Published May 14, 2012
The costs can be obscene. The value can be suspect. But, if you can afford it (even if it requires some struggle), shouldn’t you hire an SAT tutor for your child? Isn’t it your obligation as a parent to give your kids a jumpstart on a great college, great career, great life?
As a longtime SAT tutor, I can attest that SAT classes are no longer the sole purview of the rich or the overachieving. As colleges become more and more competitive, parents have taken up their own sort of arms race to make their children more competitive than their peers—“If my child doesn’t take an SAT course, will she lose her spot at college to a kid who did?”
At Princeton, the admissions rate is 9%, but almost 22% of students with SATs between 2300-2400 got in. (Under the old system, the top score used to be 1600. Now, the top score is 2400. Each section is still worth 800 points, but in addition to reading comprehension and math, there’s now a mandatory writing section.)
Similar statistics hold for most of the top universities; as much as I recognize that the SAT is a flawed and sometimes biased test, there’s no denying that it matters.
How Much SAT Prep Actually Costs
Private SAT tutoring can easily cost $125 a session in major cities like New York—often even more. One upscale Manhattan tutoring company offers private tutoring starting at $195 per 50 minutes. Presumably, if you want to see serious score improvements, you’ll schedule tutoring for your child at least once a week for at least a few months. With hardly a blink, you could drop $3,000 or more trying to raise your teenager’s test scores.
Certainly, there are more budget-friendly options like Kaplan, which starts at about $300 for a self-directed online course, and ranges up to about $600 for an 18-hour class led by “top-scoring teachers.”
But the real question remains: Will my kid’s scores even go up?
OK, let me rephrase that: You kid’s scores may go up. I’ve had students whose scores have gone up hundreds and hundreds of points after taking formal SAT classes. But I’ve also had students whose scores see little to no difference.
In my mind, whether or not your teen’s score goes up depends more than anything on how much she cares. If you want your child to go to a top school, but she would just as soon skip tutoring and spend more time practicing soccer, I don’t think you should spend the money.
I’ve found that there are three general types of SAT students:
Signs You May Want to Skip the SAT Tutor
SAT tutoring isn’t for everyone. If you go it alone, this is the best prep book in my opinion, because it’s actually from the CollegeBoard, rather than from companies like Princeton Review trying to guess at SAT-esque practice questions. I didn’t have any SAT tutoring before I took the test, back in the day. But I did spend hours holed up in my bedroom with this book of sample tests, timing myself.
There are two cases in which I think you may not need to fork over tons of cash for test prep:
Signs You May Want to Pay for SAT Prep
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