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GSP at Hogan Prep

We’ve been fortunate enough to partner with Hogan Preparatory Academy in Kansas City, MO to provide an ACT Clinic for their juniors. Hogan Prep is a UCM sponsored public charter school and has a total enrollment of 390 students. Approximately 80% of graduates continue on to some type of post-secondary form of education. The high school boasts a 91.43% graduation rate of its students. Hogan Prep has received the National College Board Inspiration Award on numerous occasions. 

Although Hogan Prep has demonstrated excellence in many facets – the ACT is one particular area in which its students struggle. In 2015 the students’ average ACT score was a 16.1. The students have an especially difficult time with the English portion of the exam, scoring noticeably worse in this area than the other sections of the exam. We have a goal that each student that attends the sessions will score a 20 or higher on the English portion! We’re excited to donate our time and expertise to the students that elect to attend our clinic and look forward to seeing their score improvements!

Just like all the other juniors enrolled in public high schools in the state of Missouri, Hogan Prep students will be taking the official ACT on April 19th. We wish these students well as they continue to prepare for the ACT and for college!

ACT Scores Released

December ACT Scores (for most students) have been released! Whether your scores are higher than expected or lower than you’d hoped, we have some tips for coming up with your next steps.

  • Don’t freak out.

If you prepared for the December ACT and didn’t get the score you were expecting, you might be understandably disappointed! Spend some time while the test is fresh in your mind and try to figure out what went wrong (and what went right!). Did you encounter material you didn’t expect? Were you well-rested? Did you follow the strategies you had worked out, or did you make last-minute changes?

If you didn’t spend time preparing, your test score might be a total shock. You may not have had any idea what to expect! If you were aiming higher, though, you can use these scores to inform your goals on your next test.

If you’re a senior, though, December was probably your last chance. Not getting the score you wanted is understandably upsetting. Remember that, in the end, the ACT is only a test, and it’s only part of your application. You’ve got a lot else going for you besides your scores!

  • (Try not to) compare scores.

If you scored lower than you wanted, dwelling on your friend/sister/friend’s sister’s roommate who got a higher score than you did is ultimately unproductive. Similarly, if your friend is disappointed in their score, try not to gloat. It’s OK to be proud of yourself, but be supportive of those around you who might be struggling.

  • Be realistic about what score you actually

So your friend, sister, or friend’s sister’s roommate got a 30, or a 32, or even a 36. Do you actually need that score? Look at your schools and your transcript and be realistic about your goal. You may have hit your goal and decided you might as well keep going, aim higher, and try to boost it even further. But if you’ve got the score you were aiming for, taking it again “just to see” is probably a waste of time.

Make sure your goal makes sense. The ACT is a just a test. Its purpose is to help you get into college. If you’ve got the score you need for the schools you’re interested in attending, there’s no reason to take it again.

  • Be realistic about how much time you have to dedicate to prep in the future.

If you’re not fully satisfied, be honest with yourself about how much time and energy you have to dedicate to preparing for the next test date. Improving scores takes work. Signing up for the February test might feel like the obvious choice, but if you are not able to commit to logging some serious hours practicing, the chances that your score will improve at all are incredibly slim.

If you do need to take the test again, look at your schedule and pick a date that will allow you to spend some time preparing. Make a plan, and stick to it!

  • Ask for help.

We’re here to help with each step of the process, from helping set a goal score to picking the best test date to decoding the Science section! Let us know how we can help.

Winter Break Time Management

Winter break is fast approaching, and you’ve probably got serious plans. Maybe you’ve got ACT prep to do or college applications to (finally) complete or volunteer work or rehearsals or practice or family projects…it’s all doable, right?

Until suddenly you’ve got two days left until class begins and it feels like you’ve done nothing but scroll through Unimpressed Cats and moderate an unwieldy group text between some people who, honestly, shouldn’t be allowed to group text.

Here are some tips for how to manage time wisely and make the most of your upcoming break.

  • Schedule time for interruptions.

If your schedule is too tight, one unexpected distraction can throw everything into chaos. Your mom wants you to pick up your little brother from soccer? Where is that time going to come from? You don’t even have time to get a glass of water until tomorrow at 3:15 PM.

Build time into your schedule to allow for the unexpected so that you can move things around, be flexible, and not lose all of your momentum. If you don’t end up using your extra time, resist the urge to cram more (unnecessary) activities into your day. Take a break. Go for a walk. Take a nap.

  • Examine

Procrastination can be a source of frustration and guilt, but it can also be a source of information. What kinds of things are you putting off? Examine what your feelings are about those tasks. This might not be pleasant, but it’s important!

You might find, at the root of your strong desire to avoid a task, you’re feeling uncertain about the requirements, or anxious about the outcome, or just generally overwhelmed. Getting to the bottom of your procrastination is the first step towards solving the problem.

  • Focus on one thing at a time.

Multi-tasking is a waste of time.

It’s been proven. With science. Work on one task at a time. You’ll actually get more done. If you’re worried you’ll waste all of your time on one thing when your to-do list contains 75, see tips #5 and #6.

