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The ACT and SAT: Which Test is Right for You?

The SAT and ACT are both standardized tests that colleges use to evaluate a student during the admission process. Some schools will accept both SAT and ACT scores while others show preference to one, and some schools don’t require students to submit scores for either test.

It’s possible to compare estimated scores across the two tests using a simple conversion chart or formula. It’s also worth understanding how the two tests are different, and what a student can expect when taking each test.

ACT and SAT History

In 1926, the SAT was developed as the Army Alpha, to measure the IQ of Army recruits. Over time, the format and audience for the Scholastic Aptitude Test changed. The scoring method, format, and subjects have been adjusted over the years to better reflect the high school curriculum and college application process.

The current version of the SAT takes three hours and includes sections on math, reading comprehension, and writing. The highest score a person can achieve on the SAT is 1600.

The American College Test, created in reaction to the SAT, was first administered in 1959. University of Iowa professor of education Everett Franklin Linquist developed the standardized test to better evaluate a student’s practical knowledge instead of reasoning skills that the SAT focuses on.

The modern ACT takes two hours and 55 minutes (add 40 for the optional writing section) to complete. The test includes sections on English, math, reading, and science, and the optional writing portion. The highest score possible is 36.

Colleges and universities generally accept both the ACT and SAT, but preparing for and taking the two tests is not the same. Understanding the differences between the ACT and SAT might help students decide which test to take and how they might best maximize their score.

Difference Between the ACT and SAT Tests

Other than the score a test taker receives, the SAT and ACT have several differences that might inform a student’s decision to prepare for one over another. Students are taking both tests now more than ever, but preparing for each is different, and it’s possible to prefer one test experience over another.

Scoring

One of the most obvious differences between the two tests is the score. An ACT score ranges from 1 to 36, and there’s no penalty for getting a question wrong. The score is calculated by adding the raw scores of each section, then dividing by four to get the composite score (out of 36).

SAT takers get a score between 400 and 1600. Once again, there’s no penalty for answering a question wrong, and the score goes up with every right answer. Section scores are added together to yield the total score (out of 1600).

Type of Testing

There’s a common belief that students’ strengths in the classroom might allow them to test better on one standardized test over the other. The ACT, with a deeper focus on verbal skills, might be a better fit for students who excel in English classes. Those with strong math skills could prefer the SAT, with a bigger emphasis on math questions.

Both tests have a math section, but the SAT covers data analysis, while the ACT will have questions about probability and statistics.

Format and Subjects

Even when the essay portion is included, the ACT is shorter than the SAT. However, the SAT has 154 questions, while the ACT has 215 — how does that compute? SAT takers have an average of one minute and 10 seconds on each question, compared with 49 seconds for the ACT.

Time per question could be important to a student’s test taking strategy, especially when factoring in the difficulty levels of each test. In the SAT’s math section, the questions become harder the further a student moves along. The same goes for the ACT’s math section, as well as its science section, where passages and the questions become more difficult as the test progresses.

The ACT has more sections than the SAT, including multiple-choice questions on:

•   English: grammar, punctuation, sentence structure

•   Math: algebra, geometry, trigonometry

•   Reading: passage comprehension on fiction, humanities, and sciences

•   Science: comprehension, including summaries, charts, and graphs

•   Writing (optional)

The SAT has fewer sections, with all multiple-choice questions about:

•   Reading: comprehension questions based on passages

•   Writing and language: grammar, editing, and vocabulary

•   Math: algebra, trigonometry, and geometry

The SAT used to have an optional essay section, but it was discontinued in 2021.

The major differentiator between the SAT and ACT experience might be the ACT’s dedicated science section. The SAT includes questions about science, but they are dispersed across the test.

Pricing

The cost of taking the SAT and ACT is similar:

•   SAT: $60

•   ACT: $63, $88 with optional essay

The cost of taking the test shouldn’t keep a student from doing so. Both the College Board and ACT offer fee waivers for students who meet the requirements.

