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Posted on Mar 09, 2012 - 06:00 AM | Applying to College | Comments (0)

You spent $2000 on an SAT prep course and your scored jumped 250 points. You’re excited. Colleges will love this! Then you find out test scores aren’t the first thing college admissions officers look at. At best, they’re third.
Did you just waste your money?
Well, no, if all you wanted were better board scores, but if you wanted the full college prep experience – to be the sort of student colleges notice right away – then you certainly didn’t get the most bang for your buck.
Top Factors in College Admissions
  1. High School Transcripts. Admissions officers want to know how you did in school, and they divide that into two categories: grades in college prep classes and how many Advanced Placement classes you took. Make sure you work with a college prep program that outlines good courses for you and encourages you to challenge yourself.
  2. SAT and ACT scores. Your board scores are important, but not as important as they used to be. Paying just for SAT prep doesn’t make as much sense as it used to. You can still boost your scores through cheaper means while getting help with other aspects of your college application. And SAT II Subject Test scores? Only the most competitive colleges consider them. Take the SAT II in your strongest subject, but don’t expect it to carry you into college.
  3. Overall Grades. More than half of admissions counselors think your grades in all courses are very important. Don’t focus only on AP classes.
  4. Application Essay, Class Rank and More. There’s a big drop after the top factors above, but your writing sample, class rank, campus interview, extracurricular activities and many other accomplishments come into play when the college reviews your résumé. Make sure your college preparation includes all these factors. It’s the only way to ensure full college prep beyond SAT and ACT studies.
SAT Bias
For years, standardized tests have been charged with income bias: students from rich families do better, though it’s not likely related to the SAT prep courses they take. Their better board scores are caused by better schools, private tutoring, and greater educational opportunities.
You can pay a lot less and still get your admissions test scores to jump 200 points.
What you need when you start looking at college prep programs is one that not only helps you with the SATs and ACTs, but one that guides you through all aspects of getting ready for college. Investigate potential college prep experts thoroughly, comparing programs and price.
That way, you won’t wonder why you paid $1000 (or more) for one aspect of college prep when you could have paid half that for all the aspects of college prep. You’ll feel better, and have that much more money (and energy!) to put toward your college education.


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