Top 6 Test-Optional Tricks and Hacks for 2021 and 2022

Top 6 Test-Optional Tricks and Hacks for 2021 and 2022

July 21, 2021

#1 Understand School's Motivation

The appearance of exclusivity, rather than the development of an intellectually and spiritually enriching environment for students, is frequently what drives the adoption of test-optional policies. Yale’s application rate, for instance, went up 33-percent this year, and its introduction of a test-optional application must have been largely responsible. And, as noted in the New York Times, “with low scores out of the tabulation, the average test score — reported to U.S. News & World Report for its all-important rankings — rises”. 

New York University is another helpful case study in a willfully misleading test-optional policy. The 85,000 NYU applicants for the fall of 2018 were not required to submit test scores, but of the 6,700 students who enrolled, 4,277 submitted SAT scores and 1,796 submitted ACT scores. This allowed the university to boast that this incoming class was their “most selective in history,” having neatly cut their acceptance rate in half from what it had been in 2015 (from 31% to 15%).

#2 Explain Your Circumstances

Admissions officers are more likely to consider an application without test scores from underprivileged students who faced nearly impossible obstacles. Consider the story of JoEllen Soucier: her parents never received a high school education, her father disappeared when she was five, and when she was sixteen she was without a home at all. Thanks to her resolution and to financial aid, JoEllen went on to earn “a bachelor’s degree in business, two master’s degrees and is well on her way to earning her doctorate in higher education”. For students in similar positions of financial hardship, or ones who have, say, a documented learning difference, a test-optional application can be a good choice. Of course, many of the largest and most direct scholarships are granted through ACT or SAT scores. If you need money for college, try and figure out how much your current scores could get you. Check out “How Much Money is One ACT Point Worth” to learn more about this!

#3 Analyze Your Score

In deciding whether a standardized test score will benefit one’s application, it is helpful to look at the school’s admission data if it’s available. The middle 50 percent of the accepted students for Princeton’s class of 2024, for example, scored 740-800 on SAT Math, 710-800 on SAT evidence-based Reading and Writing, and 32-36 on the ACT. A student whose test scores fall comfortably within those ranges could only benefit from sending it in with her application, especially at a selective school like Princeton. As Jed Applerouth has speculated, “Students who do have strong scores are probably going to stand out a little more in this year,” since many other applicants will provide no scores at all.  But if a student’s score falls significantly below this average, it would of course be better not to let the school see it, though one would then be relying heavily on a high-school record, including extracurriculars, which would need to be exemplary. The decision to omit standardized test scores would make sense only for students with a disparity between their school performance and their testing performance (e.g. a student with straight A’s and a 16 on the ACT).

#4 Think About Finances

There are a host of scholarships given directly for ACT® or SAT® scores. That is not to say that you cannot earn scholarships without an ACT® or SAT®, however, these tests can serve as a very easy way to earn extra scholarship dollars. Here at Granite, we calculated that for each point your ACT score increases you can expect an averages scholarship increase of $8,451!

#5 Analyze Your Grades

In the absence of standardized test scores, colleges and universities will rely more heavily on your high school GPA. Accordingly, if your GPA is very high and your test scores are markedly low, it might be a good idea to consider applying test-optional. The table below offers a general comparison between high school GPA and ACT. This is based on an unweighted 4.0 GPA scale. 

ACT Score

GPA (4.0 Unweighted)





























#6 Identify “Student Type”

If you are in the small portion of students who have received likely letters (or another form of early admissions acknowledgment), it can be worth reaching out to the admissions office and inquiring about the need for standardized tests. Many star athletes and significant donor families (donations above 1 million in the last five years) have found that standardized tests were not needed for their admissions.


Mindfulness-Based ACT Prep for The Boys and Girls Club

Mindfulness-Based ACT Prep for The Boys and Girls Club

May 4, 2021

We are so excited to bring Granite’s Mindfulness-Based ACT® Prep Program to the Boys and Girls Club of Middle TN for the Summer of 2021! 

