The False Promises
Out of panic and pressure that their children will be “left behind” during the college admissions process, families often fall victim to the mega-test prep firm’s large class instructional package “deals.” These are not private college counselors, also known as independent college counselors. Universities and private companies alike employ hundreds of instructors who guarantee “that students scoring in the 500’s will get in the 750 range,” as well as college essay writing help that promises scores in the 90th percentile after only one or two sessions, according to Derek Briggs, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Education as quoted in the Wall Street Journal’s article, “Do SAT Prep Courses Help Test Takers?”
Simply put, there are no studies that support such promises, particularly in large class settings of novice test takers. Our private college counselors right here in San Diego work one-on-one with you in subject areas, as well as help you plan for college in other ways like applications, entrance exams, scholarships, financial aid, and more. Our college essay writing tutors use your personal background, your writing style, and your fundamentals to improve your writing for standardized tests.
The Rough Reality
The vast majority of learners require skill-based teaching in addition to “one size fits all” test prep strategies. The College Success Network suggests that large class settings of over eight students do not yield the miraculous results universities and private test prep companies advertise. Our private college counselors have known this for years, of course. With large group classes, students get test-taking tips and drill through multiple practice tests — but most rarely have the opportunity for specific feedback or one-to-one coaching. This is especially true of their so-called college essay tutors, who don’t have time for the personalized attention that struggling writers need. So instructors don’t address individual needs in a large class, but they are also ill-equipped to provide fundamental grammar, reading comprehension, writing and math skills instruction that so many college hopefuls require.
The Colossal Cost
Unfortunately, the best prices these programs offer are large class strategy cram sessions that cost upwards of a $1,500 according to a New York Times 2014 study. so both a “private” college counselor and college essay counselor together might cost $3,000 and more. In addition to the extravagant expense, students often leave more “deadlocked” than they were when they arrived. A frustrating learning experience has stunted their confidence and their willingness to try again. They feel “stupid” or “dumb” and begin a backslide from which many do not recover.
their confidence has been proverbially “shot” since their scores stagnate, and in some cases, drop because the courses fail to teach actual skills.
How would I know? Ironically, after all of the money they’ve spent, I host a gamut of one-on-one and small group test prep students who hire me after they’ve endured these torturous programs, having escaped with little else than a deflated sense of dignity.
Who These Companies Are
Generally, the owners establish successful businesses through expensive and enhanced marketing and highlight the success of their top test-takers.
Instructors are hired on the basis of their test score performance, not on their ability to deliver or explain difficult content to high school learners. Author Jared Wells explains in his LearnSpeed article, “The Evolving Business of Tutoring and Test Preparation,” that test prep instructors are ultimately not prepared or skillful teachers.
By default, and without proper training and support, well intentioned instructors explain what the student fails to understand…The problem is that this model largely does not solve the underlying cause of why students struggle in the first place.
In a nutshell, large test prep companies that offer large class test prep demonstrate a good business model, rarely a quality education.
At the major firm, expect one-on-one coaching to cost between $100 and $200 per hour! While the tutors are compensated very little, the bulk of the “tuition” pays the company’s overhead, executives and shareholders.
So how can families access qualified and affordable one-on-one and small class (ideally 3-5 students per group) teachers who happen to offer test prep services?
1.Research (google) Sole Proprietors and Small Businesses and their websites. Explore the following advertising forums:
2. Select credentialed and experienced teachers with references.
- Check their references- How many points did their student’s score increase? What skills did their student acquire?
- Did they actually learn the grammar rule or just another ineffective strategy?
3. Invest in one-on-one or small group lessons to ensure that all of your student’s needs are addressed on every section of the test, including the essay.