College Counseling

Statement of Purpose

List of 1 items.

  • title

    The college process represents another component of the Groton School student’s education. It serves as an opportunity for personal growth, self-reflection, and self-discovery.

    The Sixth Form year is a time of profound change, when students begin to think about leaving the Groton School community, entering adulthood, and choosing a college in which to continue their education. Here at Groton, we are aware of the excitement and challenges at this critical juncture in our students’ lives, and we seek to provide the necessary tools with which our students will navigate the many pathways toward college admission.

    While outcomes are important, the College Counseling Office believes that the college admissions process is one of discovering good matches between students and colleges. We believe that this is the students’ personal journey; to deprive them of this is to deny them an important opportunity for growth. The role of the college counselor is therefore to support, guide, and educate our students and their families as they engage in self-reflection and explore the ever-changing world of college admissions.
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Standardized Testing

List of 7 items.

While standardized testing often receives a great deal of attention, it is important to know that test scores are just one of many pieces that colleges consider during the application process. Many colleges no longer require test scores, and there are several standardized test options available depending upon a student's strengths and interests. 
  • PSAT

    There are three parts to the PSAT:

    1. Verbal/Critical Reading (50 minutes—two 25-minute sections) contains critical reading questions based on short reading passages of 100–200 words. Passages are taken from a variety of fields, including the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. They also may be excerpts from works of fiction. Passages will vary in style and may include narrative, argumentative, and expository elements. Each short passage will be followed by two questions. There will also be a pair of short passages followed by four questions. (Score: 20–80)

    2. Mathematics (50 minutes—two 25-minute sections) includes concepts of numbers and operations, algebra and functions, geometry and measurement, and data analysis, statistics, and probability, as well as some pre-calculus questions. (Score: 20-80)
    3. Writing (30 minutes) includes a multiple-choice writing section that focuses on grammar, usage, and word choice, as well as sections on improving sentences, identifying sentence errors, and improving paragraphs. (Score: 20–80)
    Scores are reported as two-digit numbers ranging from 20 to 80. If you multiply your scores by 10, you will have a rough estimate of your projected SAT I scores (73 = 730, 65 = 650, etc.). You will receive three PSAT/NMSQT scores: Verbal, Math, and Writing.


    The PSAT/NMSQT results are meant to give students “practice” and an early indication of how they might perform on the SAT I. Students will receive their PSAT scores along with their answer sheet and test booklet in December. By reviewing the questions and answers, students can identify weak areas and prepare so that they do better when it does count.

    About the PSAT

  • SAT Reasoning Test (SAT I)

    The SAT Reasoning test, which will be administered beginning in March 2016, will include:
    • Two Mathematics sections, 80 minutes (one 25-minute section without calculator and one 55-minute section with calculator)
    • A Reading section, 65 minutes 
    • A Writing and Language section, 35 minutes 
    • An Essay section, 50 minutes (optional)

    Students will receive a Mathematics score between 200 and 800 and a combined score for Reading and Writing/Language between 200 and 800. They will receive three separate scores, each between 2 and 8, on the Essay, covering reading, analysis, and writing. The test is offered on seven dates each school year and is offered at Groton School six times a year. Look for more info at
    While the SAT I provides some indication of verbal and mathematical aptitude, it does not measure other important qualities needed for success in college, such as motivation, perseverance, curiosity, and a sincere desire to learn.

    Register for the SAT

  • SAT Subject Tests

    Many colleges require that applicants take two or three SAT II Subject Tests. Usually students can choose which tests they want to take, however, on occasion, a math or science Subject Test is required (for many state schools and for most engineering programs) in addition to one or two tests of the student’s choice. Students should carefully check the requirements of the schools and programs in which they are interested. Note that Math IC and Math IIC cannot be counted as two separate tests.

    Subject Tests are one-hour long; students may take up to three on any one test date.

    Scores range from 200 to 800.

    Subject Tests are given in the following disciplines:
    Literature, United States History, World History, Mathematics Level I and Mathematics Level II (both allow use of an approved calculator), French, German, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Spanish, Biology E/M, Chemistry, and Physics. There are also language listening exams in Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish.

    • We generally advise students to take Subject Tests in May and/or June of the Fifth Form year. Students and their counselors will discuss individual testing calendars during their first meeting.
    • Students can and should study for Subject Tests—they are specific and factual. Preparation books and software packages are widely available.It is not wise for students to take a Subject Test for which they have not prepared.

    SAT II Subject Tests measure what students have learned in a specific subject area. Since courses, standards, and requirements vary widely among high schools, the Subject Tests provide colleges with one objective way to compare a student’s knowledge against that of other students across the country.

    CANCELLING SCORES: If you feel that you did not do well on a Subject Test, you may cancel your scores within 72 hours of the test date. However, test cancellation is an all-or-nothing proposition—canceling one test will automatically cancel all of your tests taken that day.

    For more information on the SAT II Subject tests, consult

    Register for the SAT Subject Tests

  • ACT (American College Testing) with Writing

    The ACT can be used at almost all colleges as a substitute for the SAT I (and often for the SAT II Subject Tests). In the past, the ACT was used primarily by colleges in the Midwest and West of the United States. Recently, the number and geographical spread of colleges accepting the ACT has grown. For example, more than 98 percent of the 330 colleges that accept the Common Application also accept the ACT. Students should read the requirements of the colleges in which they are interested to determine whether the ACT is an acceptable or preferred option.

