Parent FAQs

The Best Test Prep, Study Skills, and College Prep Support for Your Child

Getting your son or daughter launched into the world is an awesome responsibility. There are so many things to consider, to do, to plan for. Not the least of these is helping your teen get into the college he or she wants to attend — with minimal damage to the family finances.

Parents often call the Doorway to College customer service team (yes, we're live humans) and ask us questions. We've gathered their most frequently asked questions here for you. If there's something you'd still like to know after reading this list, please check out the FAQs for Students. If you can't find your answer there, give us a call at 877-927-8378, or send an email to the Doorway to College Customer Service team. 

Parents Ask...

ACT, SAT, or PSAT?

Q. Which test should my child take — the ACT or the SAT?

Q. What are the main differences between the ACT and SAT?

Q. Can my child take the ACT or SAT more than once? Is it a good idea?

Q. What is the best way for my child to prepare for the ACT or SAT?

The ACT

Q. When should my child take the ACT?

Q. When is the ACT test given, and how do I register my child?

Q. What subjects are tested on the ACT?

Q. Should my child take the ACT Writing (essay) test?

The PSAT and SAT

Q. What's the purpose of the PSAT?

Q. When should my child take the PSAT?

Q. How do we register our child for the PSAT?

Q. Does a student have to take the SAT as well as the PSAT for the National Merit Scholarship competition?

Q. Should my child take the PSAT even if he's not likely to win a National Merit Scholarship?

Q. What's the difference between the format of the PSAT and the SAT?

Q. What subjects are tested on the PSAT?

Q. What subjects are tested on the SAT?

Q. When should my child take the SAT?

ZAPS Seminars and Webinars

Q. Does ZAPS test prep cover all subtests in the seminar or webinar?

Q. What study materials will my child receive at the ZAPS seminar or webinar?

Q. Is there an additional cost for the ZAPS study materials?

Q. What type of calculator should my child bring to the seminar?

Q. How close to the test should my child take the ZAPS strategy-focused seminar or webinar?

Q. How much of my student’s time will ZAPS take?

Q. How much score improvement should my child expect to see?

Q. How will ZAPS test prep address my child’s special needs?

Q. How much does a ZAPS seminar or webinar cost?

Guarantee and Refund Policies

Q. Is there a guarantee?

Q. What is Doorway to College's refund policy if my child does not attend the seminar or webinar after I've paid by credit card?

Q. What is Doorway to College's refund policy if my child's seminar/webinar is canceled?

Logistics

Q. Is it okay if my child attends a ZAPS seminar at a neighboring school instead of his own?

Q. My student is home schooled. Where can she attend a ZAPS seminar?

Q. What happens if I register my child and he or she is unable to attend?

Q. Why are there two sessions listed for some seminars and one session for others?

Q. ZAPS always comes to my child’s school, but I can’t see the seminar on the Doorway to College website. Why not?

Extra Help

Q. Does Doorway to College provide tutoring or content review for specific subjects?

Q. Do you offer course in study skills? My child's skills could use a boost.

Q. What else does Doorway to College offer to help my child?

 

Doorway to College Answers...

ACT or SAT?

Q. Which test should my child take — the ACT or the SAT?

All U.S. colleges and universities that require a test will now accept either the ACT or SAT. (Some schools require neither test.) So which test to take is a decision that depends more on your student than on the colleges on his or her application list.

If your child is applying to a highly competitive school, is worried about whether she will get into her first-choice school, or is applying for scholarships, consider having her take both tests and submitting the better score.

Q. What are the main differences between the ACT and SAT?

We need to preface this answer by saying that both ACT, Inc. and the College Board (publishers of the SAT and PSAT) are planning to change their tests for 2015 and 2016. ACT changes will be relatively minor. Changes to the SAT and PSAT, on the other hand, will be more extensive. The information below is accurate as of the current tests. We'll update it as the tests change.

