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How to open more doors in your college search: Take the SAT

High school is complicated enough, so when it comes time to navigate the world of entrance exams and college tests, it’s only natural for some students to get mixed up.

Do I need to take the SAT? Or does my school look at other tests? Is the PSAT necessary? Why am I even going to college if it’s this confusing?

Step 1: Take a deep breath.

Step 2: Remind yourself, ‘it’s going to be fine,’ and realize that you are not alone.

Don’t take my word for it; school psychologist Courtney Meiers puts it best.

“A lot of times it does become overwhelming when they say ‘take the PSAT to prepare for the SAT’ and ‘do this,’” she said. “At their age especially, they get overwhelmed, and then they kind of start to let go of a few strings here and there, and then they eventually give up.

“They say ‘this is too difficult for me to even conceptualize what test to take for what school, and I’m just going to go to community college and figure it out.’”

So where do you start in picking apart the process of procuring a path to college? According to Meiers, it can be as simple as understanding which tests will open which doors. That’s’ where the SAT comes in for some students. It can be confusing at times, Meiers confessed, but when students get past that hurdle of understanding which tests to take, it gets much easier.

“The ones who are going to get in anyways are the ones who are understanding the scores, it’s the ones who are in the middle ground that are like, ‘ugh, do I go to community college, or do I even want to go to college?’” she said. “It’s hard to get them to understand that one test is for one school, and this test is for another school.”

Quincey is one of those students that saw different entrance exams as opening up her potential college choices. After taking other tests, and considering which schools she was interested in, Quincey turned to the SAT, and was surprised by what she found.

“I just assumed it would be the same,” she said. “Recently, the SAT just changed their stuff to be more similar, but it’s still not the same. There’s no science section, there are two math sections. It’s helpful to know how the scale is different. The writing sections are very different too.”

Understanding those differences would help her a lot if Quincey decided to take the test again, she said, and is something she is considering with her college choice coming soon. Quincey is a junior in North Platte, NE, and although not everyone at her school takes the SAT, it’s something she knew she wanted to do.

Why?

“More opportunities,” Quincey said. “I wanted to see if I’d do better, and I’ve been looking more at schools on the east and west coasts.”

For students like Quincy, Meiers said exploring all options for college entrance exams can be key in giving students confidence in their college choice.

“What I do is tell them that it’s a number, that allows you to be looked at as a number.”

What she means, is that each test is a way for colleges to assign a value to a student, and that value is what is key to getting your name on the list of students considered. If your number isn’t called, you’ll never have a chance to show them why you deserve a spot on campus.

To get that number ‘called,’ Meiers said students have to take ownership of their potential to post a solid score.

“If you want your number to be looked at, you have to put effort into getting that number to be high,” Meiers said. “Colleges aren’t going to look at who you are as a person, they’re going to look at your numbers, including your grades as well.”

That’s what was on Quincey’s mind when she decided to take the SAT. She had done other tests, knew the results and found out how hard it could be to move your score up. And both Quincey and Meiers agreed that taking different tests can help students understand their strengths, and how to use them to get a college’s attention.

In the highly competitive world of college admissions and scholarships, you’d be selling yourself short if you didn’t explore all options. Especially the SAT.

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