5 Great Ways to Get Your High Schooler Ready for the SAT/ACT

For high-school parents across the country getting ready to register their teens for college entrance exams, it may be scary to think that what they do over the course of four hours at a testing center has the power to determine their fate for the next four years. But it doesn’t have to be.
How and what you do to prepare your teen for taking the SAT/ACT can make all the difference in the world in both their test scores, and their reaction to how they performed. 
Where we once thought their college entrance exam scores were the end all be all of their youth, we can be comforted in knowing that today’s standardized test score is just one part of a larger portfolio of academic work, classroom honors, and other accolades the average high schooler will accumulate.
Even so, having a student walk into test day exuding confidence and calmness can make all the different in the world. Try these five tips to ensure your college-bound student experiences test day success.
1. Remind them it really is just a test.
It is comprehensively impossible to develop 12 years of education into a “test,” and your teenagers need to be reminded of that. Sadly, they may potentially leave the test feeling frustrated and, well, stupid, but reassure them that statistically, less than 5 percent will score perfect or even close to it. The perfect test that is able to measure your teen’s whole body of intelligence and potential simply does not exist, and never will.
2. Use those giant test prep books. Really.
Those giant phonebook like test prep book may seem overwhelming, but they hold a wealth of information and resources. Most importantly, they offer practice tests and answer keys with explanations. It’s also a good way to get the feel of a printed test on paper!
3. A professional test prep service and/or series of test prep classes are worth every penny and may pay for itself later.
Students with even the slightest bit of test anxiety may benefit greatly from test prep tutoring the most, as they teach a specific set of test taking skills not normally offered (or even talked about) in regular school.
More importantly, even though the cost of private test tutoring can be pricey, as little as an increase of one point on a section of the ACT can be the difference between receiving academic merit based scholarship monies or not. You may even find a some test prep service that guarantees an increase in score.
Test taking is truly a learned skill, and your teen may well benefit from a class that actually teaches it. Better yet, many of these are available online and can be completed in the comfort of your teen’s surroundings, at their own pace, and include videos, apps, and other high tech methods of instruction.
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4. Retake, retake, retake.
Most colleges will assess no punishment or place any negative connotation on the fact a student decides to retake one of the tests, even if they do it more than once. Many will even allow for a composite score, meaning you take the best score from each section no matter what day you took them on.
Taking the test more than once and having a base score is actually helpful, and can determine which range of colleges you should be looking at, and what kind of score improvement you will need to gain for acceptance into your “reach school.”
Finally, did you know you can retake the test while already in college? Ask your financial aid office if a significant increase in score would mean the difference in receiving additional grants and scholarships, and then go ahead and give the test another try.
5. Assemble puzzles and exercise.
In the months leading up to test day, one interesting way to prepare for a several hour long session of intense thinking and focusing that the SAT/ACT requires, is to practice with puzzles. Spending time working on complex puzzles helps wire your brain to remember how to stay focused with one goal in mind, and to not be swayed by distracting thoughts or daydreams. Puzzles which require logical thinking are a bonus.
Another method to boost your brain while at the same time encouraging relaxation is to exercise! Your “lazy” teen may have no interest in going for a long fast walk with you, but the head clearing and “runner’s high” effect it will have on them may quickly change their mind.
Exercise is also proven to give you a more positive outlook on life, and this may help negative thinking teens who lack test confidence.
Modern high school often places today’s teens under an extreme amount of pressure to excel and succeed, leaving some students unable to even begin to feel they will have sufficient time to prepare, and have success on the SAT/ACT.
Luckily test prep services like Magoosh, and its innovative and highly successful approach to student achievement, are available to ensure students from all backgrounds and educational levels can achieve test day success.

When the College Acceptance Letter Comes......



My firstborn son received his college acceptance yesterday.

In a matter of a few seconds, I felt all the feels; joy, excitement, worry, anticipation, relief, gratefulness….exuberance to just name a few.

But I also felt something I didn’t expect.

I felt a release.  I felt his release. 

As my husband, myself, and my son all stood around starring at the computer screen reading “Congratulations!” I felt a metaphorical rush of air hit my face, and I imagined it was from my son spreading his wings and finally flying out of our nest.  

And for the first time, I wasn’t sad about it.  I want him to go. 

All I could think about was this thought, “It was all worth it.”

That moment when a childhood becomes adulthood, where your baby’s life dreams are just beginning and their childhood dreams are ending, and as a mom, you get to see it, well, it was all worth it. 


To the moms out there with kids not yet of college age, it’s gonna be worth it.

It was worth the months of puking, the stretch marks, the labor pains, the new body.

It was worth the years of sleepless nights, the red faced cries, the poop explosions.

It was worth the terrible twos, the tantrums, the household disasters, the reading of Good Night Moon 4,876 times, and the hearing the word “NO!” yelled at you for years.

It was worth the skinned knees, the vaccines, the runny noses, the earaches, the head bumps, the cavities, the braces, and the scary loud coughs waking you at night. 


It was worth the thousands of lunches packed, the countless meatloaves made, and the endless trips to the grocery store to feed a boy who is forever hungry.  

It was worth the late nights of spelling word practices, math fact practices, diorama making,  science project fiascos, and  book report writing. 

It was worth being the mom taxi, the 5,000 hours spent in cars going to school, to sports, to the doctor, to anywhere and everywhere you needed to be. Even when I was so tired I could barely see the road.

It was worth the teen years, when hugs were few and far between, when their days were 15 hours long, and my grudges were even longer, when cars were dented, dinners went uneaten, attitudes exploded, and tears fell. It was worth the stress that comes when a kid is expected to be a mature young man, yet still had the heart and playfulness of a young child. 

And last night, as all of those milestones flashed before me, I know the only thing that flashed before my son was the future, not the past. And I’m ok with that. 

In a sense, sure, a lot of my “work” is done, and I do feel like I deserve a moment of “I did it. He’s going to college. Can I have a nap now?” But I know that is not the case. I know my childrearing doesn't end at the age of 18, and I know he still needs his mom. But I am over the moon excited that slowly but surely, he will be making own decisions more and more, and need me less and less. That’s a good thing. 


I’m going to go up to his room later today, and probably stare at an empty bed, and it will hit me that next year I will be staring at an empty bed all the time. But I will not be sad about, because the happiness on his face last night told me everything I need to know. 

He’s gonna be ready. And it truly was all worth it.