  • ACT tests your achievement: or what you've learned in your classes at school. The College Board says their current test is less about achievement and more about your aptitude for learning, your verbal skills, and your reasoning skills. But achievement is important too. The College Board's redesigned SAT and PSAT will focus more on skills students learn in high school. In other words, their redesigned tests will be more like the ACT.
  • Currently, vocabulary is extremely important on the SAT, and somewhat less so on the ACT. But having an excellent vocabulary will help you do your very best on both tests. In the redesigned SAT and PSAT, you'll be tested on meanings of words you already know. They may be common words, but you'll need to be careful that you're using their correct meanings in context.
  • The ACT counts only your correct answers. The current SAT has a guessing "penalty" for wrong answers. The strategies for these two tests are different; but that penalty is going away. The redesigned SAT and PSAT will not have a guessing penalty, which means, once again, that the SAT and PSAT are moving closer to the ACT.
  • The ACT is 20 minutes shorter than the current SAT (3 hours, 45 minutes including the essay), but it has more questions. The redesigned SAT will be 3 hours long with a 50-minute optional essay.
  • The ACT has four long sections, plus an optional essay at the end of the test. The current SAT has nine shorter sections, including a mandatory essay at the beginning of the test. The redesigned PSAT and (presumably, though we haven't seen a sample test yet) the redesigned SAT will have three sections plus an optional essay.

To learn more about the ACT, go to http://www.actstudent.org/. To learn about the redesigned PSAT and SAT, go to https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat-suite-assessments/exam-changes.

Q. Can my child take the ACT or SAT more than once? Is it a good idea?

Both ACT and SAT can be taken multiple times. But whether your child should do so is a decision you may want to make as a family. It’s all about balance between time, money, and whatever pressure your child feels to get a higher score.

If it’s offered at your student's school, the PLAN is good practice for the ACT. The PLAN is going away and being replaced by ASPIRE.

If your student takes the PSAT, that’s good practice for the SAT. You might find that's enough. If you and your child are not happy with your child's scores, then consider a prep class before taking either test again.

Q. What is the best way for my child to prepare for the ACT or SAT?

By taking a focused test-preparation seminar or webinar, students learn essential skills, strategies, tips, and techniques that help them do their personal best on the test. 

In order to experience the full benefit of a seminar or webinar, follow-up study and practice are necessary. Look for study materials that will fit into your child's busy schedule. Based on our experience with students all across the country, we know that huge prep books are intimidating. They tend to gather dust. As a parent, you’ll have a much easier time encouraging your student to commit to short study sessions using practical, student-friendly materials and short practice tests.

Taking a full-length, timed practice test is also helpful. Be sure your child can view answer explanations afterward so that he or she can determine whether a correctly answered question was a lucky guess or a wise choice.

Vocabulary study is also important if your child does not already have a college-level vocabulary. This is especially important on the SAT and PSAT, but shouldn't be ignored for any student.

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The ACT

Q. When should my child take the ACT?

The ACT test is given several times a year nationwide. The questions are written to reflect what all students should have been exposed to academically by spring of their junior year. Many students take the test sooner and repeat it in the spring to try to earn a better score. Seniors may take it again in the fall to boost their score before turning in their college applications.

Here’s what ACT says:

“Pick a test date that is at least two months ahead of the application deadlines of all the colleges and scholarship agencies you might want to apply to. Scores for the ACT (No Writing) are normally reported within 3–8 weeks after the test date. If you take the ACT Plus Writing, scores will be reported only after all of your scores are available, including Writing, normally within 5–8 weeks after the test date.

Q. When is the ACT test given, and how do I register my child?

For a list of scheduled dates, or to register for the ACT, visit their website at www.act.org

You may also want to check with your guidance/counseling department to find out when they recommend that students in your school take the tests.

Q. What subjects are tested on the ACT?

On the ACT, your student will take four subtests in the following subjects:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Science

The ACT Writing Test (essay) is an optional addition.

Q. Should my child take the ACT Writing (essay) test? 

It's a good idea for students to take the Writing Test, even if the colleges they’re applying to today don't require it. If they change their minds after taking the ACT without the Writing Test, they'll have to go back and take the entire ACT just to get a Writing Test score.

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THE PSAT and SAT

Q. What's the purpose of the PSAT?

The PSAT is the first step in qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship Program. In fact, it's officially called the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NSMQT) by the National Merit® Scholarship Corporation.  

If your child wants to be considered for the National Merit Scholarship program, then the PSAT is essential. Even if your child is unlikely to score well enough for National Merit recognition, the PSAT is good practice for the SAT.

Q. When should my child take the PSAT?

The PSAT is only offered in the fall. For most students, the fall of their junior year is the best time to take the PSAT. But students can take it earlier. Because this exam is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Program, your student will probably do best by waiting as long as possible before taking the test. Your child's school may decide.

