Free Meet and Greet

  We agree! Despite sending thousands of students to their dream schools and maintaining an unparalleled word of mouth reputation for over twenty years, there is no better way to find out if we are a good match for your family other than meeting us for yourselves!

Far from a sales pitch, Meet and Greets are a smile-filled, informative, and stress reducing way to get your specific questions about the college process answered. Meet and Greets are FREE to juniors and seniors. They are remote, take about an hour, and are usually done with the students and parents together.


To schedule yours, simply click the Start Your Journey button! 


King Kong vs Godzilla. Ali vs Frasier. T Swift vs Kanye. Some all time great matchups to be sure, but none more important to a rising tester than ACT vs SAT. Why must they battle at all we may sadly wonder. Because most students barely have enough time and energy to prepare for one big exam, much less two!

With that in mind, we suggest all students considering testing take comparative diagnostic exams. Once you complete the exams, we suggest reaching out to the office to set up a Free Meet and Greet to analyze your scores and set up a testing plan; or, if you decide not to test, discuss other ways you can strengthen your application.

Which Diagnostic Score Was Higher?

If you take the tests within a month apart, try your hardest on both of them under similar conditions, then the scores should be viewed as the primary factor in the decision making process. Beyond the total or composite score, one should also pay attention to the section scores, as sometimes students have a gut feeling of where they think they can improve more quickly. If in doubt, we are always happy to weigh in with our thoughts and suggestions.  

Do You Prefer Paper or Digital?
Now that the SAT has gone digital, students must decide whether they prefer testing with a pencil or a keyboard. While ACT students can opt for either/or, SATers must take their official exam on a laptop. On the positive side, the digital exam is shorter with more time per question. On the negative, some students prefer being able to draw on figures and charts like with paper exams. Visit our Digital SAT page for more about the exam and how we are preparing our Blue Trainers.
Which Timeline Works Better For You?

Looking over the calendar of potential ACT and SAT dates can sometimes change perspective and plans, as each test is only available certain months of the year. It is not uncommon for a student with relatively similar diagnostic scores to choose the test that offers a more life-friendly testing timeline.


New Digital SAT

Swapping out your paper and pencil for a keyboard is only one way the SAT has changed. Overall, the Digital SAT is shorter, long reading passages have been replaced by short ones, and students can use calculators for the entire exam. Additionally, the test is adaptive: meaning, how well you do on the first module dictates the difficulty of the second. Students who advance to the more difficult module greatly heighten their score potential.

As you might imagine, along with these changes comes the need for accurate and effective digital prep materials. While College Board has made a handful of exams available, it is not enough for students who want to truly build their skills and sharpen their peformance. Before signing up with any prep company, we suggest families inquire about the quality of the prep materilas. At Blue Train, we use what we believe is the best platform available to ensure our students reach their highest score potential. Click the VIDEO BELOW for a preview.

Please Note: Blue Trainers opting for the Digital SAT will incur an additional one time registration fee of $50.

Diagnostic Exams

At Blue Train we encourage students to take abbreviated exams to gain an accurate skills assessment without the performance burnout. Simply fill out the form below and we will email you materials to test, score, and get instant results. After that, we suggest scheduling a FREE Meet and Greet to help you analyze your scores and create a testing timeline. 

Score an Exam

Taking tests is hard enough, which is why we've made an easy peasy score calculator to get instant results for all of your Blue Train diagnostic and proctored exams! 


Testing Timeline

Once you have settled on which test you're going to take, it's time to consider your timeline. While many students come into the process hoping to get their testing over with first semester junior year, experience has shown students who test later, climbing their score with a multi-test process, see the highest score improvements.

Fear not, all of this shouldn't translate into more preparation. In fact, an efficient timeline, even if it rolls into senior year, should reduce work. We encourage all our Blue Trainers to consider their timeline wisely, as it can make or break the process. Thunder and lightning aside, if you are thinking about testing, we encourage you to review the timelines below and bring up any questions you may have in your FREE Meet and Greet.

