Just thinking about the college admissions process is enough to drive many parents to the doctor in search of a Xanax prescription.
There are SATs (actually, there are also PSATs which can be more important than the “P” for “preliminary” may imply), ACTs, the Common App, essays, campus visits, interviews. Parents of high school juniors and seniors, with glazed deer-in-the-headlight eyes, compare notes in the grocery store, on the sidelines of sporting events, in the auditorium lobby after concerts and plays – anytime a kindred spirit can be found to compare notes, share war stories, and trade survival tips.
Sometimes parents yearn for a big sister or brother, someone who has already successfully deciphered the mysteries of the SAT Subject Tests (called “Achievement Tests” in the old days), to show them the way. Conard’s PTO, which has sponsored a parent panel on college admissions for many years, has this year added a parent panel on navigating Conard High School to assist.
But sometimes, parents want and need the advice of a professional.
“I can be your knowledge base for inside information,” says Michael Youmans, Ph.D., aka “Dr. Yo,” who has built a local successful college preparation business mostly through word-of-mouth referrals, and by delivering results.
Youmans, a West Hartford native, prides himself on his ability to connect with kids. He talks to them about sports (he’s even running a just-for-fun free fantasy football league right now for his students), music, books, movies, or whatever else interests them. He also connects with the parents by taking away many of their stressors through his calm and methodical approach.
“We’ll get you into a better school,” Youmans tells his students. And he means it.
The Harvard, Oxford, and Boston College-educated owner of CollegePrepExpress, who has a background as a high school teacher, is passionate about his business. “I don’t rest until I get them into the best possible school,” he says emphatically. He measures the success of his work not by the higher SAT and ACT scores his clients achieve (although many of the testimonials on his website indicate impressive “off-the-charts” results) but by the acceptance letters, and the scholarship monies, his students receive.
“Colleges look at three criteria,” says Youmans. “The student’s grades, test scores, and application packaging.” He can work with students on any, or all, of those.
CollegePrepExpress provides tutoring in any subject, a variety of test preparation regimens, and customized assistance for all phases of the application process. Youmans says his “infectious enthusiasm” gets through to many students, carrying over into their work in the classroom.
He also specializes in students who are interested in playing college sports.
“It’s important to have early contact with college coaches,” Youmans says. If you think you’d like to play a sport at the inter-collegiate level, reach out to the coach before you visit the school, he says. Although NCAA rules are rigid and limit coaches’ opportunities to contact prospective athletes, students can contact coaches at any time.
Youmans recommends that student-athletes show the depth of commitment to a sport as well. “If you love soccer, volunteer as a coach, referee games, or help out with a Unified Sports soccer team,” he says.
Success is evident in the stories of CollegePrepExpress grads like Teddy Monyak, Conard ‘13, a freshman chemical engineering major at USC. Monyak was also accepted at several Ivy League and other top universities, but chose USC in part because he got a full academic scholarship.
Toby Casper, a senior at The Westminster School has been working with CollegePrepExpress for two years. “Mike has a way of connecting with the kids,” says his mom, Jane Casper. “Toby listens to Mike and he has a way of motivating the kids that we parents could never achieve.”
Emily Weinstein, Conard ‘13, now attends the University of Michigan and is thankful to CollegePrepExpress for working with her through the admissions process. “Mike helped Emily to understand how to approach the SAT and not be fearful of its content,” says Emily’s mother, Wendy Habelow. “Mike worked on strategies for Emily to apply to taking the test, and of course she took many practice tests with Mike prior to the actual,” Habelow said.
Although he received plenty of attention from colleges for his skill as a pitcher, Conard graduate Charlie Fisher knew how important it was to choose a college with a great academic reputation as well.
“Charlie is at an amazing school, Dickinson College. He was recruited heavily to play baseball by many schools, but in the end it was his grades and his ACT test scores that allowed him to attend this highly selective school,” says Charlie’s dad, Ted Fisher. “Mike played a huge part by working with Charlie on his essay and his prep work for the ACT, and he received a large scholarship from Dickinson. I encourage all parents of high schoolers to give Mike a call,” Fisher said.
After attending a CollegePrepExpress session, current Hall High School senior Jared Berson scored 34 on his ACT – just two points below a perfect score. Berson also attended CommonApp Boot Camp. His younger brother Matty, a Hall freshman, is already working with Youmans.
In today’s world, even parents of middle school students are thinking ahead, and Youmans doesn’t think that’s such a bad idea, especially since colleges are interested in the depth of an applicant’s commitment to an activity.
He loves to start with younger kids – 8th graders or even younger – on something he calls “academic wellness.” And although middle schoolers may not seem to care much about their studies, parents find that Youmans’ down-to-earth approach kindles a spark. He speaks to the kids on their own level, not as a parent whose ideas always seem “stupid” to a teen.
“I get the kids excited about learning,” Youmans says.
Youmans will present an overview of his approach to the college admissions process called “College Admissions Secrets for Parents and Teens” on Sept. 25 at Hall High School in West Hartford. For tickets visit http://collegeprepexpress.com/secrets-for-parents-and-teens or directly at https://www.whlifelearn.org/CourseCatalog/classView.asp?id=4862.
For a complete description of programs, visit the CollegePrepExpress website http://collegeprepexpress.com.