Preparing for College

SAT Prep Class for Junior?

Question: I'm trying to determine if it's worth it for my son to take an SAT prep course. As a sophomore he scored a combined 212 on his PSAT: 69 Critical Reading, 66 Math, and 77 Writing. He just took his Junior PSATs, so we don't have those scores yet. We'll spend the money if we have to, but the class will take time away from his studies and he has 5 APs at a very rigorous private high school. He wants to go to an Ivy. Should he take the course?

If you do decide to spring for the pricey prep course, don't even think about it NOW. We would suggest that you first wait to get your son's junior PSATs back and then, assuming they're at least as strong as his soph scores, have him give the SAT I a shot in the spring without a class.

If his SAT results are also good, then you will have saved your son a lot of time and saved yourself a bundle of dough. If, however, the scores are disappointing and he's clamoring for a prep class, then summer may be the time for him to fit it into his schedule without the pressure of AP classes, etc. (That's assuming, too, that the extra cost won't have you sitting bolt upright with worry in the wee hours.)

Another consideration is what your son most WANTS to do. One of the bigger benefits of test-prep classes is that they build confidence. If your son seems to think that he NEEDS this class, then that would make it more of a priority. If you feel that his confidence will waver without it, you might want to take the plunge.

But if he, too, feels that the prep course will take valuable time from his studies and other endeavors, don't think that you're short-changing him by foregoing it. Lots of students do very well on these tests with no formal prep. Some, of course, use books and software at home; some do very little beyond reading the "free" prep material that comes from the College Board. Obviously, your son has gotten off to a good start on his PSATs ... probably with little or no prep ... so that's a good sign.

Finally, I don't know if you've found it yet, but one of our College Confidential Discussion Forum moderators, "Xiggi," offers some excellent advice on SAT prep that students can do at home. Go to:

Once you have those junior-year PSAT results, write again if you're still uncertain about what the next step should be.