Affluence shouldn’t influence test prep

Einav Tsach

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Let’s, for just a moment, push aside some of the other problematic factors in the college admissions process and focus on one: test preparation.

When one thinks of applying to college, the SAT and other standardized tests immediately come to mind. The scores one gets on these tests have a significant impact on one’s likelihood of getting into college. But there’s a big problem: some people may be better prepared to take these tests just because they’ve got a deeper pocket. According to CNBC, those who have more money are likely to score better on the SAT than those who have less. The problem is self-explanatory.

Let’s take The Princeton Review, for example. It is a major, widely known test preparation company, based in Massachusetts, that offers prep books and courses. According to their website, their “SAT 1400+” course is, at the time of writing, on sale, and costs $1299 instead of $1599.

“Wait a minute,” you may ask. “What if I’m shooting for those Ivy-Leagues?” The Princeton Review has the solution! It’s the “SAT 1500+” offering, of course. This class is currently on sale for $1999 instead of the usual $2299.

What they’re saying is—if you have more money, we can help you make your score higher. And if your score is higher, you’ll get into a better college.

I couldn’t find any Princeton Review discounts for those with lower incomes (which isn’t surprising\; they’re a business, after all), and the fact is, those who are richer have more access to resources to help them get ready for a big test. Those with lower incomes suffer from the lack of high-quality, comprehensive preparation. The expense of test preparation has led the CollegeBoard to partner with Khan Academy to provide free SAT practice. Khan Academy, however, doesn’t necessarily solve the problem faced by the low-income people aiming for a high score, as it lacks the direct teacher-to-student approach used in pricey prep courses, and leaves one to decide mostly by themselves what the best test readiness plan is. Those who can’t afford the big price are on their own. Direct, customized teaching of concepts and truly personalized, structured study plans are crucial guides needed when getting ready for any big test.

The amount of work one puts in, and not their wealth, should impact their test score. In order to guarantee everyone a fair chance to excel, CollegeBoard and Khan Academy should provide the guided, thorough and complete preparation tools that paid preparation courses provide. These tools are currently only accessible by those with the means to pay for them.