I just got off the phone with an overwhelmed parent.
As I’m writing this, it’s August 24. She signed up her son to take the ACT on September 11. She was calling back to cancel his lesson. He was so busy with other school work that he wouldn’t be able to see me until the weekend.
And he had just started with tutoring!
You can probably see what a mistake that is. It’s always easier to see when it’s somebody else. But while this might be an extreme case, it’s an all too common situation.
The first semester of senior year, and the last couple weeks of the summer leading up to it, are an incredibly busy time. There’s sports practice, summer assigments, a heavier and more difficult course load, homework, tests, your last chance to take the SAT or ACT, campus visits, college applications, admissions essays, and often a job.
With so much to do, it’s no wonder that students and their parents often feel overwhelmed!
So what do you do about it? You prioritize.
We all do, all the time. Some things are more important, so we do them first. We’ll get to the other stuff later if we can.
So what’s the problem?
Most people don’t prioritize test prep. That’s a huge mistake!
I understand why people make it, though:
- There are no immediate consequences to not making SAT or ACT prep a higher priority.
- The test is still weeks away.
- Getting your score is even further away.
- Nobody will be angry with you if you don’t get a better score, except you.
- There’s no absolute guarantee that a higher score will get you into the college of your choice.
- Many other things on the list are happening now, and you’ll immediately feel the negative consequences of dropping the ball.
- If you don’t do your homework, or don’t go to practice, or don’t hand in your homework, or fail your math test, someone else will be upset with you, you’ll have to deal with that right away, and you’d rather not have that unpleasantness.
- And finally, if you’re a parent reading this, you have to deal with your son or daughter complaining that they don’t have time for SAT or ACT prep!
It’s OK. I really do understand.
As human beings, we’re all designed to value things that will happen sooner more than those that happen later. And we’re all designed to value avoiding painful consequences more than the possiblity of making something good happen.
But when you put off SAT or ACT prep and assign it a lower priority than all of the other, more immediate things on your plate, it’s like having to be somewhere at 2 PM, knowing it takes an hour to get there, still being home at 1:30, and convincing yourself that, technically, you’re not late yet.
Guess what. If I’ve just described you, you’re going to be late.
Here are some reasons why you should make test prep your top priority:
- Getting a higher test score is the single most important thing you can do at this point in time to increase your chances of getting in to the college of your choice.
- Your SAT or ACT score, which most students take only twice, is as important to your chances of getting in to college as all of your high school grades combined.
- A score increase of even 100 points on the SAT or 2 points on the ACT can make a HUGE difference in your chance of admission to the college of your choice.
- The combination of a motivated student and a skilled tutor can easily result in a 100 to 300 point SAT score increase (and a 2 to 6 point ACT score increase) in a short period of time.
- It gives you the biggest return on your investment of time and money.
- This means it’s FAR more important to do SAT or ACT prep than any single piece of homework.
- And far more important than your college applications, which can wait until you’ve taken these tests.
- I won’t even mention how much more important it is than any one sports practice.
Take a minute and convince yourself of the truth of what I’m sharing with you.
When you become certain of your priorities, suddenly everything else seems less overwhelming. And it becomes much easier to stand your ground with a teacher, a coach, a boss, or a college counselor who tells you otherwise.
I’m currently a community college student (age 21) and I’m taking the SAT for the first time in May. I had plenty of SAT prep in high school, I even remember taking the PSAT in school but I never took the test, graduating was my main priority. I’m applying for Universities now and even with a good HS GPA and community college transfer credits, SAT scores really make a huge difference between being accepted or not. The Admissions office at the school I want to go to says that my chances of getting in would be GREATLY INCREASED if I had SAT or ACT scores to submit.
This is so important for high school students, I wish I would have known how important this test was for my future! Please guys, don’t make any excuses, study hard because YOU AND YOUR FUTURE ARE WORTH IT! If you can’t pay for the test there are fee waivers you may qualify for, ask your family, you never know who may be willing to help. Good luck guys, stay tough and study hard!
The issues of making conscious choices about our priorities is such an important message. I would add that because the SATs and ACTs scare people its often hard to focus on them. But in my experience if something is scaring you it is actually relieving to get to work on it, rather than letting the fear fester in your head.