Admission to competitive universities has been the subject of numerous movies, including Risky Business, Paper Chase, Love Story, and, a movie my wife Karen and I saw this weekend, Admissions. While I do not recommend any of the aforementioned movies (especially Risky Business), they often highlight some of the difficulties connected with college admission.

In the movie — starring Tina Fey and Paul Rudd — Princeton University’s admissions office seems woefully behind the times when it comes to technology, with applicant records kept in folders (orange of course). Admission or rejection is accompanied by a dramatic checking of a box (or in one case where an admissions officer is angry at an applicant’s false claim, stamping the rejection twice on the folder). Princeton’s admissions dean (played by Wallace Shawn) is traumatized by a drop from No. 1 to No. 2 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings (when the only rankings indignity real-life Princeton suffers is being tied for the top spot with Harvard University).

Of course very few of us are going to go to Harvard or Princeton—although it is not as hard as you might think—both universities favor homeschool students and offer generous financial aid packages—but I want to highlight a few things I observed in the movie that are true.

  1. While I would never denigrate the ACT, it is not as prestigious a college admission exam as the SAT. Prestigious colleges prefer the SAT and ordinary/good colleges give larger financial aid packages to students who take the SAT and score high. My advice: Take both.
  2. Consider accumulating AP credits instead of CLEP credits. The former are far more prestigious. I still have openings in my AP classes. Visit and click on “Distance Learning.”
  3. If you opt to ignore the SAT and ACT—which is the only legitimate college admission test for the best colleges– and do something like College Plus, you jeopardize your financial possibilities and admission to prestigious graduate schools. Pray about it.
  4. College admission officers look at the essay portion of the ACT & SAT in lieu or in addition to the college admission essay. You should really, then, give a lot of attention to both.
  5. Choose the 5 colleges you would attend and apply. I recommend having 2 “long shot” choices, 2 “possible,” and two “in the bag” choices. Visit all 5 if you can. Arrange for interviews.
  6. Do not think about financial aid until you are accepted. Apply to a college—any college you feel God is calling you to—and then apply for financial aid if you are accepted. NEVER pay an independent agency to find financial aid or scholarships for you. The admitting college will help you gratis.
  7. Know the difference between early action & early decision. Early decision plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early action plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1. Therefore, apply to one early decision school and many other (5?) early action schools. After all, early action/early decision applicants have a much better chance to be accepted and to receive scholarships than regular admission students.

If you find the above insights helpful, feel free to visit Consider inviting me to conduct an SAT/ACT/College Admission Seminar for your COOP, school, or group. SAT/ACT Seminar. I will conduct an ACT/SAT seminar for you at a time that meets your schedule. Since I am a grader for the SAT many new insights are fresh in my mind. I will administrate a real SAT /ACT, evaluate the SAT/ACT score, and offer specific test-taking strategies. Parents attend the seminar free! Contact me directly if you are interested, or 814 479 7710.

I am also presenting a college admission workshop on I would love to have you join me!

Comments are closed.