PrepWell Podcast


Ep. 170 | One Simple Message

In this episode, I give one simple bit of advice for any up-and-coming PrepWeller who intends to score well on the verbal section of the SAT or ACT. Please listen to this episode with your child.

Show Transcript:

[00:00:25] Hello friends, and welcome back to the PrepWell Podcast. In today's episode, my goal is to convey one simple message to all the PrepWellers out there listening to this podcast. So if you're a parent listening to this and your child is not with you or sitting next to you while you're driving, make sure you cue this up for them so they can listen to it as well. The simple message is this. If you want to score well on the verbal section of the SAT or ACT, you must continue or begin a habit of extracurricular reading as soon as humanly possible. And what I mean by extracurricular reading is reading outside of your classwork or homework reading. It's in addition to those required readings. Now, if you're already an avid reader and you have been so for many years and you're maintaining this habit, then you're good to go. This episode is not really for you. If, on the other hand, you have not been much of a reader growing up and you are now nearing high school or already in high school and you don't do much in the way of extracurricular reading, then you're approaching the point of no return. If you are an eighth grader, ninth grader or 10th grader who expects to perform well on the SAT or act in 11th grade and you are not actively reading a book at home that is not school required reading at least every other day.

[00:02:00] You're wrong. And you will probably regret it in a few years. I don't know how else to say it. Unlike the math section of the SAT and ACT, you can't cram for the verbal section. You won't see significant improvement by putting in a few weeks or a few months of practice right before the test. That's not how it works. A tutor. Even the best tutors in the world can't teach you what you would have learned had you been a regular reader for the last four or five, six, ten years. It doesn't work that way. Establishing a habit of reading right now is how you study for the verbal section of the SAT. There is no other study method. There's no magic formula that someone will hand to you in junior year that will make you score well on this section. There's no such thing. So please don't count on it. And the math section is a little bit different. If you have a decent foundation in math, an aggressive self-study program, and or a great tutor over the course of a few months can potentially add significant points to your score on the math section. There's no guarantee of that, but at least you'll have a fighting chance to improve. Why? Because a good tutor or a sophisticated online study program like Khan Academy, for example, can zero in on your weaknesses and fill in some of the gaps in your math knowledge in relatively short order. The verbal section is different. Other than offer you a few test taking strategies that might help you to eliminate some obviously wrong answers, there's not that much a tutor can do. Yes, they can give you some tips on grammar rules that you may have forgotten or maybe you never learned, but it's much more difficult to teach you how to choose between two closely related answers to a question about the theme or the main idea of a reading passage.

[00:04:09] That's a very difficult skill to teach. It's a nuanced skill that is developed through years of reading. Let me put it this way. Your verbal score on the SAT or ACT signals to colleges whether or not you are a reader, period. End of story. You are either a reader or a non reader, and they make this judgment in about a quarter of a second by looking at your score. Great score equals reader, bad score equals non reader. There's not a lot in between. And as you might guess, colleges are looking for readers. The more selective the college, the more important it is that they see you as a reader. And the reason I bring this up is because I talk to a lot of parents and students and my own sons every week about what students are doing on a daily basis. Are they involved in sports after school clubs, volunteer work? Do they have a part time job? How much time are they spending on their homework? And what I'm hearing over and over again without fail, particularly from boys, is that one. They do very little, if any, extracurricular reading. And two, they're spending at least 2 to 3 hours a day minimum on weekdays. And far more than that on weekends, playing video games and swiping on their phones. That's a minimum. Of course, some are spending far more than that. But even your average boy who's not addicted to these activities seems to be taking hours and hours a day into these activities. And girls who are generally not quite as addicted to video games as boys certainly are spending plenty of time on their phones, on social media. I'm talking hours a day. And I know this is certainly not a surprise and not exactly breaking news here, but the topic comes up so often that I feel obligated to address it yet again in the hopes that it might affect change.

[00:06:18] So again, here is the message. I'm going to take it real slow. If you want to be competitive at the more selective colleges, which means getting a solid S.A.T. or A.C.T. score, maybe even a great S.A.T. or A.C.T. score, and you're spending significant time playing video games and on your phone. You need to cut back a portion of that screen time, whether it's Call of Duty, GTA, Minecraft, FIFA two K. Tick tock, snapchat, whatever your poison and replace it with extracurricular reading. I'm not suggesting you cut out 100% of your screen time or your console time. God forbid. But at least you make the conscious effort to cut back and replace some of that time with productive reading time. And hopefully as you get more and more comfortable reading, you will shift the balance of time away from the screens and the consoles and toward the books. And the younger you are, the more time you have to make this change and the better off you will be. That's why I harp so much on seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th graders. Because if nobody brings this strategy to your attention until the middle of 11th grade. You've lost your window, and that would be a real shame. Now, how many of you will actually take this advice and change your behavior? My guess is not many. Unfortunately. Why not? Let me count the ways. Because you happen to like playing Minecraft, FIFA, and K because all of your friends are playing. Because habits are tough to break. Because you're scared of pushing yourself academically, because what happens if it doesn't work out? Because you thrive on immediate gratification and delayed gratification is not really part of your program right now. You don't know what kind of books to start with.

