Parents have plenty of options when it comes to college prep programs. Some are aimed specifically at the SAT or ACT while others build around an entire college prep package. When you’re looking at spending a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on college and test prep, you’re probably wanting to know what makes one program different from another.
Here are 4 things I believe make our program the best programs available.
I spent 22 years as a classroom teacher. In that 22 years, I earned certifications for teaching International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, and Gifted and Talented classes. I earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. I spoke at statewide conferences sharing the tools and activities I used in my classroom with other teachers. I was tasked with creating professional development programs for teachers in the districts where I taught.
I also had the good fortune to work with many amazing teachers who helped me learn what is most effective in the classroom. I’ve taken those lessons to heart in designing every facet of our programs.
After 7 years of helping students specifically with test preparation, I’ve been able to work with hundreds of students who received National Merit recognition and thousands of students preparing for different facets of the college admissions process. I’ve helped multiple school districts set record numbers for National Merit awards by creating their own programs for their students.
We put students first
You’ll hear this from every program. Just like us, they’re going to advertise “customized” programs and “putting the student first.” So, how do you know when it’s more than just talk?
The clearest way is to look at the scheduling. Have they built a schedule that is right for students or right for their business model? For example, we recognize that today’s student, especially today’s student preparing for college, has an incredibly busy schedule. That’s why we offer our Test Prep Boot Camp classes on Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday nights with the same curriculum each night. Students have options which night to attend, and they have the ability to make up a class if a conflict does come up.
It’s also the reason that we keep class sizes small. We cap the enrollment in our Test Prep Boot Camp at 8 students to 1 teacher. We also maintain a 5-to-1 student-teacher ratio in our College App Camp to make sure that every student gets to work closely with an expert writing coach.
Most importantly, putting students first is the reason that we added 1:1 tutorials as an integral part of our Test Prep Boot Camp. In fact, the idea grew out of the suggestion from one of our students who wanted to sit down with a tutor to go over her the results from a practice test. Once we added these sessions into our program, we saw the consistency of students achieving amazing results go even higher. It’s the biggest reason that students typically improve their composite scores by 180-200 points on the SAT or 4-5 points on the ACT.
Every element of our programs has an intentional design. We’ve looked closely at what we want the result to be and worked backward to give
us the best chance of achieving that result. Take the schedule of our Test Prep Boot Camps for example. Every Test Prep Boot Camp is scheduled to work with a specific test date, and every date of the class is specifically designed to achieve a result.
Our student workbooks are aligned with each lecture and designed to improve the “stickiness” factor by requiring students to write down the information instead of highlighting information as they read along. The act of taking notes by hand has been proven to increase retention when applying concepts. It’s also a “soft” skill that isn’t regularly taught in today’s classrooms.
Our classroom set upThe intentional design is even evident in the layout of our classrooms and our curriculum. Rather than give the students handout after handout of information to memorize, we’ve created a student handbook that guides students through each lecture helping them take notes effectively. The horseshoe layout we use makes sure that every student can see the information the test prep coach is delivering, and it allows the coach to monitor how accurately a student is taking notes. We train our coaches to monitor how the students are taking notes and help them develop better note-taking habits, a soft skill that usually gets overlooked in today’s classrooms.
Focus on Reasoning
You may have heard of test prep programs that give long lists of vocabulary words or worksheet after worksheet to try and teach students everything that could possibly be on the test and their job will be done. We believe that those approaches are misguided. The biggest reason is the sort of stress that’s going to cause students. People are not computers. Creating an “if this then that” mentality works great for machines, but it often fails to work consistently for people. In addition, students will end up spending their time learning a great deal of material that will never show up on their tests.
Take the vocabulary lists for instance. The typical SAT will test students on about 15 vocabulary words. An ACT is significantly less. Maybe 4. What is the value of memorizing 500 vocabulary words hoping that words on your list are actually on the test and that you’ll remember them when they are? The same is true for the hundreds of possible math formulas a student might have to use. It’s tough enough to memorize all of them much less figure out when to use a particular formula for a particular problem.
Instead of trying to build an “if this then that” mentality, we work with students on the practical application of what they already know to the particular problems. The advantage of a multiple choice test is that one of the choices HAS to be the answer. If we start with that critical piece of information, it’s usually much easier to determine which of the answers it is.
Our programs are getting tremendous results. Contact us if you’d like more information or schedule a FREE consultation to come up with the college prep plan that’s right for your student.