Program Overview

Boys and Girls Club members will have the opportunity to take part in a two month comprehensive ACT prep program. Our team of educators will host in-person classes three times per week. Sessions will include english, math, reading, science, and (of course) Mindfulness For Academic Achievement! Club members will also have access to Granite’s ACT Everything App (a mindfulness-based ACT® prep app). Finally, Boys and Girls club members will have the opportunity to take part in two fully proctored official ACT® Tests. Boys and Girls Club administrators (and students) will then have access to a rich suite of statistics overviewing student success! 

Live Classes

Our team of educators will host in-person classes three times per week. Sessions will include english, math, reading, science, and (of course) Mindfulness For Academic Achievement!

Mindfulness-Based Software

Club members will also have access to Granite's ACT Everything App (a mindfulness-based ACT® prep app).

Proctored ACT®

Boys and Girls club members will have the opportunity to take part in two fully proctored official ACT® Tests.

GRANITE® Overview

At Granite®, our test prep services are powered by a “mindfulness-centric” holistic approach. Students are encouraged to go beyond simply memorizing test content and learn how stress reduction, focus training, and test taking strategy will help them perform at the highest level.

At Granite®, we cover the academic fundamentals of your test (math, grammar, reading, science, quantitive reasoning, etc..), but we also offer students the opportunity to learn how to excel at Test Taking Intangibles®: test day diet, sleeping to score well, meditation and relaxation to reduce test anxiety, focus training to boost attention, and much more. At Granite®, we like to call this Mindfulness for Academic Achievement®!

At Granite®, we encourage our students to think about test taking as an athlete might think about an event, considering how both mind and body can work together to perform at the highest level.

How to Cure Dyslexia? Do you even want to?

How to Cure Dyslexia? Do you even want to?

March 8, 2021

What is dyslexia and does dyslexia have a cure? This question has become almost ubiquitous in recent years as dyslexia diagnoses have become more common. In this article, it is my goal to provide answers to the questions: “What is dyslexia?”, “How do you get dyslexia?”, “What are the symptoms of dyslexia?”, “Can you cure dyslexia?”, and “Who has dyslexia?”.

Dyslexia Overview

According to the National Institute of Health, dyslexia is a reading disorder that presents itself in people with otherwise normal intelligence. According to the National Institute of Health, roughly 7% of students in the U.S. will be diagnosed with dyslexia (Seminar: Developmental Dyslexia). Yale University describes Dyslexia as “an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader.” (Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity). Accordingly, students with dyslexia often read slower than their peers and have trouble with spelling and sequencing tasks. Unexpectedly, however, dyslexic students often have very fast creative problem-solving skills in non-reading academic tasks. This ability to perform some tasks very quickly and others slowly can leave dyslexic students and their families confused. The good news, however, is that with the right tools dyslexic students can use this to their advantage.  

How do you get Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is genetic, in other words, it travels through families. Accordingly, if you have a family history of dyslexia, it is more likely that you (or your children) will also be dyslexic. While scientists aren’t exactly sure which genes control dyslexia, they have observed a fascinating connection between roughly 6 genes and prenatal neural development (in other words these genes are controlling how your brain develops before you are even born). While you might be developing before you are even born, dyslexia is rarely diagnosed until you begin learning to read. Many students can so skillfully work around their dyslexia, that they are not even diagnosed until high school or college!

Dyslexia is diagnosed through something called a “psychoeducational assessment” (often referred to as a “psych-ed” for short). During this assessment, a medical doctor and clinical psychologist will team up to assess a student’s learning style (and general cognitive abilities). by the end of such an assessment, if it is appropriate, the providers will be able to provide a diagnosis of dyslexia.

Dyslexia Symptoms?

If you are considering pursuing a “psych-ed” assessment for yourself (or your student), it is important to consider the common symptoms of dyslexia. The Mayo Clinic offers a comprehensive article explaining a host of dyslexia symptoms at a host of development stages in THIS ARTICLE. Generally speaking, however, the following symptoms are likely evidence that a student might be struggling with dyslexia. 

