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Summer before your freshman year- What you should have done.

I wish I would have…….


Okay guys! It’s the summer before your freshman year. Its agonizingly long because you can’t wait to head off to college, it’s also painfully short because you know that  this is the last summer of your childhood. The hours are slow but the weeks are fast and before you know it you are trying to fit everything you own into one car, parting ways with some of your closest friends and starting a new and exciting chapter of your life.  So, what’s on your summer after high school bucket list? What are your “Must Do’s” before leaving home (possibly for good)?

I’m going to throw this question out there to those who have just gone through it-

College Students-

What do you wish you would have done during the summer before your freshman year? These incoming freshmen need all the help they can get- let’s make sure they arrive on campus with no regrets!0523l

We’ll pick a few of our favorite comments and message you to send you a gift card of your choosing!



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SAT Tips for Parents: What you must do to prepare your kids for test day!

Three tips for parents to help boost their child’s SAT score


The last few weeks before the SAT exam are often some of the most stressful for students. It’s during this time that I begin to get a lot of phone calls and texts from parents trying to get their child some last-minute tutoring on the exam.  Don’t get me wrong, some help, even last minute help, is better than no help at all. It’s great that parents want to help their child boost their score. In fact, nine out of ten times I get the same question from a parent, “I know this is last-minute, but is there anything that we as parents can do to help (insert child’s name here) to prepare for the exam?”
Actually, there are a few things that parents can do! Here are three suggestions to help your child reduce stress and boost their SAT score.
1. Sleep – Numerous studies have shown that when we get more sleep we perform better.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if your child is well-rested, he/she will be more prepared for the exam.  Typically,  adolescents need between eight and nine hours of sleep each night. Ideally this would be great, but sadly, most teens don’t even come close to this much time sleeping.
To make up for the lack of sleep, many students tell me that they are going to go to bed at 8 PM the night before the exam. I usually ask, “When is your normal bedtime?” If their answer isn’t within 30 minutes of 8 PM I tell them, “Why bother?”
In order for your body to adapt to a new schedule/rhythm, it takes about 7-10 days.
So, parents, what can you do to help?
Starting about two weeks before the exam, children should go to sleep a bit earlier.  How much earlier? I would start small, say 15 to 20 minutes earlier the first couple of nights. Then they should begin to work their way up to 30 minutes or so the last week of the exam. By the time the exam rolls around, they will have gained several hours of more sleep.  By the way, when I say sleep, I mean sleep. That does not mean laying in bed staring at a phone or tablet for an hour or so.
2.  Homework/projects/tests – So often, I hear students complaining that they have a major project or test due the Monday after the exam. Furthermore, they tell me that  they haven’t even started studying for the upcoming test or haven’t even looked at the project. Now they begin to worry about school work and become distracted thus losing focus on the exam.
 photo-1452830978618-d6feae7d0ffa (1)
 So, parents, what can you do to help?
Simple, help your child plan out their work ahead of time. If they know that they will have a test or project due early next week, you could help them begin to tackle the work well in advance of the exam. Knocking out large parts of a project or looking over the material for an upcoming exam will lower stress and help them focus on the task at hand -– the SAT exam! Besides, now they have completed the work that they had to do anyway. It’s a win-win.
3.  Supplies – the night before the exam all of the test-taking supplies (printed test ticket number two pencils, calculator, etc.) should be ready to go. A complete list of what to bring (and not to bring) can be found at https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/taking-the-test/test-day-checklist  Please, never assume anything. I once had a student tell me that his high school allowed students to sign out graphing calculators the day before the exam. Everything was great until he tried turning on the calculator–dead batteries. Never, assume anything.
So, parents, what can you do to help?
Before your child goes to bed on Friday night make sure all of the College Board checklist items are in the same place.  That way they can just pick up and go.
These tips seem small, but they can really go a long way in reducing your child’s stress levels.  Remember, SAT day should be all about lowering stress.  Although these tips seem small, they can really go a long way to help lower anxiety and boost confidence.
Look for my upcoming post on stress-reducing tips on the day of the exam. Good luck!
Lou Blair is a high school social studies teacher and a private SAT tutor. He has been teaching & tutoring for twenty years. 

