What Meg Glass & Associates, LLC can do for you…we will post actual Case Studies from time to time. We will also have these available under Client Confidentiality. No names are used to guarantee confidentiality and compliance with law protecting students’ rights. However, it is good to know how the process works. For that reason, some Case Studies are presented for you to understand the impact of college process planning and support.
Case Studies: Student A
Student A was affected profoundly by auditory-processing disorder and less affected by ADHD. We met during the spring of her freshman year in high school. She was a very good student; she had mostly A grades and a few honors level classes. She was diagnosed at a very early age and had benefited from extended time on testing, supportive tutoring services, and adjunct programs after school to help her through elementary school. She had mastered reading with the help of a language specialist but needed extended time for any assignments in which a good amount of reading was required.
She was enrolled in a small private secondary school. We were hired to help establish a good plan and time table for college. We discussed what to do during that first year summer in high school to help her prepare for more rigorous courses in order to help her secure a spot in the highly competitive Advanced Placement courses. After exploring her psychological evaluations and her transcripts, we discussed what would help her most. Math and Science were her best opportunities for getting into an AP. The reading required for US History and Government were too taxing and should she try for those classes, her other courses would surely suffer. We enrolled her in an intensive Algebra II course for a few weeks in the summer and sent her to a tutoring center to get some help with advanced biology. We planned to secure a spot in AP Bio and AP Calculus AB for her junior year. We also wanted her to get bumped into honors Math as a sophomore and petition to get her into AP Environmental as a sophomore.
Our strategy worked. It was not easy to change her course plan but armed with our grades and recommendations and willingness to sit for a placement exam, if necessary, we petitioned the school at the end of July to change the course schedule.
We also started a PSAT training program with her that summer. We offer a 10 session introductory course with three or four practice tests. We help kids, especially those with disabilities such as hers, to understand the best strategies for taking the test. We also offer support for The PLAN. The reports come out right before or after Thanksgiving during the sophomore year. Many schools are very competitive with AP and advanced IB programs. The GPA and scores of sophomore year are what trigger the invitation. So we wanted to stack the deck in her favor, as standardized testing was exceptionally difficult for her. She started with very weak scores. She did better but not certainly what we would wish when she was applying to college. However, she was high enough to be considered for the AP courses in her junior year. We wanted her to have at least three very advanced courses on her transcript by the end of junior year.
Sophomore year, she needed support with her courses as now she had three honors level and one AP course. She was language exempt because of her disability, so we added another math, Statistics, to her schedule. She did well with math, both linear and visual. She had an A in her Geometry class from Freshman year. We also wanted to position her in activities that she had a good chance of gaining leadership position by Junior and Senior years. She played soccer and tennis. She also took fitness during the winter as Yoga. She was an average athlete. Her school required two sports a year, so we stuck with what she was doing, but we needed to expand her opportunities. She loved doing Community service projects but was not fond of any particular club. So we suggested she start her own club. This guaranteed us a leadership position. She had been particularly affected by the death of her Aunt from Breast Cancer. There were no clubs that specifically dealt with Breast Cancer. So we asked her to research if there were clubs associated with the National Cancer Society in schools for Breast Cancer. She found out about The Breast Cancer Alliance and spearheaded a chapter at her school. She and very quickly she found two others deeply affected, began several campaigns to raise awareness and money. By the time she graduated, the Club had over 30 members. As its Founder and Leader over the three years, her club raised over $25,000 for Breast Cancer research through its races, bake sales, car washes, dances and other events.
By the summer of Sophomore year, we had to seriously turn our attention to college planning. She had to raise her SAT score at least 550 points for her first choice school, which was a family legacy school. The school is so popular that legacy really couldn’t do much for her chances, except guarantee that her application would get read. She had to change her academic profile to match its. So we started a rigorous SAT preparation program with her that would extend throughout Junior year and into Senior fall. She took the SAT in March and May. She took SAT Subject tests in June. She then took her SAT again in the fall of Senior year in October, and then she was done. After three tests, she had risen her SAT score 710 points! Yes! She was a most assiduous student. She was an exception, but goodness how she worked. She was also very mature. She chose not to attend a school dance her Homecoming weekend in the fall of junior year because she had to take a practice SAT the next morning. All of her friends told her to stay for the dance as the SAT was months away. She told them point blank that if they had her SAT scores, they would want to practice as much as she did!
