Five Tips for Sucessful College Admissions


For student athletes heading to American universities and colleges

Heading to American universities and colleges can be a wise choice, especially if you’re an athlete. But getting into American universities and colleges often requires more planning and forethought than student-athletes realize.

Because student athletes are so focused on their athletic performance, the issues of deadlines, standardized exams and college interviews often get left by the wayside until it’s too late.

To help you prepare for an athletic career at an American university or college, PREPSKILLS® has put together Five Tips for Successful College Admissions that should help you figure out where you are in the process.

Each “Tip” is followed by a set of questions. If you can’t answer the questions, then you need to start planning!


Tip #1 - The PSAT – Taking the preliminary SAT in grades 9 or 10

If you’re in grades 9 or 10 now, you should be preparing for the PSAT.

The PSAT is the “Preliminary SAT”. American students start preparing for it in grades 8 and 9. Similar to the longer, official SAT, the PSAT prepares you for standardized test questions in mathematics, reading and writing. Importantly, however, the PSAT can get you onto college recruitment lists.

At PREPSKILLS®, we think of the PSAT as a win-win examination. If you take it, and you perform well, colleges will be notified of your high rank and they will begin to send you recruitment information related to scholarships, college admissions and specific programs. If you score poorly, nothing happens – the colleges never find out about your score and you don’t suffer in any way. However, you do get a chance to see how difficult SAT-style exams are, so you can begin to mentally prepare yourself for the sort of preparation you’ll have to engage in before writing your official SAT later on. It’s a win-win scenario. If you’re in grades 9 or 10, get ready to write the PSAT this fall.

Note: The PSAT is only offered once a year in October. You must register with high schools directly as the PSAT is administered only by a select group of Ontario schools. PREPSKILLS® runs a PSAT Preparation Course. To register for the preparation course, or if you have questions about the PSAT, call PREPSKILLS® at 1-866-973-7737.

Question 1: Have you heard about the PSAT before?

Question 2: Are you going to write the PSAT this October?


Tip #2 - The SAT Reasoning Test (SAT) vs the American College Test (ACT)

Almost all American universities and colleges require at least the SAT or ACT. Most colleges and universities will accept either exam, while a small group of colleges (for historical reasons) will state a preference for one over the other. A few colleges will explicitly state that they accept only the SAT or the ACT, in which case you must write the correct exam in order to qualify for admissions.

The SAT and ACT differ in terms of content. It is a myth, therefore, to say that one is easier than the other. It is more appropriate to emphasize that they draw on different skills sets.

In brief, the SAT uses a more difficult scoring structure but the ACT contains more difficult subject matter. Depending on your strengths or weakness, and depending on how willing you are to prepare, you can master the techniques and content of either exam.

Note 1: There are five Canadian sittings for the SAT each year. There are five Canadian sittings for the ACT. You must pre-register for these exams at (for the SAT) and (for the ACT). If you do not pre-register, you cannot write the exam (there are few “last minute” seats available at any sitting).

Note 2: Lots of students register for, and prepare to write, both exams. Writing both can significantly improve your chances of entry to colleges, as it is common for students to exhibit strength on one exam but weakness on the other. This is because the tests are designed to examine different skills sets. Depending on your educational background, your style of exam writing, and your preparation, you’ll naturally perform better on one exam.

PREPSKILLS® specializes in training students for both exams. We offer SAT and ACT Preparation Courses throughout the year, each of which line up with specific exam dates. For more information, call PREPSKILLS® and speak with one of our education facilitators.

Question 3: Do you know about the differences between the SAT and ACT?

Question 4: Does your chosen college state a preference for the SAT or ACT?

Question 5: Are you going to prepare for the SAT, ACT, or both?


Tip #3 When should you take the SAT or ACT?

Lots of Canadian students make the mistake of thinking they should write the SAT or ACT in grade 12. You should not wait until Grade 12 to write these exams. That’s much too late. The SAT and ACT test grade 6 to 10 knowledge (depending on curriculum, there will be some grade 11 questions too, though not many). There are no Grade 12 questions on these exams. Guaranteed. If you wait until Grade 12, you’ve put yourself in a very difficult situation, as students perform best when they prepare to write their SAT or ACT exams at the end of Grade 10 or in Grade 11 – i.e. when the knowledge is fresh in their minds.

Note: Preparation courses take a minimum of 8-weeks (or 8 consecutive sessions in the summer) and they can take up to 20 or 24 sessions with our extended programs (with two or three sessions per week) depending on your score goals and your skills gaps.

Question 6: If you’re in grade 10 or 11, are you preparing for the SAT or ACT already (you should be)?

Question 7: If not, when are you going to start preparing?


Tip #4 - SAT Subject Tests - What in the world are they?

Most Ivy League colleges (i.e. Harvard, Yale, and Cornell) and other top-ranking colleges (i.e. MIT, Stanford and UCLA) require the SAT or ACT plus two to three SAT Subject Tests. SAT Subject Tests are separate, one-hour tests that focus on specific content. Some typical options include Math I (algebra and geometry), Math II (algebra, trigonometry, and calculus), Biology, Chemistry, Physics, French, French with Speaking, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, and American History. Each of these exams is scored in the same way that the regular SAT exam is scored (i.e. you get penalized for incorrect answers). Each exam requires separate preparation and is often American-centric in terms of language, question-style, and content.

Note 1: You cannot take the SAT in the same sitting as the SAT Subject Tests, so you must plan ahead, otherwise you’ll run out of time before admissions applications are due. If you do not complete all required SAT Subject Tests on time, you will not qualify for college entry.

Note 2: If you are taking the ACT, you are not excluded from taking SAT Subject Tests. In other words, if you submit an ACT exam, you are often still required to take SAT Subject Tests for college admissions. This is especially true of Division I and Ivy League schools.

Question 8: How many SAT Subject Tests does your university/college require?

Question 9: Does your chosen college or program state a requirement for SAT Subject Tests (i.e. some colleges require that you write the Math I or II SAT Subject Test in addition to others).

Question 10: When are you going to write your SAT Subject Tests (note that not all subjects are tested in each sitting)?


Tip #5 - Training to perform

Scoring well on the SAT or ACT is a matter of trained performance. You can outrank your fellow test-takers by exploiting each exam’s unique scoring structure, as well as by familiarizing yourself with the specific, American-style mathematical and grammatical questioning exhibited on either exam.

Unfortunately, strong high school performance does not necessarily translate into strong SAT or ACT performance. These exams are specially designed to test SAT-specific and ACT-specific knowledge and test-taking skills. They are not designed to exam you on your general knowledge of high school subject matter.

Statistically, students who take preparatory SAT and ACT courses outperform those who do not.

Question 11: Are you going to prepare for the SAT or ACT?

Question 12: Preparation courses are 8 weeks long (or longer if you are taking an extended program): how are you going to schedule in your preparation course?