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There are several SAT preparation options. Kaplan is for rich kids. Princeton Review is for Ivy-bound scholars. Khan Academy is for poor kids (it’s free). But there are other options for SAT prep. Nothing beats live, individual tutoring. Kaplan will charge you $700 and more to put your student in a class with others. For $2000 you get a private tutor. Princeton Review wants $150 an hour for a minimum of three hours. And Khan is not live and interactive.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

The SAT prep industry perpetuates and magnifies the opportunity gap in America. A wealthy student can afford to take and retake the $55 test, order the $18 Question and Answer Service, and take and retake premium SAT prep classes and/or tutor sessions. Fee waivers for the poorer students only cover two SAT tests. Wealthier families already have a tremendous advantage over poorer families. Education is valued more to begin with. Kids are encouraged to read. Parents are more available for help with homework. They own the latest computers. The schools the kids attend have more resources. According to a study conducted by the author of a Forbes article on this subject, students whose family income is over $100,000 or more are more than twice as likely as students whose family income is under $50,000 to have SAT composite test scores of 1400 to 1600. There are other factors weighing in favor of wealthy students when it comes to college admissions. They can afford to apply to more schools. Then take extracurriculars, for example. Bassoon lessons are expensive. Elite soccer camps are expensive. Essay requirements benefit the wealthy, who can hire essay tutors and coaches. And, of course, legacy admissions are a barrier to poor students, for which there are no workarounds. 

Tips for Not Breaking the Bank

There are workarounds for SAT prep. There are ways for less advantaged students to win the SAT game. Khan Academy is helpful. There are video tutorials and loads of practice materials. Then there are thick guidebooks for $25-30, such as Barron’s SAT Study Guide or Princeton Review’s SAT Premium Prep. We recommend a combination of these inexpensive (or free) resources and our SAT prep sessions to brush up just before the test. Work through the lessons and materials in Khan and the book. Then brush up before the SAT with a 90-minute session with an outstanding tutor. The booster shot is$95, so $190 will brush a student up in both Math and Evidence-Based Reading & Writing. Add that to the cost of one of the thick books and you’re looking at $235. Most parents need to save money where they can. Besides the cost of the tests, college applications cost about $80 apiece, although you can get the fees waived. The CSS Profile is required to receive financial aid at some 300 colleges. It costs $25 for one school, $16 for each additional school. (It doesn’t make sense to have to pay money to apply for financial aid!) Then the cost of books and fees on top of tuition and room and board make college already a tremendous financial burden. Live and one-on-one sessions have all sorts of advantages. The tutor can review concepts and offer test-taking strategies. The tutor can ask questions to check for understanding and guide the student’s questions. The student can ask any number of questions. You can book the individual classes when YOU want. March 12 is the next upcoming date. This is the last cycle for some schools to be “test-optional.” Test centers are open. Students who lost Algebra II time to the pandemic are passing through the system. If your schools are test-optional, report your scores if they are near or above the 75th percentile.

Do SATs Still Matter?

SATs are not going away. Some high schools have 4 point scales. Some have 5 point scales. International Baccalaureate schools have 7 point scales. Exeter has an 11 point scale. Some schools only give mastery credits. What’s an admissions committee to do? SATs offer a standardized approach. Hence the name standardized testing. Furthermore, many colleges are still tying merit scholarships to SAT scores. So go online to Khan. Get the thick book. And schedule our prep courses. Unless you’re rich.