College Counseling Office Plans to Offer Test Prep Programs in Upcoming Months

Following in the steps of college counseling offices at peer boarding schools, Andover’s College Counseling Office soon hopes to offer preparation courses for standardized tests. John Anderson, Co-Director of College Counseling, said that the College Counseling Office is in the process of exploring new test prep options for students. These options will most likely include an SAT and ACT test prep program, which will occur throughout the summer and into the fall term. Andover’s only current test prep program is available on Naviance, an online college counseling database, through Method Test Prep, an online provider of SAT courses. Anderson said that by providing these resources through the College Counseling Office, the school could grant financially disadvantaged students the same opportunities for test prep as wealthier students. “Generally, students who do prep courses are from wealthier families because [the courses] cost a lot of money,” he said. “If we move ahead with our plans, and I think we will, financial aid would be provided by the testing company to defray costs and make it possible for any student to take the course if they wanted to,” said Anderson. The proposed program “is an outgrowth from Andover’s strategic plan and motto, ‘youth from every quarter.’ It desires to be more inclusive and diminish the [economic] differences between students,” he added. The school has generally emphasized that academic courses and extracurricular activities should take priority over standardized testing. “Our biggest concern as we’ve explored the different prep opportunities is that [standardized] test scores are not the most important part of a student’s application. Grades, courses and recommendations are the key elements,” said Anderson. “We would not want to engage in any prep programs that diverted the students’ attention away from their studies,” he said. According to Andover’s 2009 College Admission Test Preparation Survey, taken from a pool of 301 responses, 54 percent of students did some type of test preparation. Of that 54 percent, 36 percent worked with an individual tutor, 22 percent reported that they attended SAT classes and 42 percent engaged in self-study using test prep books. Many of Andover’s peer schools already provide standardized test prep courses. Eric Stahura, Associate Director of College Counseling at Choate Rosemary Hall, said in an interview that Kaplan Test Prep uses Choate as a site for SAT classes. A number of Choate students are enrolled in a Kaplan course at Choate, he said. Stahura added, “Choate has picked up the cost for the online CollegeBoard SAT course. Any Junior or Senior who wants to use the course [online] can get access free of charge.” Choate also arranges for two different on-campus preparation courses for all students during the school year, said Stahura. According to Stahura, the College Counseling Office at Choate is looking into whether the school provides sufficient prep resources and adequate opportunities to students. He said, “We know that as a prep school students will obviously [take] standardized tests for admission to college, and we’d be naïve to think that these tests are not important.” “At the same time, we never want our own curriculum to be influenced or affected by prepping for a test. As an office, we’re quite conscious that the Choate curriculum should be the top priority for students,” he said. At Deerfield Academy, students can take courses with a “math and verbal session respectively, on two consecutive Saturdays in September to prepare for the SAT,” wrote Patricia O’Neil, Deerfield’s Test Coordinator, in an e-mail. Deerfield also offers a one-hour prep session on the Thursday before the PSAT, which is typically administered in October. “[Test] prep and tutoring have remained mostly with the individual [student] to establish or request,” wrote O’Neil. “We do have SAT tutors.” Similar standardized test prep options are offered at the Hotchkiss School and the Lawrenceville School. Laurie Grusauski, Director of Standardized Testing at the Hotchkiss School, said, “Eleventh graders are offered the ability to take a prep course through an outside contractor, High End Test Prep.” Jeffery Durso-Finley, Director of College Counseling at the Lawrenceville School wrote in an e-mail, “We have a site license for the entire school, so all students have access to test prep for both the ACT and SAT year round through Method Test Prep.”