High school students preparing for the SATs may also be getting ready to pay for college and manage their own finances for the first time. SoFi’s Ca$h Course: A Student’s Guide to Money has some tips and strategies that can help.

Evaluating options for paying for college is another important piece of the college preparation puzzle. Options include grants, scholarships, and undergraduate loans, including both private and federal student loans.

Recommended: What Are Pell Grants?

Geography

Because the ACT was founded out of a Midwestern university, the test is somewhat more popular in middle America. The SAT has its origins in testing aptitude for admission to Northeastern educational Army institutions. Students on the East and West coasts are slightly more likely to take the SAT than the ACT.

Because of these geographic trends, students on the coasts might find more SAT prep courses than ACT prep courses, and vice versa.

Converting Test Scores

SAT to ACT conversion is a hot topic. Comparing the tests on their face is like comparing apples to oranges. However, if a student takes both, it helps to figure out which one they performed better on. That means finding a way to compare one test score to another.

Here’s how the ACT’s composite scores compare to the SAT:

ACT Score

SAT Range

36 1570-1600
35 1530-1560
34 1490-1520
33 1450-1480
32 1420-1440
31 1390-1410
30 1360-1380
29 1330-1350
28 1300-1320
27 1260-1290
26 1230-1250
25 1200-1220
24 1160-1190
23 1130-1150
22 1100-1120
21 1060-1090
20 1030-1050
19 990-1020
18 960-980
17 920-950
16 990-910
15 830-870
14 870-820
13 730-770
12 690-720
11 650-680
10 620-640
9 590-610

Should I Take the ACT or SAT?

The SAT and ACT are both widely accepted by colleges and universities in the U.S. It’s common for students to take both the SAT and ACT. If you are deciding which test is best for you, consider taking a full, timed practice test for each type. This can give you a rough estimate of where you may score when you take the exam.

The Takeaway

Both the SAT and ACT are standardized tests designed to gauge a student’s readiness for college. One test is not inherently easier than the other and both are accepted at a wide array of colleges and universities. Taking a timed practice test can be one of the best ways to roughly estimate your score.

Paying for college is another important step in preparing for college. Students may consider using a combination of grants, scholarships, and student loans. Private student loans may lack borrower protections offered by federal student loans, so federal loans are generally prioritized over private loans. This private student loan guide has more information on the differences between private and federal student loans.

Borrowers interested in private student loans could consider SoFi — where private student loans have no fees, applications can be completed online and you can easily add a cosigner.

SoFi private student loans offer competitive interest rates for qualifying borrowers, flexible repayment plans, and no fees.

3 Student Loan Tips

1.    Can’t cover your school bills? If you’ve exhausted all federal aid options, private student loans can fill gaps in need, up to the school’s cost of attendance, which includes tuition, books, housing, meals, transportation, and personal expenses.

2.    Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.

3.    Would-be borrowers will want to understand the different types of student loans peppering the landscape: private student loans, federal Direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, Direct PLUS loans, and more.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Law School Scholarships Guide

So, you’ve been accepted to law school — congrats! You’re well on your way to embarking on a career that could help you fight for others’ rights and further the public good.

These are all laudable motivations, but chances are there’s something stronger weighing on you: How to pay for law school? There are a variety of law school scholarships available to help students finance their way to the courtroom.

The Average Cost of Law School

U.S. News & World Report notes that the average annual cost of a public, out-of-state law school is $42,754, or $29,610 for in-state. For private law schools, the average is $53,034. Because students aren’t yet racking up those billable attorney hours, it can be helpful to research law school scholarship opportunities before applying.

Types of Law School Scholarships

Per the numbers mentioned above, there might be a fair amount of sticker shock for those who haven’t yet applied for graduate school and are only thinking of someday going the lawyer route. (Here’s SoFi’s guide on how to apply to law school.) Fortunately, there are a range of options for aspiring attorneys seeking to fund law school.

Full-Ride Tuition Law School Scholarships

In some cases, there are full-ride tuition scholarships and need-based grants out there. Full-rides, of course, are not available at all law schools. If a law school doesn’t explicitly advertise or highlight information regarding full-ride opportunities, interested students can contact the school to ask.

