G.S. of North Woodmere, NY writes:

I hear tell that Cablevision is offering FREE online PSAT and SAT courses to Optimum subscribers. Is this true? If so, is it worth it?

The College Whisperer responds:

You hear tell correctly. Cablevision (which is not the parent company of College Connection) is offering Optimum customers in good standing the opportunity to register for a FREE online PSAT or SAT course (said to have a $99 value), offered in conjunction with Kaplan, the test prep people. The offer runs through October 15, 2010. [The College Whisperer has no interest, pecuniary or otherwise, in Cablevision, Kaplan and/or their subsidiaries, nor is he related to James Dolan, CEO, President and Director of Cablevision. If I did, would I be blogging at all hours? ;-)]

The offer is legit. The value, well, that will be for you to decide.

Our experience, over all, with online study courses is they provide, at best, basic overviews, helpful more, perhaps, in building a student's confidence (a good thing) than his or her math or language skills. Never underestimate confidence, mind you, but to boost one's all-important scores, and with so very much at stake, much more than the essentials is required.

Should you take advantage of the Cablevision/Kaplan free offer? Absolutely! Who could pass up FREE, after all? Practice improves scores, as does the added study time, whether one's nose is buried in the review book or glued to the computer monitor.

Will FREE -- or $99, for that matter -- get you a 2400 if you weren't breaking 1200 on the practice tests? Don't count on it. It will be tough to make up that much ground, even with the help of the Dolans (who, aside from owning Cablevision, also have Newsday, News12, Madison Square Garden and the Knicks in their dynastic inventory).

Still, take all the free advice you can find out there, whether through Cablevision, the local library, or that SAT class offered at the high school.

Switch from Verizon FIOS to Cablevision's Optimum just to take advantage of the free Kaplan course (then switch back, giving credence to Cablevision's dubious TV spot)? We don't think so. [If you haggle with Verizon (or DirectTV), they'll probably knock the $99 off your bill, anyway. Use that money for the online Kaplan course. Better yet, stick it in your 529 plan!]

Should you need -- or crave -- that extra help, the kind that really makes a difference, get in touch with a college counselor at College Connection for a referral to a preferred SAT/ACT tutor. FREE? No. A great investment, though, for those for whom raising the bar could mean the difference between getting into that college of first choice, and not.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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