Dear Junior and Family:
Greetings from Seattle Academy College Advising! We hope you are having a great summer and enjoy a good start to junior year. In an effort to preview, but not to distract from the start of, junior year, the following is an overview of the portion of junior year dedicated to College Advising along with accompanying documents to save for your reference. Please remember that you are welcome to email us questions as needed. While our understandable focus is on the senior class in the fall (something for which you’ll be thankful in future months), please don’t let any senior hubbub frighten you off.
College Advising always gives a great deal of thought to the most effective and strategic approaches for working with all students. Once again this year, we will meet with juniors during a regular class meeting in December to kick off their college process formally. To provide parents the same information and to ensure everyone is on the same page, we will hold a Junior Parent Meeting on Tuesday, December 11 at 7 PM. Because we know that there are always earlier questions, we hold two different fall information sessions – one for juniors in October at a class meeting during the school day and one for junior parents the evening of Tuesday, October 2 at 7 PM – to preview the work we’ll all do together and to answer common questions. The combination of various information sessions for all members of the family will arm juniors and their families with complete and well-timed information going forward.
The above October meeting also aligns with the junior-year PSAT held at Seattle Academy on Saturday, October 13 (please see the accompanying memo about the PSAT). The information gained from the PSAT, coupled with a start to junior year that focuses importantly on students’ transcripts and extra-curricular
activities, provides a rich set of information for College Advising to begin its individual meetings with members of the junior class.
Juniors should also try to complete the following college-related tasks during the year ahead.
- As grades are the number one factor in college admission, keep your grades steady even as your classes might become a bit more challenging. Once you steady your grades, work to inch them upward such that the grade trend is positive.
- Continue to reinforce relationships with their teachers, who write important college recommendation letters next fall. Applicants will generally, but not exclusively, select recommenders from students’ junior and senior year teachers, in two different academic subjects.
- Sit in on a Seattle Academy visit from a college representative (if interested), to get a sense of what those meetings do and don’t do. Juniors must get prior approval from their teacher if they must miss class, and class should always take precedence. Juniors can log-in as guests to Naviance, Seattle Academy’s web-based complement to individual advising, to see the schedule or check posted college visit schedules around school. To log-in to Naviance as a guest, click http://connection.naviance.com/seattleacademy and enter “saas” as the guest password. Later this year, each junior family receives more personalized, robust access to Naviance. When school resumes, all juniors and seniors also receive a weekly email every Sunday from College Advising which lists forthcoming college reps and other timely reminders.
- Following our conversations in October (which will explain this in helpful detail) and the PSAT, take one SAT, one ACT (with Writing), and (only when appropriate; these are less and less required by colleges, something we’ll discuss) SAT Subject Tests sometime between winter and June of junior year. Details are on a testing information sheet accompanying this letter. One additional note about testing: Most students do not need to prep for the October PSAT. Once we receive practice materials from the College Board in the early fall, however, we do reach out to all juniors and particularly to juniors whose sophomore PSAT indicates they are within striking range of National Merit consideration. In this case, it can be useful for a student to re-familiarize themselves with the PSAT beforehand.
- Visit colleges, if possible, either specific colleges of interest or to geographically accessible “prototype” colleges to get an idea of what large research universities, mid-sized research universities, mediumsized urban private universities, and selective small liberal arts colleges are like. Here in Washington State, students can visit the following with a minimum of expense and travel: the University of Washington, Western Washington University, University of Puget Sound or Whitman College.
- Go to one or two college fairs in the area (see “Eleventh Grade Overview,” enclosed). Note the annual Seattle Area Independent Schools Fair in October, exclusively for 11th and 12th graders from Seattle Academy, Bush, Forest Ridge, Northwest, Eastside Prep, Overlake, University Prep, and Rainier Scholars. This is a very popular event every year!
- Register now with the NCAA Clearinghouse at www.ncaaclearinghouse.net if they plan or hope to play Division I or II athletics in college, then communicate the next steps to College Advising for future processing. Ensure that NCAA is listed as a destination for your test scores, an NCAA requirement of potential DI or DII athletes.
- Continue to save work, as recommended in previous grade-level correspondence. College Advising is monitoring and communicating changes to the format of various college applications such that College Advising will help the Class of 2020 as effectively as possible, but regardless it is worthwhile and strategic to save on your computer résumé fodder, samples of writing, and creative work. For the time being, due in part to privacy concerns with the forthcoming Coalition Application, only save this work on your computer and not in the Coalition Application’s “virtual locker” about which you might hear. Again, we will revisit this topic in more detail during fall meetings.
