Frequently Asked Questions

Getting started with Hamilton

What classes will Mr. Hamilton be teaching?
Mr. Hamilton is overseeing the entire Summer program and is being highly selective with the faculty that will be accompanying him. He will be teaching the Critical Reading section of the 1600 | 36 Goal and Weekend Master Class; however, he may drop in for an occasional instruction for the Boot Camp class and can be available to students as needed.
How many teachers do you have?
Mr. Hamilton has hired dozens of teachers over the course of many years for a variety of test prep courses. We currently have experienced and qualified teachers for the Summer program.
Does the tuition cover the cost of materials?
Yes, the Summer program tuition includes practice tests, worksheets, binders, backpacks, etc.
Do you have ACT prep classes?
We currently offer several ACT prep classes. Our Spring Target ACT classes are an a la carte option for students preparing specifically for the ACT. Our Summer H3 program prepares students for the SAT, ACT and PSAT.
Do I have to have a consultation/why are consultations necessary?
Consultations allow us to get to know your student and recommend which of our programs would be best suited for them. It also gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about our company, our teachers, and our various classes.
How long are consultation meetings?
Initial consultation meetings are typically 30-45 minutes long. Students should attend the meeting with a parent or guardian. To schedule an initial consultation appointment, please call (858) 436-7220 (Carmel Valley), 858-521-8181 (4S Ranch), or email
Is there a fee for consultations?
There is no fee for the initial consultation appointment – this is merely a way for our counselors to get to know the student and answer any specific questions the student or family may have. Upon registration, there is a one-time non-refundable registration fee of $50 per household.
How much do your programs cost?
Program costs are published on our program schedules, which are updated on a seasonal basis. You may view our schedules in detail by visiting a program page and downloading the PDF.
Why do I need to take the diagnostic PSAT?
The PSAT provides us with an idea of your student’s foundational skills. When we know their overall and breakdown scores, we can see which areas they are struggling with and which areas they are excelling in. The score also allows us to recommend which of our courses would best benefit your student. We want all students to be in a classroom with similarly-scoring students to ensure that no one feels the class is moving too fast or too slow.
Can my student just come in and take a diagnostic test?

We are happy to administer a diagnostic test for your student if they do not have a current PSAT, SAT, or ACT score report available.

Students who are incoming 9th and 10th graders will be administered a PSAT diagnostic test, which takes about three hours.

We do ask that students take a diagnostic test prior to coming in for a counseling appointment. To schedule a time to take a diagnostic test, please call (858) 436-7220 (Carmel Valley), 858-521-8181 (4S Ranch), or email

When should I start college application prep for my student?

We recommend starting the College Applications Program in the middle of 11th grade. We encourage our students who want to work long term to begin with one of our classes that best suits their needs.

PSAT, SAT, and the SAT Subject Tests

What is the difference between the SAT and the ACT? Why should I study for both?

In 2016, the College Board redesigned the SAT, resulting in a test that is 95% concordant with the ACT. The skills being tested by both, therefore, overlap significantly. There are, however, some distinctions between the two tests:

The SAT includes four sections: Critical Reading, Writing and Language, Math (no calculator), and Math (with a calculator), followed by an optional essay section. The Critical Reading section includes passages from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Math sections are more algebra focused.

The ACT includes four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science, followed by an optional essay section. The timing of the ACT is faster than that of the SAT. The Math section includes a significant number of geometry questions.

Hamilton Education offers the H3 Program, preparing students for three exams – the SAT, ACT, and PSAT – in a single effort using a skills-based approach. Often, simply looking at the test or even a diagnostic test is not enough to determine which test a student will perform better on. In fact, we’ve had dozens of students who were initially against taking–or studying for–the ACT goes on to earn perfect scores on that test. Furthermore, students who know they prefer the ACT will still take the PSAT in the fall of their 11th-grade year, and this test could lead to significant financial aid for college.

Nearly every college accepts both the ACT and the SAT, which suggests that, according to college admissions officers at least, there is no substantive difference between the difficulty level of each test.

What is the difference between the PSAT and the SAT?

The PSAT and the SAT are very similar to one another, but there are a few key differences. College Board assumes that students taking the PSAT are just starting their junior year, so the math is relatively easier. Students taking the SAT are assumed to have completed their junior year, so the math is a bit harder (up to Algebra II). The SAT also includes an essay writing component, which the PSAT does not.

