and go deep rather than broad. 650 words is not a lot of space, essentially one full page, single-spaced. One of the biggest mistakes we see students make is trying to cover too much ground. Pick a moment, experience or situation that enables you to reveal who you are at your core. The moment doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or monumental. It can actually be something very simple. Some of the best essays we’ve seen take a moment that’s actually pretty ordinary and MAKE it something unique, something that says something about the author. One student wrote about building a bird house with her grandfather. Another wrote about noticing that the corn field near her house had been turned into suburbs, and it made her think differently about time passing.
Tip 3: Focus on the story you want to tell, not what you think they want to hear.
It’s going to be difficult to be anyone but you, and why would you want to be? The essay demonstrates your ability to write clearly and concisely on a selected topic and helps you distinguish yourself in your own voice. What do you want the readers of your application to know about you apart from courses, grades, and test scores? Choose the option that best helps you answer that question and write an essay of no more than 650 words, using the prompt to inspire and structure your response.
Tip 4: Pay attention to college essay word counts before you start.
Nothing’s more heartbreaking than drafting a 500-word college essay and then learning you’re only allowed 300 words. In most cases you are asked to respond to a “prompt” within a specific word limit (650 or less for Common App and usually 300-500 for others). Do not go beyond the stated limits, and avoid unusually brief essays. Remember: 650 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but don’t feel obligated to do so. (The application won’t accept a response shorter than 250 words.)
Tip 5: In your college essay, convey not just events, but also your outlook on them.
Getting to know you is as much about learning how you view the world and why, as it is what you’ve done. Give some thought to who you are, how you think, why you think the way you do. Start by making a list of your best qualities: persistent, funny, empathetic, creative, observant, others-focused, adventurous. Think about WHO YOU ARE. THEN consider a moment, experience or scene that enables you to SHOW ME, versus TELL ME, that this is who you are. Learning that you ran your first 10K last year is less important than learning how accomplishing this goal changed you, shaped you, what it taught you about yourself.
Tip 6: Remember that your college essay is an essay, not an expose.
Honesty is good. Brutal and unabashed honesty in the form of a true confession makes admissions officers squeamish, and with good reason. This is not the time to confess to anything illegal or immoral. Sharing serious challenges you’ve faced is great, but remember that you’re talking to people who’ve never met you, not your best friend. Above all, admissions officers are looking for a personal expression of who you are, what you believe and what makes you tick – in the form of a well-crafted and thoughtful essay. Be yourself and write from your own point of view, but don’t be different just to be different or to shock.
Tip 7: Give your college essay the time and attention it deserves.
Writing your college essay doesn’t have to consume you for a month straight, but don’t wing it, either. Assume that this will take time, thought and work, as well as rework. Think of any great high school paper you ever wrote. Was that done hastily and in one draft? Probably not, if it was done well. This college essay is of greater importance, so give it its due. Your college essays, if done well, enable you to get to know yourself better, as well as learning how to succinctly present yourself to a brand new audience. This is something you’ll have to do throughout your life, for internships, job interviews, even dating and friendships. Embrace the challenge, enjoy it and create space for yourself to do your best. And for the bonus point (or 1/2 point…)
BONUS COLLEGE ESSAY TIP
Challenge yourself to write an essay that couldn’t possibly have anyone else’s name at the top. Once you get a rough draft down, ask yourself, could this essay have been written by anyone else? Is it uniquely me? Does it convey my own unique outlook and perspective? If not, take another pass through it and inject more YOU. Make your college essay a unique expression of who you really are. That is the goal of the college essay(s), to get to know YOU. So be YOU.
“With so many schools being test optional for the classes of 2021 and 2022, can I just ignore the ACT?” This is a really common question we’ve received lately from high-school students and parents. Too many people are taking an all or nothing approach, thinking that either 1) nothing’s changed, or 2) everything’s changed, and the ACT is just going away. The real answer is an involved conversation that’s specific to your student, their scores and the schools they’re considering. To talk through your student’s unique situation, schedule a free consult anytime.
