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ACT vs. SAT: Which Do Colleges Prefer?

Ambitious high school students do everything they can to stand out amongst the very crowded crowd of college applicants. Standardized testing is just one of many challenging hoops students have to jump through on their way to higher education. Which is why some students and their parents may be wondering exactly where their dream colleges stand on the age old issue of ACT vs SAT.

While in many ways the ACT and SAT are similar exams, they have some differing factors and their importance weighs differently depending on the college or university of your choice. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between these tests, which one you should take, and how colleges feel about these two exams.

Purpose, Structure, and Cost

The SAT and ACT are two exams that serve the same purpose. Colleges utilize both exams to determine admission and award merit-based scholarships. Both tests are similar in length and structure, with the SAT taking three hours (without essay) and 3 hours, 50 minutes (with essay to complete). The ACT takes 2 hours, 55 minutes (without essay) and 3 hours, 40 minutes (with essay) to complete.

The SAT has multiple pricing options based on what parts of the exam the student chooses to take. For the 2020-2021 school year, the base price, which includes the main sections of math and reading/writing, costs $52.00. Adding on the optional essay portion of the exam brings the cost to an additional $68.00. Note that starting in the 2021 school year, the essay portion will only be offered as a part of a state’s accountability assessment program.

The cost may rise if a student enrolls in the exam during the late registration period, opts to sign up via phone, or alters an existing registration. Being admitted to a school via the wait list also incurs extra fees, as do regional fees for students taking the SATs outside of the United States. Included in the registration fees are the option to send scores to four schools for free (for up to nine days after the test), but sending the scores to multiple colleges costs more. As does rush ordering scores or electing to verify a score.

When applying for college, exams are some of the unexpected costs students will incur. During the 2020-2021 school year, the ACT exam costs $55 to take (without the essay portion) to $70 (with the essay portion). This cost covers taking the exam and includes reports for the exam taker, their high school, and up to four colleges.

Additional fees may occur for late registration, standby testing, changing the date or center of your test, or sending scores to a fifth and sixth college. Requesting additional score reports, test information release, and telephone re-registration also involves paying extra fees.

The Subject Matter

These two exams cover similar subject matter and include an optional essay portion, although there are some key differences worth noting when it comes to preparing to take these exams. The main difference between the ACT and SAT subject matter is that the ACT has a “science reasoning” section of the exam, whereas the SAT doesn’t.

However, both exams cover topics relating to math reading, and writing type subjects. More specifically, the SAT covers “reading” and “writing and language,” and the ACT covers “English” and “reading.”

Both exams have an optional essay portion. The SAT is designed to test a student’s comprehension of a source text. The ACT on the other hand looks at how the exam taker evaluates and analyzes complex issues.

When it comes to the mathematics portion of the exam, the SAT focuses on arithmetic, algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry, and data analysis. The ACT tests students on their arithmetic, algebra I and II, geometry, trigonometry, and probability and statistics knowledge. Each exam has differing calculator policies. For the ACT, students can use their calculator for all math questions. Whereas with the SAT, only select math questions allow calculator usage.

How Each Exam is Scored

Both the SAT and ACT have unique scoring systems. Here’s a bit of information on each.

How the SAT is Scored

The SAT is scored on a scale of 400 to 1600. Breaking down the scoring process a bit further, the SAT has not just a “total score,” but “section scores.” Each of the main sections, reading/writing and math, may be scored up to 800 points. These scores are then combined for the total.

If an exam taker chooses to complete the essay portion of the exam, the score received for the essay will not contribute to the total score and will appear separately on the final report. The essay will still receive a score that measures a student’s reading, analysis, and writing abilities. Each of those skills will receive a score ranging from 2 to 8.

Last but not least, students will receive subscores, evaluating their performance of certain or subject areas. These scores are included as a part of the total score, but this breakdown can be insightful for students looking to retake the test and improve their skill set.

How the ACT is Scored

The ACT is scored on a scale of one to 36. The ACT scoring system begins by taking into account how many questions a student answers correctly. The “raw scores” which represent the number of correct answers on each test are then converted to “scale scores.” Each subject section—English, Math, Reading, and Science—receives a scale score.

The “composite score,” which ranges from one to 36, is an average of each subject test, rounded to the nearest whole number. The scoring process is completed after identifying the percentage of correctly answered questions.

Do Colleges Prefer the ACT or SAT?

