Perfect Score: Expert Advice for SAT and ACT

Keep track of important deadlines, changes to the SAT and ACT, and college test requirements as well as expert advice for achieving your best possible score on these tests. Navigating the SAT and ACT test preparation process does not need to be a daunting or stressful task. Let Coach Cristin be your guide.

The GPA and ACT Score That Doubles Chances of Scholarships

Spoiler Alert: I am going to give it away in this introduction. GPA=3.5 (unweighted, make sure to note that) and 30+ on ACT. Very proud of Teen Vogue for this article, which includes more details on how students can receive merit aid scholarships (versus student loans).

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Happy New Year! 30% Off Kranse Online SAT Program

Happy New Year! Take advantage of Kranse Institute's generous discount for TestPrepCoach visitors. The company offers a great online SAT program (the highest score improvement in the industry), and they kindly extended a 30% discount on the program for TestPrepCoach! After you visit the website, just type in COACH30 in the coupon code portion.

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The Little Nudge Can Make a BigDifference To Student Grades

Cool article that takes lessons learned from behavioral economics. The study found that when students receive a supportive text message from a family member or friend during exams, they perform better. These little nudges might make the difference between calling it a night and taking just a little more time to memorize those math formulas.

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Some Students Might Benefit Financially By Attending Vocational School

Not every student needs to attend a four-year college. Many students (and parents) never look into vocational training programs, which often have high pay upon graduation and guaranteed job placement. Students who are "builders' and enjoy working with their hands, should check out these options.

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The Huge Financial Rewards for SAT Prep

So many students and parents focus on the cost of high-quality test prep programs and not on the potential long term savings of investing in one. Trust me. The best financial investment that many students and parents make is a test prep program that raises scores. It can save you thousands in the long run, no joke! Read on to find out how.

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Self-Reported Scores: A Real Possibility?

Columbia University just announced that students can "self-report" test scores, which will then be verified upon admission. As a result, students only pay for test reports if admitted, which when you are applying to 10+ colleges, it can get expensive. Columbia will be a "test-run", but if it works, other selective colleges might do the same.

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Tips for Helping with Test Anxiety and the SAT

Here are some simple things that every student can do to make the SAT a lot less stressful!

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So You Want to Go To Harvard...

So are curious about what it takes to get into Harvard? If so, take a look and see if you have what it takes to be admitted. And if not, don't worry, there are 3000+ colleges out there, and one of them is perfect for you!

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Going for Gold: Scholarships Worth $25,000+

Great list of the most generous college scholarships (and some of the most competitive).

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When Should I Start Prepping for the SAT?

The short answer: no later than fall of junior year. But the long answer is it really depends on your individual situation: athlete, honors/AP student, nervous test taker, etc...lots of good tips here.

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Talk To Kids About Cost of College

If you have been on my website, you will know that I have several pages on deducting the cost of college and post lots of articles on the topic. Why? Because many parents are NOT doing their homework and putting themselves in financial jeopardy by promising too much.

Don't wait until the admissions letter come flying in. The earlier you start the "Who's Going To Pay For College" conversation, the better. The goal of college is to get a good education, not to go broke or burden parents and students with too much debt. There are plenty of affordable options if parents and students do the footwork.

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The College Search: Five Things Parents Must Know

Erika Meltzer, a highly regarded SAT and ACT tutor, published a nice piece, written by a parent, about what she learned along the way about the college applications process. The article takes and sane and balanced approach with lots of helpful tips to keep things in perspective.

Spoiler Alert: Her son was NOT an "A" super-student yet received a nice merit-based scholarship at a good school with a strong program in his major.

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Oops! I Forgot to Register for the SAT

Yes, it happens. Students (and parents) get so involved in the test prep process, school activities, vacations, etc... that they forget to register for the test! Or sometimes a student decides at the last minute to try it once more (hello seniors!). This article gives great advice on late registration, test refunds, and more!

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How international Students Can Best Prepare for the SAT

Here is a blog post that I wrote that gives international students some tips for preparing for the SAT (or ACT)...one takeaway: take advantage of online SAT and ACT test prep...the new programs are really good.

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Why College Still Require the SAT

Here is a blog post I wrote that gives insight into why colleges still use standardized tests in college admissions...the answer may surprise you.

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How Social Media Can Sabotage a Great College Application

Here is another blog post I wrote about social media and college admissions...every parent and student needs to read this, too many students are not aware of the impact of poor social media management can damage a really good application.

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SAT Test Dates: Updated for 2017-2018

SAT Test Dates and Registration Tips: Updated 2017-2018

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5 Ways to Save Thousands of Dollars in College Tuition

Here is a blog post that I wrote with some really BIG cost savers...whenever I work with families I always inform them about these budget-friendly college tuition breaks.

