College Planning FAQs

Click on the links below to lean more about each area:

ACT vs. SAT  Which is right for me?

Use this chart to compare the SAT and ACT tests and determine which type of test best fits your student. You might want to consider taking both tests to determine which test yields the higher score.  Please note that although the writing portion of the ACT test is optional (for an additional fee), most colleges request that you take the writing portion of the test when taking the ACT.

SAT

vs.

ACT

reasoning test

Type of Test

content-based test

Critical Reading: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section; Math: 2, 25-min sections and 1, 20-min section; Writing: 1, 25-min essay, 1, 25-min section, and 1, 10-min section

Test Format

English: 1, 45-min section; Math: 1, 60-min section; Reading: 1, 35-min section; Science: 1, 35-min section; Writing: 1, 30-min essay (optional)

reading, vocabulary, grammar & usage, writing, and math

Content Covered

grammar & usage, math, reading, science reasoning, and writing (optional)

tricky, questions can be phrased in ways that make them difficult to decipher

Test Style

straightforward, questions may be long but are usually less difficult to decipher

Math, Critical Reading, and Writing scores will each range between a 200-800; total SAT score ranges between 600-2400

Scoring

English, Math, Reading, and Science scores will each range between 1-36.  Composite ACT score is the average of your scores on the four sections; ranges between 1-36

yes – you lose ¼ of a point for incorrect answers (except on the grid-in math questions)

Penalty for Wrong Answers?

no – you do not lose points for incorrect answers

yes – you can choose which set(s) of SAT scores to submit to colleges

Score Choice?

yes – you can choose which set(s) of ACT scores to submit to colleges

arithmetic, data analysis, algebra I and II, functions, geometry; formulas are provided in the test booklet

Math Levels

arithmetic, algebra I and II, functions, geometry, trigonometry; no formulas are provided

every four-year

college in the US accepts SAT scores

Who accepts which test?

 every four-year college in the US accepts ACT scores

seven times per year: January, March or April, May, June, October, November, December

Offered when?

six times per year: February, April, June, September, October, December

typically about four weeks before the test date

Registration deadline?

typically about five to six weeks before the test date

www.collegeboard.com

More Information

www.act.org

To how many schools should I apply?

There is no rule that dictates how many colleges you may apply to.

If you’re willing to pay the application fees, you can apply to dozens. But that’s a poor strategy. Take the time to research and you’ll be able to whittle your initial list down to a manageable number of schools.

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can start crafting a list of colleges that fit your specifications. Don’t include a school on your list that you wouldn’t be willing to attend. As your list takes shape, include schools that fall into one of the following three categories: match, reach and safety.

A match school is one where your academic credentials fall well within (or even exceed) the school’s range for the average freshman. There are no guarantees, but it’s not unreasonable to expect to be accepted to several of your match schools.

A reach school is one where your academic credentials fall below the school’s range for the average freshman. Reach schools are long–shots, but they should still be possible. If you have a 2.0 GPA, Harvard is not a reach school–it’s a dream.

A safety school is one where your academic credentials fall above the school’s range for the average freshman. You can be reasonably certain that you will be admitted to your safety schools.

Apply to a few schools from each category (many applicants apply to around one or two reach schools, one or two match schools and one safety school). Separating them will help you manage your expectations throughout the admissions process. And it will ensure that you set ambitious goals and give yourself some back–up options.

What admissions options do I have?

Compare the following description of college admissions options to determine which one is right for you by learning more about each option.

The most common four options for college admissions are:

1.Early Decision

What’s most important to remember about early decision is that it’s a binding contract. When applying through early decision, if you are accepted, you have already agreed to attend.

Early decision should be utilized only when you have a top school you’d like to attend no matter what other schools accept you. You must be 100% sure that this is your first choice school you’d like to attend.

If you apply to a school via early decision and apply to others in the meantime, you must withdraw your applications to other schools if you are admitted to the early decision school.

2. Early Action

Early action is similar to early decision; however, the key difference is that it’s not a binding agreement. You can apply to more than one college via early action and decide which school you’d like to attend that you’ve be admitted to.

The benefit of early action is that students sometimes have a slightly better chance of being accepted since not as many students have applied at the early deadline.

3. Regular Admission

If you’re applying during the standard application period, usually from the beginning of December to mid-January, your application will fall under the category of regular admission.

If you’re unsure of what schools you’d like to attend or would like more time to prepare your application and essay, and improve test scores, it is likely regular admission will become your route of application.

