SAT or ACT and the Diagnostic Test

It’s not a secret that the SAT and/or the ACT are important. However, most people don’t understand why it is so important to focus on these tests. Your SAT/ACT score is the only thing that is still completely in your control. By the time you are a junior in high school, raising your GPA significantly is mathematically impossible, and improving class ranking has you relying on other people’s failures. With the right amount of studying though, you can see a tangible increase in your SAT/ACT test score. As a high school student trying to help pay for college the number one way to make money for college is by improving your SAT/ACT scores. This can generate thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars in savings.


It all goes back to the rankings, su1-professor-graphics-blocksch as those done by US News and World Report or the Princeton Review. A large part of the rankings is the academic profile of the incoming freshman classes. The logic is simple, if a lot of smart kids are attending a certain school, it must be a good school! And though there are a lot of problems with standardized tests, it is still the one thing that is a level playing field across the nation. A GPA of 4.0 might be the equivalent of a 3.8 at a school across town. Where as a 1400 on the SAT is the same from Hawaii to Maine. As a result colleges are continually trying to get kids with better SAT/ACT scores in order to move up in the rankings.


Increasing your test score does more then increase your chances of getting scholarships at the schools on your list; it increases the number of schools where you would be a good fit. Applying to schools where you are a good fit is absolutely critical. So how do you improve your test score?  


Determine which test is right for you. The two tests require two different test-taking strategies; the way you study for the SATs will not equate to the ACTs. If you end up taking both tests two times you’ll invest a lot of extra studying time. To make the most of your study time and thus improve test scores, take a diagnostic test. We have a diagnostic test at our office and this is how it works: it is a 3 ½ hour test that will determine which test you are stronger at and breaks down each section to show you where you need to improve. You can then focus all of your efforts studying for just that one test – SAT or ACT!  


If you are a junior, now is the perfect time to take the diagnostic test. Then you can schedule your test date and start studying. Once you’ve determined which test is your strength, and you are a junior, we suggest you schedule your SAT/ACT test so that you can take it twice in junior year. That way you have an opportunity to improve your score if you are not happy with the first one. If you are a sophomore, we recommend doing the diagnostic test at the end of your sophomore year. Then once you’ve determined your test strength start studying for that specific test and schedule your testing dates as early as the Fall of your junior year.  When the award letters start rolling in, you’ll be happy you put forth the effort!


If you would like to learn more about how you can have your student take the Diagnostic Test give us a call at (425) 242-5179.

Common Pitfalls when Filling out your FAFSA

The FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid is one of the most important documents you’ll fill out during the college planning process. This key document is required for any family wishing to be considered for federal and or state college grants and loans. Financial aid is based on first come first serve, so it is vitally important to not only get your form in early (forms are released on January 1st) but also to fill it out correctly to avoid costly mistakes. Here’s a checklist to make sure you submit a correct form and thus increase your chances for aid.

  1. Apply
    The government is not going to just knock on your door and offer you aid – you need to ask for it! Don’t refrain from applying because you feel you make too much to receive aid. A lot of merit scholarships require you to still fill out the form.

  2. Proofread
    It’s a basic writing skill…proofreading and editing. Apply it to ensure you’ve filled out the form correctly and completely. Many students are denied aid each year due to a basic typo like misspelling their legal name, transposing their social security number, or even forgetting to enter the student’s PIN number serving as their signature. These are easy mistakes to make and to avoid just by going slow and proofreading your work!
  3. Estimate
    So much of the FAFSA form is tied to data we put on our tax returns. But, unlike your tax return, you don’t want to file an extension as you wait to compile all the data. Remember, aid is offered on a first come first serve basis. If you wait too long, there won’t be anything left! You do not need to file your taxes before applying for aid, instead estimate based on bank receipts and pay stubs. There’s even a section on the form that you can check to indicate you have not yet filed your taxes. This tells the colleges you are estimating. Once you’ve filed your taxes you can use your PIN number to go back in and update your financial information.12-professor-graphics-check
  4. Disclosure
    Be sure to answer every question on the form. If you don’t know the answer to an income related questions, insert a zero instead of leaving it blank. While it is required you answer the questions posed, you do not need to provide more information than is requested. For example, FAFSA doesn’t need to know how much you have in 401k or Individual Retirement Accounts. They also won’t ask you about your home equity, vehicles, RVs or boats so don’t waste their time disclosing that. But, the financial aid form does inquire about real estate investments and second homes, so be sure to disclose that information.
  5. Parent
    Students with divorced or separated parents want to make sure the correct parent fills out the form. The correct parent isn’t necessarily the legal guardian, but rather the parent with whom the student has lived with the majority of the year.

