3 Considerations When Choosing an SAT or ACT Prep Program

Paying for college really starts in high school.  All those extra coaches, fees for lessons and expenses for tests are just the beginning of what is yet to come.  So how can you manage those expenses so you get the “biggest bang” for your buck?  One way is to choose a test prep program that meets your specific needs and allows your dollars to target that purpose.  After all, depending on where you live, prep programs can range from $30 an hour for standard tutoring all the way to $8400 for an annual package with some big name companies.  Each has their own benefits and drawbacks.

There are basically three different ways to engage in a test prep program.  The first is one-on-one tutoring specific to SAT or ACT, the second is a group delivery model and the third is an on-line tutorial which may be individual or group but involves a live video feed.  In order to choose one, you need to consider these factors:

1 – Timeline for Preparing – In an earlier blog I wrote about creating a timeline for working from the endpoint backwards.  That way you don’t miss deadlines for test registrations or college applications.  But as you select a test prep program, be sure you get the specifics about when classes occur, what happens if you miss a session due to illness or other school related obligations, and how does the instructor address your specific needs.  Will their schedule fit with yours?

2 – Cost vs. Benefit – What is the overall cost for a program and does it include a practice test?  How are practice test results used to structure the prep program or is it a generalized plan?  While there are no guarantees on any plan, you want to invest your time and energy in better understanding your own performance and getting the best possible score as an outcome.

3 – Consider Your Learning Style – Do you learn better through visual, auditory or kinesthetic modes?  How can you capitalize on other learning modes if your number memory is low?  The Highlands Ability Battery helps answer these questions and can assist in making an effective decision for selecting a test prep program, but how do the three delivery models address these modes of learning?

Choosing a test prep program may include conversations with student peers or parent booster groups when attending school functions, but when it comes time to select the one for you, be sure to consider these three factors.  If you need more information on the Highlands Ability Battery, contact me.  If you need more information about the programs in your home area, contact me.  Choose wisely, get the best result possible, and the “biggest bang” for your buck.

If you’ve had a good SAT or ACT prep experience, please comment here to share that with other parents and students.

Preparation as a Determining Factor in the Duration of Your Degree

When we set out to buy a car, we do our homework.  We check websites for best deals and dealers, price special features, and determine in our mind what our budget will be and the kind of vehicle we can afford.  Part of the equation may even be determining how long we intend to keep and use the vehicle, how serviceable it will be, and how much satisfaction we will get out of using it.

Actually, college is a similar investment.  We do our homework, compare schools, tuitions and, unfortunately, while we may think we budget enough for college, changing your mind on a major can completely change the financial picture.  The national average indicates that students in college change majors 3-5 times.  And although a bachelors’ degree typically only requires 4 years of college, the national average for students’ indicates they require 5.8 years.  Changing majors changes the duration of your degree and has huge financial impact.

Preparing ahead of time can make all the difference in the world from your performance in college classes to the amount of money invested in attaining a 4 year degree and even to the level of satisfaction with the chosen field of study and eventual career.  Preparations can begin as early as middle school and most of them take almost no time to invest beyond what you already do.  But you do have to be organized and have a plan.  Obviously the closer you get to junior and senior year in high school the more you need to be doing and the amount of money you invest becomes more demanding.  After all, tests, college visits and many activities include costs.

Good preparation can save time and money both in high school and in college.  So when you think about getting that college degree, have you thought about how much you are willing to invest in upfront costs of time, effort and money to save thousands on the back end?

Working Backwards

In spite of the highly publicized expense of college, the numbers of applicants is growing at an astounding rate.  The need for an education beyond high school is recognized, but the importance of preparing is often overlooked by the demands of a daily grind.  Too many times, students find themselves short of an opportunity because of a lack of planning.  So make a plan to plan backwards!  Start with the end in mind.

Juniors, you know you need to take the SAT, ACT or even PSAT.  You may even need a prep course to fine tune those skills or techniques for taking tests effectively.  Target your date of an exam, work backwards and allow enough time for taking that prep course.  Your plan may even include a follow up test with prep course in between the first “baseline” test.  Either way, the entire plan needs to be driven by the target date of submitting college applications and having test scores available.  It typically takes about 3 weeks to get scores after you sit for the SAT, ACT, or PSAT.

Seniors, you must have your timeline established.  You are in final test opportunity mode with only two fall dates left to register for the SAT and three for the ACT.  You’re also in college visit mode and completing applications.  The Common Application went live on-line the first week of August for those 2013 applicants, so essay questions are posted.  This is the time to begin planning your essay!

Although it is critcal for juniors and seniors to be carefully assessing their timeline, it is not too early for sophomores and freshman to begin their plan.  By building your plan with the end in mind, you can guard against missing deadlines and create great opportunities to build your “value” as a university applicant.  You also begin to establish a plan of behavior that pays big dividends as you navigate time management in college.  Work backwards…it works!

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