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

What's an Average ACT Writing Score?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 1, 2020 1:22:00 PM

ACT Writing

It's approximately one month after your ACT test date. You get your ACT score report and see your ACT Writing score. But what does that number actually mean? Did you do better than average? Worse? Exactly average? Learn what an average ACT Writing score is in this article.

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SAT Standard Deviation: What Does It Mean for You?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Oct 1, 2020 12:00:00 PM

SAT General Info

If you've ever glanced through any of the year-end College Board data reports, you may have seen information about the SAT standard deviation. Unfortunately, the reports just list the numbers and then move on, without explaining at all what these numbers mean.

So how is info about the SAT mean and standard deviation useful to you? In this article, we'll explain what the term standard deviation refers to and what it means for you and your SAT score.

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CTY ACT Score Requirements

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 29, 2020 6:39:00 PM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

You've decided that you want to take part in the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University. Good for you!

Having made this decision, however, you probably have some questions about test score requirements—do you have to take the ACT in order to apply for CTY or its programs? What does taking the ACT qualify you for, and how well do you have to do on it?

I'll answer all of these questions for you in this article. Now, read on...

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CTY SAT Score Requirements

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 29, 2020 8:00:00 AM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

You've decided that you want to take part in the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) at Johns Hopkins University. Good for you! Having made this decision, however, you probably have some questions about test score requirements. Do you have to take the SAT to apply for CTY or its programs? What does taking the SAT qualify you for, and how well do you have to do on it?

I'll answer all these questions, and even manage to squeeze in an example from Shakespeare, if you'll just read on.

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What Is CTY at Johns Hopkins? Complete Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 28, 2020 8:30:00 AM

Early Achievers (7th/8th Grade)

CTY, or Center for Talented Youth, at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) offers an assortment of resources to gifted students. These resources include summer programs and courses, written resources, community awards/recognition, and college counseling.

The first step to many of the CTY programs is registering for the Talent Search. Even the programs that are open to everyone give priority to students who participated in the Talent Search. For your convenience, we've compiled everything here into one magnificent blog entry guide. I recommend reading it all the way through, but if you only want to read one particular section, you can pick it out from the Table of Contents.

I'll start off by going in depth into the Talent Search and then mention other programs along with links if you want more information than I give in this article.

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The 25 Best Engineering Schools in the US (and How to Get In)

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 20, 2020 12:00:00 PM

College Info

Do you dream of building driverless cars or a space elevator? You should check out the best engineering schools in the US!

But with so many different engineering schools out there and intense competition for the top programs, how can you figure out where should you apply? To help you decide, we've compiled a list of the best engineering schools in the US. We'll explain a little bit about each school on the list as well as provide rankings within specific subfields of engineering.

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Which Schools Use the Coalition Application? Complete List

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Sep 1, 2020 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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Good SAT Scores: Ivy League Plus Edition

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Aug 21, 2020 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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ACT International Test Dates Guide, 2020-2021

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Aug 19, 2020 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 2020 and 2021 and which dates you should choose in this article.

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The 15 Best Music Schools in the US

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Aug 18, 2020 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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Writing the Why NYU Essay

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Aug 7, 2020 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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ACT Writing Prompts: The Complete Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 26, 2020 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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Seven Sisters Colleges: Should You Go to One?

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jul 11, 2020 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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6 SAT Essay Examples to Answer Every Prompt

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jun 26, 2020 7:00:00 PM

SAT Essay

Just as with most essays, the major secret to excelling on the SAT essay is to pre-plan the examples and evidence you want to use.

"But wait!" I hear you cry. "Can you do that on the new SAT essay? Isn’t the point of the essay that you’re supposed to be using information from the passage in your answer, which you don’t know about ahead of time?"

The answer: Yes and no. While the specifics of each example will obviously change, depending on the passage, the types of examples you choose to discuss (and the way you explain each example builds the author’s argument) can be defined, and thus prepared for, ahead of time.

In this article, we give you 6 good SAT essay examples you’ll be able to find in nearly every prompt the SAT throws at you. By assembling a collection of these reliable types of evidence that can be used to answer most prompts, you'll cut down on planning time and significantly increase the amount you can write, making you able to walk into every SAT essay confident in your abilities.

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The Ultimate SAT Spanish Subject Test Study Guide

Posted by Laura Staffaroni | Jun 11, 2020 12:00:00 PM

SAT Subject Tests

Applying to highly selective schools often means submitting SAT Subject Test scores along with your regular SAT or ACT scores. Si español es pan comido para usted, then taking the SAT Spanish Subject Test is a great way to fulfill part of the subject test requirement.

Read this guide to learn more about what's on the SAT Spanish Subject Test and whether or not you should take it. We'll go over format, test content, where to find good practice material, and tips to help you when studying and taking the test.

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