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Oops!…They Did It Again. More SAT and ACT Issues

You’d think that after a spate of SAT and ACT cancellations because of COVID-19, the College Board and the ACT would pull out all the stops to ensure that high school students – especially current juniors – would face no obstacles in rescheduling their exams for July, August, September, and October.

You’d think leaders of these two mammoth companies, keenly aware of the numbers of colleges and universities waiving testing for students applying to college this fall, would do everything in their power to avoid losing even more market share at a pivotal time.

Instead? Turmoil and greater uncertainty for juniors who did not complete their admissions testing before May (i.e. most of them).


Last week, the College Board attempted to reopen registration for students who registered for spring 2020 testing and who have no SAT scores. A crush of students and families – clearly the result of pent-up demand among anxious juniors and their parents – tried to register but were met with technical failures. We were hearing from our students one after another that they were sitting at their computers for hours and could not log on. This comes on top of the glitches with the online AP exams that resulted in thousands of students not being able to submit their exams and having to take the exams again in June.

Today, the College Board announced that it is canceling plans for an online, in-home SAT. As noted in the Washington Post, an estimated 1 million high school juniors this spring who do not have an SAT score were blocked from taking the test because of testing-center cancellations. They form a large share of college-bound seniors in the Class of 2021. The College Board hopes to expand capacity in the fall, but how much that will offset this spring’s testing turmoil remains unknown.

SAT ACT frustration


Meanwhile, over at the ACT, a change in CEO ensued and the organization sought to cut its costs by having fewer test centers open this June and July. Fewer test centers – and more social distancing in those that do open – means that students will face uneven access to the ACT this summer.

The ACT is prioritizing Class of 2020 seniors who need the ACT for scholarship applications and admissions decisions and juniors in the Class of 2021. According to the head of a test prep service, only 33% of testing centers are scheduled to open in June and July. As Jed Applerouth noted to Inside Higher Ed, “Students will be disproportionately affected across the country. No students in Massachusetts will be able to sit for a June ACT. In Wisconsin, a single test center of the 107 scheduled will be open. In New York, the state hardest hit by the pandemic, a mere 15 of their 203 sites are open,” he wrote. “States with fewer than 10 percent of sites open include New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wisconsin.”

UPDATE: June 18ACT is postponing section retests to allow for more students to take the full ACT test.


Have we reached a tipping point? Today, over 1,200 four-year colleges and universities either do not require the SAT/ACT or have waived the requirement for the Class of 2021. We predict that more colleges and universities will move to test optional policies for the Class of 2021 because of the extraordinary stress and uncertainty many now face.

So, should juniors try to take the exams? If you are planning to apply under an early decision or early action program and were able to secure a seat for June, July, August, September or October, then yes. Use time this summer to prepare and do you very best on the exams. You’ll get the results of these exams before the vast majority of early deadlines. Even schools who’ve waived testing for this year will still take note of strong scores on your admissions application and they will strengthen your application.

And do check out schools who have gone test optional for this upcoming round of applications, and those schools who have been test optional including, Bates, Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Bucknell, Cornell, and Dickinson.

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Admissions in the Time of COVID-19


“As a service to students and families, NACAC is providing this online tool as a central resource for information about changes in college admission events, deposit dates, and more as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.” –NACAC


As we all adjust to the new realities of our day-to-day lives and follow the guidance of our public health officials regarding Coronavirus, we’ve pulled together some helpful tips and suggestions for students regarding college admissions in the time of COVID-19. Whether you’re a high school senior waiting for admissions decisions, a junior whose SAT was just canceled, a college student back at home, or any student now home and starting virtual schooling, our tips below will have helpful suggestions for you.



March is always a busy month, with colleges releasing their admissions decisions to thousands of students across the country and around the world. At this time, we anticipate that admissions decisions will be released as planned, but April programs for admitted students have been canceled at most schools.

At this critical time, colleges will use all social media tools in their arsenal to connect with accepted students. Plans for virtual events for admitted students are being developed as rapidly as possible. Seniors, check your email and other social media platforms regularly for updates from the schools on your list.

Some schools have already announced that they will push back the May 1 Common Reply Date to give seniors more time to review their options and finalize their matriculation decision. Check in with each of the schools to which you have been accepted to see their policy on this.


The college cancelations came as many of you were planning spring break visits to campuses across the country. There are still plenty of ways to connect with the colleges on your list—and those schools will definitely want to connect with you (as soon as they finish the admissions decisions for the current seniors).

Now’s a great time to sign up to be on the mailing list for every school you’re considering (go to their websites). This will not only show your demonstrated interest, but will also give you access to any unique ways schools are showing off their benefits remotely. Share your email address (if you haven’t done so already) and you’ll get updates on virtual admissions information sessions, campus tours, and other programming targeted to juniors (and younger students). Many colleges are giving prospective students access to their online classes, since they aren’t able to visit and sit in on a class. Check with all the schools on your list.

