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DO's and DON'Ts for Parents

On the test-optional road to college admissions, what should a parent DO or NOT DO to make sure their student understands SAT and ACT testing landscape?

Parents: In order to offer both caring and informed support for your student as it relates to test prep, consider the following DO's and DON'Ts:


  • Understand: Make sure you what test-optional really means. On one hand, there can be more admissions and scholarship opportunities for students who submit test scores. On the other hand, not all schools follow this. Do your research so you know what schools are test-required, test-optional and test-blind.

  • Provide Context: Work with your child to have them understand that test scores are just one slice of their overall application portfolio and that a test score is just one data point that will not make or break an application. The more students understand this, the more productive their approach to testing can be.

  • Discuss: Invite a conversation with your student to craft a plan for testing and test score improvement. The more a student is engaged in the process, the more they will want to do the work to get better.

  • Read: As early an age as possible, read with your child. And continue to read with them as they get older. Reading is the key driver of test scores so read whatever you like. It does not need to be Shakespeare or Dostoevsky. Read blogs, articles, stories, fiction or whatever is most appealing. Read together and then discuss. After all, the SAT and ACT are reading tests and you get better at reading with more reading.


  • Check Out: Parents, you need to play a key role in this so don't check out. I see too many parents throw up your their hands in defeat even before the process starts. Avoid the lazy, apathetic or ignorant route. Instead, check in and lean into the world of test prep and college admissions. Remember, this moment is only temporary and your student needs your guidance and support.

  • Stress: If you stress about this process, your child may stress out more. Stress is the enemy of test performance. Instead of stressing, find ways to remove any stress from the process.

  • Project Your Experiences on Your Child: Yes, your testing experience may have been awful (or it could have been great), but that was your experience. Your child needs to carve their own path. They can learn from your experience but don't expect their experience to be the same as yours.

  • Start Too Early: Some parents pressure their kids into test prep at a very early age. Starting early may do the opposite of the intent by creating animosity towards testing in general. A good timeframe to bring up testing is during sophomore year. Many schools administer the PSAT this year. Once you get a score, they you can start the conversation.

Parents: With all of the information and disinformation about testing in college admissions, you can get lost. Remember that CROSSWALK is the path to learning success so please reach out if you need any help.

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