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College Board Offers Summer SAT

For the first time in over 40 years, the SAT will begin to offer an late August test date. Read more...

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Published Study: Higher SAT Scores Lower Student Debt

Here is a blog post that I wrote for the Kranse Institute on the correlation between high SAT scores and lower student debt. It really shows how a modest investment in SAT prep can pay off in thousands of dollars in potential increased post-graduation salaries. When I talk to parents and students, I always try to give them this big picture perspective.

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Teens Are Just As Sedentary as 60 Years Olds

Wow! What a headline. As someone who loves to be healthy and active, it makes me sad to think of all the teens out there who are missing out on the fun of exercise...riding a bike to a friend's house, swimming at the neighborhood pool, playing badminton...heck, even miniature golf (but that won't really get the heart thumping).

Even more important, exercise is good for the brain, keeps the oxygen flowing and offers a great outlet for stress relief. In my classes, I offer tons of short breaks, and I make my students stand up and move around (when most would rather stay seated on the cell phone). The older generation needs to help the younger ones learn good, healthy habits. We want our children to be not just academically successful but healthy and happy too.

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The Science of Adolescent Sleep

Many test prep tutors (and education specialists) ignore the role of sleep on academic performance. Over the years I have noticed that many more students are suffering from lack of sleep, which impedes their abilities to study and score higher on exams if it continues for a long period.

The article suggests one solution is later start times for high school, but there are many factors, such as lighting from tech gadgets that interrupts our circadian rhythm, social media updates (at midnight), too many activities scheduled late in the evening, and more...The first step is just recognizing the importance of sleep and then taking steps to improve that area of our "academic" lives.

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Does Pollen Affect SAT Scores?

A Norwegian study found a correlation with the rise in pollen (and hay fever allergies) with falling test scores. In the US, over two million days of school are missed as the result of pollen allergies. What should a student do? The article suggests skipping tests dates when pollen allergies are the most intense. Makes sense!

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Will the New August SAT Help or Hurt Students

This is an article published one year ago about the new August SAT date, starting in 2017 (for the first time!). While the SAT has tentatively set the date for August 26th, students cannot register until June or July. So far, the College Board has not released the registration information, but I wanted students and parents to have this new date on their testing radar.

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50% of College Admission Officers Checking Social Media

Word to the wise: If you are a frequent user of Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, don't be surprised if a few college admissions officers take a look at your profile and activities. More and more, college admission officers are using social media as a way to check to see if the values and character stated in the application match with what is displayed in social media.

The bad news: The study showed that 57% of admission officers involved in the study say they discovered profanity, evidence of prejudice, partying, drinking or drug abuse while reviewing applicants’ social media profiles. The good news: Less competition for those who are not presenting themselves in this manner.

Something the article doesn't really talk about is how students can use social media to enhance the application. One of my students purposely created Facebook and Instagram accounts to highlight her community service activities, so that when admission officers visited her page it reinforced the send of commitment for these projects. An, yes, it paid off with an acceptance to Stanford. When it comes to highly selective schools, every little bit counts!

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Why So Many Students Decide to Transfer

This is a great Washington Post article that tackles the whole "transferring" phenomenon, which is on the rise. A new report finds ash over one-third of all freshmen transfer to another college and many do this more than once. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Staying somewhere that is not a good fit can make college tough.

What I like about the article is it gives several reasons as to why transferring has become more popular. Often, I feel it comes down to not taking enough time to research and match students to colleges. Students can also be pressured into going to a certain school (by peers and parents) that really is not a good fit for them.

If you are thinking about transferring, make sure that you continue to do well academically at your current college and to stay involved, especially if you plan to transfer to a more selective college than you currently attend. These schools can be very selective when it comes to selecting new students.

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Early Admission Stats for Ivy League

Although the subject of the article tackles how to handle and Early Admission deferment (basically, you are put back in the Regular Decision applicant pool) and how to make yourself the best possible candidate moving forward, the article gives parents and students EA admissions statistics for the Ivy League.

For example, at Brown 22% were admitted, 18% were not admitted, and 60% were deferred. Of those 60% deferred, over half will be accepted in regular admission (which is a much higher admission ratio than usual). So don't despair too much if you receive a deferral but do take some action (and the article outlines some steps you can take).

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Most Generous Colleges for Financial Aid

This article is actually a little misleading. It primarily focuses on the Ivy League, which does a great job of providing "need-based" financial aid (for lower to lower middle-income students), but these schools provide no merit aid, so that means many middle-income and upper-middle income families will be paying a good chunk of the full price. So please keep that in mind when applying to these top schools.

