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Apr 27 16

Video Tutorial Website Coming Soon!

by Karen Miller

The College Process is excited to announce its next great project – a FREE video tutorial website coming this summer.   These academic English videos are three to ten minutes in length and teach all aspects of English:  grammar, sentence structure, essay writing, vocabulary, and reading skills.

  • This video tutorial website will be dedicated to providing all students with the ability to learn reading and writing skills that will enable them to do better in middle school, in high school, on standardized tests, and in college.
  • This website will be free to all students; however, it will have a registration feature that will enable students to login to the site, view the videos, and track their progress.
  • The goal of the website is to give all students, regardless of where they live or what school they go to, an equal opportunity to learn the reading and writing skills that will prepare them to get into college and stay in college for all four years.

Please check back this summer for our totally redesigned website!

Jan 27 14

Academic Merit-Based Scholarships’ Myths

by Karen Miller

Since my tutoring business has kept me pretty busy over the last year, I have not had the time to write any blogs.  However, this topic, in particular, has been one that I feel should be addressed because there are many myths surrounding academic merit-based, non-need scholarship money.  The title sounds confusing, I’ll admit; however, the scholarships that I am talking about in this blog are those that are given strictly for grades and standardized test scores and have nothing at all to do with assets or income.  Although I am absolutely 100% in support of scholarships and grants for low-income students, there are also plenty of people who are not “rich” but make enough money that they do not qualify for some of the other scholarships and grants. 

Typically, during my first phone conversation with a prospective client, I try to explain this type of scholarship to the parents.  It seems that the biggest myth around scholarship money is that most, if not all, scholarships are given based on financial need.  While there are many scholarships that are need-based, there are other scholarships that are academic merit-based, meaning how well your son or daughter has done in high school (GPA and level of course work) and your son or daughter’s SAT or ACT scores.  There are also merit sports scholarships, which I discuss in my last blog.  Finally there are also artistic merit scholarships.  In my opinion, and mind you this opinion is not backed by any data or studies rather just my observations over the last 15 years, there is a greater chance of your son or daughter receiving money from a college for how well he or she does in school rather than for sports.  Hence the scholarship name, academic merit scholarship. 

How Does a Student Receive an Academic Merit Scholarship?

Again, this blog entry contains information from my experience rather than from facts and statistics provided to me by colleges.  I feel that it is important for me to explain that fact because with most of my other posts I have gotten the facts directly from colleges, the College Board, or the ACT.  However, I think that what I have learned over the years could help many students and parents receive more money for college.  Over the last few years alone, several of my students have received academic merit scholarship money, such as $120,000 from Tulane ($30,000 per year for four years), $100,000 from Cornell ($25,000 per year for four years), $80,000 from George Washington ($20,000 per year for four years) and $20,000 from University of Colorado, Boulder ($5,000 per year for four years).  Usually, you do not need to fill out any paperwork for these scholarships; instead, when you receive your acceptance letter, you will also receive your “financial package,” containing how much money the college is offering you.

Here is the big secret….SAFETY SCHOOLS

Without a doubt, the biggest mistake that students and parents make while going through this process is that they only focus on reach schools (schools whose requirements are above a student’s grades and test scores) and level schools (schools whose requirements are on “level” with a student’s grades and test scores).  I can almost guarantee that you will not receive much, if any, academic scholarship money from your reach or level schools; however, your safety schools (schools whose requirements are below a student’s grades and test scores) will often give academic, merit-based scholarship money to you!

Why?  They want your grades and test scores.  I think of it like this:  a college is a business.  If you accept that scholarship money and go to that school, you will help to build up its statistics for the next year, making that college look even better.  Plus, you are more of a “sure bet” to finish all four years at that college, once again helping with the graduation rate statistic.  I’m not trying to be the downer here and think that colleges are only looking out for themselves; I’m sure that they would also love for you to come to their colleges because they think that you are a wonderful person.  However, deep down inside, I’m thinking that they really like your statistics!!!

