9/27/2012 5:22 PM ET|
Is acing the SAT worth $100,000?
A higher score can lead to a better school, but can potentially higher future earnings justify the cost of test prep?
What is a big SAT score improvement worth? A whole lot -- sometimes.
Picture a high school student from New York state. His grades are excellent; his transcript is a sea of A's. He has taken challenging courses and held leadership positions in a few clubs, as most admissions counselors advise. He volunteers at the local hospital on weekends. He's sure to impress with his application essays.
Further, his parents are successful, so unless he receives merit aid, his family will probably pay full tuition -- and room and board -- at whatever institution he attends. Of course, if he attends a school in New York that offers in-state tuition rates, his family will pay those instead.
Picture, in other words, a fictional student for whom SAT scores will make all the difference. Here lies the value of good SAT prep to him and his family.
PayScale has compiled median starting salary data, and, more interestingly, median "midcareer" salary data for bachelors' degree graduates of most colleges and universities in the United States. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a searchable tuition database. And many schools provide the 25th and 75th percentiles (usually called the "middle 50%") of their students' SAT scores.
From this I made some sweeping assumptions and crunched some numbers. First, I assumed that historical data for salary rates for graduates of different schools is a decent predictor of the future, at least for rough predictions of which graduates will make more and which will make less. Then I looked at net present values of 20 years of cash flows -- four years of full tuition (or full in-state tuition for New York schools), followed by 16 years of salary based on PayScale's numbers. NPV differences are biggest at low interest rates, and they grow more muted at higher ones. Rather than make a prediction for interest rates for the next 20 years, I looked at differences for a range of possible interest rates.
Under the right conditions, even pricier SAT prep options can be a heckuva deal. Say, for example, that our student's SAT scores are 1700. That puts him in a good position for admission to Adelphi University (middle 50%: 1480-1780) but makes admission to Stony Brook University (middle 50%: 1660-1970) a stretch. Assuming he'd rather attend Stony Brook if he can get in, what might be the value, in today's dollars, of a score increase that would seal the deal? Turns out, it would be more than $100,000 in future earnings, at any reasonable discount rate.
But before you drop everything to start calling tutors, consider another example. Let's say our student is instead scoring around 1900 on practice tests, and that he'd happily attend Fairfield University (middle 50%: 1710-1910). However, in his heart of hearts, he'd really rather attend New York University (middle 50%: 1940-2230) if he had the scores to get in. The pursuit of dreams is a perfectly good reason to spend some money, but his parents should do so with eyes wide open. PayScale's numbers say that the present value of attending NYU is $50,000 less over the next 20 years than that of attending Fairfield.
Of course, these are cherry-picked examples, and admissions offices are cagey about exactly how much SAT scores matter. But the numbers make a good point. It's important to think through the goals of test prep, beyond the immediate desire for higher scores. For almost everyone except test prep professionals, actual scores won't be worth a hill of beans once acceptance letters are sent out. But where those acceptance letters come from might or might not be worth a great deal.
Want to play with my numbers, or try different school matchups? Here's the spreadsheet I used. You can save a copy for yourself and edit it however you like.
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have to laugh. someone needs welders bad because there is a shortage of good welders. So they go to the welding school to hire new grads and invest in them teaching them how to be real productive welders on the job. The new welding people come in to apply, and they are asked to perform 10 basic welding things to qualify them for the real world training. The new welding grads say "I don't know any of that". So, you ask what they learned in welding school and they reply "we learned about broccoli, how to use a condom, and that all republicans are rich racist women killers". So they are told sorry and good luck out there. Then they have to go out and either try to steal experienced welders away from other buisinesses or import welders from south america or somewhere.
SAT scores do indicate basic learning levels of achievement. Although, now, most universities have programs where students can spend a year or two learing the things they should have learned in high school so its all a wash as long as there is student loan money flowing freely.
This is total horse apples. Your SAT score has no impact on how successful you will be in your career. The SAT, for the most part is useless, it is not an accurate predictor of how you will perform in college, nor anything. And as another poster stated, the college you go to, doesn't matter that much. Theoretically, you can get into any college you want, just start taking some night classes, do very well and matriculate into a program.
And make sure, make absolutely sure, that your parents take out a second mortgage to grease the palms of the highest paid university employees.... the admissions directors. Payola baby, payola.
Every year the NFL runs potential players through the combine to find out who has the best basic skill set so they can be rated. Do better, get drafted higher and get a bigger signing bonus. Each year they find they could toss the combine out the window because other than making sure the athelete is up to par with the other atheletes... success is all about ability, focus, and determination when you get there if you have a basic skill set.
Ah, just lower the testing standards and hire a test taker with a fake ID. And just how are they supposed to know if you were the President of the school community trash clean up club or not? Or if there even was a trash club? Essay, hey, hire some really intelligent and broke graduate student on line to write you something profound. And tell them your mom was an opera singer, because who the hell knows any opera singers, but it sounds elitist. And dad was an international financier...because what the hell is that except he may have loaned a tourist a couple of quarters for the coke machine at some point in life. And make dang sure your folks stick a little money in the holiday envelopes and invite your teachers to the "club" for a party a couple times.
