Monthly Archives: October 2014

Writing Tutorial System

When I was in college, I remember talking to someone who went to Oxford University for his undergraduate degree. The way that he was taught really struck me as being so different from what I was used to in the American system, yet clearly more helpful.

At Oxford and Cambridge, students often go through a tutorial system or “supervision” system. Instead of having large classes with lots of students, they meet in groups of 1-3, have in-depth discussions on topics, and are required to write essays on a weekly basis. The former student to whom I spoke said that he was required to read an essay he had written out loud to his professor each week, and the professor would give him a wealth of constructive criticism.

Contrast this approach to writing education with what we do in the United States. Even at the best colleges and high schools, students usually have one major paper a semester. The feedback they receive is almost always based on the final product, rather than on the writing process. Students’ consumption of writing feedback is often limited to looking at their paper grade and then throwing the paper away.

If students are supposed to improve their writing skills, we should emulate the educational model of Oxford and Cambridge and provide high quality, in-depth feedback on a regular basis. If you are interested in working with one of our writing tutors to create a individualized program to vastly improve writing skills, please email us at

Great Way for Students to Improve Reading Comprehension

Let’s face it–students nowadays are generally not that interested in picking up a large novel to read from cover to cover. If students are to improve their performance on major standardized tests, like the ACT and SAT, they will need to have read a wide variety of high quality books. How can we make this a more enjoyable and appealing process for high school students?

My answer: make reading an easy choice by having an e-reading program on their smart phones. Students are on their phones all the time, surfing the web, checking Facebook, and texting. If a student has a really good book on a Kindle App on his or her smart phone, reading becomes a much easier choice. Since e-readers automatically remember the place where you left off, it makes it effortless for students to locate where they left off in a book.

Just as having a fruit tray in front of a dieter will encourage him to eat healthfully, so will having some interesting books on an e-reader help high school students boost their reading comprehension while having fun in the process.

Early Decision Worth Considering!

I recently had a meeting with a friend of mine who works in college admissions counseling. He shared that it has never been more important to consider doing Early Admission to universities. I asked him to estimate just how significant a difference it might make, and he said that a student who has a 32 ACT, 4.0 GPA and good extracurricular activities applying to a school like Northwestern would have about a 50% chance of admission with Early Decision, but only a 10-20% chance of admission with regular decision.
Why do colleges like Early Decision? Here are two ideas:

1. It enables them to have students apply who do not need financial assistance. A student who would need to weigh competing financial aid offers from universities would not be able to limit herself to Early Decision.

2. It allows them to reject far more students in the regular application pool. Since they will have about half of their classes set early, colleges will be able to be more selective in the regular pool because they will not need to worry about filling up their class spots. More selectivity=higher rankings and more prestige.

What does this mean for you? If you are considering a top-tier school, consider applying early. Think very carefully, however, about which college to which you will apply. You need to consider how risky you are comfortable being. If you apply to a school like Harvard or Yale early and get rejected, then you may not have as solid a chance at schools like University of Chicago, Duke or Northwestern in the regular decision pool. It may be in your interest to apply early to the school where you have the most realistic chance of being admitted. Quite a bit to consider. I look forward to your comments and questions.

Post-Secondary Options for High School Students

Many ambitious students find that the courses they would like to take are simply not offered in their high schools. Fortunately, Ohio allows high school students to do post-secondary enrollment at a variety of institutions. Why is this beneficial?

1. Post-secondary coursework will easily transfer to college. You will have minimal worries about whether a school will accept a certain AP or IB score. If a school sees that you have completed a rigorous college course in a subject, such as calculus, physics or chemistry, they will likely give you credit for it.

2. It saves money. Post-secondary coursework is just like high school coursework in that it is free! If you can complete a year or two of college when it is free to do so, why not make it happen?

3. It will look good on your college applications. Taking rigorous college courses will demonstrate to universities that you are absolutely prepared for college work. You might also be able to get a letter of recommendation from a well-known professor.

4. It can be a great opportunity for home-schooled students to demonstrate college competency. The funding for most of the students comes directly from the school district of residence, but the funding for home-schooled students to do post-secondary coursework comes from the State of Ohio.

The public colleges that offer post-secondary coursework in central Ohio include:

Columbus State Community College
Marion Technical College
Ohio State University
Ohio University

The private schools in the greater central Ohio region that offer dual-enrollment programs include:

Cedarville University
Ohio Dominican University
Otterbein University
University of Dayton

With college costs rising higher than the rate of inflation, please take advantage of this program!