If you’re a junior or the parent of a junior, this flowchart makes a complex decision process a bit more simple. We walk through it in the video and in the blog post below. Download the PDF here.
Could a strong ACT score help the Class of 2022 for college admissions?
YES, even at test-optional schools, provided that your score falls within the school’s “middle 50% ACT range” and ideally toward the higher end of that range.
Dig deeper than just whether you HAVE to have an ACT score or not in order to apply. The more important question is, could a strong ACT score HELP YOU?
Think about a baseball player who spends extra time working on their swing or a basketball player who invests time stroking those threes. They’re controlling what they can control. They want a competitive edge to get up to varsity or increase their chances to play at the next level. The same is true with the ACT. It’s not what you HAVE to do. It’s what you CAN do to play at your best possible level. The goal when you’re a junior is to enhance and expand college options.
Putting in extra effort could benefit you, even if ACT scores are not REQUIRED for admission.
This is because test-optional doesn’t mean test BLIND. Test-optional schools don’t REQUIRE you to submit an ACT or SAT score as part of your college application, but they WILL consider it if you submit it. Wouldn’t it be great to have an ACT score in hand that you WANT to submit because it strengthens your application?
If you’re able to earn an ACT score that is within (and ideally at the higher end of) a school’s “mid-range ACT”, then that ACT score COULD help you gain acceptance to that school.
A rigorous high-school curriculum including challenging courses
Your ACT or SAT score
Your college essay
Your extra-curricular activities
For test-optional schools, if you skip #3, they don’t penalize you. They evaluate you as an applicant based on the other four things. If those four things are exceptionally strong, then you don’t need the ACT score to get in. If those other four elements combined are NOT better-than-average compared to that school’s admitted students, then a strong ACT score could STILL be an important card to play for college applications.
For juniors still shopping for schools, a stronger ACT score can expand options.
Most juniors don’t yet have their “college shopping cart” finalized. They’re still looking around. That’s never been more true than in 2020, when a global pandemic has made college campus visits challenging. At OnCampus College Planning, we like to shop around when it comes to colleges.
When I’m looking at colleges, I’m comparing my practice ACT exam score to the “mid-range ACT scores” for the schools I’m looking at to see how I stack up. To do this, go to collegedata.com and set up a free account. Look up the mid-range ACT scores for schools you’re considering. How does your score compare? Juniors, if you haven’t yet taken a full-length ACT practice exam to gauge how you’ll do on the real thing, sign up here to do so FREE at our office.
Let’s look at one example. The University of Wisconsin’s middle 50% ACT range is 27-32. That means half of the kids who applied and were accepted last year (whether or not they chose to be Badgers) came in between a 27 and a 32 on the ACT. One quarter of UW’s accepted students were below a 27, and one quarter were above a 32. That’s really high.
To discover the middle-50% ACT ranges at schools you’re considering, set up an account on collegedata.com, and look it up. Or email me, and we’ll help you figure it out.
If early on in your junior year, you take a practice ACT exam and don’t like what you see, you then have time to consider your options.
What are my options to gain a stronger ACT score for college applications?
The best option depends on each student and the schools they’re considering. Looking at an example of a student who wants to attend UW and is sitting with a 24 on the ACT, consider these options.
With a super strong GPA, you may be able to withhold your ACT scores and still be accepted. The UW’s average GPA for admitted students is 3.86. If you have a 4.0, a rigorous curriculum for your high-school courses, a great essay and outstanding extracurricular activities, then you have four strong cards in your hand to play, and you don’t need that 5th card: a strong ACT score.
If your GPA isn’t at or above the average GPA for admitted students, then can you move your ACT score up? We’re working with a ton of students who want to invest time preparing for the ACT in order to have another strong card in their hand to play for college admissions, even for schools where ACT scores are optional.
