Cole Jackson grew up in tiny Cedar Point, Kansas (pop. 25) where his family operated a cattle yard for most of his childhood. As a 2011 National Merit Finalist, he received a generous scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma. There he worked as a tutor for the school’s Multicultural Engineering Program and as a student assistant in the Department of Modern Languages. He graduated from OU with a degree in Computer Science in 2017.
Today, Cole works as a software engineer for Garmin at their headquarters in Olathe. He lives in downtown Kansas City, MO and enjoys the stark contrast to his rural upbringing. Outside work, he enjoys pub trivia, coffee shops, reading nonfiction, and automating literally everything in his apartment.
Most students fall into one of two categories, which is either private tutoring or prep courses. Do you know which type of tutoring you fit into? At Get Smarter Prep, we offer two types of courses to help students achieve their ACT goals.
Standard ACT Courses
Our Standard ACT Courses are a good fit for students scoring within the 17-23 range (the 30th-68th percentiles) and their score is consistent among all four categories of the ACT (English, Math, Reading, and Science). If there’s more than a 6-9 point difference in any of the four categories, then private tutoring may be more up your alley since it’s more custom to your needs.
The standard course assists students in achieving a score improvement, alongside a small group of similarly scoring students. Because our Standard ACT Course is taught by the most experienced instructors of any company in town and focused on a smaller, more cohesive group, our students consistently find results through our tried and true curriculum. This course includes 20 hours of instruction, 3 practice tests, and Office Hours with an instructor, leading right up to the actual test date.
Advanced ACT Courses
Another option for students who want to increase their ACT composite score is our Advanced ACT Course. This course is accompanying for students with a slightly higher ACT baseline score between a 24-29 (74th-92nd percentile).
The advanced course offers a small class setting (no more then 8 students) and meets once a week for eight weeks leading right up to the official test date. Built in practice tests are included with our advanced courses. Office Hours are always available to students taking this course.
While both our standard and advanced courses are good options for numerous students, we know all students won’t fit into those two courses, which is why we offer private tutoring. Private tutoring is available for any and all students who want to increase their ACT score anywhere between an average of 2-7 points depending on the amount of hours spent tutoring.
Whether you take one of our standard courses, advanced courses or elect for private tutoring, know that we want you to succeed and our tutors will strive to help you get the score you need for the school you want.
For the last few years, ACT’s National Extended Time policy has been full of changes. Beginning in 2016, the ACT began providing students with an open, self-paced 5-hour block to complete their test (or a 6-hour block with the optional Writing). In the 2017-2018 school year, ACT moved to separate the 1-hour Writing time from the 5-hour multiple choice block, so that all students had 5 hours for the multiple choice, whether or not they were going to complete the Writing.
Now the ACT is moving away from the self-paced block of time all together. ACT says that “self-pacing on the extended-time test is intended to provide flexibility… [but] it can have the reverse effect, requiring an additional demand beyond what is required of those testing with standard time or other types of accommodations.” Instead, beginning in September 2018, the National Extended Time testing will look much like it did pre-2006, with a specific amount of time being allotted to each section:
ACT Extended Time Changes
What does this change mean for students?
The current rules have provided an additional challenge for some students, as maintaining a good pace for the entire exam might be tricky. The new structure will enforce the pacing from section to section, so a student is free to focus on pacing within a section, instead of between them.
If you have been practicing your exam using only 45 minutes for English and 120 minutes for Math, you’ll need to adjust your strategy. There was some added flexibility with the previous timing structure that will no longer be available, as each section will have its own firm time boundary.
There will be one 15 minute break scheduled after the Math section. Under the current rules, students are allowed to take breaks as they choose throughout the 5 hour time period, and we normally suggested a short break after each section. The new structure will have a student taking a break only after their first 2 hours and 40 minutes of testing.
If you’ve been taking the test with the current structure, and you’re taking your last ACT in July, then there will be no changes for you! However, if you won’t take your first ACT until September, then you’ll just want to make sure you practice with the new timing allotments. If you’ve already been preparing, though, and will need to change your strategy, some additional timed practice might be in order to make sure you’re making the most of the time for each section.
