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Help me understand SAT/ACT timing


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Please forgive me if this is a dumb question. I have always read that students take the test(s) in the fall of their junior year. I’m assuming this is to help them get scholarships. If my dc’s goal is to simply get a score good enough for the college he wants, shouldn’t he wait until his senior year? If these tests cover Algebra 2 and he has just started that class (11th grade year), wouldn’t he score poorly since he hasn’t had it yet? 

I just can’t figure out if he needs to take it (or both) this year, cold/no prep, and see what he gets and then try to improve it for next year?? Or just wait until his senior year, test prep, and do a “one and done” thing?? 
 

(when I did this a hundred years ago, I walked in on a Saturday morning for the ACT, took it cold, got a score that allowed me to go to the university I wanted, done. Nobody talked to us about SAT vs ACT and I have no idea why I didn’t take it my junior year. This is just what I remember being done. I was a PS product 😬)
 

insight and help please!

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Is he taking the PSAT for National Merit scholarship? I think that scholarship process requires a SAT score.

https://www.nationalmerit.org/s/1758/interior.aspx?sid=1758&gid=2&pgid=424

My local public school does PSAT in October and SAT in March on school days for the 11th graders.

We didn’t plan on National Merit Scholarship and we couldn’t find a place to test for PSAT and SAT last year (schools were closed for 15 months). So if you plan for your child to take the PSAT, you would have to start calling schools.

 

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Several things.

First, think about the timing for college applications and work backwards. Kids have the best shot at admission and aid of all sorts when they apply earlier. So applications typically need to be done by November. Going backwards, that means you need the scores before then, which means you need to have taken the SAT by September or October at the latest. And if you didn't get the score you wanted at that point, there's not room for a retake. With all that in mind, every kid should ideally take the SAT by summer after their junior year if not during their junior year.

Of course, lots of kids apply to less competitive schools. Or go test optional. It's not always that important to have applications in that early. But it's still a tighter timeline to try to get exams done before winter/early spring.

As for scholarships and so forth, you may be thinking of the PSAT for National Merit. It's not worth doing unless a kid is going to really ace it. But if they are, that test happens in fall of junior year. And only in fall of junior year. There are other PSAT tests, including one in 10th grade, but this is the one that counts. It's only for that one type of scholarship. It's not for admissions.

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Check out this past thread ("Why all the AP classes/tests?") -- about halfway down is my post with info on all of the high school tests. Note: College Board discontinued the SAT Subject tests (the shorter 1-subject only exams) back in January. They still offer the regular SAT.

That thread is linked on PAGE 2 of the "High School Motherlode #1" pinned at the top of the High School Board.

You might also find the thread "High School Time Table" (linked on PAGE 1 of that pinned thread) helpful, as it lists what to do and when during the 4 years of high school.


In answer to your question: yes, it USED to be (like 10-15 years ago) that most students took the ACT/SAT in 12th grade. However because so many colleges use the scores for admissions, and MANY colleges now have early application deadlines of mid-October or Nov. 1st, that the whole college search process and application process has shifted to start much earlier.

Students now spend much of 11th grade...
- researching colleges
- taking ACT/SAT tests
- taking AP tests
- taking the PSAT-NMSQT test (11th grade is the year the student's PSAT score may qualify them for Nat'l Merit scholarships)

...which then means that students then spend the fall of 12th grade...
- getting letters of recommendation
- applying for scholarships (although most scholarships come from the college itself)
- writing application essays
- applying to colleges 
(most colleges now have a Feb. or Mar. final deadline for applying, and an April or May

...and in the spring of 12th grade the student...
- is mostly preparing for graduation
- possibly taking AP tests, but because the tests are in May, that is long past being able to help with college admission

That means that a fair number of 10th graders also are already starting to think about and look at colleges, and take ACT/SAT tests (as early "practice"), as well as AP tests, since it's the AP scores from 9th, 10th, and 11th grades that colleges will see as part of the admission process.


Finally, due to covid, many colleges have gone "test-optional" and rely on GPA and class standing for scholarships or admission. However, that can be problematic for homeschoolers who are in a "class of 1" 😉 -- so you may wish to still shoot for an ACT/SAT score at some point before 12th grade.