Depending on which schools you’re considering, it’s not just a matter of getting in. You’ll also want to consider whether stronger ACT scores could help you earn merit aid that saves you thousands on college tuition. If you’re a Wisconsin resident and looking at UW, this isn’t a big consideration. But if you’re looking at out-of-state schools or private schools, and they include ACT scores for merit aid consideration, that strong ACT score could help you save money on college tuition.
How can a strong ACT score help you save money on college?
There are not one, but actually two considerations for whether or not a stronger ACT score is worth the effort and investment for you. One is college admissions. The other is merit aid.
Merit aid scholarships have nothing to do with financial need. For out-of-state public universities as well as for private colleges and universities, you should be looking at not just admission requirements, but also merit aid criteria.
Depending on the schools you’re considering, even if you can earn admittance with (or without) an ACT or SAT score, you may want to strengthen your scores to save money on tuition. This is a school-by-school, student-by-student conversation, and we can talk that through with you during a free consult.
What’s next for juniors wondering about the ACT and college options?
Juniors, now’s the time to figure out what the middle 50% ACT ranges and average GPAs are at schools you’re considering. That way, you’ll know what you’re shooting for.
If you’ve not yet taken a practice ACT exam and want to do so for free, you can schedule that here.
If you’re not sure whether or not ACT Test Prep is a worthwhile investment for you, or you wonder what your ACT Test Prep options are, email me and let’s talk it through. I’m always happy to answer questions to help students and parents get clear and get confident about your college choices.
Thinking about playing a sport in college? High-school athletes everywhere are feeling anxious about their college athletics recruiting paths. We’re now six months into Covid, and it’s the beginning of another school year. The start of school usually brings the start of fall sports, and yet many athletes are dealing with cancelled or restricted sports schedules. You’re not alone in your confusion and anxiety over how to navigate college athletics recruiting in the age of Covid. Just yesterday, I received this text from a mom with a junior son.
Trying to figure out how to navigate this crappy junior year for “Jacob”…I know you are in the same boat. We haven’t thought about ACT prep, and “Jacob” is not really motivated about it…Additionally, trying to figure out how we even begin to create a list of schools for him to explore. Starting to look through a list of D2/3 schools with NCAA programs but have no idea how to tackle this. Can you guys help? Not convinced this year’s season will happen. He has been playing with an unknown AAU team the last few summers, but we are starting to explore some more competitive teams to try to get on, to help get him exposure.
5 Key Actions to Jump Start Your Recruiting Process in 2020
Action Step 1: Understand the NCAA Guidelines
Read the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete. This is the guide book for following the rules you’ll need to know and follow in order to be eligible to compete in college. This is especially important now, when things are changing rapidly. Know and understand the academic standards to be able to compete at each level.
Action Step 2: Create Your Athletic Recruiting Profile Online
Find AND TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF the recruiting engine that is used by your sport. If you’re not sure, your athletic coach can direct you. For swimming, it’s College Swimming. For volleyball, choose University Athlete, Captain U or SportsRecruits. For soccer, it’s RecruitChute or SportsRecruits. Online recruiting engines help college coaches to see and evaluate you, and it is based upon the sport that you are interested in. Especially now, with reduced or restricted sports seasons, college coaches are spending more time online to discover up-and-coming athletes. Make sure you can be found where they’re looking for talent!
Be sure to complete the entire profile. Some are paid; others offer free versions. Add video, your GPA and ACT/SAT info, and additional activities. Make sure to keep your profile up to date! If your sport has few or no traditional competitions right now, you may need to get creative about showing your skills with video. For example, one creative volleyball player we know showed off her vertical skills and strength with a video of her jumping onto counter tops from floor level and even jumping over family members while they lay down on the lawn. That’s making the best of a challenging situation!
Don’t let cancelled games and tournaments stop you from doing what you CAN to show coaches your gumption, grit and skills. Be resourceful. Be proactive. Take the initiative.