  • Below Grade-Level Reading or Slow Reading
  • Sequencing Problems (having a hard time remembering the order of things)
  • Spelling Problems
  • Foreign Language Difficulties

The fundamentally different wiring of a dyslexic brain causes many unpleasant symptoms like the ones listed above; however, this unique wiring can also empower dyslexic individuals with a host of strengths. Yale University research shows many students with dyslexia are unusually gifted in the following. 

  • Listening Comprehension 
  • Visuospatial Skills (many of the skills critical for matharchitecture, and art
  • “Big Picture Skills” (an ability to work with and understand large and complex systems: computer science, engineering, linguistics, etc.) 
  • 3 Dimensional Modeling (unusually strong ability to work in 3rd-dimensional space: engineering models, sculpture, etc.) 
  • Larger than Average Vocabulary 

Cure Dyslexia?

Because dyslexia offers many strengths to complement its many setbacks, having a “cure” for dyslexia is rarely considered the goal. For most, the goal is to find a way of treating and reducing the negative symptoms of dyslexia, allowing the strengths to shine through. 

Fortunately, there are a wide array of very effective interventions for dyslexia! If caught early, most of the negative symptoms of dyslexia can be almost completely erased with the following resources. 

  • Reading Programs (working with a reading specialist trained in the  Orton-Gillingham or the Wilson Reading Program will allow your students a multisensory approach that can fundamentally “re-wire” how his/her brain engages with reading for the better!) 
  • Tutors (Educators with training and experience in dyslexia – like our wonderful educators here at Granite – can help you or your student innovate and create “outside the box” approaches to school) 
  • Screen Readers (Technology that “reads to you” can help people with dyslexia tremendously by allowing them to unlock their very high listening comprehension and avoid their slower reading speeds)
  • Health (Healthy diet and healthy sleeping patterns dramatically reduce the negative effects of dyslexia) 

Who has Dyslexia?

When navigating dyslexia, it is critical to keep in mind all the wonderful people around you who also have dyslexia! 

Albert Einstein, arguably our society’s most ubiquitous genius meme, was dyslexic. Einstein struggled tremendously with learning foreign languages (and school generally) and was even kicked out of University for poor academic performance. Einstein was famous for saying “Words or language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play

any role in my mechanism of thought.” (letter, 1945) He also said the following about words “Thoughts did not come in any verbal formulation. I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterwards.” (interview)

Steven Speilberg, the American screenwriter, director, and producer, is dyslexic. It is easy to see the connection between Speilberg’s unusual ability to visualize and then create fantastic worlds with his dyslexia. Interestingly, Speilberg didn’t discover that he was dyslexic until he was about 60 years old. Watch this incredible interview where Speilberg talks about his Dyslexia. Steven Speilberg Dyslexia Interview.

Kiera Knightly, the British Actress, is dyslexic. Despite her dyslexia, Kiera managed to be top of her class in school. Read all about Kiera’s academic and acting journey HERE

Tommy Hilfiger, the American fashion designer, and businessman, discusses his dyslexia in this movie

Grantly Neely, (me) the author of this article, I am dyslexic! Despite struggling tremendously with reading in lower and middle school, I was able to graduate as the valedictorian of my high school class. Next, I studied Economics and Studio Art at Dartmouth College (an ‘Ivy League’ university). Currently, I am the founder of the learning center and education technology company Granite! I love making videos to explain math, physics, and economics concepts in “dyslexic friendly” ways! Follow me on YouTube to watch all the videos! Also, follow this link to learn more about all of our wonderful “dyslexic friendly” educators here at Granite.

3 Ways to Motivate an Unmotivated Student

3 Ways to Motivate an Unmotivated Student

Parent working to motivate your son

1. Re-define Goals for Motivation.

“you are so smart, if you just worked a little bit you would get an ‘A’”!

One of the main variables that will impact student decision making, goal striving, and motivation is is what psychologists refer to as “self-worth”. Self-worth, in the context of education-psychology, is a person’s judgment of their dignity and/or aptitude. 