Students deciding whether to apply to law school may want to familiarize themselves with the language universities adopt to explain these scholarships. In some cases, specific scholarships are designated for particular students. Full-ride law school scholarships can be highly competitive — with some schools offering as few as two to four per enrollment year. One potential tip for the search for scholarships is to target law schools with more tuition help.

General Law School Scholarships

There are lots of options for law-school hopefuls to find potential scholarships. The nonprofit organization Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has compiled a list of the many law school scholarships available to applicants.

From the LSAC’s list, the Attorney Ken Nugent Legal Scholarship ($5,000) and the BARBRI Law Preview’s “One Lawyer Can Change the World” Scholarship ($10,000) are worth pinning, due to the sizable chunk of change they offer.

Many law schools themselves offer competitive scholarships to attract stronger candidates. It might be helpful to check if a school also offers in-state residents specific tuition reductions or grants — especially true, if the applicant is considering a public school in their home state.

Law School Scholarships from Law Firms

Similarly, some law firms offer scholarships. Usually applying is a straightforward process: Some may require a short essay, a transcript, and sometimes references to be considered. One such law firm scholarship is offered by The Dominguez Firm, which offers $2,500 annually to a student applicant.

On top of this, there’s the rising trend of law firms helping new hires to repay a portion of their student debt once onboarded.

Diversity Law School Scholarships

Some scholarships are awarded to students with diverse backgrounds. One example of this is the Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund offered by the American Bar Association. This scholarship is awarded to law students from a racial or ethnically diverse background.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund also offers a scholarship for diverse students.

Law School for Women

Some scholarships require candidates to be women. One example of this is the American Association of University Women Selected Professions Fellowship. The fellowship offers a maximum grant of $25,000.

Finding Scholarships for Law School

There are dedicated resources like Fastweb and SoFi’s scholarship search tool to help prospective students find scholarships for which they may qualify. Fastweb is an online resource to help students find scholarships, financial aid, and even part-time jobs in support of college degrees.

The American Bar Association’s law-student division also has a running list (along with deadlines) of law student awards and scholarships. Additionally, the Law School Admission Council offers a list of diversity scholarships available to students from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. Here’s another guide on unclaimed scholarship money.

Another resource that could be useful in factoring living expenses is this student loan calculator for aspiring law school students. Tools like this can, usually, auto-load the tuition and cost-of-living breakdowns for specific law schools. From here, it’s possible then to compare how much degrees from particular schools may end up costing.

Recommended: Applying to Graduate School: Smart Tips & Strategies 

Negotiating Wiggle Room

Doing all this research and the math around law school scholarships could put applicants in a more informed position when evaluating which program to attend — and, potentially, help them to identify schools more likely to be interested in their application.

A reality of today’s admissions process for law school is negotiating scholarships. Some schools have a strict policy against negotiating, but others fully expect their initial offer to be countered. That’s why it can help to save acceptance letters and anything in writing from schools that offer admission.

Suggestions for Negotiating Law School Scholarship Offers

Offer letters could be shared with competing schools, asking if they’re able to match another university’s aid. It might be uncomfortable asking for more tuition assistance upfront, but a little discomfort now could help applicants shoulder less law school debt later on. If arguing a position makes an applicant uncomfortable, it might be worth pondering whether to become a lawyer.

Doing research on law schools (and figuring out the likely cost-of-living expenses at each institution) could help applicants to determine which scores or grades to aim for in an effort to make law school more affordable for them. Tabulating expenses (and having them on hand) may also demonstrate to universities that the amounts being negotiated are based on well-documented expenses.

Federal vs Private Loans for Law School

Students wanting to apply to law school could consider the differences between federal and private student loans. Federal loans come with certain benefits not guaranteed by private ones (such as, forbearance or income-driven repayment).

Private loans — like SoFi’s — can also help applicants to cover the expense of graduate school. So, it might be a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of both federal and private student loan options for law school.

