Death from College Cost Sticker Shock…

and How to Avoid It: Part 2

Test Prep as an Investment

Posted on Apr 24, 2018 9:47:27 AM

test prep as an investment - niels-steeman-262087-unsplashWe closed Part 1 of this blog post by saying that Part 2 would be up-coming soon and would cover one of the most important ways to reduce college costs even more – by improving scores on standardized tests. So, here’s Part 2.

We’re going to step away — but only briefly and for a good purpose — from discussing college costs and turn to a jaw-dropping example of the difference a high test score made. Recently, the family of one of our students applied to American Heritage, a local, private secondary school. That student prepped with us for the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT). Test prep cost: just over $1,700. The result: a score high enough that American Heritage offered a full scholarship worth $25,000 - $30,000 annually. Yes, you read correctly: A relatively small, but carefully targeted investment yielded a staggeringly large return (over 1,400%, and that’s just 1 year!).

Unlike the case of the student discussed above, high SAT/ACT scores, by themselves, aren’t going to guarantee full college scholarships, because SAT/ACT scores are only the second brightest star (second only to GPA) in a constellation that includes several other factors that college admission offices consider when making admissions and scholarship decisions. However, multiple colleges offer automatic scholarships based on SAT/ACT scores, sometimes in conjunction with class rank or GPA, and most of those scholarships increase in size as the SAT/ACT score increases in size.

One example of a college with guaranteed scholarships based on SAT/ACT scores and class rank is Baylor University. A “middling” student who’s ranked 500 out of a class of 1,000 (or right in the middle of any class size) and who scored 24 on the ACT wouldn’t qualify for any Baylor scholarship. But if that same student scored 27 — only three points higher — on the ACT, the student would qualify for a Baylor scholarship worth $40,000 over four years’ attendance. That’s right: three points = $40,000.

An example of a college with guaranteed scholarships based on SAT/ACT scores and GPAs is the University of Oregon. A non-Oregon resident student who scored 24 on the ACT (or 1210 on the SAT) would not qualify for any of those automatic scholarships. But if that same student scored 25 — only one point higher — on the ACT (or 1220 on the SAT) and had a GPA of at least 3.6, the automatic scholarship would be $12,000 over the course of four years. And if that same student scored 26 — an additional point higher — on the ACT (or 1260 on the SAT) and had a GPA of at least 3.8, the automatic scholarship would be $36,000 over the course of four years. Yup: one point = $12,000, and two points = $36.000.  Wow!

Those are only two examples of colleges that offer automatic scholarships based on SAT/ACT scores in conjunction with class rank and/or GPAs. There are numerous others that can be found by Googling “colleges with automatic, merit-based scholarships,” possibly with qualifiers such as “in the northeastern U.S.” or “in Florida” or “private, liberal arts colleges.” But we want you to remember the ACT score ranges (24 – 27) discussed above as we relate to you the case of one of our test prep students.

A couple of years ago, we worked with a student who wanted to achieve a test score that would qualify her for Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship. She needed an ACT score of at least 26 to qualify, but she scored only 22 on her first attempt. So, her family enrolled her in one of our ACT workshops, supplemented by one-on-one tutoring to address specific areas in which the student needed more help. In two months of preparation, our student score jumped FIVE points to a 27, and that family’s investment of just over $1,000 in test prep with us netted them more than $9,200 in undergraduate savings. While that over 800% return on investment is rather impressive, consider that even if qualifying for a Florida Bright Futures scholarship hadn’t been her goal, her score increase from 22 to 27 would have been worth $40,000 at Baylor University and $36,000 at the University of Oregon — seemingly unbelievable, but 100% true.

The lesson here couldn’t be clearer: For the right student in right circumstances, investing in standardized test prep is a no-brainer.


Topics: Financial College Planning Test Scores ACT ACT/SAT College Admission Investment

 

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