We’ve all heard about the “Varsity Blues” college admission scandal. More than 50 parents were indicted and/or served time for bribery and fraud while helping their children get admitted to top-ranked colleges. While these parents went way too far with their efforts, here are ethical ways YOU CAN HELP prepare your student (without risking jail time!).

DO Have Your Student Take the PreACT and/or PSAT

These tests are offered through your child’s school. Both provide great practice for the actual ACT/SAT test experience and a good benchmark to find areas of strength or weakness.

Sophomores (some high schools allow freshmen) test during the school day (usually parent-paid) while juniors take the PSAT as the first step in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Homeschool students should contact their local high school to register for either the PreACT/PSAT.

DO Ask Your Student to Test More Than Once

ACT statistics show that more than half of students will improve their score with a retake. This may be due to improved knowledge/practice, external factors on test day, higher comfort level, familiarity with question topics, or other factors.

A growing number of colleges now “superscore” and combine a student’s best subject scores from any tests taken to create the best possible composite score. Have your student prepare hard each time.

DO Recognize the Tests Have Changed

Both the ACT and SAT tests have adjusted their content and process since your high school days in many ways. For instance, guessing is no longer penalized. Make sure you know what’s new before trying to advise your student.

DO Encourage Reading

One of the best ways to boost comprehension, and test performance, is to read early and often. As students get older, make sure they’re reading a variety of types of writing, including historical documents, scientific papers, classic literature, and unfamiliar topics.

DO Recognize Test Prep Is THE Best-Paying Part-Time Job

High school students who work part-time jobs can see far higher financial returns from time spent on test prep. The same $100 (before taxes) earned with 10 hours/week of work could be worth $1,000 or more from earned scholarships.

DO Make Sure They’re Ready

A good night’s sleep, a healthy breakfast, and a positive attitude can make a big difference on test day. So help your student prepare accordingly. And make sure they skip the Red Bull!

DO Praise Effort, Not Just Results

If your student’s efforts boost their test score, congratulations! But make sure to take pride in their practice and diligent effort, too. As you know, your student is much more than their score—but sometimes they may need to be reminded of this!

BONUS: Get Expert Help

OnToCollege offers flexible, engaging, proven online classes for PreACT, PSAT, ACT and SAT Test Prep, essay writing, study skills, and college and career readiness, as well as LIVE one-on-one tutoring. Parents, you can help your students do better on tests and college admissions, without resorting to bribes.