SAT Prep:Worthless

First…a few updates on the day so far…

Received an email from Lucy Crockett at the WPD. Wilmington has reached late May without a murder. That might be a morbid thing to send in an email, but its pretty great news for a city. Lucy says it’s a credit to the new programs they’ve started. I know *I’m* happy to hear it…despite what some people may think…reporters don’t actually enjoy covering gruesome crime scenes. Good news for Wilmington!

Laura Sinacori is out prowling our college campuses today. No…she’s not looking for a date…she’s scoping out the new Sea Hawks statue at UNCW…then to a luncheon at CFCC. Apparently UNCW is applying to the Guinness Book of World Records for the title of Largest Sea Hawk Statue. I wonder how many contenders there are in THAT category….

The picture she sent looks pretty cool.

I’m writing the next piece of “Getting In” about the 4 Laney High Seniors I’ve been following all year as they charge through the college admissions process. The results are in…

While I’m thinking about college…here is an interesting new study that says that SAT Coaching…(brace yourselves…)…may NOT work…(world gasps).

Parents spend oodles of money every year on SAT prep courses in hopes of raising their kiddies score…even if just a smidge…in the effort to breach the ambiguous admissions walls at American universities.

 I know *I* shelled out…a whole **$50** for a course in someone’s basement!

 The National Association for College Admissions Counseling (=11,000 college admissions officers + high school guidance counselors) says prep companies inflate the value of these courses. At best…you might gain 30 points (out of 2,400).

 Here’s my illustration: Lets say you spent $1,100 on a SAT Classroom Prep course with Kaplan (that’s the cost in our area…it goes beyond $3,000 for private sessions) and you buy 2 prep books for $40. (Lets not consider the opportunity cost of time here or expense in travel or other fancy accessories like calculators.) You spend $1,140 for those 30 golden points…that’s $38 PER point.

 The test prep business is a $4 BILLION dollar industry. It sells everything from free online practice tests to personal tutoring that goes upwards of $200 per hour. If you’ve got the dough…you can shell out for the latter…and enjoy whatever benefits that may provide.

 Size and selling power are not what makes companies like The Princeton Review and Kaplan so interesting. Its that these companies can sell a product that has NO specific guarantee of outcome…for a high price…and in high volume.

 If you look at the benefit per point in my example…$38 would be the marginal benefit of each additional point. But at what point do you experience diminishing returns with SAT testing? At what price tag is there no additional benefit to more classes, more studying, more tests, more books, more tutors, more, more, more? No one can ever measure that. Which could be reason why SAT preps are such a great sell despite their lack of outcome.  Both parents and students are hoping that “one more” will hit the jackpot.

And ‘hope’…is expensive.


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