College Admissions Expert Tips

By Melissa Pluchos Academic Advisor, Charlotte area Elani Learning October 11, 2019


Expert Tip 1: Score Report Timing

While often families receive scores within two weeks of an official test, note that the in-school February ACT scores can take up to TWO MONTHS to receive.  Also note that the June SAT scores are not reported for two months due to the College Board’s task of AP test grading.

Expert Tip 2: Understanding Superscoring and Score Choice

If you take either test more than once and send all of your results to a superscoring college, the admissions committee (or, in reality, its computers) will consider only the highest score in each of the test sections. From these scores, the committee recalculates your total or composite test score.  


The vast majority of schools superscore the SAT while about two-thirds of schools superscore the ACT.  For any school that is very high on your list, check with the Office of Admissions for its official policy on superscoring. 


We do recommend that students practice the policy of score choice, meaning that the student only sends scores to colleges of choice once your family has seen the scores.  This practice is particularly valuable during a first official test when scores will most likely be the lowest of all test attempts. The testing agencies do impose an additional fee, but unless it is a late attempt in the summer or fall entering the senior year, it is best to hold the results until you as a family have reviewed them.


Expert Tip 3: Use College Visits to Shed Light on the Scores

College visits during the junior year can be a productive way to energize both you and your student for the admissions process. Whether a quick weekend trip to local schools or a longer tour over a school holiday, visualizing the end goal of studying and living at a beautiful college campus is a great start.

 During these visits, you will learn more about your preferred colleges’ acceptance facts and figures.  You should then start to get a feel of which school is a reach school, match school or safety school for both admissions and scholarship opportunities.  You and your high schooler can then more easily discuss the timing of his/her standardized test(s), which test(s) to take, over what period of time and what type of preparation may be needed to earn goal scores.  


Expert Tip 4: Merit Scholarships


Merit scholarships offered by a college or university and outside groups often have an SAT or ACT minimum for qualification.  The test score may not be a large component of the scholarship criteria, but applicants must meet the stated benchmark.  For students looking at public universities outside of their home state, such as the University of Alabama or Clemson, they often can receive in-state tuition by virtue of strong test scores and GPA.

Strong test scores provide admissions or scholarship opportunities.  We recommend preparation on the SAT or ACT for all levels of students.  A rising tide lifts all boats:

  • Enhance admissions chances at a “reach school” where GPA or course rigor is lower than most accepted applicants
  • Solidify admissions acceptance at a “match school” where test scores are lower than many accepted students
  • Improve opportunities to earn a merit scholarship



An extra few ACT points or 100-plus points on the SAT can sometimes make all the difference toward admissions and scholarship offers.

Once you know your student’s goal scores, what then? Consider your student’s academic goals, learning style, and test-taking comfort, and think realistically about your student’s time and motivation. Partnering with a test prep provider for “big picture” planning and weekly feedback can help you and your student maintain his/her commitment to long-term goals.

We at Elani Learning provide personalized assistance to students at all points in their transition from high school to the world beyond.  With local academic advisors and in-person mock tests, we combine in-person academic assistance with online tutors hand-matched to students at times and locales convenient to our students.


With the overall testing strategy determined, you and your student should then make monthly plans that include tangible steps like taking a diagnostic test, completing specific homework, and following up with another practice test to check for improvement.  On a weekly basis, your student should commit to at least two hours of study and practice work.  He or she should also receive or search for feedback regarding weaknesses and learn new strategies to tackle the questions in the various content areas.  

More questions about mastering the college admissions process? Reach out to Elani Learning’s local Charlotte-area Academic Advisor, Melissa Pluchos (