For example, Direct PLUS loans for grads charge 7.54% in disbursement fees for the 2022-2023 academic year. SoFi Graduate Student Loans, by comparison, have no fees whatsoever — not even late or overdraft fees. Another great resource in understanding federal loans can be found over at studentaid.gov.

It’s important to note that private student loans don’t offer the same benefits and protections afforded to federal student loan borrowers, like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). If a law school applicant is interested eventually in becoming a public defender or pursuing non-profit legal work, forgiveness and forbearance perks may play a role in their decision.

In addition to the financial aid resources mentioned above, more information can be found in SoFi’s private student loan guide. Those interested in figuring out how to pay for law school may want to check out SoFi’s competitive-rate private law school loans.

The Takeaway

Students looking to offset law school costs with scholarships can look to their law school, scholarship databases, local law firms and other organizations for resources. Consider contacting the financial aid office at your law school if you are looking for scholarship resources. If students interested in law school find themselves coming up short on funds for the JD after scholarships or federal aid, additional options may be available.

Some might seek out a student loan from a private lender, to name one possibility. SoFi’s private loans for law school offer competitive rates, flexible repayment options, and access to member benefits.

You can check your rates in just three minutes to see if a SoFi Law School Loan might help you pursue that dream of becoming a lawyer.

Learn more about private student loans for law school with SoFi.

FAQ

What LSAT score will get me a scholarship?

One general rule of thumb is that students who have a LSAT score (and sometimes GPA) above the median for a certain school. Chances of qualifying for a scholarship are even greater if your score falls in the 75th percentile for the school.

What is a good scholarship for law school?

Any scholarship for law school is a good scholarship. Scholarships typically don’t need to be repaid and can help reduce a student’s debt burden. Students looking for law school scholarships can apply for institutional aid and aid through other sources like nonprofit organizations.

Do top law schools give scholarships?

While some top law schools do not offer scholarships, many law schools do offer law school scholarships to students. For example, in the 2021-2022 class at Yale, 76% of students qualified for some form of financial aid and 64% qualified for an institutional law school scholarship. Check in directly with the schools you are interested in to see if they offer scholarships to students.


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SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Bank, N.A. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How To Find Affordable Car Insurance for College Students

How To Find Affordable Car Insurance for College Students

If you’re the parent of a student driver, finding affordable car insurance is likely a top priority. Adding a college student to your insurance policy can drive up the cost of premiums, since they’re generally considered high-risk drivers. And students who purchase their own policies usually pay much more to get covered than when they’re added to a family policy. But there are ways to lower car insurance costs, from choosing a higher deductible to insuring your student based on mileage.

As you shop around, it’s important not to focus only on premiums. In case of an accident, coverage levels and deductibles can make an “affordable” policy suddenly seem quite pricey. We’ll walk you through the process so you can get the most for your money.

Recommended: How to Lower Car Insurance

What Is the Most Affordable Car Insurance?

There’s no one answer that applies to all drivers in all states, because insurers set different prices based on proprietary risk profiles and algorithms. But generally speaking, the cheapest affordable car insurance will be a policy with minimal coverage.

Finding affordable car insurance for college students can be especially challenging, since insurers tend to view them as being higher risk. A student doesn’t need to have accidents or tickets on their driving record to land in the high-risk category. They simply have a short driving history, which works against them.

A comprehensive policy will be more expensive than one that carries the minimum coverage required by the state. Although it can be cheaper to skip full coverage for a college student, keep in mind that they might incur higher out-of-pocket costs for repairs if they’re involved in an accident.

Recommended: How to Get Car Insurance

Does a College Student Need Their Own Car Insurance Policy?

One of the most important questions to ask for personal insurance planning with kids is whether your student will stay on your policy or get their own. The answer depends on their living arrangements while they’re in school. If you have a student listed on your policy and your home is their permanent residence, they should be able to remain on your policy — even if they’re temporarily living in a dorm or off-campus apartment.

