Parents: How to Help Your Kids Reach Their SAT Goals
High school can be a trying period in any parent-child relationship. The teen years bring new independence, responsibility, and often times the tendency to push boundaries and establish a new sense of self. Parents of teens often wonder how much they should continue to be involved in their teen’s daily lives and responsibilities as they stretch their wings.
This can be particularly true of the college application process and standardized tests. While your teen might want freedom to tackle these challenges on his or her own, there’s still plenty of room for parental guidance. In this post, we outline how you can help your teen to achieve his or her SAT goals, without stepping on his or her feet.
1. Understand the SAT
The number one way you can help your teen as he or she prepares for the SAT is to learn about the SAT yourself. Even if you took the test as a teenager, it has changed significantly in recent years and bears little resemblance to what it did just 20 years ago.
Start by getting familiar with the test. The College Board website is a great place to start. Here, you’ll find information about the test format, content, and scoring. You should also check out these CollegeVine posts to get the basics down:
You’ll be much more helpful to your teen and better able to provide realistic advice if you understand the test that he or she is tackling.
2. Create a Practice Schedule Together
Odds are that no one wants your teen to succeed on the SAT more than your teen him or herself. You can help him or her to meet his or her goals by working together to create a practice schedule ahead of time.
To get started, ask your teen to take and score a practice test. This is an important step because it establishes a baseline and identifies areas that need improvement. From this score, help your teen to establish a target score and outline the areas to work on in order to achieve this.
Work backwards for test day to create a practice schedule. Get your teen a blank calendar and work with him or her to fill in existing requirements, school deadlines, and other commitments. Then, work around these to create a realistic study schedule that won’t overwhelm your teen, yet still allows plenty of time to improve.
Post the schedule someplace prominently in the house, where both you and your teen will see it frequently.
3. Provide the Tools For Success
There are tons of study materials available for the SAT, from tutors, to online tutorials, to study groups and prep books. The best SAT preparation is usually a well-balanced combination of all of the above. Make these resources available to your teen if you want to support his or her student efforts.
If budget is a concern, there’s no need to worry. Tons of free study materials are available online. Start with the College Board website where free practice tests, practice problems, and scoring explanations are provided. Your teen will also be able to learn all about the test and what to expect on test day here.
Another great, free resources comes from Khan Academy. Here your teen can access dozens of free video tutorials and lengthy explanations of common strategies and mistakes.
Finally, CollegeVine provides guides to each section of the SAT for free. Send your child to these posts to learn more:
Many communities also provide free study opportunities in the form of study groups. These might meet at the school, at the library, or at a local community center. Reach out to your child’s school counselor to find out about opportunities in your area.
If you have the budget, a tutor is a wonderful way for your student to maximize his or her scoring potential. Tutors provide insight into the test that is refined over years and years of experience. In addition, they have firsthand knowledge of which study techniques and strategies work best for which student. If you can swing it, an SAT tutor is a invaluable resource.
4. Make Yourself Available For Review
The bulk of the studying must be done by your teen and your teen alone. After all, as much as you might want to sneak into his or her room at night and subliminally transfer all of your algebra and vocabulary knowledge, that just isn’t possible. Instead, your teen needs to take the bulk of the responsibility here.
Where you can help, though, is with review. Once your teen has compiled a list of new vocabulary words or worked his or her way through a tricky algebra problem, you can help him or her to review it. The review process is important because this is when knowledge is truly internalized.
Make sure that your teen knows you’re available to help with review. Ask if he or she would like to quiz him or her on any vocabulary words. Invite your teen to teach you a tricky algebra problem or common strategies for the reading section. Your teen might be reluctant at first to accept your help, but if you aren’t pushy and just reiterate that you’re available whenever he or she would like a second pair of ears of eyes, your teen just might come around before test day.
5. Avoid Excess Pressure
It’s important yet sometimes hard to remember that the person most concerned about your child’s SAT score is your child himself. While it might appear that he or she is sometimes lackadaisical in his or her approach, odds are that he or she is just jaded by the experience. Try not to turn up the pressure on an already stressful situation.
At the same time, though, you know your child best and some are more likely to procrastinate than others. If your teen tends to put things off until the last minute or sometimes overlooks the bigger picture, you might need to remind him or her often about the importance of the SAT. Try to do so in a way that is supportive and constructive rather than critical.
At the end of the day, remember that your teen needs to know that this is just a test. While it might seem like the most important thing in the world on the morning of SAT day, ultimately this test is not likely to determine the direction of his or her life. This score isn’t an indication of his or her likeliness to succeed and it’s definitely not a measure of your teen’s worth. Instead, it’s simply a high stakes standardized test that may play a significant role in college admissions.
For more help preparing for the SAT, check out our free guide with our eight tips for mastering the SAT.
For more tips about preparing for the SAT, see our posts:
Does your teen want access to expert college guidance — for free? When they create their free CollegeVine account, they will find out their real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve their profile, and get their questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Encourage them to sign up for their CollegeVine account today to get a boost on their college journey.
Want more SAT tips sent to you?
Sign up below and we'll send you expert SAT tips and guides.