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Suniti's Advice Corner

The Basics of Building Your College List

Posted by Will Geiger on Mon, Jun 20, 2016

Ahh, the college list. This is an essential part of the admissions process that causes much stress for students and parents. At the start of the college search, the list seems impossible to build because there are SO many colleges. How are you supposed to whittle the list down to less than TEN schools? What if you don’t get in anywhere? No need to stress; the process of building a college list can actually be quite manageable. Here are a few things to keep in mind when crafting your list of colleges:

college_checklist.jpgBalance: College counselors talk about the idea of “balance” a lot when thinking about the college list. This means that you should have schools on your list that fit into the “reach,” “target,” and “likely” category so you are spreading out risk. What exactly constitutes a reach, target, or likely?

Reaches: These are schools where your grades and test scores are below the average at those scores for admitted students. Note that some schools are reach schools for everyone (such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, MIT, and other super selective schools). For example, no matter who you are, a college list of just Cornell, Brown, Harvard, and Stanford would not be an appropriate list (even if you are the class valedictorian and have a perfect ACT).

Targets: Schools where you fit squarely into the “average” of grades and test scores for an admitted student.

Likelies: “Likely” schools are those that you have a pretty darn good chance of being admitted. While these schools may not be your absolute first choice, it is necessary to apply to a few. I am a big fan of applying to a likely school or two Early Action (which is not binding), so you can go into your December school break with an acceptance or two in hand.

Apply to schools that you can actually see yourself at:

This is an important thing to keep in mind. There are so many students who apply to schools that they have no intention of attending.  Unfortunately, I have too many conversations like this:

Me: “Why do you want to apply to Stanford/UCLA/USC/etc.? Didn’t you say you wanted to stay on the East Coast?”

Student: “Well, I do, but Stanford/UCLA/USC/etc. sounds cool, and I want to see if I can get in”

Me: “But you have no intention of ever going?”

Student: “Nope”

[I proceed to pull my hair out at this point]

Before you start an application, ask yourself: “could I ever see myself attending this place?” If the answer is “no,” or if you are applying just to see if you can get in, then you should NOT apply to that school.


College affordability is something on the minds of so many students and families nowadays. Affordability is absolutely something to keep in mind when building your list- what good is a college acceptance if you can’t afford it? This is why it is important for families to have an open conversation about financial expectations for college. The Net Price Calculator is a great tool (that is on the financial website of every college) that will give you an estimate of what a need-based financial aid package will look like for your family at a particular college.

If you know that you will need significant need-based financial aid, it is a good move to focus on schools that meet 100% of demonstrated need.

If you will need financial aid (but may not qualify for need-based financial aid), it will be critical to focus on schools that offer merit scholarships. Your in-state public school is another great option if you are in this situation.

About the Author

Will Geiger is the founder of PrepHound, an online platform that guides students through the college admissions process with 1:1 coaching. He is a former admissions officer at Kenyon College and has also worked as a college counselor at a private high school.

More blogs you might be interested in:

6 Things to Consinder When Shortlisting US Colleges as an International Student

5 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Test Prep Method

For Parents: How to Support Your Child Through the Test Prep Process

Tags: For Students, For Parents

Should You Take the ACT Again?

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Mon, May 23, 2016

How many times have you walked out of an exam or test and thought "I would do so much better if I could take that test again..." ? The ACT is a test where you can do exactly that. Standardized testing shouldn't be a never ending process. However, unless you scored a 36 on your first ACT attempt, we recommend that you should take it at least once more. 

57% of students who take the ACT more than once get higher scores (source: ACT, Inc). goodbetterbest.jpgWhile you can take the ACT up to 12 times (please don't do that), we suggest you take it 2 or 3 times to get the best possible score. You can then decide which ACT attempt is reported to colleges/universities. No university will penalize you for retaking the ACT - the higher your score, the better it is. 

Do you have the ACT score that will get you into your top choice school and earn you scholarship money? Though it may not seem like a lot, a 1 to 2 point increase in your score can lead to an acceptance letter or a scholarship offer. (TestRocker's average ACT score improvement is 4 points and 78% of our students received scholarship offers in 2016!)
The good news about retaking the ACT:

You don't have to study as much as you did the first time! This time, your preparation should be more targeted because your score report identifies your weaknesses. Or, you can take a Free Diagnostic Test and instantly view your areas of improvement. Score improvements don’t come from repeatedly taking full-length tests; they come from targeting the weaknesses and solidifying your concepts. 