Action Step 3: Reach out to college coaches
Have you contacted college coaches at schools in which you have interest? College athletic recruiting is a two-way street, so your outreach is important, especially in the midst of Covid. Take initiative and reach out to coaches to establish a relationship and let them know you’re interested in their program. Permissible contact varies by Division and sport. In more usual times, camps and clinics have been a way for coaches to be in touch with players. In an era of Covid, you’ll need to be more proactive about reaching out via phone calls and emails to coaches.
This is probably the biggest area of change we have seen versus in the past! If you are interested in a school, let them know! Parents, this is your student athlete’s responsibility. College coaches want to hear from THEM, not from you! In fact, if college coaches hear directly from parents instead of student athletes, it can actually be a red flag for them. One of our junior athletes who’s in contact with several college coaches right now told us that one college coach told her that she is on their short list for consideration in large part because she’s been proactive and persistent about reaching out to them.
Action Step 4: Research colleges and universities to find your fit.
At OnCampus College Planning, we focus on helping you find both the right team AND the right school for you. You’ll need to research schools that are a good fit for you not only athletically, but also academically, socially, financially and geographically. Our College Search services help you do just that, starting with defining your unique Needs, Wants, Don’t Needs and Don’t Wants, and getting really clear about your top priorities for an ideal college experience. We have an entire process designed exclusively to help students unearth their best college options, including athletic, academic and other considerations. There are thousands of options out there, and we can help you find hidden gems and high-value colleges that will reward you for your athletic, academic and other abilities and achievements.
Action Step 5: Visit Colleges (Virtually, When You Can’t Visit In Person)
Visit schools where there is mutual interest, even if that means starting with virtual visits. Getting on campus in person is ideal, but this is not an ideal year. That doesn’t mean do nothing. It means get creative and proactive. Colleges are STILL passionate about helping you explore what they have to offer, and so they’ve stepped up their game, offering robust virtual tours, if they are not physically open. You can (and should) schedule a college campus visit sooner than later. Schedule “unofficial visits” at any time through the Office of Admissions for that school. We’ve also seen students make tremendous progress recently with in-person, “self-guided” tours, especially in cases where they’re going to be in the area anyway. If your family’s traveling, if you do have competitions that include travel, or if you’re simply checking out colleges within driving distance, it can be well worth your time. Follow up your online research and outreach to admissions personnel with actually getting boots on campus for a self-guided tour that gives you a feel for the school, its facilities and amenities.
Ideally, you could coordinate schedules, so that while you’re on campus, you could talk with a coach in the athletic area that you are interested in and with the office of admissions.
We have had many students go on their own tours of universities all summer long, even when admissions offices are closed. The point is, don’t play the waiting game while other student athletes are preparing to play college sports. Contact OnCampus College Planning for additional guidance on how best to visit your schools of interest as soon as possible. We can help answer your questions and point you in the right direction, based on which schools you’re considering.
College move-in days are happening all across the country, despite school at all levels looking different due to COVID this year than it has in the past.
Yesterday, I repeated the same three pieces of First Day advice to our son as he begins his first semester at the University of Cincinnati. It’s the same three mandates I’ve shared with students for years as they begin their first days of college. In reflecting on this advice during our 8-hour drive home, I realized two critical things:
These three keys are as relevant now in the midst of a pandemic than they’ve ever been. In fact, they are more important now than ever before.
These three keys are just as important for high school students as for college students. These three keys can help high school students start strong this school year, even though school looks different due to COVID. However, the way you apply them looks different this year than in the past.
Three Keys to A Strong Start in College and High School This Year
The three keys to a strong start for you this year, whether you’re a college student or high-school student are these:
Start something on Day One of College or High School
The long version of this mandate goes something like this. On day one of school, you’ll get something called a syllabus from your teachers. This outlines what you’ll cover throughout the semester, key assignments, due dates and more. Most if not all of what’s on that syllabus isn’t due today. Ignore that. START IT TODAY. Start SOMETHING today. A HUGE part of becoming a Student is taking responsibility for moving your own stuff forward. That will be more important for you this year than ever before. For most students, there’s not a bell moving you from room to room this year. So take initiative. Start something. Read your syllabus on day one (this is one key that surprisingly few students actually do.) Then commit to the plan to do the work. This means transferring the contents of the syllabus into whatever planning tool or calendar you use. Plan the work. Work the plan. It starts today.