If you apply during regular admission, expect to hear back from schools during the months of April and May.

4. Rolling Admissions

Rolling admissions is an option, but it’s not utilized by all colleges. Students are considered in the order in which their application is received since space is limited.

A college participating in rolling admissions will keep accepting applications until they’ve reached full capacity.

What questions should I ask on my college visits?

This list is meant to provide prospective students and parents with ideas for questions to ask during an on-campus visit. Keep in mind that it is important to seek answers from a variety of students and college officials in order to get a well- rounded view of the college.

Ask questions about things that are most important to you- no question is too stupid (but remember to keep them polite). Try to ask the same questions at each school you visit so that you have a point of comparison between the schools.

  • Questions about freshman admissions:
    • What percentage of applicants is admitted?
    • What is the average high school GPA of admitted students?
    • What are the average ACT, and SAT scores?
    • What is the freshman retention rate (the percentage of freshman students who return sophomore year)?
    • What is your four year graduation rate?
    • What is the male/female ratio at the school?
  • Questions about the academic programs:
    • Do you offer ______ major? (the major you’re interested in)
    • What are the college’s most popular majors?
    • How many majors does the school offer?
    • What percent get jobs immediately after graduating?
    • What percent enter graduate school?
    • What is the average class size during the freshman and sophomore years?
    • What special programs are available?  (Co-op, internships, honors, study abroad, undergraduate research, senior thesis, etc.)
    • How much time do students typically spend on homework?
    • Are tutoring programs available?
    • Do you have a writing center available?
    • What type of career services do you have?
  • Questions about housing:
    • How are roommates selected?
    • Is there tripling in double-occupancy rooms?
    • What are the different types of housing offered?
    • Are there single sex or both sex rooms, suites, floors, wings, buildings?
    • Are there bathrooms in each room/suite or common floor bathrooms?
    • How many cafeterias are at the school? What are the other dining options?
  • Questions about financial aid:
    • What is your average financial aid package?
    • What percentage of financial need does the school typically meet?
    • What percentage of students receive college grants?
  • Questions about spiritual life on campus:
    • How frequently do you have chapel? Is chapel mandatory?
    • Do you have campus organizations for spiritual growth?
    • What kinds of service opportunities are available?
    • Where do students attend Sunday services?
  • Questions about social life on campus:
    • How frequently are activities held on campus?
    • What kinds of activities are available?
    • What clubs do you have on campus?
    • How many intramural sports are offered?
    • Do most students stay on campus on the weekends?
    • Do the students have a curfew?
    • Are freshmen allowed to have cars?
    • Are there rules for meeting with students of the opposite sex? (Designated nights for open floors, etc.)
    • Does the school have a dress code?

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. How did the faculty and staff members interact with students? Were they friendly or authoritarian?
  2. Do most of the students seem like you, or are they completely different? Are they the kind of people you could be friends with?
  3. How would you feel about being in a classroom with these students? Sharing a dorm with them?
  4. Did the students try to make you feel at home? Were they helpful in answering your questions? How did they interact with one another?
  5. Does the campus seem like a good size for you?
  6. Are the dorms too quiet? Too noisy? Too crowded? Not enough action?
  7. How large are the dorm rooms? Is there space to study? Have time to yourself?
  8. Does it look like there is much to do outside of classes?
  9. How easy is to get to places off campus? Are there places within walking distance?
  10. Do you feel comfortable and safe?
  11. Is there a supermarket or drugstore nearby?
  12. If you move out of a dorm after freshman year, what are the options in apartment complexes or buildings?

Remember you are visiting the college to find out if it’s a good match for you. The students who are already there may like it, but you have to decide if you will too. So try to envision whether you can actually live and study there for four years. Decide what’s important to you, whether its class size, healthy food, level of academics, an active, vibrant campus, the spiritual atmosphere or attentive professors, and make sure those elements are in place.

How can I prepare for my college interview?

The interview is an integral part of any career or college application. To help better serve our students in preparing for an interview, we have created the Senior Interview Practicum.

Our PCS Headmaster holds a workshop for the seniors comprised of sample interview questions and important do’s and don’ts during an interview. Following the workshop, students are invited to take part in several one-on-one interviews with patron parents. Patron interviewers give feedback to the students in multiple areas such as vocal volume and inflection, body language, their handshake, and answer content.

The Senior Interview Practicum has proven to provide an invaluable tool for students in making their best first impression in an interview.