When a student receives a low grade on an assignment, after little to no studying, one of the most common responses from parents is “you are so smart, if you just worked a little bit you would get an ‘A’”! 

In this case, most parents are (with a kind-heart) hoping to boost the self-worth of their student. Unfortunately, however, this language could lead the student to develop an unhelpful pattern: “If I do not study and fail, my parents will tell me I’m smart (but lazy)”. Since we as a society value “smart people”, this will only reinforce the pattern. Furthermore, the student may develop a fear: “If I DO study and fail, my parents will think I am dumb!” This further reinforces the student’s inhibitions to study. Since the student receives a “self-worth-reward” for NOT studying and fears shame in the case of studying, the student’s incentives are completely misaligned. 

The best way to avoid the aforementioned problem of “misaligned self-worth rewards” is to re-define our goals for our students and subsequently the language we use to discuss these goals. If our objective is simply for our student to work hard, it is wise to put our goal directly (and EXCLUSIVELY) on hard work. A parent might try saying the following to a student before a test: “As long as I know you studied for 1-hour before the test, I don’t really care what grade you get.” 

By redefining our goals, we can make clear our expectations to our student, AND we can free our student of the toxic notion that working hard yet receiving a low grade is an indication of personal (self-worth) failure. 

2. Promote Internal Attribution for Motivation

“My kid is struggling with the class because his teacher is horrible!’”

It is not uncommon for a student to find themselves in a class with a teacher who they do not like. This lack of connection could be rooted in personal difference, apathy on the part of the educator (or student), or a host of other complex interpersonal variables. The reality is that humans are complicated and not everyone will get along! That said, we run the risk of leading our student to lose motivation when we are publicly dismissive of a teacher. It is not uncommon for parents to say (often CORRECTLY!) “My kid is struggling with the class because his teacher is horrible!” While this could very certainly be the case, verbal expression of the issue will lead a student to feel that “trying isn’t worth it”.

It is not uncommon “in the real world” for someone to have an incompetent boss, an abrasive teammate, or an unpleasant colleague. Still, none of these situations warrant giving up on a goal. It is incredibly valuable to learn how to navigate and thrive in less-than-optimal situations. 

When a student expresses dislike for a teacher, whether, for pedagogical or personal reasons, I give them the following advice: “Get as high of a grade in the class as you can”! This advice hinges on one key reality: If you have not put effort into the class, your criticisms will be dismissed; however, if you work hard people will pay attention!” In other words, if a student with poor class attendance and poor grades criticizes a teacher, most people will not take the criticism seriously; however, if the star student makes the same criticism people will listen! 

Put simply, being dedicated to the class of a teacher you do not like, positions you well to express your discontent with the class! 

3. Work with Mindfulness for Motivation

"The biggest factor influencing student motivation is simply maturity!"

It is no secret that one of the biggest factors influencing student motivation is simply maturity! As adolescents grow, so do critical regions of the brain involved in long-term planning, decision making, and self-concept. While for the most part, these developments just take time, a mindfulness-practice can be an amazing way to nurture all these key regions of the brain. 

Mindfulness will train students to work skillfully with test anxiety, interpersonal struggles, boredom, and stress!

If you are new to mindfulness and don’t know where to begin, consider exploring some of our mindfulness courses. We have a mindfulness-based ACT® course to help students prepare for the college-entrance standardized test. Granite offers a course titled “Mindfulness for Academic Achievement®” which (as the name might suggest) is all about finding academic achievement through mindfulness. Finally, we even have a course that empowers adults to become certified “Mindfulness-Based Educators” (a great opportunity if you – as a parent – want to gain insight on guiding your student to a mindfulness practice).