You already know what to expect! The next time you take the ACT, you will feel less anxious and more confident because you know what to expect. This increased confidence will also aid in increasing your score. You know what went well for you, and more importantly, what didn't. There is time to fix the areas where you struggled. 
Speak to our Experts for Free: Receive an in-depth score analysis of your last ACT score report and a plan on how to improve your ACT score:
I Want to Speak to an Expert!


Tags: For Students, For Parents, For Counselors

What You Need to Know About the PreACT

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Wed, Mar 23, 2016

Its official: With the roll out of the Redesigned SAT and the new PreACT, 2016 isPreACT.jpg
undoubtedly the year of standardized testing. We all know about the PSAT (the SAT’s little brother); in 2016, we will get to meet ACT’s little sibling: the PreACT. Here are some questions answered about the new test:

What is the PreACT?

The PreACT is a new assessment that will provide college and career readiness information to students at younger ages, similar to the PSAT. The test will mimic the official ACT in terms of scoring, skills tested & content. 

  • It is going to consist of questions from old official ACT tests.
  • It will be scored on the same scale (1-36), but it won’t contain the writing section, since it is optional on the official test.

Who will take the PreACT? When is the PreACT?

The test is going to be available to students in the 10th grade through schools and districts who choose to offer the test beginning the Fall of 2016.

Why is the PreACT important?

Test Readiness Indicator – The test is important because it will give you a good indication of what kind of score you’re starting out with. Moreover, it will serve as a wake up call to show you the rigor of the test in realistic testing conditions. You will get a first hand experience with proctors, timed sections, test breaks and all of the other factors that go into your test day experience.

College Opportunities & Scholarship Access – According to ACT, Inc. students who register for the PreACT will be able to opt in, for free, to Educational Opportunity Service (EOS). The service has the ability to make your data available to 1500+ colleges and scholarship/financial aid groups. The same opt-in option is available when you take the official ACT.

How long is the PreACT?

The test will be less than 1 hour and 55 minutes long (it contains fewer questions than the official ACT).

Should I prepare for the PreACT?

YES! Even the official PreACT test makers say you should be prepared. Why? It is a simple answer: think of a test you took unprepared vs. one you took prepared. Which did you feel better about? Going in to a test prepared leads to better performance and reduced anxiety. However, you don’t need to prepare for the PreACT endlessly. It is important to prepare in a targeted manner; find your conceptual weaknesses, learn and work through them and finally test yourself in a timed condition. 

Overwhelmed? Don't be. Take it step-by-step. To understand your strengths and weaknesses, take this free diagnostic test. You will instantly be able to view your customized study plan so that you can prepare smarter and more effectively. 

Start My Free Diagnostic Test 

Tags: For Students, For Parents, For Counselors

How to Secure Testing Accommodations for the ACT or SAT

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Tue, Feb 09, 2016

SAT/ACT accomodation

If your student has a disability, it is imperative that you look into testing accommodations for him/her. However, before you apply for an accommodation, familiarize yourself with the types of accommodations available and the timing of your request.

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Who Qualifies for SAT/ACT Accommodation?

Today, more students, than in any previous years, are being granted accommodations because they have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. However, being diagnosed is just the first step. To qualify for an accommodation, a person must present formal evidence of a disability provided by an authorized assessment.

For students in public school, families can work with the school disability coordinator or a school psychologist to get psychological testing, assess the results and enact interventions that are defined in either the 504 plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Parents of students in private schools may seek self-governing evaluations from licensed neuropsychologists because private schools are not obliged to administer testing.

In addition, the student must show a history of receiving accommodations at his/her school for a stretch of at least 4 months in the case of the SAT and 12 months in the case of the ACT. To show a history of receiving accommodation, you might have to work with your student’s teacher to include documentation or letters describing the accommodation that was provided.

What does SAT/ACT Accommodation Look Like?

