So, Your Children Are College Bound … But Are They SAT Ready?
Parents play a key role in preparing students for standardized tests, experts agree
Parents are an essential component in their children’s SAT success, says Starlett Craig, director of outreach and enrichment programs at Clemson University in South Carolina. Clemson is home to a successful two-week SAT summer camp, where students are immersed in workshops that prepare them for the exam. Created in collaboration with the Princeton Review, a New York-based company that offers products and services to enhance student performance on standardized tests, the camp teaches students what is expected of them in the SAT with the benefit of manuals, practice questions, vocabulary books and other instructional materials. Students also have the benefit of experiencing college life during their two-week stay at Clemson, where they interact with college students.
But whether a child goes to a SAT camp or not, Craig insists that parents are perhaps the most important part of the equation in their children’s SAT success. Craig explains that at the beginning of every summer workshop parents are invited to come and learn about the resources available to students in preparation for the SAT. Along with parents, Craig notes that brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and grandparents, too, come to the Clemson workshop to get involved.
“Everybody has a role in preparing (the child) for a college education,” Craig says.
Preparation should start quite early, says Jon Zeitlin, general manager ACT/SAT at Kaplan, Inc., a nationwide company that specializes in education and career services. When children first enter high school, parents can do a number of things, such as encourage their children to read in the home — and read a lot, he says. Reading newspapers and books regularly helps increase vocabularies and hone critical reading skills. Parents also can help their children identify strengths and weaknesses — whether the student is stronger in math than in grammar, for instance — which can determine what additional preparations are necessary. Zeitlin also encourages parents to have their children take the test in practice form a few months prior to the actual SAT test, adding that 98 percent of students who take the exam do so after participating in some form of test-preparation activity. Test preparation may include SAT practice books, online resources, classes like those Kaplan offers — which run three months before the test — and even one-on-one intensive tutoring.
Kristen Carnahan, associate director of public affairs at the College Board, says rigorous high-school classes including at least three years of math courses help prepare a student for the SAT. She, too, points out the importance of parental involvement and suggests parents have children read and write at home as much as they can, keeping journals and writing short essays, and then engage children in discussions about the material. Carnahan says parents can get even more involved by writing something themselves and having their children respond to their work. She adds that taking the SAT full-length practice test is another plus and can be administered in most high schools.
Princeton Review offers classroom test preparation, says Harriet Brand, director of public relations for the company. Parents can collaborate with high-school principals and guidance counselors to get SAT test practice classes implemented in their children’s schools oftentimes at reduced rates.
The Princeton Review works in many ways to advocate for students, says Andy Lutz, vice president for program development, and Jeff Rubenstein, vice president for technical development. The company is committed to demystifying the college preparation process and offers programs to achieve that goal. The Clemson summer camp is part of that initiative, as is an annual collaboration between Princeton Review and the NAACP. Each fall the Princeton Review visits those schools involved in NAACP outreach programs to administer a practice test at no charge. The company’s Web site, <www.PrincetonReview.com>, is also a great resource for parents, with information ranging from test preparation to ways to finance your child’s college education.
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