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Studying for the SAT and ACT can really pay off, and there are low cost tools to help

Mar 14, 2017

It's SAT and ACT season.

The high-stakes tests for high school juniors do more than just assign a number to your math and reading skills. There's also a lot of scholarship money available for students who earn high scores.  

In Michigan, there are numerous opportunities for merit aid at local colleges and universities. And there are some schools that offer scholarships based on test scores alone.

Like many Michigan students, Flint high schooler Dylan Hernandez was unaware of these scholarship opportunities as he began to consider college. He took the SAT twice with little preparation or studying beforehand.

But then, after doing some research, he realized that he could potentially save thousands of dollars with a better score.

Hernandez decided to retake the test – but only after enrolling in a test prep program.

Patrick O'Connor, left, is Associate Dean of College Counseling at Cranbrook Kingswood School. Dylan Hernandez, right, is a high school student in Flint. Both agree that a little bit of SAT/ACT test prep can go a long way.

“I heard about Magoosh, which is an ACT/SAT prep program, and so I figured I would do that,” Hernandez said. “And once I did that, I improved my score tremendously.”

Hernandez, it should be said, is not a typical high school student. For instance, he didn't just take a test prep course with Magoosh; he also got in touch with the company's CEO in hopes of making the program more accessible to his classmates in Flint.

In response, Magoosh offered a coupon worth 90% of the program price to 150 of Hernandez’s classmates.

Of course, not all students will have access to such a coupon, and many can’t afford the full cost of a college entrance exam prep course.

Patrick O'Connor, associate dean of College Counseling at Cranbrook Schools, says not to worry. He told us there are a number of free test prep resources, such as the Khan Academy’s online SAT prep materials and the practice exams and questions at crackACT.com.

He also suggested that students check with their counselors to see what test prep programs are available at their school.

“Since the SAT is a required state test for all public schools, many public schools are now putting together their own version of test prep,” O’Connor said. “There are several programs that are after school now where students are able to access that free as part of their attending the public school.”

Listen to our interview with Patrick O’Connor and Dylan Hernandez above to hear more about best practices for SAT and ACT test prep, and to hear why O’Connor typically recommends students take both tests.

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