What should I know about the SAT as a parent? How can I help my child?
The SAT process is undoubtedly a daunting one. Studying can be arduous, the anxiety surrounding the testdepleting, and the test itself can be long and frustrating. We commonly associate these stresses and strains with the studentstaking the SAT but rarely associate them with the parents of those students.
Parents often find everything associated with the SAT to be a nightmare. All you want is the best for your son or daughter but have no real blueprint of how to help. The simple answer is that the best way to “parent” the SAT totally depends on what kind of student your child is. The SAT rewards study, repeated mock-tests, and tutoring in differing combinations for every student.
If your son or daughter tends to be laid back and a bit more lax in their study habits, then it will be vital to have a well-structured study course for the SAT. In these instances, a tutor can be very useful – not only will an SAT tutor have the kind of in depth knowledge necessary for success on the SAT exam, but will also serve as a regular time for your child to study. No parent wants to have their relationship with their child dominated by policing them about SAT studying.
On the other hand, if your child tends to be a highly motivated and very diligent studier, you may want to take on a more laid back approach. Often students in this category can fell the stresses of the SAT Exam more acutely and you’d be well advised to help them relax and put the entire SAT process in perspective. As you yourself will be able to attest, the SAT is not one of the defining moments of your life. Its useful to say that, and essential for a student to hear that to maintain a sense of balance throughout the SAT process. Lastly, a student who is hyper motivated may also need tutoring in the tricks of the SAT test rather than as a motivational study time.
You know your child better than anyone so trust your gut about what will be the best approach. There is no right answer here, and as long as you can maintain a sense of balance, good SAT study habits, and afford the opportunity for your child to take multiple mock-tests (CATES offers them for free every weekend) you’ll be all set for the SAT.
What should I do if I was deferred from Early Decision? Is there anything I can do?
It’s the moment you’ve worked so hard for. You know the mail is coming, and with it news of your college admissionstatus at your number one choice. Sifting through the mail you find that dreaded little envelope informing you that you’ve been deferred.
Many people feel a sense of doom at this moment. Everything is lost, all your work has come to nothing, and all you want to do is curl up in the fetal position. This is the last thing you should do and feel. While a deferment from early decision is the not the outcome you were looking for, it’s certainly not the worst that could have happened.
Although you may feel helpless and like there is nothing for you to do to increase your chances of being accepted in regular decision, you’re wrong. There are concrete steps you can take to help your chances in the next round. First, of all, keep working hard. Admissions officers love to see a strong set of grades and strong continuity in extracurricular activities in the first semester of your senior year – a time when people tend to relax and not keep up the same efforts.
Secondly, write a letter. Take the time to draft a letter to the college admissions office of your first choice school that expresses how much you want to attend. Although you may feel angry or disappointed in the school you dreamed of attending, having the conviction the courage to restate all the compelling reasons you want to attend the school of your dreams is very impressive to a college admissions officer.
Lastly, don’t forget that there are so many wonderful colleges and universities that you can attend that will help you achieve everything you want for yourself. If, in the end of the day, you don’t end up attending the college you initially thought you would, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have an incredible four years of college.
What SAT test prep book should I buy? How do I know I am choosing the right one?
Many people find the SAT process daunting at every step of the way and the selection of study materials is no exception. At most mega bookstores there is an entire section devoted to Study Aids. How would anyone know what SAT test prep book to choose between the countless volumes published by Kaplan, Princeton Review, McGraw-Hill, Barons, and Petersons just to name a few.
The short answer is, there is no wrong answer. Each SAT prepbook has value, tests students on vital SAT material, and will help a student understand the SAT test better. In certain ways, SAT Test Prep books are like clothes, and everybody has a different perfect fit. You can’t go “wrong” choosing anything as long as your feel like you are learning and being challenged.
The somewhat longer answer is that all but one of the SAT test prep books are the “wrong” choice for an SAT Prep book. Barons, Peters, McGraw-Hill, and the rest of their peer companies do not design, administer, and write the SAT exam. The College Board does. The College Board also publishes its own book entitled, “Ten Real SATs.” This book is the vital resource for anyone preparing for the SAT test.
“Ten Real SATs” is dominated, as the title suggests, by ten complete, actual SATs. There are tests that have actually been administered and are identical to the SAT test you will take. Only with this book can you get a realistic understanding of exactly what the SAT test is like. For many students, a copy of “Ten Real SATs,” and some time with a tutor who can explain the ins and outs of the exam and strategies needed to excel, are sufficient to achieve great success on the SAT exam. So if you are looking to buy a single SAT Test prep book, this is the one.
For many students and parents, the PSAT is their first encounter with the SAT process and it can be very daunting. The format is foreign, the PSAT’s relationship to the SAT unknown, and thus the PSAT’s importance seems vague. A lot of misinformation gets spread in school communities about the PSAT, so lets try and dispel the myths.
Colleges do not see the PSAT. The PSAT, or Preliminary SAT, is a diagnostic tool for students and parents to get a sense of what the SAT is like. Colleges have no access to your score, nor are they interested in it. It is a test that is, first and foremost, for the student.
The only practical ramification of the PSAT pertains to the National Merit Scholarship. Students who place in the 99th percentile (in most states) of the PSAT become eligible for a National Merit Scholarship. A high score doesn’t guarantee that you will be awarded a scholarship, it only means you are eligible. Basically, it’s the cherry on top, but not the real purpose of the PSAT exam.
The real purpose of the PSAT is to see where a student stands in relationship to the SAT. The PSAT consists of 5 sections: 2 math sections, 2 reading sections, and 1 writing section. While the question types and content covered on the PSAT is also covered on the SAT, the SAT exam is much longer. The SAT consists of 10 sections (one of which is experimental and not graded). The remaining 9 sections of the SAT break down into 3 math sections, 3 reading sections, 2 writing sections, and an essay.
All of these affinities between the SATandPSAT remaining true, it’s still a mistake to put TOO much weight on the PSAT score as an indicator of how a student will perform on the SAT. If you read CATES’ upcoming newsletter (posted on our site in early 2012) you can find out exactly the ways the PSAT score is not a great gauge of the SAT. The PSAT is really just a taste of the SAT and a student’s first opportunity to understand the testing process. Study hard, be prepared, but don’t freak out.