If you don't have those types of funds (and who really does), be smart and focus your search on colleges that give out merit aid rather than need-based financial aid. Remember: to grab these merit aid scholarships, you need really good SAT or ACT scores, so keep studying!

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New Common App Prompts for 2017

This is really good news! Three years ago, the Common Application overhauled the application and added new prompts, but many students and counselors felt the word choice to be a little awkward and restrictive. For this coming year, the CA has fine-tuned the wording for clarity, but most importantly, they brought back the beloved "Topic of Your Choice", for those students that have something special to say but the topic does not fit the more specific prompts.

To view the new prompts, just click on the link.

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Out-of-State: Winners and Losers

This is an interesting article, with some really helpful information about where to find (or not find) merit aid scholarship money.

Let me explain: California, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and New York are states with the highest rate of in out-of-state attendance. Why? Mostly, too much demand and too short supply. Most of the state universities here will not give much merit aid (although some of the private schools in these states might try to bait high-achieving students to attend when shut out of "top tier" state schools).

Now the opposite. Pennsylvania, Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, and South Carolina. These are states that import lots of students and have the opposite problem: just not enough young people to supply the colleges (I would add Colorado as well). These are good states to look for merit aid opportunities.

Just a little tip.

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Scholarships for Students with Learning Disabilities

Great list of the many scholarship opportunities for students with learning disabilities (dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and language learning disabilities) and physical disabilities.

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High School Athletes: Too One-Dimensional?

You rarely see an article that addresses this issue: whether or not playing a sport can actually help or hinder your chances for admission. I have worked with a number of world-class athletes that have been recruited to top Div. I programs, and these students are thrilled with how things worked out for them.

The reality is, however, that very few students playing high school sports will get recruited, my guess would be 1-5%, depending on the sport. And even those who play on travel teams (we have tons of these in SoCal), the chances of landing a Div. I spot at a top program or highly selective college (like Harvard) is not much better. And even if you have the talent, you still need to have very good grades and test scores.

Bottom Line: If you are looking for ways to be an attractive candidate for college, most students need to be well-rounded with solid academics and test scores. The days that being an athlete "gets you in" are over.

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What To Do After Getting PSAT Results

Make sure to view the PSAT results in the online student account (I do not believe the students will be receiving paper copies of results from counselors). The PSAT results will accurately reflect the student's current level of attainments, give or take 20-30 points either side.

If you feel that your PSAT score is pretty close to your SAT goal score, that is great! Make sure to register for the March SAT. If not, now is the time to start making some decisions: Do I need a tutor? Can I study on my own? Maybe I would like to try some of the new online SAT prep programs? Maybe the ACT would be a better fit?

Best advice: Don't wait! Do something because junior year is the best time to take the test.

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How Cost of College Keeps Rising Despite Tuition Freeze

One word: Fees. Since I live in California, I notices years ago that even though the tax rates stayed the same (or declined), cities compensated for lost revenue for hiking up the fees for anything from parking meters, business licenses, traffic tickets, et cetera. In the last 10 years, colleges have realized the revenue potential for these "hidden" fees. Make sure when you compare costs of different colleges you look at these hidden charges as well.

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University of California Applications Set Record

More than 171,000 students applied to at least one UC school (110,000 of those were CA students), so competition will be tough this year, especially at UCLA, where less than 15% of the applicants will be admitted.

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Updated Test-Optional Colleges List

If you scroll down you will find a list of 31 colleges that are "test-optional", meaning no test scores required by the college. Be careful, though. When you do not submit test scores, the other parts of the essay must be excellent: GPA, letters of rec, application essay. If you are one of those "perfect" students with not-so-great test scores, then one of these selective colleges might be right for you.

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You Were Deferred--Now What?

Early Decision can be just as competitive at some colleges as Regular Decision, so many students will be deferred. So what to do now? This article gives some practical steps to take to make your chances of admission as high as possible in the next round.

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Last Minute Tax Tips to Save on College Costs

If you read my blog and website, you know I am always trying to help students and parents save money without compromising education. So, now that 2016 is almost over, make sure to read this article to see if you need to make any changes in your tax filings for this year so you can save money by qualifying for more financial aid.

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5 Myths About State Schools

I have to admit that I might have fallen for one of these even though I know differently. Having had student and teaching experience at small private college and large public universities, although different, each has its benefits. The truth is that it is not the college that makes the student but the student that makes the college experience great.

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SAT Study Skills Checklist: Updated for 2016-2017

SAT Study Skills Checklist: How Reach Best Score for 2016-2017

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