September 1, 2020 Melinda marking time as our masked and socially distanced prepsters progress through mock exams. A steady diet of practice tests is a key ingredient to locking in gainz made in class
September 1, 2020
Melinda marking time as our masked and socially distanced prepsters progress through mock exams. A steady diet of practice tests is a key ingredient to locking in gainz made in class.
Happy September! Advice for Seniors and Juniors…
September 2, 2020
Happy September and welcome to new Foley Prep families! I hope your back-to-school has been going smoothly. Can you feel the usual scheduling frenzy? Isn’t it worse this year?
Beware, this is a wordy email that has some very useful nuggets. I’m in a storytelling mood…
Foley Prep is closed Labor Day and September 12th
Foley Prep had its biggest summer ever and we are looking forward to a massive fall, so we are taking the unusual step of closing all locations on Labor Day to give our beloved, overworked tutors a break. Our usual Saturday and Sunday operations (mock testing, tutoring, classes) will happen this weekend. Also, we are closing September 12th to throw our quarterly all-hands meeting/funfest. Many of our staff are excited to meet each other for the first time – we’ll have added 12 new full-time teachers and 1 new IT person since April.
Adding classes to the Foley Prep schedule
We are continually adding classes to the schedule through January, so please check the schedule regularly. Last week, for instance, I added 12 classes in one location for September. On a given day in each location we will have 4-10 SAT, ACT, SSAT, MCVSD, and academic classes that are 1.5 to 2 hours long. Count in 3-10 mock exams in each location in every week, and you get a sense of how much love we have to put into this operation.
As parents, you know what it’s like to keep tracking to a target while adapting to changing circumstances, and that’s exactly what Foley Prep has been doing for more than 15 years.
Seniors – last minute prep
Many seniors are signed up for last-ditch SATs and ACTs in far-flung locations this fall, so we’ve been getting lots of panicked calls for Boot Camps and tutoring. We are also adding 5 Day Boot Camps to the schedule, but please know that our classes have always averaged under 3 students, which allows us to attend to specific needs of kids in real time. So it’s not always a great idea to wait until the last week ahead of any specific exam date – just go ahead and restart prep as soon as possible and give it a few weeks to shake off the covid cobwebs.
Seniors – careful with second guessing essays
We have had unprecedented demand for our college admissions consulting services, especially essay help. Fortunately, we have 6 full time English tutors, trained in the fine art of college essays, here to help. We’re waiting for the frustrated calls from our parents who make the mistake of sharing the essays we’ve been taking all summer to polish with some outside pro or English teacher who proceeds to add indecipherable language, ruining the voice. Authentic voice in an essay is not easy to build up, but very easy to tear down. As a wise Hindu guru once told me on an ashram in the Bahamas (after I won $5,000 at the Atlantis casino the night before), “Pick one guru and stick to him or her. And donate the $5,000 to the ashram.” Instead I took the cash to extend my trip to another Caribbean island.
Juniors – prep for SAT/ACT in the fall
Here’s one more story, since I’m in the mode. This one has to do with another type of guru. Around October last year I had a major disagreement with a fellow IEC (independent education consultant – I have all the right memberships that make this official). He was not happy that we were telling his clients to take the December SAT and ACT as an early bird test. He was very worried about his students’ feelings, because they may not be 100% prepared. Now I’ve been a high school math teacher and tenured math professor for 20 years, so I may be calloused, but I told him the kids’ feelings shouldn’t really count when you are giving time-tested, objective advice. IECs often cater to parents’ and kids’ feelings, and make a lot of money doing so, but the net result may not be to actually strengthen your child’s educational outcomes.
Sure, every circumstance is different and we aren’t actually calloused at Foley Prep, but we’ve seen that kids that prep in the fall and take an early bird test are better off when they take a second or third shot in the spring and summer. If the stars align, their December tests are so good that they are done with the SAT/ACT forever. Now no one predicted this little pandemic coming along and ruining just about everything, but I’ve been hearing from a lot of our families that did take our advice a year ago – kids sitting on a 32/33 ACT from December 2019 are thrilled. (The ones that got 35s/36s and high 1500s were thrilled back then, so they don’t count in this story.)
The bonus effects of SAT and ACT Prep
I’ll add two more factors for your consideration. Because grades from the spring and this coming year will be unreliable in the eyes of admission folks AND the real level of math, grammar, and reading kids has gone down since March, my argument is that SAT and ACT prep can be seen as the way to bring students back to a standard. So my advice from past years is intensified – doing test prep has the trifold purpose of 1) getting higher scores and into better colleges with scholarship/merit aid, 2) motivating kids to see at least one application of the math and grammar they should be learning and, sadly 3) giving Foley tutors the chance to teach kids in a personalized way that might change their attitudes toward learning in general. In many cases, the kids are truly learning basic grammar rules from us for the very first time. Yesterday I spoke with Chris, one of our tutors who just started med school. He said that he got the highest grade on the first big test – thanks to the test-taking techniques he learned and taught at Foley. At a very basic level, we are teaching critical thinking that extends way beyond the SAT and ACT, etc.
Last point, regarding test optional schools. I’ve heard many moms and kids who have conjectured that the SAT and ACT are not important this cycle because 2/3rds of the colleges have gone test optional. For most kids applying to competitive colleges, the opposite is actually the case. The SAT and ACT will be the most reliable standard for colleges to compare candidates for the limited number of available seats. So don’t believe the hype – and, if you are comfortable playing dirty pool, let the other kids think the tests are unimportant while prepping to test your best this coming year.
Sorry for the wordiness in this newsletter. Let me know if it helps. By the way, the monthly fall “pod alternatives” programming early bird discount ends on Friday. Getting all-you-can-eat MCVSD, SSAT, ACT, SAT and also academic tutoring from our team for under $90 a day is a steal, and each location is limited to 30 kids for this program. FoleyPrep.com/pod-alternatives has all the info. As soon as we have everyone enrolled, we’ll take care of them to the hilt. This will be a very stressful fall for many kids, and we’re here to turn that around.
Have a nice week.
Ron Foley, M.S.
Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University
Tenured Professor of Mathematics, Middlesex College
Member HECA, NJACAC, NACAC, NCTM, MAA, NAS, AMATCYNJ
Sean tutoring an 8th grader in MCVSD. Our Monmouth County Vocational School District program is second to none.
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