Panel of Experts

Karl Schellscheidt

SAT Prep Expert

  • BSE, Princeton University '90
  • M.A., Secondary Education Seton Hall University '93
  • J.D., University of Pennsylvania Law School '00

Fred Hargadon

Dean of Admission

  • Swarthmore College
  • Stanford University
  • Princeton University

Don Betterton

Financial Aid Expert

  • Director of Financial Aid, Princeton University (1973-2006)
  • Certified College Planner
  • Principal, Betterton College Planning

Seamus Malin

Admission Expert

  • Harvard University
    Dir. of Financial Aid
    Asst. Dean of Admission
    International Office Director

The Psychology of “Free”: A Message to ePrep Users

Karl Schellscheidt

eprep test prep videoAfter graduating from college back in 1990, I spent a few months in Germany playing soccer and working part-time in my uncle’s bakery. It was a great time to be in Germany. The Berlin Wall was coming down and Germany’s national soccer team won the coveted FIFA World Cup. Anyway, my uncle is one of the nicest and most generous people I have ever met. That’s why I was surprised to learn that he made his own employees pay full price for baked goods from his own store . . . even the goods that were left unsold at the close of business.

When questioned, my uncle explained that years ago he used to let employees simply take what they wanted at the end of the day. The policy changed, however, after my uncle discovered that employees had fallen into the habit of putting aside or slightly damaging—during store hours!—the baked goods they wanted for themselves. Today, all unsold goods are collected by charitable organizations that work to assist the underprivileged citizens of nearby communities.

By the way, my uncle never described his employees as unscrupulous people. He chose, rather, to characterized them as good people who had merely slipped into a self-serving habit—one that was certainly understandable, but, unfortunately, at odds with the bakery’s profitability and my uncle’s livelihood.

My own experience with “Free” is somewhat different. Every year, I get to know a few students who want, but cannot afford, private SAT tutoring. Given my own background, I identify with such students and wind up offering to tutor them at no cost. By now you can probably guess that they are the students, year in and year out, with the highest rates of “oops I forgot about our appointment” and “I’m sorry I have to cancel on such short notice, but something came up.”

They are good kids. Trust me. That’s why I continue to volunteer my time each year. The problem is that they don’t have enough “skin in the game.” In other words, missing a session with me does not affect them where it often hurts most—the pocketbook.

So why, you might ask, am I telling you all this. Here’s the deal:

Since alpha testing ePrep for the SAT over the summer and launching ePrep for the PSAT in late September, well over six thousand (6,000!) students have registered to use at least one of the two courses. The problem, however, is that there is one stark difference between those who “purchased” a product from ePrep and those who “signed up” for a free trial.

The students who “purchased” are actually using the product, and their scores are increasing with virtually every practice session they complete. In contrast, many of those who “signed up” for a free trial have yet to complete a single practice test. This leads me to believe that, unless they are actively preparing some other way, the chances that their scores will increase have remained largely unchanged.

In fact, the first person to finish all of ePrep’s eight tests was an international student. By the end of the fourth test, she had improved her overall score by 320 points, exceeding ePrep’s 200-point guarantee by 120 points. By the end of the eighth test, she had improved her overall score by 430 points, exceeding ePrep’s 250-point guarantee by 180 points. (FYI, her best combined score was a 2180.)

The bottom line is this: “ePrepping” for the SAT works. There’s no doubt about it. It only works, HOWEVER, if you actually do it. To help get motivated, think about this: with each day that slips by, there are thousands of students using ePrep from home who are guaranteed to increase their scores. Don’t you owe it to yourself to be one of them?

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