The PSAT is slightly shorter, taking students about two and a half hours, whereas the SAT takes about three hours. Lastly, the PSAT is meant to provide a preview of the SAT and is not considered in the college application process. However, in the student’s junior year, the PSAT doubles as the National Merit Qualifying Scholarship Test, which is used to determine student eligibility for certain kinds of financial aid.

Why is the essay optional? Who looks at the essay?

Making the essay optional brings the SAT into line with the ACT. Some colleges care about the essay and some don’t. Currently, many highly competitive schools require that you write the essay if you submit ACT or SAT scores. But if you’re not applying to one of these schools, writing the essay may well be a waste of your time and money. (Because essays must be graded by humans, it’s much more expensive to give an essay exam than one that is purely multiple choice.) As for who looks at the essay, the answer is often no one other than the graders who score it. The essays are available for admissions officers to look at if they so choose. In reality, though, admissions officers will rarely look beyond the score. They are busy enough already, and few of them will take the time to look at another writing sample unless there is some compelling reason. One circumstance in which they might want to read the essay would be if the application essays seemed suspiciously polished, perhaps written by someone other than the student. The SAT or ACT essay can provide a comparison in this case.

When should I start preparing for the SAT or ACT?

The earliest Hamilton Education enrolls students for the SAT/ACT program is after they have completed their sophomore year in high school. The student’s schedule, including school, exams, and extracurricular activities, will also be taken into consideration when finding the right SAT/ACT prep program for him or her. For many students, summer or winter break is a great time to study for the SAT/ACT because there are less distraction and more time to devote to prep.

Each student is different and should discuss with parents and counselors when the best time to begin this process is.

What is the difference between the SAT Subject Test and the SAT?

The SAT is a widely-used college admissions test that covers Critical Reading, Writing, and Math. The test is three hours and 45 minutes. The SAT Subject Test tests a student’s knowledge in five different areas – English, history, languages, mathematics, and science – through 20 different tests, each of which is one hour.

Subject Tests are meant to complement and enhance a student’s admissions package, highlighting the subjects in which a student excels. Where most colleges require applicants to take the SAT or ACT and report their scores, however, SAT Subject requirements differ from school to school. For example, the Subject Tests are no longer required for admission to the UCs but are nevertheless highly recommended.

Are Subject SAT tests required?

Depending on the school you apply to, Subject tests may or may not be required.

Many private schools will require students to submit two, or sometimes three Subject test scores with their college application.

Certain majors–Engineering, for instance–will require an SAT Subject score (SAT Math II, in the case of Engineering), whether or not the college, in general, requires it.

For the UCs, Subject tests are no longer required but are still highly recommended.

College Admissions

Is GPA the only thing that matters in college admissions?

No. Although grades and coursework are important components in college admissions, colleges examine students’ applications holistically, looking at grades, extracurricular activities, test scores, and the story that the student has to tell in the college admissions essay(s).

How important is the college admissions essay?

For just about every selective college or university, the admissions essay is a critical component in the overall “holistic” impression you make in your application package. While grades and test scores give the admissions officer a good sense of your academic preparedness, and the list of extracurriculars gives them a general impression of the depth and scope of your involvement in non-academic activities, it is the college essay that presents you as a full-fledged human being with a story. A good story will make a student “pop” off the page and stand out among the welter of equally strong candidates for admission. Your story will also tell the admissions officer how likely you are to not only leave your mark on campus, but also to go on and do great things after college. And every college, no matter how selective, wants to be able to say of students who go on to successfully lead, create, build, reform… “that’s our alum!”

How important are college rankings?

A college’s rank does not predict how happy you’ll be there or how successful you’ll be after. What it predicts is the response of your peers when you tell them, “I got into ____!” or the envy the person behind you on the freeway will feel when they see your sticker from ____ University on your windshield. What it predicts, too, is probably how rich and old the college happens to be. It does not predict whether it’s the right place for you to pursue your academic or creative interests. Only research into each school you’re interested in will tell you that (and campus visits are pretty important too).

In short, take the rankings with a grain of salt. After all, there are several different rankings lists produced by several different companies and organizations based on several different criteria. Don’t get hung up on the rankings game.

How do I get more answers about college admissions?

