The College Savvy Coach

Sia Knight

The College Savvy Coach - Sia Knight

Announcing “The Truth Behind the New SAT”, Now on Udemy

Truth 2

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of “The Truth Behind the SAT“, an online Udemy course.

The Truth Behind the SAT″ is a comprehensive guide to the upcoming changes to the SAT.

In this course we cover:

  • An overview of the current SAT
  • Why the College Board has decided to make changes
  • A comparision of the current test with the revamped version of the test
  • A summary of what all of the changes mean to you

If you want to have an competitive edge in the college admissions process, take this course.  Also, make sure that you tell your friends and leave a review!


For High School Seniors – March Madness is Here!

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

It’s time for March Madness. There’s no doubt that there will be astonishing highs and unprecedented lows.  Unexpected underdogs will emerge victorious and surprises will be plentiful.

Although the nation is familiar with the frenzy over basketball this time of year, the March Madness that I am referring to has nothing to do with basketball.  In fact, I am talking about high school seniors during the college admissions process.

There are three reasons that this time of year is particularly maddening for high school seniors:

1. Seniors are receiving news about college acceptance – During this time of year, high school seniors all over the country are receiving admissions decisions from their intended schools. Some students who have not thoughtfully applied to college are rethinking their choices.

2.  Students are starting to deal with the financial reality of college costs – After filing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in the early part of the year, students are starting to receive detailed information about the amount and type of aid for which they are eligible.  Some students are underwhelmed by the award letter that they have received.

3. Despite senioritis setting in, 12th graders have to struggle with the fact that grades are still important – Several times in my career, I have been approached by universities inquiring about a senior’s third quarter grades, to the great dismay of these students.

For many seniors, it’s too late.  However, in order for underclassmen to avoid the unfortunate fate of March Madness, take these three steps:

1.  Apply to a variety of different schools – Make sure that applications are sent to not only reach schools, but also to schools for which you fit the academic profile.

2.  Use the winter of senior year to apply for scholarships – Don’t wait until you receive an unfavorable Student Aid Report (SAR) before college finances are seriously considered.

3.  Pay close attention to course selection and academic performance during senior year – Don’t fall prey to the long-held myth that 12th grade is of little importance in the college admission process.  Actions and decisions during the final year of high school can have lasting effects on  a student’s college aspirations.

If underclassmen follow all of the advice above, they are destined to be champions in the college admissions process.


Have you heard—I’m now accepting students into my 5 Factors That Set You Apart in College Admission course! Join me here now for 63% off:

RIP to the SAT (or at least to the old version)

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporation

On Wednesday, The College Board dropped a proverbial bomb on families around the world when it announced that they were making big changes to the SAT.  These changes (due to be implemented in 2016) are intended to facilitate a shift to a more practical test that truly measures whether or not students are ready for college-level work.

Also noteworthy is that the new format and content of the SAT (below), in my opinion, brings it much closer to its mid-West rival the ACT.  (Click here to take a look at the current differences between the SAT and ACT).


Compare the current SAT to the redesigned SAT to see what’s changing.

Current SAT

Redesigned SAT

Reading and writing sections do not require students to cite evidence. Evidence-based reading and writing.
Source documents do not represent a wide range of academic disciplines. Source documents originate from a wide range of academic disciplines.
Vocabulary focused on words that are sometimes obscure and not widely used in college and career. Vocabulary focused on words that are widely used in college and career.
The essay measures students’ ability to construct an argument based on their background and experiences. The essay measures students’ ability to analyze evidence and explain how an author builds an argument to persuade an audience.
Math section samples content from a wide range of high school-level math. Math section draws from fewer topics that evidence shows most contribute to student readiness for college and career training.
Calculator permitted for full math section. Calculator permitted on certain portions of the math section.
Reading and writing does not require data analysis. Students asked to analyze both text and data in real world contexts, including identifying and correcting inconsistencies between the two.
Source documents drawn from texts that are not widely recognized and publicly available. Each exam will include a passage drawn from the Founding Documents or the Great Global Conversation.
Scoring deducts points for incorrect answers. Scoring does not deduct points for incorrect answers (rights-only scoring).
Essay is required. Essay is optional.
Score scale of 2400. Score scale of 1600 with separate score for Essay.
SAT available on paper only. SAT available in paper and digital forms.

There will be much more discussion about the new SAT and the implications for both students and colleges.