When it comes to determining if colleges prefer the ACT or the SAT exam, there is no one clear answer. Many people believe that the SAT is more popular, especially with elite colleges, but that is a higher education urban legend.

While some schools require students to take either the SAT or ACT, many accept both scores equally. Double check with your top college choices to see which exam scores they accept.

There is some thought that the region of a college may indicate the preference of an exam. College Raptor analyzed the numbers of students who applied to colleges with ACT or SAT scores (numbers that colleges and universities report to the government) and found that some states lean more in one direction towards ACT or SAT. For example, Wisconsin leans heavily towards an ACT preference, where 95.27% of applicants submitted ACT scores.

Knowing Which Test to Take

While some students opt to take both the SAT or ACT, some choose just one in order to focus on preparing for the test they believe they are more likely to score higher on. Neither test is generally easier than the other, but some students may find their different structures suit their needs better.

The ACT is considered by some to be more appealing to students with strong English skills as the exam focuses more on verbal skills, whereas the SAT may be a better fit for those who excel in math.

Taking a full-length practice test of each exam can give students a better idea of which test they’ll score higher on. Once they’ve determined which is a better fit, they can spend their time and resources preparing for just one test instead of two. For students who feel comfortable preparing for and taking both exams, doing so can be beneficial as they will have two scores to choose between to send to colleges.

Paying for College

The options don’t stop after a student completes the test (or tests) of their choice. Once they use their amazing scores to get into the college of their dreams, they and their parents will be left with making some pretty big decisions to make, especially when it comes to paying for college. Luckily, there are options at help offset the out of pocket costs. Once those are exhausted, students can apply for private student loans and or parent loans.

There will be acceptance offers to consider, financial aid packages to unravel, and cost comparisons for each potential school. That’s why SoFi teamed up with Edmit to offer access to Edmit Plus which can help students estimate their financial aid options, compare the cost of attendance, and learn more about the merit aid and scholarships available to them.

Some students may find that even after options like federal student loans and scholarships, there is still a gap in paying for college. Private student loans are one option available to students looking to pay for their education.

At SoFi, private student loans are fee free and offer borrowers four repayment options to choose from. Potential borrowers can find out if they pre-qualify online and have the option to add a cosigner.

Learn more about how Edmit Plus can help you navigate the process of paying for college or find out more about using SoFi private student loans to help pay for college.



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.
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.
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 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.

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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3 Benefits of Taking AP Classes in High School

High school is the first time many young students are able to make choices around their education. What language do they want to learn? What sport do they want to play? Would they rather learn to cook or take intro to psychology as their elective?

Choices can be fun, but they can also be overwhelming, especially when a teenager is trying to make the best choices to prepare for college.

Many students consider taking AP classes in high school, and for good reason. So let’s take a look at what AP classes are, what the benefits of taking them are, and how they can affect a student’s college experience.

What are AP Classes?

AP stands for “advanced placement” and AP classes prepare students for college, by giving them college-level work during high school. Their dedication is awarded accordingly, as they can earn college credit and placement by taking corresponding AP exams.

One of the primary motivators for enrolling in AP classes is they prepare students to take and pass AP exams. Students who earn qualifying AP scores on these exams can receive credits from most colleges and universities in the United States.

Depending on their high school’s offerings, students can enroll in one or more of the 38 AP classes that cover a variety of subject matters such as arts, languages, sciences, mathematics, and literature.

In order to enroll in an AP class, there may be prerequisite classes that students must take first. It’s recommended that even if students meet the required qualifications in order to take an AP class, that they consider carefully if they are prepared to take a college level course.

The three main benefits of taking AP classes in high school relate to saving money, becoming a more competitive college applicant, and preparing for success in college.

Benefit #1: Saving Money on College Tuition

AP classes will take up a lot of a student’s time in high school but can also save time, and money, down the line in college. When a student receives a high score on an AP exam, the college they attend in the future may give the student credit that cancels out the need to take a similar college class.

Some schools may offer advanced placement instead, which allows the student to effectively test out of introductory level courses in the specific subject, but may not be counted toward credit.

Policies vary by school, but the more AP exams a student passes, the more credits they may be able to earn. These credits could allow college students to skip classes which could save them a semester of attending an introductory English literature or Spanish class. Add up enough of these credits and students can shave off an entire semester or more of their time spent at college.

