Summer Bummer part 1

Hi seniors! Sounds good, no? Perhaps just a bit scary?

Allow me to intrude upon your reverie and talk about what lies ahead this fall. Trust me, I’m enjoying the sun and the beach and the relaxed schedule as much as I hope you are, but hey, forewarned is forearmed so here are some items which may be of use to you.

Last week I sent you advice about beginning your common application, which went “live” at on the 1st of this month. Today I want to suggest that you formally begin a no-cost, do-it-yourself SAT preparation next week (August 14th) using Khan Academy in anticipation of the October 7th SAT test date. 

As with most of my rants, print this email out if you find it useful and hang on to it with the others, and by all means feel free to forward them to friends and acquaintances who might benefit from them.

Many of you have met with me over the summer, and others may be thinking of doing so. I’m around and I look forward to talking with anyone who’d like some help sorting this stuff out.

So let's get to it, shall we?


SAT, SAT Subject Tests and the ACT

Most of you will retake the SATs this fall on October 7. The sign up deadline for the October test is September 8, and you do it at 

Go on line ( and register now. If you’ve been getting my rants since last spring you’ll recall that I recommend a “self-prep” method to get yourself ready for the test which involves putting in a little bit of time (45 minutes a day, three times a week) for eight weeks prior to the test date. Use the Khan Academy link from the collegeboard’s web site to set up your practice schedule. It’s easy, and it will customize your preparation to reflect the SAT score you received last spring.

Next Monday (August 14th) is the start of an eight week countdown to the October 7th test date. If you buy in to my suggestion, that’s when you should start your Khan Academy assisted preparation. To link your SAT and PSAT results to the Khan Academy (so you’ll get a customized preparation program) you have to go to your account and click on the link which says “Get Free Practice for the SAT with Khan Academy”.

This will take you through several steps and finally will let you design your very own SAT prep schedule. Indicate the date you’re taking the test (October 7). Skip the four full length practice tests (others will tell you to do them but IMHO you have better things to do with your time then this). Sign up for three 45 minute sessions weekly - it will then customize an instructional program for you.

If you have difficulty with the above give me a call and I’ll walk you through it.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I don’t see any need for paying for test prep if you’ll religiously follow this system. Two years ago people were paying $800 for this very Khan Academy test prep program. Now it’s been made free for all. Use it!


SAT subject tests are also offered in the fall - dates are 10/7, 11/4, and 12/2 (no, December is not too late to take them unless you’re applying early decision or early action). In an earlier newsletter I gave you several reasons why honors level students may wish to take (or may need to take) subject tests - let me know if you want me to resend you that rant. 

NOTE: Not everyone needs to take subject tests. Only a handful of the most selective colleges require them. Please contact me if you’re unsure whether you should be taking these, or ask your guidance counselor.

Here are two sites which list the colleges which require or recommend subject tests. Note that neither of these lists are comprehensive and there are several schools which are indicated as ‘optional’ or ‘recommended’. You’ll want to read on each of your schools’ web pages (look for “how to apply” on the “admissions” page) to get the precise response (an excellent excuse for sending a “pen pal” email to admissions at each of your schools).

Remember, although the Subject Tests are offered at the same time and place as the SAT Reasoning Test, you CANNOT TAKE THEM BOTH AT THE SAME TIME. Which means, um, that you should take one of the tests in October and the other in November.
I suggest you take/retake SAT subject tests on the Nov. 14th test date.

Also, Subject Tests are ONE HOUR EACH and you may sign up to take ONE, TWO or (fun fun) THREE on the same day. I recommend you take two or three per sitting, since you’re getting up early and blowing a Saturday morning as it is.

For a description/discussion of what the heck the subject tests are all about, go to this College Board site:

Or, give me a call and I’ll do my best to put you hip, straighten you out, ease your pain, all of the above…and I’ll give you some suggestions for preparing for these bad boys as well.

And let us not forget the ever growing in popularity ACT test, which will be offered on October 28 and December 9 this fall. (It’s also offered on September 9th but the sign up deadline has already passed and I never suggest students take it that early because you’d have to have blown most of your summer prepping for it. Same reason I eschew students taking the SAT Reasoning test in August)

You sign up at (by September 22 for the October test; by November 3 for the December one). You may have to travel to take this one, so check the ACT web site carefully to see where it’s offered.

The ACT is no more reliable than the SAT (both tests are poor predictors of college success or how bright you are) but some students, particularly those good at math and science do better on it than they do on the SAT. Colleges will accept either test, and in some cases the ACT subscores are accepted in place of SAT subject tests.

The ACT costs $62.50 with the optional writing test which you should include if you’re going to take the darned thing.

Confused? Call or email me and we'll tawk.

The Common Application

I wrote you last week about this - show of hands: who’s started their common application?

Go ahead now and do it - don't be scared. You’ll see it’s quite user-friendly…If anyone needs me to resend my last rant about getting started on the common app, let me know and I will.

I’m going to end here. Next week I’ll send a “part two” of my August “Summer Bummer” College Guy Rant, offering you a sort of mellow “to do” list for your college search and application process.
Get cracking on this stuff, but leave yourself time for the beach as well. Don’t forget the sunscreen! 
From Gary the College Guy

Gary L. Canter
College Placement Services
210 St. John Street
Portland, Maine 04102
(207) 772-9711 

College Placement Services provides high school students and their families assistance with all aspects of the college search, selection, application and financial aid process

P.S. If you'd rather not get these occasional missives, kindly let me know...and you won't.