Maggie Jay

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Meet Maggie

Maggie Jay is a busy student. In her upcoming senior year, she will split classroom time between Northwestern University, the University of Minnesota, and her high school, Eden Prairie. In addition to homework from three separate schools, Maggie will be completing a dozen college applications and participating in the marching band.

An ambitious student, Maggie has performed well in school all her life, which made tutoring a new experience for her. Before she came to us, her only tutoring experience was as the tutor! (We knew there was a reason we connected with her so well.)

When Confidence Crumbles

When Maggie was preparing to take the ACT for the first time, she had a lifetime of success at her back. Going into her attempt, she was already confident.

“I think in the beginning I thought that I could do really well on the ACT by myself,” she explained. “I expected to do well across the board. That’s what I was used to in the classroom. But it’s hard!”

The difference between this test and all the others was the excitement. Maggie says, “the questions themselves aren’t that difficult. The problem is that the test is so overhyped. You know it’s important, and so it makes you nervous.”

Testing anxiety isn’t unusual for Maggie, but it’s rarely enough to keep her from meeting her goals. The ACT was different. This anxiety interrupted her thoughts and made her lose focus. She pulled a 25, several points below her goal, and felt defeated.

The confidence was gone.

Identifying Maggie’s Issues

The skills required for the ACT are a small subset of the skills required for overall academic success. Time management, mental organization, and on-the-fly planning take a much more prominent role.

For Maggie, the biggest problem, time management, was easy to recognize. “In the beginning my time management just wasn’t there because I wasn’t totally present. I was distracted by the timer. [Suzy’s] lessons helped me build a lot of confidence – I was thinking that I could do it, instead of thinking about how fast the time was disappearing.”

Maggie’s Response to Classroom Tutoring

The two student stories we’ve already shared were about students who had taken 1-on-1 tutoring. Although Maggie did have a few 1-on-1 sessions to make up for missed classes, the bulk of her ACT prep was in the classroom setting.

Because the Campaign for Confidence advocates for an individualized approach, you may wonder whether Maggie got the attention she needed in a classroom full of other ACT prep students.

Well, we’re glad to say that it worked well for her. In her words:

“Suzy would spend 10 minutes before or after class with each individual student. We all got a chance to talk with her directly, and she would figure out what we were struggling with. It’s a really, really effective way to get in touch with people and reach groups. I liked it.”

Finding the Advice that Worked for Maggie

In the classroom, Maggie was exposed to advice that we offer all of our students, such as:

  • Focus on quality, not quantity
  • Use your whole body–posture, pointing with fingers, proximity to paper–to ensure precision and limit small mistakes
  • Practice with reference notes and cheat sheets; doing every problem smoothly, correctly every time is the best way to prepare for your performance

They are all useful for developing a gameday approach to the ACT, but they offer only incremental increases to confidence. They definitely don’t speak to Maggie’s individual obstacles, either. For that, Maggie required something unique.

“I’d never completed the reading section in time, except when we were doing practice tests with no time limit,” she explained.

“I had gotten faster but not fast enough to finish all the questions and it was really stressing me out.” Suzy knew that timing concerns were still hanging over Maggie’s head, and that it was preventing her from feeling truly confident.

“When our lessons were coming to end, Suzy told me, ‘You’re not going to finish the fourth section and that’s okay.’ That really helped me because [Suzy] was someone who had taken the test, attended my dream school, and been really successful in life. I needed to hear that my progress was okay, and it helped to hear it from somebody like that. Hearing her say that was very relaxing.”

Maggie’s 5-Point Jump

A year after her first ACT ended in dissatisfaction, Maggie retook the test. Her anxiety was largely gone and she felt as if she had control over the test, not the other way around.

“I knew when I was running out of time on something. I also had experienced certain testing situations during tutoring, so I knew what was happening and knew how to handle it. Being able to get through spots like that made me much more confident.”

Maggie’s plan is to retake the ACT once more in September, with a target composite score of 32. She’s coming back for a few more sessions, so we’re going to focus heavy on her time management and see if we can’t finish up the fourth section before the timer runs out!

“I knew when I was running out of time on something. I also had experienced certain testing situations during tutoring, so I knew what was happening and knew how to handle it. Being able to get through spots like that made me much more confident.”

Her Scores: What Confidence did for Maggie

Current Composite (waiting for Sept 2017 scores)