The look of each accommodation depends on the type of accommodation needed and varies on a case-by-case basis. Some examples include, requesting a reader or a scribe, a quiet testing room, enlarged print test booklets and answer keys, additional or extended breaks, the use of a computer, and multiple-day testing. It is important to be as specific as possible when making a request regarding the type of accommodation that will be most helpful. These accommodations are endorsed for range of disabilities, all the way from mild to moderate LDs, including anxiety, ADHD and slight visual processing issues to more severe learning disabilities such as dyslexia, major visual impairment and dyscalculia.

The most common type of accommodation granted to a student is 50% extended testing time. At TestRocker, we believe students benefit from this accommodation and it is worth pursuing if your student qualifies. However, a 50% time extension translates to 5 hours and 45 minutes on the SAT with Essay, and can make testing day a test of endurance. To circumvent this, make sure you help your student practice for the SAT/ACT with extended time. TestRocker’s test prep programs give students the option to practice with 50% increased time. Such a realistic timed practice will help students keep their stamina and energy up right till the end on actual test day.

The Application Process

In general, the best way to get accommodation approval is to work with your school. Your school can apply for the accommodation online for the SAT. If you were to do it yourself, you would have to submit a paper application. The table below shows the application process for both ACT and SAT





Complete one of these forms with your school's SSD coordinator:

Request for ACT Special Testing

Application for ACT Extended–Time National Testing

Complete the Student Eligibility Form with your school's SSD (Services for Students with Disabilities) Coordinator. You will be provided a parent consent form to sign as well.


The deadline is typically four weeks to the test date. So get this done as early as possible.

Do this as early as possible, if possible in the spring before the year the test is to be taken.


Time taken

The ACT takes about four weeks to review your information

The College Board can take up to seven weeks to review your information

Next Steps

It will be noted on the admission ticket that you will get in the mail if you are approved for extended-time. You will as well be notified by mail if you are accepted for other testing accommodations.

You will get an Eligibility Letter. This letter will describe the accommodations for which you have been approved and in the letter, there will be inclusion of an SSD Eligibility Code.


Submit your request with the regular registration packet to request extra time. To appeal other accommodations, make sure you submit the application for special testing before submitting the regular registration packet.

When you register for the test, use your SSD Eligibility Code.


Should my student sit for the ACT or SAT

In our experience, timing is more of an issue for those students who take the ACT, even for those who don’t have a learning disability. This is because the ACT has 215 questions versus 154 questions on the SAT that have to be completed in the roughly the same amount of time. Given that the tests have relative scoring, being granted extended time on the ACT gives a student more of an advantage.

Another instance where getting extended time (50%) on the ACT is more beneficial than the SAT is when you are allowed to take the test over multiple days. Taking the test over multiple days helps students feel rested. It also allows students to focus their review only on the sections they are sitting for. Testing over multiple days in normally granted to students taking the ACT outside the United States or Canada. Students taking the test in the United States can also be approved for multiple day testing if they request special testing at their school (instead of at a national testing center). The threshold for being allowed to take the SAT over multiple days is much higher. You need to be granted 100% extra time (not just 50%) and request special testing at school.

 An important consideration when deciding between the two tests is to see which type of test the student is stronger at. There is a difference in content and type of questions between the two tests. Learn more about the differences here. A painless way to compare performance on the two tests is to take TestRocker’s free SAT and ACT Diagnostic tests. Bottom line is, getting more time on either tests is useful and should definitely be pursued.

This article is meant to serve as a general information guide for those planning on requesting for accommodation. You should review ACT and College Board’s website for most up to date information.

Tags: For Students, For Parents

Five Types of U.S. College Summer Programs Worth Considering

Posted by TestRocker Team on Tue, Dec 01, 2015

U.S. College Summer Programs.jpg

Summer is a time that offers endless of opportunities: students have the option of recharging and the possibility of finding a program that offers the opportunity to engage, learn something new, and be inspired. For those of us who are life-long learners the summer possibilities are endless. But how can we decide how best to spend a summer break?

It is important that before finally deciding on what to do in the summer, you take time to reflect on what do you hope to get out of it. Do you want to use the summer as a reflective period? If so, spending time away from technology and social media might be the right choice for you. I used to spend part of my summers in a secluded area in southern Mexico learning about nature, reading novels, and putting into practice what I had learned in my botany class by collecting all sorts of leaves. At the same time, I combined my summers with a two to four week summer program to learn new mathematical concepts. While, there is not a one-size-fits-all for the summer experience, this time of the year allows you to push yourself out of your comfort zone, improve your learning muscle and discover a new interest that can potentially change what you hope to do during your college years.