  • Don’t waste time waiting.

It may not seem like it, but you probably have time you’re not using. Down time is important. I am not suggesting that every moment be dedicated to accomplishing tasks. However, time that is neither productive nor restful is wasted time.

Waiting for an oil change? Bring a book or an assignment. Five minutes, ten minutes, twenty – these little bits of time add up, so don’t kid yourself into thinking they don’t “count.”

  • Don’t be a perfectionist.

One of the best time management tips I ever received was from this textbook: “Define ‘acceptable’ and stop there.”

For those of us used to overachieving, this might sound blasphemous. You can’t just get by with acceptable! You’ve got to do the very best job possible! But when doing the very best job possible one on project means that something else doesn’t get done at all, it’s time to re-evaluate your system. Some tasks don’t require lots of flair. What is the expectation? Fulfill the expectation, meet the requirements, and move on.

This doesn’t mean you’re turning in shoddy work. It does mean that if you’ve got a 10-point worksheet of French sentences to write, writing them neatly and correctly might be enough. Maybe you don’t also have to create a delightful story out of them, if that’s not even part of your assignment.

  • Set time limits.

If you have many things to do, decide how long you’ll spend on each task. Set a timer or an alarm and stick to it. You might be surprised how much you can accomplish in an hour or even 15 minutes.

Setting a time limit helps you to stay focused on your task because you have less time to waste. If I have two days to write a paper, spending two hours on Instagram doesn’t seem like a big deal. If I have an hour to come up with an outline and an introduction, I am less likely to waste that time.

Time limits also help coax you into approaching tasks that seem frightening or unmanageable. You can do anything for fifteen minutes. Even brainstorm college essays.

  • Take care of yourself.

If you’re already ruthless about getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, taking breaks, etc., congratulations! Keep those habits up.

If you’re the type of person who misses out on basic self-care in favor of getting more done, know that you are actually less productive than you would be if you were eating and sleeping and taking regular breaks. Leave enough time in your schedule for meals, breaks, sleep, and social activities. You’ll feel better, get more done, and be less likely to get sick.

This is a busy time of year for everyone, but if you approach it intentionally you may be surprised at how much you can accomplish while avoiding mind-numbing panic. Good luck!

Classes or Private Tutoring?

Not only do we help students decide whether they should take the ACT or SAT, we also help them decide the best tutoring option for them. Should a student be in a private tutorial or a class? After the question about which test to take, which is by far the most important question to answer, this is a crucial one.

The first consideration is price.  We work within your framework.  After that discussion, we use two major determinants to guide your decision: score desired and time available.

Score Desired

How much of an increase do you need?  If it’s simply a matter of a point or two, private tutoring might be the best bet.  It will allow your instructor to be surgical and purposeful and work only on the areas you need.

Our classes follow a set curriculum, covering each subject equally, but there is still time for some individualized discussion. First, we have a maximum teacher-to-student ratio of 1:6.  Very often our classes only have 3-4 students in each section because we group our students based on their Pretest scores. A student with an 18 on the ACT, for example, would not be in the same class as a student with a 23 or a student with a 28. So, your student will not get “lost” in our classes.  

Secondly, after each exam (we take a Midterm and a Final) we meet with each student privately to talk about the takeaways from that test and to adjust strategies and goals for the next test. Finally, Standard and Custom Courses have Office Hours.  This benefit, not offered by many of our competitors, is an extra hour each week outside of class in which your student might come in for extra work.  It’s an open format, so multiple students can be there working with the instructor, but only our most motivated students utilize this great included benefit and often they have the instructor to themselves.

Time Available

We believe that generally, the more time you have to work on test prep and the more prep you do, within reason, the more your score will increase.  But not all our students have that time (they’ve built extremely scheduled lives!) or come to us with a lot of time (sometimes we don’t see students until Fall of their Senior year with one test on the calendar that will make their application deadline).  For those students, if their scores fall within certain ranges, the Express Course for either the SAT or ACT makes a lot of sense.

If you have more time and you have some predictable space in your weekly schedule, our classic Standard Courses offer 22 hours of focused classroom preparation and come with the Office Hours mentioned above.

Answer: None of the Above?

You might say at this point that you want to be in a class, but your schedule is simply too unpredictable or unusual or strange for our standard schedules.  We have a hybrid model for you: our Custom Courses.  Sometimes we are able to match students who have very similar score profiles and who want a custom course.  Other times a group of 2 or more friends who play the same sport or who have a similar schedule come to us.

Now it’s important to note that with the Custom Course, as with all our tutorials and courses at GSP, we let the score do the talking.  If it turns out that two students who came to us dead-set on working in a course together shouldn’t even be taking the same test (one student may show really well as an SAT tester and the other may show more potential for the ACT), we’re going to tell them.  We’re always going to focus on a student’s goals and the best environment for each student.

Whatever path you decide to take, we are confident that you will join thousands of satisfied GSP alums and families in getting the score you need for the school you want.  We hope to see you soon.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.