SAT or ACT • When to Test

Junior Year

January through June: Students should take the SAT and/or ACT at least once.  By June, all rising seniors should have taken at least ONE of these standardized tests. It is recommended that students try both tests since they are different tests and they test different abilities.

Students planning on applying to selective universities should take SAT Subject Tests, ideally in June.

Senior Year

September through December: Students should take either the ACT or SAT at least one more time if they haven’t done so already. Statistics show that students are likely to improve their score on both tests if they take it a second time.

Seniors who haven’t taken SAT Subject tests should take those no later than December (October for Early Action/Early Decision applicants).
The College Board website offers in-depth descriptions, sample questions and practice tests for all Subject Tests. This is a great way to explore the tests and decide which one is the right fit. It is not worth finding a tutor for Subject Tests.

The best way to prepare for any ACT, SAT or Subject test is to practice! Practice under real testing conditions – no food or drink, timed, quiet with no cell phones. Make sure that your son is practicing with real tests that come from ACT or SAT (aka “disclosed tests”—they are available as free downloads on these sites:

Get a good night of sleep for four nights leading up to testing day! Consider this if your son is planning a summer immersion trip or Magis/Kairos retreat. Look ahead at test dates and what events/activities are on the Brophy calendar.

Test Preparation

Every student should prepare for the SAT or ACT. Not all students, however, are in need of a designated class or private tutoring to be successful. Before you take the test for the first time, take advantage of free practice tests and also online test prep resources.

For ACT free online sample tests: 
ACT website - practice tests
Number 2 website - practice tests

For SAT free online practice tests:
College Board practice tests
Khan Academy practice tests

If you are disappointed with your results the first time you take the SAT or ACT, remember that in many cases students naturally see a score increase on their second test without test prep. But if time and resources allow, you may benefit. Remember, preparation for your SAT or ACT should not cut into the time you need to put into your primary academic work at Brophy; your transcript is more important in the application process than your test scores. Not all students will benefit from private test preparation. Students with learning differences, students who experience test anxiety or those who aren’t motivated to prepare on their own might benefit from private test prep.

Frequently Asked Questions - College Admission Process

List of 25 frequently asked questions.

  • Q My son has up and down SAT scores - very high on one area (that he might not be able to duplicate), and kind of low on another (that he could probably increase). Does it make sense to take a third SAT test (senior year)? I heard colleges tabulate your best possible "mix and match" composite, but I’m finding out not all do and every score is reported to them. Can a third test hurt him if his new composite score declines a bit?

    We highly recommend a senior year test – more often than not, there is an increase in the score. (I remember so many conversations during admissions committee reviews when we said, “WHY didn’t he test in his senior year?!”  For those schools that do not superscore, trust that the admissions officers are looking for reasons to admit and not deny – they will move forward with the stronger, earlier tests. Or, you could choose to use the SAT Score Choice option and only report your highest scores from different tests. However, we recommend that you allow all scores to be sent.
  • Q My son wants to take the SAT again, and the ACT for the first time. If he takes the SAT in early November, will this hurt him as he is submitting his applications? He wants a little extra time to study and the October 1 test date seems a little bit too soon.

    The November test is absolutely fine as long as your son is not applying Early Action, and especially if he feels he could use the extra time to study. He should be sure to indicate on his application that he intends to take a November test so that college admissions officers will keep their eyes open for his. The December tests will also be reviewed for Regular Action applicants, and often, the January tests as well. Plenty of time!

  • Q Under what circumstances do you recommend applying Early Action (vs. Regular Deadline)?

    Students who feel that all parts of their application are a finished product with little potential to change after November are good candidates to apply during Early Action. Note: applying Early Action does not in itself always give students an advantage. At very highly selective schools, Early Action is a time when only the strongest applicants are admitted. So, while the admit rate is often higher for Early Action applicants, it is usually a result of the higher concentration of talent in Early Action applicant pools; those students who are at the top of their game academically and exceed average test scores.

    Therefore, if a student is still a “work in progress” in terms of his application, he might be more competitive in Regular Action. Students should wait for Regular Action if they plan to take the ACT or SAT after October (there are several more opportunities to do so through January), or if they want to show the college strong seventh semester grades on the transcript.

