test on blackboard in chalk

ACT to SAT Conversion Table

SAT and ACT Conversion Chart

 SAT Composite Score

ACT Composite Score






















































Finding the “Right” College

It is a hard question to answer, “what makes a college ‘good’?” the reality is that what makes a college good for you might make it a bad choice for someone else. One thing is certain though, how ‘good’ a college is may have very little to do with rankings or the percentage of applicants they admit. Look past the numbers and try to see what a college can do for its students.

Small vs. Large College: Is the school you’re considering focusing on its students? Institutions with a student-centered approach to education, or with language to that effect in their mission statement, are likely to provide personalized education with lots of student-professor interaction. Large research institutions may receive a lot of grant funding or house esteemed researchers, but that may not be useful if you do not have access to those facilities or chances to interact with those professors in a meaningful way.

Freshman Retention Rate: An often telling statistic is a school’s freshman retention rate (the percentage of students that return for their sophomore year). Most students know after a year whether or not they made the right choice. If you see a school with low freshman retention, it is likely that students are not finding what they were told they would find, the school is not supporting them on campus (be it academically, financially, or socially) or the student did not identify whether or not the college was a good fit in the first place. Schools with high retention tend to do these things well and tend to have strong orientation and first-year experience programs. Students that return after their first year and eventually graduate are likely to have found a school that is engaging and valuable in their personal and professional development.

Strong Advising: Support on campus needs to take place for longer than just the student’s first year as well. Academic advising can play a key role in on-time graduation and finding engaging academic pathways for students. With strong advising, you can also make better-informed decisions about your academic and career options. Advising may not be something that is important to you in the college search process, but it will certainly be a key factor in your satisfaction with the college you choose when you are on their campus. Will you have a departmental advisor, an advisor for your specific college, or a generalist advisor for multiple parts of campus life? These are all important questions to consider – especially so if you are considering a graduate degree after your undergraduate career. Strong advising can set you up for long-term success.

Learning that Fits You: The academic environment can also play a huge role in determining if a college is ‘good’ for you. Finding a school that offers hands-on learning, cutting edge research, and abundant internship opportunities should be a goal for any student. You will want what you learn in the classroom to be applicable to the real world as well as in the job market, so having an experiential-learning environment is key! You may also want to make note of where students are finding their opportunities for internships and research. Is there a dedicated career development center or undergraduate research office? Will you be prepared to interview and have help with your resume? With which companies do students tend to intern? Will you have a mentor on campus? Will you have a senior project that brings all of your education together? These are important questions to consider.

It may not be as hard as you think to find a school that handles these aspects of academic and campus life well. Rankings and statistics may help you identify some options, but look to these other attributes to help you find colleges that are ‘good’ for you.

Successfully Attending a College Fair

Attending a college fair is a great opportunity to hear from college representatives about their institution, and make an in-person connection while getting your questions answered. Representatives at college fairs are often the same people that will be reading your application, so it is best to be prepared!

Here are some tips to get the most out of your visit to a college fair:

Have a set of schools in mind and research them first. Most fairs will have a website or flyer before the event that lists which colleges will be attending. Find 10 – 15 that you would like to chat with and take a look at their websites for general information first. At the fair, stop at those tables and ask in-depth questions. If you have extra time, chat with any other colleges that pique your interest. Your list should include schools you would not normally be able to visit in person.

Save time and use labels. College representatives are there to not only hand out information, but to gather it as well. Most colleges will have an inquiry card to fill out so they can add you to their communication flows and track your interest. Have some adhesive labels pre-printed with your full name, gender, address, phone number, (appropriate) email address, year in school, potential major, and the name of the high school you attend. The more information you can give the better. Then, instead of spending valuable face time with a representative writing info, you can simply stick the label on an inquiry card and get your questions answered.

Sign in. If you can’t make labels, signing in lets the college know that you attended an event and were interested enough to stop by. Use legible handwriting, the same spelling of your name that you use on the college application, and the same email address you plan to use for all college admissions correspondence.

Make a good first impression. You should be engaged, alert, enthusiastic, acting in a professional manner and dressed appropriately. This may be your first interaction with a college you are interested in, so you will want to put your best foot forward. Get there early, introduce yourself with a handshake, smile, make eye contact, and try not to get distracted by your classmates that may also be attending the fair.

