Don’t be mistaken, the SAT/ACT score IS the most important aspect of a student’s college application!

If you’re like me, you’ve asked around, read reviews, poked and prodded to find the best way to prepare for the “dreaded” SAT & ACT college entry exams. The belief held by many school officials is that your sons and daughters should take months to practice. The test prep organizations subscribe to this view because they’re able to generate more income, the more times you take their tests. Yes, time counts but a study schedule is a great way to get organized, reduce stress and pave the way for your student’s success.

The Problem:

The widely accepted cadence to prepare for the SAT/ACT is as follows:

  1. Sophomore Year – Fall: Take the PSAT as a practice test only.

  2. Sophomore Year – Winter: Enroll in private or school based SAT/ACT test prep service

  3. Sophomore Year – Winter: Take a PLAN (practice ACT)

  4. Junior Year – Fall: Enroll in 8-weeks or more of Test Prep starting in September for the November or January SAT/ACT.


Your student takes the SAT/ACT two to three times during the junior year of High School with only marginal improvements to her score. What happened?

The Biggest Mistake:

As a sophomore in high school, the biggest mistake made is to brush off the PSAT as just another practice test. Most people are not aware that students who score well on the PSAT will gain entry into the esteemed National Merit Scholars community. Colleges view the lists of National Merit Scholars as a feeding ground for their most promising talent. However, most high school counselors advise that the test is just a practice and it will not matter. They are wrong!

We say, give your child test prep for the PSAT, just like it’s the SAT. Because the designation is recognized as a legitimate barometer of academic ability through USA grade 9, being identified as a National Merit Scholar opens the door to scholarship dollars once admitted into any college, Don’t leave any dollars on the table, PSAT test prep is instrumental to accessing additional aid and we can help.

The Solution: During the spring of the student’s sophomore year, identify Summer Programs that have legitimate SAT/ACT test prep. Programs like EDC.

The DREAM Digital Media Program at Hampton University employs Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc. to deliver eight hours of prep and then proctors a full five hour practice SAT during the first week of camp. The results are provided to the student’s family to be shared with test prep professionals once the student concludes the program.

The optimal summer test prep program should conclude during middle to late July. In August, the student should register for the early October SAT/ACT. During August, the student should set weekly goals in preparation for the October test. The first week, perhaps while on vacation, should be used to research colleges online. Narrow this list to about five in the first week. Among those five, review the SAT Subject Tests required. During weeks two and three in August, the student should begin drafting essays to support at least three of the five schools chosen. Throughout the 4th week of August share one or two essay drafts to a teacher or outside support for initial review. In order to meet early admission decision deadlines, set a goal to complete all essays by September 30th.

Once September begins your student should be enrolled in SAT/ACT test prep program at least twice per week plus all day on Saturday. Investing in quality test preparation pays for itself once your child receives academic scholarships based on her test results. Just bite the bullet and focus on the long-term ROI!

Overtime, she’ll become more comfortable with test taking as her mind is exercised day in and day out. On the weekends she will take a full SAT/ACT and the cadence will become familiar and less intimidating. Once your student enters the week of the actual test, the cadence of work should continue. The routine that took months to set in stone will reduce some of the anxiety on the actual ACT/SAT test day.

As a testimonial, I’ve implemented this approach with my 2nd daughter who scored in the 99th percentile for Science on the ACT and is now enrolled at an Ivy league college with scholarship support. The concentrated cadence works!

For more information on EDC Programs that offer SAT/ACT Prep click here.

D.R.E.A.M. Digital Media: Hampton University 1-Week Test Prep, 1-week of Digital Media.

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