One of the best ways to engage in self-discovery is to spend time in a college campus to determine if a given subject area is the one you would like to explore further when committing yourself at a four-year institution or if that particular institution is one you want on your college list.

  1. Junior and Senior Programs:  If you are interested in choosing thought-provoking courses that will help you develop your critical thinking, analytical, and presentation skills while providing you with new lenses for viewing the world, this is a great fit for you. Furthermore, you will have an opportunity to experience undergraduate life both inside and outside the classroom in a college campus. Some great alternatives are: Wellesley Pre-College Program ; Harvard Pre-College Program ; Notre Dame Summer Scholars ; Washington University in Saint Louis ; Carnegie Mellon.   Applications for some of these programs usually open in November and spots fill up quickly. Make sure to apply early.

  1. Writing Programs: One of the ways to succeed in college and the world is by having superb writing skills. Hence, these programs will allow you to get ready for most of your summer courses while honing your writing abilities to excel in the profession of your choice. Some great options are: Boston University Summer Challenge; Lake Forest College Writing and Thinking Workshop; Northwestern Medill School of Journalism Cherub Program; Carleton College Summer Writing Program.
  1. Engineering Programs: These programs are ideal if you are interested in exploring the academic and career opportunities in the various fields of engineering; apply your knowledge of math and science; get hands-on experience in engineering projects; or conduct university-laboratory research under a faculty mentor. Washington University in Saint Louis Pre-Engineering Institute ; Cornell Engineering ; University of Notre Dame Introduction to Engineering ; Johns Hopkins University Engineering Innovation Program.
  1. Business Programs: Perhaps you are interested in developing your entrepreneur interests in a close knit community while developing a real venture of your own; honing your teamwork and communication skills in the business setting; or finding out more about how to understand sport as a business. If so, you may wish to explore the following possibilities: Babson College Entrepreneurial Development Experience ; Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Leadership in the Business World Program ; Ithaca College Introduction to Sports Management .
  1. Leadership Programs: If you are someone with outstanding leadership skills interested in a career in global diplomacy or intrigue by the possibility of connection with future world leaders, these two programs offer an outstanding opportunity to reach this goal: Georgetown University International Relations Program for High School Students ; University of Notre Dame Global Issues .

The most important thing when discerning a summer program is to keep in mind that this endeavor is a way for you to discover yourself, to learn about new interests, or decide to follow an alternate path. Whatever you do, do not pick a program thinking it will guarantee you acceptance at a given school, but look at it as an opportunity to learn and when completing your college application think about how this summer experience has changed you and how has prompt you to further explore certain possibilities during your time in college. Do not forget to meet the application deadlines for the summer programs!


About the Author: 

Linkedin_1.jpgAdela Penagos, PhD, Futuro Enlightened's President, has 16 years of academic advising, teaching, and admissions experience between Harvard University, the University of Notre Dame, and Boston College allowing her to help students not only to be admitted to college or graduate school but to find success in college and beyond. She has a wealth of experience guiding students to put forth the best possible application for undergraduate, graduate, law, and medical programs and to excel once into the program of choice.  She is passionate about helping students reach their potential.

 Adela has a BA in Modern Languages from Knox College, cum laude, an MA in Spanish Literature from the University of Notre Dame, and a PhD in Hispanic Language and Literatures from Boston University.  She is fluent in Spanish, English, and French and has lived in Mexico, France, and the United States.

Adela Penagos is a college admissions expert and can be contacted directly at:  apenagos@futuroenlightened.com


Tags: For Students, For Parents, College Applications

Why is the SAT/ACT important?

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Tue, Sep 29, 2015

why is the SAT/ACT important?


Lately, many students have asked us why the SAT/ACT tests are important. We realized that while students are always told they have to take the tests, no one has really explained why! There are many reasons, but here are three few really good ones:


Should You Take The SAT, ACT or Both?