Parents’ coverage can still apply to a student’s vehicle if they’re taking it with them to school, even in another state. The insurance company may, however, adjust the premiums for the vehicle based on where it’s located and being used, not where it’s registered.

If a student moves out of their parents’ home and sets up their own permanent residence somewhere else, then they need to purchase their own car insurance policy. Car insurance is typically priced based on the vehicle the student drives, so if they have an older car they may still be able to find affordable car insurance on their own.

Recommended: 10 Tips for the Cheapest Way to Rent a Car

How To Find Affordable Car Insurance for College Students

The best place to start is often with your current car insurance company. Your insurer can walk you through how much it might cost to keep your student on your policy versus having them purchase their own policy. They can also advise you on how much coverage is appropriate to have, based on your student’s driving history and habits, and the condition of their vehicle.

Next, you can shop online to compare car insurance options for students. Getting quotes from multiple insurers is helpful, since you can compare that to what you’re paying currently to see whether any cheaper options exist. You may find that it’s more cost-efficient to move your policy elsewhere so that your child can benefit from cheaper rates.

When weighing insurance carriers, don’t focus solely on the premiums. While that number is important, since it determines what you’ll pay monthly or annually for insurance, it’s not the only cost to consider. You’ll also need to weigh the deductible, which is an amount you or your student must pay before your coverage kicks in.

There are two basic types of deductibles: high or low. Choosing a higher deductible can reduce premiums but means you’ll pay more out-of-pocket if you need to file a claim. A lower deductible can be more manageable for a college student who doesn’t have much savings, but the trade-off is a higher monthly premium.

Even if you’re adding your student to an existing family policy, review the policy and costs with them in some detail. It’s a good opportunity for students to learn about car insurance terms, financial decision-making, and the price of living independently.

Recommended: Does Auto Insurance Roadside Assistance Cover Keys Locked in a Car

Ways To Save Money on Car Insurance

Car insurance costs aren’t necessarily set in stone. There are several ways parents and students can make it more affordable. Here are some practical tips on how to lower car insurance:

•   Ask about discounts. Many car insurance companies offer discounts for students who earn good grades or complete driver education training. Safe driving discounts may also be an option for students with a good driving record.

•   Keep up with maintenance. Keeping your student’s car in good shape can help reduce the risk of an accident caused by a malfunction. You can try saving on car maintenance costs by doing basic things like oil changes or fluid top-ups yourself.

•   Get insured by mileage. Some car insurance companies base their policies on how many miles you drive. If your student is staying close to home and has a fairly short commute to school and work, then you can potentially find affordable car insurance that prices policies based on mileage.

•   Look for group discounts. If you belong to a professional or business association, or an alumni group, for example, you may be able to get a discount on insurance just for being a member. Warehouse clubs can also offer car insurance discounts to members as well.

•   Encourage safe driving. Accidents can make your premiums skyrocket, so it’s a good idea to go over the basics of safe driving with your student. You may also want to enroll them in a defensive driving class to help them feel more comfortable on the road.

•   Look online. You might start your search for good affordable car insurance with your brick-and-mortar insurer, but it’s also helpful to consider what online insurance companies have to offer. You may be able to find cheaper rates on car insurance for students online versus traditional insurance companies.

Recommended: How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an Accident?

Consider Bundling Insurance for College Students

Here’s one more thing to add to your list of insurance tips for first-time drivers: Try bundling. Bundling car insurance with other types of insurance is another opportunity for college students to save money. If your student is getting their own car insurance, they can help keep costs down by bundling it with renters insurance or life insurance.

Renters insurance covers personal belongings when you live in rental housing. It can also provide personal liability protection and pay your day-to-day living expenses if you have to seek temporary housing because your rental unit is damaged.

Life insurance can pay out a death benefit to beneficiaries after the insured dies. A young, healthy college student may not see an immediate need for life insurance, but it can come in handy if they’ve taken out student loans. Students who cosigned loans with a parent, for example, can take out a policy and name their cosigner as beneficiary. That way, parents aren’t left having to pay back the loans themselves.