First Semester Junior Year:

     Lay the foundation for your GPA and your college process by starting junior year strong. Focus on keeping a balanced load and remember that it’s okay to swap out or drop a class if it’s better for your GPA and mental health. Too many students wait too long first semester junior year to make adjustements. The goal is to set a healthy and manageable academic pace this semester.

Second Semester Junior Year:

     Once you get first semester grades, reflect and adjust course load and/or activity commitments if necessary. Best case scenario, in addition to your classes you are able to continue exploring and developing interests outside of the classroom whether through clubs, organizations, or your own do-it-yourself efforts.

Spring Break Junior Year:    

     Consider visiting schools on spring break/ski week. Local visits or focused trips to one area where you can see multiple schools are highly recommended. Try to mix things up by seeing big and small, rural and urban, reach and safe schools. Having a greater cross section allows for better understanding and extrapolation when researching new schools later in the process.

     Please Note: Students shouldn’t feel obligated to “want to visit” at this stage, as many have their hands full just staying afloat in junior year. If spring break feels like it would be better served to decompress, then we believe that should be honored. Seeing schools under duress is much less fun for everyone! 

Junior Year Finale:

     With APs in full swing, finals on the way, and end of year burnout creeping in, May can be a tricky month. Add to this, many ACT and SATers just finished an exam or are preparing for the next one. 

     Ultimately, through all of this, we encourage our Blue Trainers to find a pace and balance that allow them to prioritize their second semester grades. This may mean delaying an ACT or SAT, talking to a teacher about redoing assignments or exams, or just staying the course until the summer whistle officially blows!

Senior Summer Has Arrived!

     Step One: Rest.      

     After a busy school year, rest is important. Take a few weeks to shake off the steady drum beat of exams, morning announcements, and period bells. Sleep in, scroll your phone, eat ice cream, ride your bike in the sun, dance in your room. Relax and reboot, unapologetically! 

     Step Two: Get Ready.   

     By the end of June, many students will begin to feel the weight of the college process looming. Rather than curl into fetal position, Blue Trainers will begin taking steps by getting an understanding of their workload in terms of college list building, essays, and applications. Having a clear vision and plan for your next two months will streamline and empower. 

Senior Summer: Part I

      Blue Trainers looking to have most of their apps and essays locked down before September will use July to its fullest, including:

     Getting Started on Essays 

      Many Blue Trainers begin their essay process with our Personal Statement summer workshop. Arrive confused about what you want to write about, leave inspired, your head spinning with ideas, structures, and possibilities. Blue Trainers may continue their process by attending Writing Labs or working with an Essay Specialist. Beginning earlier in the summer allows more time to explore, craft, and polish.

     Building Your College List

      Students who have not yet started building a college list should dive into the deep end of exploration this month. Not only is this a critical aspect of the college process, but also much of the organizing, timeline, and workflow strategizing cannot be done until a student knows which schools he or she is applying to. Whether you attend a summer workshop, work with a Blue Train counselor, or click around with excitement on The Blue List, do your best to have a solid list drafted by the end of July.


Senior Summer: Part II

     August 1st: Apps Goes Live

     On August 1st, the Common App and UC App reboot and "officially open" for the new year's class of applicants. Working on the applications before this time (other than essays) really doesn't help expedite things and quite often updates and changes are made to the application. Starting in August, Blue Trainers will participate in Summer Workshops and/or polish their applications with the help of a Specialist. Outside of the essays, activity sections require the most attention and care.     

     Refining Essays and College List

     August is also a time to take your rough drafts to the next level, whether it's your Personal Statement, UC Insight responses, or college list. Blue Trainers will do their best to get as much done before school starts. While there will still be supplemental essays to write and other todos, locking down your major essays and college list will keep you ahead of the curve!   

Senior Year Has Arrived!

     September Time Flies.

      Whether it’s your course load, fall sport, or any number of obligations involved in the college process– letters of rec, portfolios, interviews– there is no doubt that first semester senior year can be a lot. Remember, the majority of schools will want to see your first semester senior grades, so getting a solid start should be your priority. If you used July and August fruitfully, you should be in good shape with your apps and essays. Breathe, find your balance, and set achievable goals for each week. 