Have you heard—I’m now accepting students into my 5 Factors That Set You Apart in College Admission course! Join me here now for 63% off:

The $300 Mistake (And Other Ways That College-Bound Students Waste Money)

Money down the toilet

Recently I overheard a conversation between a high school senior and her adult mentor.  I was on my way to a meeting but the content of their conversation literally stopped me in my tracks.  The 12th grader was excited because she had come across a “reasonably priced” service that would assist her on her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for a mere $300.  I tried to contain my combined feeling of shock, anger and disgust as I asked, “What are they going to do for you?”  She happily replied that this service was “cool” because she would submit her financial information to the “counselors” and they would file her official FAFSA.  She continued by telling me that they are even going to send her a list of scholarships that she would be eligible for and, as a bonus, they were going to send her reminders each year when it was time to file the FAFSA.  Looking back, I wonder if the student could tell how crestfallen I was that she had thrown $300 out of the window.

Unfortunately, this young lady is not alone.  Many students spend money unnecessarily hoping to get help with the college admissions process.  There are three areas that I have observed college-bound students needlessly spending funds:

1.  Paying for help with the FAFSA – It’s not called the FREE Application for Federal Student Aid by mistake.  Many school systems and some non-profit organizations even sponsor events where families can get help with the FAFSA by trained individuals.

2.  Paying for help to find scholarships – Some of the so-called scholarship search systems provide nothing more than what could be discovered by doing a Google search.

3.  Paying for expensive enrichment activities – Some companies send out very official-looking envelopes that contain “exclusive” and/or “special invitation”offers for students.  Almost always the implication is that participating in this activity will help your student get into college.  While these opportunities may be valid in and of themselves, the value that they hold in the college admissions process is doubtful.  Check out what I have had to say about this in a previous blog post.

The bottom line is to be careful.  Do your research before spending your money.

In an effort to help my audience save money while preparing for college, I am offering a special discount on my online course, 5 Factors That Set You Apart in College Admission.  Click here to receive 62% off of the retail price (From $47 to $17).

Announcing “5 Factors That Set You Apart in College Admission″, Now on Udemy

College application monkey

I’m thrilled to announce the launch of “5 Factors That Set You Apart in College Admission“, my 21-lecture online Udemy course.

5 Factors That Set You Apart in College Admission″ is a deep look at what it takes for middle and high school students to prepare for college.


The course covers five important topics:

  • Grades
  • Recommendations
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Avatar (online presence)
  • Test Scores

This course may not make you a college prep expert, but I hope it will give you more clarity about how university admissions representatives make decisions.

So take the course, tell your friends and send me some feedback, because I will be adding more material based on your feedback.

Timing the Test: When Should My Child Take the SAT?

At a recent event a parent asked a question about the SAT:

“I am the mother of a high school sophomore.  I keep hearing that the SAT is a very important test for college. Should I have my daughter take it now?”

My recommendation is that a student take the SAT I test (which includes the Math, Verbal and Writing sections) for the first time during the spring of his/her junior year. The test is usually given in March, May and June. Taking the test in the spring of the 11th grade year allows the student to gain as much instruction as possible before tackling the exam.  It also allows time for the student to retake the SAT if he/she doesn’t get the desired score the first time around.

I also recommend that students also take the SAT II (Subject tests) for the first time as a junior.  This is especially true if a student is taking an advanced course for which he/she will have to thoroughly prepare for a final or Advanced Placement exam.


Takeaway: High school students should take the SAT I for the first time during the spring of junior year.


Sia Knight is an author, independent college counselor and youth development specialist. Find out more about how she assists families with the college prep process by clicking here.

Overwhelmed By The College Prep Process? Do These 3 Things…

Preparing for college can be overwhelming and confusing for both students and their parents.  Both middle and high school can also be an extremely isolating time for families who may feel that their situation is so unique that no one else can relate. Here are three tips to help navigate the college admissions process.

Seek help from school officials – Don’t forget that school counselors deal with college admissions reps on a regular basis and that the insight that these frequent interactions offer should not be discounted.

Reach out to other parents – Find out what other parents are doing to prepare their children for college.  Inquire about any enrichment programs, classes and/or advice that can be shared to ease your angst about the upcoming transition.  Don’t be afraid to share notes.

Get assistance from outside sources – Surf the web to look for sites that provide great college prep help.  Some of my favorites are, and, of course,  There are literally dozens and dozens of websites that can help parents research information about the college admissions process.

After following the advice above, some parents still find the process of researching the answers to their college prep questions tedious and time-consuming. Another alternative is to partner with an experienced professional who can walk you through the college prep process step-by-step.  Here is an example of the types of services that I provide to help families with middle school and high school students prepare for college.

The bottom line is that if you reach out and get help, preparing for college can go from being a daunting task to an enjoyable experience.


Sia Knight is an author, independent college counselor and youth development specialist. Find out more about how she assists families with the college prep process by clicking here.

What is the FAFSA and Why is Michelle Obama Talking About It?

Michelle Obama

This week, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at an Alexandria, Virginia high school to parents and students about the importance of applying for federal financial aid using the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  As this story has hit the media, many questions have emerged about the FAFSA.

Here are the answers to 3 questions about the fundamentals of the FAFSA:


1.  What is the FAFSA and why is it important?

First of all, the acronym FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.”  The FAFSA is the main application that students use to apply for federal loans and grants.  Also, many colleges use information from the FAFSA to award institutional aid.  The FAFSA can be assessed at


2.  When is the FAFSA available?  The FAFSA is released in early January each year.  Since there is a finite amount of federal funding dedicated to student aid, it is advisable to fill out the information as early as possible.


3.  Who should use the FAFSA?

Students who are planning to attend college in the fall should apply for federal aid using the FAFSA. There are families who feel that, because of their income level, they will not qualify for federal student aid and decide to skip this process.  Because many universities use information from the FAFSA to award institutional aid, I recommend that everyone who is eligible, fill out the form.


For more information on the FAFSA go to the OFFICIAL Federal Student Aid website.


Sia Knight is an author, independent college counselor and youth development specialist. Find out more about how she assists families with the college prep process by clicking here.

My Child Got Into College, But How Do We Pay?

I was recently contacted by a mother who is thrilled about her daughter’s college acceptances, but terrified by the thought of paying for college:
“I’m sure we have emailed before, but my daughter is a senior here in the Maryland area, and is in desperate need of college scholarship/grant…NOT loan money. I’ve told her that Sally Mae should not be going to college with her. Any leads would be greatly appreciated.”
Here is the advice that I offered -
1.  Check with your daughter’s school.  The school that I used to work in had a person dedicated to helping students with the college admissions process. Unfortunately, not all families take advantage of the wealth of knowledge that this person possesses.  If your school does not have a college/career center specialist, check with her school counselor.  As a school counselor, I was frequently asked to nominate students for scholarships.  Often, my mind would go to the students who introduced themselves to me as someone who needed funds for college. Although it may sound like a “no-brainer”, I would suggest contacting the school and expressing your interest in scholarships – you may be surprised how this may make a difference.
2. Check with your daughter’s school system.  Many school divisions have partnerships with companies that maintain scholarship databases that are customized to the particular high school.  There are many local scholarships that are advertised in this way, with very little fanfare.  Your daughter’s chances of competing and winning a local scholarship are much better than throwing her hat into the ring with thousands of other students in a nationwide contest.  Once again, I would suggest asking a school counselor about the existence of this type of directory in your school.
3.  Check with your daughter’s intended school(s).  There is nothing wrong with contacting the colleges and saying that you are trying to decide between several schools and that money is a factor.  Again, you may be surprised how universities may be able to “find” money for attractive candidates
The bottom line is to reach out and let it be known that you are in search of scholarship and grant money.  It is the age-old adage of “ask and ye MAY receive”.
Sia Knight is an author, independent college counselor and youth development specialist. Find out more about how she assists families with the college prep process by clicking here.

Look Who’s Getting Into College…

W and LeeI recently visited Washington and Lee University, a small, southern private liberal arts college in Lexington, Virginia.  The admissions representatives provided some interesting insight about who they are looking to admit and they even shared some stats about their incoming class.  The numbers are very enlightening:

Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate Background

A.P. Courses Completed                              Percent of Class

One 2.29%
Two or More 87.29%
Total with A.P. Coursework 89.58%

International Baccalaureate

Diploma Recipients 3.54%
TOTAL with A.P. and/or I.B. Background 93.13%

Math and Laboratory Science Background          

  Last Level of Math Completed                     Percent

Advanced Algebra/Trigonometry 0.42%
Statistics 2.29%
Analysis/Pre-Calculus 15%
IB Math (w/Calculus) 3.33%
IB Math (w/Pre-Calc) 0.63%
Calculus I 58.13%
Calculus II 17.92%
Calculus III 1.04%

Years Background in Math                        Percent

Two Years 0.00%
Three Years 2.50%
Four Years or More 97.50%

Last Year of Math                                       Percent

10th Grade 0.00%
11th Grade 2.92%
12th Grade 97.08%

Years Background in Laboratory Science

One Year 0.21%
Two Years 0.21%
Three Years 14.58%
Four Years or More 85%

Foreign Language Background

Years Background in Foreign Language

One Year 0.21%
Two Years 3.13%
Three Years 18.75%
Four Years or More 77.92%

Last Year of Language                               Percent

9th Grade 1.46%
10th Grade 10.83%
11th Grade 29.58%
12th Grade 58.13%

Although this is a snapshot of data from one university, I believe that the information is universal and that there are several conclusions that can be made from these statistics:

  • Students should pursue an A.P. and/or I.B. curriculum
  • Students should take as much math and science as possible.
  • Students should take at least three years of foreign language.

To summarize – in order to be competitive, students should take a rigorous curriculum consisting of advanced math, science and upper-level foreign language classes.

Have you heard—I’m now accepting students into my 5 Factors That Set You Apart in College Admission course! Join me here now for 63% off:

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