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“Why do today what you can do tomorrow”  ~ The Procrastinator
“Why do tomorrow what you can do today” ~ The Go-Getter

Summer is meant for relaxation. Perhaps no one lives that philosophy more than teens. Think about it: after a challenging and exhausting school year, with activities and obligations crowding out weekends, summer is a welcome opportunity to recharge. It’s easy to see why students (and their parents!) aren’t eager to plan ahead. It’s only natural that they would want to avoid tackling the upcoming college admissions exams (the SAT and the ACT). It’s easier to focus on “pool” than on “prep.”

But putting off formal SAT preparation until the winter or spring carries its own hassles and consequences. Here are 5 reasons why rising juniors should consider summer/fall SAT prep:

1) Junior year becomes very busy.
Sure, teachers assign homework in September, but the fall of junior year is a less stressful time to manage SAT/ACT prep. The progressing year brings midterms, AP exams, finals, junior prom, regents, and more. Beginning SAT preparation in July (for the August and October SAT exams) allows students to be done with the SAT long before midterms even start. Just look at this graph by a former student, showing the second semester jump in stress:

junior-year

2) The SAT and ACT are NOT connected to high school curriculum.
There is a common misconception that students should wait to take the SAT and ACT until the end of junior year in order to benefit from another year of education. But the SAT and ACT are reasoning based exams that test a student’s ability to problem solve and process information quickly. The skills most crucial to SAT/ACT success are not taught explicitly in schools, which is why a preparation class is useful. It is a preparation class that will ready students for the SAT. Waiting until the end of junior year likely ensures that stress will prove overwhelming.

3) Earlier start = more opportunities = less stressful
Preparing for and taking the SAT and ACT exams is inherently a stressful experience. Starting early (a few weeks before the school year begins) affords students the ability to feel much more relaxed about the whole process. Even when students plan on taking the SAT twice, they often end up sitting for it a third time. Starting prep later junior year would mean that this third time would coincide with a high stress period of obligations (see reason #1). By aiming for the August and October exams – by starting early – students have more opportunities to take both the SAT and ACT. This has the added advantage of building comfort and taking the pressure off of each individual test day experience.

4) No other homework, papers, and test in the summer!
By beginning in the summer, students are able to do most of their prep before the school year starts. During July and August, students have a weekly class assignment that is their sole focus – no additional school assignments! Having 7 weeks of stand alone test prep familiarizes them with the test material before the mountain of school homework begins. Time management and focus are better.

5) Ease into the school year.
Most students do not look forward to the transition from summer to junior year of high school. Spending so many weeks learning about the SAT or ACT exam will help put students into the proper mindset for a challenging academic year. What a nice benefit!

In my 12 years of preparing high schoolers for these exams, I have never had a single student regret beginning their prep before junior year. However, many students who have worked with me during other times of the year wish they had started earlier.

So: Are you the procrastinator or the go-getter?