Since our society tends to be so focused on going to “the best” school possible, many people do not realize that some really great schools will give you money to go there.  Yes, they may not be the hardest school to which you have applied (although Tulane, Cornell, and George Washington are all pretty impressive).  However, what is the smartest decision that you could make?  Go to a bit of a “better” school and pay top dollar OR go to the next level down school and pay half of the tuition rate?  The choice seems clear to me; however, I am not the one sporting that college sweatshirt for the entire second half of my senior year, and honestly, some kids (and parents) just can’t get past “the name.”

Oct 16 12

Sports’ Scholarship Frenzy

by Karen Miller

While drinking my morning coffee, I started reading the latest issue of Lacrosse Magazine, which comes to my house because both of my sons, ages 7 and 9, are registered lacrosse players.  My husband had told me just days before to read the article “It’s Not about YOU,” in this most recent issue because, as he said, “it helped to put things into perspective” for him.  While typically having limited time to read magazines, I decided it was worth it based on his response.

When I opened to the article and read the sub-title, “Five things parents need to know about our sport,” I was intrigued.  I proceeded to read the “first” of the five things, which is that “there’s no pot of gold at the end of the recruiting rainbow.”  Now, to be completely transparent here, my husband and I have had this conversation so many times over the last three years, since both of our boys are very athletic and LOVE playing sports.  We have often discussed the idea of one (or both!) of them getting a scholarship and how wonderful that would be.  However, we always end this conversation in a somewhat joking way because we both know the extreme cost of college and that our 529 college contributions are not nearly big enough.  So, we laugh and joke, “maybe sports will save us.”

The sobering reality, as Matt Forman the author of this article states, is that “any high school athlete has a 6-percent chance of playing college varsity sports in any division and 3.7-percent chance of Division I (which is the division that offers scholarships), according to a recent Wall Street Journal article.”  So, out goes our dream of a scholarship and back to reality I go, as I quickly recalculate how much we should be saving for college.  The fact of the matter is that we, along with the majority of the people in the United States, do not make enough income to save enough to pay for our three kids’ entire college education.

Now, let me back up for a minute and explain that because of my profession, helping students and parents navigate the college process, I have seen so many kids go down the college sports’ recruiting path only to be totally disappointed with the results.  Since I have witnessed many, many kids fall victim to this sports’ scholarship frenzy, I do hold a realistic outlook for my own kids.  In fact, while I am an enthusiastic supporter of my kids playing sports, I also only want them to play if THEY enjoy the sport.  It is so easy for a nine year old to become specialized in one sport, and there are many organizations and companies out there selling us parents on the idea that if your son or daughter dedicates his or her time to lacrosse or soccer or whatever, at such a young age, then he or she will be recruited.  However, at nine or ten or eleven, kids should be playing what they love and want they want.  They should be given the opportunity to explore many sports, and then pick and choose the ones that they want to focus on in high school.  Otherwise, burn-out is nearly inevitable.  In fact, we could spend all of our time and money focusing our kid on one sport only to have him or her decide that, “you know what, I don’t even want to play in college,” which is exactly what happened with me and soccer.

So, as I watch my son score a touchdown for his tackle football team and my other son score a goal or two or three for his soccer team, I can rest my head at night knowing that they are playing several different sports, learning teamwork, getting great exercise, and just being kids.  Thank you, Matt Forman, for letting me know that the “odds of any high school male landing any Division I scholarship is 0.89-percent.”  Now, we can all just relax and enjoy our kids’ childhoods again!




Sep 25 12

Which College is Right for ME?

by Karen Miller

Over the last fifteen years, I have heard this question thousands of times.  This process is overwhelming not only for the student but also for the parents.  While there is no magic wand, sorry – lately I have been watching too many Harry Potter movies with my sons, I think that there is a way to go through this process to ensure that you have have found the best school for you.

