The ACT is Stressful Enough. Let It Wait

Some of you may have read my recent article about when to start ACT test prep for your child. (See article here) As I have heard back from parents and teachers on this subject and researched the topic further, I have come to some alarming realizations about how much pressure parents and, in some cases, schools are placing on students to study early for this test.

One parent responded to my previous article by noting a friend of hers had started her child in ACT test prep in 7th grade. He was an exceptionally bright student and succeeded in scoring a 35 on the test in 11th grade. That sounds great, right? Well, I would argue that students can learn to master the test starting in 10th grade and still achieve their full potential without needing to maintain the focus – and STRESS – of working on this throughout middle school and early high school. I have a 7th grader. I am enjoying watching him struggle and grow and discover himself during this crucial and formidable time in his life. These are the things I believe he should be doing – exploring new academic and personal interests, failing at some things and learning through those difficult experiences, and succeeding at many other endeavors and gaining an intrinsic sense of self-worth in the process. I have seen the stress that the ACT and all other aspects of applying to college can impart upon students. It doesn’t need to start in 7th grade.

Additionally, I spoke with a teacher who formerly taught at an elite high school about the current trend toward early ACT test prep. I voiced my concerns about this issue, and she shared the following:

“I agree. Freshman year is just too early to start prep and “test prep fatigue” is a real thing. In the school I taught in, the administration was test crazy and test prep began day one in 9th grade. My students hated it and by junior year, many didn’t care anymore because they were so exhausted by test prep. As far as (practice) scores, they peaked at the end of freshman or sophomore year and there was just no way to squeeze any more points out of kids after that. Math was, of course, a big problem in the beginning because tested concepts weren’t covered yet in class, just like you said. The whole process made me so sad. And there was a dip in scores following each summer, naturally.”

My advice? Let your children learn, explore, and grow in their early teen years. There are enough new social and academic pressures for them to sort through and overcome at this age as it is. Adding the pressure of test prep (and, by extension, introducing early pressure about getting into college) in 7th, 8th, or 9th grade will, ultimately, be counterproductive. Our children will become eager to embark on the exciting adventure of applying to college (and leaving us parents behind) soon enough. Let it wait.

This was written by Laura George who is the founder of Laura George Consulting, LLC (, a college consulting firm that provides a comprehensive range of services including customized, one-on-one high school entrance exam tutoring (SSAT, HSPT, ISEE, PSAT 8/9) and ACT/SAT tutoring, college essay coaching, and college application and admissions consulting in person for students in the Chicago area and across the country via Zoom. Laura is a graduate of Duke University and Northwestern Kellogg School of Management and a former member of the Kellogg Admissions Committee.

Visit her website at, join her informative Facebook group, Parents of College Bound Kids, at or reach out to directly at if you have any questions about this, other test prep, or college admissions questions.