Many of the admissions requirements that each college has are described on their web pages. To discuss specific questions in regard to your student and his or her admissions process, please call (858) 436-7220 or email to reach our Carmel Valley office, so that we may better assist you and schedule a college counseling appointment if necessary.

Why does the PSAT in 11th grade matter?

The 11th grade PSAT is what can qualify students for the National Merit Scholarship, if they do well on the test. This could give them a decent amount of money for college and prestige that continues on past the collegiate application process.

How do I enroll my student in your classes?

All of our enrollments must be done through our offices, either in person, over the phone, or via email. This is done so that parents and students are able to ask questions about scheduling, missed classes, and payment methods. Once your student has had a consultation with us, our front office can assist you with enrollments.

How do I register?

Before registration into a program at Hamilton Education, all students will need to meet with one of our counselors for an initial 30 – 45 minute consultation appointment.

At the time of the appointment, prospective test prep students will need to bring in an official PSAT, SAT, or ACT test score report, or take a diagnostic test prior to the consultation. Students wanting to register for an enrichment program will need to bring in a copy of their current report card. After the consultation appointment, students may register for the recommended program by communicating with one of the administrators about which program they would like to register.

To schedule an initial consultation appointment, please call (858) 436-7220 (Carmel Valley), 858-521-8181 (4S Ranch), or email

Can I start enrichment programs at any time?

During the school year, as long as the student has already had a consultation, students can join at any time. Parents will need to communicate with the front office staff when the student plans on starting. It is ideal for students in the monthly PSAT and Brainiacs programs to enroll at the start of the month.

For further questions or to register your student in one of our enrichment programs, please call (858) 436-7220 (Carmel Valley), 858-521-8181 (4S Ranch), or email

My student’s friends all want to be in the same class. Can we book them together?

Whenever possible, we try to fulfill these requests. However, depending on the counselor’s recommendations, students may or may not be enrolled in the same H3 Summer program and section as the student’s friends. We strive to help students be successful at Hamilton Education, which includes determining a class and a study plan that fits each student’s particular needs.

For further inquiries regarding programs and signups, please call (858) 436-7220 (Carmel Valley), 858-521-8181 (4S Ranch), or email

Can I register my student for the official SAT/ACT with you?

No, we aren’t associated with either the SAT or the ACT, so you can’t register for either test through our office. However, you can register for those tests here:

College Board


If you do not already have a login, you will need to create a College Board account on the website prior to registering for the exam. You can also find the registration deadlines and test dates on the website.

Can your tutors come to my house to work with my students?

No, but we do offer tutoring at both our Carmel Valley and 4S Ranch offices. We also offer tutoring with the same tutors and curriculum online.

Who are your teachers?

Hamilton Education’s teachers have all received Bachelor’s degrees in their respective fields, and the majority are working towards or have already received a postgraduate degree (Master’s or Ph.D.) in their field. Hamilton Education is committed to excellence in learning, and our selection and training of teachers reflect this core principle.

How do I get in contact with my student’s tutors?

To contact our teachers, all parents and students are welcome to email to reach your student’s teacher. Our front office staff will ensure that all messages will be forwarded to our teachers.

How are my kids doing in classes? How do I get a progress update?

Summer programs will have progress reports sent out at the mid-way point and private tutors provide notes on progress and class instruction after every session.

If you have specific questions regarding your student’s progress please call (858) 436-7220 (Carmel Valley), 858-521-8181 (4S Ranch), or email

What materials do you use?

Hamilton Education uses a combination of purchased and original materials, for both enrichment and test preparation programs.

Where are the classes held?

All classes, counseling appointments, and private tutoring appointments are held at the Hamilton Education offices in Carmel Valley and 4S Ranch. Our H3 summer classes are held at the Carmel Valley office, Canyon Crest Academy, and Del Norte High School.

Why does Hamilton Education offer so many different programs for SAT/ACT prep?

Hamilton Education recognizes that each student is different and therefore learns differently and has different schedules and times that they can devote to preparing for the SAT and/or ACT. Our various programs require different time commitments from each student, although the materials and the quality of teaching remain the same, regardless of the program.

Because each student is different, it is important for our counselors to meet with the student and a parent or guardian prior to registration. For questions regarding specific differences among our various programs, please call (858) 436-7220 (Carmel Valley), 858-521-8181 (4S Ranch), or email