To stay in the know about ACT Extended Time Changes, visit ACT.org.
At Get Smarter Prep we offer FREE Practice Tests for both the ACT and the SAT almost every Saturday. This isn’t new. We’ve always offered free practice tests. Establishing a baseline score for the ACT and SAT is the best place to start in the process of preparing for an official ACT. Unlike big box test prep companies, which use exams their employees made up, we use actual ACTs or SATs that were given in the last 3 years.
Establish a baseline score
There are a number of reasons to establish a baseline score. As stated previously, our ACT and SAT practice tests are actual tests that were given within the last few years, so you will know how you would score on a real test.
We want you to establish a baseline score, so we can guide you into either our Standard or Advanced Courses, Semi-Private Classes or Private Classes. Without a score to go off, we are walking in blind. We don’t know what your strengths are in each category and as part of our process, we want to tailor the way we tutor to each student so they can get the most out of each tutoring session.
Our Free Practice Test is a great opportunity to alleviate some of the fear and loathing of these standardized tests. It’s also a great time to examine the timing of the test and see how well you did with the timing piece as so many students tend to run out of time in different sections.
All of these, and more, are good reasons to take an absolutely free practice exam with us. That way you’ll get an accurate score, as opposed to a guess. We think it’s such an important piece in learning where you begin for both tests that we want to make it readily available to every high school student who is interested.
“The most important investment you can make is in yourself.” – Warren Buffet
Most high school students taking the ACT test have a certain goal in mind for their composite score. Of course, each student has different variables for their specific situation such as, automatic college admittance, scholarships, reach schools, etc. However, when it comes down to it, is every point achieved on the ACT the same?
There are benefits to increasing your ACT composite score no matter where you fall on the ACT score spectrum.
One Point Improvement
At Get Smarter Prep, we have had some students who only went up on point on their ACT. Sometimes all a student needs is a one-point improvement, other times they were looking for a four-point jump. What many don’t understand is that one point can mean the difference between a $1,000 yearly scholarship ($4,000 over the span of 4 years) and no scholarship at all. That one point difference is still an advantage!
Let’s say on this last ACT you achieved a composite score of 24. Roughly 100,000 other college bound students with that score, as well as entered the range in which most colleges begin offering scholarships. Also, some colleges are offering automatic admission with a 24 (most of these schools also have minimum GPA standards and curriculum requirements).
Every point earned on the ACT is a step in the right direction. Don’t lose heart if you only bump up one point, there are still benefits to that one point. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
No matter if that one point is all it took to get automatically accepted into college, be offered a scholarship, or get into an Ivy League school, that one point improvement helped shape the direction of your future.
Most students look forward to summer simply because there’s no homework, no tests to study for, and it’s sunny and nice out! Whatever your reason is to love summer, there may be a gently nagging in the back of your mind that you have a ton left to do to get ready for college. Planning for college in the summer is a great way to get ahead of the game.
Get Smarter Prep offers several different options to help students prepare for college including a Career/Assessment test, how to build a College List, and Essay Writing Courses.
Career/Major Assessment Test
Start with a Career/Major Assessment test. This test allows you to see what your strengths are, coupled with what you enjoy doing and provides a number of careers to guide you in the right direction. Don’t worry, taking this type of test in the summer isn’t something you have to necessarily prepare for. The test is a comprehensive online assessment that will gauge your learning style, interests, personality, and career focus. Our counselors will go over the results of the assessment and discuss possibilities and paths through your feedback and conversation – discussing careers, as well as possible majors.
Build a College List
If you already have a good idea of what you want study in college and/or what your major will be, but haven’t nailed down a college yet, Get Smarter Prep will help you build a college list that matches your values and goals. If your simply not sure where in the world you would like to college, we will guide you through the process and figure it out together. We can customize ACT/SAT recommendations to ensure the college list is right for you.
College Essay Writing Course
Maybe you already know where you want to attend college, but haven’t even thought about college essays? Not to worry, we offer college essay writing courses in June and July to help you write your best college essays and set you apart from the pack. Our college essay writing experts will help you craft your best essays for your college set. We go above and beyond to ensure you don’t write an essay that prevents you from becoming accepted into your school of choice.