For info about scholarships, you might check out these 3 threads:
"Understanding financial aid"
"Preparing for college, what scholarships/grants to apply for"
"I think I need help with guidance counseling..."

All 3 of these are among the many VERY helpful threads on scholarships and financial aid that are all linked on PAGE 3 of the big pinned thread "College Motherlode" at the top of the WTM College board.

Edited by Lori D.
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1 hour ago, mmasc said:

...  If these tests cover Algebra 2 and he has just started that class (11th grade year), wouldn’t he score poorly since he hasn’t had it yet? ...

PS -- and even more specific answer to your specific situation...

You could have DS take an ACT/SAT in late spring of 11th grade, or in the summer after 11th grade either as he is completing or has completed Algebra 2. As always, be sure to sign up a good month before the DEADLINE date to ensure getting the test LOCATION you want.

ACT test date . . . registration deadline
Sep. 11, 2021 . . . . . Aug. 6, 2021
Oct. 23, 2021 . . . . .Sept. 17, 2021
Dec. 11, 2021 . . . . . Nov. 5, 2021
Feb. 12, 2022 . . . . .Jan. 7, 2022
Apr. 2, 2022 . . . . . .Feb. 25, 2022
Jun. 11, 2022 . . . . . May 6, 2022
Jul. 16, 2022 . . . . . Jun. 17, 2022

SAT test date . . .  registration deadline
Aug. 28, 2021 . . . . July 20, 2021
Oct. 2, 2021 . . . . . .Sept. 3, 2021
Nov. 6, 2021 . . . . . .Oct. 8, 2021
Dec. 4, 2021 . . . . . Nov. 4, 2021
Mar. 12, 2022 . . . . .Feb. 11, 2022
May 7, 2022 . . . . . .Apr. 8, 2022
Jun. 4, 2022 . . . . .  May 5, 2022

Edited by Lori D.
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2 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

You could have DS take an ACT/SAT in late spring of 11th grade, or in the summer after 11th grade either as he is completing or has completed Algebra 2. As always, be sure to sign up a good month before the DEADLINE date to ensure getting the test LOCATION you want.

ACT test date . . . registration deadline
Sep. 11, 2021 . . . . . Aug. 6, 2021
Oct. 23, 2021 . . . . .Sept. 17, 2021
Dec. 11, 2021 . . . . . Nov. 5, 2021
Feb. 12, 2022 . . . . .Jan. 7, 2022
Apr. 2, 2022 . . . . . .Feb. 25, 2022
Jun. 11, 2022 . . . . . May 6, 2022
Jul. 16, 2022 . . . . . Jun. 17, 2022

SAT test date . . .  registration deadline
Aug. 28, 2021 . . . . July 20, 2021
Oct. 2, 2021 . . . . . .Sept. 3, 2021
Nov. 6, 2021 . . . . . .Oct. 8, 2021
Dec. 4, 2021 . . . . . Nov. 4, 2021
Mar. 12, 2022 . . . . .Feb. 11, 2022
May 7, 2022 . . . . . .Apr. 8, 2022
Jun. 4, 2022 . . . . .  May 5, 2022

There are also late registration deadlines, and they charge an extra fee.  

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And a possible time table for you and DS this year:

11th grade:
- now (by mid-Sept) = find a local school that offers the PSAT-NMSQT and sign up DS
- between now and Oct = DS does some PSAT-specific test prep/practice 
- Oct. = DS takes the PSAT-NMSQT
- Jan-Apr. (or Mar-May) = DS does ACT and/or SAT prep 
- May (or June or July) = DS takes the ACT and/or SAT
- June-August = you and DS research colleges

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13 minutes ago, klmama said:

There are also late registration deadlines, and they charge an extra fee.  

Yes, but I didn't add those, because usually at that stage you're too late to get the location you need/want... 😉

 

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It may vary by region. We didn't have a problem getting the location we wanted the last day of late registration, but there is far less demand this year because so many colleges in our state have gone test optional. 