Note that the policy on AP scores will vary from school to school, and not all schools offer credit for AP classes. Some schools may require a four or five on the AP exam in order to qualify for credit, while others may accept a three.

Students can use AP credits to their financial advantage in two ways. They can either graduate early which will save money on tuition, fees, and living expenses. Or, they can take lighter course loads across a four year period and can make time to take a part-time job or could add a second major or minor.

At the very least, students could avoid paying for textbooks or lab fees in classes that they have already mastered the subject matter.

Benefit #2: Making Your College Application More Competitive

When students apply for college, they work hard to put their best foot forward and to prove that they will thrive once they land on campus in the fall. College admissions departments carefully comb through transcripts, test scores, and personal essays to see if students will not only be a good fit at their school, but to ensure the student has every chance of succeeding once they enroll.

This is one of the reasons AP classes can be beneficial to high school students. When a student thrives in an AP class, they are essentially thriving in a college class. Before an AP student arrives at college, they will clearly understand what will likely be expected of them, how rigorous the course work can be, and what steps they need to take to succeed academically.

Alongside proving preparation, AP students could receive a bit of a grade point average (GPA) boost if they earn good grades. Some high schools, but not all, will give more weight to AP grades than normal ones. For example, receiving a B in an AP class may provide as many points towards their GPA as if they earned an A in the non-AP version of the class.

Benefit #3: Prepare For College Better

Taking an AP course is akin to taking an actual college course, which can help students get a taste for college. If structured properly, an AP course should give high school students a preview of what skills they need to succeed in a college class and what the workload might look like.

Learning to manage time properly, developing strong research and analytic skills, and covering material more quickly in an AP class can be helpful preparation for the rigors of college life.

Taking AP classes can also help students identify their interests and passions which may lead them to the right college. Having a preview of what it would be like to study French, Psychology, or Chemistry in college can help guide students during the application process towards schools that have strong programs in their chosen area of interest.

College Financing Options

When it comes to paying for college, there are a lot of different options available to students. Scholarships, grants, and federal financial aid are all options to help a student pay for college.

But, figuring out what you qualify for and how to apply can be overwhelming. That’s why SoFi teamed up with Edmit to offer a tool that can help students estimate financial aid awards, compare the cost of attendance at different schools, and can help students learn more about their merit aid and scholarship options.

For students and parents that need extra help covering the cost of attending college, student loans are a potential option. There are two types of student loans, federal and private.

With federal loans, when it comes time to pay back the loan, there is a fixed interest rate which can make it easier to predict payments post-graduation. If you take out a subsidized federal loan, the government may pay the interest on those loans while the student is in school.

Private loans may have a fixed interest rate, or a variable interest rate which means payments may rise over time. These types of loans often have higher interest rates than federal loans. SoFi, for example, offers no-fee private student loans that can help students pay for the cost of higher education.

Students can complete the application online to see if they pre-qualify and what rates they may be eligible for in a matter of minutes. SoFi offers flexible repayment plans which can help borrowers find the right repayment option for them.

Learn more about how to pay for college with Private Student Loans 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.

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.
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.
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 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.

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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5 Tips if You Are Nervous About College

Big life changes can mean a lot of excitement and also a lot of nervousness. It’s normal to feel both happy and anxious about starting college. Students should know that they’re not alone in these feelings, in 2018, the American College Health Associate found that 63% of college students felt anxiety in the past year. They also found that the biggest increase in feelings of anxiety were during the first year of college. It’s a new experience and there can be a lot of pressure involved. It may be the first time that many students leave home and are surrounded by new people.

So, not only is feeling nervous about college normal, it’s also manageable. For high school students still getting ready for college, here are 5 tips that may help ease the nerves.

Making a List and Packing Early

To lessen anxiety, preparation is key! For students that are planning to live on campus, packing can feel like a monumental task. It’s already stressful to imagine living away from home, and on top of that students don’t want to forget anything important.

One of the best ways to help ensure a smooth transition is to make a list early and start packing ahead of time. When dealing with a large task, it helps to break it down into smaller pieces that are easier to tackle.

For example, students who are nervous for college could break up their packing list into sections like clothing, school supplies, and living essentials. Even just taking the small step of making the lists could ease some of the worries.

Students that are expecting to move to college in August or September may want to start making their list at the beginning of summer. This gives them plenty of time to research what they need and order anything they don’t have.

