Everyone knows that college is expensive, but most parents don’t know that getting into college can be extremely pricey as well. For example, the baseline cost for SAT prep in the form of a group class or tutoring is typically about $1,000. On the other hand, a great SAT score can not only get a high schooler into the college of his choice but also earn him scholarship money, so the potential payoff is huge. That said, parents who are investing in SAT prep want to make sure they’re getting the biggest bang for their buck.
Parents and students interested in SAT prep have a few different options, which come at a variety of different price points and offer different results.
College Board – the company that administers the SAT exam, publishes an official study guide that costs about $30. Khan Academy offers free SAT prep online. Study guides can be effective – but only for students who are incredibly self-motivated. If your child, like most children, requires a degree of accountability, I’d recommend looking at group courses or one-on-one tutoring.
Group courses typically cost more than $1,000 and are offered by companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review. Generally speaking, group courses are designed for the middle 50% of students in terms of their knowledge level and aspirations – not for students who are either excelling or struggling more than their peers. And although group courses can provide a solid foundation of the types of questions and concepts students will find on the SAT exam, they lack the customized lesson plans that most students need to perform at their full potential.
Kaplan and Princeton Review also offer one-on-one tutoring, as do tutoring facilities like Sylvan and Huntington. Although the cost can depend on the level of experience provided by the tutor, many traditional tutoring facilities also have an enormous markup. For example, you may be paying $150/hour at a high-end tutoring facility, but your tutor – the person who will really make a difference in your child’s SAT score – may only be making $50/hour.
Another, newer option is online tutoring from companies like ArborBridge and truePrep. Because these companies have few overhead costs, what you pay is more commensurate with what your tutor earns. Although the child still works with a live tutor, online tutoring takes place over a videoconference (similar to Skype) and provides greater flexibility in terms of scheduling. Plus, parents don’t have to waste time and money transporting their kids to and from tutoring.
The bottom line is that parents who are interested in SAT prep must weigh the costs, the time required, their children’s goals and other factors. It is an expense no matter what, but one that has great potential payoff, so parents should choose wisely.
Kate Ballard-Rosa is the Managing Director of truePrep, a premium, online tutoring company that provides high-quality SAT tutoring at an affordable price. She previously worked as a tutor and is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley.