Greetings Students and Families,

My message today continues to be the same – relax, and by remaining well- informed about all things related to college admissions and college planning, your student’s success will unfold seamlessly.  But what exactly is “success”? Success isn’t limited to your college admissions outcomes. Your experiences throughout high school define your success on both an academic and personal level.  The more “successful” you are at defining and being yourself, you’re more likely to ensure a seamless transition to your undergraduate community and beyond. We will talk more about that, but first, there’s been quite a bit of “hype” about the College Admissions process and I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify the information and provide you with a solid understanding of what’s relevant and what you can confidently disregard.

The College Admissions “Scandal”:  Don’t Worry!

The College Admissions process is complex and daunting enough without the ongoing hype to stress families of teens.  Following the news earlier this spring about an outrageous college admissions scandal, I wrote about why you should NOT be bothered, but instead STAY THE COURSE.  I encourage you to re-read my message and the information provided.  My clients play by the rules – earning their college acceptances through hard work, exploration and discovery throughout high school both within and outside the classroom.   I wrote at the time:  “If there’s a lesson we all can learn from here, it’s how this is not the way to move forward. Students who attempt one way or another of faking their way into college lose the passion that helps make them a great applicant, as well as the passion to turn their college years into a worthwhile growth experience. They feel no pride in their acceptance letters because they know it wasn’t their work being evaluated. Worse, they deprive themselves of an opportunity to discover themselves, their interests and their own growth during their high school years.”

What do Admissions Representative Consider?

In  WHAT DO ADMISSIONS OFFICERS CONSIDER IN YOUR COLLEGE APPLICATION?  and WHAT DO ADMISSIONS OFFICERS LOOK FOR IN STEM APPLICANTS?  , I spoke about the importance of experiences that allow each young adult to discover their academic and personal strengths. This is precisely what admissions representatives want to know about YOU beyond your transcript and test scores.  Many college essays require a response asking about why you’ve selected your major and a STEM student’s response is strongly emphasized on  STEM college applications.  Admissions and alumni representatives will ask you about the “problems” you want to address. Having impactful experiences throughout middle school and high school are essential to shaping young adults’ interests and understanding how to leverage academic and personal strengths to positively change communities on campus and post-graduation.

college marching band - extracurriculars can help with college admissions college admissions - remember to volunteer

College Admissions Acceptance Rates – Don’t Worry!

Yet if the college scandal wasn’t enough, as college acceptance rates were announced during March, I again asked readers to continue to remain informed and I wrote about some of the myths and dangers of obsessing over another round of historically low rates of College Acceptance.  In  2023 COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE RATES– IMPACT ON YOUR COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN?  , I clarified why these data points should not concern you and talked  about  how to find a college that best fits a student academically, socially and financially.  I encourage you to re-read the information so you’ll be able to remove the angst over these data and ignore unnecessary and alarming stories that plague your social medial feeds about college admissions acceptance rates, robbing your family of peace throughout the senior year.   Instead- build your EDUCATIONAL and COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN.

bonnie r. rabin, college admissions expert

The New SAT “Adversity Index – Don’t Worry- Be Happy!

The past few days you undoubtedly read about the latest SAT score – the “Adversity Index”  and I’m guessing  you are wondering what’s  all the hub-bub.   Well, let me try to explain how this affects your student and provide you with ALL the information you need to know about all things related to standardized testing and your college applications.  First and foremost, the latest “adversity score” is but a blip on the horizon of college applications. The only scores that matter are the actual academically related test results of the actual test taken on test day!  Even then—not always—hold that thought.

The College Board’s SAT “Adversity” score?

The College Board has derived a “score” that is based on an algorithm of 31 indices to provide insights on the “adversity” a student has encountered. In spirit, this is a sincere attempt to provide useful information to college admissions representatives. The measure is an attempt to enable colleges to more effectively realize intentions to diversify the campus community without directly considering applicants’ race or ethnicity.  I’m not going to dive into a discussion on testing as it relates to race. But I do want to talk about what the College Board has in mind in creating the new “adversity score” and hopefully leave you with one core message.  Given my experience serving on college admissions committees and as a current Cornell Alumni Admissions Rep, I am confident that  YOUR ADVERSITY “SCORE” WILL HAVE LITTLE OR NO IMPACT ON YOU IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE.   Please just ignore this- a very small number of students will benefit from the score. The vast majority of applicants will neither be harmed nor helped by the “Adversity Score” reported to colleges.

The data within the College Board’s “Environmental Context Dashboard”  attempts to pinpoint the complexities of ‘disadvantage’  through an index that factors in poverty,  neighborhood crime data and struggling schools.  There’s been no shortage of outcries that the measure isn’t going to remove race or achieve ethnic neutrality and my goal in this piece isn’t to debate that point one way or the other.  I want you to know what’s included, and why you don’t need to do anything differently nor concern yourself with the new measure.

HERE’s THE LINK to the College Board’s Explanation of the Environmental Context Index :  The Index Itself – As Explained by the College Board

The Adversity Score was initially rolled out as pilot program in 15 colleges, then expanded to 50 campuses. This year, 150 universities will participate- some were recruited and others volunteered.  According to College Board official Connie Betterton, vice president for higher education access and strategy at the College Board: “It came from requests from our members, a good number of whom work in states that prohibit the use of race in admissions.”

If you are bored or curious, you can click on the College Board link above and you’ll learn there are 31 data points aggregated into one measure to reflect social disadvantage across two broad categories: the student’s neighborhood and the student’s school. Note, there are no individual factors in the measure (seemingly –“adversity” might include personal family loss, conflict, tragedy, health- but given privacy issues—these measures would and should only be shared by the student if desired in personal college essays ( Click to Read: COMMON APP 2019-20 ESSAY PROMPTS: COLLEGE ESSAY HELP!.   ) None of the data points include race or ethnicity. According to the NY Times: “The goal is to find students who have transcended their environments by examining factors that are correlated, according to research, with lower academic achievement and lower lifetime earnings.”


