Being a teenager is difficult enough without being transplanted to a new school, to a new country, into a language and culture that is very different from the one you grew up with. My personal experience as an immigrant adjusting to a new school was studded with embarrassment and struggle, so tutoring immigrant teens for the SAT was a cause I felt strongly about. I also knew that going to college – outside of its academic merit – would help them gain the social skills and self-confidence they would need to ease their assimilation.
Over the course of my two academic years volunteering with the New York Cares SAT program, I had the opportunity of working with two groups of three students. While I thought this would be more challenging than having just a single student, I found that the group dynamic really helped me teach the material, especially in situations where I was having problems giving a good explanation. One of the other students would usually help explain it to their classmate.
The students at Manhattan International High School were an incredibly diverse group. They all came from a variety of countries, and it was fascinating to watch their interactions. The SAT is a challenging test, and all the students were incredibly smart; all they needed was a guide to take them through the test and explain how to approach it. We covered a variety of math and English topics, and the students wrote a handful of essays over the course of the academic year. Using a series of practice tests administered by the school and graded by Kaplan, I was able to see my students improve and figure out what I should focus on in upcoming lessons.
We also had frequent general discussions about college, and I was able to give them advice and suggestions on how to approach the application process and college life itself. By the end of the academic year, I could see a clear difference in how the students approached and performed on the test. I could also tell that the idea of going to college became less difficult for them; they could see themselves succeeding. I think that confidence may have been the biggest benefit I could have given them.
By Rafal Cebula
If you’d like to sign up to be an SAT tutor, there’s still time. Sign up today.