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New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

Everybody has them, but how long do they keep them? New Year’s Resolutions are pretty standard for most people. Everyone who makes them is bound and determined to keep their resolutions for the entirety of the year. However, if you ask those same people how their resolutions are coming along in June or July or even as early as March, I bet most of those people wouldn’t remember what they wrote down on January 1st.

We have good news. Depending on what your resolutions are, we can help you! At Get Smarter Prep, our passion is helping students learn. Whether that means increasing your overall ACT composite score, learning how to study better and more effectively, or to be accepted into your dream college. Whatever your goals are this year, our tutors are here to help.

With so many different ACT/SAT test dates, the first step is to determine which test date is right for you. The ACT has test dates in February, April, June, July, September, October, and December. The SAT has test dates in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December. Get Smarter Prep starts prepping for these test dates usually 8-10 weeks before the test. Look at your schedule and see which test date is best for you. Be sure to factor in extra-curricular activities, finals, work schedules, etc.

Maybe your goal for this year is to become an overall better student. We offer Study Skills Tutorials that will help identify your learning style and apply that information to all of the areas you need for high school and beyond. The skills can include role taking, general test preparation, homework planning, etc. Within these tutorials, students spend time building their reading comprehension, developing writing skills, and, of course, learning strategies and techniques for TIME MANAGEMENT – perhaps the biggest obstacle in achieving student success. We will help you learn to perform better in school, all while having less stress because you have a plan of action.

For many high school Juniors, college is right around the corner. Are you prepared? Don’t be overwhelmed with the mounting list of to-do’s when it comes to the college admission process. We have counselors who will guide you through the process. From finding a major or career your interested in, to helping you create and fine tune a college essay, to building a college list that’s right for you. Get Smarter Prep has you covered.

Let us help you keep your New Year’s Resolution throughout the entire year! Our Tutors will help you maintain those goals from the beginning of 2019 to the end.

Why We Offer Free Practice Tests

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. We think 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.   

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.

Is One Point Really One Point?

 

“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.

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 helped shape the direction of your future.

 

 

Planning for College in the Summer

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. Summer is the perfect time to capitalize on this and 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.

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.

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.  

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 out the process and summer is the perfect time to begin. Contact Get Smarter Prep to get a jump start on your summer plans!  

Is Private Tutoring Right for You?

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.

Private Tutoring – 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).   

Semi-Private Tutoring – 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.

Courses – 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.

Tips for a Successful School Year, Part I

Summer vacation has come and gone, and whether you’ve spent the last three months watching Netflix in your bedroom or volunteering in Haiti, now is the time to focus on setting goals for the upcoming school year. Regardless of where you’re at in your high school career, we’ve got a few tips for what to prioritize this year.

For Freshman

1) Start taking challenging courses.

Challenging yourself now sets you up for better test scores and a more impressive transcript. Select courses that cover the core subject areas first. Choose electives that look challenging and/or represent interests you may wish to build on later.

2) Explore activities and interests.

High school may provide an opportunity to explore activities that haven’t been an option previously. Trying out a few different things (while balancing your time with schoolwork, of course!) is a great way to find strengths and passions that you can continue to pursue in the coming years, and also eliminate things that perhaps just don’t interest you as much as you thought they might.

3) Read!

Reading for pleasure has many benefits – higher test scores is just one of them. If you’re already a reader, that’s fantastic! Make time to keep reading. If not, work on cultivating the habit. Take a trip to the library and let yourself explore. Pick anything that interests you! Commit to reading one book a month this year.

For Sophomores

1) Continue taking challenging courses.

Build on your successes from last year. When colleges look at transcripts, one of the things they evaluate is your trajectory. If you took two honors courses last year, take more than two this year. Set a goal for your GPA that is higher than last year’s. Keep taking your core courses and challenging electives. Set challenging, but reasonable, goals.

2) Narrow your extracurricular activities.

You don’t have to do everything. Having some focus is beneficial, not just for your resume, but also for your life. Volunteered at three different, totally unrelated places last year? Pick the one that speaks to you the most and log some serious hours. Didn’t love yearbook? Drop it. Your time is valuable, and your activities should be things that you value.

3) Start generating a college list.

Yes, you’ve got time. But there are thousands of schools in the United States, and beginning your research now – when there’s less pressure – can actually be kind of fun. Don’t feel the need to make specific plans yet, just explore your options and see what sounds interesting.

4) Start your college visits.

Visiting colleges might seem premature if you don’t have a list, but your first visits should be less about meeting with admissions counselors and more about getting a feel for a few different colleges. Walk around a small liberal-arts campus, a big university, a medium-sized Jesuit school. Visiting colleges in your region, or that happen to be nearby on a family vacation, is a great place to start.

