Students who want to go to college are required to take one of two tests: the ACT or the SAT I. Some colleges require or prefer students to take a specific test, but many allow students to choose which test they’ll take. The ACT tests students in four areas: English, mathematics, reading comprehension and science reasoning. The SAT I has a verbal section and a mathematics section. Most students take these tests in their junior or senior year in high school.
The Application Process
- Application Form: Most schools allow prospective students to complete the application two ways: on paper or online. Some schools accept something called The Common Application, an application you complete once and submit to several schools (see www.commonapp.org). Make sure you help your child gather all the needed documents by the application deadline.
- High School Transcript: Each college your child applies to needs a copy of his high school transcript, showing classes completed and grades earned. Most college application packets include a form you can use to request these from the high school guidance office.
- Standardized Test Score: Most colleges require that your child submit SAT or ACT test scores, and these scores are used to determine how well he will do in college. Your teen may take these tests in his junior year in high school, and the scores are sent automatically to the colleges.
- Letters of Recommendation: Many colleges request a letter of recommendation from someone who knows your child, his character and his academic ability – usually a guidance counselor, teacher or other adult. College application packets include forms and instructions for preparing these letters.
- Personal Essay: The goal of the essay, one of the most important components of the application, is to help colleges get to know your teen and what’s important to him. Teens can write on any number of topics. You can help your teen by brainstorming ideas, reading drafts and making suggestions.
- Interviews: Interviews are another way for colleges to get to know your teen. If your teen’s college requires an interview, you can help him prepare what he wants to say about himself, how he will describe his goals and questions he wants to ask about the college.