Parents of teenagers know that junior year of high school can be very busy: Academics often ramp up, students may take on leadership roles in extracurriculars, and, of course, there’s the college admissions process. It may be tempting to push off college admissions tests—the SAT or ACT—but there are several reasons why it makes sense for your teen to consider completing the test in his or her junior year of high school. Here’s why:
1. Academic readiness. According to Anathea Simpkins, director of product management at Sylvan Learning, “Junior year is the optimal time to take the SAT or ACT. By then, most everyone will have a firm foundation in Geometry and Algebra 2. Also, by junior year, your student will have encountered some of the rigorous reading passages to develop higher level critical thinking skills.”
2. Preparation time. Many students use the summer before their junior year to gear up for the exams with a college test preparation class, such as those offered by Sylvan Learning Center. These classes provide practice tests, study tips, and individualized assessments. Once the student knows their strengths and weaknesses, they can continue to prepare over the fall or take the test immediately following the course.
3. Time for improvement. By taking the exam in junior year, your student can acquire their scores, compare them to the averages at their top choice schools, and then determine if they need to retake the test. It also gives students ample time—including another summer break if needed— for additional test preparation. (Most students take a college admissions exam twice, once in their second semester of junior year, and if needed, again early in their senior year.)
4. Early decisions. Many colleges and universities have significantly accelerated their decision timelines, pushing many students to submit applications earlier than ever before. In fact, some hopefuls are rushing to complete their applications as early as October to meet the November 1 deadlines instituted by some state universities. Don’t forget that you need to leave approximately three weeks for scores to be tabulated and available.
5. External factors. For athletes looking for scholarships, many institutions would like to see an SAT or ACT score by the end of junior year to ensure the prospect can meet minimum entrance criteria. The same holds true for certain academic or merit scholarships.
6. AP schedule. Since most advanced placement testing is in May, completing the admissions testing well in advance of these exams can help alleviate some of the pressure on your student.
7. What ifs. Waiting until fall of senior year may sound attractive to some teens, but it does not provide any flexibility in the instance your student gets ill the day of the test or another event prevents him from taking the exam. By completing the test at least once by the end of junior year, your teen has something to work with for the admissions process regardless of any unforeseen circumstances.
The college admissions process is a long road, and when your child should take the test will depend on their unique circumstances, such as academic schedule, extracurricular activities, and any other personal responsibilities. For example, if your student participates in a competitive sport or activity, scheduling the test during the time probably does not make sense. Fortunately, the SAT and ACT are each offered seven times per year, offering some flexibility for each student’s needs.
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Regardless of the exact timing of testing, it’s wise to start the process early, and it’s a good idea to start discussing the approach you will take to college admissions during your student’s sophomore year. Look for our College Action Plan on Sylvan Nation in the Rewards section for tips! This must-have checklist is a great way to keep track of what to think about and plan for during each semester of high school, from freshman year through senior year, so your teens are in a better position to reach their college goals.