We know how important your involvement is in your child's education - we also know how difficult it can be to stay on top of all of the important steps in planning and preparing for college.  

Below you'll find this month's content - LEARN (info to know), DO (action to take), and TIPS (insights for success)



The college admissions process has changed significantly over the years, most notably becoming more competitive. Much of this is due to the prevalence of the standardized test and the outcome of the student’s score. With more students than ever attending college today, there is more competition for the seats at the perceived “top” schools that many clamor after.

However, the typical college admissions test, the ACT or the SAT, is only one measure by which a student’s collegiate admissions is dependent upon. Many parents want to know how their student can be more successful on the test to ensure admission into a particular college. Knowing how the tests work and how they are administered can shed light on which test is best for your teenager to take. This knowledge can also help to ensure they score as high as they possibly can.

Here is a breakdown of the tests, first the Content:

  • The ACT is an achievement test that focuses on school curriculum-based skills — English, math, reading, and science.
  • The SAT is more of a reasoning test that changes from one test to the next but still includes critical math, writing, and critical reading; it does not have a science portion.

The Format:

  • The ACT has a more straightforward style and the formatting remains the same from test to test, which lets students prepare and strategize if they chose to take it more than once.
  • In contrast, the SAT always has the same time allotments and section types — writing, critical reading, and critical math — but may place them in a different order or may have different numbers of questions.

Here is a quick comparison of the two tests:

What is Tested?

  • ACT assesses knowledge of subjects taught in High School.
  • SAT measures literacy and writing skills, and assesses how well a student analyzes and solves problems.

When to take the test?

  • ACT examination is offered six times a year in the months of Feb, Apr, June, Sept, Oct, and Dec.
  • The SAT examination is offered seven times a year in the months of Jan, Mar, May, Jun, Oct, Nov, and Dec.

Penalty for incorrect answers

  • ACT - There is no penalty for incorrect answers
  • SAT - There is a penalty (1/4 point) for each wrong answer except for grid-in (not multiple choice) questions in math.  Omitted questions neither count for nor against a student's overall score.

Test Duration

  • ACT - 3 hours and 25 minutes (including 30 minutes for an optional writing test)
  • SAT - 3 hours and 45 minutes

Major Sections

  • ACT - English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning.  A fifth section (writing) is optional.
  • SAT - Mathematics, Reading, and Writing.  The writing section includes an essay.

Top Score

  • ACT = 36
  • SAT = 2400

Popular in

  • The ACT tends to be relatively more popular in the Midwest and the South.
  • The SAT tends to be more popular on the East and West coasts.

Both the ACT and SAT have essay writing components; the ACT's writing portion is optional but is requested by many colleges. The newly redesigned SAT (as of spring 2016) now includes an optional writing portion, just like the ACT.

Regardless of the test (or tests) that your teenager will take, having a good understanding of what these tests are all about will help set your student up for success!

(You can visit ACT.org or CollegeBoard.org to learn more about these important college admissions tests.)


Help them make a schedule

Your sophomore is getting older, they probably seem way more mature than they did last year this time. 

That being said, many teenagers still struggle with their time management - especially trying to balance school work, activities, social time, and (possibly this year) a job.

Take some time to help your teenager make a schedule of their week or month. Be sure to allocate time for studies, activities, social events, and down time. The process of talking through a schedule is very beneficial for your teenager and will instill in them the skills necessary to do it on their own (one day).

TIP #1

Meet the teachers – Most schools have an Open House or Back to School Night, be sure to attend!  It is important to share with them a bit about yourself and your son or daughter as a student and more importantly as a person.

TIP #2 

Homework – While it may not be very fun, it is important.  Remind your teenager that learning doesn’t end 3pm and that homework is just another way to increase learning.  Encourage your student to embrace the idea of self-directed learning by creating their own homework schedules.

myOWNEDU for Schools!

We work with schools to bring college planning courses to students and offer free College Planning Presentations for parents.  Learn more by clicking here.