The Cornerstone Academic Blog

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Changes to FAFSA

On Monday, September 14, President Obama announced some big changes to the 2017-2018 FAFSA. After the announcement, the Federal Student Aid office of the US Department of Education released some detailed information on the changes. We’ll walk through these with you. First and foremost, let’s be clear on the date these changes go into effect: October 1, 2016. That means that these changes will not affect FAFSAs filed for the 2016-2017 school year. But hold on! Federal aid requires you to submit a FAFSA for every year that your student is in college. So even if your student is a senior applying for colleges right now, these changes will affect you next year. Two principle changes have been announced: The 2017-2018 FAFSA will be released on October 1, 2016 instead of January 1, 2017. The 2017-2018 FAFSA will use 2015 tax information instead of 2016 tax information. These changes are permanent, meaning that—so long as the Department of Education does not make any further changes—you can expect all future FAFSAs to release in October and to use the taxes from two years ago instead of the prior’s years taxes. The reasons for these changes are twofold: Because the FAFSA will be available earlier in the year, financial aid decisions can come earlier. Because the FAFSA will use taxes from two years prior, you don’t need to estimate taxes or wait until after you’ve filed your tax returns. If all goes well, you’ll know your student’s financial aid status sooner, allowing you and your student to make a better-informed and longer-meditated decision about which college to attend. You also will... read more

Preparing for the Redesigned SAT

Before we delve into the redesigned SAT (rSAT), let’s take a moment to put things in perspective. The SAT and ACT are the “Coke and Pepsi” of the test preparation world. Both companies vie to be the number one standardized test for college admissions and strive to remain current and relevant to universities admissions’ requirements. The ACT and SAT both go through changes periodically in an effort to better themselves and increase their statistical validity and predictability for student success in college. In its most recent incarnation—which debuted in 2006—the SAT eliminated analogies and quantitative comparisons and added a Writing Section. For the 2015 iteration, they are making the Writing Section optional and reverting back to the old 1600 scale. Before we get into the details of how to prepare, the team at Cornerstone Academic has come up with a handy chart that outlines the differences between the current SAT, the new SAT, and the ACT. You can download it here. So, what does this mean for your student? Normally, these types of changes would not affect your high school student. Typically, most students take their first standardized tests in the form of the PSAT (offered in 10th and 11th grade), and many elect to take the SAT/ACT for the first time in the spring of their junior year and then in the fall of their senior year (if they are unhappy with their original score). Some advanced students start the standardized test prep journey as second semester sophomores. With the SAT changing in March 2016 (assuming there are no delays), the last chance to take the current SAT... read more

ACT Announces Changes to Score Reports

In 2014, the ACT had announced that it would be taking a look at its measurement indicators and Writing Test in an effort to continuously improve its exam and maintain accurate scoring models. While the 1–36  scale of reporting is not going to change, the ACT did state that it was going to release new “readiness indicators” in the areas of STEM, Career Readiness, English/Language Arts, and Text Complexity, the latter of which is designed to help students determine if they are on the path to understanding advanced texts. In mid-October 2014, the ACT announced an “enhanced” Writing Test, which is slated to debut in fall 2015. The goal of the new Writing Test, which is still optional, is to move away from the simple persuasive essay currently required of students and shift towards a more broad rhetorical purpose that will ask students to evaluate multiple points of view on a complex topic and then generate an argument based on their classroom knowledge, observations, and experience. In late May 2015, the ACT finalized these changes and released the format of the new score report. The new score report format reveals that—in addition to the standard 1–36 report for the sections—11 sub-scores will also be provided to reflect a host of measurements on various areas of student aptitude. These sub-scores will be based on a scale of 2–12. The implication of the new scoring model is that it now provides admissions committees with “likelihood of success” scenarios. With the new data that the ACT will provide, an admissions officer could, theoretically, see the likelihood that a student will succeed in... read more