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Wow! As usual, you all have helped me tremendously! Thank you! I think I’m wrapping my mind around it now. Also, I had no idea you applied to universities in November of your senior year 😬  It does seem to make more sense to have ds take it in the spring when he has Algebra 2 mostly done. It’s very hard to think about applying to colleges since we are military and don’t know where we will live. Of course, if he had a specific college in mind that he wanted to leave and go to, that would be a different story. (But he doesn’t) We will see what he gets figured out in the next year. 😉

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OP if your DS qualifies for any of the National Recognition Programs of the College Board he should take the PSAT/NMSQT during October (?) of his Junior year. My DD qualifies as Hispanic (Latina) and she did qualify and I believe that helped her with university admissions.

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/scholarships-and-recognition/recognition-programs

She took both the ACT and the SAT and the results were approximately the same, but a little better with the ACT, so she went with that. Some students do much better with one or the other. The test material and the strategies are very different.

Good luck to your DS! 

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21 minutes ago, mmasc said:

Wow! As usual, you all have helped me tremendously! Thank you! I think I’m wrapping my mind around it now. Also, I had no idea you applied to universities in November of your senior year 😬  It does seem to make more sense to have ds take it in the spring when he has Algebra 2 mostly done. It’s very hard to think about applying to colleges since we are military and don’t know where we will live. Of course, if he had a specific college in mind that he wanted to leave and go to, that would be a different story. (But he doesn’t) We will see what he gets figured out in the next year. 😉

I believe that my DD applied "EA" (see definition below) during October (?) of her Senior year.

If you have a Connection with North Carolina I suspect they may have preferences for Military at UNC CH or elsewhere in the UNC system of universities?  I'm not sure but check it out if you are connected with NC.

Thanks to your family for your service!

"Early admission is a college admission plan in which students apply earlier in the year than usual and receive their results early as well. This benefits students by reducing the number of applications to be completed at one time, and by providing results early."

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1 hour ago, mmasc said:

Wow! As usual, you all have helped me tremendously! Thank you! I think I’m wrapping my mind around it now. Also, I had no idea you applied to universities in November of your senior year 😬  It does seem to make more sense to have ds take it in the spring when he has Algebra 2 mostly done. It’s very hard to think about applying to colleges since we are military and don’t know where we will live. Of course, if he had a specific college in mind that he wanted to leave and go to, that would be a different story. (But he doesn’t) We will see what he gets figured out in the next year. 😉

Still searching to see if I can find what the legal status is for "in-state" / "out-of-state" status for homeschooling military families, but this article ("Homeschool: Where Am I?") from the Military Spouse blog is helpful for what laws do you have to follow for homeschooling your high school student, and the article contains a link to a Homeschool Military Family Facebook group.

Okay: here is a Military.com website article "In-State Tuition Rules for Military Families" that might help -- although the article is 6 years old, and policies have a tendency to change... 

Where the *parents* reside is usually the determining factor for the student's college residency status, and since out-of-state tuition is usually a good $20,000-$30,000 PER YEAR HIGHER than in-state tuition, that's going to be an important factor in where your child applies to college.

Edited by Lori D.
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1 hour ago, Lanny said:

OP if your DS qualifies for any of the National Recognition Programs of the College Board he should take the PSAT/NMSQT during October (?) of his Junior year. My DD qualifies as Hispanic (Latina) and she did qualify and I believe that helped her with university admissions.

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/scholarships-and-recognition/recognition-programs

She took both the ACT and the SAT and the results were approximately the same, but a little better with the ACT, so she went with that. Some students do much better with one or the other. The test material and the strategies are very different.

Good luck to your DS! 

This is good info, thank you! I had not heard of this. He would qualify, but I’m not sure about being in the top 10%😬 especially considering the state we currently reside in...

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7 minutes ago, Lori D. said:

Still searching to see if I can find what the legal status is for "in-state" / "out-of-state" status for homeschooling military families, but this article ("Homeschool: Where Am I?") from the Military Spouse blog is helpful for what laws do you have to follow for homeschooling your high school student, and the article contains a link to a Homeschool Military Family Facebook group.

Okay: here is a Military.com website article "In-State Tuition Rules for Military Families" that might help -- although the article is 6 years old, and policies have a tendency to change... 

