A High School Senior's Solution to SAT/ACT-Prep Inequality

"Oren missed the play's overarching significance, focusing instead on details so minor that they would best be described as ________."

(A) pragmatic
(B) indelible
(C) moribund
(D) picayune
(E) impervious

I stared hopelessly at the problem in front of me. A clock sharply ticked off each passing second, as if saying, "Uh-Oh! Sixty seconds, gone. You should've moved on already." After another agonizing minute, I sighed, left the answer blank, and began working on the next question. That was two years ago--my first practice SAT exam.

This past week, tens of thousands of high school seniors--myself included--received their final batch of college admission notifications. Some of them are ecstatic, eagerly looking forward to four years at their first choice school. Many more will be crushed by the rejections, before eventually realizing that they can still make the most of where they did get in. Others still aren't finished, looking for the best ways to maximize their chances of getting off a waitlist. Regardless of their admissions decisions, every one of us will spend the next few weeks reflecting on each part of our applications, wondering: what could I have done better? What could I have done differently? Some things are hard to change after the beginning of high school; it's difficult to become a concert pianist or a star lacrosse player in four years, and with today's competition, those might not even be enough to get you accepted to your favorite school. Yet there were other things that were completely under our control; one of those things being standardized testing. The SAT and the ACT are notorious for being important pieces of any college application--a sort of barrier to entry--and that reputation alone spawned what has become a $800 million test-prep industry. My SAT-prep experience, however, led me to more than just practice tests and memorizing vocabulary; it made me co-found a nonprofit.

As I was looking for ways to prepare and improve my score, I sought the advice of a friend who was an SAT tutor. I quickly realized how helpful--and how expensive--taking classes or getting tutors would be. When I brought up the price point with my friend, he told me about Ana, a girl from a low-income, single-parent home whom he had tutored for free. Ana dramatically improved her SAT score and is now attending her first-choice college. But I wondered: what about the many other students who need help but can't afford the cost of test-prep? That was the inspiration for "The ANA Project". The ANA Project is an SAT/ACT-prep website that gives students access to top-rate test preparation--for free.

Ana's situation opened my eyes to a larger socioeconomic problem--studies show that students from higher income brackets who can afford test-prep score much better than those from lower ones. I believe access to educational opportunity should in no way be restricted by any deterrents, financial or otherwise. I've always loved helping my classmates whenever I could; that's why I joined--and eventually became the head of--the student tutoring program at my school. Every time I see a student's eyes light up as they understand a difficult concept, I feel empowered. I was able to guide them, to change the way they looked at the problem at hand. The ANA Project was my perfect opportunity to give that same help to students beyond my school in new ways. Given my extensive experience in online marketing and community building, I knew I could take it to the next level.

The ANA Project is off to a great start. I'm excited that, due to our efforts with The ANA Project, every student, regardless of their financial background, can now benefit from top-notch test-prep, for free. When it's properly employed, standardized testing is a great thing; it offers a real way for colleges to quantitatively distinguish between tens of thousands of applicants. But the system only works on a level playing field, and right now, that is not the case. The ANA Project is a solution that works.

If you would like to learn more about The ANA Project--or if you didn't answer (D) to the question above--please visit: http://www.theanaproject.com.