Does Test Prep Provide Advantages to Those Who Already Have Advantage? Absolutely.

I recently asked one of our tutors (an Ivy League grad and teacher at a very well respected high school) if he’d be interested in getting trained in our SAT program so he could work with some of our test prep students…

This was his response:

“To be honest, I struggle with the idea of providing advantages on standardized tests in exchange for money. I fear this perpetuates a system in which those with financial resources gain access to even more privilege. Perhaps I am too stubborn with my perspective, but I am young, idealistic, and cannot help it! Would you mind sharing your, and/or your company’s, stance on providing specialized tutoring for standardized test preparation? I would greatly appreciate your perspective as I grow as an educator.”

He brought up some really good points.

These are issues Kevin and I think about pretty frequently, especially considering that the only reason we were able to attend Princeton was because of their generous financial aid program.

I took advantage of a lovely 6 hour delay at the airport to draft up an email, to which he responded:

“… So I must admit you’ve shifted my perspective, Greg…”

Below is my email. Do you agree? Disagree? Additional perspectives I should be considering?

When Kevin and I first started tutoring in high school and college, it was driven purely by the desire to help students who were struggling.

Students would come to us confused and anxious. After our sessions, they would “get it” and be a little less stressed.

It was pretty black and white. We helped students and it made us feel good.

As we gained a little more experience and worked with more students, we started thinking about the impact of our services in the context of economic inequality… Much like the thoughts that you’re currently having.

Having personally experienced financial hardships growing up and relying on full financial aid to afford Princeton, this is a topic that is especially meaningful to us.

Do tutoring services like ours perpetuate economic inequality? Are our services providing more advantage to those who already have advantages? How do we reconcile maintaining a viable business while also addressing our desire to help those who are less fortunate and can’t afford our services?

What we’ve come to realize over the years is that economic advantage impacts much more than just education.

The ability to afford services like private academic tutoring, test prep, and private high schools certainly gives families additional advantages.

However, these same families have advantages in ALL areas of life – coaching for athletics/music/art, travel, extracurriculars, healthcare, healthier food, housing, computers and internet access, professional networks for finding their kids internships, and helping them get jobs…

My current thinking is that our services DO provide an advantage for those who can afford it. But so does pretty much any other paid service out there.

So what can we do/what are we doing to address some of these issues?

Our current model is to use the profits from popular services like academic tutoring and test prep to help fund various social impact projects:

  • In our small group SAT MasterClasses, we provide free spots for students who demonstrate financial need – we target first-generation and low-income students who qualify for free lunch
  • Provide free seminars and talks about college counseling – we discuss the value of college education, test prep tips, etc…
  • Partner with local organizations that work with inner-city kids – for example, we provide ad-hoc test prep advice to a great organization that introduces kids from Trenton to the sport of rowing and provides mentoring
  • Provide really great free resources on our PrepMaven blog. We spent a lot of time developing some really great resources and plan to give away a lot of this stuff (e.g. our entire 275 page SAT Math Coursebook)

Since our organization is still quite small, we don’t yet have the resources to do much more on a larger scale – but we hope to get there one day!

Along the same vein, our services provide opportunities for our tutors to earn additional income – allowing many of them to also pursue pro-bono tutoring/service opportunities.

Another question that I think about – Are students of privileged families any less deserving of services?

If a student is really struggling and the families have the resources to help that student, should they be penalized for having been born into privilege? Some of these kids are entitled, but many are humble and good kids with the potential to do some real good in the future.

Some of the families we work with are super wealthy but many would not be considered wealthy – they value education and sacrifice a little more to budget for services.

Regardless of economic background, there is a ridiculous amount of stress, anxiety, and misconceptions surrounding the college application process.

As a result, there are many other organizations who feed into parental fears and conduct themselves in ways that are less than ethical or provide services that are sub-par. We’ve seen first-hand how education organizations take advantage of parents.

If we don’t exist, families will just go somewhere else.

If they choose to work with us, we can at least make sure they are receiving the best advice. We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards – we turn away business all the time if the family doesn’t need it or if we’re not a good fit.

Furthermore, we are able to shape the conversation to help alleviate some of the stress of the college application process.

Our thoughts on these topics are constantly evolving. Please let me know if there are additional things we should be thinking about. Thanks!


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At PrepMaven, our mission is not only to help your child increase their test scores and get into a great college but also to put them on the right track for long-term personal and professional success.


Greg Wong & Kevin WongGreg Wong and Kevin Wong

Greg and Kevin are brothers and the co-founders of PrepMaven and Princeton Tutoring. They are Princeton engineering graduates with over 20 years of education experience. They apply their data and research-backed problem solving skills to the test prep and college preparation process. Their unique approach places a heavy emphasis on personal development, character, and service as key components of college admissions success.