Tips and Advice

How important are extracurricular activities?

College Applications Tips

How do you create a college application that stands out from the crowd and invites offers of significant financial aid? 

First, maintain strong grades and standardized scores.  Continue to challenge yourself in school.  Second, write a killer essay—one that answers the question and shows who you are.  Third, have a great letter of recommendation.  Fourth, allow your passions to shine through your resume’.  Fifth, make sure your application is flawless--not typos or grammatical errors.
One of the most important factors that you want to consider beginning your freshman year is your résumé.  Throughout your four years of high school (and even earlier), participate in experiences that demonstrate your passions and your purpose. Push yourself with challenging classes and summer programs.  Prove that you are willing to contribute to the community by displaying exemplary community service.  Go the extra mile and take on various leadership roles, then do something significant. Find your focus. College admissions officers are looking for students who have a track record of perseverance, excellence, responsibility, initiative, creativity, and leadership.  Be involved in activities and organizations that make a difference.  Demonstrate your effectiveness through your accomplishments.  It’s not about being busy; it’s about being fruitful.

Be wise about how you spend your time.  Time is the most valuable nonenewable resource on the planet! God has given you your passions and abilities; it’s up to you to develop them.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  All of us can relate to a time when we had a dream, ,but didn’t know where to start.  Make each day count for Him.  If you follow on the opportunities, God will take care of the outcome (Matthew 7:7). 


Importance of Community Service Video


Standardized Test Tips

Register online at for the SAT Reasoning Test, the SAT 2 Subject Tests, and the CLEP tests. Register online at for the ACT Test.  Talk to your counselor about how to register for the PLAN, PSAT, and AP tests. Register at least 3 months in advance.  Ideally, you want to complete your standardized testing for the SAT and ACT between March and June of your junior year, but you can take these tests as late as  December of your senior year, and still be eligible for admission in the fall.  (Taking the test this late, however, may eliminate you from consideration for university-based financial aid.) 

The best way to prepare for a standardized test is to practice, practice, practice.  Purchase a book of ACT or SAT (or PSAT) practice tests.  Read the chapters to acquaint yourself with test-taking strategies.  Begin taking practice tests approximately two months prior to the test date.  At first, you may wish to take a section a day.  I do recommend, however, that you eventually take a full test (3 hours) at one sitting at least twice before the actual test date. 

Practice time management when you take the standardized test.  If you come to a time-consuming question, skip it and move on.  You gain as many points by answering an easy question as you do a hard one.  When you see that you have a minute or so left, start filling in answers with either ‘B’ or ‘C.’  The reason for this is that on the ACT,  no points are deducted for incorrect answers, and by filling in an answer, you have a 25% chance of gaining a point.  On the SAT Reasoning Test, ¼ point is deducted for each incorrect answer, but a full point is gained for each correct answer.  If you can eliminate one answer on the SAT test, you stand a 33% chance of getting a point versus having ¼ point deducted.  Please note that a stopwatch is not allowed in any standardized test, however, you can wear a wrist watch.  Additionally, the room proctor will usually announce a time warning. 

The night before your test, gather all your supplies:  your test ticket (which you should have printed off the registration site), a list of your preferred college codes, at least three sharpened pencils with erasers, an approved calculator, a jacket (in case the room is cold), and a drink or snack for the break.  Get plenty of sleep the night before the test.  On the morning of the test, ask the Lord for wisdom, eat a good breakfast, and give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the test site on time. 

If you do not score as well as you’d like, you can always retake the test.  Generally speaking, universities now consider a composite score for standardized tests.  This means that they will take the best score of each section (even if they were not taken on the same day) and utilize the total as your score. 

Instructions regarding other standardized tests are similar.  If you have any additional questions, please consult the test’s website.


Essay and Speech Competition Tips

 Many outside and university-based scholarships are based on writing.  Remember, when you choose a topic, don’t just say something; have something to say!  Personal examples are most powerful, followed closely by other anecdotes.  If it comes naturally, incorporate humor, but always be yourself. 

Always state your thesis at the beginning and end.  If possible, have a memorable outline for your essay or speech, perhaps using an acrostic or alliteration.  Quotes can serve as a good jumping-off point. 

 As you are writing, don’t judge your ideas.  Think outside of the box. Write clearly and concisely, and always stick to the time and word limits.  If you have writer’s block, just start writing and ask God for creativity.  Recognize what makes your productive—a particular time of day or place, certain tools, etc.  Sometimes it helps to write as much as you can, then put the work aside for a few days.  Come back to it later and rework it.  Polish, polish, polish!  Make every word count.  Have a teacher or your parent proofread for vague communication and grammatical errors. 

In any competition, simply do your best.  Develop your skills and glorify God.  He knows what you need from this opportunity—perhaps a lesson, perhaps humility, perhaps a prize.  Whatever the case, trust Him for the result.  Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for me, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”


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