March and May SATs cancelled. In response to the rapidly evolving situation around the coronavirus (COVID-19), the College Board is canceling the May 2, 2020, SAT administration. Makeup exams for the March 14 administration (scheduled March 28) are also canceled. Registered students will receive refunds.

The College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as feasible in place of canceled administrations. We’ll be as flexible as possible to give students the best chance to show their skills and stay on the path to college. We have not yet canceled the June 6, 2020, SAT administration and will continue to assess its status with the health and safety of students and educators as our top priority.

Follow the College Board’s announcements here.

The College Board is finalizing options to allow students to do AP Exams at home. More details to follow by March 20. Follow the College Board’s updates on the AP Exam here.

ACT canceling April tests. ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S. in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). All students registered for the April 4 test date will receive an email from ACT in the next few days informing them of the postponement and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date.

Use the extra time to continue your test preparation. We know you worked hard to prepare for the spring tests, but like a competitive athlete or dancer, stay in shape by keeping up with your prep (especially since you will have extra time on your hands). Our tutors are here to help you, and they have always worked virtually so no germs and plenty of brains!


For the graduating Class of 2020 and current college students, this is a very unique spring. Not only are on-campus graduation ceremonies in question, but access to staff, faculty and on-campus academic and extracurricular resources have gone out the window for thousands of students. We are here to help and our College Enrichment Program (for current high school seniors and any college students) can help you ensure a scholarly college experience. High school graduates need to plan to hit the ground running this August and college students who have recently lost access to key academic, research and grad school/career advising from their universities need to maintain their strides, but now on a virtual setup. Help your senior or college student stay on track this spring and summer in terms of academic advising, research foundation guidance, and post-degree planning, including grad school. A Personalized College Enrichment Action Plan from us plus one on one video consulting, included with this program, will propel your spring and summer 2020 forward.


A global health crisis can also be a great learning opportunity. We’re watching a public health emergency and global responses play out in real-time. In mid-February, the Imperial College London launched a free class on the Coursera platform: Science Matters: Let’s Talk About COVID-19. Are you fascinated by the mathematical modeling that predicts the progression of the virus and how social distancing and other efforts “flatten the curve”? You can take UNC’s online course, Epidemiology: The Basic Science of Public Health, or Johns Hopkin’s online course, Data and Health Indicators in Public Health Practice. Both are also available free of charge on the Coursera platform.

With schools across the country closing for a period of weeks, high schools are moving to virtual or remote learning. Since the traditional school day has been disrupted, we encourage students to take advantage of the time to deepen your learning and find ways to help those in your community who may be struggling.

Some ways to leverage your time:

  • Take advantage of online courses on platforms like Coursera, EdX, MIT’s Opencourseware, Yale’s Open Courses and check out this link to 450 online courses you can take at Ivy League schools for no cost. Deepen your interest easily through these free online opportunities.
  • Use this free time to boost your writing abilities so that you can return to school on a stronger footing! Our writing counselors, like our SAT and ACT tutors, work with students virtually, so you can use this time to get safe, effective help with your work!
  • How about entering your work in writing, history, computer science, math modeling, and art contests? Since these can all be done remotely, this would be a great time to stretch yourself and submit your work. We have compiled a Contest Guide for our students, but you can research and find so many on your own.
  • Start a virtual art and literary “magazine” for your classmates or younger kids or senior citizens in your community. Encourage them to post stories, poems, artwork, and music all composed in this time of social distancing.
  • Can you create and post instructional or “how to” videos on YouTube for younger kids? Create a virtual homework club and offer it to a local library. Offer to help homebound younger students with their lessons.
  • Launch a virtual PE class with your friends. Challenge yourselves with competitions you can do at home – pushups, sit ups, jumping jacks, etc. Organize a virtual dance party. Get creative!


Most importantly, look for ways to help those in need in your community. Check in regularly – via Facetime or phone – with your grandparents and older relatives, as well as older neighbors and others in your community. Is your community seeking volunteers to help keep food banks stocked? Can you volunteer to pack meal kits? If your older college-aged siblings are home, can you work together to deliver meals and supplies to those who are homebound?

During a pandemic in 1665, Isaac Newton had some time on his hands after the University of Cambridge sent students home. He called the year he spent away from school his “year of wonder.” It was during that year that he famously saw an apple fall from the tree in his garden and came up with the ideas around gravity.

The bottom line: as you practice social distancing and good hygiene, you can continue to stretch yourself academically and make a positive impact in your community. Who knows? You may discover new passions and hidden talents!

