Students Help Local Youth Prepare for SAT
There are many tutoring organizations on campus, but none seem to be so filled with enthusiastic and driven tutors as Let’s Get Ready! (LGR).
LGR is a multi-school organization throughout the Northeast that preps low-income high school students for the SAT, while simultaneously offering college counseling. Instead of using adult instructors, the program trains college students to be “coaches” who serve as tutors and mentors.
“As a director, one of the best things is seeing the relief the program offers to parents,” said Elana Metsch-Ampel ’12. “The process is so confusing, and we can help by guaranteeing that the students will have everything ready on time.”
The program is based on the hope of making more resources available to this underserved population.
“There is an information disparity between people with college-educated parents and people with economic disadvantages who don’t have those things,” said coach Lucy Britt ’14. “Not having enough information about the college process is one of the biggest barriers, and it’s just a silly and easy thing to fix by providing information.”
According to Jake Schofield ’12, LGR hopes to provide a safety net for those children who fall through the cracks.
“The kids I tutor are really intelligent, but sometimes there is an academic unpreparedness, through no fault of their own,” said Schofield. “We take for granted that we have been fortunate enough to have people help us.”
LGR has the stats to substantiate the importance of their mission. Many coaches report hearing from students that have gotten into the college of their choice. 90% of students involved in LGR go directly to college after taking the program, and according to the LGR website, many return to be coaches and site directors themselves.
The students enter the program at various levels of academic preparedness.
“We have kids who are scoring in the 200-300 range, and then we will have kids who are doing better than I did my first time,” said Metsch-Ampel regarding SAT scores.
The tutors say that there is a lot of individual care, monitoring, and thought that goes into placing high school students with specific coaches. The organization hopes to have one coach per two or three students, with six as the maximum number in each group. Right now, LGR has 13 Wesleyan coaches and is always recruiting. Metsch-Ampel and second director Alice Wu ’12 are always trying to think of ways to increase their program’s reach.
“It’s kind of like running a small not-for-profit organization,” Metsch-Ampel said. “Our biggest challenge is retention. The subject matter we’re working with is the SAT, and high school students are not always thrilled about that, so we have to keep it fun and exciting for students and coaches.”
Lucy Britt ’14 understands the pressures felt by many of the students being tutored.
“They have a lot of other things going on like jobs and extracurricular activities, and high school is hard,” Britt said.
One of the ways this pressure is alleviated is by keeping in frequent contact with the students. Coaches exchange phone numbers with their students as part of their efforts to build relationships with their tutees.
“We do a lot of follow up,” Wu said. “If they aren’t there in the first 15 minutes, we call. We want to let them know we care about them.”
Tutors are not only teachers but also mentors; in fact, according to Metsch-Ampel, they can be students themselves.
“It’s such a nice way to share your college education and experience, and how you got there, with someone else.” Metsch-Ampel said. “It’s a learning process for us and the coaches as well.”
However, even with peer organizations and multiple tutors, more coaches are always needed. Metsch-Ampel emphasized that there is little to no experience required.
“You get a manual, you get trained,” she said.
Britt agreed that the tutors come from all walks of life, and all are able to make a difference.
“Any Wes student is a great candidate for being an LGR coach,” Britt said, “because students at this school have all gone through the process and are obviously academically strong enough to handle the material.”
Head math coach Evan Keyes ’14 emphasized the importance of maintaing students’ focus.
“Patience and willingness to be engaged are important,” he said. “You have to hold their attention for two hours.”
According to the directors, potential coaches do not need to have loved the SAT or know it thoroughly. The program is not only about particular SAT skills, but it is also about helping the students through what can be a stressful time. Their approach was created with the goal of making the SATs less frightening and overwhelming.
“Part of what we do is break down the stigmas about the SAT,” said Chloe Rinehart ’14.
The “college choice” aspect of the program is just as important, however. “College choice” takes this confusing part of the college process and makes sure the students understand it and have support throughout the process. They are asked about their college preferences and what they want in a school. Coaches then help them find the right choices for them. LGR aims to make students feel more comfortable with the process.
“One of the best parts was helping my students realize that they know so much already,” said Rinehart. “We are given lesson plans, but we are also empowered to measure our student’s abilities.”
There are challenges to the program, but overcoming these seems to be one of the most rewarding parts of the job. Many of the coaches have been involved with multiple tutoring groups on campus but have stuck solely with LGR.
“I think one of the greatest things is the relationship with my students,” said Wu. “On Christmas I even got a Merry Christmas text from one of them, and it was really nice to know she looks to me as a resource.”
Metsch-Ampel believes the program to be a great training ground for aspiring teachers.
“There is a consistency to the program, and it’s an opportunity to plan your own lessons and get a feel for a mini-classroom. For people interested in teaching, it can be really nice,” said Metsch-Ampel.
LGR also works with two other tutoring and teaching organizations, NEXT and Upward Bound, and is affiliated with Teach For America. It can be an important resource for those who see themselves headed toward a teaching career to get involved and garner experience in the field.
“LGR can write you references for Teach for America, which is a huge deal,” said Britt.
LGR is more than simply tutoring and mentoring, however. The directors also organize several other activities throughout the course of the program, such as a financial aid night, parent-student orientation, and a closing ceremony. There is also a college trip that allows students to see potential schools. They are polled on their top choices, and then the group visits the schools, often those in the Connecticut area such as the University of Connecticut. Last semester, the students even took a trip to Wesleyan.
LGR always makes sure to send its students to take the very next SAT after the program ends.
“I had my students text me after the SAT, so I knew they were still alive,” Rinehart said, laughing, “and one said she could tell she was using the strategies I had taught her! They are just great kids.”
To join LGR, email email@example.com.