Recommended: How Long Do You Have to Have Life Insurance Before You Die

The Takeaway

Students who purchase their own policy usually pay much more than when they’re added to a family policy. Either way, you can offset higher premiums by considering less liability coverage, a higher deductible, or a policy based on your student’s mileage. And make sure to ask your insurer about discounts for good grades, defensive driving classes, and company affiliations.

You can simplify your search by getting a quote for auto insurance online with SoFi. We’ve teamed up with Experian to provide free car insurance quotes online so you can find a great deal. You can match up your current coverage to compare rates, pick the option that looks right, and buy coverage all in one sitting.

Get an auto insurance quote with SoFi in minutes!


Photo credit: iStock/pepifoto

Insurance not available in all states.
Experian is a registered service mark of Experian Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
Social Finance, Inc. ("SoFi") is compensated by Experian for each customer who purchases a policy through Experian from the site.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Accepted Into College After Applying_780x440: After all the work that goes into applying for college—researching schools, taking entrance exams, writing essays—students probably welcome a feeling of relief once that application is officially submitted.

How Long Does It Take to Get Accepted Into College After Applying?

After all the work that goes into applying to college — researching schools, taking entrance exams, writing essays — students probably welcome a feeling of relief once that application is officially submitted.

The relief may be instant, but also fleeting. The next phase of getting into college can be painstaking because it’s the waiting phase. Acceptance letters don’t have one standard date for being sent out. Admissions decisions can be delivered as early as December for early action or early decision applicants and through April for regular admission applicants.

Check out these different types of applications and see how their submission deadlines and acceptance date periods differ.

Types of Applications

Just as there isn’t a standard date for acceptance letters to be sent out, there isn’t one standard submission date for applications, either. There are a few early submission options available, as well as regular submission and rolling admissions. The due date of the application will depend on which type of application is being submitted, and this will also determine when you receive the school’s decision.

There are a few options for applying early: early decision, early action, and single-choice early action.

Early Decision

The early decision application is binding, meaning that students who are accepted are committed to enrolling. Because this application is binding, students can only apply to one school as an early decision. These applications are due in November and the decisions go out in December. If students decide to apply with this early decision option, this school should be their top choice, the one they’d prefer to go to over all others.

Early Action

The early action application is similar to the early decision in regard to the due date (due in November) and decision timeframe (decisions go out in December), but it differs in that it isn’t binding. It’s okay to apply to multiple schools via early action, and if you’re accepted you’re not required to enroll.

Recommended: Early Action vs Early Decision

Single Choice Early Action

This option is similar to the early decision in that students can only apply to one school this way, but it’s not binding. If students choose to apply to a school via single-choice early action, it’s a way of saying they’re especially interested in attending that school. The deadline and acceptance period is the same as the other early options.

When it comes to applying early, no matter which type of early application you choose, the applications will usually be due in November and decisions will be sent out in December.

Regular Decision

Regular decision college applications are the most common of the application options. For these applications, the deadline is usually in January or February and the decision letters go out by April. The deadline for submitting your application will differ between schools, so make sure to check the website for each school and mark the dates on a calendar.

Recommended: Ultimate College Application Checklist

Rolling Admission

Rolling admission allows students to apply until the school runs out of space. Sometimes applications are accepted until April, and sometimes even later. Students are encouraged to apply using the same deadline as the regular decision to have a better chance of being accepted before the colleges run out of spaces.

Some colleges will also have differing numbers of spots open based on specific majors, so it’s important to check that availability at each school the student is applying to. If the major the student lists on an application is impacted at some schools, it might be better to apply by the deadline for regular applications since
impacted
majors are likely to have more students apply than there are spots available. The average turnaround for rolling admission is about four to six weeks , so the date that decisions are sent out will depend on when students submit their application.

Recommended: College Search – College Finder Tool

The Dreaded Waitlist

After waiting for one to two months to receive a school’s decision, it can be frustrating to open that letter or email and see that there’s more waiting to do. Being on the school’s waitlist isn’t necessarily bad, however.

