Nationwide, more than 2 million students in the Class of 2017 took the ACT and more than 1.8 million took the SAT. According to the most recent reports from ACT and the College Board, college admissions tests are still a part of life for the majority of high school students in the country. In fact, the report shows that 60% of the Class of 2017 sat for the ACT and that the class of 2017 was the largest ever to take the SAT.
With many college admissions decisions, scholarships and National Merit status depending on these exams, it may be overwhelming for some as they prepare for their opportunity to test. Episcopal College Counseling Director Justin Fenske offers tips to make test preparation more manageable.
1. Start with the foundation.
Fenske says it is important for students to remember that even though test prep is important, everything starts with a solid academic foundation. This foundation is what Episcopal students are learning every day in class. “Doing well and working hard in classroom subjects is key to testing success,” says Fenske. “Ultimately these exams are seeking to determine whether subject information has been gained and whether the student is ready for college-level course work.” Students who want to score well on admissions tests must commit themselves to doing well on day-to-day classroom activities. This means maintaining a strong GPA and fully understanding classroom concepts.
2. Understand the test.
Once a student has acquired a solid foundation in academic subjects, test preparation can truly begin. Episcopal students have a range of resources available to help them in this area, including three dedicated college counselors. Fenske, Shandi Fazely and Jody Kennard work one-on-one with students throughout the college admissions journey. Counselors provide guidance on everything from Episcopal class schedules and college admissions essays to getting the most from a college visit and meeting the application deadlines. Counselors can advise students regarding what score they need to qualify for admission into the college of their choice and they are there to motivate students and keep them on track to achieve that score.
College prep truly is a team effort at Episcopal. In addition to the counseling team, Dr. Alan Newton serves as the school’s College Block Coordinator. In College Block students brush up on the foundational skills that they have learned in class. College Block is also where students begin to think in terms of how to take the test. For example, as they are reviewing writing tips they will practice marking up a paragraph the way they would be required to do for the ACT. Students also take timed practice tests, watch test prep videos and work on ACT lessons.
here to help students determine why they got a question wrong,” says Fenske, encouraging students to check in with classroom teachers regarding challenging concepts or questions.
Once the learning, practice and preparation are complete, it is time for testing. Fenske says the general recommendation is that a student take the test three times. “Our goal is for students to have a score they feel good about by the end of their junior year,” he says. As far as which test to take, Fenske says the subjects covered by the ACT and SAT are the same and the test prep should be as well.
Episcopal’s approach to test prep is getting results. Episcopal graduate Emily Knight ʼ18 was one of only 2,760 students nationwide to earn a perfect ACT composite score. In addition all Episcopal juniors take the PSAT, which determines National Merit recognition. The Class of 2018 had eight National Merit Finalists and four Commended Scholars, representing 13% of the overall class. National Merit Finalists are students who rank among the top half of the top one percent of the qualifying test scores in their state.
Class of 2018 National Merit Finalists top left: Shannon Ahmad, The University of Texas, Austin; Charles Barksdale, Texas A&M University; William Bodron, University of Kentucky, Lewis Honors College; Emily Knight, Fordham University. Second row left: Chima Mbagwu, Harvard University; Rachel Posner, Princeton University, Elliott Rotenberg, Vanderbilt University and Kenny Schafer, Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
Not only are students earning National Merit status, but they are also being accepted into the most competitive universities and colleges in the country. One third of the total members of the Class of 2018 were accepted into selective institutions, such as Georgetown, Harvard and Princeton. Students also earned scholarships to a range of universities and colleges throughout the country.
While not all universities require an admissions test score, Episcopal students receive tremendous support to help them achieve their testing goals and position themselves for long-term success.
Good luck to students taking the ACT this September!
Meet the Episcopal College Counseling Team
Shandi Fazely has been a member of the Episcopal College Counseling team since 2016 after having served since 2011 in the Episcopal admission and advancement department. She is also a certified Highlands Ability Battery consultant. Shandi graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in secondary science education. She spent four years in the classroom teaching high school biology, AP biology and human anatomy before relocating to Louisiana. Shandi and her husband Michael have two daughters, Ella an Episcopal kindergartener and Norah, a future Knight.
Justin Fenske joined Episcopal as the Director of College Counseling in 2014 and has been in the field since 2008. Justin graduated from the University of Michigan and earned a master’s in education from Boston University. During his time at Episcopal, his team has implemented a comprehensive high school program priding itself on individual attention to students in all grade levels. Justin is a certified Highlands Ability Battery consultant and has also spent time developing and implementing online career and college tools for high school students in the state of Michigan and as an administrator at Boston University.
Jody Kennard has been a part of the Episcopal community since 2005, serving first as Director of Advancement before joining the college counseling team in 2010. After graduating from Morristown Beard School in New Jersey, she earned a Bachelor of Science in education from the University of Vermont with a double major in English and French. In addition to full-time college counseling, Jody is a certified Highlands Ability Battery consultant and a coach of Episcopal’s Girls on the Run program. Jody’s two sons are Episcopal graduates, Kenny Sheldon ’07 and Ricky Sheldon ’09.