     School Specific Supplementals.

      In addition to their primary essays, many schools will ask students to respond to more specific prompts, such as "why are you interested in this school?" or "tell us more about your intended field of study" or "how will you contribute to our community?" Blue Trainers collect supplemental prompts in advance, identify potential overlaps, and streamline their workload. Most students will be buffing and polishing their supplementals right until they submit their first application.


Early Application Season Has Arrived!

     Countdown to November

      November 1st is the most common Early Action and Early Decision deadline; therefore, October tends to be a month when ambitions meet ticking clocks and perfectionism meets practicality. Even the most proactive students will find October to be a busy month of dotting i's and crossing t's on their mini-masterpieces, not to mention having to keep up with their high school's requests for brag sheets, teacher recs, college lists, scholarship forms, and more.


      Blue Trainers avoid the common mistakes of applying Early Action to all their schools or choosing emotionally (or arbitrarily) as to which schools they will submit early. Deadline strategy should be based on admissions impact (or lack thereof), merit aid impact (or lack thereof), departmental deadlines, and number of school specific essays. Families needing assistance with their timeline and workflow will set up On Track sessions this time of year.

     October 1st

      On October 1st, the Cal State Application, the FAFSA financial aid form, and CSS Profile institutional aid form go live. (For the Class of '24, the FAFSA form will open in December 2023.) For more on the FAFSA and CSS Profile, see Scholarships and Grants under College Guidance.  


November 1st: EA and ED Deadlines. 

     Early Action and Early Decision.

      November 1st is when the vast majority of Blue Trainers will submit their first batch of applications, mostly comprised of Common App schools with early submission deadlines. Blue Trainers submit a high percentage of early action applications but also know when to withhold important applications that they want to commit more time to (and whose merit aid isn't dependent on an early deadline.) Families will use On Track sessions to strategize with a Blue Train counselor.  

     Countdown to November 30th!

      While EA/ED deadlines might hog the spotlight the first half of November, in California it's the UC's and Cal States who take the stage in the second half. Due November 30th, the UC Application has lots of moving parts: majors, alternate majors, expanded activity sections, etc. Put simply, do not procrastinate on starting your UC App. Also due November 30th, the Cal State App is much simpler, as it does not require any essays or activity descriptions.


Homestretch of Deadlines!

     December 15th: First Round Notifications

      December 15th is the first major day of notifications for EA/ED schools. Updated applicants will find out if they have been accepted, rejected, or deferred to the main applicant pool until further notice. Since going test optional, more schools have taken beyond the December 15th deadline to notify their early applicants.

     Priority Applications & Early Final Deadliines 

      Once the November deadlines have passed, including the UC's and Cal States, students must pay attention to any priority or final deadlines in December. Priority deadlines can be for specific programs, merit aid, or honors colleges. Early final deadlines (often December 1st) are becoming increasingly common (UT Austin, Gonzaga, U of San Diego, etc.)  

     Wave Two Applications 

      Some Blue Trainers split their application process into Wave 1 and Wave 2. Wave 1 consists of a full range of reach, target, and safe schools that should reap a solid return of options. Wave 2 schools are ones you would apply to if you still had time, energy, and desire once Wave 1 has been submitted. Separating by waves allows for a reasonable pace without letting dream schools hog all the tender loving care that all apps need. Some students will work on Wave 2 schools into January and February.

Happy New Year of Waiting!

     The Waiting Game.

      While some students will continue to grind out a few last applications in the New Year, the vast majority have begun the waiting game. Increasingly, schools have been lengthening their review period which often means later notification dates, more waitlists, and more requests for updates and letters/expressions of continued interest.

     First semester grades.

      First semester grades are the most common update request, as they are the last snapshot of your academic performance that the school will receive. This is all the more reason...

     Early Decision II

      First semester grades are the most common update request, 

Final Final Deadlines!

     February Finish Line.