We are also pleased to announce that on April 23 and 24, 2019, Seattle Academy will once again partner with several area independent schools (Bush, Northwest, and University Prep) in offering “case studies” (admission committee simulation) programs at which juniors and their families can participate in a mock admission committee led by admission officers who help reveal how admission decisions are made. We will share more information about this program at the various aforementioned meetings. In the meantime, we ask that all junior families mark their calendars for one of the two nights (all participating juniors will be able to choose whether they attend a case studies event on the 23rd held at the Bush School or on the 24th held at University Prep). This is a program we expect all juniors to attend. Past participants felt this event illuminated and advantaged their eventual applications.
We have a great deal to anticipate together this year but in the meantime please have a healthy and productive start to junior year. Parents and guardians, mark your calendars for the above October and December events which tend to answer many questions our experience suggests are common at this time. If you find the
October meeting does not answer your fall questions, please email a member of the College Advising staff. Best wishes for a good continued summer and an excellent beginning to junior year.
Melanie Reed, Dave Thomas, Misa Kabashima, Stacie Cone, and Taylor Kanemori
Seattle Academy College Advising
What happens between now and senior year?
As junior year continues, students both sustain/improve grades and investment in activities, and work within the very deliberate and informed structure of the
Seattle Academy College Advising program. Ideally, students and parents try to resist focusing exclusively on the college search process which can distract
from the most advantageous things students can do: enrich the “raw material” of applications by enjoying a growthful, productive time at Seattle Academy.
What are most advantageous and healthy ways to get started in this process?
While robust access is available starting at a December class meeting (for students) and Junior Parent College Night (for families), families can access the
Naviance system early as guests:
- https://connection.naviance.com/fc/signin.php?hsid=seattleacademy > “I’m a guest” > Enter: “saas”
- Review the documents and emails stored under “document library” (over on the upper right-hand side once you log-in).
- In addition, review (in the fall) the 120-150 scheduled college visits to Seattle Academy and talk as a family about a few visits that might be productive to attend (with teacher permission, requested in advance). Once inside Naviance as a guest (above):
- Click “Colleges” > Click “view all upcoming college visits"
- Note that more permissions are enabled after Junior College Day/Night.
If you’re trying to plan travel to see a few colleges over mid-winter break in February, a popular time to do so, the student should email College Advising
directly and ask them for a short survey to answer that can help them make some very preliminary travel suggestions. Note, these questions and answers do
not replace the required college advising kick-off survey College Advising will assign at its Junior College Kick-Off.
Other genuinely useful things students can do:
- Know that the real “stuff” of the college process is not the architecture of a college search, it’s the track record, curiosities, and self-knowledge you bring to it. Where possible, continue to challenge yourself with classes that show initiative and keep consistent / stabilize / improve grades depending on your particular situation.
- Attend the Seattle Area Independent Schools Fair (on your various calendars).
- Note date(s) of this year’s mandatory (at least for students) Junior College Day/Night (on your various calendars) and schedule it on your calendar.
- Start building an activities list, even informally, in Word.
- Save all writing from this year, with teacher comments you can incorporate later (or as soon as you get them back).
- Save papers with grades on them.
- Give the seniors space for the very different and appropriately timed work they’re doing (in the trenches, producing the “stuff” of their applications). You’ll be grateful for that time and space when it’s yours.
What about standardized test prep?
- Juniors take the PSAT in October. Last year, families received notifications that they could log-in to College Board and receive score reports. This year, we expect families to receive this in December.
- Ideally, students take the SAT and the ACT once each between February-June, repeating one in fall of senior year.
- Families monitor www.collegeboard.com and www.actstudent.org for available registration. Registering early for each test ensures a closer test site.
- Students often prep for exams, but in a variety of ways we will discuss with juniors individually during their initial meetings.
- Some students will require SAT II exams. These are not required of everyone and demand some research first to ensure students are not overtesting when they could instead replace an SAT II score with the aforementioned ACT with Writing. In general, for any student from any high school, SAT IIs require prep and should not be taken “cold.” Once a student has developed some realistic idea of where she or he might like to apply, the following link can serve as a tool for assessing which tests are required by which colleges:
- http://www.compassprep.com/admissions_req_subjects.aspx (this link is also saved on Naviance as “SAT II requirements”)
- In general, when one signs up for testing of any type, select Seattle Academy as a recipient of scores with our CEEB code, 481154.