Just last week, as I was working with a student on his college search, he asked me, “how am I supposed to know what kind of college I will like, if I haven’t been to college yet?”  Good point!  Most seventeen and eighteen year old kids have very little experience being on a college campus or understanding what they would want in a campus.  So, with this particular boy, and yes, we have to remember that they are still boys and girls, although they may appear to be fully grown adults, most of them are still scared and nervous and unsure about this entire, overwhelming process, I said, “let’s start at the beginning.”  Then, I presented him with a serious of questions for him to consider.  Here they are, and while some may seem obvious, you often need to start with the obvious.  But don’t just ask the question, create a scenario to help them better understand what these questions mean.

1.  What size school and campus do you imagine yourself being on?

  • Smaller – less than 5000 – Description – similar in size to many high schools.  A place where you will get to know most of your classmates over the four years.  In fact, your class size will vary from 400 kids in a 1600 school to 750 kids in a 3000 school, etc.  This size campus allows you to regularly run into people that you know; however, that also means that it is difficult to outrun people that you do not want to see.  On another note, one of the perks of this size school is that your actual classroom, class sizes is often very small and intimate.  You will have every opportunity to get to know your professors.  Actually, depending on the student and if he/she goes to class, this point could be good or bad.  Overall, you will experience an intimate college experience.
  • Medium – 5000-15000 – Description – Much bigger than most high schools yet you will most likely not get lost in the crowd.  A place where you will get to know a good amount of your classmates over the four years but also a place where there will always be someone new to meet.  While you can usually find someone you are looking for, you can also avoid people, if needed.  Not as intimate but still easy enough to make friends with similar interests.  Your classroom, class size will vary; you may have some very intimate classes with less than twenty students, and you may have some lecture halls with several hundred students.  These size campuses offer a student either intimacy, if desired, or avoidance and hiding out, if also desired – or a bit of both.
  • Large – 15,000 ++++ Description – This category can vary a great deal from a 16,000 student school like Clemson to a 24,000 student school like a Virginia Tech to a 40,000 student school like a Penn State.  At most of these campuses, there is always someone new to meet and relatively easy to avoid someone you never want to see again.  {I’m not trying to sound negative, but everyone knows the feeling of needed to avoid someone for one reason or another.}  However, on a campus this big, it may also be difficult to find someone that you met only once and would like to see again.  While the size may seem daunting at first, there are usually many opportunities available to find a smaller group atmosphere full of people that you would find something in common with, and typically, at these schools, there is often the big school spirit brought on by athletic programs.  Many classroom, class sizes will be large, auditorium-like atmospheres; however, in most of these lecture halls, there are smaller break-out sessions provided to create a small class feel.

2.  Does location matter? Answer the following questions to help you narrow down your choices.

  • Do you want to be close enough to home to be able to drive home if needed on any given weekend?
  • Do you want to be in a city, which can offer other activities other than what is happening on campus but may also lack a campus feel?
  • Do you want to be on a campus that is self-contained, where all of the activities are focused on the students?
  • Do you want to be in the suburbs of a city, where most activities are on campus but there is the option of going into the city?
  • Do you want to be in a rural location, far from any other on-goings other than what is provided by the college?
  • Do you want to be in the warm weather? cold weather? or somewhere that has both?

3.  Do you have a specific major in mind?

  • If you know what you want to study, then only look at schools that have that major. For example, if you want to be a doctor, make sure that the school has pre-med, biology, or a strong science program.  Otherwise, you may find yourself in a bad spot when applying to graduate schools.
  • If you think you may know what you want to study, look at colleges with that major.
  • If you have multiple things that you may want to study, such as business, English, and communications, then find a college with a diverse offering and one that allows you to choose your major after your freshman year so that you can take exploratory courses to help you figure out what you want to study.

4.  Does the social life matter?

  • Do you want to be in a fraternity or sorority?
  • Do you want there to be a big football program with tailgating, etc?
  • Do you want a campus that allows parties on campus versus those that only allow parties off of campus?
  • Do you want a place where you can surf? ski/snowboard? hike? bike?
  • Does religion matter to you?

5.  When you close your eyes and picture yourself at college, what do you see?  Trust yourself and stay true to what matters to you.

