SAT Summer camps are cram school for the SATs. They include long hours and intensive sessions, promising students increases in their SAT scores or their money back. They range from online tutoring programs held over the summer (there are a lot of these), day camps like Elite's Summer Test Prep, and month-long residential camps where students live and breathe SAT prep and college admissions, like Columbia University's SummerFuel.
They all promise score increases, and some even guarantee them. But how do you know if you even need an SAT summer camp? Keep reading to find out!
Why Do People Go to SAT Summer Camps?
Students I’ve spoken to have given a number of reasons for why they’re doing an SAT prep program. The number one reason? Their parents signed them up for one. However, there are other reasons why you might want to attend an SAT summer camp.
You may need help boosting your low scores. You may have already tried self study and found it too difficult to maintain a rigid schedule. You may find it beneficial to look into a summer prep program, where you can receive targeted SAT prep in a short span of time.
You may have a moderate or even above average SAT score, but it isn't enough for your top choice school and you really need those 800s. If this is you, then what you need is improvement on taking the SAT itself, not the content. A specialized program can help you in this situation.
You may not have taken the SAT before, but you want to get it right on the first go. Maybe you have a strict application deadline because you plan to graduate early, or maybe you know you’ll have a lot of other exams to worry about in your junior year. Whatever the reason, if you want a perfect SAT score on the first try, then an SAT prep program might be an important first step.
You may need help figuring out what sort of study methods you need for the SAT. You might need a personal tutor to structure a study program tailored to your needs. If that is the case for you, then you might benefit from a specialized SAT prep program.
How Many Hours Does an SAT Summer Camp Take?
There are a lot of variations in SAT summer programs and the hours of study they offer. They range from one week courses to over four weeks. And they can vary from three to nine hours of SAT prep a day depending on how intensive the program is.
Other than time, the greatest variation in SAT summer programs is price. The cost can vary from $25 an hour with an online tutor where you might take classes twice a week to those intensive residential programs that cost over $5000 per course. There are commercial and non-commercial options and they vary by price and hours offered, as well as the study material used. Depending on the program, you have a responsibility to ask the right sort of questions, to make sure that you and your parents are getting your money’s worth.
How Much Can a Summer Camp Raise Your SAT Score?
This can vary a lot depending on the program you choose, and, unfortunately, a bad program could result in no improvement to your SAT score.
However, average improvements after participating in a summer camp range from 50 points to more than 250 points. Some programs even guarantee that if you are not satisfied with your score results that they will continue to offer you support until you are.
What Should You Look for in a Top SAT Summer Camp?
Right off the bat, you should know that any good program will begin with an assessment test. This needs to be done so that they can analyze your results and place you in the type of program that would best address your weaknesses.
No matter the course, a good program will offer practice tests at least a once a week. They may boast between two to six hours a day of teaching and practice for a day camp or ten hours a day for an SAT prep and college admissions residential camp. Either way, make sure that they are offering you enough testing practice, and then after, analysis of your results.
A really good summer camp will offer one-on-one personalized programs with at least 48 hours of tutoring at around 12 - 15 hours per week, minimum. This will ensure that you get the practice that you need and the specialized attention that you deserve.
Things to Consider When Choosing an SAT Summer Camp
If you're looking to pick a summer camp there are some things you need to consider before you decide on any particular one!
You should figure out how much time you need to study to hit your target score goal. Once you know this, you will be able to pick a summer program with the correct number of hours that will help you achieve your goal.
You also should look at the score improvements that summer programs promise at the outset and see if they are guaranteed. If they are, then that might be an indication of a reliable program. Be sure to ask them - if your scores don't increase, can you retake the program?
Before you sign on with a program, make sure you completely understand what's included. Will books or educational material be included in the advertised price? Because of the high variance in price, it might be better to decide on how much you are willing to spend before you look for a program that fits your needs within your budget. Day camps and summer camps also vary in price significantly, so consider that when you plan your budget.
What Are Alternatives to an SAT Summer Camp?
A great SAT summer camp can really boost your score, but it will also likely require a lot of time and money. Below are some other options for improving your SAT score. Compared to an SAT summer camp, each of these options is more individualized so you can tailor your studying to fit your needs. They are also typically cheaper and more flexible with scheduling than SAT summer camps.
Online SAT Prep
Online SAT prep allows you to set the schedule, costs significantly less than an in-person summer camp, and lets you move at a pace comfortable for you, while also allowing for specialized instruction.
When you use an online SAT prep program, you'll be guided through a relevant course of study, with regular checkpoints along the way, to make sure you're making progress. You'll alternate between learning lessons and taking practice quizzes or full-length exams. PrepScholar offers an online program that guides you step by step through what you need to focus on and structures your learning, so you get the advantage of a prep camp and a tutor at a much lower cost.
Individual SAT Prep With a Tutor
Individual tutoring gives you personal attention but can be more affordable than an SAT summer camp. You can tailor your own approach, just focusing on the areas you know you have trouble with. This way you won't waste your time rehashing your strengths. For example, if you know that the reading section will be a knockout for you, then you don't have to spend extra time on it. You can focus your hours on math or writing instead.
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. Costs can vary from $25 an hour with an online tutor where you might take classes twice a week to $100 an hour with an in-person tutor.
Studying on Your Own
With proper strategies, even studying on your own can be as effective, and far more cost friendly than an SAT camp. With self study, you can make sure that you really understand one topic before moving onto the next one. You'll move at a pace comfortable for you and won't feel rushed or stressed. You can study a lot for the topics and concepts that you find difficult and just skim over things you find easy.
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 prepare 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. I've included some links at the bottom of this article, check them out!
In my honest opinion, it’s better to study on your own, hire a tutor, or join an online prep program tailored to your needs rather than summer programs that charge lots of money.
If you choose one of those alternative options, you can tailor your own approach, and you'll have more flexibility to choose a study method that fits your schedule and budget.
However, if you like the idea of group learning and being in an environment of high pressure, intensive study, and you don't mind the monetary investment, then go for it - a summer program may be for you.
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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.