      While the vast majority of students will have finished their applications before the New Year, some students will continue to work on what we call Wave 2 applications into January and February. Wave 2 apps are those that a student will do only after they have submitted their primary list of applications. These may include last minute additions or work intensive apps like Stanford (yes, we've seen many students get into the highest caliber schools with later applications because they benefitted from the extra care and growth.)

     Financial Aid Deadlines.

      While many Early Action and Early Decision schools will have financial aid form deadlines in November, the majority of schools will have their FAFSA and CSS Profile deadlines in February. Overall, we encourage all Blue Trainers seeking need based aid to get their financial information in sooner than later. Institutional aid is flexible in how it is allocated and being late to the party will not help your cause. Also, depending on your situation, these forms may require more time and energy than you expect. For example, asssets, divorce, remarriage, self employment can all add to the complexity of the applications.

Keep An Eye On Those Portals!

     Accepted? Rejected? Still Waitlisted?

      March is when Blue Trainers are most regularly visiting their portals to see if any new notifications have arrived with that oh so coveted first word "Congratulations!" While there is no doubt students will continue to twist and turn on waitlists for weeks and months to come, March is when the majority of schools will notify their applicants, including the majority of the UC's and the Ivies towards the end of the month. 


      As waitlists become increasingly common and extended, students are left trying to make decisions with only a fractional return of their submissions. Unfortunately, this is the way it is, which means families will need to consider the choices they have in hand, while also remaining aware that more acceptances may come as late as April, May, or yes, even June and July. Blue Trainers are encouraged to remain engaged and responsive to any waitlist school they are still interested in. 

Countdown to May 1st!

     May 1st is National Decision Day

      Excitement, uncertainty, a ticking clock: April is the official action thriller month of the college process! Blue Trainers will be boarding planes, embarking on road trips, visiting all the schools that have made it to the top of their option list. Visiting as an accepted student feels completely different and will give you a whole new perspective on these schools. No longer wondering what it will take to get in, now it's about how much do I love (or not love) this town, campus, community? Blue Trainers often schedule college decision consultations at this time of year to process all the moving parts, from fit to finances. Truly, it is an exciting honor to sort through things with our families and it is our favorite and most rewarding time of the college process.

     Committing and Beyond

      It's official! You've committed, bought the t-shirt, and registered for your orientation. Next it will be getting your roommate(s), shopping for your dorm, and spending a wonderful summer with your family and friends before you head off for your freshman year. There are few summers as magical as the one when you graduate high school, so make the best of it. Lie in the sun, all the hard work behind you, your entire future before you... Congratulations!


before applications

summer work


junior year
senior year

The PSAT    

      While some students may take the PSAT sophomore year, most will take it for their first time in October of junior year. By design, this exam is supposed to be a low pressure first run at an abbreviated SAT under official conditions. This can be a good experience for students planning on taking a real SAT in December or in the spring. On the other hand, for those taking the ACT, or not testing at all, the PSAT may turn out to be an unnecessary trial to put onself through.

      Lastly, for those aiming to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, it is important to note that only junior year scores are eligible. Please see PSAT/NMSQT for more information. 


December 2nd, 2023

     Beware Of Testing Too Early.      

     Although you will hear of students taking SAT's as early as October of junior year (with the goal of "just getting it over with"), decades of experience has shown us that peak scores more commonly come after first semester. Therefore, we encourage our Blue Trainers to pace themselves, for not only will their math and reading skills continue to strengthen and improve their confidence, but also the college process will become more ambient and less abstract which often translates into more driven and focused test day performance. 

     December Testers.

      While the majority of Blue Trainers will take their first official SAT in the spring of junior year, some students might consider taking the December test. If you are someone who is already hitting close to your target score on practice exams or you are prospective athletic recruit who might need to share scores with coaches, then December might be a good first test date for you. Remember, test dates can always be postponed. If you register for December but don't feel ready, you can always reschedule for March. Depending on their skill building needs, Blue Trainers will begin prepping for the December SAT anywhere from mid October to early November. 