Then, start the first assignment. Read the chapter. Read the rubric. Give some intentional thought to what the assignment is all about. Take the first step day one.
Start something on day one of the school year this year. Do not let your head hit the pillow on day one until you can say that you took the first step in at least ONE thing that you will need to complete this semester.
Join something on day one of the school year
Engaged students are invested students. Colleges host events to boost engagement among students in the first few weeks of the school year. They’re called Involvement Fairs, Engagement Fairs or something similar. Colleges will do the same thing this year, but quite possibly these engagement events will be virtual or look different than they have in the past. No matter. The goal is the same. Get students engaged. For most college students, the easiest way to track down your school’s upcoming engagement fair is to check your student email. If you don’t see it there, Google “[name of college] + student organizations”. There will likely be the details of the event listed right there on the Campus Life page. Worst case, there will be information for contacts you can reach out to in order to get information.
If you have not already, spend some time researching your school’s student organizations and activities online. Pick 2-3 opportunities that light your fire. Then track down how to reach out to them and get involved.
Not ready to sign on the dotted line? Okay, join something more informal, whether it’s a pickup basketball game happening at the rec center, a game of frisbee on the quad, a conversation in the hallway of your dorm where you start by introducing yourself. Or simply JOIN your roommate for lunch or dinner in the dining hall. Extend yourself to others. If you have your eyes peeled, you will see folks all over campus walking around doe-eyed, waiting to be invited to do something, anything.
Will this feel strange? Yup. Unnatural? Totally. Do it anyway. Will it always result in success? Nope. You will face rejection, poor fits, changing your mind, full rosters, lack of response by folks you reach out to, and more. Doesn’t matter. Keep doing it. By the 21st or 25th time you do it, you will start to develop a habit of joining, engaging, reaching out, extending yourself. You are the new kid. This is what new kids have to do in strange situations to form community. More importantly, this is what ADULTS do to get involved. You are now a young adult. It is on you to get involved. Join something today.
For high school students whose activities have been severely impacted or cancelled by COVID, reaching out may be more important for you than ever before, and probably requires more initiative, guts and gumption on your part than ever before. The opportunities are still there if you look for them. Non-profit organizations need volunteers. Your nearby neighbors need help. Your church needs assistance. Your peer group needs community now more than ever, and so do you.
If you’re really in doubt about what’s available to join that is of interest to you, ask someone. Ask your guidance counselor. Ask a school administrator. Ask your parent. Ask your neighbor. Ask your coach. Google local organizations whose views you support, and ask them how you can help. Look up. Look out. Join something.
Say something on day one of the school year
The long version of this mandate sounds like this. College students, your professors hold office hours for a reason. They expect you to reach out to them when you need help. Go one step further. Reach out before you need help. Reach out day one of college.
Even though classes will be held largely online, many or most college professors are on campus and available for student appointments. On day one, schedule one with each of your professors. Worst case, this takes place via Zoom.
The purpose of the visit is to see and be seen. Having read your syllabus (see step 1), you now know what will be expected of you in this class. Let the professor know what you’re looking forward to about the class and how it fits into your overall goals. Ask them how they prefer to be contacted if and when you have questions. Ask them what steps they’ve seen students take who are committed to being successful in this class. Ask them how you can help support them as a student. Ask them what they love about the campus and the school. Chances are, you’ll learn a lot of valuable insights during this conversation. No doubt, you’ll make a positive first impression on your professor. Most importantly, you’ve established a connection that will be easier to continue when and if you need help during the semester than if you waited until you’re in need to reach out to them.
