high school

Why is Staten Island Technical High School Arguably the Best High School in NYC?

I admit, as a Stuyvesant High School alum, I was kind of disappointed when my daughter decided to check off Staten Island Technical High School as her number one choice before she took the SHSATs. You must pick one high school, and if you score high enough, that is the school you will attend, no changing of minds. I had worked so hard to try to get her ready for the SHSATs: three years before the test, I took her to Kaplan in Manhattan, and then every weekend, I hired a private tutor to hone her math and English skills. The tutoring was not for naught, because she was able to get straight As in class as well as score a near-perfect score on the SAT. I just kind of wished that she could have attended Stuy like I did. But– is Stuy really the best high school in NY? It is in Manhattan, and Manhattan is supposed to be the best, right? However, for kids who do not live in Manhattan, the commute is terrible. Why subject a young teen to four hours of commuting everyday?

Unfortunately, Stuyvesant is near the World Trade Center, which has been the target of at least three terrorist attacks. In 2017, someone even ran his car across the pedestrian walkway near Stuy, killing and injuring many. For this reason, Stuy will always be more dangerous than other high schools in the other boroughs. As for traffic, a Stuy kid can cross the pedestrian bridge to cross the West Side Highway to get to the high school. A kid from Brooklyn who takes the S79 bus to get to Staten Island Tech will need to cross Hylan Boulevard to go home.

Staten Island Tech has some excellent athletic facilities right on campus, including a football field, track, and tennis court. Being in Manhattan, Stuy’s space is more vertical, with many floors in the building, each dedicated to a specific topic like math and science. Of course, Stuy’s Olympic pool is very special and Tech does not have a pool.

The competition at Stuy is fierce; more so than at any other school. Seems like your kid will constantly be competing with others in the class. However, college admissions officers might be more inclined to accept a student from Stuy due to past acceptances. Staten Island is also competitive, but not as bad as Stuy. But isn’t the goal to aim high and see where you land? If your goal is Stuy, then go for it. After all, Stuy is a feeder school to Harvard. Stuyvesant probably gets more students than Staten Island Tech into the elite schools. However, the competition is stiff, and your kid would be way more stressed out all the time. The two things you must do to help your kid get into an Ivy are: hire a professional college coach and spend money on tutoring. The competition is so stiff nowadays, you need a strategy for applying to schools. Even if schools don’t require SAT scores, tutoring is key to scoring high grades in class.

What if you are undecided and your goal is just to get into a specialized high school? Should you just pick the school you really want to attend? We asked Kenny Tan, an SHSAT tutor in New York City, and he replied:

Students are ranked according to their score on the test and assigned to a school depending on their rank, the priority in which they placed schools on their application, and the seats available at each school.

The cutoff score for a school changes from year to year depending on how the test takers perform that year. Students are ranked from highest to lowest score. The student with the highest score always gets their first choice. Then the next student gets their first choice and so on and so. If, by the time the system gets to you, your first choice school is full, then you’ll get your 2nd choice, unless that one is also full, then you’ll get your 3rd choice unless that one is also full, and so on and so on. The cutoff score for a school is whatever score the last student that gets admitted into that school scored.

Not all students who took the SHSAT will get an offer to a testing Specialized High School, and the Specialized High Schools do not have waitlists.

Kenny Tan, SHSAT Tutor

The moral of the story is that the SHSAT is like musical chairs, and if you do not choose your first choice wisely, you might not wind up with a seat!

Secret Backdoors to the Ivy League

A secret we learned from a college admissions counselor who charges tens of thousands of dollars is that you should always try to apply to the less popular majors, so you have less competition. Everyone wants to go to Wharten for finance, so apply to Penn for art, and you will have a higher chance of getting in. Our Ivy League Moms Club also have reported the following secret backdoors into Penn:

Penn Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS)—Lower admission standards but you graduate with a Bachelor’s degree from Penn

Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) combination degree with Penn —If your child is into fine arts, then the PAFA/Upenn joint degree is perfect. PAFA is a top fine arts college and you go there for three years and apply to Penn to complete your Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree at Upenn. Acceptance into Penn is not guaranteed (they have criteria you need to meet), but it is a way in if you want to major in art. What can you do with a BFA? Lots of careers: Curator of a museum, garllerist, architect, designer, animator, etc.

