With so much riding on superior SAT or ACT scores, the decision to prepare for these important admissions tests seems obvious. What might be less evident, especially if the whole college admissions process is new to you, is how best to prepare. You’ll find no dearth of options, from online offerings to quickie classes to intensive tutoring, but choosing the right one for your family depends on much more than cost comparisons.
Of course, you should consider cost, but in the larger context of dollars, time, and opportunity. Think about whether a class is right for your teen or if tutoring makes more sense. But most of all, seek out a test prep provider you can trust to deliver the level of support and guidance you are looking for.
What does trust mean when it comes to test prep? Trust is a charged word in any relationship, but in this context, you’d like to trust that the only surprises you and your family encounter throughout the test prep process are good ones. So how do you find that magical test prep provider you can trust? Again, you have an abundance of options!
We tutor hundreds of students a year for the SAT & ACT, not to mention subject tutoring and academic coaching. These students and their families hear about us and other providers in all the ways you’d expect. But what we’ve learned about the top five ways how our students tend to find us can help you focus on the most effective channels to find the support you need.
More and more, families enroll with us after finding us online. This makes sense because trust is typically developed over time, through long-term commitment to success in an area. A website that ranks highly in search terms and appears professional and client-focused puts a person at ease. If you find an organization that uses its web presence to provide essential information and services to everyone, even those who would never become customers, you may have found a provider you can trust.
Trust should be earned. We are honored to routinely work with siblings of former students, particularly since our client expectations are always understandably high. Why is this relevant to the question of finding support? Referrals and recommendations are nice, but nothing beats personal experience. If you’ve found a provider you can trust, consider yourself fortunate and stick with a good thing.
3. SCHOOL COUNSELORS
We traditionally look to school counselors for some level of guidance in test prep selection, since they help with so many aspects of college admissions. But many counselors take an impartial approach to recommending test preparation, providing a comprehensive list of local providers and little else. If your counselor is willing to narrow down the options based on proven success with students in your school, take the recommendation and run with it. If, on the other hand, your counselor is reticent to recommend anyone, see if you can get him or her to tell you which providers to avoid!
2. COLLEGE ADMISSIONS CONSULTANTS
The college admissions process involves so many intricate moving parts that each portion demands high levels of expertise. No wonder that families seek support not just with test prep but also with school selection, essay writing, interview prep, and financial aid and scholarship search. We work closely with a select number of college admissions consultants. When we recommend any of them to our students, that endorsement implies that we believe they are not only effective but trustworthy. In the same vein, if your family works with a college admissions consultant, take their test prep referrals seriously: the better their clients’ test scores are, the more they can do for them in terms of choice, control, and scholarships.
Does it come as any surprise that the number one way families find us is through their friends: mothers and fathers of students who have gone through the same process. Of all the referral sources to consider, these endorsements can mean the most because they come from families who took the risks, invested their resources, and were pleased enough with their outcomes to tell others. When making important decisions about test prep, work your network with a focus on families that are either in the throes of college admissions themselves or only recently past that phase (yes, it too shall pass!) Recent experience leads to the most accurate endorsements.
Of course, these are not the only paths students take to our or any test prep provider’s doors. But if you fill in the blanks and consider all the other referral sources, you may recognize that recommendations from these five sources are typically based on judgment, experience, and accountability. With that as your starting point, you are much more likely to find test prep you can trust!