Some schools will provide guidelines for packing and lists of items that are prohibited on campus, so it can be worth checking the website or contacting residential life. Once students know what they’ll need to purchase, they can go through the items they already have and make a list of which of these are coming with them, and which items are staying behind with mom and dad.

There will be some items that students can’t pack early, it would be inconvenient to have to get the toothbrush out of the suitcase every morning, but there are still plenty of things they can begin packing a few weeks in advance.

Depending on the weather where students are moving to, they can start by packing the clothing they know they won’t need to wear for the next few weeks. If it’s currently warm, start packing up those winter clothes!

This is one task that high school students not ready for college can tackle early on to build some confidence and feelings of preparedness.

Learn About Independent Living

Students who are planning to go away for college should spend time before they go learning what they can about living independently. This can cover a wide range of tasks, such as learning how to cook, how to make a doctor’s appointment, and how to use public transportation. It could help students to work with their parents to make a list of tasks that the students need to get familiar with.

Some ways to get ready for college and living on their own can include:

•   Gathering a list of important phone numbers and addresses and entering them into their phones. (Doctors office, school counselor, roommate, etc.)
•   Making a few simple meals so they feel confident in the kitchen.
•   Practicing household chores like doing laundry and dishes if they don’t already.

If students are nervous about finding their way around campus, it may be helpful to explore the campus before classes start and find their classes.

For students who will be attending an online school, they will need to develop extra self-discipline and get familiar with online programs like Zoom, if they’re not already. Doing this ahead of time could help minimize the stress of trying to log on the first time.

Developing Coping Skills

Students who are feeling nervous or anxious about beginning college can take the time before classes start to develop coping skills that will help them manage those feelings. Setting up a self-care routine that includes taking care of physical and mental health can help students manage the stress of college more easily.

Parents can also get involved in this process by sharing the coping skills that work for them and providing emotional support. Teens who know their parents are supportive are more likely to open up and actually use that support.

Knowing that their parents had similar struggles will help students to feel less alone as well. If parents have coping skills that they use, this could be a good time to educate their children on those and encourage them to practice using them before school starts.

Asking Questions

Sometimes, not knowing what to expect can contribute to feelings of anxiety, but this can be minimized by asking questions. One way that students can potentially combat this fear is by asking questions. Students who have family members that went to college or are currently in college, may want to set aside time to chat with them about their experiences.

High school guidance counselors can also be helpful in preparing students for college and easing their nerves.

There may also be an opportunity to go on a campus tour and ask questions there. High school students nervous about college may also benefit from attending their college’s orientation, so they show up on their first week prepared. Asking questions from others who’ve been to college will take away some of the scary mystery of the experience and may increase feelings of preparedness for high schoolers.

Focusing on the Positives

Is college going to be tough? Of course! The classes will be more intense than high school level classes, and there will certainly be an adjustment period. In addition to these things though, there are also a lot of positives. College will give students opportunities to meet new people, learn about themselves, and have fun!

Some students may be overwhelmed at first at the prospect of making friends on a large campus, but there are a lot of clubs and organizations that students can join. Getting involved in extracurricular activities can help students to form friendships and build a support system that may make their college experience more positive.

It may be a challenging four years, with adjusting to adult life and tackling finals every semester, but college can also be fun. High schoolers can help ease their nerves by embracing this aspect of college as well. Having a more realistic and blanched view of the experience may help them enter into it with less apprehension.

Paying For College

Another source of anxiety when it comes to preparing for college is the finances. College can be expensive, and figuring out how to pay for tuition, books, and living expenses is a confusing process. There are multiple options that students can utilize to help cover the cost of their education though.

The FAFSA®, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allows students to apply for federal student aid. This aid can come in the form of grants or federal student loans. Grants from the government usually do not need to be repaid, whereas loans do need to be repaid.

Students who are eligible take out federal grants and loans may benefit from doing so before looking into private student loans. Federal loans come with certain benefits, such as deferment, that private loans do not.

If students are not eligible for federal aid or the aid isn’t enough to cover their costs, applying for scholarships is another option. Scholarships are widely available and the eligibility criteria varies for each scholarship. Some scholarships are need-based whereas some are merit-based. There are usually many scholarships available, offered from a wide variety of sources such as schools, private corporations, community organizations, religious groups, and more.

Taking out private student loans is another option for helping to fund a college education. The eligibility for private loans will usually depend on a students credit history and income. When considering private student loans, students should remember that each institution will have its own terms for the loans.