Wherever you are in the college planning process, we can help. It’s not too late or too early to start planning for college in the summer. Contact Get Smarter Prep to get a jump start on your summer plans!
How do you know if private tutoring is right for you? What about classes or tutoring with a group of friends? There are a few items we need to look at before deciding which type of tutoring is a perfect fit for you.
One-on-One Tutoring is perfect for students with a significant difference in their sub-scores. For example, if Jane scored a 17 in the Reading section of the ACT, but a 24 in the English section, then she would be a prime example of why Private Tutoring would work in her favor as the tutor can target specific portions of the test. Our tutors will be able to spend different amounts of time in each portion of the test depending on where the student needs the most help.
Another reason to access Private Tutoring is due to a hectic schedule. We realize how busy your Junior year can be. Maybe a standard class won’t fit into your schedule, but private tutoring can be a lot more flexible and conducive to your calendar. Private Tutorials are usually scheduled for one and a half hour sessions and are typically between 6 & 15 hours in duration (4-10 weeks).
This type of tutoring is for students scoring within the same range as 1-3 other students. Whether you have a challenging schedule, want to work with your friends, or just want a more customized approach than our courses, Semi-Private Tutoring can be a good fit.
These tutoring-course hybrids allow for some cost efficiency (like courses) AND customized scheduling & unique curriculum (like private tutoring). The standard time frame for Semi-Private Tutoring is 20 hours, but 12-20 hour schedules are available based upon what each student of the group hopes to achieve.
We offer both Standard and Advanced ACT Courses depending on your ACT scores. Standard Courses are for students scoring within the 17-23 score range and offers 20 hours of instruction, 3 practice tests, and Office Hours with an instructor, leading right up to the actual test date. Advanced Courses are for those students scoring between 24-29 and includes 16 hours of instruction, two practice tests, and Office Hours with an instructor. The classes are designed to have the region’s smallest classes, with a cap of 8 students per class, to really get that small classroom setting. Each course also follows a curriculum based on which class you attend.
No matter what the situation may be, Get Smarter Prep offers custom tutoring to fit any schedule, classes to accommodate a wide range of students’ scores, and we work with each student to help achieve the score they need for the school they want.
“This win is Bella’s future,” said Dawn Heckert, mother of our scholarship winner, Annabelle Heckert. Dawn has won her fair share of giveaways and raffles throughout the years. When she found out the essay piece she wrote for Get Smarter Prep’s scholarship contest was in fact what we selected, she knew she won something special. However, it wasn’t until Annabelle started coming to her sessions with our Premier-Level Tutor, Caleb Pierce, and started seeing a change in Annabelle that she really understood the gravity of what she won.
Originally, Annabelle didn’t think much of taking the ACT. She knew she would eventually have to if she wanted to go to college, but she wasn’t excited about it. Taking the ACT was a step towards college, but she didn’t even know where she wanted to attend or which major she was interested in. Annabelle was grateful she won the scholarship contest and she knew she was going to give it her best effort, but it wasn’t until the very first session with Caleb that she knew this was going to be life changing.
“She came home and was excited to share these different strategies with me,” said Dawn. Annabelle’s excitement continued to increase after each session with Caleb. With each session her confidence also escalated.
“You gave her confidence and unlocked something inside of her that was stifled,” exclaimed Annabelle’s mom, “Confidence is the most important thing you can give a student now days.”
Annabelle took the ACT exam February 10th at her high school, Blue Valley West. When she was taking the test, the ACT proctor noticed she was taking the test differently than other students. Annabelle was going back and forth between questions and passages within each section, which is one of the strategies students learn at Get Smarter Prep. After the test was complete, the same proctor approached Annabelle and asked her what she was doing. “I was using my different strategies!” replied Annabelle.
“We are just so excited for her and proud of the effort she put towards this training by Get Smarter Prep! Caleb told her there were strategies to beat this test and she wanted to see if it was true. And man did she do it!” said Dawn.
Annabelle knows her training was unique. She put in the effort, came to class with a fantastic attitude ready to learn, completed her homework, and confidently walked into the ACT using the strategies and methods she learned during her tutoring sessions.
