Standardized Tests for Student Athletes

Standardized Tests for Student Athletes

Today’s student athlete faces challenges both on and off the field. In addition to attending valuable sports camps and keeping their performance times and scores competitive, students who wish to continue playing sports at the university level must also manage a full course load. However, students often overlook a crucial portion of the process – standardized tests. With several test dates offered each year, it’s important for students to know when they should be taking the ACT or SAT.

With coaches continually on the lookout for fresh talent, students should ensure that they take every possible step to boost their chances of making a favorable impression. As they reach out to coaches of universities and colleges that they are interested in, students should also ensure that they have taken either the SAT or ACT at least twice before the end of their junior year. According to Adam Stockwell, Head Coach of the men’s basketball team at Hamilton College, “The more things that students can do earlier in their high school career, the more proactive they can be and the more control they have over the process…The majority of students who end up playing sports in college are the ones that are proactive in their approach.”

Athlete applicants who are able to provide information on their test scores during their junior year gain the advantage of being able to provide coaches with quantifiable results. These results are crucial in helping coaches determine whether or not athletes will be a good fit for their colleges and universities.

“I can’t get a good read on your profile until I’ve got information on your grades and standardized testing results,” said Alfred Shikany, former assistant men’s lightweight crew coach at Georgetown University. “The first step is to be the best student that you can be- you have to establish yourself as a viable candidate, and that means test scores and grades. I always advise students to take their exams early and often. A coach can do a lot for you if you have good test scores and grades, but timing is very important. The earlier you can get on their radar, the more they can do for you.”

By getting a head start on their standardized examinations, students also have more opportunities to sit for the exams and maximize their results. Seeing as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and many university admissions committees use the best subscore received in each section to form the combined/sum score for both the ACT and SAT, students should use the multiple test dates to their advantage. According to College Board, more than half of the students who take the SAT do so more than once, and those who retake the SAT often see an increase in their score. ACT reports that in 2013, 57% of students who sat the exam more than once saw an increase in their Composite score. What does this mean for student athletes? That they need to get started with their test preparation early on to ensure that they’ve taken all the steps possible to achieve a score reflecting their true academic potential.

For those considering applying to schools for early decision or early action admission, getting a head start on these examinations is especially crucial. With application deadlines towards the beginning of November, opportunities to take the SAT or ACT during senior year are limited. Additionally, for students considering highly selective universities, scores on the SAT and ACT are important components for determining their competitiveness on the Academic Index.

“If your SAT or ACT numbers aren’t done by senior year then you’ve lost out on an opportunity… The advantages are enormous. The coaches get it, the schools get it- if the kids get it, they put themselves in a position to succeed,” said Harvey Rubin, founder of Academic Basketball Club, an organization that advises athletes and has helped students gain offers of college uniforms for more than twelve years.

For students who are currently rising seniors and haven’t had the chance to take either the SAT or the ACT yet, the limited opportunities to sit for the exam makes effective preparation even more crucial. A student in Florida was able to improve his composite ACT score by 4 points through a two week intensive study plan created by Thirty-Six Education. “After learning different reading strategies, he knew he would improve his score,” said this student’s mother.

Such students facing limited time to prepare for exams and limited opportunities to sit for the exam may find that the ACT is a better fit. With less of a focus on assessing IQ skills and other difficult-to-alter cognitive traits, the ACT can be beneficial for students who work hard at continuing to develop and hone skills already taught in school.

While all students would benefit from beginning their planning for standardized exams early on, this process is especially crucial for students looking to utilize their strength in athletics towards gaining admission into competitive schools. With more chances to take the ACT and SAT, students may find themselves with more choice university admissions.