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The first line of defense:

University admissions officers receive thousands of applications each year. Each application is evaluated by a human being, and there are only so many hours in the day. So, they need to narrow down their piles of applications to the really serious contenders. The quickest way for them to do so is to look at GPAs and SAT/ACT scores. If your scores aren’t competitive, your application could end up in the denied pile even before your essays, recommendations etc. get read.

Proof in Numbers:

GPAs and SAT/ACT scores provide a glimpse into how you will perform with the rigor of courses once you get accepted into University. By the time you apply for college, your GPA is not going to change too much. However, your SAT/ACT score has a lot of room for improvement! By increasing your score, you can show university admissions officers that you are capable of working hard, performing well in stressful situations and learning a large amount of content in a short period of time.

Money, Money, Money:

Universities award millions of dollars in financial aid every year. Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students with high test-scores and achievements.

 The SAT/ACT tests are of course, just a part of your entire college application. While high test-scores alone will not get you accepted, low SAT/ACT scores can be the reason you don’t get accepted.

If you haven't submitted your applications yet, there is still time to improve your scores. Sign up for a planning session so that we can help you cross the first line of defense! 


You might also find these blogs useful:

Scared of the SAT/ACT?
SAT vs ACT Webinar: Which Test is Right for You?
The Content and Structure of the New SAT
The top 4 reasons to take both the SAT and ACT


Tags: For Students, For Parents

2015-2016 SAT/ACT Test Dates & Registration Deadlines

Posted by TestRocker Team on Tue, Jul 21, 2015


Dear Class of 2016 and 2017: 

Another school year is about to begin! 

Get ahead of the curve by deciding your SAT/ACT test dates as soon as possible. Make sure you register in time as well. Here are the test dates to help you get started:

Image Credit: Woolwich

October 3, 2015 Current SAT September 3 September 18
November 7, 2015  Current SAT October 3 October 23
December 5, 2015 Current SAT November 5 November 20
January 23, 2016 Current SAT December 28 January 8
March 5, 20156
Redesigned SAT February 5 February 19
May 7, 2016 Redesigned SAT April 8 April 22
June 4, 2016 Redesigned SAT May 5 May 20

To Register for the SAT, visit: https://sat.collegeboard.org/register/


September 12, 2015 August 7 August 21
October 24, 2015 September 18 October 2
December 12, 2015 November 6 November 20
February 6, 2016
January 8 January 15
April 9, 2016 March 4 March 18
June 11, 2016 May 6 May 20

To Register for the ACT, visit: http://www.actstudent.org/regist/


You also might like:

Planning for the SAT, Subject Tests and the ACT

Creating a Test-Prep Plan with your Teen


Tags: For Students, For Parents

Advice from a Parent: Helping the Expat Student Navigate the College Selection and Application Process

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Wed, Apr 08, 2015


We are very excited about this blog post. While most of our entries are advice from our perspective here at TestRocker, this one is truly unique. Alison Cuozzo, a parent of one of our students, shares seven useful tips for students and parents living outside the United States during the college application process.


While students studying abroad follow a similar routine in the college selection and application process as their US counterparts, there are a few adjustments that need to be made for the international student. Following is a list of tips for successful planning:

  1. Know your SAT/ACT test-dates

    While all international applicants take the SAT and/or ACT on the same dates as in the States, not all test dates are offered overseas. It is important to look at the CollegeBoard website and identify which SAT test dates are offered in your host country. Likewise, the ACT test dates should be investigated well in advance.

  2. Plan ahead for college visits

    Living abroad limits students’ abilities to visit colleges throughout the school year. Therefore, it is important to plan summer college visits as early as possible to maximize your time in the States. The timetable that worked best for our daughter in 11th grade was to take her first SAT in January, thus allowing her to retake the test in May if necessary, and still getting her scores back before going on college tours. While standardized tests are only one component of an application, there is no point in spending half of the summer and a lot of money travelling to schools where your test scores are well below the average of accepted students at that school. Additionally, June is an ideal time to take any of the SAT subject tests since they will have completed most of the coursework by that time (and possibly have taken the AP exams in May).

  3. Prepare in advance for standardized tests

    To prepare for the January exam, our daughter started with TestRocker during the summer before the 11th grade. This allowed her plenty of time to learn any content that she was lacking for the exam. After completing the program and finishing the sample tests on the program, she practiced taking written SAT exams over her winter break. While the mastering the content is the most crucial component of doing well on the SAT or ACT, it is really beneficial to practice physically writing the exam using the College Board’s book of practice SATs (or ACT) and timing oneself. Taking two or three practice exams will help prepare you for the pace at which you will have to answer all questions in each section.