Say something also looks like this: Participate in class discussions starting day one. No one’s dreading online classes more than teachers. It’s hard enough to stare out into blank stares when the eyes are right there in the room. It’s even more daunting for teachers and professors to try to manage a one-way monologue via Zoom when no one participates. Be the student who makes the job of facilitating a discussion EASIER for your professor. Come prepared to class. Engage. Ask questions. Respond. Raise your hand. Say something.
High-school students, this goes for you, too. If you cannot connect in person with your teachers, make sure you send EACH OF THEM an email on day one or at LEAST during the first week of class to introduce yourself, let them know you’re looking forward to the class, offer your help and build a relationship. You have no idea how grateful your teacher will be that you took the initiative to reach out to them.
Start something. Join something. Say something. These are the three keys to a strong start to this school year, and every year. Good luck!
On May 7, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved a new “test optional” policy for 12 of the 13 UW System campuses. We did a FB Live video regarding this announcement on May 8. You can view it here. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the state’s flagship university, will still require ACT or SAT scores as part of college applications. For all other UW System schools, the class of 2021 and 2022 will not be required to submit an ACT or SAT score as part of the freshman application. Here are answers to common questions you may have about this announcement.
Do I still have to take the ACT with all other juniors next March?
Yes. As of now, the state-mandated ACT exam will be administered to all Wisconsin public high school juniors on March 9th, 2021 and is required.
Should I still prepare to do my best on the ACT or SAT? What importance does it have?
Yes. Standardized test scores (ACT or SAT) remain one of the top three criteria for the majority of colleges in the United States. For the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the majority of colleges beyond the UW System, a strong score is an essential piece of your application. Most sophomores and juniors do not yet know the complete list of colleges to which they’ll apply. Ensure you’re fully prepared and have the greatest number of options available to you when it’s time to complete college applications by earning your strongest possible ACT or SAT scores. Proven ACT Test Prep programs can help, or you can prep on your own.
What does “test optional” really mean?
Test optional simply means that you have the option of submitting an ACT/SAT score. You CAN submit ACT or SAT scores. It is not required, and by not submitting a score, you won’t decrease your chances of admission.
What if I have a good ACT score? Will they just ignore it?
Not at all. You’ll still be rewarded for a strong ACT/SAT score if you submit it as part of your application. Test optional does not mean “test blind”.
Should I still submit my ACT or SAT score to a test optional school?
The answer is sometimes. It depends. For insight specific to your situation, schedule a free consult anytime. In general, for “test optional” schools, you should submit your score if it will improve your chances for admission and/or merit aid. Think of your college application as a portfolio that tells the story of you. If your GPA is on the low end of the school’s average GPA for admitted students, an ACT or SAT score that falls within the school’s “middle 50% range” for admitted students could help. You can find the “middle 50% ACT range” on a college’s website or use a site such as collegedata.com to find this. Your score should fall within this range, and ideally toward the higher end of that range. Other factors such as cumulative GPA and extracurriculars can impact the score you may need for your best chance of acceptance.
What about the impact of an ACT or SAT score on scholarships and merit aid?
Many colleges and universities reward strong academic performance with merit aid scholarships. Of the factors used to determine awards, the two most common are your cumulative GPA and ACT/SAT score. In many cases, a score beyond what you “need to get in” can dramatically increase your scholarship, and that extra effort and even expense to prep can make a big difference in which schools are affordable. Since merit aid policies vary greatly, you may wish to contact the admissions or financial aid office of any test optional schools on your list to know if ACT/SAT will or will not be used for awarding merit scholarships.
I still have questions about ACT scores, SAT scores and college admissions. How can I get answers?
We’re always here to help. Email Tom Kleese with questions, call Tom directly at 608-553-3445 or schedule a free consult. Freshman, sophomore or junior year is a great time to come in, get your key college questions answered and develop a plan for achieving your college goals.