It’s recommended to research and compare before choosing an institution. Learning about student loans can be really confusing but SoFi has information made just for high schoolers, so they can start preparing early on.

Whether it’s anxiety about finals, making friends, or paying for tuition, students should keep in mind that these feelings are both normal and manageable. College can be a great life experience as long as students prepare well and ask for help when they need it.

High school students who are ready to start their research can look into a private student loan with 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.

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.
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.
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 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.

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.

SOPS20081

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Do Your SAT Scores Really Matter for College?

During the 2018-2019 school year, almost 50 accredited universities and colleges announced plans to drop the SAT requirement for admissions. All in all, over 1,000 high-education institutions in the US have dropped the requirement. But, according to CollegeBoard, 2.2 million students took the SATs in 2020.

The SAT might be dropping as a requirement for admissions consideration, but the number has an impact beyond just getting into a school. Read on to learn how SAT requirements are changing, but why the score is still as important as ever.

How SAT Requirements Are Changing

The number of colleges dropping SAT scores from admission consideration is growing. However, policies change from school to school and from admission year to admission year, so students might want to double and triple-check before assuming that their dream school doesn’t want to see their standardized test score.

While some schools no longer consider their applicants’ SAT scores at all, others are making it easier to put your best foot forward with scores. Many colleges and universities, including the common application, now allow applicants to submit their SAT superscore.

An SAT superscore is an applicant’s highest Math, Evidence-Based Reading and Writing scores added together. It’s the highest section scores, instead of the overall score of one test.

For some, this takes off some of the pressure of standardized testing. It means if a student feels off on one section, they can use a higher score from a previous test to get their best score possible.

Another big change around schools accepting SAT scores actually revolves around the SAT subject tests. Once more commonly required by competitive universities, the SAT subject tests are more optional than they once were.

Some schools are moving toward a more flexible policy on subject tests, while others, including MIT, are omitting the requirement completely.

However, submitting subject tests is still “strongly encouraged” by schools like Penn, Georgetown, Princeton, and others. Applicants should consider reading each school’s requirements thoroughly to ensure they’re submitting their most complete application. The more information a student provides in an application, the more likely the admissions board can get a full picture of them.

If an applicant feels particularly strong in a few subjects, they might be able to use that to their advantage. Some schools now accept SAT subject tests instead of an SAT score. These flexible test guidelines, used at Colorado College in addition to other schools, allow students to submit AP test scores, SAT subject test scores, and IB scores instead of the traditional SAT or ACT scores.

Requirements around submitting SAT scores are not as strict as they once were. Students have the option of picking and choosing their best section scores to create a superscore, or they might even be able to take the SAT subject tests in lieu of the SATs. What’s more, some schools no longer require standardized testing at all to be considered.

These policies could help give students who don’t perform as well in standardized testing a leg up in the application process, but all applicants should consider reading over requirements at each school carefully.

How SAT Scores Still Matter

Colleges and universities might be changing their guidelines about requiring SAT scores, but standardized tests still matter not only in the admissions process but beyond.

Here are some reasons why the SAT and a student’s score still matters:

•  Avoiding the SAT could limit options. A student’s target school might not require an SAT score, but what about their safety or reach options? Bypassing the SAT test altogether could end up limiting a student in where they can apply to schools. With no test score at all, they may be limited to schools that don’t require an SAT score, potentially missing out on another great option for them. Forgoing the SAT test completely could mean dramatically cutting off a student’s options before the application process even begins.
•  Considered, but not required. Some schools no longer require SAT scores for applicants, but will still consider them if submitted. Sharing SAT scores can help give admissions officers a more comprehensive picture of the applicant. In addition, if the school is particularly competitive, a strong standardized test score could help a student stand out.
•  Scholarship eligibility. Some universities and nonprofits require an SAT score when applying for merit scholarships. Without an SAT score, applicants might be ineligible, losing on an opportunity to get funding for education.
•  They’re just a piece of the puzzle. SAT scores aren’t the only thing college admission boards consider. They’ll also look at a student’s GPA, extracurriculars, essays, recommendations, and more. No applicant is just a number, and the SAT score is only one small part of a student’s profile. Oftentimes, the score serves only as a screening tool in the beginning and is considered less and less the further a student progresses in the admissions process.
•  Testing out of college courses. Applicants might not need SAT scores to apply to a school, but providing them might make them eligible to test out of core classes . In some schools, SAT scores might determine placement into, or out of 101 classes all students are required to take. Testing out of these courses could lead to graduating faster or spending less on higher education.

