College is expensive enough — it is tough to see families struggling with tons of expenses prior to move-in day — test prep, essay coaching, college visits, etc. This article from dailyfinance.com has some great tips on cutting costs during the pre-college admissions stage. An excerpt:
The other day, a colleague was lamenting the fact that her daughter is feeling pressured to enroll in an SAT prep course. All of her friends are taking one, the young woman said, which means she’ll be at a disadvantage if she doesn’t take one, too. Yet she gets good grades, so won’t this extra course be a waste of money?
Having just sent my first child off to college for his freshman year, I’m all too familiar with the extra strains on the wallet that occur in the years leading up to move-in day: prep courses, application essay tutors, campus visits, application costs. It can add up to a small fortune.
So I reached out to some experts to get their best tips on how to tame the growing costs of college prep. Here’s what you need to know.
SAT/ACT Prep: The average price of a test prep course varies depending on the intensity of the class. Kaplan, for instance, offers an 18-hour SAT-only course for $599. If your child wants help on all the tests (PSAT, SAT, ACT), you’ll pay $999 for Kaplan’s standard course. But for individualized attention, you’ll likely pay a lot more: Private SAT tutoring through the Princeton Review, for example, starts at $2,760.
The good news? “There are Groupons for SAT classes and test prep, so you can keep your eyes out for that,” notes Jennifer Bloom, an author and co-founder of Entryway Educational Consulting. “Personally I think the best thing you can do is take practice tests on Saturday mornings, timed, under test conditions, over and over and over,” she added. Then tabulate the scores to make sure they’re heading in the right direction. With a little bit of self-discipline, you and your child could avoid a prep course entirely
You can read the rest of the article here. I would change one thing about her advice for low-cost test prep: don’t ever take another SAT or ACT without first picking through the one you just took. You won’t just see improvement by taking test after test. Make sure you go over a test afterwards, flagging incorrect answers (or questions you got right, but were unsure of) and sorting them into these three categories:
1) Skills gaps: With all the time in the world, you still wouldn’t get that question right. Before taking another practice test, review that skill until you know it cold. Otherwise, you’ll just get it wrong next time, your score won’t improve, and you’ll feel cranky and disappointed.
2) Careless mistakes: Beat yourself up about these a bit. Don’t let them happen again, and keep an eye out for trends. Is there something you tend to overlook?
3) Timing issues: Maybe you didn’t get to the question at all or didn’t get it because you were rushed. This means you need to focus more on pacing. Wrong answers in this category are the 0nly ones that benefit from repeated, timed test-taking without thorough review. Students who only have timing issues need to take a lot of timed sections –often daily — so they can work on speeding up.