College Entrance Information
This page has a good comparison chart of SAT to ACT:
Here's what The Princeton Review has to say about SAT vs. ACT:
Colleges will accept either the SAT or ACT. So which should you take?
It's all about the numbers. Some students end up scoring substantially higher on the SAT; others do better on the ACT.
ACT questions tend to be more straightforward.
ACT questions are often easier to understand on a first read. On the SAT, you may need to spend time figuring out what you're being asked before you can start solving the problem. For example, here are sample questions from the SAT essay and the ACT Writing Test (their name for the essay):
SAT: What is your view of the claim that something unsuccessful can still have some value?
ACT: In your view, should high schools become more tolerant of cheating?
The SAT has a stronger emphasis on vocabulary.
If you're an ardent wordsmith, you'll love the SAT. If words aren't your thing, you may do better on the ACT.
The ACT has a Science section, while the SAT does not.
You don't need to know anything about amoebas or chemical reactions for the ACT Science section. It is meant to test your reading and reasoning skills, based upon a given set of facts. But if you're a true science-phobe, the SAT might be a better fit.
The ACT tests more advanced math concepts.
The ACT requires you to know a little trigonometry, in addition to the algebra and geometry you'll find on the SAT. That said, the ACT Math section is not necessarily harder, since many students find the questions to be more straightforward than those on the SAT.
The ACT Writing Test is not required.
The 25-minute SAT essay is required, and is factored into your Writing score. The 30-minute ACT Writing Test is optional. If you choose to take it, it is not included in your composite score—schools will see it listed separately.
The SAT is broken up into more sections.
On the ACT, you tackle each content area (English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning) in one big chunk, with the optional Writing Test at the end. On the SAT, the content areas (Critical Reading, Math, and Writing) are broken up into ten sections, with the required essay at the beginning. You do a little math, a little writing, a little critical reading, a little more math, etc. Will it distract or refresh you to move back and forth between different content areas?
The ACT is more of a "big picture" exam.
College admissions officers care about how you did on each section of the SAT. On the ACT, they're most concerned with your composite score. So if you're weak in one content area but strong in others, you could still end up with a very good ACT score.
BEGINNING THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PROCESS
--Make a list of possible colleges of interest. Consider the following:
--geographic location (area of the country, distance from home, whether urban or rural, weather factors, etc.)
--size of college (personal preference whether large, medium or small)
--majors available as related to your academic interests and professional goals
--competitiveness of admission (average SAT scores and GPA of admitted students and percentage of applicants accepted) & requirements for admission (SAT/SAT Subject Tests/ACT; high school courses; recommendations; essays; etc.)
--athletics & other activities offered at the college
--whether private or state-supported (this factor mainly affects cost with private schools being significantly more expensive, and it affects size, with private schools usually being significantly smaller)
--availability of financial aid & merit scholarships – given that all schools offer need-based and merit-based aid, cost alone should NOT be a major factor in consideration of colleges to which you apply
All the above information is readily available online at CFNC.org, and in college handbooks in the Guidance Office and in all bookstores.
TAKE REQUIRED STANDARDIZED TESTS
--Be aware that, beginning in 2011-12, all sophomores in N.C. will take the PLAN (Preliminary ACT) Test in October; all juniors take the ACT in March. This is mandatory, free of charge, and administered on a school day. The score results are official and can be used for college admission. Students should prepare for this test by practicing online (www.actstudent.org) and/or acquiring a practice test booklet from the Guidance Office. USE the practice test to take a test with the time limits and then score the test yourself. Go over items that you missed and see if you can understand how to arrive at the correct answer. Ask a math or English teacher to work with you on the items you missed that you do not understand. If you want to use the ACT for college applications yet are not satisfied with your scores, retake it in April or June of your junior year and/or fall of your senior year.
--Plan to take SAT at least once to compare your percentile scores on the SAT with your ACT. Before you take the SAT, review your PSAT results and use online resources or practice SATs to prepare. Be aware that the SAT will be administered at West Stokes for the November & December 2012, January & February 2013 administrations. It is also administered in October 2012 and May, June 2013, but not at West Stokes. (register at www.collegeboard.org.)
--If your percentile score on SAT is comparatively higher than your score on ACT, plan to retake SAT to submit with college applications. You may retake SAT and ACT as many times as you wish; colleges will accept your best scores on either.
--Plan to take SAT Subject Tests IF the colleges of interest require them (only the most competitive colleges do so).
VISIT COLLEGES OF INTEREST
--Check website of colleges to learn policies regarding campus visits. Most colleges offer group tours and information sessions. At some colleges you must make a reservation for a specific tour & information session. At other colleges you need to know the time so you can plan your visit, but reservations are not necessary.
--See if the college welcomes or permits individual interviews. If so, it is definitely advisable to schedule one and use it to your advantage.
--Research the college before you visit so you do not ask questions that are already answered on the school’s website. Do not hesitate to ask questions, particularly during the campus tour with a student tour guide – that is your chance to get the “inside scoop”
--Most campuses offer tours on week-ends and throughout the summer. You can tell more about the school if you visit when it is in session. Be aware of West Stokes’ policy & procedure for missing school due to college visits.
BUILD YOUR RESUME
--Take the most challenging courses you can handle, building to the most rigorous load senior year. Try to take Honors/AP/Dual Enrollment courses in your areas of strength.
--Increase your involvement in school activities, whether athletics, clubs, committees, or independent study projects. Be aware that it is the depth of your involvement, not the quantity of clubs you belong to, that matters.
--Become more involved in community service and volunteer work outside of school; take a leadership role; initiate projects of your own.
--Be aware that if you have a job, this is evidence of responsibility; you can make it into a plus on your college applications.
--Maintain a list of all of the above in a resume format listing basic information about you and dividing topics such as Academic Interests, Athletics, Clubs & Organizations, Community Service, Work Experience, etc.
WRITING COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAYS
The more selective colleges may require 1-3 long essays, one of which is usually called a Personal Statement, and 3-7 short answer (one paragraph) questions. If required, the essays are extremely important. They should be well-written, grammatically perfect, well organized, and the content should show your personality, individuality, and the issues about which you feel strongly.
The essays will change from year to year on applications to different colleges. However, you may take essays from current applications to practice on, and the personal statement is usually a standard requirement that does not vary. You could begin to work on a personal statement during your junior year, have an English teacher read it for content and organization, rewrite it the summer before your senior year, and have another teacher read a final copy before you submit it.
You should have more than one person reading your essays to help you in the process of refining and editing. This is not at all "cheating,” rather, it shows good use of resources. As long as the writing is your own, and any ideas from other people are properly credited, you are doing what you should be doing to prepare the best essays possible. Just be sure that your own “voice” shows through and reflects who you are.
ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE!!!
--Keep a calendar in a prominent place with all the important dates related to testing, visiting colleges, and making application.
--Make files to keep all your score reports of SATs, ACTs, etc.
--Keep a file on each college you are interested in. Write on the front the deadline for application, the requirements for applying, and the dates of any contact you have with the Admissions Office.
--If you visit a campus, make a note of the name of the admissions person who leads your group session or the person who interviews you. Write a thank you note and tell something that you learned that was of value to you.
--Make a file for financial aid information and scholarships, divided by types of aid, instructions and deadlines for applying, and note whether one application (like the FAFSA) is used by all the colleges or whether the scholarships (like UNC-G Merit Scholarships) are specific to a certain college.
-- If you want to play college athletics, register with NCAA.
--If you might quality for any testing accommodations like extended time on SAT or ACT, be aware that there is extensive documentation of disability required. This process should be started early in spring semester of junior year.
--If you may need fee waivers for College Board testing or ACTs, you must document financial need by being on free/reduced lunch or some other form of federal/state assistance. Application fee waivers are also available for some colleges.
Know and utilize the resources in your Guidance Office. More detailed information on everything in these pages is available from the West Stokes Guidance Office.
-- Sherrie Forbus, Guidance Secretary – handles transcript requests
--Michelle Ring, Counselor – dual enrollment & community college/technical college applications
--Sandra Bowen, Counselor – financial aid/FAFSA information
--Lauren Hill, Counselor – 4-year college applications
Once you start applying to colleges, get to know & utilize the resources in the Admissions Office and the Financial Aid Office of the college you plan to attend.