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Many college admissions officer advise against receiving assistance in writing the personal statements. Why is it important that my child receive help?

How do you ensure that my child’s voice and writing will remain his own?

If I enroll my child in your essay writing class, how much writing will my child have to do at home?

My child has already been working with you for three lessons and her drafts still seem rough. Why?

My child is an excellent writer, has been in advanced English classes for his entire school career, and has always done well. How difficult will these essays really be for him?

Both my child and I are overwhelmed with filling out all of these applications. Can you complete the application forms with my child?

Why would my child need more than just a few lessons if all of her colleges accept the Common Application?

It’s October and my child still hasn’t decided which colleges to apply to. Can you help us make the decisions?

I’m worried that an admissions officer can perceive my child’s response to one of the essays as controversial. Can you help him change it?

Will the skills my child learns with you prepare him for college-level writing?

Why should my child prep for the PSAT?

Does PSAT preparation carry over to SAT preparation?

How many lessons are sufficient for preparation for the verbal SAT?

Many people argue that the SAT should not be coached. Can’t my child just buy a book and prepare on his or her own?

My child is in the Advanced English program and has done very well. Won’t she do well on the verbal PSAT/SAT?

Will my child get more out of a group setting or one-on-one instruction when prepping for the SAT/PSAT?

What is the difference between your approach and the programs that many of the national chains utilize?

What can I do at home to help my child prepare for the PSAT/SAT?

Why do you approach the verbal section of the PSAT/SAT only?

Many private tutors travel to the student’s home? Why do you teach exclusively at your center?

Many college admissions officer advise against receiving assistance in writing the personal statements. Why is it important that my child receive help?

Many college admissions officers fear that “getting help” will really mean “getting it done by someone else.” Writing a student’s admissions essays for them, or even editing for them, is, in our opinion, an unethical practice. That is why we conduct our private college essay classes like college writing seminars. We have two goals: our first is that students write their best possible college essays and the second is that they learn how to write for a college class. We couldn’t teach them how to write if we were writing for them. Perhaps the most important reason why most students need help with their essays is that the personal statement is often the first time high school students are faced with composing a narrative piece. The ideas and organization of the college essay are vastly different from a typical expository paper. Many students find that, because of lack of exposure to this genre, they are uncomfortable writing about their own lives. Therefore, students need help focusing, organizing, and revising their college essays.

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How do you ensure that my child’s voice and writing will remain his own?

While we work with the student during the entire writing process, we do not write the essay for him. Rather, we guide students through brainstorming ideas, reading sample essays, and outlining personal statements and supplements. The student writes multiple drafts, and we offer feedback in the way of questions, comments, and editing/revision suggestions. We guide and advise our college essay students and supervise their work. The writing, however, is entirely their own.

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If I enroll my child in your essay writing class, how much writing will my child have to do at home?

Most of our students never have to take work home with them, as our hope is to complete the entire writing process at the center. We spend about 30 minutes of our 75-minute lesson in instruction, and the student then has 45 minutes to write in our lab and in our presence. Therefore, most of our students find that they have ample time to write their essays here. Occasionally we have to send the student home with work, but this would depend on the student’s existing skill level and the amount of work we accomplish during the lesson.

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My child has already been working with you for three lessons and her drafts still seem rough. Why?

We always use at least two lessons in the beginning to brainstorm, read sample essays, decide on a structure, and outline. After the third lesson we hope that the child has a complete rough draft. Throughout the ensuing lessons, the draft is revised and edited, and new drafts are initiated. We ask that parents don’t evaluate their children’s essays until we send the final copies home a couple of weeks before they are due. This way, the student feels independent and free to write his or her best without any fear of criticism, while the parent is confident that, should an essay need more work, there will still be time at the end to make changes.

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My child is an excellent writer, has been in advanced English classes for his entire school career, and has always done well. How difficult will these essays really be for him?

Chances are that throughout your child’s advanced English classes, he has been primarily writing expository pieces in response to literature. Writing the college essays proves difficult for even the most gifted students. Not only do the students feel anxiety about composing their personal statement, they’re also uncomfortable writing about and reflecting on their personal experiences.

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Both my child and I are overwhelmed with filling out all of these applications. Can you complete the application forms with my child?

