How important is preparing for the SAT?  Important enough to delay taking the test until Senior year?  Susan asked me for some guidance to help her decide about when to take the SAT college admission test.
I wanted to let you know that your mini course on the 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make on Homeschooling High School was very informative. I like your thorough content and the fact that they are not too long each time. Each point is very valuable to know. I have done each one, but I have a question about the SAT.  Can my 11th grade girls take the SAT in 12th grade?  I would like to let them have more time to prepare. Thank you for your quality services.

~ Susan in Washington

You know, there are a lot of people that take the SAT "cold" each year - and I don't mean just the people freezing in the midwest right now!  I mean the kids that take it without any preparation at all.  Taking the test cold can be an option!

If you are considering taking the test without preparation, there are a few things to consider.  First, if they do relatively well on standardized testing in general, then they will probably do relatively well on the SAT or ACT test as well.  Poor test-takers would have problems, but good test-takers are usually OK.

Second, taking the SAT can help you find a college - and finding a college is the key, critical task of junior year.  Here is my article on junior year, which may explain things better. When you take the SAT, your putting the students name "into the system" and colleges will start marketing to you.  They will know the students approximate SAT score, grades, courses, and geographical location - and that's how they decide who they want to send marketing materials too.

Third, knowing their SAT score can help you decide which colleges are an "easy admit" which are a good fit, and which colleges could be a real stretch.  You'll be able to guide your student toward colleges that will award financial aid if you know their SAT score.  If you don't score well on the SAT, students can take it a second time, after preparing for the test.  Each college has a different policy on how they compare scores, but in general their policies will make you look BETTER.  Some will let you take the highest overall score, others will take the best score from each section, and some will let you take the most recent scores.  If your student prepares before taking the second score, it can make them look better.

Finally, although it seems like the policy changes every single year, I believe that you can still decide not to allow colleges to see your actual scores from the first test.  No harm, no foul.  You can wait to see the score first, and then release them to colleges.

Let's consider the other option:  waiting to take the SAT in senior year.  College applications should begin in September of senior year, before the SAT is even offered.  How will you know which colleges are a good fit?  How can the college give you merit aid that is tied to the SAT score, if you haven't taken the SAT?  What if you put off applying to colleges while you're waiting to get SAT score results?  You could put it off while the college fills with students and hands out scholarship money to others, and then get left behind.  Yuck!

One tiny additional tidbit, since you haven't really started the process yet.  Have your children take a sample test of the ACT and a sample test of the SAT.  Which one do they score better in to begin with?  Then have them take THAT test, and have them study for THAT test.  Choosing the right college admission test can also raise their score, even before they beginning planning for the test!

I hope that helps.  Let me know if you need more information.


Learn more about Finding a College in my parent training DVD!