Web site can alleviate ACT stress

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— College-bound students no longer have to link the name "ACT" solely with the dreaded college entrance exam; the ACT corporation now offers a wide range of information and services about applying to college, exploring careers, getting a job and even providing useful resources to help prepare for the ACT standardized test.

The holiday season can be especially stressful for college-bound students; many college application deadlines are in January, and winter break is an ideal time to finish or begin the application process.

"We want high school seniors and their families to know that ACT has resources and information to aid in the college application process," said Kristen Crouse, media relations personnel at ACT. "The ACT Web site can alleviate some of the stress students and families are experiencing at this time of year by offering valuable college information."

Now students can log onto ACT's Web site at www.act.org for virtual campus tours, links to colleges' home pages and even applications to hundreds of colleges online.

"Our college search is very helpful, partly because our information comes directly from the colleges," Crouse said. "A lot of Internet sites that have college information cannot guarantee that their information comes directly from the colleges like we can."

Getting information and filling out forms manually can be a time-consuming task for students and their families. But electronic applications, such as the examples on the ACT Web site, can speed up the process.

The ACT Web site, of course, also offers information about the ACT college entrance exam. Students can register online for the exam, order test preparation materials and even answer practice test questions.

Lynette Lochausen, a counselor at Steamboat Springs High School, said preparing for the ACT by taking practice tests is imperative to achieving high test scores.

"There is proof that the more students practice taking the test the better they perform on the real thing," Lochausen said. "The practice questions that the ACT uses on their Web site help students know what to expect and how to approach the questions."

Lochausen recommends taking the practice test once or twice slowly, analyzing it and then taking the test twice more under the time requirements and analyzing the results again.

"This method helps the students build confidence in their test-taking abilities," she said.

Although the ACT entrance exam is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the college application process for students, Kevin MacLennan, associate director of admissions at the University of Colorado, said ACT scores are not the sole factor considered for college admission.

"We look for a combination of G.P.A., the type of courses a student takes and their standardized test scores," MacLennan said. "The specific courses an applicant has taken during high school are actually more important than the students' standardized test scores."

The ACT Web site also offers information on the financial aspect of college, which is a major concern for students and their families.

The site contains a "Financial Need Estimator," which uses the federal financial aid formula to estimate what the students may be expected to contribute for the costs of specific colleges.

The site has a "student diary" as well, where a high school senior and his mom document their progress in the college application process.

"This helps high school seniors and their families realize they are not the only ones dealing with the stress and difficulties of applying to college," Crouse said.

Along this line, the site provides students with different steps to take toward discovering their career of interest. Students can take various types of interest and preference inventories and narrow down their career choices. The site even offers information on jobs available in specific career fields.

But the ACT corporation can do much more for students these days than just give them sleepless nights agonizing over standardized test scores.

The information at the ACT Web site can help students in the transition from high school to college, Crouse said.

"We want to get the word out about all the information and resources the ACT Web site has to offer," Crouse said. "It can be a very valuable tool for students and their parents."

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