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What Matters Most in a College ApplicationPaige Buttels
By Shane Cole, My College Planning Team
Maybe you’ve seen students stressing out over standardized tests or have heard parents talk about the high cost of ACT and SAT tutors, and can't help wondering if we weren’t all better off when students just showed up on test day, No. 2 pencils in hand, to take a test they had never seen before.
The truth is, it all depends.
For most students, seeing the test format in advance can help ease test-day jitters. That doesn’t always mean taking a test prep class or hiring a tutor. Self-motivated students might find having a test prep book with practice tests they can take on their own, or taking free practice tests offered online through sites such as College Board, to be enough. Other students may attend a high school that administers a practice test to the whole junior class. Again, this may be enough to calm a student’s nerves before the real test day.
What about your student? When does it help to do more?
Some students perform well at school but, for some reason, do poorly on standardized tests. If your child falls into that category, consider getting them some extra help through a test prep class, one-on-one tutoring or one of the many books offering test-taking advice. They can learn tips on how to move through a test more quickly or how to evaluate possible answers.
The admissions process at hundreds of colleges and universities is now test optional or test flexible, with more schools joining the test-optional ranks each year. If that’s the case with the schools that interest your student, then they can simply choose not to submit test scores when they apply and forego extra test prep.
Maybe your student’s test scores already give them an excellent chance of getting into their chosen list of schools. In that case, spending extra money and time on test prep may not make sense.
Some colleges and universities post charts or have scholarship calculators on their websites showing what GPA and test score a student needs to receive a merit-based scholarship. A bump of just one or two test points can mean a few thousand dollars more in scholarship money!
If you decide test prep is a good option for your student, there are a few more things to consider:
Test prep is a personal choice, and it's not right (or necessary) for every student. Don’t choose an option just because “everyone is doing it.” Take the time to consider what is best for your student and your budget.
And remember, forcing your student to attend tutoring sessions they don’t want or don’t have time for won't help anyone. Sometimes, just letting your student show up on test day relaxed and rested is the best support you can give.
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