For everything that it was worth, I never knew college applications would be so goddamn difficult. Growing up in California, I never felt the drive of other students from other states and countries to get into the schools offered in Cali. It was shocking when I received four denial letters from the four UC’s I applied to. In the end, it all worked out with being accepted to Cal Poly, which I think is just the right kind of college for me. However, being left without many options is something you never want. I hope that I can provide something of value by telling you the tales of my experience in high school and college so when you go down your path to higher education you don’t make the same mistakes I made.
My tale starts during the summer of 2018. It’s nearly my junior year in high school and I have just arrived back from Seoul. While summer was also meant for fun and games, especially around the area I grew up in kids would study their asses off during the summer for their SAT and ACT testing. Now do know currently during the whole COVID-19 mess, some schools do not require you to take the SAT or ACT for you to report in your college application. However, if I had to guess, testing will come back soon. Anyways, having Asian parents, my fate for the rest of my summer was supposed to be non-stop studying. Well, that’s at least how I thought it would go.
For the remainder of the summer, I used the Collegeboard’s blue book and Khan Academy to study for my tests. The problem was, I never was that focused on actually studying for the SAT. I was too busy prioritizing my new beloved gaming PC over everything else. The majority of my days I found myself tinkering with PC parts that I received from my uncle, playing games on that said PC, and hanging out with my best friend. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do these things, with proper time management one can fit in time for free time. The problem I faced though is prioritizing those said things overstudying. Having the new PC was a thrilling experience and it was exhilarating being able to play new AAA titles over 60 fps. So having spent all that time skimming through practice to play on the computer, I did not get the score I wanted.
The next time I took the test was sometime in March. During January and February, I spent time and money on an SAT prep course provided by Princeton Review and put in actual time to complete large quantities of practice problems. Whether or not the prep class was worth $650 is up for debate, but I did learn some things I would say are helpful to have on the test. What I will say though is that practicing a lot is certainly helpful. This is something the course certainly makes you do a lot every session. I would make sure to take at least one full practice test every week before the start of your SAT. Practicing when against the clock pressures you to solve questions quicker. The more practice questions you do the higher the chance you will recognize similar questions on your actual SAT. If you do finish that huge stupid book of problems, don’t stop! There are plenty of other internet sources for you to grab more SAT practice from the College Board itself and other sites like Khan Academy.
So before you decide just to wing the test by studying a random amount of time every day or so, stop and think. I would give myself at least two months before taking the test. For some of you, this may be a different case. Whether it is a month to possibly even before you enter high school, take some time to plan what you are going to do to prepare for your test. It is up to you whether or not you want to lay out a couple hundred or thousand dollars for a prep course, but if you feel you have the willpower to make yourself grind out a couple of dozen problems of practice every day don’t do it. What I do recommend is to make sure to get the Collegeboard blue book if you are taking the SAT. It is crucial to practice tests with time limits the same as the SAT or even giving yourself a few minutes less than normal. The faster you can do the problems, the more time you will have at the end of the test to check your answers. In the end, the SAT is just like any other test. As long as you familiarize yourself with the layout of the test, understand the general concept matter of the test, and know some basic test-taking skills you are sure to get a great score.