This August the College Board will administer the SAT outside the academic year for the first time—but only to those lucky students who attend a three-week college-preparation camp that costs $4,500.
Elizabeth A. Stone thinks this is unfair. This week, Ms. Stone, an educational consultant based in San Mateo, Calif., wrote a letter to Gaston Caperton, the College Board’s departing president. In it she asked several questions, including these: “Do not College Board annual reports already demonstrate that students from the highest socioeconomic backgrounds significantly out-score other demographic groups on the SAT? Why should students who have already been designated as very high academic achievers be the only students who are offered an additional test date?”
The summer camp, called University Prep, is sponsored by the National Society for the Gifted & Talented, a nonprofit group that’s committed to “developing potential in young people.” The camp, which will be held at Amherst College July 15 through August 4, offers students the opportunity to learn from “experts in the college prep field,” including Howard Greene & Associates, a college consulting firm and one of the camp’s official partners. The other partners are the College Board, which administers the almighty test, and the Princeton Review, which helps students improve their scores on the almighty test.
For years students and college counselors have clamored for the opportunity to take the SAT during the summer, when there are not nightly homework assignments to juggle. In response to those requests, the College Board decided to conduct a “pilot administration” at the University Prep camp to determine the feasibility of a summer testing date, according Matt Lisk, executive director of the SAT Program.
“Because of the obvious differences in the logistics of testing in the summer due to school and faculty schedules,” Mr. Lisk said in a written statement on Wednesday, “a pilot program such as this is the only sound way to work through potential operational challenges before considering the expansion to millions of students and thousands of sites. ... If successful, we will examine the expansion of the scope of the summer SAT administration to additional locations in the near future.”
In the meantime, the August testing date stands as an exclusive offer to an exclusive set. According to University Prep’s Web site, “you will finish the program with the confidence and knowledge needed to improve your chances of being accepted into the college or university of your choice.” Their parents will finish the program $4,495 poorer ($3,750 for students who commute to the camp). Those totals do not include a nonrefundable $95 application fee, transportation fees, or the cost of books.
In her letter, Ms. Stone wrote that students who take the SAT in August will be able to send their scores to colleges before students who take the exam on the next regular testing date, in October: “Will not this special August test date, offered to an elite group of students, be perceived by the public as giving these students an unfair advantage?”
Some questions, it seems, have a way of answering themselves.