January 6, 2020 Mid-year Prep Advice for “The Average Jersey Sophomore” Dear Foley Prep Family, We get a lot of calls from sophomore parents this time of year, so here I will share the advice I have b
January 6, 2020
Mid-year Prep Advice for “The Average Jersey Sophomore”
Dear Foley Prep Family,
We get a lot of calls from parents of sophomores this time of year, so here I will share the advice I have been giving in-person and on the phone. It should match up with what you have heard from me and other folks at Foley Prep.
Disclaimer: since every kid is different, and we take the time to get to know each student personally, please take the following advice for what it is worth, and ask questions to discern how much may or may not apply to your child. This is simplified advice regarding the standardized testing theater. Needless to say, there are plenty of other theaters to consider as your child grows up into a healthy, happy, likable kid, ready to take on the world.
Profile of “The Average Jersey Sophomore”
For the purposes of this general advice, the average new Jersey sophomore
is taking Algebra 2
is looking to go to a competitive college
has a PSAT range 1000-1200
has the means and inclination to do test prep
Your child don’t fit the profile? Jump to the next section. If your child does fit the profile, here’s my advice for test prep:
Plan for your child to take a full-length mock ACT exam by March. There is no better way to determine which test to prep for than to take both an SAT and an ACT under timed conditions. Ideally, plan for your child to do so in a short span of time so you can get an accurate picture of where he or she stands on both tests without the confounding effect of a kid doing more coursework. A PSAT taken in October compares to an ACT taken this February, but a few months of coursework should show up in a slightly higher ACT score. Press here to sign up for a free test at Foley happening every weekend at all locations.
Make a prep plan by April. A little bit of planning can take a lot of the stress away from these tests, resulting in higher scores. Families who have come to Foley from the outset maximize the value of semi-private tutoring, regular mock tests, and expert guidance along the way. A long-term relationship yields benefits by being able to adjust your course along the way (10-15% of Foley Prep clients like to try more than one of our Foley Pros based on style), pause for vacations and other breaks, and most of all, make the prep more efficient and effective. There is only a finite amount of official ACT and College Board material, which makes switching horses (from Susie down the street tutor to Foley Prep, for instance) sometimes painful.
Go big on prep during the summer between sophomore and junior year. Aim at the early-bird August 24th SAT and/or September 5th ACT. It has become very common for kids to set a plan in the spring, do some light prep in May and June, then make a serious effort in July and August.
If your child cannot prep seriously during the summer, get started this spring. Sign up for group or 1-on-1 lessons to get fundamental strategy and content review in order to build up a strong base and take the load off during junior year. Students also form a relationship with us here at Foley which will help us to pick up wherever they leave off for their summer fun/enrichment.
Expect your child to take the exams 2-3 times, possibly more. The vast majority of colleges don’t care how many times a student takes the exams, so dispense with the idea of taking the test only when you are “truly prepared” (I think this is bad advice that test prep companies give to scare kids). By waiting too long, students risk running out of test dates to recover from a bad score, they miss the opportunity to hit an early home run (which is a great feeling), and they can lose the chance to get a good score on a section because it was “easy” on that date (which they can superscore later). Taking early-bird tests is part of the improvement process.
Expect your child to prep very hard for either the SAT or ACT, but eventually take both tests. Because the content between SAT and ACT overlaps by about 80%, students should go all the way prepping for one test, but be sure to take the other exam, too. Even with careful deliberation, it’s impossible to determine with 100% accuracy which test is the best one for your child. Thus, the strategically smart thing to do is to prep like crazy for one, but take the other soon after. To answer the questions “Won’t this confuse my child? Are you asking to do double the amount of prep?” The answers are “no” and “no”. Adjusting to the other test is not stressful – in fact, many kids are delighted by how much of what they learned applies to the other test. And because these tests have so many concepts (again – about 80%) in common, you do not have to do double the work … and you are capitalizing on the work you did. There are only upsides to taking both tests, with no downside (except maybe a few more prep sessions and a Saturday morning to take the test).
