Sound bite answer: Always take the SAT and ACT essay. Here’s why: First, we have to understand whether students should take the “optional” SAT and ACT essay at all. A student might get lucky and apply only to colleges that do not consider the SAT or ACT essay in their admission decisions, but, chances are, at least one college on a student’s list will recommend or require the essay. And, if students do not take the essay but then later change their mind and want to apply to a college that requires the essay, they will either not be able to apply or will have to re-take the SAT or ACT solely for the purpose of getting an essay score. The wise choice is to take the SAT and ACT with the essay at least once.
Striving for excellence, and ideally achieving it, in areas of life that matter (family, work, etc) is important. In contrast, attaining perfection is typically neither necessary nor practical. The same is true on standardized tests. For example, the difference between a 790 and 800 on the Literature SAT subject test is miniscule and inconsequential. A 790 puts students in the 98th percentile of test takers, and an 800 puts students in the 99th percentile. If a student were to score a 790 on the Literature SAT subject test, I would never advise that they re-take the test; their time would be better spent doing almost anything else.
What do you care most about in life? If you have children, it is likely them. While there are many important facets of parenthood and to preparing a child to be successful, providing them with the opportunity of a quality education is one of the most important facets. Knowledge can never be taken away. A college degree is an asset that does not decay and cannot be lost or stolen, and it will benefit them for the rest of their life. But, a quality education rarely, if ever, comes cheap. That is why we work so hard for our children: so that we can afford to give them an advantage and allow them to achieve their potential.
Math has a bad reputation. How often do you hear students say, “I’ll never use this in life”? There are a myriad of rebuttals to that statement, but let’s use an application of probability that’s relevant to most of our lives, particularly if we have teenage children, as a small proof of how useful Math can be: the safety or risk of driving.
For the good of humanity, by far the most important quality of a person is his or her character. Take the comparison between intelligence and integrity. A brilliant, evil person can do incredible harm. An uneducated, good person will still likely have a net positive effect (bringing happiness to others, improving the bonds of our social contract and the soul of society, etc). Brilliance can actually be detrimental to society when not paired with virtue. Integrity, even when not paired with brilliance, can only be beneficial. The combination, however, of brilliance and character has incredible potential to do a vast amount of good for the world.
Since the Collegeboard eliminated the January SAT and instead added an August SAT, rising juniors have been put in a precarious position, whether they realize this yet or not. Previously, the latest that we would recommend that juniors start taking the SAT was in January. Doing so in January or earlier was advantageous for two reasons: 1) Students could see definitively how they score on test day with enough time to make adjustments to their prep and still finish with testing by the end of junior year, and 2) the January SAT offered the Question-and-Answer service, which allows students to get back the test they took (only the October, March, and May tests will currently offer this).
The simplest icebreaker has been somewhat of a torture question for me over the years. “What do you do for a living” (or some semblance of that question) and you’d elicit the same conversation I’ve had countless times. “I’m a tutor”, which gets the same response: “Oh so you are a teacher”.
What do most people care most about in life? For obvious and innumerable reasons, their children. We want to give them the very best we can and everything that we can to help them be successful and happy. Education is, for good reason, one of the best avenues for achieving this. But, here are three unconventional ways you can give your kids an automatic advantage:
There is no “one size fits all” answer. But here are some general guidelines. Two years ago, the advantage went to taking the SAT because 95% of colleges superscore the SAT, and, at the time, hardly any colleges superscored the ACT. Today, still only about 40% of colleges superscore the ACT, so, in this respect, taking the SAT still has an advantage.
Every student should take the ACT and SAT “optional” essay at least once. There are many schools that require the essay score for a student’s application to even be considered. But should students take the essay every time? Short answer: probably. Here’s why.