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CollegeInfo - Making the Right Moves for College Entrance Exams
By Ramona Barber

Ramona Barber is the Iowa State Youth Soccer Association Education Director and a
contributor to Sports Communication Publications

Fall is the time for the serious high school student-athlete to plan for taking college
entrance exams. Entrance exams are used as one of the admissions criteria by most
college admissions offices. Many students put off thinking about these exams until May
of their junior year or fall of the senior year. But, a student-athlete who wants to
participate in college varsity sports programs can not afford to wait that long to begin to
think about the testing process.

Student-athletes need to be aware of four tests: the SAT, the ACT, the PSAT and the
PLAN. Traditionally, the ACT has been a Midwestern test accepted by most Midwestern
schools while the SAT was required by the rest, especially by ivy league or other highly
selective academic schools. In recent years, this distinction between the SAT and ACT
has blurred. A majority of the schools now accept either SAT or ACT scores. This can
work to a student's advantage because some students consistently get better results on
one test or the other. To prepare for the SAT and ACT, preliminary tests called PSAT
and the PLAN should be taken during the sophomore to give students a predictive score
for the actual ACT or SAT. These predictive tests are especially helpful because they
give families an idea of what college academic level a student should be considering.

Its is a fact that college athletes can not play unless they are academically eligible. Most
college athletic programs are governed by organizations like the NCAA of the NAIA that
have established academic eligibility rules for athletes at member schools. In addition to
these minimum standards, some colleges have their own, more rigorous academic
requirements. Taking the PSAT or PLAN or both is a MUST for would-be college
players. When the test results come back, a student will know if he/she might have a
problem. It is extremely helpful to identify any testing problems early. Of all the criteria
for college admissions, the college entrance exam scores are the easiest to improve.
High school counselors, independent academic advisors or programs like KAPLAN
Testing or the Sylvan Learning Center can help students better their test taking skills. If
you have a problem, sign up to work with a local program that has shown results in
helping students improve their SAT and ACT scores.

Take the PSAT or PLAN again early in your junior year to see if you have shown any
improvement. Some colleges pay generous academic scholarships based on nothing
more than a student's SAT or ACT scores, so even students with relatively high scores
may want to try to raise them in order to fall into the academic scholarship range.
Athletic scholarships are great. But, most are given for only one year at a time and must
be renewed annually. In contrast, most academic scholarships are given for four years
providing a student maintains a certain grade point during college. Keep in mind that the
PSAT is given twice in October and this is all. If you miss it, there will be no other chance
to take it during the year. Juniors planning to try for the National Merit Scholarship
should be aware that scholarship winners are selected from junior students on the basis
of October PSAT results. Juniors who miss the October PSAT will not be eligible for the
National Merit Scholarship program. It is not unusual for high school counselors who are
unfamiliar with the athletic recruiting process to suggest that students really don't need to
take the PSAT if they aren't on a National Merit academic level. Since many students
dread the thought of taking these tests, they cheerfully accept the counselor's advice
and decide not to take the tests. This is not a good idea. Be firm and polite with schools
officials but sign up for one of the test. If the tests are not being given at your school,
check around and arrange to take them at another high school. Before approaching
college coaches, you need to have a good idea of BOTH your academic and soccer-
playing levels.

By spring of your junior year, you should be ready to begin the final steps in the testing
process. Don't wait to sing up for your exams. Get an application from your school
counselor in the fall, choose your date and send in the paperwork. This should assure
that you will get your choice of testing locations. THE BEST TIME FOR AN ATHLETE
JUNIOR YEAR. If you take them earlier in the year, you may not have been exposed to
some of the math concepts that will be on the tests. If you wait to take the until June, you
will not have your scores back in time to notify coaches before you go to summer
competitions, recruiting camps, or other athletic events. It will take three to six weeks to
get the scores back. Student-athletes should be contacting coaches at potential colleges
during late spring and early summer before their senior year. Expect the coaches to ask
for your scores. Recently, there has been a strong backlash against athletes who are at
risk academically. Coaches want to recruit players with solid academic credentials. The
better your grade point and college entrance exam scores are, the more likely a coach
will be serious about you. If you expect problems with your scores, do everything you
can to raise your grade point.

The biggest mistake student/athletes make is to wait until their senior year to take the
college tests for the first time. DON'T WAIT. You can take these tests as many times as
you want. Most colleges will consider all your scores. For example, if your math score
was higher on the April test but your English score was higher on your October test,
many colleges will combine the highest math and English scores. Unless you are
positive that you will be satisfied with your score, DO NOT have your scores sent to any
colleges the first time you take the test. For a fee, both the SAT and ACT testing
services will send you a copy of the test you took along with the answers you marked
plus the correct answers. You may find this helpful in identifying areas of weakness to
work on before you take the test again. Keep in mind that the mathematics on the tests
covers the first three years of school. If math is not your best subject, DO NOT wait until
October of your senior year to take the SAT or Act.

After you have identified colleges that interest you, call and talk with those college
coaches about your academic background. Be truthful about your abilities. Most will try
to help in any way they can if they feel you are sincerely interested in their program.
Some coaches can smooth the path with the college admissions office. Be blunt and ask
if the coach thinks you will have any problem with the admissions process. You do not
need to waste your time if there is no chance of admission. Remember, the more
personal effort you put out, the greater your chance of success. Good luck!

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