Ask focused questions. You may be one of dozens of students that the college representatives meet. Stand out and ask thoughtful questions. Broad questions get broad answers. Instead of “How’s your business school?” try “I saw you have an entrepreneurship emphasis in the business school. Can you tell me about that?” If you can easily find the answer online or on one of the handouts, then don’t ask it. You may also find it beneficial to ask about the school’s atmosphere, what kinds of students do well on campus, and what are the school’s unique/best features? Be aware that others may want to chat with the representative as well. If there’s a line, keep the discussion short. It’s not the time to cover every aspect of yourself or the school.

Follow up. Ask for the business card of the representatives you meet. Send them a follow up email thanking them for their time and asking any questions that might have popped up after you left their table. Attach your resume to your email and ask that it be added to your file.

Keep it all organized. You’re going to be collecting a lot of handouts and materials at the fair. Separate content by school and have a folder for each institution at home. Write down relevant info like the dates and times of fairs and who you met there. You may have collected material from schools you’re not interested in. Throw it out and focus on the schools you see as a good fit.

Take things a step further. After the fair is a good time to revisit a school’s website, plan a visit, contact admissions or schedule an interview with an alumni representative or college representative. You can use the time at the college fair as a reference point and expand on the conversations you had.

Campus Visit Review

As you drive home from a campus visit take advantage of the drive time to review your experience! Write down your opinions while the experience is still fresh on your mind.

College: _____________________________ City/State:__________________________ Admissions Office Representative:______________________________________________ Tour Guide:__________________________ Email: _____________________________ Campus Visit Date: ___________________

Tour /  Rate each category (5 being best)

Grounds / Setting       Campus Housing       Student Center       Classroom Buildings        Class Size

Library Resources       Size       Energy       People        Athletics       Social Life       Cafeteria / Food

Fitness Center          Student Clubs / Organizations         Career Resources          Other




If you interview, Interviewer’s name Email:___________________________________________________________

What did I learn about the school:



Off Campus Life (i.e. music, movies, shopping, restaurants, cafes, art, theater, events)


Near campus:


City Highlights:


Outdoor Activities Nearby:


Transportation Options:



What I like least:


Level of academic challenge? Just right   Too difficult  Too easy  Would I feel comfortable here?

Does this school have what I am looking for?

Should I apply to this school? Why:


Preparing for the SAT or ACT Test

 Proctored, Practice Tests On-line

You can take an on-line, proctored, practice test from your home free, as well as receive a detail report on areas you should focus on. Some students can really benefit from the structure of this testing situation and the assessment. It is helpful to know what your score would be, and how you can improve. Sign-up for a mock test  by clicking on this link, https://www.applerouth.com/iec/annapoliscollegeconsulting/. The test will be scored and analyzed by Applerouth free, giving you excellent feedback on your areas of weakness. They will then suggest one-on-one tutoring to help you to address these areas. You do not need to use them, please feel free to find the best method for you.

Determine the Best Method of Study

Once you have taken practice tests, please determine your best method of studying. Some of you may want to take a class to get a thorough review of all the areas, some will like the convenience of on-line help, others may want private tutoring. Look at the costs and evaluate your learning style.

Khan Academy is the official site  SAT test preparation. The new SAT now covers 80% of the same material that the ACT does, so you can use it to study for either test.  There are many, many companies which offer help, please find a method that works well for you.

Test Preparation Methods and Companies 

Applerouth Education Tutoring provides one-on-one tutoring for ACT, SAT and school subject tests.

Khan Academy is a nonprofit organization that provides free tutoring for the SAT and ACT as well as many other subjects.

Compass Education Group offers free testing and scoring, as well as tutoring.

C2 Educate Tutoring with a branch located in Severna Park, it is very good in-person tutoring.

Number2.com free online test prep courses.

Princeton Review has class and on-line options

ACT registration and resources for preparing to take the ACT.

Register for the SAT, get test dates find out what to expect when you take the test.

Check Colleges to See if  You Need to Do the Writing Section

Very few colleges are evaluating the writing section these days. Here is the list. Unless you are applying to elite schools, you probably will not need to do the optional writing section.

Practice Now for Good Results Later

Take practice tests and get comfortable with the material, it should make a difference in your scores. Do a little every week, maybe an hour or three. This is like a sport, practice improves your game and score.



