It’s midsummer and the season of barbecues, pool days, and sunscreen – the last thing you may want to think about is standardized testing! Though not the most thrilling of subjects, now is the time to consider how your student will begin the intentional preparation that will equip him for the SAT and ACT.
The Benefits of a Practice PSAT
We touched on the PSAT in our 9th grade emails, but sophomore year is the time to get serious about it! The PSAT your student takes sophomore year doesn’t “count” as far as his score is concerned, but it has three distinct benefits to your student’s education:
- The PSAT is practice for the SAT.
Taking the PSAT this year allows your child to prepare academically, mentally, and emotionally for the SAT. There are similarities between these two standardized tests that will allow you to pinpoint areas of necessary growth.
- The PSAT gives an idea of your student’s national ranking.
While the PSAT score your student achieves won’t “count” this year, it will send you a report describing his national score ranking. You’ll see where his scores rate in comparison to other students across the nation in critical reading, math, and writing. While you don’t need those comparisons to run a successful homeschool, it can be a nice benchmark before sitting for the SAT.
- The PSAT can result in a free ride to college.
This is the exciting part! When the PSAT is taken during a student’s junior year, his score is added to the pool from which are drawn the 50,000 highest scorers. Of these 50,000 some are moved on to semi-finalist status. About 2/3 of the students not chosen for semi-finalist status receive a letter of commendation. “Commended” students are often eligible for a full tuition scholarship and even additional aid from outside organizations. Semi-finalist and finalist students can receive up to full tuition, room and board – all because of the PSAT!
This is why it’s worthwhile to practice for the PSAT ahead of time. Even if your student isn’t in the top 50,000 scorers, the preparation for the SAT increases his chances of an academic scholarship based on one of the other standardized tests.
Preliminary ACT and SAT
While you’re thinking about the PSAT, don’t forget the ACT and SAT. Several independent college counselors in the homeschool community recommend taking practice ACT/SAT tests during a student’s sophomore year. I recommend taking the ACT in the fall and the SAT in the spring, since the math section of the SAT includes algebra problems most students won’t have studied until after the fall term of their 10th grade year.
Don’t forget to borrow a test prep book and get a tutor (perhaps a fellow homeschool student) to boost those scores! And remember: colleges don’t look down on a low score the first time around. Most schools will only look at the highest score of all the tests that are sent to them.
Senior year is just around the corner. Where has the time gone? Twelfth grade is the culmination of these years of hard work, discipleship, and patience. And at the end of this year, a homeschool graduate will stand before your family.
Though summer is a busy time, it’s also a grea t time to make a plan for the fall. Senior year will go by fast with everything you have to do, so here are a few things to touch base about before the fall term begins:
Applying for scholarships is a part time job, but it’s worth the effort. I encourage applying for scholarships from as early as 10th grade, during the schoolyear as time allows, but especially during the summer months. This is a great time to concentrate on the necessary contests and essays that garner scholarship dollars! Not sure where to start? Look at Fastweb.com, ScholarshipMonkey, and Scholarships.com.
Summer jobs are an investment of time as well, but are just as fruitful as scholarship searching. Summer work:
- Builds a student’s resume and proves work ethic
- Builds lasting connections and potential character references
- Banks money for college, trade school, or a personal business
- Looks great to colleges and future employers
In other words – summer jobs are a win all around! Whether the job is for a family business, local coffee shop, or a position related to an intended major (this would be best!), work is valuable. All work experience can teach the valuable life skills of communication, flexibility, and time management.
Letters of Recommendation
If your student is college bound – or even if he’s headed to Bible college or missions program – take this summer to get letters of recommendation lined up. If you haven’t reminded the people you’ve asked to write those letters, do so this month (or rather, have your student do so).
As usual, if you have questions, email email@example.com.
Deadlines have a way of sneaking up on when we least expect it. Deadlines for standardized tests are no different! The fall semester is months away, so why are you receiving this email? I want to get these dates and deadlines into your hands so you can remain ahead of the curve with your rising junior. Junior year is the Year of the Test – whether PSAT, ACT, SAT or CLEP – and the plethora of dates, deadlines, and registration details can be overwhelming. Read below for links to the appropriate registration sites and approximate deadlines.
If you’ve been receiving emails from Homeschool Launch for the last year or so, you’ll notice I frequently mention the PSAT. That’s because there are versions available for 9th and 10th graders, allowing them to practice for the PSAT and SAT so they can acheive their highest possible score during junior year (the only year their score can qualify for National Merit). College Board recently added an additional test – the PSAT 10 – which can be taken in March or April if a student is in 10th grade, but your junior will be concentrating on the actual PSAT/NMSQT exam in October. If you haven’t already reached out to your local school to register for the exam, do so this month!
For further information, read College Board’s instructions concerning the PSAT.( https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/taking-the-tests/home-schooled)
The ACT exam has testing dates all year round, however, I typically recommend taking the ACT in the fall and the SAT in the spring. Why take both? About a third of students do better on the ACT than on the SAT; another third do better on the SAT than the ACT, and the final third do equally well on both. Taking both tests gives your student a chance at excelling in one or both formats.
For fall ACT exams, the registration deadline is usually in August or September. Visit this site for deadlines once they are determined for this academic year: http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/taking-the-test.html#testcenter-parsys_contentfloortabbed
Similar to the ACT, SAT tests close regular registration approximately a month prior to the testing date. Late registration is open a week or so longer, but the cost is increased. As previously stated, I recommend taking the SAT in spring of your student’s junior year. Usually by this semester, the student has had enough high school math to succeed in the math section of the SAT. But don’t forget – he’ll get to take it again later, whether later in the term or during his senior year.
Most community colleges open registration for the fall term somewhere between June and July. If your student is considering dual enrollment for the fall, be sure to check your local community college website for deadlines and registration details. Classes fill up quickly, so the earlier you register, the more options you’ll have.
Finally, schedule any CLEP tests your student is planning to take this summer of fall. CLEP tests have no deadline. They can be scheduled at your convenience; you simply buy the exam online and then set up a testing time with your local testing center (usually your community college).
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.