Our primary concern is working on the essays; however, if we have time left over at the end of the semester, we will help out with the applications. We also offer application sessions in addition to the college writing lessons. Please inquire about pricing.

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Why would my child need more than just a few lessons if all of her colleges accept the Common Application?

In addition to the personal statement, most colleges that use the common application require supplemental essays and short answers. The supplements require planning, drafting, and revising – just like the personal statements. While the average personal statement can be about 500-800 words or more, the average supplement can run from 300-500 words or more. A student applying to five colleges will have one primary essay to write, but could have as many as 5 additional, albeit shorter, essays.

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It’s October and my child still hasn’t decided which colleges to apply to. Can you help us make the decisions?

We are not certified guidance counselors, nor have we received formal training in counseling students in their college choices. However, we are aware of a multitude of free and low-cost resources that provide a great deal of support with college choices. We can engage these resources during our sessions with your child, only if it does not compromise the time we need to spend with her on the essays.

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I’m worried that an admissions officer can perceive my child’s response to one of the essays as controversial. Can you help him change it?

Sometimes the topic that a student decides to write about might not be what the parents or the instructor would choose. If the essay reflects the child’s true personality and beliefs, then we will respect his choice of topics. We will surely communicate any risks the student is taking, but the decision to change the topic is one that has to be made by the student and his parents. We can guarantee, though, that we will never suggest that a child send an essay to a school that we feel is inappropriate or that puts his chances of admission at risk.

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Will the skills my child learns with you prepare him for college-level writing?

Absolutely. The entire process of writing the essay is a good foundation for college writing. The focus on planning, organizing, and revising multiple essays is inherent in college composition classes.

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Why should my child prep for the PSAT?

Because the PSAT is primarily considered a “test run” for the SAT, we feel the most important reason your child should prepare for the PSAT is to feel confident. If your child receives a poor score on the PSAT test, he or she might feel a sense of anxiety about preparing for the SAT. We’ve heard students say things like, “I did such a crummy job on the PSAT, I don’t see how any amount of preparation will help me on the SAT.” This, of course, is not true, but these sentiments are understandable. Another good reason to prepare for the PSAT is that it can significantly eliminate some of the prep work for the SAT, since the exams are so similar. A third reason to prepare for the PSAT is the chance to compete for a prestigious merit scholarship for which only the top PSAT scorers are considered. Though these scholarships are limited to only a chosen few, and though there are additional requirements involved in attaining them, we feel that it’s definitely worth a shot.

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Does PSAT preparation carry over to SAT preparation?

Yes. Students who prepare with us from June or September through December receive preparation for the verbal portion of the PSAT before we begin studying for the SAT. Because the tests are so similar, we are able to move very quickly through their SAT preparation. These students usually take the SAT in December or in January.

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How many lessons are sufficient for preparation for the verbal SAT?

This varies according to the student’s ability. We recommend a minimum of 24 lessons to prepare for the Reading and Writing sections, 12 for the multiple choice and 12 for the essay. For students who have struggled in their English classes throughout high school, we recommend attending a reading and writing foundations course at our center in the summer in addition to beginning SAT preparation in the fall. This course is offered privately. This might seem like a lot of time in preparation for one test. However, the new changes to the SAT are adding over an hour of testing time and two entire new sections to the test (Writing and Essay). This is why authors who have researched the SAT are recommending a 45- hour study plan, with at least 2/3 of that time focused on the reading and writing portions of the exam.

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Many people argue that the SAT should not be coached. Can’t my child just buy a book and prepare on his or her own?

Your child can, in fact, prepare on his or her own. Many students have been very successful preparing for entrance exams on their own. Many of the highest achieving students, however, are also the individuals that have the most difficult time taking charge of their own test preparation. This is because they value achievements outside of school as much as they value academics, and rightfully so, because academics alone will not get a student into a competitive college. Planning a course involves diagnosing a student’s strengths and weaknesses, breaking down exactly how many hours should be spent on weaknesses and how many remaining hours should be spent on strengths, creating weekly and monthly plans for study and practice, committing to those plans, and charting progress. A student with few commitments might be able to pull this off, but a busy student will almost never motivate him or herself to prioritize studying for the SAT.

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My child is in the Advanced English program and has done very well. Won’t she do well on the verbal PSAT/SAT?