5 Important Elements Colleges Look For

  1. High Grades. Grades are a sign of intellect and effort, and the best indication of how you will perform in college. College admissions wants you to take the hardest classes that you can that you will get at least a B in. Focus on your grades and work with your teachers.
  2. Taking the most rigorous curriculum that you can while still getting high grades. AP’s, Honors, College Classes, IB if available. Colleges consider your options and want you to  challenge yourself and be successful. Here is an article on choosing the right classes.
  3. Standardized Test Scores. Many colleges consider these, but some colleges are test optional. There are choices you should consider before you start this process. Is the ACT or the SAT right for you? When should you take the standardized tests? How should you prepare for each test to be successful in the college process? Testing information.
  4. Write an Essay in senior year that strikes a chord with the admissions representatives. What do we need to tell colleges to make you the kind of candidate that they want? College essays should be very personal, thoughtful and demonstrate your background, values, goals, or an achievement. Here is an article on writing a memorable college essay.
  5. Your Demonstrated Interest in the institution. You need to show that this is a college that you are very interested in, not just one on your list which is a back-up school. Many college admissions offices track every contact you have with them. How to demonstrate interest.

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) annually surveys member colleges and universities. Here are the latest survey results for what colleges say is important:

  • Grades in college prep courses: 79.2%
  • Grades in all courses: 60.3%
  • Strength of curriculum: 60.2%
  • Admission test scores: 55.7%
  • Essay or writing sample: 22.1%
  • Student’s demonstrated interest: 16.9%
  • Counselor recommendations: 17.3%
  • Class rank: 14.0%
  • Teacher recommendation: 15.2%
  • Subject test scores (AP/IB): 7.0%
  • Portfolio: 6.6%
  • Interview: 3.5%
  • SAT II scores: 5.3%
  • Extracurricular activities: 5.6%

Tips for Writing the Essay “Why This College”

Writing the Essay 

Many colleges ask a variation of the same question in their application, “Why are you considering our institution?” It is not a fluke that they ask this. Nor is it an opportunity to quickly jot down an answer, or worse, re-use an answer from another application! Colleges ask this question because your answer tells them a lot about how serious you are about their institution; this is why this question deserves some serious thought!

Colleges look for ‘likelihood to enroll’ when admitting students. They will not waste a spot on a student who is not likely to commit to attending. These essays can be a strong indicator of how much (or little) research you have done.  If you have strong, specific reasons for considering a college, they will notice.

These questions are also a two-way street. They give you the ability to signal why a college might be a good fit for you as well as why you might be a good fit for their college. Letting them know about your interests, ambitions and what you bring to campus shows them you have a serious connection and an understanding of the college deeper than its surface-level characteristics.

Tips for writing effective “why our institution?” responses.

Dissect the prompt. Take note of what they are actually asking. Are there key words or aspects of campus that they bring up themselves? If they ask what academic programs are prompting your application, or how their college fits your future goals, it is best to address these aspects of the question first rather than as an afterthought or not at all.

Specificity is key. It is not enough to say that you like their athletic facilities or that they have interesting classes. Look up the name of the complex or have an idea of the academic path you could take. This does not mean you need to know every single detail about a part of campus or program, but generic answers get generic evaluations in the admission process. Signal that you know what you are talking about.

If it is obvious to you, it is obvious to them. They already know where their campus is located, the programs they offer and what campus looks like. Tell them how you feel about their campus. Center your answer on how you connect to the campus. Err on the side of giving a personal answer, not something surface-level like the weather. On that note…

Bring it back to you. Think about the things or characteristics you want your future college to have. Again, this is deeper than just your major or their facilities. Do you want a college that emphasizes something in particular like research, leadership, or career development? Do you want personal interactions with faculty and staff or would you rather be in a larger setting? Think about the things that you want and only they can offer.

Connect the dots for them. This question is an opportunity to reinforce the connection you are trying to make with their institution. Provide an answer that shows them you are match for their needs and they are a match for yours. Remember, there is a difference between loving a college for its writing program and loving a college because “students in the program get to craft work in a hands-on environment with some of the top minds in the world of historical fiction.”