The spring of junior year, we started the school visits. She went to the South, Middle Atlantic, Midwest and Northeast to look at colleges. Her parents could afford to go on five different visits from spring break vacation to Senior fall October. The list changed a lot by the end of the summer, but initially, from what we thought and what her school’s Naviance system printed out, we winnowed the list to 12 schools. She fell in love with two of her safeties, which is always advised. We specifically planned the visits to be just her and her parents, not groups of friends. We needed her to love her safeties because we did not know that eventually her SAT scores would be so great. They were good going into the summer but her reach school was too competitive for any of us to believe it was a target. We did manage to complete her resume before summer break, at least, which helped tremendously during the college trips and when filling out the applications.
She was challenged for time during the summer and fall. She had sports camps, and also a trip for several weeks with family. So she did a draft of her essay before she left. It was not very good but we had to prioritize as to what needed to happen in the fall. Senior fall is very difficult in terms of time. She had to take an SAT. She had to write 11 essays. She had to complete 4 different applications because three schools were not on the Common Application. So we segmented weeks into what needed to be done first. SAT’s took up three weeks of September. Essay drafts were worked on but not done during that time. Applications were filled out for personal information and so forth. Her mother and father and sister helped out. After the SAT, she went on two college visits, which took away weekend time. But then the personal statement had to be finalized. This took a few days of time and serious flexibility on all our parts. She was applying Early Action to 5 schools. No early decision as her number one choice was Early Action. She did not want to go for Early decision anywhere else as it is binding. Then we got all those supplement essays done.
We could breathe a bit and work on the regular decision through to Thanksgiving, which we did. All were submitted the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. All transcripts were sent, all SAT scores released, all AP scores released. We had personal letters of reference sent, and also a hard copy of her detailed resume was sent to all the schools. She had two recommendations sent from people outside of school, one from her summer job working at shop in town, and another from Breast Cancer Alliance. We finished up and said prayers.
On December 18th, we got a lovely email telling us, she was accepted into her first choice school, Early Action! That year, she and her good friend, who was also a client motivated each other so much, they both went up over 700 points on their SATs and they both got into the same school. This past Memorial Day, she graduated from college.
Case Studies: Overcoming Test Anxiety: Student B
Student B was an average student with a smattering of activities, but no leadership positions. He did have test anxiety and some challenges with dyslexia. Through the years, he was given support from schools in his learning. He had come to be very proficient with extended time and managed to get mostly B grades. He was brought to my attention because of his scores. He did not score well on tests, even though he had extended time.
Several different options were offered to him throughout his rising junior summer and junior year. I met him after he had taken his 4th SAT and 2nd ACT tests. He worked very hard at his studies. He enjoyed sports but was not going to be athletically recruited. He did not want to leave New England for college.
However, most of the schools that he was interested in, were beyond his reach with the scores he had. His SAT scores were below 1500. His ACT scores topped at 21. At this point, his SAT was a better score than his ACT.
We decided to pursue the SAT more rigorously. He had taken a prep class at his school, but admitted he found the class rather uninteresting and too long. The class met weekly for 4 hours on a Sunday. He did not appreciate the time, the day, and pretty much anything about the course. Needless to say, it was not something he put his best effort into at all. He had also had a tutor, who was also a school teacher, who was tutoring on the side. He did lots of practice questions with her, but he never took actual full length practice tests. I have found that without full length, properly administered tests, the likelihood of going up significantly is questionable. Most students eventually get that they have to sit for the practice tests, but there are several who are not mature enough to own the process and do the tests properly. There are many services that offer students the opportunity for practice testing but using another outside service for preparation. I urge all who are preparing to recognize their own weaknesses and select a method that will force them to be accountable. Slacking off, not doing the work, cheating on assignments, etc. will all be revealed when you take that first actual test and scores are terrible!