  • When visiting colleges, you should keep a notebook of the pro’s and con’s of EACH campus, and you should write in this notebook immediately as you are driving away from the campus.  Once you start to visit multiple campuses, they will all start to blend together and become a blur.  Make a T-chart – Pros / Cons – and do it religiously.  You will not only rule out certain colleges but also find trends in the things that really matter to you.
  • DO NOT LISTEN TO YOUR FRIENDS – I know, this advice sounds terribly mean; however, everyone has a different idea of what college means to them.  If you hear your friend say something bad about a college, please, please, please, do not let that effect what YOU think of the college.  You are you; trust yourself and stick with what you want.
  • There is a college out there for everyone who wants to go; however, I still believe that not everyone should go to college and not always right out of high school.  However, if you are on this journey, you will find what you are looking for, and for most kids, the college for them just “feels” right – there is really no magic wand or a one size fits all.

Good Luck on your journey – have fun and enjoy the process – and finally, don’t be mean to your parents who are as stressed, nervous, and excited as you are about this journey.  They may drive you crazy, but at the end of the day, they are doing all of this for you.  So, say thank you and BE NICE!!! 🙂

Keep reading and thanks for your support! – Karen Miller



Aug 15 12

Colleges that “Superscore” the ACT – Updated

by Karen Miller

Schools that “superscore” the ACT, as told to me by each school’s admission department.

  • Boston College*
  • Boston University*
  • Elon University
  • Georgia College
  • High Point University
  • Hobart and William Smith
  • Indiana University
  • University of Miami
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Pennsylvania*
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington University, St. Louis

*These schools count the ACT in lieu of the SAT I and SAT II Subject Tests, meaning if the ACT is taken, all testing requirements are met.

Schools the DO NOT “superscore” the ACT, as told to me by each school’s admission department:

  • College of Charleston
  • College of William and Mary
  • DePaul University
  • Emory University
  • Fordham University
  • George Washington
  • Lehigh University
  • Penn State University**
  • Syracuse University
  • Tulane University
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Florida
  • University of Michigan**
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Virginia
  • Villanova University

**These schools do not “superscore” the SAT either; rather, they take the total best score on any given test day.

Please Note:  I will continue to update the schools as I call them.  If you have a specific school or list of schools in mind that you would like for me to research, please leave a comment with the information.  Thanks!

Karen Miller ~  SAT/ACT/College Application Specialist

Oct 3 11

College Application Essay Topics

by Karen Miller

While working with students and parents, I often get the question, “what should I write about for my essay?”.  I usually ask them what they would like to write about or if they were thinking about something in particular.  The answer that I most commonly get is that they want to write about something big, important, or different.  However, most kids do not have big, important, or different things that have happened in their 17 years of life.  If they do have a topic that fits in one of these categories, they usually end up writing about the event instead of themselves or their reaction to the event or what they learned from the event or how the event has shaped who they are as a person.  I cannot say this statement enough:  it is NOT about impressing the admission’s department with a big event.  Rather, the essay or essays are about letting the admission’s departments know who you are as a person, a real person.

Begin by asking yourself, what are the qualities or characteristics that I am proud of or that really define who I am?  Do not worry about impressing them with a “wow” moment; rather, focus on being genuine and sincere in revealing who you are.  Does this sound difficult?  If so, read my previous blog post, titled “College Application Essay – Where do I begin?”.  Once you have figured out what qualities you want them to know about you, then you can think about a time or event that exemplifies those traits.

While doing research on this topic recently, I found an article, titled “Writing the Essay – Sound Advice from an Expert,” that was written by Park Muthe, who works for The University of Virginia’s Admission Department.  While I recommend reading the entire article, the one line that stands out to me more than any other is when Muthe writes, “A good essay is not good because of the topic but because of the voice. A good writer can make any topic interesting, and a weak writer can make even the most dramatic topic a bore.”  I encourage my students not to focus on the topic but to write a genuine essay that expresses who they are.