      Please Note: Students who know they will have their hands full first semester junior year will often do skill building preparation over junior summer in what we call "jumpstart prep." These students will stop prepping once school starts, then begin again with speed and endurance training closer to the December test date. 


March 9, 2024 (digital only)

     SAT Officially Goes Digital!       

      March will be the first nationally administered digital only SAT. For some students, this change of platform may add additional considerations into their test choice. Put simply, we will not know fully how students respond to the differences until several exams pass. The inability to interact with math questions and figures on paper can cause the greatest issue for some. We encourage students interested in taking the SAT to discuss how the test format change might affect their performance during their free Meet and Greet with a Blue Train counselor. 

     March Testing      

      Situated after the end of first semester and before AP season fully heats up, March has traditionally been a popular month to take the SAT. For some students March will be a follow-up to December, for others it will be their first official sitting. Students taking it for the first time will often consider May or June as a second exam, depending on how light or heavy their AP courseload is. 


May 4th, 2024 (digital only)

     AP Season in Full Swing!       

      Traditionally, May is less popular for SAT testing because it lands right in the middle of AP exams. On the other hand, students who are not taking two or more AP's may consider this date as it tends to be less crowded and, in turn, often less anxiety producing.

      For non AP students, the May/June exams can be a great back-to-back testing experience, where the proximity of the exams can be used to tweak performance and build endurance. With this said, we must remember this is the end of the school year when many students are at their peak of exhaustion and burnout.  


June 1st, 2024 (digital only)

     Are You Tired or Rejuvenated?        

      How a student's last six weeks unfolded will often determine whether June is a good month to test or not. If a student had an extrordinarily heavy AP season mixed with teachers who still haven't stepped off the gas yet, they might be in for a bleary eyed test in June, which often takes the greatest toll on the reading section. Tired students may choose to hold off until August when they have had time to rest and reboot

      June First Time Testers

      While the June SAT is most often a follow-up to a March or May exam, for some late testers this will be their first time sitting. While these students may be a little late to the party, we have seen the majority hustle up and make great score gains. Sometimes being late lights the fire; nonetheless, these students should plan on taking follow-ups, most likely in August and/or October (scores still admissible for Early Action applications.)


August 24th, 2024 (digital only)

     Sunscreen or Scantrons?        

      While the August date does come after a nice sumer rest and occur before senior year starts, it can be a sand trap for some. Simply put, some students are not in the testing mindset with the smell of barbecues and sounds of laughter all around them. Therefore, students who are aiming for August should remember there tends to be an easiness of the summer that can contribute to laggy starts and gasless performance pushes. To shake themselves of the summer sandman, Blue Trainers are encouraged to participate in the August proctored exams and spin class style performance sessions leading up to test day.

     Postpone Until Fall?

      Students who feel the August exam lands too squarely in summer land (for whatever reason), may consider waiting and taking the October and/or November exams. We know it feels scary to test so late and it might not have been your first plan, but rest assured many Blue Trainers have found these months to be the gold at the end of the rainbow. The back-to-back nature of these two exams allows students to benefit from the endurance build, which lightens their need to do as much prep in these busy months. Think how a runner would need to do less daily roadwork if she were competing in back-to-back marathons. Just another reminder to stay hydrated, Blue Trainers!


October 5th, 2024 (digital only)

     Start Your Engines, Again!        

      With most of the seniors having taken the SAT one or more times, the October exam has an air of experience and focus like no other. Students are not as jangly and chatty; tests are not so foreign and scary. When October testers start their engines, you can feel them thinking back to previous exams, what went right, what went wrong, and now they are just waiting for the light to turn green. October exams are admissible for the vast majority of Early Action deadline dates. 


November 2nd, 2024 (digital only)

     Let's Do This!        

      Whereas the October SAT has a vibe of assured experience and focus, the November exam comes in with a more naked fearlessness. Students sitting for November are either those who got a very late start, those with extra stubborn test anxiety, or those who are trying to put a cherry atop their score. While we never want you to test more times than you want to or have to, we do want you to know that there are more viable opportunities than many initially think.