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Planning for Life After High School



With graduation only a few weeks away I’m starting to say goodbye to the seniors in each of my classes. Invariably, talk turns to college and future plans. I have noticed over the years that when it comes to students’ telling me about their future plans they usually fall into two categories:  The students who have a game plan and are moving forward putting that plan into action or the students who don’t seem to have a clue about their futures. 

It’s a scary thought to have to make such big career decisions so early in life. Think about it, the decisions you make from ages 15-18 can affect the rest of your entire life. So often I hear many of my students say, “what if I make the wrong decision?”

Here are a few things that students can do to help ensure the decision they make is the right one.  Ask yourself:suit_businessman

1.  What are your goals?  For example, is making lots of money your goal?  If so, something like social work may not be the occupation for you. Don’t get me wrong, social work is a great job with many intrinsic rewards, but it is a profession that usually does not pay very well.  By figuring out what you want (money, flexible hours, being your own boss, etc.) you can to begin heading in the right direction.
2.  What are you good at doing?  That is, what are your natural talents?  For example, I love talking with people.  I can start a conversation with just about anyone. However, if you were to put me in a cubicle in front of a computer all day, I think I would have a breakdown.  So, it seems, the office life is not for me. 1YE1LLNXGB
Here’s another example about my skill set. I can’t draw–at all. So I hate to say it, but a career as an artist is probably not for me.
3.  What do you like to do?  Think about the things you like to do. I know, I know, it sounds silly. But if you think about it, shouldn’t your career be something you like doing?  It sounds so simple, but so many people are unhappy with their jobs.  Make a list of all of the things you like to do and cross reference it with the things that you are good at doing. Where you find the overlap is where you should begin your search.
Of course if you’re really not sure, you could always take an interest inventory to get started.  There are dozens of online interest inventories. One inventory I have suggested before is the O*net interest inventory at  https://www.onetonline.org/  Take your time & be honest with yourself. Only you really know the answers to the questions about your future. Good luck!
Lou Blair is a high school social studies teacher and a private SAT tutor. He has been teaching & tutoring for twenty years. 

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Six Tips for Finding the Best SAT Tutor


As my twentieth year of teaching draws to a close, I am beginning to get phone calls about summer SAT tutoring. With school out for a few months, summer is the perfect time to prepare for the October SAT exam.  One call I recently received was from an old friend from high school who now lives in Texas. Although I would be honored to tutor her daughter, living in Pennsylvania poses a problem.  During our recent conversation, she asked, “Since you are unable to tutor my daughter in person this summer, what should I look for when I hire a private SAT tutor?”
That is a really good question.  I told her I needed to think about it and I would get back to her. Here’s what I came up with:

1.  Credentials– A private tutor should be a certified teacher with all of the updated clearances. In Pennsylvania all licensed teachers must have the FBI, Pennsylvania State Police, & child abuse clearances. Of course these are not necessary for a tutor, but it’s nice to know the person coming to your house to work with your child has the proper clearances.

2.  Experience-  A private tutor should have some experience under their belt before you hire them. Yes it’s true you have to start somewhere, but for a test as important as the SATs, you really want to hire a tutor who is very knowledgeable about the exam. In addition, an experienced tutor should have worked with many different types of students.  Usually a good tutor has worked in the area for a while. Ask your friends with high school age children if they have heard of any good private tutors. Many times, one or more of your friends have hired a private tutor already.


3.  Knowledgeable- A private tutor should not only have experience, but solid content knowledge too. They should have in depth knowledge about the basics about the exam (number of questions, number of sections, how often it’s given, etc.). In addition, they should have multiple strategies to attack the questions for various types of learners.