The FAFSA is the primary form that all colleges ask for, be aware however that it’s not the only form. When looking at private schools that use the CSS Profile or Institutional Forms not all of the guidelines above apply to these other forms. We want families to understand there are many ways to save for college and some will allow you to maximize financial aid at colleges. If you would like to talk about ways your family can build a college savings plan that maximizes financial aid call us at (425) 242-5179.

10 Hot Classes for Success in the Year 2020

Imagine the places you could go if only you knew what classes could take you there…

A zombie apocalypse might just destroy civilization before the year 2020. Hey, plenty of crazy things happen every day. If the zombie virus goes viral, only the best and brightest are going to have a chance at survival. Just in case, we’ve compiled a list of classes that you should take now to ensure you’re place in post-zombie apocalyptic society in 2020.

  1. Social Media Marketing, San Francisco State University

So knowing how to use social media in a way that benefits the company you work for may not be exactly breaking news to anyone. Almost every person currently looking for a job or working towards a degree of realizes the importance of social networking and promotion. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a serious class. With social media, more is more, and increasingly employers are expecting a higher level of knowledge when it comes to it.

  1. iPhone Application Development, Stanford

More and more these days, companies are being faced with the challenge of catering to a growing population of smartphone-owning consumers. These consumers require faster, easier, and more personalized ways to connect with any given business at any given time. Smartphone apps are the biggest trend right now that allow businesses 24/7 contact with consumers around the world, and like social media, it is beginning to fall to every employee to know how these apps work and how to make them better.

  1. Study Abroad

Technically, studying abroad is not a single course one can take to learn skills future employers might find noteworthy. However, seeing the world teaches students how to respect cultures other than their own, how to work with people who don’t come from the same background, and how to work in a foreign environment. All of these skills are increasingly necessary in a globalized world, where one day you could be talking to someone in Idaho and the next, someone in Switzerland.11-professor-graphics-hula

  1. Organizational Behavior, Georgia Tech

This course provides an introduction to how the behavior of individuals, groups, and organizations affects organizational effectiveness. AKA it teaches students how to better conduct themselves in a business environment so that they are as productive as possible, while also teaching future managers how to make their company more lucrative.

  1. Gender, Leadership, and Management, Harvard

This class is focused on leadership and management from a gender-based perspective. Issues covered include leadership styles and their impact, understanding power, ethical decision making, workplace stereotypes, differences in communication, and approaches to teamwork. All of these skills are and will continue to be vitally important in the modern workplace.

  1. Foreign Language

Again, not one specific course, but still important to employers of expanding businesses. Just the fact that you know a language, even if it is not one the company currently needs to use, can be a positive sign to an employer that you can put in the work necessary to learn a foreign language down the road.

  1. Business Writing, University of Notre Dame

This course is designed to help people in the business world improve upon their writing skills. A common problem in the workplace is that employees cannot even draft polite emails, much less professional presentations. “For whatever reason, we are finding the business writing skill-set to be missing,” said Paula Hill-Strasser, an adjunct business professor at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business. When preparing for a future career, students should take some time to hone their writing skills in the workplace that can not only just help them get a job, but also ensure that they keep it.

  1. Corporate Communication, Dartmouth

This mini-course explores the changing needs for communication in the business environment. It covers the ever growing environment for business, media relations, financial communications, reputation management and crisis communication.

  1. Peer Advising Program, University of Pennsylvania

This program, recently set up at Pennsylvania, is run by older undergraduate students for younger freshmen and sophomores. “While it’s great to see professional advisors and faculty, there are certain things that only a student can articulate,” Director of Academic Affairs and Advising for Wharton Scott Romeika said. Early responses have led to more informed students, who in turn make better course decisions.

  1. How to Develop “Breakthrough” Products and Services, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This course teaches students how to systematically create ‘breakthrough’ products and services for a company—a huge trend for businesses everywhere trying to find the next big thing. Shouldn’t that next big thing be you?

Content derived from the following article:

Social Media and College Applications

We can’t hide from it, social media is EVERYWHERE! We’ve all heard stories how social media postings have resulted in athletes getting kicked off of sports teams for violations of athletic codes, and by this time we are aware that job seekers need to manage their online identities as well since social media has become an additional reference source. What about for College Admissions? Have you given that any thought? You should!

