March College Guy Rant for JUNIORS: Start (or continue) Your SAT Prep NOW!

Hey Campers, SPRING IS SIX DAYS AWAY!!!!!!
How do you like that, those of you in the Northeast, where three of the past five school days have been cancelled due to snow?!!!
That, my friends, is IRONY. Nota bene for your upcoming SAT. Irony = “the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning” (Miriam Webster Dictionary, thought I’d spell it out for you cause something like this very well may be on the SAT)!
Those of you in Maine, Illinois and the handful of other states which use the SAT for their statewide assessments will be taking the test in four short weeks, on April 10th. Most of the rest of you will take the test on May 5th (when you can also text “happy birthday to me!").
Students in the former group have hopefully been diligent in your test prep over the past several weeks, and if you’ve been following the suggestions I’ve given you you’re using Khan Academy (which you’ve linked to your College Board account) and spending 45 minutes three times a week doing what they tell you.
The rest of you who will be taking the test in May, go ahead and begin your test prep now. No if’s, and’s or but’s: link your account to Khan Academy by following the directions on your college board home page, and set up your schedule the way I’ve suggested previously: eight weeks, three times a week, 45 minutes each time (yes, you can specify all of this, including which days you want to do it). The fine folks at Khan Academy will then send you a text saying “time to get cracking’” throughout the next eight weeks, and you’re good to go.
PARENTS: I’ve mentioned this to you before, but it’s worth repeating. Before you drop money on test prep tutors or classes, have junior try the self-prep first. Did I mention it was free? And don’t give me the: “I’m worried he won’t do it on his own!” line. What the heck are you sending her to college for if s/he’s not a self-starter who knows how to manage time well?!!
Can I get an "AMEN, College Guy"?!!!
For those of you not living in an in-school testing state, the May 5th test date has a registration deadline of April 6th, so don’t forget to sign up. If you qualify for reduced lunch at your high school (whether you actually use it or not) ask your guidance counselor for a fee waiver - you’ll save yourself $60.
As long as I’m on the subject, let me make a few more suggestions about...
Students in Maine (and Illinois, CO, CT, DE, MI and NH, which far as I can tell are the states where all juniors are required to take the test in April) should consider taking SAT SUBJECT TESTS on May 5th. 
These are hour-long tests on a particular subject which you have mastered. You are allowed to take three tests per testing date. The tests are: Literature, Math I and Math II, American History, World History, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. In addition there are nine language subject tests (Spanish, French, German, Latin, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Italian).
The subject tests are offered six times a year, on the same national testing dates as the regular SAT Test (with the exception of the March test date), but you cannot take both subject tests and the regular test on the same date. So those of you taking in-state SATs in April can take the May subject tests. Those of you taking May SATs should plan to take the subject tests on June 2nd. 
Make sense?
Now, hold your horses and understand that the subject tests are not for everyone. They’re only required by about 40 of the most selective colleges. I advise the following students to consider taking these tests:
1. Students who are taking AP courses. Plan to take the corresponding subject test as close to when you’re taking the AP exam.
2. Students who are good test takers. Rule of thumb: if your PSAT scores were 600 or higher (in math and/or language-writing) you’re a good test taker.
3. Students who aspire to apply to the most selective (aka mucky muck) schools like the Ivys, the little Ivys, Duke, MIT, Stanford, you get the picture.
4. Students who take the majority of their classes at the honors and AP level.
If you fall in to one or more of the categories above, go ahead and schedule some subject tests. You’ve got nothing to lose (except a Saturday morning and a few bucks) and you don’t have to share your scores with your colleges once you’ve seen them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
That’s as quick and as concise a review/summary of subject tests I can give you. The Collegeboard web site is loaded with more information about them. (good info, but ignore the fact that they’re trying to sell you a test prep package)
…and don’t forget the ACT.
This test is somewhat similar in length and structure to the SAT, offered seven times a year. You register for it (and read all about it) at www.act.orgThis test is equally bad at predicting college readiness and success (see but, like the SAT, it can be important for college selection and merit-based scholarships. Some students do better on the ACT than the SAT. I generally recommend that honors level students take both in the spring of Junior year to see how their scores turn out, and then concentrate on one of the tests for a second go-round in the fall. Every college will accept either set of scores, so think of it as just another chance to earn brownie points in the college admissions game.
The test is offered this spring on June 9th (May 4th registration deadline) and July 14th (June 15 registration deadline).
More information about ACT here:
(Remember, companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review are trying to sell you their test-prep services, so keep your credit card sheathed for now and just read the information. For some students there’s a time and place for dropping money for test prep - talk to me about it if you’re curious. I can give you names of tutors and courses I think are good).
Okay, long exhalation. I always feel “sullied” when talking about standardized tests because (a) they’re terrible creations, and (b) they don’t measure what they claim to measure, i.e. student readiness for college, and (c) they’re horribly over-emphasized and therefore feared by students undergoing the college selection and application process. THAT SAID, they’re important, and that’s why I try my best to explain them to you. If you have questions or are in any way unsettled by any of the above, please feel free to call me or email me. I don’t charge for schmoozing on the phone or replying to emails, and I’ll most likely be able to set you straight. That’s why I’m here! Oh, and my contact information is below in my signature.
Let me end by sharing a really cool web site for students and parents who are beginning to ask the very salient question (for which there is no satisfactory answer, by the way):
"How the heck am I supposed to come up with a reasonable and realistic short list of colleges to apply to by next fall?????”
This indeed is a premier question for juniors to be asking, and for those of you who want to know what people actually pay me for, by all means contact me and I’ll tell all, including how I address (and respond to) this question with my clients. 
For now, go to this web page and write in a college in the box which says “Search for a College”:
Try “Syracuse” if one doesn’t immediately come to mind.
Besides the cool interactive chart which springs up and you can spend oodles of time playing with, look over to the right margin and note that they list “12 colleges selected as peers by this college” and “27 colleges which have selected Syracuse as their peer”.  Expand each list and you’ll have a list of colleges which are referred to generally as “Cross-Applys”. This means that students who favor one particular college often will apply to these related colleges.
Is that cool or what???? Thank you "Chronicle of Higher Education"!
Juniors, relax and enjoy the waning days of winter and the warmth to come. Open the sports page and notice the boys of summer warming up in Florida and Arizona, and circle March 29th on your calendars for my Yankee’s opening day versus Toronto (sigh, okay it’s also Boston’s opening day against Tampa Bay)! Let those chilly winds a-blow, we’ve got baseball just around the corner!
From your larruping linguist, your enlightened edifyer, your copious correspondent, your perspicacious pundit,
P.S.  One more thing: here’s the College Guy’s equivalent of “drop and give me twenty pushups!”. Write your first essay. No more than 650 words, make it interesting. Choose from one of the seven 2018-19 common application prompts listed here:
If you send me what you come up with I’ll give you a quick critique, let you know if you’re on the right track...
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.