Three tips you should know before you apply to college

Preparing for college applications can be as daunting as the towers found on some older campuses.

Preparing for college applications can be as daunting as the towers found on some older campuses.

Looking back, I wish I’d known certain tips about the pre-college application process earlier! I didn’t know what subject tests were until the end of sophomore year, which isn’t late, but really, before then, I’d never even heard of them. The following information is based on my experiences and regrets pertaining to college applications. So far, that is…

  1. Start Early

If you are planning to apply to a college that requires the SAT, ACT, or SAT subject tests, start preparing for them before junior year. It’s stressful to depend on that last testing opportunity in October or January of your senior year. Ideally, you should aim get a satisfactory score by the end of junior year. Thus, it would be beneficial to begin taking practice tests and studying a review book in the summer before junior year, or better, during sophomore year or earlier.

In addition, the best way to establish strong scores is to take more than one practice test before the actual standardized test. Taking 4-5 tests, one per week before the SAT or ACT, may sound crazy, but it’s worth the time if you’re looking for scholarships or entrance into a selective college.

Some colleges require two SAT subject test scores as well. Subject tests evaluate your achievement in specific areas, such as history, literature comprehension, foreign language, and math. Consider taking the Math 1 test after finishing algebra 2 or the Math 2 test after precalculus.

  1. Make a Specific Email Address for College Information

On the PSAT, you can fill in your email address so that the Collegeboard can send you information about various colleges and scholarship opportunities. It may be a good idea to create an account for college information separate from your personal account. You could possibly receive a flood of emails after you get your scores back. Most emails seek to raise interest about colleges and summer programs. Once you refine the list of colleges you’re interested in, it might help to make another email specifically for the college application process. Choose your email addresses wisely, however. Make your non-personal ones more formal than “”

  1. Take Advantage of Free Score Report Services

As of right now, without a fee waiver, it costs $11.25 to send your SAT Reasoning and Subject Test scores to one college. That translates to $67.50 if you’re applying to six schools that require or recommend these scores. In addition, it costs $15 for each college to send your AP scores, and an ACT score report for one test date costs $12. However, it takes about two to three weeks for colleges to receive and fully process these scores, and rush delivery costs even more. Don’t forget application fees…

To save some Jacksons or maybe even Benjamins, take advantage of free score report opportunities. Right before and up to nine days after you take the SAT, you can select up to four schools to receive your scores. Moreover, for each year you take AP tests, you can choose one college to receive your scores. Each school has a specific code that you enter onto the Scantron. However, after a certain amount of time after the tests, free score reports are no longer available. It doesn’t hurt to try! Clemson and many other colleges only consider your highest score and encourage students to send scores for free each time they take a standardized test. But if you realize in the middle of the test that you’re absolutely bombing it and you don’t want colleges seeing these scores, you can just erase the school codes.

Of course, there’s much more to know about college preparation, but hopefully these tips will save you time and money when the hectic college application season arrives for you.