4.  Flexibility- A private tutor should not only have extensive knowledge about the exam, but they should know what type of students they are working with.  A good tutor is sensitive to the needs of all of their students. Some are struggling learners who need all of the help (and patience) they can get, while others are highly gifted and only need a refresher. I can usually tell within a session or two how much work we will need to get a student the score they need. photo-1435527173128-983b87201f4d
5.  Reliability- a tutor should also be sensitive to your schedule & to make the time for tutoring. One of the reasons tutoring works is in its consistency. Tutors that keep canceling or rescheduling appointments are a red flag. I get that things happen, but if they can’t be there to help your child succeed, find another tutor.
6.  Friendliness– this one sounds trivial, but it’s important. A tutor should develop a good rapport with a child right away. Preparing for the SAT can be a long & tedious process.  Having a good rapport with a child can make the sessions spent together worth the time & money. Children who do not like or get along with their tutor can hinder progress.  I find using a bit of humor (especially at the expense of the College Board) can go a long way to building rapport. shutterstock_319175864

Ultimately, the decision is yours, and you need to feel comfortable with that decision. Before you invest the time and money in a private tutor, do your homework to find the best fit for your child. Good luck!

Lou Blair is a high school social studies teacher and a private SAT tutor. He has been teaching & tutoring for twenty years.

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What “Type” of College Should You Pick?

Ever wonder what the difference between a College and a University is?  What about Public or Private institutions? Here’s a little summary that we typically review with new clients who are in the process of determining the best college fit for themselves. If this helps you please leave a comment.  If you have any questions you would like to have answered please leave it on the contact form.

Types of Colleges

1D180509DF Public

Also known as “State Schools”. These school receive public funding from state and federal governments.  The tuition is usually lower than that of a private college. Students who live “In-State” receive a tuition discount.

There are 14 “State Schools” in Pennsylvania.

Local Examples include:

Millersville, Kutztown, and Lock Haven University.



Private colleges rely on tuition, fees, and donations for their funding. Private schools are usually more expensive than State schools, however “Endowments and donations allow them to grant significant financial aid packages. Because of this there are occasions where a Private school with a higher tuition may end up costing you less than a State school with a lower price tag.

There are over 100 private colleges in Pennsylvania alone. With several ranking among the nations “Best” Colleges.

Local Examples include:

Ursinus, Messiah, West Chester, and Alvernia

1AA9897112Community colleges

Community Colleges offer two-year associate degrees that prepare you to transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree. They also offer other associate degrees and certificates that focus on preparing you for a certain career. Community colleges are often an affordable option with relatively low tuition. Community colleges are a good financial choice if you don’t have your heart set on the “Typical” four year college experience, if you would like to commute, or if your high school grades were not high enough to get into a four year college right away.  Many students elect to attend a Community College to take their general requirements, and then transfer to a four year school.  You must be very careful to make sure all of your credits are transferable, and match the Gen Ed requirements of the four year school of your choice.

Liberal Arts Colleges

A Strong LIberal arts college is a good choice if you are not 100% certain of your major, or future career goals. A liberal arts education is considered to be “Well Rounded”, meaning that while selecting a major you are also being education in “General Educational Requirements”. For instance; even if you want to study Art; you ,most likely, will still have to take a foreign language class, and a history, or religion requirement. “General Education Requirements” vary from school to school. Many schools with a religious affiliation require more biblical studies than schools that have more of a liberal reputation.

These colleges offer a broad base of courses in the liberal arts, which includes areas such as literature, history, languages, mathematics and life sciences. Most are private and offer four-year programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree. These colleges can prepare you for a variety of careers or for graduate study.

These colleges offer a broad base of courses in the liberal arts, which includes areas such as literature, history, languages, mathematics and life sciences. Most are private and offer four-year programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree. These colleges can prepare you for a variety of careers or for graduate study.


Four-year colleges offer four-year programs that lead to a bachelor’s degree. These include universities and liberal arts colleges.


Two-year colleges offer programs that last up to two years that lead to a certificate or an associate degree. These include community colleges, vocational-technical colleges and career colleges


Universities often are larger and offer more majors and degree options—bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees—than colleges. Most universities contain several smaller colleges, such as colleges of liberal arts, engineering or health sciences. These colleges can prepare you for a variety of careers or for graduate study. Admission procedures are typically the same for Universities and Colleges.

Vocational-technical and career colleges

Vocational/ Technical schools offer specialized training in a particular industry or career. Possible programs of study include the culinary arts, firefighting, dental hygiene and medical-records technology. These colleges usually offer certificates or associate degrees.

Check out https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges/how-find-your-college-fit


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