    The ACT consists of four 35- to 50-minute subtests in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science Reasoning, as well as a writing section. You will receive four separate scores, plus a composite score that averages the tests. Scores range from 1 (low) to 36 (high). The College Counseling Office can provide a graph to help correlate ACT and SAT I scores.

  • TOEFL: Test of English as a Foreign Language

    This test is for non-native English speakers who either (1) have only been in the United States a few years, or (2) find the SAT I does not accurately reflect their English competency. The TOEFL is meant to assess if a student’s English is sufficient to understand college-level texts, rather than evaluating the fine points and extensive vocabulary covered by the critical reading SAT and Literature subject tests. An English Language Proficiency Test, sponsored by the College Board, is an alternative aimed toward students who have been taught in English for an additional number of years. Some colleges require the TOEFL of international students.
  • AP: Advanced Placement Tests

    AP classes are college-level courses, taught in high schools, that follow a nationally developed curriculum. Scores range from 1 (low) to 5 (high). Colleges vary greatly in how they use the AP and how much credit students can receive for their scores. At Groton School, students enrolled in AP classes are required to take the exam. AP exams are given at Groton in May; they last three hours and are based on full-year college-level courses.
    Subjects include Art History, Studio Art, Biology, Calculus AB and BC, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics (Micro and Macro), English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, Environmental Science, European History, French, German, Government and Politics, Human Geography, International English Language, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Music Theory, Physics, Psychology, Spanish, Statistics, U.S. History, and World History.

    The AP program was not designed to be used in college admissions. Instead, it was designed to allow students to obtain college credit and/or to exempt students from introductory college courses. To gain credit for college, selective colleges require a score of at least 4, and some require a 5 (while others will not award credit at all).

    While APs were not intended to be used in colleges’ evaluation of candidates, many admission offices do pay attention to the presence of AP scores in an applicant’s folder. If a student has taken APs and has done well (a score of 4 or 5), it may be in his or her best interest to report these scores to colleges on the application. The task of reporting APs on a college application lies with the student. Students do not officially send AP scores until they are ready to matriculate to a college.

Test Registration

Groton School registers all students for the PSAT and charges the fee to the student’s Groton School account. The same is true of AP exams for those enrolled in AP classes.

Students must register themselves for the SAT I, SAT Subject Tests, ACT, and TOEFL. Many students register online (,, or The College Counseling Office has registration booklets that contain handy information and paper forms. The Groton School code is 220930.

Please note that students must be logged into their College Board account in order for Groton School to appear as a test site option. For the SATs, Groton School will always be listed as a test site. For the ACT, if Groton School is not available, students should selects Lawrence Academy or Nashua High School South.

Most Fifth Formers (eleventh graders) will take the SAT Reasoning test in December or May and the SAT Subject tests in May and June. A complete testing plan will be developed for each student during his or her first individual session with the college counselor.

Test Preparation

The best preparation for college entrance examinations is to build a very strong academic foundation. Students who prepare assignments to the best of their ability throughout their years of schooling and who extensively read books with a rich vocabulary outside of class have fortified that foundation.

In general, the best short-term preparation for the exams is familiarity with the tests, and, in the case of mathematics, a review of formulae that may have become rusty. This can be achieved by working through a book of practice tests, by working with interactive computer software, by studying individually with a tutor, or by enrolling in a group prep course.

Groton School works with Kaplan Test Prep to provide individual tutoring and classes in SAT Prep at Groton during the winter of Fifth Form year as well as the fall of Sixth Form year. Many firms offer SAT Prep and some claim to help students “beat” the test. We cannot guarantee that any of these will make a difference for Groton School students. Some students have improved using these services, some have stayed the same, and some have seen their scores decline. Beware of claims too good to be true; they probably are. Parents and students need to use their best judgment, and students must decide if they have the time and energy to invest in SAT Prep.

If you decide on a test preparation course, we advise you to choose one that reviews material, enhances skills that would be useful in any testing situation, and provides exercises that help to increase concentration and relaxation. Groton students are very busy during the school year, and we encourage students who want to do SAT Prep to enroll in a prep course or have tutoring over the summer between the Fifth and Sixth Form, as that seems to be when motivation is highest for the student.

How to Plan

Our College Planning Calendar provides step-by-step guidelines, from Third through Sixth Forms.

Meet the Office

List of 4 members.

  • Megan Harlan 

    Assistant Head For External Affairs, Director of College Counseling
  • Robert O'Rourke 

    Associate Director of College Counseling, Director of Community Engagement
  • Mark Machan 

    Associate Director of College Counseling, Dorm Head
  • Ryan O'Donnell 

    College Office Administrator


Colleges where five or more Groton students have matriculated, 2014-2018:

Georgetown University
Harvard University
University of Chicago
Brown University
New York University
Bowdoin College
Dartmouth College
Princeton University
University of Virginia
Yale University
Hamilton College
Tufts University
Boston College
Middlebury College
Northeastern University
Northwestern University
Scripps College
University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill
Williams College
Columbia University
University of St Andrews
College of William and Mary
Duke University
Trinity College

See the full matriculations list.
Groton School is a diverse and intimate community devoted to inspiring lives of character, learning, leadership, and service.
Groton School is recognized as one of America's top boarding schools. It prepares students in grades 8-12 for the "active work of life."