A student in an advanced English program will likely have an edge over a student who has been taking regular English or a student who had not been doing well in English. The very best advice for the Reading section of the entrance exams, advice that comes from testing researchers, is to take the most demanding English courses possible because that is where students encounter the most challenging literature from various genres. Unfortunately, though, taking an Advanced English course might be as much of a liability as it is an asset. Students in such classes are often taught to be opinionated about what they read in class and to write interpretive essays to questions that have more than one right answer. These students come to us baffled about the reading section of the SAT because the exam asks them to completely disregard their opinions and inclinations about literature, as all of the answers to the reading questions are found directly in the correlating passages. Also, High School English teachers generally do not offer direct grammar instruction because they rightfully take for granted that students should know basic grammar concepts. The writing section of the SAT, however, tests a very advanced level of grammatical ability that teachers simply do not have the time to teach.

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Will my child get more out of a group setting or one-on-one instruction when prepping for the SAT/PSAT?

We feel strongly that a group setting is not effective when preparing for entrance exams. We have conducted small group sessions before, and in tracking students’ improvement we have found the scores increase marginally in group classes—but dramatically in private sessions. This is because a private English instructor can tailor every aspect of the preparation to each student’s particular needs, whereas this is improbable in a group of two or three, and impossible in a larger group. If one of our students is scoring high in the reading section but needs a great deal of work in the writing section, or vice-versa, we accommodate for that in his or her plan. We also maintain an email and phone relationship with each individual student’s parents so that you always know whether or not your child is doing his homework, what his progress has been, and whether he is taking full advantage of the resources with which you have provided him. This level of attention is not something that is often attained from a group instructor.

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What is the difference between your approach and the programs that many of the national chains utilize?

All of our instruction is private, our instructors are certified teachers with English degrees, and this is our full-time job. Our attention is not divided among other work responsibilities, so we can put the additional time necessary outside of your child’s lessons into planning for your child’s specific needs. This includes diagnosing your child’s strengths and weaknesses, writing an individual SAT preparation plan for your child, assigning relevant homework and checking it, tracking your child’s testing progress, and communicating with you every step of the way. In addition, training with certified English teachers for entrance exams means that your child will not only have a better chance at scoring high, but he or she will also gain critical reading and writing skills that will follow him or her throughout college. Though such a high quality of service keeps our center small and our lessons booked, we believe that this is the only type of instruction that will produce the kind of results your students deserve.

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What can I do at home to help my child prepare for the PSAT/SAT?

The best thing to do for your child is to encourage them to take the most demanding classes that they can handle, to read a wide variety of materials (including newspapers, magazine articles on current topics of interest such as art, technology, and politics, as well as challenging books), and to use new vocabulary frequently in their oral and written communications. Educational television shows, such as documentaries, biographies, news magazine broadcasts, and nature shows should replace pop-culture TV. For most students, this involves a lifestyle change that should begin as early as the 8th or 9th grade, but a change that will pay large dividends in the long run. If you are considering having your student prepare for the entrance exams on his or her own, give us a call and we’ll be happy to offer some guidance to you.

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Why do you approach the verbal section of the PSAT/SAT only?

This has been an ethical dilemma for us for some time. We have been asked to train and hire math instructors to help our students with the math sections of these exams. We have taken a very strong stance, though, that it is unethical for anyone whose specialty is not math to offer math preparation services. As far as the PSAT and the SAT are concerned, approximately two-thirds of these exams test English concepts. Because 1600 of the 2400 SAT points are devoted to reading and writing, we feel it is more important that students devote most of their preparation to these sections. Also, because the vast majority of students take the SAT two-three times, we recommend that students complete 24 lessons with us, take the SAT for the first time, and then take 10-15 math lessons from a qualified math instructor before their second try. We know of several qualified math instructors to whom we refer students.

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Many private tutors travel to the student’s home? Why do you teach exclusively at your center?

Students will not be taking the entrance exams in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. They need an environment that is completely free of distractions to prepare for tests of this magnitude. At our center, we do not compete for your child’s attention with Internet Messenger, email, the television, the radio, little brother or sister, or any other distracters. In addition, each of our teachers has her own instructional room, so we do not even compete with noise from other students. This creates an environment where students take their instruction more seriously.

 

 



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