    If a student’s rigor, grades, and test scores are unlikely to show much change, he is probably not risking a lot by applying Early Action. If he is denied, he is not eligible to reapply, and it is likely that he would have been denied in Regular Action, too. He could be deferred, at which point he would want to update his application with continued interest, updates on activities, grades, or new test scores.

    Colleges do not fill their classes with Early admits – so it's best to take the time to put forth the application that will best reflect the student’s full ability.

    Colleges and universities vary greatly on their philosophies. Tell your son to look at the FAQ section of the school’s website, and if he doesn't see what he is looking for, he should call or e-mail the area representative. When in doubt, it is best to contact the admissions office directly for advice.
  • Q I'd like to know more about the SALT program at the UofA; and does ASU have a similar program? 

    Please visit their website at  We’ve had several Brophy alumni take advantage of the SALT Center at UofA. We encourage you and your son to learn more by spending a Friday this fall at a “Taste of SALT” to familiarize yourselves with the resources of SALT.
    We want to emphasize the importance of applying to the SALT Center IMMEDIATELY AFTER applying to the University of Arizona. Be prepared to upload documentation of educational testing. Preview the Center’s application on their website. An “Eligible to Enroll” notification will be sent about three weeks after an offer of admission to the University is received.  After receiving an Eligible to Enroll notification, do not delay in following the directions to enroll in the program, as there are a limited number of spots available. Be prepared to provide documentation of educational testing.
    Although ASU does not offer a similar program, they do have resources for students who qualify. For more information visit the Disability Resource Center at
  • Q How often do you meet with the boys to check on their progress?

    We average one to two times a month in college counseling depending on the student. We might need to check in more often for academic or personal reasons, or because a student has specifically asked to meet with his counselor. We encourage students to be proactive and reach out to us with questions or times when they need assistance, and not simply wait for us to call them in again.
  • Q The highest score is taken of each portion of the SAT. Is the same done for the ACT? If it is taken three times and scores go down, does the college look poorly on the trend?

    Don’t worry about a decrease on a third test looking poorly for the application. It happens. Remember, colleges are looking for reasons to admit students, and will most often always work to move forward with the best scores possible. Many schools will take the highest SAT composite score from different sittings, and a growing number of schools will do the same for the ACT. A sampling of some supercoring ACT schools where our students regularly apply includes: American U, Boston College, Brown, Loyola Maryland, Middlebury, MIT, NYU, Pitzer, Pomona, Regis, Tufts, University of Denver, University of CO-Boulder, Washington U-St. Louis, and Xavier University.
  • Q Is it a competitive disadvantage to declare "Undecided" on the "area of study" question?

    Not necessarily, but this is a good question to pose to college representatives when they visit Brophy. Many students are undecided on future plans. If he has a general idea, it’s not a bad idea to indicate so, especially if he demonstrates strength in that area on his transcript or in test scores. Students so often change majors in college that admissions officers expect that plans will very possibly change. Many colleges do not actually allow a student to formally declare a major until the sophomore year.
  • Q Does the teacher who writes a letter for the student, have to write a letter over and over for each college application?

    Letters are written once and uploaded into Naviance by the teacher, and then distributed to each college. If a school does not receive documents electronically, the student should provide a stamped, addressed envelope to the teacher. Letters to Barrett Honors College are submitted through a separate link exclusive to Barrett and therefore can be personalized if the teacher wishes.
  • Q Why aren’t more of the Big 10 schools represented at the College Fair? I think they offer a great education at a more affordable price than many of the private schools plus amazing school spirit along with athletics. 

    Great question, and point. Many of these schools not only are strong on their own but offer Honors Programs that your son might be eligible for. In terms of the College Fair, we invite schools that continually respond and attend. If a school isn’t represented, it is likely that they had never attended before and we moved on to invite other schools who wish to attend, or that they declined our invitation this year. Several Big 10 schools were invited this year, but not all. We will be sure to invite all Big 10 schools next year!

    We do our best to suggest a variety of schools to our students, but there is always room for growth and we’ll make an effort to continue to provide our students with greater access and information. Last year, our students sent 59 applications to 10 different Big 10 schools, (not counting Northwestern). At least 22 (probably more) were admitted to eight different universities, and seven students matriculated: five to Michigan, one to Purdue, one to Ohio State. What this tells us is that many students are sending applications, and our students are regularly admitted but many choose not to matriculate for some reason.