What should we not do now?
- Please don’t mistake the weirdness and ambiguity created by the mysterious future for “we’re so behind!” You’re not. And we’re here to help.
- Please don’t talk about college obsessively. Work together as a family to determine dedicated times for college talk and work together to focus instead on the real “stuff” of one’s college application: the transcript and extra-curriculars.
Please don’t buy manufactured college-search drama. Seattle Academy students have a proven track record of college search satisfaction. If we’re managing your stress level, we can’t devote as much time as we’d like to students. And we love to devote time to students!
To: 10th and 11th Grade Students and Parents
From: Melanie Reed, Dave Thomas, Misa Kabashima, Stacie Cone, Taylor Kanemori, and Jaymie Lewis
Date: Summer, 2018
RE: PSAT Testing and Schedule for Saturday, October 13, 2018
Greetings from Seattle Academy! We write with news of the forthcoming PSAT for 10th and 11th graders. For nationwide PSAT administrations in 2018, College Board has made two dates available, only one of which (the Saturday administration on October 13) is workable for Seattle Academy to preserve as much in-class time as possible.
As a result, as noted on College Advising calendars sent home to 10th and 11th grade families earlier this summer, all of Seattle Academy’s sophomores and juniors will take the PSAT at school on Saturday, October 13. We assume each of our 10th and 11th graders will test and we automatically register each student for the exam, the charge for which is applied to each student’s account. As with all PSATs, College Board does not provide an alternative or “make-up” date for students.*
10th and 11th graders should arrive outside the Gym at the usual time (8:15 AM) on Saturday, October 13, and expect to be involved in testing and test-related activities for about three and a half hours. Each student should bring his/her usual Seattle Academy required calculator and two sharpened pencils to use in the exam. Teachers and administrators will proctor the exam administration according to College Board guidelines. Jaymie Lewis will reach out individually with additional information for students who will test with accommodations that day.
College Advising will alert 10th and 11th graders via email to practice tests when available in the College Advising office. College Advising will also ensure 10th and 11th graders receive additional information about the exam. The College Board partnership with Khan Academy also has free prep resources available for the revised SAT/PSAT at http://tinyurl.com/onkf8sj. If students fill out their materials correctly on testing day, College Board plans to email them score access information during the winter. In the past this information from College Board has been available before winter break.
The PSAT is important to sophomores and juniors in different ways. For sophomores, the PSAT is an opportunity to practice standardized test-taking under official College Board testing conditions. For juniors, the test serves another purpose: it is the route through which some enter the National Merit Scholarship Program, an annual process by which especially high testers may qualify for some college undergraduate scholarships. If a junior scores well enough on this PSAT, they qualify as a National Merit Semifinalist or Commended Student, two awards for college-bound students. (The strong student who has an off-day in the PSAT
and does not qualify need not worry; the test works in positive ways but not negative ones for college admissions.)
We strongly recommend all juniors plan to prep for and to take one SAT in January, March, May OR June of junior spring as well as an ACT, a test that can advantage students and carries equal weight with colleges. Dates for both are available on the College Board and ACT websites. We will discuss these items at the 11th grade parent evening meeting in early October.
For all 10th and 11th grade families, please be sure that your child has a good night’s sleep and a nourishing breakfast before the October 13th test. If a student brings snacks or water with her/him to the test, we will ask that the student place the food and beverage away from the test to avoid spilling on her/his test (exceptions are made for students with known medical conditions). Per College Board regulations, students will not be allowed to leave the premises to get snacks during the test. As we said above, students with diagnostic evaluations that recommend accommodations on standardized tests may be eligible for PSAT test accommodations. If your student is eligible, you will hear separate details from Jaymie Lewis in Learning Support.
* Very occasionally, if a student has a significant conflict with the PSAT date, they have done the following: called directly other schools in Seattle to see if any of them are offering the test on Wednesday, October 17, the only other date option authorized by the College Board. Only after checking with Seattle Academy teachers to determine whether the student can miss Wednesday the 17th (grades being more advantageous than a practice standardized test, the scores of which colleges don’t see) is the student allowed to test at an alternative location. This is up to the student/family to arrange. If this is the case for your student, please
notify Melanie Reed at email@example.com, Dave Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Misa Kabashima at email@example.com after you or your student made arrangements with another school and with Seattle Academy teachers so College Advising knows your student will not test at Seattle Academy on October 13.