So, is your answer strong and specific? Here is a trick that admission counselors often use. They will take the name of a similar peer institution and drop it into your answer in place of their school’s name. If the answer still makes sense with the other school, they will know you did not put much effort into developing your answer.

Fall Checklist for Senior Year

Applying to college is a complex process so it is important that you stay on top of the different elements.

Congratulations you have made it this far, don’t slow down yet, and don’t allow anxiety or doubt to take a hold. We will all get through this process beautifully if you can stay focused. I am available to help you as long as you do your part, which I know that you can. Please read all these steps and take the time to implement them.

Input Your Activities Sheet into the Common Application – If you have not sent the finished version to me, please do it soon. This should be given to your teachers and guidance counselor so they can write stronger letters or recommendation. If not everything fits onto the Common Application pare down the wording, and reach out to me if you have questions.

Work on Your Essays – If we have not brainstormed themes, I would like to know what subject you are writing about before you put significant time into the essay. Pick an interesting topic that shows what you can contribute to a college. Here is an article which is helpful: http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/writing-great-college-essays/ . Essays take numerous revisions so please start them early. You cannot expect to leave it till the last minute and assume that I can review it that day. Some schools have supplemental essays, and some do not use the common application and have their own unique essay. Please stay on top of this.

Have Your List of Colleges Finalized Soon – If you still have questions about a few colleges, research them further. Here is an article on what to consider http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/researching-a-college/. Peruse their website and call the admissions office to ask any questions that you cannot get answers to from the website. Visit the college if it is less than four hours away from where you live. Visiting is the best way to get a sense of the atmosphere and fit for you.

Demonstrate Interest in Your Top Colleges – If you missed this article, please read it http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/demonstrate-interest/.

College Representatives Visiting Your School – A great way to show interest is to meet with the college representatives of the schools you are interested in, when they come to your school. That individual is going to be one of the people looking at your application to decide if you should be admitted. Dress well, look interested, ask an intelligent question, shake their hand at the end of the meeting, and ask for one of their business cards. Write them a thank you note and let them know why you are very interested in their institution.

Senior Surveys or Brag Sheets – Most high school guidance counselors ask you to fill these out. Do an excellent job on this. Many counselors use this document as a blueprint for what they write about you. Make it interesting, clear and positive. Also give your counselor a copy of your activities list to enhance your information. http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/your-senior-survey-letter-of-recommendation/

Teacher Recommendations / Counselor Recommendations / Transcript Request Forms need to be requested two to three weeks before the college’s application deadline. I will be sending you a sheet to track your applications. You must make sure that you let everyone know when your deadlines are so that they will do their part. Find out what your school’s policy is on getting this done. http://annapoliscollegeconsulting.com/how-to-fill-out-the-parent-brag-sheet/

You Need to Send Test Scores to the Colleges – Test Scores can take up to three weeks to be sent to your colleges, so go on-line and fill out the form. Most schools allow you to choose which scores to send. If you have higher scores on different tests you might want to send all of them.

It seems like a lot, but doing it correctly should give you the outcome you desire!!!

A William & Mary Student’s Essay

Halfway across the globe and with no more knowledge of my location than a fishing boat in the Dead Sea, there I found myself, a Panamanian boy who had never stepped past the familiar boundaries of the Americas, in the extravagant land formerly known as Siam. Little did I know that within a few months I would dismiss any fears or misconceptions I had of my new country of residence, and embrace a culture formerly unknown to me.

My parents divorced when I was young, and I had to live in an apartment in a crowded metropolitan area. The expense of living in a suburban home was too much for my mother who had to care for two children by herself. As it was not the right setting for outdoor activities, my mother taught me to use my time for studying instead. Although this helped me excel at school, it made me somewhat of an outcast amongst my peers, who preferred to play sports rather than expand their minds.

After my mom re-married, we moved to Bangkok, Thailand. My initial reactions were mostly negative, as I was afraid of living in a place that I had not even heard of, and feared that I would be an outcast there too, as I did not even know the local language.

I was wrong; living in Thailand proved to be the most wonderful experience of my life. There, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with a culture more accepting and richer than my own. What I loved about it the most were the people. Never in my life could I have predicted that I would feel so accepted in a place so unknown to me. The love and smiles that Thai people radiated combined with their casual attire and friendly demeanor could have made even the grumpiest of grouches smile like a child. Living amongst these people opened my mind, and allowed me to evaluate my own culture from an objective point of view; making me see how constrained and unhappy my life truly was back at the place I called “home.”

