Parents and students, we all know it’s coming. Senior year. College applications. The mere thought of college applications can make high school students feel anxiety and dread.

Parents, give your students the gift of foresight. With a little bit of smart planning, you can create a manageable and realistic schedule for your overworked student. You can help your student work productively. You can help your student maximize his or her college admissions chances. How?

Start early! Specifically, start standardized test prep during January of sophomore year. (Even earlier for advanced and motivated freshmen.)

FLEX can make this recommendation with a great deal of confidence because our tutors–who come from the top 25 universities across the nation and rank in the top 1% of test scorers–have worked with nearly 10,000 students on test prep since 2001. If we take a look at the data, we find that sophomores who begin studying for the SAT in January and study continuously for the August exam (September for the ACT) have the best rate of success. In fact, nearly 75% of FLEX test prep students achieve their target score within this 16-20 week cycle. Few (if any) test prep companies can boast the same significant score increase within the same span of time.

It is important for parents to keep that 16-20 week timeframe in mind because research shows that students need a certain amount of time to develop the speed, accuracy, and practice necessary to succeed on a standardized test. When we look at the statistics for FLEX students who study on an 8-12 week cycle, we find that a smaller percentage achieves target scores: approximately 23%. Now that is not an impossible statistic. An academically strong student can certainly achieve target scores on a shorter prep cycle. However, this is not the norm for the average student, or for the student who does not take tests well, or for the student who is strong in one area (say math) but weak in others (reading/writing).

Let’s put it this way: most students need to find–that is, create–a 16-20 week timeframe in their schedules to achieve their target standardized test scores. However, we have seen a trend toward shorter and later test prep. Most commonly, students try to cram in test prep during the summer before their junior year. This is considered last minute prep.

Consider what junior year will look like for your student.

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