The college admissions process can be an imposing prospect for students and families alike—a frenzy of college visits, standardized tests, and the all-important personal essay. For many, this process formally begins in 11th grade, the most common time that students begin to prepare for and take either the SAT or ACT. In truth, though, preparing for these tests—and for college in general—begins much earlier. Beginning in elementary school, every reading assignment and math test primes students for what’s to come. And while we don’t advocate for excessive, long-term test prep, we can’t stress enough the importance of supplementing and building upon the skills students are already learning in school.
In fact, our new Brainiacs Enrichment and PSAT Reading and Rhetoric Lab courses are designed to give 5th-10th graders opportunities to further hone foundational critical reading and writing skills that will serve them well not only on the standardized tests they’ll eventually take, but also throughout high school, college, and beyond.
Here are the top 3 ways enrichment courses can benefit your child:
1. Build critical reading and writing skills
Our 8-week Brainiacs courses and 4-week PSAT sessions are modeled more like seminars or English courses than traditional test prep classes. In each class, students read and analyze nonfiction and fiction works under the guidance of expert teachers. Over the course of each class, students get the opportunity to practice writing about their ideas and incorporating textual evidence, all while learning about literary and rhetorical strategies, historical context, and grammatical rules.
2. Prepare students for each section of the ACT, SAT, and PSAT
The SAT unveiled its redesigned test in March 2016, and among various changes, perhaps the most noticeable difference was the increased emphasis on reading—even in the math section. As the New York Times explains, “Chief among the changes, experts say: longer and harder reading passages and more words in math problems.”
Trading vocabulary for reading comprehension, the SAT now includes challenging passages from the realms of science, social science, literature, and politics, with the latter two often drawn from 18th- and 19th-century sources. Similarly, the ACT features passages from fiction, social science, humanities, and natural science.
3. Expose students to a variety of important texts
Keeping this focus on critical reading in mind, our enrichment and PSAT courses expose students to a variety of important fiction and nonfiction works, giving them the opportunity to practice reading, analyzing, and writing about the types of texts and ideas they’ll encounter on the tests and in college.
This summer’s Brainiacs students will read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen to name a few.
PSAT Reading and Rhetoric Lab students will read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, complemented by Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Atul Gawande’s Better respectively.
Thus, while formal preparation for the SAT or ACT and college admissions typically begins at the end of high school, it’s never too early to equip students with the foundational critical reading and writing skills necessary to succeed.