Private School Students have a leg up on Public School Students in Standardized Testing

Adam Bello

The college admissions process is one of the most stressful parts of a student’s high school career for many reasons but standardized testing is arguably the biggest. A student’s test score on the SAT and ACT are one of the biggest deciding factors in a student’s admission to a college or university. Students all across America spend countless hours studying to get the best possible score on these tests. These tests are open to all high school students from both public and private schools, however, private school students seem to get consistently higher scores than their public school peers.

The national average ACT score for a public high school student in 2022 was 19.8 out of 36 points, compared to the average score for a private high school student being 26. The average SAT score for public high school students, a test out of 1600, was 1060 while the average private school score was a 1250. While the difference in these scores might not seem drastic, there are major reasons for the imbalance between the test scores in these two types of schools. 

The average salary of a private school student’s family household is from $150,000- 350,000 depending on the state you are in, which is 200%-500% more than the median household income in the US, about $70,000. Because the typical private school student in the US has a higher family income they have access to preparation programs that public school students often do not. 

It is common for both private and public schools to have a company or service they have partnered with to help their students prepare for their respective tests. Public school college counselor at The Bronx Center of Science & Math (BCSM), and Masters parent, Ana Hernandez, explained the prep provided at her school saying, “Historically (pre-pandemic), we would offer our students test prep. We would use different companies and would provide test prep for the October and November SATs, and would also provide it for the April and May SAT for juniors. For seniors, we would only provide prep for the October and November tests.”

While not all public schools are the same, many have similar policies and programs, offering one or two different programs for their students’ test prep. If they are not compatible with that program or their tutor, they have to find another on their own, or simply continue with a program they don’t find helpful. While in a private school environment students often find their own private tutors and programs to help them, this is a luxury many public school students, especially in low-income communities, don’t always have.  

Hernandez explained, “Our school is 78% first-generation students and low income. It is not very often that we see students go through the test prep process on their own… There are only about one or two students who do that per year, and they typically come back to us during crunch time.” Hernandez explained that test prep is only offered in the fall of students’ eleventh-grade year at BCSM, when private school students tend to start studying earlier.

Thomas O’Grady, a tenth grader at Masters, has had a typical independent school SAT experience, starting his preparation for the test in the 8th grade. “I started studying for the SAT specifically in the summer going into my 9th grade. The Masters Community, people around me, and the environment I’m in have really pushed me to study and be the best academic I can in general and with the SAT,” he said. O’Grady said that his school atmosphere had an impact on rigorous studying, and his mother has also pushed him to continue studying for the test. He said he will continue to work on his SAT prep even more going forward.