Below you will find topics that I would AVOID, if possible, unless you are writing about how these topics influenced or changed your life, your perspective, or your day to day activities.


1.  Travel without meaning, which only shows that you are financially fortunate enough have traveled.

2.  Money or topics of wealth: If your family has money, it will not impress the admission’s officers.

3.  Rehashing everything already on your application: Do not simply TELL them all of your accomplishments.

4.  Focusing on another person rather than yourself: While you can introduce a person who may have influenced you, be careful not to write the entire essay on that person rather than YOU!

5.  Tragic events unless you briefly tell of the event and then the rest of the essay is about how your life has been influenced by this event.  What have you changed about the way you live?  What did you learn?  How have you grown as a result?

Since I really believe that you can write about any event or moment as long as the focus of the essay is how this event or moment has influenced who you are as a person, I cannot really come up with a list of topics to write about.  Instead, focus on what you want them to know about as a person and go from there.

Good luck and keep reading!

Karen Miller ~  SAT/ACT/College Application Specialist

Aug 7 11

College Application Essay – Where Do I Begin?

by Karen Miller

Time and again, I hear from students and parents how overwhelmed they become with the college application essays.   While some students have it pretty easy and do not have to write any essays for the schools to which they are applying, other students may have up to seven or eight essays, long and short, per school.  If you are in the latter group, I’m sure that you are feeling completely overwhelmed.  Here are some things to consider, and hopefully, these tips will help to make you feel more in control of the process.

Step 1:  Organizing

Gather all of the essay questions in an organized fashion, as suggested in my last blog post, “Organizing College Admission’s Applications.”    Remember to check out the common application,, to see if any of your schools are members.  If so, the main essay and the short 150 word essay will be the same for all of the schools, eliminating the need to write multiple essays.  Keep in mind, however, that some of the schools on the common application may also require supplemental essay questions.  If that is the case with the schools to which you are applying, then you should organize those questions as well and write them in your binder.

Step 2:  Brainstorming

What are the admission’s departments looking for?  What should I write about?  These are the most common questions that both students and parents ask me.  Begin with thinking about what you want the colleges to know about you as a person.  Many kids think that they should continue to tell them about what they have done; however, I do NOT recommend your essays rehashing everything that is already written on your application and/or activities resume.  Rather, I want you to think about who you are as a person and what you want them to know about you that they would not know otherwise.

Begin with listing five characteristics or qualities that best describe who you are and what you are proud of.  For example, below you will find some characteristics that kids have thought of in the past:

Hard working, Thoughtful, Optimistic, Dedicated, Determined/Resolute

Think of the essays as your chance to be more than just your statistics of grades and test scores: This is your opportunity to show them who you are as a person, what makes you, you.   While I recommend that the student is the one who works on and writes the essay, sometimes it is helpful for the parents to aid in the brainstorming process.  In my experience, some kids have a hard time coming up with character traits and qualities that best describe them.  In fact, some kids think that they are bragging.  Remember, this essay is your time, not so much to brag, but to make you a real person, to show the colleges who you are!

Step 3:  Show them who you are!

Now that you have brainstormed your best qualities and characteristics, you need to bring them to life.  One way to bring your best qualities to life is to think about a time or several times when you exhibited these traits.  Often kids can bring to life a trait, such as hard working, by thinking about the activities on your resume or an academic class that help to show this trait, such as sophomore and junior years of lacrosse or your chemistry class, etc.


Quality / Character Trait                             Activity / Class / Example

Ex:  Hard Working                                                Lacrosse, Chemistry Class, etc.

1.                                                                               1.

2.                                                                              2.

3.                                                                              3.

4.                                                                              4.

5.                                                                              5.


Once you have finished the above exercise, place them in order of importance and meaning to you.  I suggest trying to incorporate the most important trait in the longer essay and then try to incorporated the other traits that you have listed in the shorter essays, if there are any!