     November & December aka the "WTF" exams.

      Whoa, whoa. Don't blame us, we didn't nickname these last chance test dates! To be fair, we did adopt the profane little acronym fairly early because it reflected the power of attitude when sitting this late in the game. Because their skills and techniques should already be locked down, Blue Trainers taking November or Decemer tests tend to do minimal prep. Rather, just like their in-your-face nickname, these tests come with a hand me the bat and just let me swing swagger. In other words, if you're on the fence about taking a test this late but feel you could give it one more Satruday morning try, then we say knock it out of the park, late testers!

      If they choose, Blue Trainers can participate in free Performance Sessions and Proctored Exams. As well, Test Prep Specialists are always at the ready if you need some late game tweaks or performance enhancing drills.


December 2nd, 2023: Not Too Late! While December usually isn’t a senior’s Plan A for testing, there is no doubt that December scores have changed students’ destinies. Regular decision schools with deadlines in December, January, or February will certainly use December scores. But for schools that won’t use it for their initial admission decision, a strong December score can be a great for any schools you’re wait listed at or any school where a score boost could mean score-dependent merit aid (potentially tens of thousands of dollars over four years.) And remember, this could just be another opportunity for that “Why Not?” Test — no more prep, no more practice tests, just sharpen the pencil and be on time. This evaporation of expectation can often unlock the tumblers of test anxiety.
junior year
senior year


December 9th, 2023

     Beware Of Testing Too Early.      

     Although you will hear of students taking ACT's as early as September of junior year (with the goal of "just getting it over with"), decades of experience has shown us that peak scores more commonly come after first semester. Therefore, we encourage our Blue Trainers to pace themselves, for not only will their math and reading skills continue to strengthen and improve their confidence, but also the college process will become more ambient and less abstract which often translates into more driven and focused test day performance. 

     December Testers.

      While the majority of Blue Trainers will take their first official ACT in the spring of junior year, some students might consider taking the December test. If you are someone who is already hitting close to your target score on practice exams or you are prospective athletic recruit who might need to share scores with coaches, then December might be a good first test date for you. Remember, test dates can always be postponed. If you register for December but don't feel ready, you can always rescedule for February. Depending on their skill building needs, Blue Trainers will begin prepping for the December ACT anywhere from mid October to mid November. 

      Please Note: Students who know they will have their hands full first semester junior year will often do skill building preparation over junior summer in what we call "jumpstart prep." These students will stop prepping once school starts, then begin again with speed and endurance training closer to the December test date. 


February 10th, 2024

     Prime First ACT Date.      

      All things being equal, the February exam offers many advantages as a student's first official exam. You will have your first semester behind you, you will be refreshed and ready after holiday break, and you will have the opportunity to take two official exams before AP season begins, with the space between the Feb and April ACTs allowing for continued practie and score growth. Blue Trainers will often begin prepping for the February exam in December or over the winter holidays.


April 13th, 2024

     America's Favorite ACT Month.      

      While April is historically the most popular ACT test date, for many Blue Trainers this will be their second exam. Building off the experience and results of the February exam, they head into April with a strong sense of focus and mission. Blue Trainers who take the February and April ACTs usually do not take the summer exams, as they often prefer more time to reboot.

      Students taking the ACT for the first time in April will often begin prepping in mid February. Depending on how well they do, they will usually either test again over the summer or wait until the fall for another swing (or two) bat. 


June 8th, 2024

     Are You Tired or Rejuvenated?        

      How a student's last six weeks unfolded will often determine whether June is a good month to test or not. If a student had an extrordinarily heavy AP season mixed with teachers who still haven't stepped off the gas yet, they might be in for a bleary eyed test in June, which often takes the greatest toll on the reading and science sections. These tired students might be wise to kick the testing can down the timeline a date or two.

      Students who didn't have a heavy AP load or who have teachers who have been going easy on them at the end of the year might find a sweet spot in June. If June is your second test, we often recommend waiting until the fall to take your next exam. On the other hand, first time testers in June will often make use of July as an immediate follow-up.


