3 Tips for Finding the Best College Prep Programs


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Since an estimated 1.65 million American students took the SAT test in 2011, it’s no wonder that college test prep is big business: There are more than 1,200 tutoring locations in the country, and the tutoring and test prep industry in the U.S. pulls in around $861 million in revenue each year.

In that environment, it can be hard to choose college prep programs for your child. Of course all parents want to give their children as many advantages as possible, but some “college prep” programs are little more than unscrupulous companies promising to boost standardized test scores in return for hefty fees. In trying to sort out which tutoring service is best for your child, try to find test prep and tutoring services that do the following:

  1. Focus on learning first:
    What good is a high math score on the SAT if your child leaves high school unprepared for college math curriculum? Good test prep tutoring puts the emphasis on tutoring, rather than test prep alone. College prep programs should be wide-ranging, making sure that your child has mastered all the information they’ll need to succeed at the university of their choice—not just the question types most common on the SAT or ACT.
  2. Take a family approach:
    Child success in high school depends largely on family support. Make sure you find a tutoring program that includes you in the process, regularly updating you and making sure you know how to help your child outside of tutoring hours. Getting the opinion of someone who hasn’t been involved in your child’s educational development their whole lives, as you have, can help you recognize both strengths you should encourage (particularly as high-school students are looking to pick college majors) and areas that need consistent work. You also need to be involved because you can bridge the gap between regular schooling and co-curricular education such as tutoring.
  3. Promise knowledge, rather than scores:
    Companies that guarantee higher scores—results or your money back—have an incentive to spend their time on test-taking strategies alone, rather than taking the time to understand your child’s individual learning needs. Testing strategy is an important part of academics in both high school and college, and should be addressed as such in test prep review. But if you’re looking for results that last longer than the few hours a test takes, work with college prep programs that set more meaningful goals.

What have your experiences with college prep and test prep programs been? Share in the comments.
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