McLean Dyer is the kind of person one thinks of when the phrase “practice makes perfect" is used.
Though McLean is from Wayne, Pennsylvania, he’s attending high school at Saddlebrook Tennis Academy, a premier tennis academy in Wesley Chapel, Florida.
“Tennis is my passion,” McLean says. To see this passion, all you have to do is look at his schedule. Every weekday, McLean attends school from 7:30 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. He then goes to tennis practice from 1 to 5 p.m., with a fitness class following from 5 to 6 p.m. To wrap up the day, he usually visits the gym after his fitness class, to lift weights with his friends from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
But as McLean started to talk with different tennis programs and coaches during the college application process, he realized he didn’t want to compromise his academics for the sport. He didn’t like the idea that he’d have to miss a lot of classes if he played for a Division I program, so he started to broaden his college search. “In Division III you have the opportunity to play a good level of tennis, but also get a good education,” McLean said.
McLean didn’t want his test scores to prevent him from getting into a school that he felt was the right fit for tennis and academics. So he hired A+ to help him prepare for his college admissions exams.
After trying both the SAT and ACT, McLean decided he felt more comfortable with the ACT. “I didn’t feel as pressured when I took it,” he said. “I’ve always worked fast when it comes to tests.”
McLean worked with A+ Philadelphia tutor Sai Tikanni to prepare for the science and math portions of the ACT. Even over the summer, McLean was constantly busy with tennis, often playing four to five hours a day, Sai said. Despite this, “McLean made a big effort to switch his schedule and accommodate tutoring,” and was always engaged, Sai said. During his math sessions, McLean would dedicate one hour to ACT prep and thirty minutes to Algebra 2 review.
Knowing McLean’s busy schedule, Sai would break down each section and assign a certain number of problems to complete each day. Every other weekend, McLean would complete a practice test.
At first, McLean struggled with the word problems. McLean is a very visual thinker, according to Sai. So the two worked together to practice writing things down, capturing thoughts, and underlining important information. Pretty quickly, he started to improve, Sai added.
McLean also worked with Brian Gillin, an A+ Philadelphia tutor specializing in the verbal section of the ACT. “Brian was a really nice guy from the second I met him, and very flexible if I had a meeting to make up,” McLean said. “His jokes and puns really got to me and helped me understand. He’d give me an example and it just stuck with me.”
“McLean applied what we went over for the reading sections to his homework exercises,” Brian said, and each week, McLean’s score on his homework would indicate his progress.
McLean saw a steady improvement in his practice test score. “Every week it went up,” he said.
"On test day," McLean said, “I was actually pretty nervous because I wanted to do well.” He felt additional pressure since if he needed to take the ACT again, he didn’t know where he would find the time to prepare.
McLean’s dedication to practice was well worth the effort. He was shocked to see that his reading score jumped nine points. He boosted his overall score from a 23 to a 28. “I was very happy because I was shooting for a 26,” McLean said.
What really helped him were all of the “practice tests, problems and reviews,” McLean said. “I learned what to look for, and what not to look for.”