July 13th, 2024

     Sunscreen vs Scantrons      

      Testing centers in July tend not to be as busy as the previous months. There are multiple reasons for this, including both burnout and barbecues. Hard as they try, some students have a trickier time getting their head in the game in July.

      With this said, the July exam can be a perfect second test for those who sat for the first time in June. Feeling a little late to the game sometimes, these testers tend to appreciate July as a time to catch up to the college process in a more peaceful testing month. Just remember to shake off the sand and take off the sunglasses on test day!


Sepetmeber 14th, 2024

     Two Magic Months for Many!      

      We could bore you to testing tears with stories about students who flatlined in the spring only to spike dramatically in the fall. Sometimes it's the late starts, other times it's the ones who have no more patience for their test anxiety, and still for others it's the perfect storm of senior September/October momentum that delivers big. No matter what it is, we make sure our Blue Trainers understand that September and/or October can be profitable test dates. And if you're not sure if it's worth it, just remember squeezing out an extra point or two never hurts for admissions or more merit aid.

      Most September testers will be on their second or third exam so they need not put in much prep time other than getting their gears moving again. Participating in our proctored exams will help shake off the rust, and if desired, Blue Trainers can request a specialist for quick review and performance work. Many students will pull their ACT book out from under their flip flops in early to mid August to be ready for the September exam.


October 26th, 2024

     Still Valid For Most Early Action Schools      

      Many schools with November 1st early deadlines will accept the October test scores if they are sent to them upon receipt (following your application that has alredy been received.)

      Blue Trainers who take the September exam will often preemptively register for the October exam as well. Not only do the two exams work collaboratively in an endurance building, process focusing way, but also students report they are more relaxed in September knowing they still have October. By no means do we want our Blue Trainers to over test, but we want to assure them that the options are there if they wish to sit again. For many students, prep at this time should be minimal.  


December 7th, 2024

     The Good Old "What the Heck" Test!      

      Although December is late in the college process to be testing, there are times it can be advantageous. Students who still haven't hit the score they've been getting on practice exams will sometimes say, WTH (or something similar), and sit for one more Saturday. Pencil sharpened, sleeves rolled up, no regrets. If a higher score comes through, as they somewhat regularly do, that student can use if for any schools he or she has not applied Early Action or Early Decision. 

     Also Helfpul For Waitlist Updates!      

      With waitlists becoming frequently more common, students are often seeking new things to report when the school invariably asks if they have any recent accomplishments. For schools that use standardized tests in admissions, an improved test score is certainly something worthy of mention.

junior year
senior year


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"So, what's this hullabaloo about the PSAT and National Merit Scholarship? Why is it optional sophomore year but required junior year? Am I supposed to prepare for it?!"

Despite all the talk about the PSAT and National Merit Scholarship (NMSQT), very few students need to think twice about it. As you may know, the PSAT is an abbreviated version of the SAT usually administered in the second or third week of October. It is out of 1520 (rather than 1600 like the SAT.) To qualify you must score in the top 2 to 3% of high school juniors in your state. Students may then advance to commended, semifinalist, finalist, or National Merit Scholar status.

While it is certainly an honor to become a National Merit Scholar, the primary award is $2,500 per year, which is low compared to most merit scholarships our Blue Trainers receive. With this said, there are a few select schools that will supplement the scholarship with institutional aid, sometimes up to full tuition. Unfortunately, the majority of schools do not offer more money than the base amount and do not necessarily see the National Merit Scholarship as carrying any more weight than a high ACT score. 

Therefore, we suggest putting genuine effort into preparing for the PSAT only if: 1) you have decided that the SAT is the test for you 2) you are already scoring at or above 1400 on practice exams. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with preparing for the PSAT if you don't meet these criteria, we just don't like to see students burnout needlessly. The college process is a marathon and we encourage testers to put their energy and resources where it yields the greatest return. If you are on the fence about preparing for the PSAT, we suggest discussing with the counselor during your FREE Meet and Greet.