While students might not need an SAT score to get into their dream school, preparing for and taking a standardized test could help them secure admission, scholarships, and entry into higher-level courses.

Another Number that Matters: Financing Your Tuition

A student’s SAT score isn’t the only number they’ll have to consider during the admissions process. Another important figure is the cost of tuition, and students will have to start thinking of how they can pay for their education.

On top of federal student loans and scholarships, students might consider private student loans. SoFi’s private student loans offer easy, fee-free private student loans that students can repay their way with flexible repayment options in addition to competitive rate parent student loans.

In a partnership with Edmit, SoFi is providing members access to Edmit Plus for free. Edmit’s data-driven tools help students determine the value of education, and which school might be the right fit. Edmit Plus includes:

•   Personalized scholarship and merit estimates
•   Recommendations and reports for school using data-driven insights
•   Tools for financial planning
•   Post-graduate planning tools, including salary estimates by major and industry

The importance of SAT scores vary school by school, but every student will likely need to consider how they can finance their education. Learn more about the resources available with SoFi.

Interested in a private student loan? Apply for one with SoFi today!



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.

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.
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.
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 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.

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.

SOPS20007

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What to Expect at College Orientation

Finally, a summer full of goodbyes, shopping for dorm room essentials, and anticipation is coming to an end. College orientation is an exciting initiation into freshman year and an opportunity to learn about extracurricular activities, make friends, and get acclimated to your new surroundings.

While it may span just a few days or a week in total, college orientation is packed with information and experiences that can set you up for success over the next four years.

Planning ahead and diving into the details of the orientation schedule is just one of many ways to prepare for college. Although every school operates differently, here are some key college orientation tips and things to expect when you arrive on campus.

When Does Orientation Take Place?

Some college orientations happen in the middle of summer before classes, while others take place right before the beginning of the semester. The earlier variety are typically conducted in smaller groups and may be organized separately for specific programs or majors.

Midsummer orientations often give students the opportunity to stay in the dorms ahead of moving to campus. This can be a useful test run to get acquainted with the dorm life and mingle with fellow incoming students.

What Is an Orientation Schedule Like?

Once the college orientation schedule is available, look out for which parts are mandatory, such as taking a student ID photo and registering for classes, and any social, extracurricular, and informational activities that sound interesting or helpful.

College orientation is a time to make friends and get acquainted with college life, but knowing where the dining hall, laundry room, student transportation, and other services are located also comes in handy.

Having a game plan for the orientation schedule also presents an opportunity to invite new acquaintances to attend an event or activity together. At the same time, allowing yourself to go with the flow a bit might alleviate some of the stress.

Compared to a strictly regulated high school schedule, college students are given much more discretion in making decisions for themselves. While this newfound freedom can be liberating, it can present challenges for balancing academic responsibilities with the fun, social aspects of college.

Orientation is a chance to get acclimated before the pressure of staying on top of schoolwork arises.

Due to COVID-19, the incoming class of 2024 is facing an unprecedented situation that will require some, if not all, college orientation activities to take place online. Be sure to check your college’s website to find out more information.

What Happens at Orientation?

The full scope of college orientation will vary by institution. However, there will likely be a mix of instructional and social activities to round out each day. Some topics that are typically covered include:

•   School rules, policies, and code of conduct.
•   Meetings with an academic or department advisor.
•   Guided tour of campus.
•   Skits and role-play activities.
•   Ice breakers with a residential advisor and dorm floormates.

While some sessions may feel tedious, making a good first impression on a residential advisor, professor, and peers can be invaluable.

Learning About Extracurricular Activities and Campus Life

College orientation usually includes a range of informational and fun activities to introduce students to campus activities. Many student clubs and organizations have tables at orientation or early in the semester to meet and attract incoming students.

Depending on school size and culture, the number of offerings and niches can be vast compared to high school, including intramural sports, Greek life, theater troupes, and culture clubs.

Learning the Lay of the Land

After the guided tour, memorizing how to get to the dining hall, student center, and your classrooms will save lots of time and potential embarrassment from being late on the first day of classes. Classrooms may be organized by department in different buildings across campus.