  4. Make your college essay meaningful!

    Choose your Common Application topic wisely so that it separates you from all of the other applicants your admissions officer is reviewing. It is often tempting to want to write about your experience as an expat, or a meaningful service trip you have participated in Cambodia, etc. Remember, the admissions officer that reviews your application ONLY reviews international students. There are probably thousands of essays written from students in international schools about overcoming culture shock, being a third culture kid, performing service in a third world country, or being a global citizen. While these are all meaningful topics, they are also very common in the international applicant pool.

  5. Complete your Common Application beginning 12th grade
    Finish the Common Application essay over the summer prior to the start of 12th grade! By the time the students enter 12th grade, they often feel they have finished the hardest part of taking multiple standardized tests and ensuring good grades through the 11th grade. However, the course load during senior year is usually very rigorous with multiple AP or upper level classes. Additionally, many seniors hold leadership positions in many clubs, play a varsity sport, play in advanced band, or any number of time intensive activities. It is very challenging to maintain heavy involvement in numerous extra curricular activities, focus on high academic achievement, write several supplemental essays, and complete college applications. Since the Common Application essay will be sent to most schools, this needs to be written really well which often includes multiple drafts and rewrites. Students should at least complete this essay over the summer because many or most colleges require additional supplemental essays that will demand a lot of time during first semester of senior year.

  6. Take notes during college visits

    During the summer college visits, make sure to write down notes immediately after visiting each school. They often will run together in your mind after you spend three weeks listening to numerous college talks. Most supplemental essays required for each school will ask why you are interested in that particular school. The notes taken during your college tours will help personalize why that particular college interests you beyond what can be researched online.

  7. Submit your applications well in advance

    While most college applications are not due for the “regular decision” round until January 1st, try to submit them earlier in December to increase the likelihood of an alumni interview. Living so far from the States poses a challenge with interviews. There are a few colleges which a student can request an interview during the summer before applying. Most, however, do not and getting an interview often depends on how many active alumni from that particular school are in your area. Do NOT panic if you are not offered an interview. Colleges understand international students are at a disadvantage for having an interview and will not hold it against them.


About Alison

Ali-pictureAlison Cuozzo moved to Singapore six years ago with her husband and three children who are currently in 12th, 10th and 8th grades at an American international school. Having lived in four countries, Alison’s family most recently moved from Fairfax, VA where she was highly involved in the PTA at her children’s public school. In Singapore, Alison volunteers as a coordinator for a speaker series that hosts experts from around the world who address important and timely topics on parenting, child development and family life. Last year, the organizers introduced “tech talks” specifically to tackle issues regarding the rapidly changing role of technology in students’ lives. Alison received a B.A. in psychology from UNC Chapel Hill and a masters degree in social policy and administration from University of Chicago.


You might also like:

6 Things to Consider When Applying to US Colleges as an International Student

10 Steps to College Acceptance in the US

An International Student Guide to Admissions in the US

Tags: For Students, For Parents

Current SAT vs. New SAT Downloadable Flyer

Posted by Suniti Mathur on Fri, Feb 27, 2015

Many students have requested a simple side-by-side comparison of the current SAT vs the New SAT, so we are delivering on our promise.



To view, print or download the TestRocker comparison chart, simply click on the link below:


And if you have any questions at all, make sure you fill out the comments box below! 

You might also enjoy the following blogs:

The New SAT: Advice for the Class of 2017

How Will The Vocab Section Change on the New SAT

The Content and Structure of the New SAT

What the College Board Plans to Change about the SAT

Tags: For Students, For Parents, For Counselors

International Students: 10 Steps to College Acceptance in the US

Posted by TestRocker Team on Thu, Dec 18, 2014

If you are an internationflags-1al student and you want to pursue your undergraduate studies in the United States, this blog is for you! You will definitely need to have a clear plan of action as you go through the application process. To help you get started, we asked our friend and highly accomplished international admissions expert, Peter Davos, to provide a list of the steps to college success in the US.