Our Prep Process

It's a good thing we love process at Blue Train because when it comes to standardized tests everything revolves around process: building skills, decreasing anxiety, increasing performance. Understanding how these processes interact is critical to climbing your score to its highest potential. Below are a few good reasons why an uncommonly high number of Blue Trainers have massive score jumps and perfect test scores!

Three Stages of Successful Test Prep

Stage 1: Building Skills Without Pressure

No timed sections, no score chasing. Not yet, at least. Before the various testing pressures are introduced, it is important to find and address any skill gaps you may have, whether it's knowing the difference between a comma and a semi-colon or mastering the steps to solving a compound function. Students should not rush this stage, as burning through practice tests before your skills are primed and ready will often lead to score plateaus and frustration later on. 

Stage 2: Tips, Tricks, and Pattern Recognition

Once you are fully on track to addressing your skill gaps, it's time to begin timing and scoring individual sections. As we show you the patterns of the exam, how they present the same questions over and over just with different hats and mustaches, you will begin to use the standardization against the exam. Before long, you will get better at predicting question types and executing shorcuts. Strategies for each section will be explored in depth, as efficiency becomes the north star to score goals.

Stage 3: Performance Growth Through Moderated Pressure

Speed drills, focused skimming, elimination challenges. The closer we move to the test, the less each session is about building skills and more it is about increasing performance and creating "flow". While Stage 3 can be like nitrus oxide for any student, there is no doubt that anxious testers have seen some of the most dramatic boosts. Growth friendly exercises will continue to push your limits until you no longer fear the ticking clock or (not so) terrifying proctor.

Performance Sessions

FREE for all Blue Trainers. Think spin class for standardized testers. Everyone nervous, everyone testing in a couple of weeks, everyone hustling through perfomance drills together. Answers aren't checked, scores aren't shared. It's about your personal process. Can you move more quickly, can you begin eliminating sooner, can you recognize when to dive in and when to go around and loop back? Shake off the jitters with group momentum and team motivation in these 1.5 hour group sessions.

Proctored Exams

FREE for all Blue Trainers. Both Saturdays prior to every real ACT or SAT, we live proctor a full length practice exam. By this time you will have built up your skills and endurance to take on the test, still fresh for not having rushed in and tried raising your score through brute repetition. Clear eyed examination of the two recent exams allows for real time tweaks and boosts right up until test day. 


Get On Board

Click Start Your Journey to schedule a FREE Meet and Greet!

Most Blue Trainers begin prepping for their first ACT or SAT six to eight weeks before their first exam, most commonly in the winter or spring of junior year. With that being said, some rising juniors anticipating an extremely busy schedule will occasionally use the summer before junior year to get a jump start on their skill building process.

Unless otherwise arranged, all test prep is done one-on-one remotely. In person requests for local South Bay families are dependent on specialist availability.

Do a Meet and Greet

Easy, informative, and FREE for rising juniors and seniors interested in our college prep services. Over the course of an hour, a Blue Train counselor will take you on a quick tour of the college process and answer any questions you may have. Students looking for guidance on their test decision and timeline are highly encouraged to complete ACT vs SAT diagnostics before the meeting. Simply select Meet and Greet on the Start Your Journey form and someone will be contacting you soon!

Choose Your Package/Tokens

You've completed your Meet and Greet with a friendly and knowledgeable Blue Train counselor, shopped around, and after a little nail biting have come to the joyous conclusion that you want to hop on board with us! We couldn't be more excited! On the pricing page you will find a helpful quiz to estimate which package will be the most approriate for your family's needs. 

Please Note: the vast majority of those who do test prep with us end up using our other college prep services. With this in mind, we encourage you to consider the totality of your needs in the chance it may save you money in the long run!

Begin Your Journey

Once you have purchased a package, you will be assigned a test prep specialist based on your choice of test, timeline, and the student specific notes from the Meet and Greet counselor. Families looking to use our services more comprehensively are encouraged to schedule an On Track session as soon as the family feels ready to jump into the college guidance side of things. Families who select "Blue Train Guided" at checkout will have a dedicated counselor overseeing their entire journey.