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Why Our 4-Day Application Boot Camp® Sells Out Annually

In August, we wrapped our 15th year of Application Boot Camp®, and this month has been an exciting one as our students were prepared and have submitted their strong early applications.

We’ve been busily chatting with parents of juniors (ABC 2020, Aug. 5-8, 2020) and sophomores (ABC 2021, Aug. 4-7, 2021) this fall as well, since we open registration for Application Boot Camp two years in advance! We are honored to sell out Boot Camp every year and given that it’s application submission season, it’s a great time to tell you…

College Application Boot Camp
Helping students prepare for the last 15 years


Students and parents receive key advance guidance well before Boot Camp starts

We perform a strategic analysis of students’ academic and extracurricular portfolios AND write a personalized admissions report that offers a roadmap for the rest of their time in high school and their admissions process. We then have a detailed call with each student and his/her parents after they receive the report for an overview of the plan and to address ALL questions.

We work with students from all over the world, yet we personalize the ABC experience for every single registrant

Our students this year came from around the world including: Germany, Wyoming, Japan, California, and even our own backyard, Concord, Massachusetts (and that’s just the first five kids). We had students with interests in anthropology, digital humanities, mechanical engineering, Spanish literature, music theory and Greek and Roman mythology to name a few.

Our Senior Counselors are the absolute best at what they do

Application Boot Camp students have one-on-one access to some of the best and brightest in the fields of higher education and college admissions. Our staff includes (to name a few): a former Dean of Dartmouth admissions, former Dartmouth admissions officer, former Harvard admissions officer, a Fulbright winner, and grad school students at Harvard, UChicago, UVA, UPenn, UNC, UVA and Stanford.

We guide ABC students on multiple applications and a suite of essays, unlike most other competing programs (we were the first and we even have the term trademarked!)

We work with students on college essays, the Common App, the UCalifornia app, Canadian and UK college apps, the UT app, and supplements from well over 100 different colleges and universities.

You’ll wrap it up in just 4 days

We send our students off on the night of day four with their college applications and essays set, ready to dive into the ever-important senior year fall and focus on courses and extracurriculars, NOT applications or essays. Early and regular applications are DONE before September even starts.

We replicate the admissions read table/committee meetings

Each essay written at Application Boot Camp is read ‘admissions committee-style,’ which means our senior staff and inexhaustible senior counselors read ~1,000 drafts in 4 days and 3 nights.

It’s much more than just essays and applications

Collectively, we put in LONG hours plus our students put in an additional 2+ hours of homework per night. We advise on campus visits, interview coaching, recommendation letters, application strategy tips, the various rounds of admission, summer and fall testing, what to focus on in senior year fall term, and more.

We stay in contact with ABC students through senior year

We host an ABC virtual workshop every September and we maintain communication with ABC students and parents to ensure all questions are addressed and applications are buttoned up. Then, we get to spend December fielding happy admissions results calls and emails from you! All ABC students have access to our exclusive Application Boot Camp Membership Site through to their high school graduation –it houses key resources, TTA insider advice, college input, and more.

Families are so thrilled with the results of our Boot Camp that almost half of our students are siblings and referrals from former Application Boot Camp attendees – what an endorsement!


If you are a sophomore or junior and would like additional information on Application Boot Camp, please let us know. We are the home of the ORIGINAL Application Boot Camp® and we can’t wait to work with you! Become part of our tribe and join us this August or next.

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Common App 2019-2020 Essays Are Out: Write Now

It’s official –for any current junior in high school, essay writing season just began. The Common App released their main essay prompts for the 2019-2020 year, which means that essay brainstorming for any junior, if you’re ready, can launch.

One of the things we work on with our students is helping them pinpoint and refine the main academic interest that they will present to colleges with. It used to be that an “exploratory” approach to college admissions was okay and that checking “undecided” for your targeted major/concentration on the Common App wasn’t a huge deal. No longer! Your main essay for the Common App is one spectacular shot that you have to convey to colleges that you are (already!) a scholar in a particular field.

Is that art history perhaps? Awesome! Then maybe an online course from Georgetown University’s Summer Program for High School Students is the way to go, as you could take a 3-college credit course called Renaissance to Modern Art and learn all about western pictorial art, sculpture and architecture from the early Renaissance to the 20th century. Now THAT will likely spark some great ideas for your main essay response for the Common App –not to mention the Georgetown transcript you’d earn in just a few weeks of online coursework from June 3rd to July 26th, 2019.  Or, maybe your main academic interest is environmental sustainability OR evolutionary anthropology or biophysics?…  Stellar! A wonderful way you can research that is with an examination of what you’ve done in your high school career and summers so far, with careful planning for your ever-important summer 2019. We’d love to assist!

