Wednesday, November 24, 2021

So Many Thanks

During this week of Thanksgiving, there are so many thanks to share.

Thanks to the Salinas Unified School District for helping me host a six-week SAT and ACT prep course this past fall. 

Thanks to York School for making me a part of their inaugural York Summer Bridge program and their fall test prep program. 

Thanks to South County Cal-SOAP for inviting me to offer support to their strategic planning and student programming. 

Thanks to Stevenson School for allowing me to help their students navigate the testing landscape. 

Thanks to our many CROSSWALK families who entrust us to help guide and tutor their students. 

Thanks to Independent Counselors, like Marisela Gomez of Inspired and Jane Catanzaro of College Advising Services for the referrals and support. 

Thanks to the many hardworking college counselors in the Monterey Peninsula area for helping our high school juniors and seniors plan for beyond high school. 

Thanks to my family for putting up with my dynamic schedule as a tutor. 

And thanks to anyone who I failed to mention who helped me and CROSSWALK over the years.

Indeed, a time to give so many thanks. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

The Hardest Part of the SAT and ACT

On the SAT & ACT, what is the hardest section? 

Are historical passages or science-based passages more difficult

Are word problems or data interpretation problems more challenging

Truth be told: It depends

Determining the difficulty level of particular questions or sections on the SAT and the ACT all depends on the student. Some students find the Reading section the easiest while others think it is Math. Science passages, for some students, are easier than history passages. And some students hate word problems and would rather graph parabolas. 

However, none of these questions really get at what makes the SAT and ACT hard. 

You see, the hardest part of the SAT and the ACT is the length of the tests. Both tests are three-hour mental marathons that require tremendous focus, rapt attention and intellectual endurance

What makes these tests hard is that students need the mental stamina to critically think, problem solve and navigate the hours upon hours that is the testing experience. 

If you are gearing up for the SAT or ACT, make sure to work on your mental stamina. Take regular full-length practice tests so that you can practice sustaining your intellectual energy for the entire test. Work on building up your stamina and keeping focused for all three hours. 

It's not a content thing; it's a stamina thing. Those with the mental fortitude to sustain their intellectual focus for the whole time will be the ones who achieve their goal scores.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

What Makes an "Honors" Student?

Full credit to one of my mentors for this post. Though he has been retired now for several years, his perspective on what constitutes an honors student still resonates today. 

When assessing whether or not a student was qualified for an honors or AP course, he would drill down to three characteristics: willingness, aptitude and interest. 

Willingness is the desire or eagerness to do extra work. Most honors courses require students to go above and beyond the regular course content. Thus, an honors student must be willing to do extra. 

Aptitude is the ability or the natural inclination to excel academically. To be an honors student, one must have some natural ability already. This can come in the form of a variety of skills like critical thinking, reading, reasoning, logic, public speaking, etc. 

Interest is passion for or great curiosity in the subject matter. Honors students have a keen interest in the material and seek out opportunities to learn as much as they can. They are sponges who yearn for more. 

But here is the best part of these characteristics: an honors student need not have all three. Instead, according to my mentor, as long as the student had at least two of the three characteristics, then that student could very well excel at the honors level. 

Simple yet elegant: an honors student is one who is either willing and apt, apt and interested, or willing and interested. 

Students: if you have two of those three qualities, then consider yourself an honors student. 

And if you lack more than one of these characteristics, then maybe the honors level for a given subject is not for you? And that is okay. You need not be a high-achieving honors student across all academic disciplines. 

Unfortunately, so many families and students push the honors track because they see that as the path to college opportunities. Yes, academic rigor can help your prospects. But if you lack the aptitude, the willingness and the interest, why force it?