What are SAT Prep Summer Programs and should you use them?
There are a lot of variations in SAT summer programs and the hours of study they offer. Other than time, the greatest variation in SAT summer programs is through price. There are commercial and noncommercial options and they vary by price and hours offered, as well as the material used. No matter the course, a good program will offer at least once a week test.
Advantages and disadvantages to a summer-only program
On the one hand you might find it easier to focus on only one thing during the summer, so a summer prep program might seem ideal. However, you might already be drained from a long and difficult school year and just want a break. A summer camp environment and attitude can also be distracting, and you might not learn as much as you would have with alternative methods. If you are set on a summer camp though, you should check out our article on SAT summer camps.
Moreover, since its summer, you may feel you have time for intensive study and put in many hours. But, you might find that you end up putting in too many hours and burn yourself out by the time the test comes around. In the end, many find that an hour or two every day over a longer period of time is much more manageable than the 6-8 hours per day that might be required from an official SAT boot camp
BUT! You don't need to do an SAT summer boot camp for intensive study
While an SAT summer camp or boot camp is good for forcing you to invest a lot of time into SAT prep, you don't need a boot camp for intensive study. And when you put in a lot of hours, then your scores will improve, regardless of where you do it. But keep in mind that just because you can, doens't mean you should! While you may be able to concentrate more hours in the summer, some students may find this overwhelming. For them, it may be better to spread out any studying over a longer period of time.
What are the alternatives?
- Online SAT prep: allows you to set the schedule, costs significantly less and lets you move at a pace comfortable for you, while also allowing for specialized instruction
- Either online or local, individual SAT prep with a tutor: this would give you personal attention but also be much more affordable than an SAT summer camp. Tutors will test you on your weaknesses and guide your study, but they are mainly a supplement to more extensive study on your own time.
- Studying on your own: with proper strategies, even studying on your own can be as effective, and far more cost friendly. You can find plenty of online resources that can guide your self study. If you are thinking of self study, plan to set aside at least one week to preparing a course of study for your summer. And then, follow it.
- Use the free resources at PrepScholar to help you plan out your SAT summer self study. Check out our links on the side or at the bottom of this article to get you started. Or start a free trial at our program, designed to tailor sat prep to your needs, right in your own home.
What are the disadvantages of self study?
Self study can be inexpensive and flexible, and it can fit to any schedule. However, it can be difficult to maintain discipline on your own and not everyone can do it. First, you will need to analyze your own performance objectively and not everyone can do that easily. Second, you will need to maintain a strict schedule with no outside supervision. Lastly, you will need to research and select the study material on your own, which may take time that you don't have.
How to tailor an online program to the summer?
If you plan to study during the summer, then the smartest things you can do is to maximize the hours you devote to study so that you won't have to worry about this during the school year. Since you can now devote hours at a time, you should use that time to do plenty of practice tests! The more practice tests you do, the greater the improvement in scores you will see. If its feasible, you can study just four hours every weekday and still study up to 20 hours a week, which is as good as many summer programs. Then, if you find that you have four spare hours - optimize that time. Do a timed practice test! It will make you more familiar with the test and allow your brain to further familiarize itself with the question types.
Check out our other article on SAT Summer ideas - Should you really join a SAT Summer Camp? or our 5 Step SAT/ACT Test Dates and Study Plan for Summer before Senior Year. For those interested, check out our article on Summer Institutes for the Gifted. If you scored a 2200 or above on your recent SATs, then consider whether you need to retake it!
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Anna graduated from MIT where she honed her research interests in Earth Science and Social/Political Science. She has years of tutoring experience, loves watching students learn and grow, and strongly believes that education is the cornerstone of our society. She is passionate about science, books, and non-profit work.