How does test prep work?
Research shows ideally students should not take standardized tests, apart from those practice tests we administer, nor generally prep for them for the first two years of high school. It is best strategically if most test prep can wait until deep into eleventh grade. While this is a hard line to hold, most early prep tends to be inefficient and unproductive. When it’s actually time to prep, coaching toward tests works until it doesn’t, meaning that students should give the tests their due – with appropriate and smart prep for a finite period of time – and not one second more. Test prep can be one-on-one, small group, or online through something like Khan Academy/College Board, which is free to users. Because students do not have unlimited time and motivation for test prep, studies show that applying time and energy to homework first pays the greatest dividends in college admission (and sometimes carries over to standardized tests).
What are the different standardized tests most college applicants take?
When the time comes, students ideally take a practice test that determines whether one or the other of the following is “their test.” For less than half of the students, however, will there be a clear choice between the following (ACT or SAT) which colleges accept equally. Still, one may feel more comfortable in terms of structure, pacing, and cadence. Other students sometimes choose their tests based on the family calendar, whether one of the tests approved accommodations, whether they would like a science section on the exam (ACT offers, SAT doesn’t). Either way, the student should avoid testing whiplash by picking a test and sticking with it.
ACT – Has at least equal market share with the SAT; colleges accept it and SAT equally. The ACT is most like the practice test Seattle Academy students took in ninth grade. Like all tests it requires some prep - not ad nauseam, but research shows closer to the actual time of the test and when students have more material under their belts. Though some colleges are eliminating the “writing” portion, for the time being register for it “with writing.”
SAT – Like the ACT, colleges accept it equally. The SAT is most like the practice test Seattle Academy students take in October of tenth and eleventh grades. Like all tests it requires some prep - not ad nauseam, but research shows closer to the actual time of the test and with more experience/material. In case one or more of your colleges requires it, elect to do the essay section.
SAT II – Fortunately, because of the considerable prep involved for any student from any high school, the SAT IIs or “subject tests” are less and less required by colleges. As of the last draft of this document, only thirteen colleges required subject tests. These requirements change frequently and College Advising monitors them. Students should not assume they have to take subject tests nor that it is in their best interest to take them or to spend time prepping for them. You will determine this individually with your college advisor when you work together in your junior year. Note: A few students taking pre-calc as early as sophomore year may elect to take the SAT II “Math 2” exam at the conclusion of that course. All other students can wait to discuss the SAT II until junior year conversations with College Advising.
Again, shouldn’t I just take subject tests to cover my bases?
Because all students from all high schools require extra, sometimes extensive prep, on the subject tests (which can distract from other schoolwork, activities, and regular test prep) it is wise first to see if you need them. Fewer and fewer colleges outright require them and you want to have as much time available for application-strengthening grades, activities, and life. Your College Advisor can put this into perspective and you can also check regularly updated SAT II requirements at: http://www.compassprep.com/subject-test-requirements-and-recommendations/
When do students test and how many times?
Typically students take one SAT and one ACT in the spring of junior year. Sometimes students prep during the junior spring or toward the end of the rising senior summer, especially on the test that felt or went better for them, retaking that test in the fall. It is not recommended to test more than three times on a single exam, and for most students two attempts is sufficient.
When is the last time I should test during my senior fall?
Most of the Class of 2018 had at least one application due on or before November 1, meaning that the October test dates were the most useful to and generally latest advisable for them. Not waiting to test too far into the fall and making use of August, September and October test dates are good ideas. Some students also retested in November, using subsequent scores to strengthen regular admission applications.
When the time comes junior winter/spring, how do I register for tests and what do I do if I have accommodations?
Families register for the tests at www.actstudent.org (ACT) or www.collegeboard.org (SAT),setting up accounts with usernames and passwords you’ll need to save and re-access when you send your scores to colleges in the fall. If you know or believe you will use accommodations but have not yet checked with Learning Support, contact Jaymie Lewis.
What is test optional admission and how is it useful to me?
Nearly 1000 colleges outlined at www.fairtest.org openly weigh other factors than testing more strongly when reviewing applications, sometimes do not require tests at all, or allow students to substitute other work (graded paper, etc.) for standardized testing. The good news is that many test optional colleges are already favorites of Seattle Academy students. Test optional admission is ideal when one’s transcript is quite strong and testing doesn’t quite match. Test optional colleges include American University, George Washington University, Lewis & Clark College, Wake Forest University, Wesleyan University and many more.