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Tutoring Service Preps High Schoolers For SAT

Heights Editor

Published: Sunday, January 22, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01

The magnanimous spirit at Boston College is contagious. "Let's Get Ready," especially, stands out as an extremely far-reaching organization. Let's Get Ready is a nonprofit organization that provides free SAT preparation and college application assistance to underprivileged high school students.

Let's Get Ready was initiated by a Harvard undergraduate, Jeannie Lang Rosenthal. She believed that the knowledge and experience she had gained while applying to college could be of substantial value to high school students who lacked access to critical support resources.

In 1998, she jumpstarted the program in a church basement with 10 students from her high school, to whom she offered free tutoring. Since then, over 10,000 students have been aided by people who adopted her same zealous attitude and continued her endeavor with underprivileged students.

College student volunteers, called coaches, help students prepare for the verbal and math sections, as well as the college application process. Nick Gawlik and Joe Falkson, both A&S '12, former site directors for the BC chapter, stepped down last semester to ensure the continuity of the program and allow the new directors to become acclimated.

The BC program consists of 10 math coaches and 10 verbal coaches. The programs run eight weeks (two days a week, one day math and one day verbal) and yet, many coaches meet with students outside of class to give them more personalized attention.

"We call our volunteers coaches rather than tutors because we think that it's a coaching process rather than a hierarchy, and we want to stress the importance of very individualized care—something that these students have never gotten before," Gawlik said. "We strive to be more of a life coach."

"I started tutoring first semester freshman year and I still keep in touch with my students," Falkson said. "One of them attends Northeastern University, and she's doing very well."

Gawlik noted with pride that he still keeps in touch with a lot of his students, also.

"It's great to see that this program really works," he said. "We have the numbers to back it up."

This past semester, the BC Let's Get Ready organization saw a record-breaking 185 point increase in SAT test scores, surpassing the median 110 point increase from the preliminary administered exam to the SAT students take after the eight week course.

The organization provides everything for students, making the service 100 percent free for the Brighton high school students. They provide the transportation for coaches, the books for the students, and even snacks. Each student receives a book containing 10 practice tests, and a student manual that contains curriculum for the math and verbal sections. Each year, they graduate 100 percent of their students from high school—a rapid improvement from Brighton's typically low graduation rate of 66 percent. Let's Get Ready also sends 93 percent of the Brighton program students to college.

What makes this specific organization different from other test prep courses available, besides the fact that it is free, is that Let's Get Ready also helps students with the college admissions process. They help with personal statements and teach the students how to navigate the Common Application.

This program, primarily geared toward underprivileged intercity high school students, those struggling financially, and those not immersed in the college-oriented culture of the wealthy, has blossomed at BC. The organization has many chapters, but the BC chapter is especially competitive. Last year the organization received 90 applications for only 19 openings.

The first step in the rigorous process of choosing coaches is looking at applications. Half the applicants are chosen for interviews.

"In the interview process, we decide based on how well they are able to talk to us, because they have to converse with the kids," Gawlik said. "We note how well they would be able to deal with problems in the classroom because, inevitably, problems do arise."

Exemplary SAT scores aside, the coaches need to be able to "handle the unexpected and to take control of unforeseeable situations," Gawlik said. They have even had to turn people away with 800s in the sections they wanted to teach.

This past year, Chase Bank started running competitions where anyone can vote for different charities of their choice on Facebook, and the winner with the most votes can win specific amounts of money. Let's Get Ready won $25,000 and was selected to participate in the Chase American Giving Awards, in which five charities had a chance to participate for one million dollars. It aired on NBC, Primetime, and other major networks. Let's Get Ready ended up winning second place, in addition to $500,000.

"The fact that we beat out other national organizations that have a large Facebook and Twitter following was incredible," Gawlik said. "Especially since Let's Get Ready only operates in the northeast right now," Falkson said.

The BC chapter of this program is quite impressive and attracts some of the most brilliant students from the area. Last semester one coach was a Harvard MBA graduate student.

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