Preparing for College

Raising PSAT Scores

Question (from 10th grader): Is there anything that I could do to raise my PSAT scores? I took them this fall and got a 550 on the math and 600 on the verbal. I also want to know how important AP classes are for top colleges -- I am taking US History AP next year, but am considering taking AP Chemistry, which would be quite a stretch for me (my grades are good in math but it's not my best subject). I might take accelerated chemistry, but would that not look as good on applications? Does it look better if you go to a state or Ivy League school if you are planning to be in prelaw? (The $ difference IS incredible)!!!

You can raise both your PSAT and SAT I scores by studying the same materials. You can take an expensive SAT-prep course for $600-800 or you can buy self study guides (Princeton Review's is my favorite) and save a lot of money, if you're willing to do the work yourself. Also, get College Board's "10 Real SATs" and practice with actual tests. That's probably the best book to go along with the study guides.

If you want to go to the Ivy League or other top colleges, you'll have to take the hardest courses your school offers and do well in them. That includes the AP exams. The one thing you have to keep in mind if you decide to "go Ivy" is that your competition will be simply amazing. So, the answer for you is not to take the easier of two paths. Even though there has been some talk lately about non-AP courses being just as acceptable as APs, my opinion is that if a senior is going to apply to an Ivy or other elites, s/he must have an outstanding high school course record. And, of course, that includes lots of APs and good class and test scores.

As for law school admission, many state school grads go to law school every year. Having an Ivy degree doesn't guarantee law school admission. The point: Find your best matched college, regardless of "prestige." Then do your best work. Your reward will be commensurate with your labors, most times.