First Choice College-Preparing Students for College

First Choice College’s mission is simple, to prepare students for college.  I spoke with its founder, James Maroney, about the college prep process and how he helps parents and students plan for the college application.

What surprises people most about the college application process?

I think that many parents may be surprised by how easy it is to apply to a large number of schools using the Common Application, which will lead them to an even bigger surprise: how expensive it is to apply to that many schools.  Students are often surprised that many schools require a supplement in addition to the Common Application that can sometimes ask some detailed and different questions.

Can you share a tip parents might not be aware of?

I don’t think most parents are aware of how important the college visit is.  Many parents assume it is just for the students to learn about the school, however, many colleges utilize “demonstrated interest” in making their admission decision.  The best way for a student to show demonstrated interest is to visit the college campus.

Just how important is good SAT test prep?

Being prepared for the SAT or ACT is very important.  You don’t necessarily have to get a tutor or take a class, just as some people exercise on their own without joining a gym or hiring a private tutor.  However, I one message board I saw a post where a college advisor had asked an admission officer about whether a student should prepare for a standardized test, and if so, should the student prepare for the first one, and the admission officer’s response was that students should be as prepared as possible each time they take the test.  Not every student is applying to an Ivy League school, nor do you need to go to an Ivy League school to get a good education, but every student should try to put their best foot forward on standardized tests.  While there are many test optional schools, even those school use test scores in determining the size of merit scholarships, so there is a financial incentive to improve your test scores.

When should a child start preparing?

A Yale admission officer once told me that if you are starting to think of packaging a student in his or her junior year, then you are starting way too late.  What does that mean?  For college prep, you need to start in the freshman year, as colleges look at a depth of involvement more than a breadth of involvement.  So, students should start taking the most difficult classes they can handle and getting involved in a variety of activities.  Taking difficult classes and reading are the best ways to prepare for standardized tests over the long term.  As far as taking a test prep class, I recommend starting that kind of preparation in the summer between sophomore and junior years.

What do students typically need help with most when it comes to the SAT & ACT test?

One of the most common problems we see with students is that they make the test harder than it has to be.  That is, they often think that, “Because this is the SAT or ACT, it has to be hard” and they they change the questions in their own head to make it more difficult.  The truth is both tests are very literal tests, and students need to learn to answer the questions the way they are being asked and not put in their own meaning.

What are the benefits of having an SAT tutor to help a child prepare for the SAT test?

The benefits of having a private tutor for the SAT are similar to those of exercising with a personal trainer.  You have one person who is dedicated to your success, and can carefully observe how your are approaching the test, and make corrective actions when necessary.  It gives the student highly targeted and efficient preparation for the test.

Can you tell me a little about First Choice College?

First Choice College was founded in 1999 to help prepare students for college.  In addition to offering test preparation, we also help students with the college selection and application process.  All of our tutors are graduates of Yale or other top colleges.  We see are success as being linked with our student’s success.

Can you tell me about the options First Choice College Offers for SAT & ACT Prep?

We offer private tutoring or classes for both the SAT and ACT.  This can be either in person in our office or live online.  In addition, we also offer a self-guided video course for the ACT.

Top tip or tips for parents with a college-bound teen?

The best advice I can give to parents is to start early.  The early you start planning and thinking about college, the more options a student will have and the less stressful the student’s senior year of high school will be.

For more information about First Choice College visit their website: 

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