Note in the excerpt below from the National Merit® Scholarship Corporation, students must take the PSAT "no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12":

To participate in the National Merit® Scholarship Program, a student must: take the PSAT/NMSQT® in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern.
 
-National Merit Scholarship Corporation
 
Q. How do we register our child for the PSAT?
According to the College Board, parents and student can't independently register for the PSAT. You have to do it through the school counselor. Learn more facts about the PSAT by visiting the College Board's website.

Q. Does a student have to take the SAT as well as the PSAT for the National Merit Scholarship competition?

The short answer: Yes.

Here's why: The first requirement for the National Merit Scholarship competition is to score high on the PSAT. But that's just the beginning. Here's what the National Merit® Scholarship Corporation says about the process: 

Semifinalists are designated on a state representational basis. They are the highest scoring entrants in each state. NMSC provides scholarship application materials to Semifinalists through their high schools. To be considered for a National Merit® Scholarship, Semifinalists must advance to Finalist standing.

To participate in the National Merit® Scholarship Program, a student must:
 
1. take the PSAT/NMSQT® in the specified year of the high school program and no later than the third year in grades 9 through 12, regardless of grade classification or educational pattern;
 
2. be enrolled as a high school student, progressing normally toward graduation or completion of high school, and planning to enroll full time in college no later than the fall following completion of high school; and
 
3. be a citizen of the United States; or be a U.S. lawful permanent resident (or have applied for permanent residence, the application for which has not been denied) and intend to become a U.S. citizen at the earliest opportunity allowed by law.

There's a lot more to the process, but the important point here is to note that a National Merit Scholar has to score well on both the PSAT and the SAT.

Q. Should my child take the PSAT even if he's not likely to win a National Merit Scholarship?

Even if your child isn't likely to be a National Merit semifinalist or finalist, taking the PSAT can be a good idea. There's no better practice for the SAT than to take the PSAT first.

Q. What's the difference between the format of the PSAT and the SAT?

They’re essentially the same test, with the same —

  • level of difficulty
  • question types
  • directions

The major differences between the PSAT and the SAT are —

  • the number of questions (fewer for the PSAT)
  • the amount of time (less for the PSAT)
  • the essay (only on the SAT)

And, as with any two standardized tests, you'll never see the same questions on different test administrations. 

Because the two tests are so similar, by taking the PSAT first, students are likely to do better when they take the SAT.

Q. What subjects are tested on the PSAT?

Like the SAT, students taking the PSAT take these three subtests:  

  • Reading
  • Mathematics
  • Writing 

There is no essay on the PSAT.

Q. What subjects are tested on the SAT?

On the SAT, students take three subtests in the following subjects:  

  • Reading
  • Mathematics
  • Writing 

In addition to the multiple-choice Writing test, the SAT requires a written essay, and it's the first test students take on Saturday morning.

The essay is optional.

Q. When should my child take the SAT?

According to the College Board (the publishers of the SAT):

Most students take the SAT during their junior or senior year in high school. At least half of all students take the SAT twice — in the spring of their junior year and in the fall of their senior year. Most students also improve their score the second time around.

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ZAPS Seminars and Webinars

Q. Does the ZAPS strategy seminar or webinar cover all of the subtests?

Yes. Students taking a ZAPS ACT seminar or webinar will become familiar with all four subtests: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. They'll also learn how to write an effective essay. Whether or not they plan to take the Writing (essay) portion of the ACT, this is important instruction that will help them in high school, college, and the workplace. 

Students taking the PSAT/SAT seminar or webinar will become familiar with all three subtests: Reading, Mathematics, and Writing. They'll also learn how to write a high-scoring essay, which is currently offered on the SAT (but not on the PSAT).

In addition, students learn other essential information specific to managing their time, using partial knowledge to eliminate wrong answers (ZAPPING), reducing test anxiety, handling specific test-item styles, and more.

Q. What study materials will my child receive at the ZAPS seminar or webinar?

ACT: Your student will receive a comprehensive study guide that covers everything taught in the seminar. Students also will receive 24 shortened practice test workouts with detailed answer explanations. These provide quick review in the students' downtime.

SAT: Your student will receive a comprehensive study guide that covers everything taught in the seminar. Students also will receive 18 shortened practice test workouts with detailed answer explanations. These provide quick review in the students' downtime.

