High school juniors (and even some forward-thinking sophomores and tardy seniors) should be registering now to take the ACT or SAT tests needed to be accepted into a college or university.

Students wanting to sign up to take the October 24 ACT can still do so until this Friday, September 18, for a $39.50 (without a writing test) or $56.50 (with writing) registration fee. Students will have to pay an additional $25 for a late fee but they can sign up for the October 24 exam from Saturday until October 2. Students can also sign up until November 6 for the December 12 test. Information about the ACT test can be found here: http://www.actstudent.org/faq/

The deadline has passed for the October 3 SAT (although students can still register if they pay an additional $28 on top of the standard fee of $54.50), but students have until October 9 to sign up for the November 7 test and until November 5 to sign up for the December 5 SAT. More information can be found here: https://sat.collegeboard.org/home

Virgie Hamrick, a Start High guidance counselor, said students should know that there are two fee waivers available (either for the ACT or SAT) if they qualify for free or reduced lunches. Students should work with their high school counselors to determine if they qualify for such waivers.

“I would tell students that they should begin taking the test during their junior year or when they have finished at least one semester of Algebra 2,” Ms. Hamrick said.

Students should consult their guidance counselors before registering for either test because they can explain the tests’ differences. Essentially, the ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school while the SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities. The ACT has up to five components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science and an optional Writing Test while the SAT has a mandatory writing test.

The College Board is launching new and redesigned PSAT and SAT exams this fall and in the spring that will be more closely aligned to challenging classroom work because recent SAT scores have shown that more than half of the students taking the SAT were not prepared for college. And, even among those who were ready, many low-income and minority students were not taking advantage of the opportunities they had earned.

The best way to prepare for either the ACT or the SAT is to take the most challenging courses in high school and then to engage in as much test prep as possible. That preparation can include free online practice tests, testing tips for each subject area and even complete practice tests.

”I also would suggest that they go on the websites and get the study booklet from their counselor and do some studying for the test before just going into the test … not having any idea of what might be on [it],” Ms. Hamrick said.

The help offered to students doesn’t stop there. The ACT, for example, provides students with an Interest Inventory and a Student Profile Section. By answering questions about their interests, courses and educational preferences, the students are providing to colleges a profile of their work in high school and possible career choices. They are also making themselves visible to colleges and scholarship agencies.

Taking the test twice or even more times is often suggested by counselors, Ms. Hamrick said, because colleges and universities will take their highest scores.

“And finally, the night before the test, they should get a good night rest, eat a healthy breakfast and come with a positive attitude,” she added.

Updated on September 16, 2015