The Columbia School of General Studies—for students who have been out of school for a year or so, who would like to go back to school

Columbia University School of General Studies (GS) is the only college of its kind created to meet the needs of returning and nontraditional students seeking a rigorous, traditional, Ivy League undergraduate degree full or part time. 

When you join us, you’ll become a fully integrated member of the global Columbia undergraduate community and learn from world-renowned faculty. You’ll be guided by dedicated academic advisors experienced in supporting nontraditional students and have access to extensive research-backed support programs.

Columbia School of General Studies website

The Yale University Whitney Program

The Yale Admissions website states:

Students are eligible to apply to the Eli Whitney Students Program if they do not already hold bachelor’s degrees and:

  • they have taken at least a five-year break from their education at some point in their educational careers
  • Or they will have been out of high school for five or more years by the time of their proposed Yale matriculation. 

The Harvard Extension School 

You can get a certificate at Harvard by taking courses, and then stacking the certificate into a degree if you take enough courses. 

How to Write a Great College Essay

“If you can’t do it with feeling, don’t.”

Patsy Cline

Before you write a word, close your eyes, take a deep breath and think about what you are passionate about. Be honest. What would you do if you had all the money in the world and didn’t have to worry about making a living when you graduate? What makes you happy? Then, think about what can you contribute to society with what you are passionate about. Write things down and start your outline. The essay does not have to be perfect at first. Just write it down.

The colleges want to know how you can contribute to make the world a better place. They want to see signs of future leadership. However, don’t just make a list of your accomplishments and use that as your essay.

The college essay is your chance to shine, to stand out amongst all the other stellar grades and perfect SAT scores. Here is where you need to reveal something about yourself. You want to evoke emotion: include details that will make them laugh or cry. The admissions officers want to feel emotions, to know who you really are, so don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. It’s better to show that you are human with faults than to be another perfect applicant, which the colleges get in droves. Many students with perfect scores and grades get rejected. Tell them your parents are divorcing, or your mom is sick, you need to work to help the family or other circumstances that might have affected your grades, but yet you did so well anyway. Admit something embarrassing if it will make you be memorable. The admissions officers want to know who you are, so that they can make a right match for the school. Think of it as matchmaking for your significant other: you will be spending the next four years of your life in this college, so the admissions officers need to know that it will be a good fit.

You can write about anything you want when trying to follow the writing prompt!  Don’t feel the need to sound professional or perfect.  One student, Carolina Williams from Tennessee, even wrote about her love for Papa John’s pizza and how ordering it made her feel safe and grownup and got into Yale.  Unfortunately, she did not choose to attend Yale, but instead chose Auburn University instead.  Which begs the question: why?  If an Ivy were to admit you, and there is only an admission rate of 5 percent or less, why would you choose to attend another university?  Most of the time, the reason is probably financial.  For ways to afford an Ivy League education, go to the chapter: How to Afford an Ivy League Education (coming soon).

Of course, there are some exceptions, like if your dad wrote a large check to support the school, but for the rest of us, the essay is very important.  The dirty secret, according to high school students I interviewed, everyone has some help with their essays.  Even those who cannot afford to hire a college coach will probably get some help, even if it is from a friend or teacher.  You need to be personal, pour your heart into drafting your essay, and send it to everyone you know to proofread. When you pour your heart out on paper, when you really put all your energy into your writing, the reader can feel the electricity.  And that, is the key to writing a great college essay.  

When to Visit Colleges

To manifest your child’s destiny, visit colleges as soon as you can.   Manifestation is to bring something you want into your life through attraction and belief: what you think will happen will happen.  I do not mean visiting colleges in the senior year of high school. I mean when your kid is around eight years old, start exposing the child to what colleges he can aspire to. Go on vacation to Connecticut and visit Yale; Madison Beach Hotel is close by and very relaxing (you can stay there for free with your Hilton weekend certificates; otherwise the hotel is quite pricey). Right now, if you apply for the Hilton Amex card, you can get 60,000 bonus points and a free weekend night certificate. Go to Boston on vacation and visit Harvard and MIT. While visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, stop off at University of Pennsylvania. Show your kid what he can achieve with good grades. The Secret teaches us that we achieve what we set our minds to do. Therefore, we must show our kids what to focus on.