Standardized test preparation is a must for certain geographic areas. In order to be competitive with those in your own school, town, county, etc. many students must learn something about test taking. Quite honestly, test taking is a skill, and learning it, can seriously help throughout life. Learning your own personal test taking style can be a very awakening experience.
Our Student B came to me at the end of junior year with a need to increase his test scores by over 300 points. It was a reality for the schools that he could truly target grade-wise but would be rejected immediately based on his scores. His scores were far below his grades would imply. So I spoke candidly about what the work would entail, in terms of practice testing, homework, accountability and responsibility. I told him not to agree to the service if he wasn’t going to do the work. Our relationship had to be a cooperative partnership. We both had an investment in the work. His scores would be his grade, and I would mentor him through the test taking process.
As he had no varsity spring sport, we could work through April and May and shoot for the June test date for his 5th SAT. (concerned you can’t take the SAT many times…read our article) I asked that he be available twice a week. We met for an hour and half session in a personal house call (this is the boutique custom service which is negotiated…check it out). We worked; he did the homework as assigned. He took full practice tests every other week in April. He took practice tests every week in May. He had to take the last three tests, as if he were doing it for real. He had to wake up and start the tests by 8:30 AM on Saturdays. He agreed to the commitment.
Slowly, his scores started to rise. Initially, he scored in the 1500’s but by the third test, we had made it to the low 1700s. This was very motivational for him. Then we had to work on the test anxiety part. Although he was learning about the test and seeing results for applying the strategies and knowledge, in an actual test situation, he would not be able to sustain those scores due to his anxiety. So, we started a regular AM exercise routine to get his mind and body relaxed. He did not appreciate this part of the program at first. He walked his dog at first, but eventually he came to jog. We had seven weeks to get this habit working for him.
I also had him watch guided relaxation YouTube™ videos every night. He hated this part as well. At first he said they were stupid. But I insisted he try ones for two minutes at first. We eventually found 10 minute ones. The last three weeks before the test, he was falling asleep during those relaxation videos. I wanted his mind to turn off. Test anxious people will have tremendous anxiety the night before the test. They will toss and turn, wake up to go to the bathroom frequently, and some even have night sweats. I reassure all that this is okay. As long as the two or three nights in the middle of the week are good sleep, it will be fine. I needed him to sleep soundly. The guided relaxation moments did habituate him into the routine of turning off his mind. It is a hard feat for anxious testers sometimes. Let’s be honest, it is hard challenge for almost all, at times.
To change the direction of the mind’s thoughts, I asked him to purchase a book called Zen in the Art of Taking the SAT. I love this book for the test anxious. We started reading that book the first week of meeting. I wanted him to understand that there are a very large number of people who have test taking issues! We looked up the definition of Test Anxiety. I discussed how it manifested in him. He often did great during the semester but terribly on final exams, etc. We did not leave this topic as something unspoken. We talked about it a lot to dispel its powers over him. Every week we mentioned how anxiety could derail him, what it felt like, etc.
Through working on every aspect of how the anxiety appeared, and his own weakness in knowing and understanding the test, we focused on what he could do and what he couldn’t. We strategized his time in order to free him to do what he could do, well and accurately. He eventually was scoring during May in the 1900’s regularly. Eventually, he got that elusive 2050! But reasonably, I simply wanted the 300 points he needed for his ideal schools.
The June test came, he felt confident. He reported that he faltered a bit with time during his first math section. But he thought overall, it went well. He did not get that 2050. He did not even get the 1900. But he did score 1870! So he was pleased. He did eventually also go on to take the October and November SATs (with only a little brush up session with me…..yes, we sell those too!). He ended up with his score choice total of 2030. He was pleased. I was more pleased that he had conquered a crippling sensation about test taking.
We were hired to help with his essays and application that summer between junior and senior years, so I certainly did get to know much more about him along the way. He wrote a wonderful essay about learning how to fly an airplane and getting his pilot’s license. He also wrote a brief essay about overcoming test anxiety for one of his supplements. We all celebrated when he got into Colby College in Maine, as it was his first choice.