Where the *parents* reside is usually the determining factor for the student's college residency status, and since out-of-state tuition is usually a good $20,000-$30,000 PER YEAR HIGHER than in-state tuition, that's going to be an important factor in where your child applies to college.

Yes, it’s extremely complicated, because military families also have what’s considered our ‘home of record’ and many times the universities in that state will consider you “in-state” even if you don’t *live* there. But again, it’s very state specific and they all seem to play by whatever rules they want. It’s just one more piece to the military puzzle that’s super confusing and complicated! I feel pretty confident that our ds will either 1) go to a uni close to where we are living at the time (and therefore, can’t plan that in advance at all) or 2) go back to a uni in our ‘home of record’. 

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We are a military family too and we moved back to the states for MS/HS so our kids could get in-state tuition somewhere other than my home state (AR). DH's HOR is WA but DD doesn't want to attend school there. I wish there was a universal rule that military kids could pick *ANY*  state they were domiciled in for residency purposes but no such luck. If it helps at all, using the GI Bill guarantees them in-state tuition at any public school. At many private schools, the yellow ribbon programs will pay the difference. We are using DH's GI Bill for DD b/c we self-funded his BS/MA degrees. DS is a stellar student grade-wise and will have lots of scholarship opportunities.

Edited by Sneezyone
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My 11th grade plan- 

PSAT- October, look now for a spot to take it if you think your student could qualify for NM- this can waive OOS tuition,  awesome scholarships in many states. Still debating for 11th grade DD- my older one is a NMF and the opportunities are amazing. If your kid isn't a top scorer,  I wouldn't bother.

ACT- sometime this fall, and again in the spring (April is the plan).  The one this fall is to introduce the testing atmosphere and she needs a score for DE classes.  The one in April is the one I hope to score well on for applications. 

Fall of Jr year- start a list of possible majors and colleges to visit.  Think about the type of atmosphere you want at college, and try to find a few good matches. 

Spring of Jr year- tour schools you think will be a good fit, and maybe a few you don't.   Sometimes seeing things you don't like is as helpful as finding things you do like.  Try to narrow your list of schools to apply to.  

Summer- make a spreadsheet of application dates, scholarships and their deadlines, payments due (DDs housing applications open Oct 1, first to pay get first pick on dorms), check fine print to be sure you know what you need to send in. 

Fall Sr year- apply- you will find that many of the best scholarships have deadlines from October,  November,  December and you must be an admitted student to apply- that means getting accepted in September!  Some special programs had application deadlines early, too.  

 

Best of luck!  

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The SAT/ACT both need to be taken earlier, and are both more skills based then when we all went to college, you can raise your score a lot more by studying the material on the tests. They are also more important for merit aid then they used to be.

The ACT has less higher level math, but the SAT has a lot more good study resources.

The new SAT orange math books teach all you need to know for SAT math, they are easy to use and are very comprehensive. You need both volumes. 

https://www.amazon.com/1600-io-SAT-Math-Orange-Book/dp/B08WJZCVD6/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=sat+orange+book+math&qid=1630440965&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExRTcyMTI0SjlPSzI0JmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNjU1NzQ1NjZIS0JJSFpLUzZYJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA1MjgyMDI3RUExV05WU05YTVcmd2lkZ2V0TmFtZT1zcF9hdGYmYWN0aW9uPWNsaWNrUmVkaXJlY3QmZG9Ob3RMb2dDbGljaz10cnVl

For either the ACT or SAT, you also want the ACT/SAT Black book. I would take a practice test of each now and see if you prefer or if one naturally scores higher than the other, then start figuring out a study course for that test, they are different enough that you should select one and study for it. My daughter raised her English score from a few hours of ACT Black Book study enough to get out of 2 semesters of English. My son took a whole semester of SAT grammar study and only gained a few points, but they were the reverse for math, my son gained a lot with a little study, my daughter a little with a lot of study.

My daughter's study gained her merit aid of $2K or $3K per year, I'm don't remember the exact number. She would not have scored well enough for merit aid without study. We waited late for her to study, not realizing how skills based the test had become and how important it was for merit aid. We started the process sooner with our son.

Erica Meltzer and College Panda have good books for Reading/grammar sections of the SAT and ACT. 

 

 

 

Edited by ElizabethB
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