That all important step before college

Steps Before CollegeHow do you know whether you should take the SAT or the ACT?
I tell all my students to take a practice SAT and a practice ACT and see which one they feel the most comfortable with. Look at your score and try to have as your goal a 30 on the ACT. In the SAT, your goal should be over 700 in both the English and math sections. I would contact your teachers in your English and math classes and go over your scores with them once you begin practicing.

Is it true you can only take the SAT three times before they begin averaging?
No, you can take the SAT as many times as you want; there is no averaging. Most of my kids take it three times. Most colleges currently employ the Superscore system, which means that they will look at only your highest scoring sections across all the dates, rather than being confined to your scores from one specific test date.

Is it true that you can take the ACT instead of SAT IIs?
That’s an excellent question. Many colleges will take the ACT instead of SAT IIs. I would advise you to take your SAT IIs right after you’ve completed an AP course in that subject. Your teachers will give you a good review and you will have several weeks to study on your own. Utilize review books when possible. SAT IIs are only one hour each. My advice is to take as many as possible only if you can get a high score, in order to maximize your options when sending your scores. Colleges are impressed by these subject tests, whether they say so or not. If you have time, I would also advise you take the ACT along with the SAT IIs.

What do you think about the School for Advanced Studies (SAS)?
Academically, it’s a top-notch program. However, I recently found some information from one of my students, which was very upsetting. He’s at Harvard and they told him he only has a year and a half until he graduates from the university because his time at SAS is considered part of his college education. He feels that being at Harvard is much more beneficial than the two years he had with SAS. He is not alone; I’ve received many calls from former students currently attending the University of Florida. They are absolutely shocked that they were told the same information for the same reason. My suggestion to parents is that you must truly investigate the high school your teenager attends. As an educational consultant, I will tell you that this is a daunting task and is part of the reason so many parents bring their students to me.

How many recommendations do I need and who should write them?
I wish I could make this a simple answer, but nothing in whole college application process is easy. Every school has the right to ask for whatever recommendations they deem necessary. It could be one from a science teacher, one from an English teacher, or even none at all. It is mandatory that your child’s Guidance Counselor writes a recommendation. If the school asks for two, this usually does not include the counselor’s. If your child doesn’t know his/her guidance counselor, be sure to ask them to begin speaking to them on a weekly or monthly basis. On the defense of guidance counselors, they have many students, but it is not excuse for them not to take the time to write wonderful letters of recommendation. One my students had sent his recommendations out, but in reality, his teachers did not submit them on time. Everything has to be sent on the due date of that particular college, including transcripts, letters, and test scores.

Should my child take the PSAT? She will be a junior next year.
Absolutely. Your child should have taken the PSAT in 9th and 10th grade. This year, she must listen for announcements in the school to ensure that she doesn’t miss her opportunity this year to register for the test. Once you find out how much the test costs, register and pay your school on the correct dates. The PSAT is a preliminary SAT test that is a good indicator of how well you will do on the actual test. In order to qualify for the National Merit Scholarship, you must be in the 99th percentile in your child’s state. This may seem strange, but it’s for our benefit in Florida. All over the Northeast, the Semifinalists have total scores around 230, but in Florida, the highest is usually around 214, although it changes yearly. In order to be a winner, you must score as well as you did on the PSAT or much better. You also must be active in school and the community, and have the blessing of your principal. This is the highest academic honor regarding standardized testing in the United States.

Toby Rose is an Independent College Counselor for the past 26 years. She served a three-year term as President of the Pinecrest Business Association, and continues to serve as their Education Chairperson. She was Miami- Dade’s Outstanding Teacher and served as Chairperson of the Dade County School Board’s Academic Advisory Committee. Rose was a National Vice President of Alpha Epsilon Phi Sorority. She is a member of the University of Miami’s Women’s Guild and the American Association of University Women. Rose can be contacted at 305-790-3746 or Her website is

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1 Comment on "That all important step before college"

  1. The information regarding SAS and the student attending Harvard is erroneous. This counselor should know that Harvard uses dual enrollment, AP, IB and Cambridge passing scores for advanced standing and not to bypass freshman and sophomore year. Parents and students, become inform yourself instead by contacting the colleges and universities your child plans to attend so that you’re not provided with erroneous information that may deter you from doing what is best for your child. It’s best to receive the information from official university representatives. My child attended SAS and agree with Ms. Rose, this is in fact a top notch academic program with many of their students accepted to the top tier colleges and universities in the country. Very grateful for the experience. No regrets whatsoever. My child currently attends an Ivy League school where she’s completing all four years of undergraduate studies with the hope of attending medical school.

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