Top Test Prep Companies

Top Test Prep Company Nashville
Top Test Prep Company in Nashville

Preparing for the ACT®, SAT®, or AP® exams can be difficult, time consuming, and expensive. That said, finding the best test prep can make the process exciting, empowering, and affordable! Recently, a student told me a story about the test prep center he had attended before coming to GRANITE®. Namely, the student’s previous testing center (it shall remain un-named) had paired the student with a fellow high-schooler who had scored LOWER on the ACT® than he had! Needless to say, their working relationship was not going to be fruitful. I was so shocked by this center’s practice, I wanted to create a list of the best test prep centers in Nashville. Clearly, I would rather EVERYONE learn with us at GRANITE®. However, should that not be “in the cards”, I want you to know the alternatives in town that have a great track record for success! Below are the lists of centers with professional test prep educators who are determined to help their students thrive. Additionally, i’ve added “Google Star Ratings” as an objective measure of the top test prep companies in Nashville! 

20 Google Reviews (5.0 stars)
What people are saying:

"I HIGHLY recommend this service for anyone trying to improve their score."

"We would refer him and his company to anyone preparing to take the ACT."

Clearly we are just a bit biased here at GRANITE®! But how could we not be; we truly believe that our mindfulness-centric approach to education: Mindfulness for Academic AChievement®. Allows us to empower students like no other test center in the world! All that said, there is no one better to focus on than the happy families who have worked with GRANITE® educators! For example, one high scoring student said: “I’ve used Granite test prep, and my score went up 4 points from a 30 to a 34!!! I HIGHLY recommend this service for anyone trying to improve their score. Thank you so much!!!” A happy parent had this to say about their family’s experience with GRANITE “…helped our son prepare well beyond what he had imagined, and the results far exceeded our expectations. We would refer him and his company to anyone preparing to take the ACT. He is professional, courteous, accommodating, and knows how to customize the learning process for each individual student.” Even school educators are talking about the GRANITE® classes, programs, and software offered at their schools! “I highly recommend Grantly Neely of Granite Test Prep. He worked with a group of students at the school where I work and provided excellent tutoring. Despite it being a large group, he provided individual feedback and encouragement.”

27 Google Reviews (5.0 stars)
What people are saying:

Best ACT prep I’ve ever done! Thank you so much Mr. Joseph !

"Highly recommend ACT HELP Tutoring."

It is hard to argue with 27 perfect 5.0-star reviews! Needless to say, Joseph students love his teaching style, methodology, and results. An excited high scorer had this to say “I’ve been in his class for about 3 years and I’m now acing my honors math class, and also been able to score a 32 in the PSAT Math. He is an amazing teacher and can guarantee you a 36 on your ACT.” Guaranteeing a 36 – that is an impressive guarantee no doubt! It seems, however, that many students attending ACT® HELP are scoring a 36! Just look at this feedback “Superior, Talented, Smart, Awesome, Fantastic, Amazing Teacher! If you’re a serious student looking to score a 36, take Joseph. As long as you attend the class and do flashcards and study, you get a perfect score.”

33 Google Reviews (4.9 stars)
What people are saying:

"My daughter had an amazing experience with doing ACT Prep with Ngenius."

"Highly recommend their services."

Based in Franklin, TN, “Ngenius” could be a perfect choice for families in Williamson county looking for a neighborhood option. Ngenius is incredibly well-reviewed with an average star rating of 4.9 stars!  One family had this to say about the amazing convenience of working with Ngenius “My son went for tutoring for ACT. They were positive and very easy to work with on scheduling. My son increased his ACT score by 4 points due to their tutoring. Benny is great. We can’t say thank you enough.” Another family was incredibly excited at how QUICKLY they saw results “After ONE session with Benny, his ACT score went up four points. After five sessions, his composite score broke 30!” Needless to say Ngenius is helping alot of families achieve their ACT® dreams!

5 Google Reviews (5.0 stars)
What people are saying:

I would definitely recommend this class to any student looking to improve their score!

Scott Sherman tutored both my children for ACT Prep. He is the best! Scott is professional and experienced. Mary Lee Bunch and Associates are a well kept secret.