Q. Is there an additional cost for the ZAPS study materials?

ZAPS Study Guides and practice-test Workouts are provided at no additional cost to students who have paid for the seminar or webinar or received a scholarship. Students must attend the seminar to receive their materials. Students registered for a webinar will receive their materials in the mail.

Q. What type of calculator should my child bring to the seminar or webinar?

Students may bring any calculator to the ZAPS seminar. However, it’s important to note that some models are prohibited from being used on the actual tests. We will share this information with students in the seminar or webinar.

Students will use their calculators for the second half of the seminar only; so, if your student attends a two-day session, she won’t need a calculator on the first day. If she is attending a full-day seminar, she should bring a calculator in the morning to be sure she has it for the afternoon.

Q. How close to the test should my child take the ZAPS strategy-focused seminar or webinar?

Doorway to College managers work with schools to schedule local seminars from one to five weeks prior to the national test dates. If your student wants to get a head-start by studying early, or if there's no seminar at your student's school, consider registering for a webinar. Strategy-focused webinars (the same content as the ZAPS seminars) are offered a week or two before every national test date.

Q. How much of my child’s time will ZAPS take?

Students will spend 5 hours attending the seminar — either on two consecutive afternoons or evenings or in a single day (Saturday, Sunday or during the school day).

Students' test score improvements are directly related to the attention they pay in the seminar/webinar and the amount of effort and practice they put in on their own. We strongly encourage students to continue to study and practice with their ZAPS materials right up to the day before they take the test.

The seminar and materials provide ideas for students to study and practice on their own. If, in addition to the five-hour seminar or webinar, your child puts in as little as three or four hours per subtest, they'll be much better prepared than the majority of the competition. And competition is truly what they're up against. Think about it, if a few extra hours of study help your teen secure scholarship dollars, that's a pretty good return on their investment of time.

Q. How much score improvement should my child expect to see?

Score increases are a direct reflection of the amount of time and effort students put forth in the seminar and on  follow-up study and practice. Typically, when students focus during the seminar and then apply those strategies while working through all the practice-test Workouts at home, they experience average score increases of 2 to 4 points on the ACT and 50 to 150 points on the SAT, depending on which seminar(s) or webinar(s) they have taken. There is no guarantee of results, as each student is different. However, if you are unhappy with your child's results, he or she may attend another seminar or webinar at no cost, as long as your child uses the books you purchased; contact our office to request a new registration.

There's no replacement for a positive attitude and a willingness to study and practice. Encourage your student to view the seminar as an opportunity to help determine their own future by getting their personal best score. 

Q. How will ZAPS address my child’s special needs?   

Please contact the ZAPS office well in advance of the seminar or webinar, and we will address your student’s needs individually.

Q. How much does a ZAPS seminar or webinar cost?

The base price of the webinars and seminars is $129.99 for a five-hour strategy class including the materials (a $34.99 value). However, when a school works with Doorway to College to help us host and market an onsite seminar or webinar, we are able to reduce the price. That's why students who attend at a school pay less than the base price. (Say thank-you to your principal and guidance counselor!)

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Guarantee and Refund Policies

Q. Is there a guarantee?

Yes.

Seminars, Webinars, and Recorded Webinars: We believe in the effectiveness of the ZAPS program, and we stand behind the quality of both our curriculum and our staff. However, we also know that, occasionally, a student may not be able to fully benefit from a seminar.

If your student is dissatisfied with his or her score after attending a strategy-focused seminar or webinar, he or she may attend another of the same type of seminar or webinar at no charge, if using the same ZAPS materials provided at his or her original seminar. If you'd like your student to have new materials, call us to order them at the then-current price at least 10 days prior to the class. 

E-books, Online Practice Tests and Other Digital Tools: You have 14 days from the date of purchase to let us know if you are unhappy with any digital product. Call us toll-free at 877.927.8378 and give us your order number (contained in the email we sent at time of purchase); we'll refund the credit card you used when you made your purchase.

Q. What is your refund policy if my student does not attend the seminar or webinar after I've paid by credit card?

We understand that there are times when a student may not be able to attend a seminar or webinar even after you have prepaid. If you know your student will not attend, please call us as soon as possible. Our refund policy follows:

  • Refund request for a seminar more than two weeks in the future:  FULL REFUND.
  • Refund request for a seminar more than two days, but less than two weeks in the future:  Refund minus $10 Administration Fee to cover credit card fees for your transactions.
  • Refund request for a seminar less than two days in the future:  No refund. 