Step 4:  First Draft of a Longer Essay

Often times, the first draft is the hardest to do!  My suggestion – get something on paper.  You can revise and change as much as needed, but the hardest part is usually getting the first draft on paper.  I think that they best overall approach to the essay is three paragraphs; you do not want to be long-winded.


Paragraph 1: Describe the Moment that Shows Your Character Trait

Describe the moment as vividly as possible while showing your character trait.  For example, if you want to write about being benched during your sophomore year of lacrosse, describe the moment, how you felt, why you were surprised, etc.  During this paragraph, you might want to explain why you were so devasted by explaining how hard you have worked over the years for a starting position, etc.  Then end the paragraph with how this reality check did not cause you to give up, rather that you decided to take it as a wake up call and put even more vigor and work into your sport to do better for the next year.

This paragraph can be about anything, such as music, a particular class, a volunteer experience, a job, etc.  Describe a moment that really SHOWS the character trait that you want the colleges to know about you.  End with a cliffhanger if possible, so that you encourage the reader to want to see what happens next.


Paragraph 2: Provide Background Info or Further Explain 

Explain what YOU did in the off-season to improve your skills.  Describe the hard work that you put in by bringing it to life, give time commitment, activities, etc.  Then end the paragraph with the outcome; for example, as a result of your off-season training, you not only made varsity but you also earned a starting position.  Describe the moment when you learned of your accomplishment and explain how this made you feel, etc.  You want to SHOW not just tell as much as possible by bringing to life your story.

In general, this paragraph should do one of two things, either explain what you did to fix the problem or to improve yourself, etc. or give the background information needed to further explain the example from paragraph one.  Depending on what you have written about in paragraph one, some kids need to explain what happened next and other kids need to provide more background information.


Paragraph 3:  Moving forward

What did you learn as a result of this experience?  How can you apply this learning experience to your life in other ways or other things that you have done since that moment that further show your character trait?  What will you bring to college as a result of this experience?  If you are applying to a specific college and not the common application essay, can you connect to a specific activity or class that you are looking forward to at the college where your character trait will really be useful?  Do research on the college and be as specific as possible about the schools to which you are interested in to show admissions that you have taken the time to get to know the school as well.


Step 4:  Revise, Condense, Revise, Condense, Revise, Condense

I am a FIRM believer that the student MUST write his or her own essay; it must be in the voice of the student.  I’m sure that admission officers know when an adult has written the essay for the student.  However, I do not think that there is anything wrong with having an adult, such as a parent or English teacher, read over the essay to edit, make suggestions, and help condense the essay.


Step 5:  Final Draft

Make sure that you have edited and revised enough so that you are happy with not only your content but also your writing.  You do not want to have errors in your essay; remember this is your chance to show the colleges how seriously you have taken this process.


Step 6:  Submit and Relax (just kidding)

Once you have submitted your application, try to relax.  The process is now out of your hands!!!

Karen Miller ~  SAT/ACT/College Application Specialist

Jul 20 11

Organizing College Admission Applications

by Karen Miller

The college application process is often daunting, and most students and parents feel overwhelmed by the required essays.  While consulting students on the college application essays, there are several pieces of advice that help to make the process run a little more smoothly.

Step 1: Finding The “Top Ten” List of Schools

You should begin by compiling a list of around ten schools to which you will apply.  The most important school should be your safety school; you should LOVE it in case it is the only school that you get into.  That last sentence is not meant to be a bad omen, rather, a realistic approach to this process.  If you end up going to your safety school because, let’s just say, it offers you a large scholarship (hint, hint, hint), you still want to be excited about going because you love it.  Here is my breakdown for schools that should be on your “top ten” list.

Two safety schools that you love

Four to five level schools

Three to four reach schools

***I have seen some students with as many as 20 colleges on their final list!!!  I just think that is way too many; find the top 10 – 13 schools and leave the rest for other kids!

