SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Laura Staffaroni

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel in high school.

Recent Posts

Which Schools Use the Coalition Application? Complete List

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 12, 2021 12:00:00 PM

College Info

Ah, October. The changing of the leaves, the onset of autumn allergies...and the knowledge for high school seniors that slowly but surely, college application deadlines are drawing ever nearer.

If you're applying to schools in the U.S., you've probably heard of the Common App before, but you may not know about the relatively new Coalition Application.

The Coalition Application works pretty much the same way as the Common App—it's an online application that you only have to fill out once (aside from supplements for certain schools). This centralized application system is a big time saver if you're applying to multiple Coalition Application schools.

To help you figure out if you can use the Coalition Application for the schools on your college wishlist, we've listed all the current Coalition Application schools in this article, broken down by state.

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What Are the Ivy League Schools' Acceptance Rates for 2021?

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 10, 2021 12:00:00 PM

College Admissions, College Info

The eight schools in the Ivy League are among the most well-known and selective universities both within the US and in the world at large. Because of this, Ivy League (and similarly selective non-Ivy) schools have tens of thousands of students from whom to choose their class of 2026.

But what are Ivy League schools' acceptance rates, and how have those rates changed over time? In this analysis, we'll look at Ivy League admissions, from the number of applicants to the number of students who ultimately end up attending.

In addition to the eight Ivy League schools (Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, UPenn, and Yale), we'll also consider eight equally selective non-Ivy League national universities: Caltech, Duke, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Northwestern, Stanford, UChicago, and Vanderbilt.

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Writing the Why NYU Essay

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 5, 2021 12:00:00 PM

College Essays

If you're applying to New York University, you'll need to submit both the regular Common App materials as well as the NYU supplement, which includes a short essay. At its heart, the NYU essay prompt asks you to answer a single straightforward question: why do you want to go to NYU?

In this article, we'll fully analyze the "Why NYU?" essay prompt and what successful essays need to accomplish. We'll also go over potential topics to write about and look at the essay that got me into NYU's College of Arts and Science.

First, however, we'll begin with a quick discussion of why schools ask students to write "why this school?" essays

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Good SAT Scores: Ivy League Plus Edition

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Aug 30, 2021 6:00:00 PM

SAT/ACT Score Target

Setting a target SAT score to aim for is important, but what if you want to shoot for the moon and get an Ivy League-caliber SAT score? Read on to find out what SAT scores Ivy League Plus schools require.

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The 15 Best Music Schools in the US

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Aug 14, 2021 12:00:00 PM

College Admissions, College Info

Many students learn some kind of musical instrument in elementary school. Some continue through high school, and some even plan on continuing to do some kind of musical activity in college.

For a small fraction of students, though, music is not only something they want to continue studying, but it is the only thing they want to focus on studying in college.

If you're one of these students who wants to go to music school, then this article is for you. We'll go over what kind of experience you can expect to have at the best music schools and what you should look for in a top music school. We'll also introduce to you to our ranking of the best music schools in the US (for undergraduates).

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ACT Writing Prompts: The Complete Guide

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Aug 4, 2021 2:00:00 PM

ACT Writing

It's pretty scary to walk into a room on ACT test day and with no idea what the essay question you're about to answer is about. Luckily, you don't need to know—the ACT essay prompts only ask about a teensy, tiny category of ideas. And the best part is, you already know all about the topics!

Keep reading to see sample ACT Writing prompts you can practice with. More importantly, we also teach you how to gather evidence before the test so you can walk in 100% prepared to answer any prompt they give you.

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ACT International Test Dates Guide, 2021-2022

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 25, 2021 3:00:00 PM

ACT General Info

 

When are the ACT international test dates? If you're an international student thinking about taking the ACT, you might be surprised to learn that the dates the ACT is offered on are different internationally than in the US.

Find out what the ACT international test dates are for 2021 and 2022 and which dates you should choose in this article.

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How to Write an SAT Essay, Step by Step

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 10:16:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

SAT Essay writing requires a very specific set of skills. It's a little daunting to think that you only have 50 minutes to read a passage, analyze it, and then write an essay. But don't worry—getting a top SAT essay score is within everyone's reach! The most reliable way to score high is to follow our SAT essay template for every essay and to prepare well beforehand. 

In this article, we'll show you how to write a great SAT essay. We'll take you through all the steps you need to follow when writing the SAT essay to show you how you can put together a killer essay yourself.

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SAT Essay Prompts: The Complete List

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 7:00:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

On every SAT Essay, you'll have to read an argument meant to persuade a broad audience and discuss how well the author argues his or her point. The passage you'll have to read will change from test to test, but you'll always need to analyze the author's argument and write a coherent and organized essay explaining this analysis.

