Junior year is notoriously difficult for teens. There are the regular pressures of getting good grades in challenging classes, plus managing sports, arts, service and academic extra-curricular activities.
Then there’s researching, visiting and applying to colleges—and the anxiety of acing either the SAT or ACT college entrance exam. Two local women have launched a new business, John Jay College Prep, that aims to guide students and their families through the test-taking process—and a year that can be fraught with pitfalls.
“What makes us different is that we are guiding them through this whole crazy time,” said Bernstein, a Goldens Bridge resident, licensed actuary and mother of a John Jay High School junior and a Syracuse University sophomore. “We’re helping them to decide whether to take the SAT or ACT and providing unique test-taking strategies.”
“You can’t take these tests cold,” added Friedlander, of Cross River, who has six years of experience in standardized test preparation. “So we provide practice opportunities, and help each student determine which tests to take—and when to take them—with a customized game plan tailored to their strengths and weaknesses.”
It used to be that geography determined which test you took. If you lived in the Midwest, you took the ACT, and students on both coasts, or those applying to the most selective schools took the SAT, said Friedlander. But as more students become aware of the ACT option, and realize that both exams are universally accepted by colleges, they may find taking one exam over the other favors their individual abilities, she added.
Some of the differences the test-prep tutors mentioned were time—the SAT clocks in as the longer test, at almost five hours vs. the ACT’s three and a half hours; and content—the ACT includes a science reasoning component while the SAT, which doesn’t have a science section, tests vocabulary more extensively.
“The ACT is very strict on time—in one section, test-takers have 35 minutes to do four passage with ten questions each—that’s about eight minutes per section,” said Bernstein. “So we offer strategies to cope, and we present students with tactical building blocks. The tests are predictable so it really is about practicing them.”
Their students commit to about four hours of work a week—one hour each of math and verbal practice, plus homework. In addition to one-on-one tutoring Bernstein and Freidlander facilitate small groups of two to four students. Their current clients are from towns nearby like Bedford, Mt. Kisco and Lewisboro—but they also include students in other states whom they tutor via Skype.
They’re strict. Students can be expelled from the program if homework isn’t completed.
"We hold students accountable,” said Friedlander. “With everything else going on in their lives, we want to help walk them through this process—but they need to do their part.”
And they say the payoff is being accepted at choice schools. Both women said they hear from past students who say they’ve gotten into their top college picks. And a by-product of their service has been a carry-over of their study skills to the college setting. “We’re not looking to teach them for this one test—it’s tools and strategies they can take with them,” Friedlander said.
As for the payoff for the entrepreneurial tutors, both say working with this age group offers tremendous rewards. Friedlander, who has two elementary school-aged children, also admitted to receiving an unanticipated perk from tutoring local teenagers. “I’ve met some great potential babysitters,” she said.
Bernstein, who has watched her own children mature in high school and college, said the changes are fascinating. “They are going from teenagers to young adults—and the transformation is so huge and fun to be a part of.”
For more information on John Jay College Prep, call 914-715-2693 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.