Best Part Time Job: Test Prep

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In terms of my approach to advocating test prep, I’ve changed dramatically from a highly self-conscious purist educator who would reluctantly agree with parents that the best supplemental education for their children involved test preparation to a zealous advocate to help my Connecticut friends and neighbors. While doing your best to ensure your children get good grades is still number one, ensuring your children are well prepped for the SAT (ACT) is generally the second best thing you can do to ensure college admission and ensure college dollars.

My hesitation in the past stemmed from a combination of worry about being self-serving (still there but less so) and my own liberal arts education purist disposition (I still would rather discuss books than prepare students for tests) My embrace stemmed, oddly enough, more from economic realism than from college admission realism.

My embrace stemmed from two things: my own experience as a parent and from economic realism.

Having gone through the process once with my eldest and now with my next one, I know what I am doing is best for my kids: preparing them vigorously for the tests so I should do the same to all those who seem my help.

In terms of economics, the SAT remains a vital weapon to help our clients gain admission to colleges of their choice. But, in today’s world of high college costs,  the SAT (and ACT) has become essential to not only help gain admission but also to pay for college. When I work with our college counseling clients, I become highly empathetic – as a father of three college and soon to be college age children – about the stress they feel in paying for college.  That this occurs within our relatively wealthy Shoreline, CT community makes me wonder how others in less affluent parts of Connecticut deal with college costs.

I have seen the correlation of test scores and merit aid awards. Test prep has sometimes led to $100,000 over four years. The simple truth is that colleges, at the level one step below the elite, are in a fight for survival. If they do not attract top students, their reputations drop which acan bring a death spiral: lower reputation, fewer students, leading to a lower reputation and even fewer students.

To ensure a top reputation, colleges need to attract top students. The easiest way they can demonstrate student quality is through an objective measurement such as the SAT (and ACT). So, they do what any sensible marketer would do: they spend money on what will help get people to buy their product. In the college game, this means giving scholarships to high SAT scorers.