At Let's Get Ready, a New York City-based nonprofit providing SAT prep and college-admissions guidance to about 4,000 students throughout the Northeast each year, we look forward to taking advantage of these tools. However, we also know that technology is not a panacea. Many low-income students and the schools they attend do not have easy access to high-speed Internet service or computer labs. Some students are working part-time. Others often lack college role models or basic information about the admissions and financial-aid processes. But blend Khan's training materials with a network of people who are there to help and you'll see an in-class experience that produces even better results than just an online course. That blend is precisely what the parents of more affluent students have been able to purchase.
At Let's Get Ready, we understand the power of SAT tutoring and practice. Our program has substantially raised SAT scores for low-income students. LGR students increase their SAT scores by an average of 115 points, in addition to gaining foundational reading, writing, and math skills needed in college.
We also know that there is no substitute for people who care. At its core, that is what Let's Get Ready offers with its annual engagement of 1,300 passionate volunteer college coaches. The organization trains volunteer college students to tutor and mentor local high school students — a "near-peer" model — on college-admissions guidance and intensive SAT prep in small group settings. With personalized attention from college students who have just gone through the college-admissions process, Let's Get Ready students feel special and uniquely empowered.
These coaches are often the very first college students our program participants have ever met. Students receive calls and texts before and after every session and work in small classes of no more than five students per college coach. They receive encouragement and preparation for a new, unfamiliar world of college that often takes them away from family and friends. It's a model that offers benefits to both sides. Coaches get work experience, leadership training, and an increased commitment to public service.
Consider Gideon Aderemi, a high school student from the Bronx. Prior to his experience with Let's Get Ready he had no idea how the college-application process worked. He was worried about financial aid, paying tuition, and getting a high enough score on the SAT. But with Let's Get Ready's assistance Gideon is now a senior majoring in engineering at NYU Polytechnic Institute. In Gideon's own words, "Let's Get Ready makes a difference in the lives of its students by making them realize that there is support out there. That there is always someone looking out for you."
Along with expanded, free access to online training tools, the SAT's new emphasis on the essential skills students need to succeed in higher education should also be lauded. Of course, it remains to be seen how this new test pans out, but Coleman deserves credit for trying to tie the test to what's required in college. At Let's Get Ready we second that effort with a new College Success Initiative to ensure college graduation — not just acceptance or attendance.