Asia was not the only continent I visited during those three wonderful years, as my school, the International School of Bangkok, granted me the opportunity to visit Prague as part of their Week Without Walls program. There, I saw how life was in a place where the weather was the opposite of the warm tropical climate I was accustomed to, and how its people would still remain warm and friendly regardless. In Prague, I visited different chapels and medieval structures that astonished and overpowered me. Although I was raised Catholic, I had never truly felt the presence of an omnipotent being until I was surrounded by those magnificent and beautiful walls.

And now I find myself in a new home. I have already become fond of this great nation, which embodies the unison of all the cultures to which I have been exposed to, all under one flag, and I expect to see the diversity, which this nation was founded upon, continue to flourish throughout my stay, however long that may be.

Extracurricular Activities, Why Get Involved

What are you passionate about?

If you interview with an admissions counselor or attend an information session, this question will inevitably come up. But what do colleges really mean when they ask this question? How can you showcase your passions on your application?

The bottom line is that colleges care deeply about your involvement.  Dedication in the pursuit of your interests and your depth and consistency within them equates to “passion.”  If you are passionate about your involvement, colleges can reasonably assume that you will be passionate about your education as well. Ultimately, the desire you bring to your involvement translates directly to the excitement you bring to your (and others’) campus experience.

Let’s break involvement and passion down further…

Involvement Outside of Class

It may be difficult to categorize your commitments outside of class time. After all, you’re spending most of your time during the week attending class, tackling tough assignments, and dealing with the joys of homework. Commitments you can showcase outside of class could be anything from involvement in the arts, sports or volunteer work to significant family commitments or a part-time job. If you dedicate time to something outside of class, consider talking about it in your college application – especially if you are excited about it.

It’s About Balance

Colleges know that you will likely burn out if you try to get involved in everything. Instead, they look for the activities to which you are committed to and in which you demonstrate depth.  Admissions offices are not counting the number of things you do. It’s about depth in activities, not necessarily breadth. They are looking for overall commitment that shows consistency.

Colleges Will Notice

Colleges expect you to be committed to academics when you are on their campus, but they also know a large part of your campus experience will include potential involvement in clubs, Greek life, working on campus and other social opportunities. At the high school level, they will take note of…

  • Where do your interests lie outside of academics?
  • What are your time-management skills and do you use them appropriately?
  • How do you bring diversity (and more than just ethnic diversity) to campus?
  • Have you demonstrated you know how to commit to something long-term?
  • What meaningful contributions have you made within your activities?

Where to Invest Yourself…

Sometimes it’s hard to know all of the opportunities that are available to you. Your high school may offer a variety of clubs, but you may also find opportunities to commit to work experience or to community activism. I love helping students look for opportunities and start something new.  In many instances we are able to find a new passion they had not thought about.

Let’s explore…

School Clubs and Activities

It’s not enough to just be in a club. See how much you responsibility you can comfortably commit to. Take advantage of opportunities to step up and take on leadership opportunities. But, that doesn’t mean you need to be President or Captain of every activity. Put forth your best effort whether it’s in a “top” position or not. But remember, the same effort needs to continue to be applied to your school work.

Community Service

Not only can service work bring valuable contributions to your surrounding community, it can also lead to some great introspective moments and, potentially, academic credit. Are there ways for you to contribute to local hospitals or community based organizations? Can you be a mentor to younger students? Community service should not be a one-time commitment to fulfill a school requirement. It can be an important and integral part of your personal development.

Work Experience

Internships, summer jobs, part-time work or volunteering in a work environment can all lead to a better understanding of your career goals and aspirations. Not only that, these opportunities can help you identify potential majors in college and maybe even earn you some money for college along the way. Think about how you can invest yourself in the “real world.”

In Summary

So, what are you passionate about? You can see at this point that your answer isn’t just important to colleges, it should also be important to you. Having a strong idea of what you’re excited about allows you to know yourself better and gives you the ability to communicate the value you can add to a college’s freshman class.

Remember, you don’t need to commit to everything and you don’t need to be the best at what you do. Put forth your best effort and keep your academics a priority, and the colleges that are considering your application will take an interest in you and your passions.