Seek Sound and True College Advice From a Professional

There are thousands of professionals in America claiming to be college “experts.” Some are very good at what they do and can give your family the sound counsel you desperately need. The point of this article is to give you enough information to figure out who is giving you true college advice.

Troy Onink wrote in Forbes:

“Much of the information on the internet, presented at college aid nights, in print in leading financial publications and disseminated by guidance counselors and the financial industry is either wrong to begin with, misleading, or out of context.”

When you ask teachers, parents, counselors, or your friends for college advice about testing, most are going to give you inaccurate or incomplete information.  All of these folks will be well meaning and they truly believe that what they are sharing with you is accurate and true, but you aren’t consulting experts.

If your gall bladder is acting up, who are you going to ask…?  Your friends?  Someone who had their gall bladder removed?  Someone who had a friend whose cousin had their gall bladder removed?  No… you’re probably going to talk to a doctor – an expert.  Most likely, your family doctor will send you to a specialist, who knows about gall bladders and has removed a lot of them.

I hope you didn’t depend on some friend who had their gall bladder removed to give you gall bladder advice other than “you better talk to your doctor.”  Indeed, would you let them remove your gall bladder?  Just because a person had their gall bladder removed doesn’t qualify them to remove yours.  In fact, they were asleep the whole time, so they don’t know what happened.  And… most people who remove gall bladders still have theirs… so you don’t have to have your gall bladder removed know how to remove someone else’s.

Taking college advice from someone who did it or had it done is like watching a football game and thinking you know enough about football to coach the team.

“Expert” College Advice?

Often, “expert” college advice is when your friend shares information he or she got from their brother-in-law’s best friend who overheard someone in the men’s room talking about college.  Most well-meaning friendly advice is just polished gossip.

“I heard that…”

“Someone told me…”

This reminds me of… “Henny Penny said… Cocky Locky said… Goosey Loosey said… Foxy Loxy said… Chicken Licken said… the sky is falling down…!”

Deprogramming People

One of the first things I have to do when I meet with parents is “deprogram” them from all the misinformation they have been getting from well-meaning friends, school counselors, or someone’s brother-in-law who had the friend who went to Harvard.  Unfortunately, these parents have been making strategic and incorrect decisions based on this misinformation that sometimes there’s very little that can be done to help them… because it’s too late.  They have going down the wrong path so long, they walk off the map.

“You can only take the tests once…”

“If colleges see you took it too many times, they will automatically reject you…”

“If you take it more than once, colleges average your scores…”

The only thing correct about these statements is the spelling and punctuation.  The content is absolutely false.

Facts About Taking the Tests

In high school, I went to a military school. I took the SAT eleven times and the ACT ten times.  I received 11 full scholarship offers and a West Point nomination.  Everybody in my class received a scholarship to college except one guy – whose dad had enough money to pay for it.  Half my class went to the Naval Academy… even some of the guys in the bottom quarter!  I don’t think taking the test that many times affected our college opportunities.

Fast-forward to today.  Let’s separate fact from fiction.

  • You can take the SAT an unlimited number of times and the ACT 12 times.
  • Colleges can only see the scores you send them. They cannot go to the College Board and look up your scores.
  • Many colleges will “Super-Score;” they take your highest component score (English, Math, etc.) from multiple tests and calculate a higher ACT composite or SAT total “Super Score.” Harvard, West Point, Annapolis, etc., and many top tier and Ivy League colleges do this.
  • The College Board publishes a Score Use Practices document that specifies how each college uses test scores. Not one single college in the United States “averages” test scores.  Colleges will take your best “sitting” (single day score) or they will “Super Score.”

If your college advice “expert” doesn’t know this, then your “expert” isn’t an “expert.”

The “Test Expert” Test

If you are considering using an “expert,” ask these questions:

  1. How many of your students have received scholarships based on their test scores?
  2. Which test (SAT or ACT) has “outside knowledge” questions that require the student to know content material outside the test, and which section is it in?
  3. Which test has a “guessing penalty,” and how much does it count off if you guess.

If your “expert” cannot answer these questions, you don’t have an “expert;” you have, at best, a test monitor, and at worst, a charlatan.


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