Look for “Tips for a Successful School Year, Part II, which focuses on Juniors and Seniors, out next week!

Audrey Hazzard is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

What is the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program?

The International Baccalaureate program has its advocates and its critics.  Some see it as a “more global” version of the Advanced Placement (AP) program.  Some see it as “too global,” thereby undermining a unique American flavor to education in this country.  Beyond these considerations, of course, is the actual IB program itself and whether it may be right for your child.  Since families often ask about this program, we wanted to give a deeper explanation of the answers we give parents when they call or write us.

IB was founded in 1968 in Switzerland to serve as a base of educational curricula for those attending international schools.  If your parents were expats you might not be attending a “local” school but rather an “international” one, and as such, would not necessarily study Swiss history or literature, even though you lived in Switzerland, for example.  IB emphasizes critical and creative thinking and encourages students to choose their own topics and projects while requiring a lot of writing behind those topics and projects.  It also has a community service requirement.  At its core is an ideological agnosticism driven by its alignment with UN’s UNESCO requirements for education: that equal weight and value must be given to each form of government, cultural practice, or social construct.

There are middle school and elementary IB programs, but what we are most concerned with are the high school programs.  Depending on how your school has the program set up, students may be allowed to take a single IB class or may take a full course load of IB classes with an eye to earning the IB diploma.   While IB has no barrier set up to prevent any student from enrolling, sometimes these classes are scheduled in opposition to AP or Honors equivalents so that students have to choose.  Some schools see AP as the past and IB as the future.  Other schools see IB as an upstart whereas AP is the “old reliable.”  What is certain is that passing an AP exam with a score of 4 and above (and 3 in many other cases) will still earn you some level of college credit at many universities, whereas there is often no college credit for an IB.

At this point you may (reasonably) be asking, “So, let me see, colleges don’t give IB any more weight than AP as far as admissions goes, and IB actually carries less weight as far as college credit goes.  So, conversation over, right?”  Yes and no.  As we always try to do at Get Smarter Prep – we want to make sure you have the proper context for the answer.

I’ve taught over 2000 students in the more than 10 years I’ve been in the test prep industry.  More than a few have been in IB classes.  Those students have told me that they enjoyed the different course structure and the challenge.  They were all willing to admit that IB deprived them of a regular social life and even cut back their participation in outside activities, like work, sports, and clubs.   Yet, that overarching unified curriculum and drive for a diploma also creates a sub-group of students within each school who not only can work on things together, but can also commiserate about the tremendous work load.

But my students also lived with the fear that after two hard years invested across multiple subjects that they may not earn the coveted IB diploma.  Any good student loves a challenge – and IB – with its comprehensive curriculum – offers that to them.

Ultimately, the answer to “should my child do IB?” is quite similar to “should my child take the SAT or the ACT?”  That answer is: “It depends, and it’s different from child to child.” For the SAT and ACT, we recommend that your student come in and take practice tests for both, and then we will sit down with you, at no charge, to talk about which one makes more sense for you.  Unfortunately, there’s no “test” for whether you should take IB, but you can use the tried-and-true parent grapevine.  Take parents (and students!) who have been involved in IB out to coffee or dinner.  Ask them difficult questions.  Try to find people on both sides of the argument.  Using that information, you and your student can make an informed decision.

Stephen Heiner is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

 

Preparation is the Key to Success

Whether you’re taking your ACT, SAT, AP tests or your History final, when it comes to education and testing, preparation is the key to success.  Here are some ways to be prepared for any class or test:

1)      Get organized.

Have a dedicated binder or folder for each class you are taking.  File each class’ notes followed by the assignments related to that material.  By keeping your school work organized, you will be able to refer back to your class notes and materials to review the concepts.  When you finish your assignment, put it in the appropriate binder to avoid forgetting to take it with you.

It’s also a good idea to keep a calendar at the front of your binder with all your assignment due dates written down.  For long term assignments, set a reminder to go off on your smart phone 2 weeks, 1 week and 3 days before the assignment is due to avoid procrastinating on the project.

2)      Put pencil to paper.

While you’re in class, take notes.  When you do your assignments, take notes and show your work.  There’s no point in taking notes if you can’t understand them later.

3)      Prepare your materials.

When you do your homework, find an uncluttered work surface, and organize your materials before you begin.  Have a pencil (or two) and an eraser handy.  Make sure your calculator batteries are working.  Get some scratch paper.

4)      Give yourself some time and some quiet.