    I see two barriers to our students. First, Big 10 schools are mostly not members of the Common Application. It’s another separate application to fill out, and the boys don’t want to take on any more than they already are. When Michigan went to the common application, our applications rose from a total of 11 in the combined prior three years to 19 that year. Second, our boys gravitate to the West Coast and to the East Coast, but less often to the Midwest.

    Our suggestions sometimes often fall on deaf ears because to many, “The Midwest” may as well be Jupiter, it is such an unfamiliar place. Consider planning a college trip to Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Pennslvania, Wisconsin, etc.  Combine a Big 10 visit with another Jesuit, State or Private school in the area. It’s hard for them to envision these places and apply without being there because they really don’t even know what “Midwest” means—I think some of them are still picturing the Oregon Trail!
  • Q I would like some information on deferments. Both my sons are considering deferring their entry for a year - one to play junior hockey and one for a year of service. 

    An increasing number of students nationwide are choosing to defer enrollment for a year. It is important that the student applies as a senior in high school, and then seeks approval from the college's admissions office. It is much more difficult to try to apply to college a year after graduating from high school. Colleges and universities vary in their policies, stipulations and processes regarding deferrals, so ultimately, you should check with schools where your sons apply so that there are no surprises. One point of view from William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions at Harvard College is offered here:
  • Q How important are campus visits?

    Campus visits are important in helping a student recognize the type of campus environment in which he feels comfortable. We highly recommend that a student visits a campus before he enrolls, although it is not necessary to visit every campus before he applies. When time or money prohibit visits, take advantage of virtual tours online, or ask to be connected to a Brophy alumnus who attends that college. You may want to save time and money and delay some visits until the Spring when your son knows to which schools he is has been admitted.
  • Q As a general rule, to how many colleges should my son apply?

    Our students average about seven schools. This usually should include one or two in-state universities, one or two “likely” schools, two or three “target” schools, and two  or three “reach” schools. Keep in mind that just because a school is a “reach” for your son, that doesn’t necessarily mean that school is his first choice to attend.
  • Q Why doesn't Brophy rank its students and how do you handle that on the applications?

    Like many private schools, Brophy does not rank students. As stated on our school profile, the school admits students on the basis of their abilities to succeed in a college-preparatory environment. Accordingly, 97% of students pursue a more rigorous curriculum than many of their peers, and since a greater number of them attain a high standard of academic excellence, a cumulative ranking system that has the potential to magnify small differences in performance would focus on individual student differences instead of student achievement.
  • Q When visiting colleges, how are absences handled?

    College visits fall under the same policy as stated in the handbook for any school absence: please see the dean for an excused absence form.
  • Q My son had his best semester in the spring of junior year. He is taking more challenging classes senior year and wants to showcase this (later) success for colleges. What is the best way of doing that?

    Congratulations to your son for continuing to challenge himself through his senior year. He is likely a good candidate for Regular Admission, so that colleges can see the grades he achieves in his more challenging schedule. Our Early Action transcripts will leave these grades a question mark, and in your son’s case, it could really help to show strong grades to match the increase in his rigor.
  • Q Does the in-state tuition waiver for exceeding AIMS apply to Barrett and the UofA Honors program as well, or is that only for regular school admission?

    The additional $500 fee for Barrett is not included in the AIMS tuition waiver, nor is the deposit for UofA Honors College.
  • Q Are teachers and counselors willing to help students with scholarship applications and recommendation letters?

    Of course! Please provide ample notice (four to six weeks) for recommendation requests, or schedule a meeting to discuss essays or other application requirements.
  • Q To what extent do Jesuit colleges/universities show preference to Brophy students and in what ways?

    Jesuit colleges and universities have a special familiarity and appreciation of the curriculum at Brophy. We develop strong relationships with these college admissions counselors, which affords us an opportunity to be sure that every student is reviewed and advocated for in a special way. Our students have unique opportunities to engage with admissions representatives. For example, each year admissions counselors on the JET (Jesuit Excellence Tour) visit Brophy in February so that they can specifically get to know Brophy juniors and answer any questions about the upcoming admissions process.