Get an “A” in Algebra 2 and write a killer paper. Algebra 2 teachers are teaching the fundamental skills for the SAT and ACT, so all the work done in that class will help students on the SAT and ACT. College admissions folks also consider the Algebra 2 grade as a strong indicator of college readiness, so think of that grade weighing more heavily in the admission decision than most other grades. As for writing a paper, more and more admissions applications will be asking to see a graded piece of work, so pick a paper and go above and beyond. If a teacher gives you an “A” grade and suggests revisions, revise and resubmit – don’t be afraid of being a suck-up!
Advice for “The Non-Average Jersey Sophomores”
From the perspective of planning for test prep, there are two other groups:
students scoring above 1200 on the PSAT with the means to prep, and
students scoring below 1000 on the PSAT with the means to prep.
It’s harder to give general advice to kids in these groups.
For students scoring above 1200 on October’s PSAT, the timeline may be accelerated. Instead of thinking of the August SAT and/or the September ACT as early bird tests, you should consider them as possible end points. There is no better feeling than to have the SAT and ACT out of the way for junior year so you can focus on grades, AP scores, extracurriculars, and not being utterly miserable. With this in mind, you should probably do some prep this spring, and put most of your prep time and budget into summer prep. Also, if you are taking Honors PreCalculus, you should strongly consider taking the June SAT Math Level 2 Subject test. Do not wait until you take Calculus, as the PreCalculus you are learning this year will fade as you go through Calculus. This applies to other SAT Subject Tests. You may want to reserve June to take the subject tests you’re ready for, as high achievers will probably have most of their attention on their AP tests in May.
For students scoring below 1000 on October’s SAT. Your timeline is stretched out. While kids scoring 1000-1200 should expect to be done with the tests in spring 2021, you will be most realistic to think about beginning a course of prep this summer, but stretching out your time and budget through junior year, topping out on the summer 2021 tests.
Again, all of the above is general advice. At Foley, we pride ourselves on having an expert staff of full-time college advisors and test experts, so don’t be afraid to ask if you have any specific questions related to your child.
College Admissions Help
We have some exciting plans at Foley for those who are looking for private college advising. I have been an independent college consultant since 1992 and have done it a little differently every year. This year may be the most exciting of all. Please get in touch if you are interested in this concierge-level service.
I hope your year is off to a good start. Please write back, call, or text if you have any questions at all.
Ronald Foley, Founder
Doctoral Candidate, Rutgers University
Grow with us – we’re hiring!
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We plan to add 3 more locations this year and 6-8 full-time instructors. If you know any recent college grads who want to become superstar teachers, please get them in touch with me. In my lifetime in for-profit and public education, I have trained more than 500 people to be excellent teachers (or find another line of work, lol).
Foley Prep Haddonfield is now open. Classes are on!
We have semi-private and private tutoring Sunday-Thursday, plus mock SATs and ACTs every Sunday starting at 9:30am. Now is the time to join to become a “Haddonfield Charter Member”!
Rising 8th graders: Monmouth County High School Entrance Exam Prep
If you are a Monmouth County resident, you know how intense the competition is to get into the MCVSD magnet schools. I’m very happy to report that 83% of Foley MCSVD students got into an MCVSD school, so we have expanded our program this summer.
Get more info by pressing here – we hold diagnostic tests every weekend and will have a complete summer schedule up soon!
Foley’s results are proven: +220 point average SAT and +7 point ACT increase.
Go to FoleyPrep.com/data to find out more. Below is a screenshot of one of the interactive data plots – I invite you to go nerd out for a few minutes!
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Students who take 2 or more mock tests at Foley Prep plus 10 or more classes or tutoring sessions go up an average of 220 points on the SAT. Book your mock SAT or ACT now at FoleyPrep.com/practice-acts-sats – everyone is welcome to take 1 free ACT and 1 free SAT!
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