Its all a shamoo. If someone can crank on math, who cares if they are the biggest nerd in the world. One day someone will pay big money for that skill. Some of the best, brightest, and most successful people I ever knew were just people who worked hard, and did their jobs with a complete focus. Never had a post graduate employer ask if I was head glee club singer in high school six years before. All this junk and getting into the "right" school, is so you can get a hand out do nothing career with an overinflated entry level salary after graduation. Like, director of the CIA, or assistant director of blah blah, or director of the budget of the company coffee maker.
One of the difficult things to distinguish is whether top universities put graduates on a career trajectory that will (on average) earn them more money over time or if the type of students who attend top universities are just so motivated that they are (on average) more likely to financially succeed in the first place. In other words, it is difficult to know if top universities actually make the difference at all or if they just attract the students who are going to make more money regardless of where they go.
Also, there is more difference in incomes across fields than there is a difference across colleges. Attending Yale to study history will get a student a world class history education but if you attend a flagship public university and study engineering you will still probably make more than the Yale grad. Some schools have better programs than others and perhaps better post-college connections are available to start a career. However, that tends to be more true of graduate school than undergrad. For example, if you want to attend a graduate business school or law school, then it is probably worth your time to pay for GMAT or LSAT preparation because where you go can make a big difference.
So when it comes to the decision of where to go for a four year degree, it may be best for most students to just find the best and most affordable school that has good programs across the board but to be the type of motivated student who potentially could get in to a top school. Then worry about prestige if you plan to go to grad school.
If I put my degrees on a resume I do not get an interview.
This is just stupid. The name of the college on the diploma doesn't determine your salary. Correlation is not causation. The better universities tend to have the most dedicated students. Hence, they are the ones that will be more pro-active in searching for jobs and also more likely to get promotions.
The college doesn't produce better workers. Better workers are simply more likely to want to go to the better colleges.
The simple fact is that it's much harder today for someone of ordinary talent and financial means to acheive the "American Dream" than 30 , 40 or 50 years ago. I asked immigrants who had achieved the "American Dream" this question and they agreed.
If I were 40 years younger planning to start a family again I would rather use sperm from a donor with perfect SAT's than my own (with the only caveat that they at least looked like me). I would gladly make this sacrafice knowing that my children would not have to struggle so hard to even have what I have.
As futurist Alan Toffler's "3rd Wave" becomes a reality ordinary people are being shut out of the American Dream no matter how hard they work or study. It's no mistake that there are many skilled job openings in America with not enough skilled candidates to meet demand. If America were more like Germany then at least displaced workers would have many chances to retrain for jobs that pay a living wage. Unfortunately America does not have the healthy kind of national that the Germans have evolved after a history of great pain.
People...we dont want to know YOUR SAT score...you can say it was 24,000 and it doesn't mean crap on this forum. You also have a 10 inch prong and you are making 7 figures and your handsomer than Brad Pitt...so we won't buy it. What is importatant here is that there are rewards waiting for excellence...so go for it if you have the will.
Graduate Professional degree is what really counts . NEVER again NEVER waste money on college or undergraduate . LIsten to me you will thank me later DONT waste your money on college! go some place more affordable, cheaper and good program but DO REALLY WELL in it then apply to really good graduate programs MBA or MD or JD or what ever engineering programs etc.
When I took SAT prep, I was told up front that it stands for Stupid **** Test, and that the only reason I was doing it was because of the ****es that run things. I was told it was highly coachable and easily exploited. And it didn't cost me a massive amount of money; certainly not 100K.
Buy some prep books (Princeton Review's a good choice) and sign up for a course only if you can't do without it. Apply to a Canadian school (or any others that make sense; west coast's usually better).
No, has little to do with it, but have an actual IQ of over 140 will!
I can not believe that is never talked about anymore--I Guess in order to protect universities income from losers starting colleges, by the millions!--In EU we can not afford to have people with IQ at 100 and below go to college, so there are many other systems for them!--But some people here do know, they come from here to my country, and find people with IQ over 175 and they still made me wait 9 month for a green card--go figure, I mean nobody from Denmark normally would fancy coming here, where you have to pay for living at college/school, and pay for medical, never mind retirement!
Take a close look at your computer CPU chip technology, and remember that was not designed here!
Never is a high SAT worth the price of extensive Prep. IF you child does not get into an Ivy League school so what he/she will still gain a great education IF They Apply Themselves.
I scored horribly in math but high in Verbal/language skills---so what, math would never helped me in my chosen careers. At the age of 16, 17 and 18 many do not know what they want to grow up and be which is why college is a plus----no matter what school is attended.
no matter what else happens in life college or university is a great experience. and i hope anyone who wants to attend can find an opportunity.
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