There are many reasons that students end up on the waitlist. They may have met the academic criteria to get into the school, but the school might not have space yet for these students.

Most schools will require students to contact them and accept their spot on the waitlist to be considered for admission, so don’t forget that step.

Since the number of students that can be accepted from a waitlist depends on the number of students who choose to enroll, students on the waitlist won’t hear back until after decision day.

Decision day is May 1, and it’s the day that seniors are required to notify their school that they accept their admission and will enroll.

After the decision day, the schools will know how many students will enroll, and then they’ll be able to start accepting students from the waitlist if there’s space. This means students on the waitlist can expect to hear back from their school by the end of May, but sometimes it can take up until the Fall semester starts to hear back.

Paying for College

Planning for college goes beyond getting accepted. Once accepted, students have to figure out how they’ll be paying for tuition, books, and housing. Luckily, there are many good options for financing higher education, which can include financial aid from the government (grants and/or loans), scholarships, and private loans.

Recommended: Ca$h Course: A Student’s Guide to Money

Financial Aid

The FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the form students will need to complete as the first step in applying for student aid. Depending on a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), they may be eligible for federal student loans, grants, or work-study.

Grants don’t usually have to be repaid, but loans do. The amount of aid students can receive from the federal government will depend on their financial need, so not everyone will be eligible.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans come with some benefits that are not guaranteed by private student loans, like lower fixed interest rates and flexible repayment options. This is important to take into account when choosing where to take out loans.

Scholarships

Scholarships can be merit based, meaning they’re awarded based on some kind of achievement, or need based. There are many scholarships available, and it’s perfectly acceptable to apply to as many as possible to further the chances of receiving one — or more. Some scholarships are specific to a school or the local community, so check your school’s website for information.

Private Student Loans

Private loans may be another option for paying for college. Since every financial institution is different, do some research and explore options available. Loan amounts and rates will depend on an applicant’s financial situation, including their credit history and income. Those with little of either may need a cosigner to be approved for a private loan.

Even if the cost of attendance might be covered by scholarships, grants, or federal student loans, there may be other costs of living a student might need assistance for. That’s where private student loans can be helpful when considered responsibly.To learn more about private student loans, college-bound students might want to check out this guide to private student loans.

The Takeaway

It can take a few weeks to a few months to hear back for a college admissions decision, depending on the type of application you submitted. Early applicants — such as early decision or early action — will generally hear back in December while regular decision applicants will receive their admission decision in April.

Taking some time to think about college costs and how to pay for the upcoming years of education can be a wise way to spend that time waiting for all of those acceptance letters to come rolling in. Private student loans can be one option to help students pay for college, though they may lack the borrower protections afforded to federal loans. For those considering private student loans, take a look at SoFi student loans are fee-free and offer competitive interest rates for qualified borrowers.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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What Is the Hardest Year of High School?

Ask four recent graduates which year of high school was hardest for them, and chances are you’ll get four different answers. Each year of high school brings its own set of unique challenges that students have to prepare for.

On top of those challenges comes external stressors and expectations. Students are facing pressure from parents to get good grades, the stress of college applications, and heaps of extracurriculars. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of high school students have experienced stress, anxiety or depression during the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

While each year of high school will have its own stressors, many will say junior year is the most challenging. Junior year can be the hardest for several reasons, but with the right prep and expectations, high school students can make the hardest year just a little easier.

Why Every Year Matters

People might say junior year is the hardest year of high school, but that’s not an excuse to cruise though the other three years.

Freshman and sophomore year are building opportunities. In these two years, many students will take prerequisite courses and join extracurriculars they’ll carry out the rest of their high school career.

During freshman year especially, students will have to adjust to high school and its academic rigor. Getting good grades and getting involved in activities during the first two years of high school can help set the pattern for the next two years.

Lots of students may claim that senior year is the time to sit back and take it easy. So common is this assumption that lots of seniors claim their final year of high school is the “senior slump.”