I know you’re busy.  Volunteer hours and extracurricular activities don’t leave as much time for homework as you might like.  Write a homework appointment in your schedule, and don’t stand yourself up!  By setting aside time for homework each day, you won’t overbook yourself.  (Share your calendar with your parents, so they know not to schedule activities over your homework time)

When it’s time to do your assignments, turn off the TV.  Turn off the ipod.  Silence your phone.  Focusing on one thing at a time is a lost art in our multi-tasking, over-stimulated culture, but focusing on one task at a time and eliminating distractions makes you more efficient.  Because we aren’t used to focusing on one thing for an extended period of time, this might be hard for you at first.  Try this: set a timer for 15 minutes, and work diligently during that time.  When the timer goes off, set another timer for 5 minutes, and take a break.  Repeat.  When focusing for 15 minutes gets easier, gradually increase the work time by five minute increments.

Since everyone has a different learning style, your best method of preparation might look a little different than this.  You can learn what your learning style is and learn how to best apply that style to all your classes throughout high school (and on into college) with Get Smarter Prep’s Study Skills class.  Study skills like time management, organization, and homework planning will serve you throughout high school and college, and will even be great skills when you enter the work force.  Study skills also cover speed reading, reading comprehension, and writing skills.

Do you want mad study skills?  Check out our Study Skills class!

Gina Claypool is a Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.

University of San Diego

Name: Henry Powell
College: University of San Diego; Graduation Year: 2012
High School: Pembroke Hill; Graduation Year: 2008
Major: Marketing

 

1. What first drew you to the University of San Diego?

When I was going through my college search, I knew that I wanted to find a school that fit three criteria: a small school in a warmer climate that was also respected academically. I found that school in USD. Or rather more accurately, it found me since I had never heard of USD or even been to Southern California before an admissions representative visited my high school.

2. What other colleges were you considering?

Tulane University, Elon University, Rollins College, Pepperdine

3. How was the adjustment from high school to college?

It was a little bit more of a challenge for me to adjust to the differences in culture between the Midwest and Southern California than it was to make the leap from High School academics. I was faced with this on the first day when I met my two roommates, who were both from Newport Beach and had more shoes and ironed t-shirts than I ever thought guys should have, but I quickly adjusted to it and then fell in love with it.

4. What was your favorite class?

Given the small class sizes (my largest class had 43 students), I had several classes that I truly enjoyed, but if I had to pick one I would have to go with Physical Aspects of the Ocean, which was a Lab course that took us on field trips to the beach and ocean every week.

5. What clubs or groups are you involved in?

Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity, Marketing Club

6. In one sentence, what do you love about your school?

I got a fantastic education while living at the beach, what else is there to know?

Author Henry Powell is a recent graduate of USD.

 

Springtime for Sophomores

Seniors have heard back from their schools and are finalizing their college choice in preparation for the May 1 deadline. Juniors are taking the ACT or SAT, SAT subject tests, and AP exams. Those two grades have clearly defined paths to college, but what about Sophomores? While spring of sophomore year seems far away from applying to college, there are three things you can do to strengthen your future college applications.

1. Take an ACT and SAT practice test and determine which test is a better test for you.

We recommend that the students take both an ACT and an SAT practice test near the end or just after their sophomore year. That way, you go into fall of junior year with a plan. Are you in range to be a National Merit scholar? If so, you can sign up for one of our summer classes in preparation for the PSAT. Do you play a winter sport and a spring sport? Another great reason to prepare in the summer and take one of the fall tests! Every student is different. Taking a practice test at the beginning of the summer ensures your student has time to decide which test and test date is best!

2. Finish the year with your highest possible grades.

Yes, this seems like an obvious one, but it really is important! If you have a bad test day, you can retake your SAT or ACT or driver’s license test, but once sophomore year is over, you are locked into those grades. Grades are a key piece of college admissions puzzle, so it is crucial to do your best.

3. Take advantage of the summer.

While it is tempting to spend the summer relaxing before the stress of junior year, you post-sophomore year summer is a great time to get a jump start on college. You are interested in botany but your high school doesn’t offer it? Take a course at a local college or community college. Not only will it look great on your resume, but it will be really interesting! Want to start saving money for college? Get a job! Jobs look great on your resume and give you a great opportunity to make business connections. An anecdotal example: my grandfather worked as a delivery runner for a law firm one summer; after graduating law school, he was hired by that same law firm! Too busy to have the set schedule of a job or class? You can always volunteer, write a paper to submit to your favorite magazine, research colleges, or take test prep!

Most sophomores have no idea where they might want to attend college, and that is perfectly okay! Following these three steps will ensure that when they do choose where to apply, they will have the highest amount of possibilities.

Linden Schult is a Master Level Tutor at Get Smarter Prep.