This post is sponsored by the College Board, a not-for-profit that connects students to college success and opportunity. I was compensated for this post but the thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

It’s still only early July but high school students across the country are already starting to worry about college test prep. Actually, they never really stopped.

According to a recent study by FutureCast and Barkley, teenagers spend more time and attention on their grades in school and preparing to get into college than hanging out with friends, social media, working, or playing video games. That’s because becoming successful is extremely important to them, and personal success is linked to getting a college degree that will lead them to a well-paying job.

When Sammy was entering his junior year, we met with his school counselor to talk through college entrance test requirements and options. Since he’s my oldest, we had no clue which test he should take: the SAT or the ACT (or both). Sammy wasn’t interested in taking both, and from a financial perspective, that was fine with me. Both tests come with registration fees. Plus, I’d been told there’s no competitive advantage to taking both, and that it may even be a detriment.

Sammy decided to take the ACT. He took it twice and got the same score. It wasn’t stellar, but he was content with his score because it was within the accepted guidelines for the colleges he was considering. He didn’t do any type of formal study program either time, even though I recommended it. But selfishly, I didn’t push, because the test prep tutors or programs I’d heard about weren’t cheap! For instance, Kaplan STARTS at $599 for online test prep. Private tutors can add up to even more!

Had I known then what I know now, I would have encouraged him to take the SAT instead of the ACT. Here’s why.

  • The SAT has been redesigned, making it easier for students to show their best work. There’s no penalty for guessing, gone are “SAT words” that no one has seen before or likely will see again, and only relevant math concepts are tested. Plus, there’s no science section (never Sammy’s best subject) and the SAT gives more time per question.
  • SAT test prep is FREE through a program offered by the Khan Academy and the College Board. They developed the Official SAT Practice to create free, personalized online tools so students, regardless of income level or background, can prepare for the SAT and college-level courses.
  • New data shows studying for the SAT for 20 hours on free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy is associated with an average score gain of 115 points, nearly double the average score gain compared to students who don’t use Khan Academy.

In case you didn’t catch it the first time, SAT test prep is FREE! With this program, there is no reason to pay crazy fees for private tutors or classes! Through the free Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy, students can access video lessons, test-taking tips and strategies, and thousands of interactive practice questions. And they get eight full-length, free practice tests written by the College Board test design team.

I also love that this program removes financial barriers for all students, regardless of race, gender or income. Could we have afforded $599 for the Kaplan program? While steep, yes. We could have made it work. But for many families, that’s not a realistic option. And it shouldn’t have to be a requirement. Every student in America should have access to the same tools and programs to put their best academic foot forward. The College Board and Khan Academy have made that possible.

Henry is entering his junior year this fall so I will be encouraging a different path this time around. If you have kids in high school or know anyone who does, please let them know about this incredible program. College test prep doesn’t have to break the bank!

Visit satpractice.org to sign up for Official SAT Practice on Khan Academy.