    While attending Brophy doesn’t give anyone a golden key to admissions at a Jesuit college or university, we can rest assured that each one of our students will be evaluated with close care before a decision is issued. Keep in mind that the Jesuit colleges and universities vary in their selectivity during the admissions process. The more selective a college is, the more difficult it will be to gain admission, regardless of attending a Jesuit high school or not. Also, there are nearly fifty other Jesuit high schools across the country, sending large school groups of applicants each year to Jesuit admissions offices. It’s safe to say that in close decisions, we feel that our students are well positioned to be considered favorably.

    Many Jesuit colleges offer an automatic scholarship (amount varies) to any students who attended Jesuit high schools; some offer larger scholarship opportunities by application, and a couple even choose one student per school for a half-tuition scholarship.
  • Q Is it necessary/helpful to attend the evening gatherings sponsored by the different universities? We would be happy use this time just to work on applications, but don’t want to miss out on a gold star on our file if we need that “attendance credit.”

    If you have already visited campus and done an information session and tour, it is unlikely that these sessions will offer new information. If that is the case, then your son’s time probably would be better spent on applications or studying. These sessions are really useful for families who are unfamiliar with a university, or who can’t get to campus in person.  Lots of outdated or even false information circulates among friends, alumni, neighbors, and “college insider” websites, so this is the best place to get honest and up-to-date facts about the university and admissions process straight from the source. Although you don't have to worry about a gold star, if your son is truly interested in that college but can't attend the session, he can email the representative to introduce himself and share his interest and his plans to apply.
  • Q Can we request test scores and transcript requests be sent before the application has been started or do they get lost in the shuffle?

    Absolutely. The sooner, the better. All should be filed under your son’s name, just waiting to be matched with that application. Nothing, unfortunately, can assure that everything will end up in the right place, no matter if everyone does everything correctly and on time, but being prompt can help avoid issues of the “Incomplete” application.

    Be patient with letters and e-mails about your “incomplete” applications. Many universities send these even though they are literally weeks behind processing their mail and documents, even if sent electronically. By all means, your son should double check with the counselor, but oftentimes the communication is crossed and documents are there but waiting to be inputted into the system.
  • Q Is it necessary to complete the FAFSA process if you are 100% positive that you will not qualify for financial aid?

    Completing the FAFSA might still open some options for a family. For example, you could become eligible for an unsubsidized Stafford loan through the government, rather than taking out a loan from a private lender.
  • Q Is hiring an outside college counselor worth the money if my son does not know where he wants to go to college?

    Brophy provides ample resources for all students and parents during the college search, application and decision process. We encourage students and parents to make appointments with one of our college counselors, especially when your son needs help getting started. Through conversations with counselors, utilization of the Naviance program, and visits with college representatives at Brophy, and more, our students have abundant opportunities to learn more about what colleges might be a good match, personally and academically. If your son actively works with his college counselor, we are confident that he will receive quality advising throughout this process.

    If a family chooses to hire an independent counselor, we strongly encourage you to closely examine his or her background and qualifications. Independent counselors should have a number of years worth of experience as a high school college counselor or as an admissions officer at a college or university. And do consider that your son's admission decision is unlikely to be any different if you spend the money on an outside counselor.
  • Q I just want to gather as much information to help my son and myself through the college application process and stay on top of time sensitive dates.

    First, find a master organizational chart that works for you. I suggest visiting click on “Book” and at the bottom of the page, “Worksheets.” Here you can download an Admissions Deadline worksheet and a Financial Aid Deadline worksheet for free.
  • Q Does Brophy provide transcripts to the students to be forwarded with applications, or are they sent to each school directly?

    It is your son’s responsibility to request his transcript for each college through Naviance.  The transcript is then processed by our office and sent electronically or by mail to each college.
  • Q When and how do we schedule a tour of the Barrett’s Honors College and the UofA Honors College?

    Visit both online and follow instructions.

    At ASU, Barrett offers information sessions and tours daily Monday-Friday and once monthly on Saturdays.
    The UofA provides a variety of information sessions, “Honors Experience” days, and overnight visits.