Located in Brentwood, TN, and therefore convenient for both Davidson and Williamson County residents, Mary Lee Bunch Associates, L.L.C. has consistently been an iconic force in the middle Tennessee test prep scene. A student had this to say “I took a class to study for the ACT here and it was very helpful. I had a score of 33 on my practice test, and after being tutored here for a month I got a 35 on the actual test! They are also all really nice here and will help you learn in a comfortable environment.” Everyone knows that tests can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, therefore, we love how Mary Lee Bunch manages to help students feel comfortable.

How to get the Hope Scholarship in Tennessee:

Students having tons of fun preparing for college

How to get the Hope Scholarship in Tennessee:

October 21, 2019
Every year the Tennessee State Government pays out millions of dollars in funding for students to attend college — here’s how to make the most of it in 3 easy steps!

#1 Qualify for the Hope Scholarship:

Few people realize, but the hope scholarship isn’t just one scholarship, it’s actually a suite of merit and need based scholarships with a range of academic and demographic benchmarks. The tables below will tell you what you need to do to qualify for each type of scholarship.

Non-Demographic Based:

Scholarship Amount/year ACT or SAT GPA Notes
Hope Basic $4,000 21 ACT / 1080 SAT 3.0 Available to all who meet requirements
Ned McWherter Scholars Program $6,000 29 ACT / 1300 SAT 3.5 Application based.
General Assembly Merit $4,000 29 ACT / 1300 SAT 3.75 Application based.

Demographic Based:

Scholarship Amount/year ACT or SAT GPA Demographic Notes
Helping Heroes $2,000 None None Veteran Honorably discharged active duty.
ASPIRE $1,500 21 ACT / 1080 SAT 3.0 Low Income Family or individual income below $36,000 annually.
HOPE Access Grant $3,000 18 ACT / 940 SAT 2.75 Low Income Family or individual income below $36,000 annually.
TSAA $4,000 None None Low Income EFC sub $2,100.
Consider how you can maximize the amount of money you receive, for some students this means studying for the ACT or finding a way to boost her/his GPA. Once a student has established all that she/he is possibly qualified for the next step is applying! If you are struggling with test taking a Granite Prep tutor can always help.

#2 Fill out FAFSA:

Before you can apply for any of these scholarships you must fill out the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”. This is a form where students and families disclose their tax information to the federal government. The form can take a while to fill out, but it can mean being awarded “Pell Grants” (a.k.a more free money for college) so it’s definitely worth the time spent. Below is a link to FAFSA:

#3 Choose Your Scholarships on the TSAC Portal:

Our third and final step in the process is to make an account on the TSAC portal. TSAC (Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation), is the third party who is responsible for hosting and processing all the HOPE scholarship applications. In other words, this is where you go to apply for all the HOPE scholarships. Creating an account on the portal is easy, just follow the link below and fill out your information and apply to any scholarship you wish!


  1. Determine what you qualify for
  2. Complete FAFSA
  3. Apply with TSAC
If you have any additional questions please leave a comment and we will respond as well as we can! If you still feel a little confused and you would like to make an appointment with a Granite Prep college counselor reach out at:


or learn more at:


Grantly Neely is a certified mindfulness teacher and founder of Granite Prep a company dedicated to helping it’s students achieve their ambitions while building resilient minds.

How Much is 1-Point on the ACT Worth in Dollars?

How Much is 1-Point on the ACT Worth in Dollars?