In this article, we've compiled a list of the 14 real SAT essay prompts that the College Board has released (either in The Official SAT Study Guide or separately online) for the new SAT. This is the most comprehensive set of new SAT essay prompts online today.

At the end of this article, we'll also guide you through how to get the most out of these prompts and link to our expert resources on acing the SAT essay. I'll discuss how the SAT essay prompts are valuable not just because they give you a chance to write a practice essay, but because of what they reveal about the essay task itself.

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SAT Essay Tips: 15 Ways to Improve Your Score

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 6:00:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

Whether you've never written an SAT Essay or didn't get the score you wanted on your last test, you can benefit from knowing more: both about the essay itself, and what really matters when the graders are reading your essay.

To introduce you to what you'll have to do, we've gathered up these 15 tips to master the SAT essay. If you can reliably follow all these points, you'll be able to get at least a 6/6/6 on the SAT essay—guaranteed.

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The Ultimate SAT Essay Study Guide: Tips and Review

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 12:00:00 PM

SAT Essay


We've written the best guide to the SAT essay available anywhere.

To craft this guide, we have carefully read all official material available on the SAT essay from the College Board and read the best SAT books we could find and extracted the most important things you need to know to succeed on the essay section. Based on this research, we're confident that this is the most complete and comprehensive resource available for the SAT essay.

This guide gets deep into every aspect of the SAT essay, from the rubric to prompts to the nuts and bolts of how to write a high-scoring essay. You'll learn the best tips and strategies to use to maximize the value of your SAT essay practice as well as how much time to devote to prepping for the essay.

If you're looking for a comprehensive guide to SAT essay and how to improve your SAT essay scores, this guide is invaluable. Rather than trying to put all the information we've distilled into one long article, we've created this multi-sectioned guide to serve as a table of contents to each of our more in-depth articles.

We'll start by taking a high-level look at the importance of the SAT essay to colleges and which schools care about your SAT essay score. The next section delves into more of the details of the SAT essay prompt and rubric and outlines step-by-step how to write a perfect-scoring SAT essay. Finally, the third part of this guide takes you through tips and strategies to use with the SAT essay.

We suggest reading through this guide in order your first time through, as you would any other test prep resource. Alternatively, if you're just looking for a refresher on certain areas, you can use this guide as a reference you can jump around in as needed.

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How to Get a Perfect 8|8|8 SAT Essay Score

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 12:00:00 PM

SAT Writing, SAT Essay

The SAT Essay is scored separately from the rest of the SAT now, thanks to the changes that went into effect in March 2016.

While the essay is now optional (you don't automatically have to take it every time you take the SAT), some colleges still require students to submit SAT essay scores with their applications. Learning how to consistently write a perfect SAT essay will be a huge boost to your application to these schools.

In this article, we'll discuss what it takes to get a perfect 8/8/8 on the SAT essay and what you need to do to train yourself to get this top score.

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SAT Essay Rubric: Full Analysis and Writing Strategies

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 9:00:00 AM

SAT Essay

We're about to dive deep into the details of that least beloved* of SAT sections, the SAT essay. Prepare for a discussion of the SAT essay rubric and how the SAT essay is graded based on that. I'll break down what each item on the rubric means and what you need to do to meet those requirements.

On the SAT, the last section you'll encounter is the (optional) essay. You have 50 minutes to read a passage, analyze the author's argument, and write an essay. If you don’t write on the assignment, plagiarize, or don't use your own original work, you'll get a 0 on your essay. Otherwise, your essay scoring is done by two graders - each one grades you on a scale of 1-4 in Reading, Analysis, and Writing, for a total essay score out of 8 in each of those three areas. But how do these graders assign your writing a numerical grade? By using an essay scoring guide, or rubric.

*may not actually be the least belovèd.

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What's the Average SAT Essay Score?

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 15, 2021 12:00:00 AM

SAT Essay

You've gotten back your SAT scores. On your score report, there's information about how you did on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math, compared to students in the previous year's graduating class who took the SAT.

But what about your essay? How does your essay score compare to everyone else? There's no percentile information for that in the score report.

Find out what an average SAT essay score looks like (and how you stack up) in this article!

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Seven Sisters Colleges: Should You Go to One?

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Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 2, 2021 12:00:00 AM

College Admissions, College Info

If you're looking at applying to elite liberal arts colleges, you've probably come across the Seven Sisters schools. But what schools are Seven Sisters colleges, and what makes them so special?

In this article, we explain what the Seven Sisters schools are, which of them still exist, and which of them are still all-women's colleges. I'll also use my expertise as an alum of a Seven Sisters school to break down what the benefits are of applying to a Seven Sisters school and five tips for getting admitted.

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