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Just what the doctor ordered

Tutor Doctor Portland co-owners share their prescription for scholastic success


High school students certainly do have their work cut out for them this time of year. This is the season that many juniors and even some ambitious freshmen and sophomores take the SAT and the rival ACT exam with an eye to getting in to college, and when seniors try to get themselves off the waitlist of their top-choice college or ensure that their acceptance is not revoked.

Mark Seker and Carl Pruett, co-owners of Tutor Doctor Portland, have some tips for Southwest Portland high school students.

Excelling at exams

The SAT and ACT test high school students’ scholastic aptitude in subjects such as writing, reading comprehension, math and science.

“Those are some high-intensity exams that have a lot of weight and cause a lot of stress for students preparing for those,” said Pruett. “My suggestion is to work with someone who has experience in helping them prepare for those tests. Tutor Doctor does that; they can also work with possibly a peer or a mentor — someone who’s taken the test before.”

However, Pruett said, "They need to understand, first and foremost, that the SAT or ACT is a test that is measuring a certain amount of knowledge that is specific to a standardized test; it’s not a globally comprehensive test that is going to carry on beyond your score for this test.”

Those are some high-intensity exams that have a lot of weight and cause a lot of stress for students preparing for those."

He added: “You want them to not take for granted that they’re going to do well because they have good grades; there’s really not a strong correlation suggesting that. They could have a 3.9 or a 4.0, and their PSAT is relatively low, so the recommendation is to understand how to prepare for this test, and Tutor Doctor does that with students.”

Getting off the waitlist

Despite their best efforts, Pruett said, some students are waitlisted by their top-choice colleges — not yet rejected, but still not yet accepted.

“They need to know who you are. If you are just a name on a piece of paper, that doesn’t help you,” Pruett said. “Go to the school ... there’s no bribery needed. They just need ... to know who you are and ‘Why you would want to choose me,’ and a suggestion that could even be valid is for the student to actually go on campus and look at some activities that they could do, either part-time work or volunteer to establish a connection with the school even if they haven’t been officially enrolled. That’s a telling sign that they’re fully committed to this school and that may help them get over the barrier. There’s other considerations put in place and of course the admissions counselor has requirements and in some instances there may not be an option for them to enroll, but there are some positive suggestions that a student can take.

“They don’t need to be passive,” Pruett said. “I recommend not being passive.”Carl Pruett

Avoiding senioritis

Even 12th-graders who have been accepted rather than waitlisted have a major obstacle to contend with — themselves.

“Moving from high school to a college is a rite of passage,” Pruett said. “It’s significant. There’s a lot of anxiety; there’s a lot of excitement, and it can throw somebody off the normal routine, knowing that they’re going to be doing something completely different possibly in another state or another country ... and students withdraw a little bit or don’t do the typical academic activities that they would normally do to be successful.”

But that can have serious consequences, because “if a student tanks with their grades,” Pruett said, colleges can opt to rescind their offers of admission, “So they just need to be aware ... that they have to maintain what they’ve done throughout their entire academic career”

Though it may be impossible to stave off senioritis, Pruett said that students could minimize the fallout by taking a moment to review their academic goals for the remainder of the school year.

“They would need to consider what they need to do to the rest of the weeks and months of their second semester and keep up on their grades by making a plan — simply a calendar of events — so that they can visually see and plan out what they’re going to be doing in March and in April and in May and in June, so that they don’t lose focus,” Pruett said. “They can maintain their academics but also be excited about the changes and the parties and the celebrations while still continuing their academics and being successful.”

“The ones that are sort of technology-hip could implement those littler reminder cues on their smartphone that they have an important test (or) an important even coming up that they decided is important to them,” Seker said.

“I would maintain some positive activities with friends ... even start a new activity with friends to help them just settle in and not change up their momentum,” Pruett said. “That would be a very wise suggestion: keep themselves active and not passive.”

Drew Dakessian can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 108.