October 18, 2019
As the founder of Granite Test Prep, a Nashville, TN based education center, I spend a lot of time working with students and families on increasing ACT scores, finding colleges based on these ACT scores, and finally using these ACT scores to pursue merit scholarships and financial aid to make college a little more affordable!
I recently had a family ask me a great question: “how much is one point on the ACT worth in dollars?”
I recently had a family ask me a great question: “how much is one point on the ACT worth in dollars?” At the time, I didn’t have a direct answer for them; however, I was curious and I wanted to find a more exciting answer than “it depends on what you and your family values etc…”
I was curious and I wanted to find a more exciting answer than “it depends on what you and your family values etc…”
Finding an answer to the value of a single ACT point began with seeing what other experts in the field had recorded. College admissions blog “The College Solution” claims that a one point increase in ACT score (given certain situations) could equal as much as $24,000 for students applying to The University of Indiana. While this figure is certainly interesting, at Granite we wanted to know more! We didn’t want to know simply what a 27 to a 28 meant at Indiana, or what a 35 to a 36 meant at Alabama, we wanted to know ON AVERAGE how much a one point increase starting at ANY SCORE meant for ANY SCHOOL.
To calculate the average dollar amount value of a single point increase on the ACT, we went out and built a list of ALL the ACT scholarships we could find, their dollar values, and their ACT cutoff thresholds and we let the statistics magic begin
Without anyone on the internet giving an absolute value for “the value of a single point on the ACT”, I went about using some tricks I learned in my economics degree and began building a data set! Our set began with the college readiness blog “Prep Scholar”. Their fascinating article “Guaranteed Scholarships Based on SAT/ACT Scores” outlined many of the ACT-based scholarships available to college applicants. Still we needed more data, so we went school by school and studied their scholarship and financial aid pages. To calculate the average dollar amount value of a single point increase on the ACT, we went out and built a list of ALL the ACT scholarships we could find, their dollar values, and their ACT cutoff thresholds and we let the statistics magic begin (see the bottom of the article for a description of the “statistics magic”).
Ultimately we calculated that a single point increase on the ACT was worth $8,451 over four years.
Ultimately we calculated that a single point increase on the ACT was worth $8,451 over four years. That means that for ANY score and ANY school we would expect and AVERAGE increase in scholarship of $8,451 for every single point you get on the ACT. Below is a graph of some of the schools we included in our calculations. Along the bottom of the graph are ACT scores, and for every ACT score you can see how many dollars that score would be worth after 4-years.
It should be acknowledged that not all schools give money for ACT scores. Ivy League schools for example (and other “highly selective institutions” like Stanford or MIT), don’t offer any merit scholarships for academics or athletics. These schools prefer to give all of their scholarship money in the form of financial-aid, a package of grants, student work options, and sometimes loans that make these (otherwise very expensive schools) often very affordable. Since these schools typically have acceptance rates in the single digits, the value of an additional ACT point is in your percent chance of being accepted. Look for our next article which will be “Acceptance Rates and the Value of the Marginal ACT Point”.
These schools prefer to give all of their scholarship money in the form of financial-aid, a package of grants, student work options, and sometimes loans that make these (otherwise very expensive schools) often very affordable.
If you are interested in how much more money you could get in scholarships given a certain school and your specific profile please feel free to contact us at: contact@granitetestprep.com. We spend all day helping students and families like you figure out how to raise ACT scores and then how to use these ACT scores most efficiently in the college application process.

Stats Corner:

For our friends who love statistics, want to learn about statistics, or are simply wary of random figures posted in blogs, here are the calculations and methods we used to get our numbers and graphs! If you DON’T like statistics don’t worry! This section just explains how we got to the number of $8,451.

Our data set was an aggregated list of merit scholarship amounts and their corresponding ACT threshold. Merit scholarships were only included if they depended solely on ACT score (so as to reduce risk of bias from unobserved variables like “student GPA” or “student achievement”.)
Our equation was modeled as follows: Dollars= ß1(Score) + C
Regression Results are shown below:
R-squared: 0.634
ß1 T-Stat: 9.174 (p>0.000)

Math Geniuses Don’t Exist.

Math Geniuses Don’t Exist.

October 15, 2019
For many students, math (or another “math-heavy field” like computer science, physics, accounting, economics etc.) can be the most intimidating subject in school.

For many students, math (or another “math-heavy field” like computer science, physics, accounting, economics etc.) can be the most intimidating subject in school. Statements like “I’m not some math genius” or “I can’t possibly take that class” can be heard echoing down high school and college hallways alike, when math class is mentioned. 