Step 2: Check out the Common Application –

The common application can be a major time saver in both terms of inputting your personal information and also writing your essays.  After you have your list of schools, go to the website and click on “Member Colleges and Universities” at the top to see which schools, if any, are “members” of the common application.  If some of your schools are on the common app, it is well worth using it.  You will only need to input your information one time; however, some schools may also have supplemental essay or short answer questions in addition to the general common application essay and short answer.  If a school that you are applying to has supplemental question, you will be able to locate that information once you have created an account on

Unfortunately, not all colleges are “members,” so if the colleges to which you are applying are not members, skip this step and go to Step 3.

Step 3:  Get  & Stay Organized!

Yes, you can buy those books out there that help you organize your application process; however, you can also simply purchase a binder and divide it by schools.  If you begin the process in an organized way, the remainder of the process usually goes smoothly as well.  While most parents are the ones organizing this binder, I cannot emphasize enough that the students should be involved in this process; they are the ones applying and eventually, hopefully, going to college.  This step is the first one in their independent, well at least semi-independent, life.

How do I organize the binder?  What do I put in there?  What is important?

Organize the binder by schools.  In each school’s section, place the following:

  1. A printed out version of the on-line application.  While you should apply on-line, it is helpful to have a printed out copy of the application; therefore, you can mark off and keep track of what has been done and what needs to be done. In addition, this paper copy will have the essay questions, which will become important for the essay piece.  If the school is a member of the common application, just print out any supplement questions, if applicable.
  2. At the top of the application or on the back of the tab divider sheet for each school or SOMEWHERE that you will not lose it, write the college website, and the on-line application’s username and password that you created.  Many of the schools have different and often difficult requirements for the username and password, such as eight letters and two numbers or eight letters, one capital letter, and one number.  As a result, it is difficult to use the same username and password for each application.  Trust me, this step helps with both time and frustration level.  All applications can be started, stopped, saved, and returned to, until you are ready to submit the final application.
  3. In addition to the username and password, you should write in this same location on the binder for each school the application deadline dates for both early decision and regular decision and any special requirements for the deadlines, serving as a quick resource for the future.
  4. Place any important information, brochures, letters, etc. behind each school so that you have them handy; however, keep the application on the top of each section.

Step 4:  The ESSAY Process

Now that you have all of the essays printed out, I recommend trying to find similarities among the essays so that you do not have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.  If you can write one or two main essays and just adjust them to fit the different schools, you will really be able to focus on these essay questions and make sure that they are your best.

What do I write about?  How do I get started?  Help! I have writer’s block!

Read my next blog to find out the specific recommendations that I have for the application essays.  As always, best of luck and thanks for reading!

Karen Miller ~  SAT/ACT/College Application Specialist

Jul 20 11

List of Colleges that “Superscore” the ACT

by Karen Miller

Schools that “superscore” the ACT, as told to me by each school’s admission department.

Boston College*
Boston University*
Hobart and William Smith
University of Miami
University of Pittsburgh
University of Pennsylvania*
Wake Forest University
Washington University, St. Louis

*These schools count the ACT in lieu of the SAT I and SAT II Subject Tests, meaning if the ACT is taken, all testing requirements are met.

Schools the DO NOT “superscore” the ACT, as told to me by each school’s admission department:

College of William and Mary
DePaul University
Emory University
Fordham University
Lehigh University
Penn State University**
Syracuse University
Tulane University
University of Central Florida
University of Florida
University of Michigan**
University of North Carolina
University of Virginia
Villanova University

**These schools do not “superscore” the SAT either; rather, they take the total best score on any given test day.

Please Note:  I will continue to update the schools as I call them.  If you have a specific school or list of schools in mind that you would like for me to research, please leave a comment with the information.  Thanks!

Karen Miller ~  SAT/ACT/College Application Specialist

May 13 11

Do Colleges “Superscore” the ACT & the SAT?

by Karen Miller

“Superscoring” is a relatively new college admission term that means taking different sections of either the SAT test or the ACT test and counting those individual sections while reviewing a student’s college application, rather than just looking at one individual test date’s score.