1. Pursue your academic passion

With over 4,000 universities in the US, it's important to make the right choices. Take the time to choose a university that offers the major that you want, the flexibility that you seek, and the activities with which you want to get involved.

 2. Get involved

Take part in and show commitment to a few extracurricular activities that you love. Be it sports, volunteer work, music, leadership programs, or internships, it’s important to show that you’re a well-rounded student.

3. Choose a rigorous curriculum

It's not enough just to get good grades. It's also important to show that you can handle the rigorous curriculum of a US university. The best way to do so is by choosing a rigorous high school program, such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, Advanced Placement, or A-Levels.

4. Take standardized tests

As much as we wish it weren't so, standardized tests are a critical component of the application that can make or break admission. Choosing the right exams (SAT vs. ACT, SAT Subject Tests, TOEFL) to take and when is a crucial part of the process. Plan to retake tests up to three times and seek tutoring if needed. (To get a customized study plan for the SAT, ACT or both, take the TestRocker Diagnostic test for free. Simply create a free account by clicking here.)

5. Create a balanced college list

Choosing the right colleges to apply to will not only impact the responses you will receive but also ultimately impact your happiness and success in your four years at university. Create a list of universities that matches your personality, credentials, and learning style.

6. Apply!

The most labor-intensive part of the process, applying to a number of US universities takes time and effort. Managing your time and understanding deadlines is key. Take the time to craft a structured and well-written personal statement. Ask for letters of recommendation from your teachers and prepare for possible admissions interviews.

7. Research scholarships

US higher-level education can be very costly, particularly for international students. That's why it's always worthwhile to research what types of scholarships there are out there. Make sure you're eligible to apply!

8. Get accepted!

It's April and responses from colleges are now coming in. With two or more acceptances in hand, it's time to make an informed choice. Make sure you are confident and comfortable with your decision. Some considerations include: university reputation, amount of aid received, academic curriculum, location, and extracurricular programs.

9. Apply for your student visa

There's one last step to be completed before you embark on your American adventure: apply for your F-1 student visa. Getting your student visa can be a smooth and stress-free process if you manage your time and prepare all the necessary forms in advance. Get your parents involved!

10. Pack your bags

Pack your bags, kiss your parents goodbye and get ready to live the best four years of your life. Study hard, get involved in student life, and make lasting friendships. Your ids education the most powerful tool you will have to make a difference in the world!

Students in the GCC region: Click here to request a free consultation with Peter.
About the Author:

Peter is the founder and Managing Director of Hale Education Group, the GCC's leading educational consultancy focusing exclusively on US university admissions. He graduated Phi BetaKappa, with a double major, from Johns Hopkins University and spent his junior year abroad completing the General Course in International Relations at the London School of Economics. Peter holds Master’s Degrees from Oxford University and Harvard University, where he was selected Marshal of his class. He has completed UCLA’s Certificate in College Counseling and IECA’s Summer Training Institute. A Johns Hopkins Alumni Interviewer for over twelve years, Peter is also a member of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Council, Second Decade Society, and founder/co-president of the Johns Hopkins Alumni Society of the UAE. He is a proud member of the HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association), OACAC (Overseas Association for College Admissions Counseling), HASUAE (Harvard Alumni Society of the UAE), and American Business Council of Dubai. Peter is an Offensive/Defensive Lineman for the Emirates American Football League’s Dubai Barracudas and has been chosen to represent the UAE on the country’s National American Football Team, the Falcons. He is a contributing writer on US Education issues for Gulf News has lived in Dubai since 2010.

Tags: For Students, For Parents, International Students, College Applications

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Suniti is the creator of TestRocker, an online learning platform that helps you unlock your dream PSAT, SAT and ACT scores. TestRocker is based on Suniti’s highly successful and proven method of teaching thousands of students how to maximize their PSAT, SAT and ACT scores for over a decade.

TestRocker is an award-winning PSAT/SAT/ACT program that empowers students to take control of their test preparation. After taking a diagnostic test, students receive a customized study plan, individualized to their strengths/weaknesses. Students practice and learn concepts through videos. Each of the 2000+ questions on TestRocker is accompanied by a video explanation from Suniti. TestRocker has the largest video library in the world for PSAT/SAT/ACT preparation. 

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