With the school year fast approaching, it's time for students to begin thinking about how to prepare for the ACT and/or SAT.
It's a great question, and one that we feel confident answering as part of two of the fastest growing education companies around the globe.
The SAT and ACT are phenomenal tools for colleges. With the rapid inflation of high school GPAs across the country, these tests have remained an important metric -- particularly for elite institutions -- to weigh the credentials of prospective students against one another.
That isn't to suggest that these tests are more important than GPAs. For the most part, many universities care about grades and academic performance more than any other component of a student's resume, with some less traditional colleges moving away from standardized tests altogether.
Regardless, if your son or daughter is looking into some of the more established academic institutions out there, they will still need to be extremely well-prepared for the SAT and/or ACT.
And this may not be ideal for students who struggle with standardized tests.
So if your student is serious about attending a four-year university, they should treat preparing for the SAT/ACT just as seriously as they would their most demanding classes. Students who struggle with standardized testing may want to go a step further, even scheduling lighter course loads during the semester in which they plan to take the test.
Often times when bringing this up with parents, we are met with a degree of well-intentioned skepticism. They are concerned with the pressure and anxiety their child may face with this sort of hyper-realistic conception of standardized tests.
There's a great line in Major League (it's out of left-field... literally). Jake Taylor, played by Tom Berenger, is opening his locker to find out whether or not he's been cut and mutters to himself, "Don't worry, Jake, it's only your life."
High school students shouldn't think that standardized tests will determine their lot in life. They won't, and in the greater scheme of things, they are a small component of a student's academic record, but it needs to be understood that these tests still have a bearing on their post high school plans.
The important thing is not to shield them from this truth, but rather encourage them to approach the SATs and ACTs with a measured and rational interpretation of how these tests will impact their life expectations.
This is why we encourage high schoolers to study for the SAT/ACT the same way they would study and do homework for their most difficult classes. All in all, we want our students to study close to an hour a day for the SAT/ACT, while still being able to maintain a balance with their school work and personal lives.
At Prep Expert, we also push students to not only practice the actual questions they will receive on these tests, but also the methodology behind taking the test itself, which is often the most challenging component. Although integral, established strategies for doing so are few and far between.
Bottom line, if your child wants to get into a well-established university, he or she needs to do well on the SAT/ACT. The tests matter, and preparation is crucial. That said, it's just a test! Encourage your student to approach it as one would anything else important in life, reminding them that, ultimately, nothing is more fulfilling than learning for the sake of becoming a more enlightened person. That's the real goal.