We value both your business and your student's success; therefore, we will do our best to assist you in transferring your student to another local seminar or to a webinar, if either is available. If one is not available, we'll be happy to provide a link to a recorded webinar and ship the seminar/webinar books to your student via standard mail at no additional charge.

Q. What is Doorway to College Foundation's refund policy if my student's seminar/webinar is canceled?

Despite our best intentions, there are times when either the school or Doorway to College Foundation determines there's a need to cancel a seminar or webinar. We don't like to do it, and we understand that it's inconvenient for your student. When your student's seminar or webinar is canceled, we offer you the following options:

  • Transfer to another strategy seminar nearby
  • Transfer to a another strategy webinar 
  • Receive a recorded webinar link and have materials mailed to your home
  • Buy the seminar materials for the then-current price and receive a refund on the remainder
  • Request a full refund if you have prepaid

If your student's seminar or webinar is canceled, we will call to offer you these options and do our utmost to help your student get the prep you were counting on.

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Logistics

Q. Is it okay if my student attends a ZAPS seminar at a neighboring school instead of his own?

Unless otherwise noted on our website, students are free to choose a strategy seminar that best fits their schedule. Unless that school restricts attendance to their own students, you can register your student on this website.

If there is no local seminar available to your student, be sure to check available strategy webinars.

Q. My student is home schooled; can she attend a ZAPS seminar or webinar?

Yes. As far as Doorway to College is concerned, home schooled students are welcome in any seminar or webinar that is open to the public. Some schools restrict registration to their own students. If that's the case with your local school, be sure to ask in the guidance office whether your home-schooled child is eligible to attend. 

Q. What happens if I register my child and he or she is unable to attend?

Contact the Doorway to College office for options to reschedule at another location or to transfer to a strategy webinar. The cost of the webinar is typically higher than a seminar at a school, but students whose seminars have been canceled may transfer in at the same price they paid to register for their school's seminar. Our friendly customer service team (1-877-927-8378) will be glad to help you transfer your student.

Q. Why are there two sessions listed for some seminars/webinars and one session for others?

The full seminar or webinar is 5 hours. Some schools choose to offer the seminar to students all in one day, while others prefer to have students attend two days for two and one half hours each day.  The seminar is divided into subjects, the same as the tests, so students need to attend both sessions in order to cover all the subjects. Full-day seminars and webinars provide break time between the first and second halves of the class.

Q. ZAPS test prep is always offered at my child’s school, but I can’t see our seminar on the Doorway to College website. Why not?

We post seminars as soon we are able to begin taking parent registrations. If you are on our website and don’t see a seminar that you’re expecting to see, it may be that we just have not posted it yet. Or, perhaps the school has changed from a fall seminar to a spring seminar or the reverse. If you are concerned, we invite you to email us at answers@doorwaytocollege.com.

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Extra Help

Q. What does Doorway to College offer for students during the summer?

Summer is an excellent time for students to prep for their college entrance exams and to start on their college applications. Doorway to College offers the following summer options (with more coming soon):

Q. Does Doorway to College provide tutoring or content review for specific subjects?

Yes! Doorway to College provides a choice of 3 videos in which subject-matter experts walk students through the various question types they can expect on the subtest. Find out more at this link:

 
Q. Do you offer courses in study skills? My child's skills could use a boost.
Study Smart!™ provides helpful tips and strategies to assist middle and high school students in doing their best work. In this 2 1/2-hour class, your child will acquire the knowledge to become a better-prepared, more engaged, and more productive learner. Putting it all into practice is the most important next step, of course.

Q. What are the ZAPS Score Boosters?

The ZAPS Score Boosters™ are digital products for independent study and practice.

The online ZAPS ACT-Practice Test™ is a full-length test that students can take timed or un-timed. As with the ZAPS practice-test Workouts, students can read answer explanations that tell why an answer is correct or incorrect, which is much more helpful than just learning whether they got the answer right.  

ZAPS College Vocabulary Challenge™ provides vocabulary instruction and practice with college-level words. The Challenge part tests students in the current SAT’s Critical-Reading-style format, providing outstanding practice for what many students consider the hardest portion of the current SAT. It's important to know, however, that even students who are not studying for the SAT or PSAT will benefit from the College Vocabulary Challenge, as a college-level vocabulary is a critical factor in both academic and career success.

The College Vocabulary Challenge is available for all web-enabled devices.

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