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Piedmont Post (CA)

Five Tips for Getting Into College


When my son was born a couple of years ago, I immediately bought him his first SAT study guide.

Ok, I’m kidding, but as the director of a local tutoring company, I often talk to parents who worry that they have not started early enough in preparing their children for college admissions tests.

When should you start planning? The only wrong answer is “never.”

Parents of high school freshman or sophomores should begin to familiarize themselves with the tests and a general timeline for taking them. Junior and senior families should be further down the path—with a more specific plan in place.

Here are some helpful tips:

Start now. The fall, especially if your child is a junior, is a good time to put a plan in place for admissions testing. Minimally, this means that you are aware of all the major test dates and milestones for your child for the next two years. Your child’s counselor and internet resources, like the College Board website, can help guide your planning.

Use the PSAT. Most juniors will take the PSAT this fall and the results are helpful in preparation for the SAT. If your child scored poorly in some areas, try to understand why. Test anxiety and lack of knowledge about test taking strategy are common culprits. The good news is that there is time for improvement before the first SAT.

Prepare your way. SAT preparation is important because the test scores are so important to the college admissions process. But choose the prep method that works best for your child. For some students, that means working one-on-one with a tutor. For others, self-study with an SAT prep book may be all that’s required for success.

SAT vs. ACT. Colleges will accept either test, making it necessary to learn the differences. The SAT is more strategy-based, while the ACT is more content-based. Many students take both, and if that’s your plan, then build in extra time for sufficient preparation for each test.

Keep perspective. Families shouldn’t abandon hope over a lower than expected score. With proper planning, there are opportunities to take the SAT and ACT multiple times.

The path to college is long and complicated. It’s great to start planning early, unless that means impeding on a toddler’s naptime. Ultimately, there’s no better way of preparing than to know what’s ahead.

Jeff Calareso is the Bay Area Director of StudyPoint, a private, in-home tutoring company. For information, see, or call 510-550-1168.

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