After determining colleges that are a “best fit” – academically, socially and financially, you can determine the testing requirements for admission at the college’s website within the “admissions” tab or simply google “Standardized Testing Requirements—University of x – Undergraduate Admissions”.

Everything you need to know about the SAT and ACT !

sat preparation

Although both the College Board and ACT organizations schedule exam dates throughout the year, it’s about this time of year that test preparation begins in earnest and even a healthy amount of angst is felt over which tests to prepare for and understanding what’s required for colleges on your radar.

SAT, ACT–?! Don’t Worry- Be Happy!

First, I’d like to remove some of the stress you might be facing and redirect you to a website FAIR TEST listing colleges that place less emphasis on the SAT/ACT.   There are also many test optional and test flexible universities.  Test flexible campuses allow the student to replace the SAT/ACT with subject based exams including Subject Tests and AP exams.  DON’T WORRY! There are now more than 1000 Accredited Colleges and Universities  DE-EMPHASIZING ACT/SAT Scores to Admit Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor-Degree Programs.   

In my video, you’ll learn a bit more about the types of required standardized testing

Which format: ACT OR SAT?
All colleges will accept either test format.  Students are encouraged to explore both exams and take a practice test at home under test conditions.  If you’re working with a test preparation service/tutor, you should expect an assessment of testing formats with customized test preparation based on YOUR STUDENT’s needs.
If you would like to know which exams are required at a particular college,as noted above you’ll have to navigate into the “Application Requirements” link likely a challenge to find somewhere within the admissions tab of a college’s website. An easy way to locate this information is to Google:  “<Name of University> standardized testing requirements undergraduate admissions”/ Exams can vary across departments and schools within a given university.  For example, here’s the link to Cornell University Undergraduate Admissions Testing Requirements   requirements.

*** If your student finds the ACT acceptable, I prefer the ACT simply for a logistical reason.  SAT dates in May and June should be reserved for SATII Subject tests.  These subject exams are required at many of the more competitive colleges and the best time to take these is immediately following AP exams/end of the school year. Also, SATII subject tests can be submitted in lieu of SATI scores at test-flexible institutions.
Super Scoring and Score Choice options should relieve some of the stress over SAT/ACT scores.  Many colleges “superscore” which means that your application is evaluated on  a composite score based on the best sub-scores across different test dates.  This list can be found here:

Rising Juniors (Current Sophomores) – Class of 2021  – PSAT – Don’t Worry Be Happy!

The PSAT is also nothing to be terribly concerned about because this exam serves very little purpose beyond qualifying an exceedingly small number of students as National Merit Finalists.  Please don’t fret about this exam either.

The PSAT is NOT reported in your college applications.  However, if you are an 8th to 11th grade student, the PSAT is often and acceptable standardized test to submit for any competitive collegiate summer programs.

Testing Accommodations

The College Board received 157,000 requests for testing accommodations.  I recommend that students apply for their accommodation as soon as possible as this covers not only the SAT/ACT but your AP exams.
If you’re approved for a testing accommodation, it’s important that your tutor administer a diagnostic tool to determine which exam format is most suitable for you, as some exam formats align more effectively with specific learning disabilities.  Your test preparation should incorporate and adjust for your accommodations.  For example, if you have extra time, your tutor should be teaching you how to effectively leverage this accommodation to realize your full potential.
Please be aware that the ACT organization will only approve accommodations if the student has been professionally diagnosed and if the student receives the same  accommodations at high school.  ACT also requires students to register for a specific test date at the time you apply for the accommodations.
The College Board requires accommodation requests to be submitted seven weeks in advance of your test date. Please start the process early allowing for time for appeals if necessary.  While having your high school support (if not handle) your accommodation request is extremely helpful, it isn’t necessary. Parents can do so independent of the high school if necessary. There is no stigma with requesting accommodations and this information is NOT shared with college admissions records.

Testing anxiety is a genuine concern.  For some students, an accommodation can be invaluable to addressing and resolving test anxiety. Please speak to your family physician for a referral to a licensed psychologist specializing in evaluation and providing the support you need to create the appropriate accommodations not only for testing but for success throughout high school.
Accommodations such as extended time, isolated test taking or keyboarding are provided for a variety of situations including ADHD, executive function disorders, physical disabilities such as visual processing or handwriting, and mood/anxiety disorders including test taking anxiety.
It’s certainly not uncommon for students to feel uneasy at exam time; but some students have experienced actual test anxiety which inhibits the student from performing to the best of their abilities as a result of cognitive and/or physiological responses to their anxiety. A licensed psychologist should be consulted to diagnose testing anxiety and create a plan for treatment allowing the student to feel empowered about the outcome and situation.  Preparing for exams and relaxation strategies will help students with test anxiety. Your psychologist should and can coordinate with your tutor.
Whether you’re ready to write your college essays or just beginning to research colleges and majors, or perhaps you want to create a customized summer reading plan to explore or deepen an academic/personal interest, I invite you to contact me to schedule your Educational and College Planning Assessment available for current seniors and all middle and high school students
Best wishes for a strong finish to your school year, and a restful and meaningful summer vacation!
Bonnie Rabin, PhD
Professor Emeritus & Cornell Alumni Representative
Educational and College Admissions Advisor
In-Person South Florida- Boca Raton  & Nationwide by Online Platforms
Call:  833-MY-ESSAY or 561.509.0021