Hillhouse High junior David Johnson knows what to do when he takes the field as an offensive/defensive lineman. Now, he’s learning how to tackle the SAT and work towards his goal of playing college football in the Ivy League.
A free SAT prep course offered at Hillhouse by a company called Bulldog Tutors showed Johnson and other students – mostly Hillhouse student-athletes who hope to play in college – how to approach the three sections of the college admissions test.
“They practice their sports. Now they’re doing the right thing to practice for the test,” Hillhouse academic counselor Marvin Towler said.
The New Haven-based tutoring company approached Towler about bringing the kind of test prep suburban students typically take to New Haven teens who may have little knowledge of the test. Bulldog Tutors offered an ACT prep course at the school in spring and plans to hold another three day course in the fall. The company is offering the service to the school district for free.
Bulldog Tutors founder Mike Newcomer established the company in 2012. Daniel Rosa, the company’s general manager, used to drive by Hillhouse every day on his way to study education at Southern Connecticut State University. So when Rosa and Newcomer thought about offering their services to an urban school, they reached out to Hillhouse.
Through Bulldog Tutors’ test prep, Towler said, students are learning how to translate their experience preparing for big races into preparing for one of the biggest academic hurdles of high school: the SAT. Students know how to strategize for a game or a race, Towler said, but seem surprised that strategizing can help them succeed on the SAT and ACT, too.
“It’s foreign to a lot of students,” he said. “That you can learn how to take the test and not just sit down and wing it.”
The prep course continued over the summer. It contained one day for each of the test’s three components: reading, writing, and math. Tutors described the types of questions likely to appear on the exam, common errors, and how to structure one’s time. Students posed questions: What goes in a conclusion? How can I identify run-on sentences? Many times, other students raised their hands to answer before the tutor could respond. At the end of each day, students took practice exams and reviewed every question.
Senior point guard Raiquan Clark, 17, has taken the SAT two times. In the past, he didn’t prepare. “I didn’t do anything,” he said. He plans to retake the test this fall and thinks the test prep will improve his scores, especially on the essay and reading sections.
That students like Clark attended the course shows their commitment to attending college, Towler said. “It’s two weeks before school starts. It’s when you want to get every last bit of summer,” he said.
David Johnson, 16, has already seen an improvement in his scores. After the spring class, his SAT score improved by 200 points. He said he wants to do even better: “You can never be too smart.”