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Windsor High alumni teach SAT prep

Sunday, August 18th, 2013 | Posted by
Windsor High School students spent six weeks studying for the SATs this summer in a class developed by Windsor High School alumni. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

Windsor High School students spent six weeks studying for the SATs this summer in a class developed by Windsor High School alumni. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

By JAMES LANARAS / Windsor Correspondent

Two weeks before the start of school on Tuesday, nearly 100 college bound Windsor High School juniors and seniors were already at their desks.

They attended a free, six-day class that prepared them for the SAT test they will take as part of the college admissions process, and also were informed about financial aid options.

Their mentors were Windsor High School alumni Amy, Peter and Jonathan Jeffrey, who developed and first taught the class in 2012.

At the end of last year’s 10-day class, students’ scores on the practice SAT increased an average of 160 points, Peter said.

Amy and Jonathan are enrolled at Harvard University, and Peter attends the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Jeffrey siblings say high school students are comfortable about college from familiar faces.

“It’s helpful to hear from those who have gone through the process. It’s less stressful,” Amy said.

Windsor High School students used a study guide book with sample SAT questions to prepare for the test. The high school administration provided space at the high school and paid for the study guides.

Half the students take the test twice, once during the spring of their junior year and again in the fall of their senior year.

“It will be the longest test they take. It requires endurance,” Peter said. “Knowing what to expect and that it will take time is helpful. We tell them to do the best you can and get some sleep the night before the test.”

Instruction about financial aid helps students fill out forms, learn about grants, scholarships, loans, work-study programs and military service as a means to pay for college, Amy said.

This year the Jeffreys were joined by Vanessa Padilla, a junior at St.¬Mary’s College of California in Moraga who helped them teach the class.¬

Other Windsor High alumni who attend Sonoma State University, UC Berkeley and the United States Military Academy at West Point talked about the social aspects of college.

Peter said students are advised not to have their heart set on one “dream” college or university.

Windsor High School Vice Principal Chris Vetrano said the Jeffreys are personable, friendly and get great results from students in the class. “We’re happy to have them,” she said.

The high school has three full-time counselors and one half-time college and career advisor who serve a student body of 1,800, Vetrano said.

“If you take an SAT class online, it can cost several hundred dollars. Having a class for a week is a gift to the high school,” she said. “We are grateful they do this without compensation.

“Amy talks about the mindset you need to be a success in college and the advantage of going to a four-year college instead of a junior college first.”

Some students take several years to finish junior college and never go on to a four-year college, Vetrano said.

“If they can get their SAT scores up and get a merit scholarship or financial aid, most kids will do better going directly to a four-year college,” she said.

Vetrano and the school’s guidance counselors did “a great job” recruiting college bound students for this year’s class, Peter said.

Tori Sheber, a junior, took the SAT-financial aid class for a second time. She is considering a career in the foreign service and said she valued the one-on-one talks with the graduates during last year’s class.

“It broadened my horizon and made me believe I could do more than I thought I could,” Sheber said. “A lot of students come to the class because the Jeffreys are teaching it.”

Some students are apprehensive about choosing a major and deciding whether to attend a college out of state, Peter said.

“Seeing high school graduates say they didn’t know what they wanted to do shows them they don’t need a set plan to benefit from the college experience,” Peter said.

“It’s important the students understand the dynamics about going away to college,” adds Jonathan. “They should at least apply. We let people know what’s out there.”

He is studying history and government, Peter is majoring in finance, and Amy is focused on computer science and economics.

“Taking the SAT is never going to be fun, but we say this class is the most fun it can be,” Peter said.

Whether the Jeffreys will participate in the class next year is unknown.

“There may be a time when we can’t do it,” Jonathan said.

“In a few years we won’t be seen as recent Windsor High School graduates,” Peter said.

Each year more than 2 million students take the 3-hour, 45-minute SAT, which measures critical reading, math and writing.

There are multiple choice answers on the critical reading test, student provided answers on the math test and an essay on the writing test.

College admissions offices consider the test results and a student’s academic record proven indicators of college success.

SAT scores range between 200 and 800 points, with average scores in 2012 of 496 on the critical reading test, 514 on the math and 488 on the writing test.

Eighty percent of the students finish nearly the entire test, and almost all students complete at least 75 percent of the questions.


Writer Spotlight

James Lanaras is our Windsor correspondent.
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