Showing your child a prestigious college unleashes the power of manifesting.  When my child was seven, we started visiting colleges.  Of course, we started with the best: Harvard.  Boston in the summer is gorgeous, and we toured Harvard with the rest of the tourists, some also had their young children in tow.  Another great tourist attraction in Boston is the plentiful lobsters and we had a great time there.  I still recall the delicious twin lobsters in the beautiful outdoor restaurant near the water.  The more you expose a child to the places you want her to go, the more it becomes familiar, and eventually it will be a goal within reach.  A child who has seen what is possible will work harder to get good grades, score well on standardized tests, participate in extra-curricular activities, whatever it takes to get into an elite school. 

Around the time of end of junior year of high school, you might consider visiting colleges you would like to apply to for demonstrating interest.  College admissions officers sometimes like to see demonstrated interest by prospective students before they make the decision to admit a student because they want to know the student will accept.  Because universities seek to improve their yield – or raise the number of students who accept admission offers – they look for demonstrated interest.  Further, some admissions officers have said that they would view it as a lack of interest on the student’s part if they lived close by and didn’t ever visit.  It would be wise to visit a college so you can see where you will be taking classes and the surrounding neighborhood.  Finally, visiting colleges can allow you to write a better and personalized “why us” essay, which is what colleges are looking for.

college money

The Ivy League is Not a Dream!

The Ivy League is Not a Dream

Get Admitted to Top Universities and Get Rich!

The Ivy League is not a dream! So many parents and kids have dreams of getting admitted into a top university. My kid was just admitted into an Ivy League college, and I am sharing my story for any parent to be able to do the same: help your child to get into the best schools and get excellent test scores. In intermediate school, my kid scored high enough on the Specialized High School Achievement Test (SHSAT) to get into Stuyvesant High School and then got a near-perfect score on the SAT. Tutoring and hard work had a lot to do with it. The number one thing to remember is not to force your child to do anything. I was ecstatic when my daughter Angelica scored high enough on the state exam to be allowed to take the Hunter College High School exam. However, she did not want to go to that school, so she quit the tutoring that I sent her to. I did not force it, and was surprised when she wanted to take the exam anyway. She did not do well on the essay, because her heart was not in it. Then when it came time for the SHSAT for high school, my child was used to the format of the test, because most standardized tests are pretty much similar. What if you do not live in New York City? Consider moving to a neighborhood with excellent public schools. Great Neck South High School is one of the most highly rated schools in New York and they even have a golf team!

I am personally a proponent of public schools, because I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and public schools are great if your child gets into the honors and specialized programs. I just watched a documentary on HBOMAX about Avenues, a private school that costs $40,000+ a year that is next to a housing project in Chelsea, and according to the Avenues website, only about 33 students out of 300 got into the Ivy League. I will have to do more analysis to see if it produces many more Ivy Leaguers than public high schools in New York. I did hear, however, that many of the prep schools in New York are feeder schools to the Ivy League and send about 30% of graduates to the Ivies each year. So, by that estimate, 30% of 300 should be 90 students, and compared to prep schools, Avenues is not getting as many of their students admitted to the Ivy League. This is only assuming that the end goal for sending a kid to a private school is to get the kid into an Ivy League college. Send your child to private schools if your budget allows for it, but I was saving my money for tutoring and college.

The following are some tips on how I was able to help my child score so well on exams thus allowing me to become an Ivy League Mom!

Visit colleges as soon as you can. I do not mean visits in senior year of high school. I mean when your kid is around eight years old, start exposing the child to what colleges he can aspire to. Go on vacation to Connecticut and visit Yale; Madison Beach Hotel is close by and very relaxing (you can stay there for free with your Hilton weekend certificates, otherwise the hotel is quite pricey). Right now, if you apply for the Hilton Amex card, you can get 60,000 bonus points and a free weekend night certificate. Go to Boston on vacation and visit Harvard and MIT. While visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, stop off at University of Pennsylvania. Show your kid what he can achieve with good grades. The Secret teaches us that we achieve what we set our minds to do. Therefore, we must show our kids what to focus on.

