Spend some time with Germantown Friends School junior Grayson Graham and it becomes clear that he is a bright student with a bright future ahead of him. Several months ago, Grayson was a sophomore about to begin ACT test prep with A+ Test Prep and Tutoring. Now, he has started his junior year having earned an impressive 32 on the ACT in June with the help of math tutor John Silbaugh and verbal tutor Libby Sweger. We recently spoke with Grayson and his tutors to better celebrate and appreciate his success.
A+: Let’s start at the beginning. How did you discover A+ tutoring?
Grayson: I heard about it through resources posted at my school. I go to Germantown Friends and they send out bulletins. One of the resources that they sent out was about A+.
A+: Looking back, what challenges did you face, and what advice did you receive from your tutors that helped you overcome those challenges?
Grayson: My biggest challenge was time management & math. So, I followed the 25, 20, 15 rule for completing math—25 minutes for the first 30 questions, 20 minutes for the next 20 questions, and then 15 minutes for the last 10.
A+: Were there any other tips or strategies that you felt made a difference?
Grayson: It seems simple, but I’d say the biggest one was don’t leave a question unanswered. You need to bubble in an answer even if you’re crunched for time. I’d also say that overall, my tutors were really great; they always had good advice and information handy when I needed it. For example, my verbal tutor Libby knew so much about grammar and vocabulary that it made it really easy to ask her questions about things like comma splice errors. So, having really knowledgeable tutors was an important factor that helped me.
A+: It’s great to hear that your tutors were so knowledgeable, but it’s also great to know that you felt comfortable asking questions. Would you say being curious and asking questions were essential to your success?
Grayson: Definitely. While the workbook is really helpful, there would be certain areas where I’d want to know more. I’d be like, “Well, what about this?” or “What would you do in a similar or different situation? How would you respond then?” Working through those kinds of problems together with both John and Libby was really helpful.
Speaking to John and Libby, it’s clear that Grayson’s curiosity stood out among his other strengths. According to John, “Grayson is a very nice, cooperative, curious guy” who will “go far!” He “asked good questions, was always on time, and was always well-prepared.” Libby was equally impressed. She was especially struck by how “enthusiastic and engaged he was in the learning process,” recalling how “he would react to passages while he was reading, laughing at an amusing turn of phrase from an author or connecting a new piece of information to something he had read or learned about before.” Also, “he would get into what he was reading rather than just get through it.” More importantly, she notes, “he asked questions out of a genuine desire to understand and to grow.”
A+: As you were learning from your tutors and overcoming obstacles, what other factors in your life helped you feel supported and motivated?
Grayson: I go to an academically competitive school, so seeing my other classmates succeed made me see it as something I could do and achieve too. Also, my parents were a great support system and role models for me, just helping me a lot with the process and holding me accountable.
A+: What about you? What advice can you give students who are just getting started or considering test prep?
Grayson: Realize that improvement takes time and dedication. Make sure your mind is in the right place by examining your own goals. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If you’re trying to get a good score, who is that for? Is that for yourself? Is that for your parents? Is that for other people in your life? I really think centering your goals and your personal achievement in terms of what you—not other people—want to get out of it is essential. My parents were also really supportive in helping me to achieve my scores and progress. I would also say that sometimes you will surprise yourself. When I started, I didn’t have a score that I was super proud of, so the first signs of improvement shocked me a bit. Definitely let those moments be a lesson for you that you have it in you, even if you didn’t expect it. For example, I did not expect that English and verbal would end up being my strong suit. So, savor those moments and use them as a kind of fuel to better yourself as you continue.
Silbaugh and Sweger also found the pace of Grayson’s progress remarkable. Silbaugh recalls how Grayson’s ability to put his progress in perspective helped him stay focused, saying that “ he was realistic that improvement would not always follow a linear progression,” and it was because “he took his responsibilities seriously that his hard work paid off.” Sweger recalls something similar. “Since Grayson’s Reading score improved quickly and dramatically while his English score improved more slowly, it was important to manage expectations and maintain the progress that was made. To Grayson’s credit, he never got complacent or discouraged.”
A+: Now that tutoring and testing is over, let’s look to the future. What colleges and career goals do you have in mind?
Grayson: I’ve looked at Harvard for History of Science and University of Pennsylvania for Health and Society. I’m looking for programs that have bioethics or health care administration and policy majors and really looking all over—from University of Rochester all the way out to UCLA. I’m passionate about health care policy and how we can make it something that’s not a strain financially on people and hope to help build more equitable systems. Ultimately, I want to be a trauma surgeon. So, I’m looking to go to undergrad and med school to eventually work as a trauma surgeon because it’s the most interesting field for me.
We at A+ have no doubt that the same curiosity and tenacity that helped Grayson achieve success on the ACT will serve him well as he pursues his dreams to help others. Congratulations, Grayson, and best wishes for the future!
At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, call 215-886-9188.
Thanks to my knowledgeable tutors, my supportive parents, and my dedication to achieving my personal goals, I was able to score beyond my expectations.