College Admissions Offices are social media savvy. According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2012 survey of college admissions officers, more then 35% who’ve checked Google or Facebook have discovered information t10-professor-graphics-fbhat negatively impacts an applicant. This has more then doubled since last year. The most common social media sites used by college admissions officers are still Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Information that can negatively impact college bound students is what you’d expect: references to drugs and alcohol, bullying, nudity, and accusations of plagiarism. So what can you do, other then make good choices and avoid situations that put you in a compromising position? Kaplan recommends:

  1. Limit your profile search-ability so search engines won’t link to your profile. Go to Account – – Privacy Settings – Apps and Websites – Public Search (Edit Settings) and uncheck “Enable Public Search”. Or, if you just want to limit parts of your profile, go to Edit Profile and select the privacy level (Public, Friends, Only Me, Custom) for each profile data point.
  1. Control who can contact you on Facebook. Set your controls so only people who have a mutual friend can contact you. Click Account – Privacy Settings – How You Connect and select “friends of friends.”
  1. Take control of tagging on your profile. Facebook’s default settings allow friends to tag you in their photos, profile posts, and even check you into places. (Does anyone else find that creepy?) Change these settings so only friends can see these posts. Go to “How Tags Work” under Privacy settings and opt out. You can also choose to review all tags before they are linked to your profile so that your friends don’t have the chance to link embarrassing party photos without your permission.

*Read the entire Kaplan article on how to manage your social footprint.

The bottom line…be smart! It’s not just what you are posting but what others post about you. Manage your online identity!!!!

How to Get Geared Up Before Heading Back to School

September is here, and we all know what that means: time to attend class, study, get good grades AND be involved on campus. Oh yeah, and I guess have a social life on the side.  After a summer off, it might seem nearly impossible to stay afloat. That’s why now is more important than ever to prepare for the stressful semester ahead. Read on for some eye-opening insight on getting inspired, staying motivated and avoiding burn out.

1) Remind yourself of your long-term goals. 
First ask yourself, “Why do I attend college?” And, “What do I dream of doing one day?” These are both questions you can use to gear yourself up the next time you don’t want to write that super annoying term paper, or you feel like sleeping through that pain-in-the-you-know-what 8 a.m. class. At the moment, the task at hand may not seem worth the effort. But, in the long run, you will thank yourself for putting in the time.

2) Spend time with those whose careers you wish to emulate.
No matter how busy, make time to speak with people you admire. Find out how they got to where they are today and make a plan for how you will one day reach your full potential in a similar way.

Taylor Bryant graduated in 2012 from Syracuse University where she studied magazine journalism. She says her motivation to do well in school stemmed from both the personal satisfaction of good grades and her desire to incorporate into her own style the writing styles of other accomplished writers.9-professor-graphics-jersey

“Whether they were my own classmates, actual published journalists or literary authors, I admired their way of writing, and it inspired me to do the same,” Bryant said.”

Whenever Bryant felt that she was lacking motivation, she would attend guest speaker seminars and watch TED Talks, which were great tools in turning her attitude around.

“If there was a speaker coming to talk about their career — and it related in some way to what I wanted to do, I would always go.” Bryant said. “That always served as major motivation for me.”

3) Set short-term goals.
In contrast to my first piece of advice, it’s also important to focus on a few short-term goals to help along the way. While it is important to think about your ultimate professional objective, chances are getting there will take some time. Think of smaller milestones you would like to accomplish each semester. Not only will it boost your spirits to make progress, but small-scale, college tasks will also serve as great resumé builders.

4) Appreciate the college experience. 
I know, I know. What’s there to appreciate when you are given way too much work, not enough time to complete it and a load of debt to pay back once it’s all over? Trust me, I get it.

But, I have to say, there’s just something special about living in one place with all of your friends – who are just as sleep deprived as you – and having the opportunity to learn.

Even though it is easy to forget why we are in college in the first place, Alexandra Zaslow, a recent Indiana University graduate, says she especially appreciated college because of the amount of focus there is on learning.

“College is the last time in your life where you’ll have a teacher imparting wisdom on you,” said Zaslow. “I tried to take it all in as much as possible-especially during my senior year.”

5) Know what you love.

The worst time to think about how to get motivated is when you are already stuck in a rut of passionless indifference—a dramatic-sounding but accurate description of those stagnant moments when it seems there is nothing to look forward to.

This is why it’s important to know ahead of time what inspires you and makes you excited about life. Maybe it’s something as simple as engaging in a favorite hobby, such as hiking, painting or photography; it could also be spending time with friends and family. Whatever it is you find enjoyable, try to recognize what makes you happy before you are feeling down.

Although college can, at times, seem more overwhelming than exciting, Zaslow suggests reminding yourself that all the hard work ultimately leads to achieving your dreams. Once you know that, you are getting out of your own way and allowing yourself to get started.

“Don’t become intimidated by the challenge ahead,” Zaslow said. “Once you start it only becomes easier.”


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