Bottom line:  We track updates on the Common App very closely and are SO pleased that the main essay prompts from last year will be the same for 2019-2020; this was announced earlier than ever before. So:

KEY things to know about the 2019-2020 Common App Prompts

  • The “topic of choice” essay question remains in place.
  • There are 7 main essay prompts to choose from, quite a lot.
  • The most popular essay prompt last year (which 24% of applicants picked) was #7, the topic of choice, but we actually do not usually urge that one.

The 2019-2020 Common App Essay Prompts

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
  6. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
  7. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

We’ve done a thorough review of these and feel strongly that applicants should cross off 4 of these prompts RIGHT NOWWork with us and we’ll tell you which ones and how.

Are you a junior and ready to start your essays now that the prompts are out? We’re here to help!

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Top Tips for Writing Impressive Final Papers

Final exam season is upon us and with it… final papers! We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: the most significant aspect of every admissions decision is your coursework. How well are you doing in your classes? How rigorous is your course load? What is your GPA, and how does it compare to that of other students in your class? At the end of the day, no amount of extracurricular activities or internships can make up for middling grades in your classes.

With this in mind, we encourage all of our students to take final exam season seriously. After working hard throughout the semester, it’s important to finish strong. This is especially true because at many schools, final exams and final papers make up a significant portion of each student’s grade. Even if your school year got off to a rocky start, focusing on your classes now can often significantly boost your GPA.


In conjunction with our Writing Center, we’ve rounded up a few tips to help you as you prepare to tackle your final papers. Although these tips are tailored to humanities courses like English and History, which often assign lengthy end-of-semester papers, you can apply most of our suggestions to any subject and by extension to other types of academic writing.

Tip #1: Read and understand the assignment.

This is a seemingly easy task, but it’s one that many students overlook. Before you tackle a final paper in any of your classes, make sure you know exactly what your teacher wants you to produce. Are you writing an argumentative paper? An expository one? Do you need to do research? What questions should you be addressing?

The world’s greatest analytical essay won’t get you a good grade if your teacher asked for a book report. By the same token, tons of research won’t help you if your teacher told you not to use outside sources.

To avoid producing the wrong kind of paper, make sure you read and then reread the assignment sheet. You might even try annotating the assignment, highlighting the intellectual aspects of the assignment (e.g., questions to prompt your thinking) and its formal elements (e.g., length, formatting, etc.). If you’re confused by any part of the assignment, ask your teacher about it before you begin writing.

final  papers tips

Tip #2: Start preparing now!

Especially if your final papers’ due dates are several weeks away, it can be tempting to put them off for a later date. We’d advise against that. Finals season is always busy, so the more work you can get done immediately, the better off you’ll be.

This doesn’t mean that you have to begin writing each essay right away. Jotting down ideas or creating an outline, however, can give you a huge leg up when the time comes to put pen to paper. If your essay requires research, you’ll also want to be sure to set aside some time now to dive into the materials. Once finals season gets into full swing, you won’t have time to sift through lengthy books and in-depth databases, and you’ll find yourself using less reliable sources simply because they are more accessible. (Hello, Wikipedia!) Starting your research immediately will give you time to find sources that impress your teacher(s) and improve your own understanding of the material.

Tip #3: Make an outline.

When it comes to essay writing, it’s always a smart move to outline your work in advance. Making an outline helps you to figure out the subject of your essay and how you’ll be organizing your evidence to prove your case. It can also make the writing process itself less stressful, since you’ll have your paper mapped out in advance.

Outlines can take many different forms. Some are very detailed, laying out a thesis; multiple, carefully organized pieces of evidence; counterarguments; and concluding ideas. Others are more general, noting only a main idea and a few supporting points. The style of outline that you choose will depend upon your preferences and the type of essay you are writing. (A ten-page paper, for example, will probably benefit from a more detailed outline, while a short in-class essay will require only a very general one.) At the end of the day, though, the act of outlining itself will always make your writing projects clearer and the writing process  easier.

Tip #4: When in doubt, run your ideas by your teacher.

One of the most basic ideas in writing is that you should write for your audience. In other words, you want to tailor your writing to suit the needs and interests of the people who will be reading it. When it comes to coursework, you have an audience of one: your teacher. For that reason, it makes sense to frame your essay to suit your teacher’s goals.

To make sure you’re doing that, try talking to your teacher about your ideas before you begin writing. Ask your teacher if you can set up a meeting or stay a few minutes after class to discuss your essay ideas with him or her. Would he or she be willing to review an outline or a preliminary draft of your essay? Does your teacher have any suggestions for you going forward? The more information you can get about what your teacher wants, the better prepared you’ll be to write the kind of essay that he or she enjoys reading.


By following these tips, you’ll ensure that you’re better prepared to tackle the upcoming finals season. If you need any additional help, feel free to reach out to our tutors for assistance!