These are uncertain times, as we all know. Whether directly or indirectly, we’ve all been affected by the current situation. But if you made it to this blog post, you must also be thinking about what to do with your child’s SAT or ACT prep. What should SAT and ACT prep while social distancing look like?
At the time I’m posting this, the SAT has been canceled through May. The April ACT was also just canceled. I’ve been getting questions from parents about how to handle test prep, especially for students who were planning to test fairly soon. Clearly, the situation is changing every day. But I wanted to give my own professional opinion about steps to take while we’re social distancing to make sure your child is ready once the SAT and ACT resume.
A few things to keep in mind
It’s not only the SAT and ACT that have been canceled, of course. For most students around the country, the regular school day has shifted dramatically. Many schools are now out for the rest of the year. Others are still trying to figure out the unchartered territory of online education.
But here’s the thing. Realistically, schools aren’t likely to start up again soon.
Or even if your city does open up schools in the next few weeks, there’s no guarantee they won’t have to close again as the situation evolves.
That means students are likely to start seeing summer slide hit early, even if their school is doing its best to meet online.
The danger is that once the SAT and ACT resume, students may have to make up for ground that they have lost while in this educational limbo.
So here’s what I’m recommending to the parents I’m talking with:
Use this downtime to get a head start on SAT or ACT prep.
Think of it as “social distancing SAT and ACT prep.”
It’s kind of like prepping over the summer, but without the distractions of sports, summer jobs, and many other obligations. This can be a blessing in disguise for two reasons.
Blessing in disguise #1
You’ll make sure they’re prepping during the time they’ll be able to focus the most on their preparation. During the school year, it’s so common for students to not have sufficient time to complete their SAT or ACT homework. They start to just feel overwhelmed with balancing school work and test prep work, sometimes alongside a job or sports. If your child is like most of my students at the moment, they’re feeling kind of bored… Even something like SAT or ACT prep could be a welcome addition to their schedule.
Blessing in disguise #2
You’ll make sure to avoid last-minute prep. Typically every test cycle, I get requests from families two weeks before test day. They ask me if I could meet with their child for a quick blitz of test prep to do whatever I can to raise their score. These situations are always tough. It’s hard to develop the critical thinking skills that are necessary on the SAT or ACT within such a short time period. We can always make some progress, but not nearly as much progress as your child would make during this time when everything else in life is on pause.
Blessing in disguise #3
Longer-term prep can help to make sure that your student is ahead of the game, since they may not even need to retake the test in the fall at that point. They’ll be able to spend their summer getting a head start on college application essays. And they will feel much more relaxed compared to their classmates come the fall application season.
So what can “social distancing SAT and ACT prep” look like?
This is an uncertain economic time for many families, of course. So it’s important to do what is right for your family situation, whatever that may be or however that may change in the coming days and weeks.
One cost-effective service I offer for students is a guided self-study program. Particularly when your child suddenly doesn’t have the kind of structure they’re used to in their life, accountability can be tough. It’s also sometimes difficult for students to know exactly what they should work on or how they should study.
In my guided self-study program, I create customized study plans based on where each student is currently at in their SAT or ACT prep. I tailor-make each and every study plan for each student. And I check in with students every two weeks for accountability and to make adjustments to their plan.
Guided self-study is a great budget option and is great for any student who just needs a little push during these weeks off.
(Bonus: It’s also great for parents who are getting frustrated by how much time their teenager is playing video games during this time off…)
Small group tutoring
Small group tutoring is another possibility, especially if your child has friends or classmates who would also like to study for the SAT or ACT. I put together a program that works for all students, but I still make sure to customize as much as possible. Because you’re splitting the cost between multiple students, the cost per student is always lower than it is for one-on-one private tutoring.
And of course, it’s all online. Gotta keep social distancing the SAT and ACT prep!
If you would prefer, one-on-one tutoring is another great option. I often have students work with me throughout the summer in preparation for fall SAT or ACT test dates. Getting started now in preparation for the June tests would basically be pretty similar to that.
One-on-one tutoring is typically more useful than large online classes or even small group tutoring for the following types of students:
- Students with test anxiety who may not feel comfortable in a group class or might get too discouraged studying on their own
- Students shooting for top scores. Areas of weakness tend to be pretty specific at that point. Even small group tutoring for these students may focus too much on areas the top scorers are already rock-solid on.
- Students receiving test accommodations that may require us to take a more individualized approach.
- Students with “lopsided” scores. Let’s say your child is awesome at math but needs help with reading. A large online class wouldn’t be customized enough. Small group tutoring could still be helpful if we can pair your child up with another math whiz but would take more legwork to set up.
Update: For summer 2020, I’m running a discount on one-on-one tutoring so that I can be more of service during this time. Spots are limited. (I don’t have infinite time in my schedule!)
One final note
This situation is totally crazy and changing constantly. It’s also very different in different parts of the country. (I actually drafted this post a week ago. It’s pretty crazy how much I had to edit it to get it to apply to today’s situation…) Two, three weeks from now, who knows?
Still, I want to make sure that I’m doing my part to make sure that my students are well-served during this time. I really care about my students. So I want to make sure this uncertain time doesn’t leave students feeling like they have to scramble once things finally start returning to normal.
If you want to talk to me about the particulars of your child’s situation or to get more personalized recommendations, please contact me. You can also set up a free consultation call if you’re interested in getting started with guided self-prep, small group tutoring, or one-on-one tutoring.
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