Choose Framingham caught up with Neil Chyten, founder and president of Framingham-based Chyten, a company with decades of experience in tutoring, test preparation and college preparation. Chyten founded the company in 1984, and relocated the headquarters of the 70 person company to Framingham a little over a year ago. As the new school year approaches, Neil Chyten discusses what parents should be doing to position their middle and high school-aged children to attend the college of their choice in an increasingly competitive college acceptance environment.
What’s the most important thing for parents and students to know going into the new school year?
Parents and students should recognize the importance of advanced planning when it comes to preparing for the SAT and/or ACT. Families should look at the entire school year calendar and recognize how their child’s activities factor into test-taking and test preparation time. This applies to students of almost any age.
While rules vary for the ACT and SAT, virtually every college in the country allows students to submit their highest test scores. Students should plan well in advance, allowing ample time to determine which test they will take and possibly take it more than once. Younger students should be building the writing, reading and study skills that will affect their test scores in the future. Chyten offers classes that help students advance in all of these areas.
In what grade should young people start preparing for college, and what should they be doing at different ages?
Reading, writing and math skills are incredibly important, but colleges also place a high premium on involvement in the community, at school and in the workforce – activities that demonstrate a hardworking, dedicated individual.
As early as seventh and eighth grade, students should begin making community connections, boosting their reading and writing skills, and ensuring they are on track to take advantage of advanced placement courses in high school. If your child is looking to apply to private high schools, then preparation for doing so should occur in these grades as well.
In ninth grade, students should be engaged in organizations in which they can advance to leadership roles and develop public speaking skills. Colleges look favorably at students who are deeply engaged in organizations, so the emphasis should be on quality, not quantity, when it comes to community engagement. A student meaningfully involved in a single cause or activity is more appealing than one who jumped around from activities year after year.
Should students be taking the SAT or the ACT?
Students should take whichever test is best suited to their skills. Chyten offers an SAT versus ACT comparison test that helps students identify the test with which their skills most closely align. Students who do well on both tests could gain a competitive advantage by submitting both scores on college applications. Chyten also offers an ACT/SAT combination class for students interested in preparing for both.
What’s the best way to ensure that students enjoy learning?
Many people believe that beginning college and test preparation at younger ages is too much for students, but in my experience, it actually eases the process tremendously. Spreading test preparation out over a number of years and ensuring that students build the skills they need to excel over time greatly reduces pressure. Waiting until junior year of high school to begin planning is more likely to be stressful and overwhelming for students.
Students are more likely to enjoy activities at which they excel, and early preparation allows you to identify your child’s passions and use them to drive success in all areas.
What trends in test-taking and college acceptance should parents, students and educators be aware of?
One significant trend is a move toward test-optional schools. Students should not confuse “optional” with “not accepted.” Sending impressive test scores to a test-optional college will give students a competitive advantage compared to those who have not submitted scores at all.
Another major trend has been advanced by a Harvard University report called Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions. This report has been the drive for a coalition looking to enhance the focus on ethical engagement in college applications, while reducing pressure and leveling the playing field. The advancement of this movement has led colleges to give more weight to what students have done in their spare time to make the world a better place.