Ask Test Masters: College Admissions Advice

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Ask Test Masters is a great, free service that allows you to ask the experts at Test Masters all of your test prep and college admissions questions. If you have a question, send it to us – chances are other people are wondering the same thing. Reader Neal asks about his Junior year of high school and his prospects of admission to UT (Austin) and Texas A&M. He writes:

Dear Test Masters,

I am going to be a junior in high school in a few weeks and started wondering if I will be accepted into the college I want with my credentials. Since the new SAT is taking effect in March 2016 I plan to take both current and new version of the test. After taking the Test Masters SAT course my last test score was about 1800. Though I am not fully satisfied with my score as of yet and plan to get it to at least 1950+ there is not a whole lot time left. Using the exam club I plan to get some more practice and experience in answering SAT type questions to improve my overall score. As of now, I would like to go to Texas A&M or the University of Texas (Austin) and I wanted to know if I am up-to par with the standards. I will be the president of Spanish club in the 2015-2016 school year and I will be taking part in a few other clubs like Service for Humanity, student council and, if possible, honor societies. Also, I have been part of my school tennis team for 2 years now and plan to do it for the next two as well. My GPA is approximately 3.5 (ranked in top 25%) and for my junior year I am taking about 5-6 AP classes as well and plan to take the AP tests. Furthermore, I am involved in Boy Scouts and soon will be achieve my Eagle scout award. Am I on the right track and what can I do to improve? This has been worrying me for a while now, I would really appreciate some knowledgeable advice that I can follow. Thank you.

Dear Neal,

First, your approach to taking the SAT and new SAT is exactly right. You should take both versions of the SAT and use whichever version you score best on for the purpose of college admission. If you weren’t aware, keep in mind that CollegeBoard’s score reporting policy/service, known as Score Choice, allows you to only submit your best scores to the universities to which you will apply. Learn more about Score Choice here.

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Second, you’re correct in assuming that you will have to raise your score for admission to schools like Texas A&M or University of Texas (Austin). For UT, as you can see via the linked web address, a better score for a student outside the top 10% would be a 1950+, ideally a 2000+. Texas A&M is slightly less competitive in terms of admission, so a 1900+ would be considered a good score. Continued and regular participation in Exam Club should lead to a natural rise in your score – the more you practice, the better you will ultimately do on the test; however, beware becoming solely dependent on Exam Club for an improved score.Yes, continued practice is extremely important to achieving a significant score increase guarantee, but you should be preparing in other ways as well. Specifically, keep in mind that as a part of your registration in the full length classroom course you receive six free Group Tutorials after your course is over. You can register for these tutorials through your student account (if you have problems with this, call our office directly). In addition to taking advantage of the Group Tutorials, you should also make it a point to review your course notes and materials for a few hours at home each week; in my experience, students benefit most in terms of an improved score by working to memorize their vocabulary and the various grammar rules governing the Multiple Choice Writing section of the exam.

In terms of your extracurriculars and course load, it sounds like you are right on track! You have sports, leadership roles, volunteer work, and academic extracurriculars activities. Particularly important here are your demonstrable accomplishments –  President of a club and Eagle scout status. The only advice I would give you would be to recommend joining some activity or organization that directly pertains to your intended degree path. Want to be a doctor? Volunteer at a hospital! Want to be an engineer? Join a math or Young Engineers of America type society! Want to study English Literature? Volunteer at a library! And so on…

Your GPA is solid! If you put in the work, you will get into your school of choice, and as a junior you still have plenty of time to accomplish these goals. Keep it up!

Hope this helps!

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