College admissions officers review a lot of data when determining which applicants will be strolling onto their campuses in the fall. You're likely already doing your best to showcase your strengths with some of that material: Maintaining your high school GPA, doing prep work on your application essays and getting valuable work/volunteer experience. But while these things paint a pretty clear picture of who you are as a student (and as a person too!), many schools will also be looking at your standardized test scores.
Now, I tell students time and again that tests like the SAT and ACT are not indicators of your intelligence. Rather, these tests indicate solely how well you are able to take the test. That said, colleges continue to value these scores, which means you'll want to spend at least a little time ensuring they maintain — or boost! — the strength of the rest of your application.
In short, you should prepare for these tests. You should do this whether you're the valedictorian of your class, the editor of your school paper or have glowing recommendations lined up from your top-choice teachers. Any student who has walked this path before can confirm that these tests are unlike the ones you've been taking in high school. No matter how many straight A's you may have on your transcript, the ACT or SAT may have a few tricks you aren't quite anticipating. SAT or ACT prep can equip you with some surefire ways to help you achieve a score to be proud of even if the test proves trickier than you expect.
Just as there is no guarantee that a straight-A student will score well on the SAT or ACT, there is no promise that a student with lower grades will score poorly. In fact, these tests can be the perfect opportunity for such students to boost their college applications. Even a student who has struggled in high school classes can learn the strategies and skills needed to take the SAT or ACT with more confidence come test day.
So if you're unsure if your high school transcript will be enough to impress admissions officers, think of this as your shot at redemption. After all, even among otherwise average elements of a college application, an impressive ACT or SAT score might just snag you that open spot on the freshman class roster at your prospective college.
Whether you're at the top of your class or you're struggling, or anywhere in between, test prep is a good investment. Why? Out of all the elements that make up your application, your test scores are the easiest to change. The grades you've received up until this point are set in the stone that is your high school transcript. You aren't going to become captain of the football team or a debate champion overnight. And your essays will only be as good as you can write them.
But with just a few weeks you can substantially change your score on the SAT or ACT, and therefore the way colleges look at your applications. So, whether it's by taking a free practice test, enrolling in a course or using books like our Cracking the SAT and ACT Prep, you can work to get your score closer to where you want it to be before it's time to submit.
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