Superscoring & The SAT:

Historically, college admission counselors have superscored the SAT while reviewing applications; however, not all colleges superscore.  Some colleges, such as Penn State University and the University of Michigan, only consider the best score out of 2400 for any one test day.  These colleges will NOT mix and match the individual sections.  With that said, however, most college do in fact superscore.  Therefore, if you took the SAT on three different test dates, such as March, May, and June, the colleges will mix and match your best sections.  To give a clear example, let’s look at the following scenario:

  • March SAT Test Scores:  560 (critical reading), 500 (math), 650 (writing)
  • May SAT Test Scores: 560 (critical reading), 480 (math), and 620 (writing)
  • June SAT Test Scores: 600 (critical reading), 550 (math), and 600 (writing)

In the above scenario, your best bet would be to send your March and June tests.  Keep in mind that when you send a test date that ALL of the three sections of that test date are sent to the colleges; you do NOT have the option of just sending the writing, for example, of one test date. There is no reason to send the May test scores because those scores were your lowest in each of the three sections.  If a college superscores, it will consider your best individual sections from the tests that you have chosen to send to it.  Therefore, your superscore would be a 600 (critical reading from June), 550 (math from June), and 650 (writing from March), making your superscore an 1800/2400.

Superscoring & the ACT:

While the ACT is definitely the best test for some kids, the biggest, single drawback has been that, in the past, colleges did not “superscore” the test. However, some colleges are starting to superscore for the ACT, and I am thrilled that they are!  It is very difficult for kids to sit for close to four hours and do their best on each individual section on the same day.  If superscoring the ACT becomes the college admissions’ industry standard, I think that we will see even more kids taking the ACT test over the SAT test.  Time will tell.

I think, but cannot confirm, that one of the reasons colleges have NOT superscored the ACT in the past is because of the way the ACT releases its scores.  In addition to the four individual sections’ (English, Math, Reading, & Science) scores, the ACT also releases what it calls a “Composite Score,” which basically adds all four sections together and divides by four to create one score out of 36 for that test day.  The majority of colleges only release, in books, online, etc., this composite score, rather than the four individual scores.  If you hear kids talking about the ACT, they will usually say, “I got a 28 on the ACT.”  While if you hear kids talking about the SAT, they will usually say, “my best scores are a 550 on the reading, a 600 on the math, and a 570 on the writing.”

It’s an interesting cultural difference.  Since the SAT scores are released by the individual sections, people tend to say the three individual scores. Since the ACT gives a composite score, people tend to say the composite score.  This trend seems to be mimicked in the college admission process as well!

Here is a scenario for the scoring on the ACT.  Each section is out of 36 points.  Let’s say that a student takes the ACT in December, February, and April.   Below you will find the individual scores for each section, along with a composite for each test.  Following the individual scores, you will see what the best superscore is for this scenario.

  • December ACT Test Scores:  28 (English), 26 (Math), 29 (Reading), 27 (Science) = Composite Score of 27.5, rounded up to a 28
  • February ACT Test Scores:  30 (English), 27 (Math), 30 (Reading), 28 (Science) = Composite Score of 28.75, rounded up to a 29
  • April ACT Test Scores: 29 (English), 30 (Math), 27 (Reading), 25 (Science) = Composite Score of 27.75, rounded up to a 28

If a college superscores, then I would sent in the February and April tests, and the superscore would be a combination of the following sections, 30 English (Feb), 30 Math, (April), 30 Reading (Feb), and 28 Science (Feb), giving a superscore composite of 30, which is higher than any individual composite score.

In my next blog, I am going to start a list of colleges that are superscoring.  Since superscoring the ACT is such a game changer in the college admission’s process, I think that it deserves its own blog.  Plus, it will serve as a quick and easy reference, since I plan on updating it as often as possible with colleges that have chosen to superscore the ACT!  Just for full exposure, I only get my information regarding specific colleges by calling each admission department directly and asking about its policies.  I recommend that if you have a question about a college to go right to the source; DON’T rely on rumors!!!

Good luck and keep reading!

Karen Miller ~  SAT/ACT/College Application Specialist