During college orientation, students may be able to join group outings to explore their college town or sign up for guided shopping trips to pick up groceries, cleaning supplies, and other dorm essentials.

Moving Into the Dorms

At colleges that hold orientation directly before the beginning of the semester, students may be able to sign up in advance for a block of time to park and transport their belongings into their dorm room.

With many students and families arriving on the same day, the scene can be a bit of a frenzy. Keep an eye out for registration emails prior to orientation to snag a good move-in time.

Mid to late morning is a safe bet to get ahead of the crowds and summer heat. Also, packing efficiently can save time and stress on this special occasion.

Beyond studying and sleeping, dorms are a social hive for freshmen students. A helpful college orientation tip: Setting up a welcoming, furnished dorm room is a great way to prepare for movie nights and parties with newfound friends.

Downtime for Socializing

The orientation schedule tends to wind down in the afternoon and early evening, allowing students plenty of time to hang out and get to know each other. Keeping that in mind may help resist the urge to skip important orientation sessions to meet up with new roommates and friends.

What About Parents and Family?

Although it’s full of excitement and new horizons, this moment can feel bittersweet for students, parents, and other family members. To honor the occasion, many colleges incorporate group activities, lunches, and festivities for students and families to partake in together during the first day or two of orientation.

Before saying goodbyes, parents and family members may be able to join a separate orientation to prepare them for the transition. Usually, these sessions are intended to provide guidance to support students and offer insight into their child’s life at college.

Also, they are an opportunity to meet other families and learn about resources and noteworthy events, such as family weekend and homecoming.

Paying for College

College orientations may also offer sessions about navigating the financial aid system. Tuition, books, and other educational costs aren’t cheap, and everyone’s financial situation is different.

Financial aid sessions may cover aid distribution dates, when tuition is due, how to pay tuition, and how to add money to student accounts for incidentals. Parents and students may want to attend this session together to ask questions that come up during the discussion.

Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to pay for higher education. In addition to saving for college ahead of time, there are several options to consider when creating a plan.

Scholarships

Scholarships are awarded to students by community organizations, private foundations, nonprofits, colleges, and other groups. The criteria for earning a scholarship are also diverse, though many focus on academic achievement, financial need, or program of study.

According to Sallie Mae’s “How Americans Pay for College” 2019 report, approximately 82% of college students received scholarship money during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Many scholarship applications open before college starts, though there may be additional opportunities once college begins. Researching scholarships in your hometown and college is a great place to start.

Online resources, such as collegeboard.org and chegg.com keep an updated list of scholarships as well. Applying early for scholarships may be an advantage, as some large awards may have early deadlines. For instance, some scholarships stop accepting applications during the fall for distribution the next school year.

Grants

Like scholarships, grants are financial awards given to students to pay for their education—they do not have to be repaid. The main difference is that grants are usually based on need instead of academic merit. Undergraduate students may be eligible to apply for the federal Pell Grant Program or state-wide grant opportunities .

Work-Study

Many college students pick up a part-time job to help pay tuition and living expenses. One way to secure work is through Federal Work-Study , a program that employs qualified college and graduate students in on- or off-campus jobs. Pay varies, but participants will earn at least minimum wage.

Work-study eligibility is based on several factors, including family income and enrollment status, and is offered as part of a student’s financial aid package.

A job is not guaranteed even if work-study is awarded. Early application is key because a school’s program funds may be limited and jobs are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

Student Loans

Whether or not you receive a scholarship, grant, or work-study, there are several student loan options you might want to consider applying for.

Federal student loans , which are either subsidized or unsubsidized, are offered as part of a student’s financial aid package. The key difference is that subsidized student loans are allocated according to financial need and include grace periods, and interest deferment in specific situations.

Unsubsidized student loans are not based on financial need, and borrowers are responsible for paying the interest beginning once the loan funds are distributed. While the interest on unsubsidized student loans can be deferred, it will accrue and be added to the balance of the loan.

Private student loans from banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions may help fill any remaining gaps in paying for college. These loans are not subsidized or need-based, and their interest rates and terms can vary.

Exhausting all federal student loan options before exploring private loans is recommended, as federal loans have repayment and consolidation options that are not available to private student loans.

SoFi’s private student loans have an online application, and students find out if they are pre-qualified in a matter of minutes. Repayment plans for no-fee loans are flexible, so borrowers can choose what works best for their budgets.

Learn more about private student loans today with SoFi.



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