“I can’t possibly take that class”

Parents and students typically attribute these mathematical challenges to “not being a math person” or “the class being just too hard”. After tutoring countless students in math, physics, economics, statistics and other quantitative classes that elicit stress in those with “numerical anxiety”, at GRANITE we think something different is going on. 

Math is different from history or english largely in the way it is expressed.

Math is different from history or english largely in the way it is expressed. English and history use words. While words can be long and complicated, ultimately they are still words. Words are comfortable; we use them to text our friends, read our favorite blogs, and follow the subtitles in foreign films. Accordingly, when an english or history teacher gives us a uniquely hard article, primary source, or novel, we can feel reassured that at the end of the day this challenging academic obstacle is still made up of words. Math by contrast is not built on words but on “notation”: symbols used to count, categorize, and estimate.

Words are comfortable; we use them to text our friends, read our favorite blogs, and follow the subtitles in foreign films.

It is not uncommon for a student to come across a math problem and leave the question blank, in spite of having all the skills needed. When reviewing the problem, the student will often say “I didn’t know that symbol, so I panicked and just skipped it”. This, of course, is not the fault of the student at all. Our mainstream cultural dialogue and academic systems consistently reinforce the idea that math is something extremely difficult reserved for “math geniuses”, and the resulting panic students feel is just a self fulfilling prophecy. 

…consistently reinforce the idea that math is something extremely difficult rese

Nashville High School Art Show

Nashville High School Art Show

September 18, 2019

Are you a Nashville high school student with a passion for art?
Is there a high school student in your life who makes beautiful works of art?
If YES! Encourage them to apply to the Nashville High School Art Show!

Granite Prep and Granite Life are thrilled to be hosting the Nashville High School Art Show this fall!
The Nashville High School Art Show is a free and open event for any Nashville high school student to submit original work. All mediums are welcome including (but not limited to) Painting, Charcoal, Sculpture, Digital, Mixed Media, Film, Photography, Furniture, and more. Applicants may submit up to 3 works in their application. Selected pieces will be featured in an open gallery exhibition on October 5th (on the night of the monthly “Nashville Art Crawl”). A reception will be held to recognize all featured high school artists. All recognized artists will receive certificates of accomplishment. The show will be juried by a panel of local and internationally recognized artists. Students will have the opportunity to run critiques with the jurors and other Nashville art enthusiasts at the October 5th reception. For more information on how to apply to the event follow the link above ^ “apply now”.

5 Tips for Writing a Great College Essay

prestigious college or university

5 Tips for Writing a Great College Essay

August 18, 2019


 Admission officers look at accepting students as building a class. They want the class they are building to “get along” and build lifelong friendships with each other. Accordingly, sharing stories about your friendships and social life can be very good topics in a common app essay. This certainly doesn’t mean you need to talk about how many friends you have or convince anyone you are “popular”; however, sharing stories about meaningful relationships in your life can show a reader mountains about who you are.

College admissions readers are looking to build a diverse and interesting class of students. The common app essay serves as a critical opportunity for the admissions readers to understand who you are as a real person. One of the best ways to show the “real you” is simply to share a story of your high school experience.
Don’t be scared to talk about hardship, adversity, or challenges you have overcome. No one is perfect, and the college admissions readers know that. Reflecting maturely on something in your life that didn’t go perfectly can result in an incredible essay!
The common app essay isn’t like all the 5 paragraph essays you wrote in high school. It doesn’t need to have a thesis statement, topic sentences and three body paragraphs. It is a personal statement, designed to tell the admissions readers more about you. As long as the essay is captivating and tells the reader about who you are, you can use as many paragraphs and any structure you like.
Sharing a lesson you’ve learned in the last 4 years can be a very successful essay topic; it shows humility, an ability to learn and maturity. Be careful, however, not to write an essay about how you are now “enlightened” or have “figured it all out”. Many students attempt to write essays about knowing nothing as freshman and now knowing everything. These stark contrasts just sound cheesy.
If you still feel like you need some tips for your Common App essay feel free to leave a question below or reach out at contact@granitetestprep.com

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