Pay for tutoring and start early, around the time of standardized tests for high school. In New York City, the big ones are the Hunter College High School Entrance Exam and the SHSAT. I brought my kid to Kaplan in Manhattan for SHSAT tutoring two years before the test. Then when the course was over, I paid for private tutoring by the teacher of the class. As a result of all the extra help in math, my daughter Angelica was able to well and is a math tutor for disadvantaged kids as an extracurricular activity. For the SAT, Angelica received tutoring in both English and math. She scored 1570 on her second try (the first try did not result in a high enough score). The need for tutoring has been confirmed by a Harvard dad: he and his son both attended Harvard, so he must know something we don’t. I asked him what was his secret. He said, “Spend the money on tutoring.” There you have it, ladies (and gentlemen, in case there are some dad readers snooping around here). Spend your money on tutoring.

What about college admissions consultants? If you can afford it, it will definitely take some stress off of the application process. The consultant will hold the college applicant’s hand throughout the process, with virtual consultations, essay writing help, advice on majors (the advice that was worth the money was to go for the less popular majors so there would be less competition), and generally being there during this stressful time. During the college application ordeal, it is very important to take care of yourself: exercise, eat right and get wellness treatments and massages.

For those parents with younger children:

As soon as you can, when your kid is around age three, get Hooked on Phonics and start teaching your kid to read. It does not take long. Just sit with your child a few minutes a day and soon he or she will be able to read. Yes, a three year old can read! When our three-year-old was sitting in the back of the car in her car seat and voiced the name of a restaurant, we could not believe it. After your kid starts to read, a whole new world will open up and your child will be years ahead of all the others.

Get your first month of Hooked on Phonics for just $1

Another thing to do as soon as possible is to order workbooks. Reading, math, grammar, spelling, vocabulary (root words) for your child’s grade and perhaps a few grades above that. You want to get a head start. Make it a game and give prizes and incentives for completing workbooks. Much cheaper than the thousands of dollars at Kumon and other learning centers. They sell Kumon workbooks on Amazon.

Kumon Workbooks

Train your kid’s brain with Sodoku puzzles. Get a baby Sodoku book on Amazon and start teaching your kid how to think logically. You are training the young brain for all the years of testing ahead, especially any tests with logic.

Of course, do not just focus on academics. Your child needs some fun. Put a tennis racquet or a golf club in your child’s hand and a decade later, she can wind up captain of the tennis team.

You might say, so much money and work to do all of the above. But as parents, we must sacrifice for our kids. You can save money by buying workbooks on Amazon instead of sending the kids to Kumon. You can apply for credit cards and stay in hotels for free with the points and free night certificates. Our reward is the bragging rights when our kids achieve great things. Who knows? You can probably use your child’s admission into the Ivy League for your own networking. After all, parents of Ivy League students and alum are allowed to join clubs in the city such as the Harvard Club, Yale Club, Cornell Club, etc. Also, some parents have been known to use their kids’ school connections to help with their own businesses, such as a realtor who used her kids’ private school parent list to sell real estate. There are no guarantees in life, but you reap what you sow.

Summer is a Verb: Reading and Viewing List

One reader who attended an Ivy League college but grew up not so affluently in Queens said that his classmates would ask him, “Where do you summer?” He joked, “Summer? Flushing Meadow Park?” Summer is a verb to some Ivy Leaguers. To prepare for the Ivy League, we suggest reading True Prep, to learn that summer is in fact a verb and other ways to talk the talk and walk the walk of Ivy Leaguers.

The Social Climber’s Bible: A Book of Manners, Practical Tips, and Spiritual Advice for the Upwardly Mobile– very good and interesting tips on how to win rich friends:

Born Rich Documentary: Highly entertaining video about rich kids, the type you might encounter in Ivy League schools (after viewing Born Rich, see where the rich kids are now):

The One Percent Documentary: by Jamie Johnson, Johnson & Johnson heir who made Born Rich, see above.

If you need VPN, click here for a great deal!

Where do you summer?

How to Gain Admission to Stanford and Ivy League Colleges

Ivy League college
How to Gain Admission to Stanford and Ivy League Colleges