Annabelle still doesn’t know where she will attend college, or even what she is leaning towards for a major, but she does know she has completed a piece of the puzzle by taking the ACT. She knows for a fact that with the help of Get Smarter Prep she has done better than she ever thought possible, and that different possibilities now exist that weren’t there before.
“Get Smarter Prep has opened an even greater future for her as she explores what’s next! You have changed her story for the good!” exclaimed Dawn.
With a full 15-hr. Premier-Level Tutorial Annabelle’s score jumped up 7 points from a 24 to a 31 in a condensed four and a half week program! Get Smarter Prep couldn’t be more proud of this year’s Scholarship Winner, Annabelle Heckert!
Your Sophomore Year is most likely going to be awesome! You may start to think about college in the aspect that it’s not too far away and you have to start to prepare soon, but nothing really has to be done right now…right?!? Actually, now is the perfect time to start taking action steps towards college. Here are five tangible goals to achieve your sophomore year: Continue to do well in school, take as many AP classes as possible, join clubs and sports teams that interest you (don’t sign-up for everything!), develop a list of potential colleges you would like to attend, and lastly, take a practice ACT or SAT test. Let’s further break down those steps.
Step One: Continue to do well in school. This one seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, some high school sophomores seem to fall into a slump often pegged, “the sophomore slump”. Students find their stride as sophomores and are content with their classes, schedule, and homework levels. Some students tend to hit cruise control and coast through the year. After all, everyone knows you take the ACT/SAT next year and get “really serious” about looking at colleges as a Junior. Not true. Now is the time to focus on your grades to build the foundation you’ve already set as a freshman. Sophomores need to at least maintain, if not improve their grades to set the standard for the rest of their high school career.
Step Two: Take as many AP classes as possible. Taking AP classes is a great way to beef up your high school resume and challenge you throughout your high school career. These college-level classes are a great way to gain experience that colleges will recognize on your high school transcript. If you can maintain a good grade in these rigorous classes they are worth it. However, if you find they are bringing down your grades, which will lead to a lower grade point average, then it may not be worth your time. Know your limits and decide if it’s right for you.
Step Three: Join clubs and sports teams that interest you. Let me preface, I didn’t say sign up for every club and sports team imaginable. Only sign up for ones that you are genuinely interested in and you will enjoy. If you sign up for everything, you will get burned out, especially if you are keeping your grades up and challenging yourself with AP classes. Start an activity resume you can use in a college interview and applications process. Activities are an intricate part of athletic recruiting and fine arts opportunities. Don’t be afraid to join a club that isn’t well-known or popular. If that’s what piques your interest, go ahead and join! Colleges will find a lesser-known club perhaps more interesting than a well-known club half of the college applicants are a part of. Stay interesting!
Step Four: Develop a list of potential colleges you would like to attend. Start with local colleges, state colleges, ivy-league colleges, or just a college based on location! The point is to start looking to see which schools you may be interested in. Many factors play into deciding on a college that’s right for you, such as a college major, size of college, location of college, religious beliefs, your own ACT/SAT score and/or GPA. Create a list that is both realistic and challenging for you. Resist the urge to settle for a school that’s so-so. As a sophomore, you have time to increase your GPA, study for the ACT/SAT, take AP classes, and join clubs, but if you don’t have a list of potential colleges, what’s the point of working so diligently?
Step Five: Take a practice ACT or SAT test. Get Smarter Prep offers Free Practice Tests every Saturday morning. There is no excuse not to take a practice test. The purpose of a practice test is to offer a baseline score of where you stand with either the ACT or the SAT. Are you much stronger in the math section than the reading section? Or do you score evenly in English, Math, Reading, and Science? How do you feel about the timing piece of the test? Did you feel rushed on the ACT, but not the SAT? Are you comfortable with the score you received on the practice test or do you need tutoring? These are all questions we can give you answers to after you take a practice test. Plus, it’s always a bonus to take a practice test before the real deal to become more comfortable and acquainted with the type of questions the test makers are looking for. Sign up for a practice test today.
Is your sophomore year going to be the best year for you in high school? Of course we can’t answer that question, but we want you to be aware of the potential your sophomore year has on your college process. Now is the time to start planning for your future. Good luck!