But, letting grades slide in senior year can spell trouble for plans post graduation. Admission to college, even if already granted, could be rescinded if a senior underperforms in their senior year. Grades senior year still matter.

Recommended: 11 Ways to Prepare for High School Graduation

Why Junior Year Can Be the Most Challenging

Every year of high school is important, but a student’s junior year has its own set of unique challenges and hardships. Here’s what can make junior year tougher than the rest:

Course Load

Junior year is the time to shine before students apply to college. It’s the last full academic year of grades a university will receive before deciding to accept or reject a student. Students may elect to take their most challenging course load during their junior year to show colleges that they’re capable of academic rigor.

Some students may be enrolled in advanced placement (AP) courses. AP classes give high school students the chance to prepare for college by tackling college-level material, while still in high school. At the end of an AP course, students can choose to take the AP exams. Scores from those tests may grant students college credits, so they can skip out of basic courses in their first years on campus.

Junior year can be an academic step-up for high school students if they decide to take advanced classes. In addition to harder classes, there’s a pressure to get good grades in them, because it can be an indicator of performance for colleges.

Tests

On top of AP tests, juniors have more key tests to prepare for. Each test comes with its own strategies and approaches, meaning specialized study and prep. A junior might prepare for and take these tests during the year:

AP Tests. As mentioned above, if a student decides to take an AP course, they can choose to take the corresponding AP tests as well.

PSAT/NMSQT. Students can take the Preliminary SAT or National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test as early as their sophomore year of school, but many take it their junior year. The PSAT/NMSQT has two sections; math, and reading/writing. Scores for each section fall between 160 and 760.

Offered in October each year, the PSAT doesn’t impact college admissions like the SAT, but it can help students qualify for National Merit Scholarships if they receive a certain score. Students are not required to take the PSAT test, but it can be one way to prepare for the SATs and potentially qualify for scholarship.

SAT/ACT. Scores from either the SAT or ACT test are required by many colleges for admission. But, even if they’re not required by a college, a strong SAT or ACT score can help give a student a leg up in the application process.

Most high school students choose to take the SAT or ACT tests in the spring of their junior year or the fall of senior year. Both tests have certain quirks and strategies associated with them, so the key to getting a great score may mean lots of preparation.

Some juniors choose to take rigors in person prep courses or take several practice tests before sitting for the exam.

College prep

Juniors not only have more academic pressure on them and tests to prepare for, but many will add college prep to their extracurriculars. Whether that means spending weekends touring campuses or researching schools at night, finding a school that’s the right fit can take up a considerable amount of time.

There’s no one way to ensure the right fit for all students. Some may choose a campus-based on their desired degree, others for proximity to home or budget. No matter the motivator, finding the right school can take time.

Recommended: Ca$h Course: A Student’s Guide to Money

There’s no doubt junior year has a lot going on. The challenge comes not only from the rigor but also the pressure associated with making some big life choices. Freshman and sophomore year have their fair share of challenges, but junior year will test the habits of students — pushing them to work harder academically and personally.

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Company by U.S. News & World Report.


The Takeaway

Junior year challenges students to juggle their extracurricular activities, rigorous academic classes, and standardized testing, on top of applying for college. Figuring out a way to pay for college shouldn’t be another challenge. As early as junior year, students can start considering the cost of college, and the ways to pay for it.

Taking time to learn about student loans during college prep can help give juniors a better sense of what lies ahead of them. After applying for federal loans and aid, they might need to evaluate additional options to pay for their tuition. That could mean saving for college by picking up a part-time or summer job, or researching scholarships or grants that can help pay tuition. It’s important a student knows their full menu of options to pay for school before committing to any single strategy.

Another option available are private student loans. SoFi’s private student loans come with no fees and a simple online platform that allows students to repay their loans their way. It’s worth noting that students generally exhaust all other options before borrowing a private student loan.

Junior year may be the hardest year of high school, but student loans don’t have to be another hurdle.

Learn more about private student loan options offered by SoFi.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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