[00:08:24] Your vision for the future is not compelling enough for you to take action. Right now. You're stuck. It's just easier to keep doing what you're doing than to make a change. Need I go on? All of these reasons and more will drive most of you to ignore what I'm saying and get back to your screens. That's the reality. And the reason I encourage your parents to have you listen to this message. Is because, number one, you as a teenager are programed not to listen to your parents for evolutionary reasons, which I won't go into right now. So maybe hearing it from someone like me might make a difference. And to your parents want to know. They want to feel in their hearts that they are doing everything in their power to warn you, so to speak. About how damaging excessive screen time. Coupled with lack of extracurricular reading can be for your college prospects and your life prospects, for that matter. They want to be able to put their head down on their pillow at night knowing that they have made you aware in no uncertain terms of what life will be like in two, three, four years if you stick with your current plan. Because as parents, as much as we'd like to, we can't hold a gun to your head and make you do stuff that you don't want to do. Even if we know that it will make your life a lot easier down the road. This is one of the biggest frustrations as a parent. Because in the back of our minds we say to ourselves, if he or she only knew how important this stuff was for their future, they would do it. So what your parent has done by forcing you to sit next to them, maybe in the car and listen to this message from me is shift the burden of responsibility for your future from them.

[00:10:24] To you. Because now you know what it takes to succeed. At least as it relates to the verbal section of the S.A.T. or the A.C.T., because I just told you. And it's not rocket science and it doesn't cost money. And it doesn't require any more time in your day. And now it's up to you to take action or not. Your mom and dad have unburdened themselves from the constant feeling of self-doubt about whether or not they're providing you with the right guidance. And they won't get caught two years from now regretting that they didn't do enough for you or that they didn't give you the right advice at the right time. Because that's a tough pill to swallow for a parent. If they didn't know how to guide you and you were left to fend for yourself and things didn't work out that well. A parent will harbor guilt for that for some time. After all, your parents are theoretically supposed to have all the answers for you. But now that you know the deal, there is no guilt, there is no more regret because they are providing you the guidance when you need it most, which is right now. And there's nothing more they can do. Now it's up to you to do with it what you will. You're old enough to make your own decisions now, to make your own plan of action. To take your future into your own hands. Your mom and dad are hereby officially off the hook. And now it's on you. And I know today's message was very specific how to make sure that you have a fighting chance when it comes to the verbal section of the SAT or the act. But let me be clear. This is just one piece of advice of hundreds of pieces of advice that I deliver to you every week in your PrepWell Academy online videos.

[00:12:20] So if you've been blowing off these videos and skipping weeks at a time or not implementing or even trying to implement some of the strategies, it's not on your parents, it's on you. Your parents were smart enough to enroll you in PrepWell Academy, which drops advice like this every week that you can take to the bank. And it's up to you to take advantage of it or not. Your parents can't hold a gun to your head and force you to watch the weekly videos. They can't force you to make these productive changes in your life. That's not a part of their job description. Their job is to expose you to these lessons, to support your efforts to succeed, and then to let the chips fall where they may. And I hope you make the right decisions. By the way, in case you haven't yet, I would thank your parents for enrolling you in PrepWell Academy and providing you with a resource that will help you be the best that you can be. And if taking them isn't enough, you can do one better, which is to embody the prep lessons that you're learning every week and turn into the best version of yourself that you can. Because for a parent, that's the best gift of all. That's all I've got for you today, folks. Thank you for tuning in. Thank you for your continued support. And in case you didn't know, this podcast supports prep academies online mentoring program where high schoolers and their parents receive weekly videos from me, where I break down important topics and give timely advice about college admissions, particularly for top tier colleges, service academies, and for ROTC and athletic scholarships. Many parents who listen to this podcast already have their high schoolers enrolled in Prep Academy, which is great.

[00:14:14] If you don't yet, please consider enrolling them. Registration is only open during freshman or sophomore year. After that, we no longer accept new students. So if you have a freshman or a sophomore in high school and you like what you're hearing in these podcasts and you'd like to get more content like this tailored specifically for your child, for their specific grade and with their specific goals in mind, go to and enroll them today. If you know a parent with a middle schooler or a high schooler that might find this helpful, please share the episode with them. And if you get a chance, give us a rating. Word of mouth and positive ratings help our podcast reach a wider audience. If you have questions, comments, or an idea for an upcoming episode, please reach out to me by email. Demi on Instagram. Check out our blog Facebook page. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from you. Until next week, Goodbye. Good luck and never stop preparing. This podcast is brought to you by PrepWell Academy. PrepWell Academy is my one of a kind online mentoring program that delivers to your ninth or 10th grader a short, highly relevant video from me every week. Every Sunday, in fact, where I give them a heads up about what they should be thinking about to stay ahead of the game to get these valuable lessons into your child's hands. Please head over to and enroll your child today.

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Podcast Host:

PrepWell Academy's Founder, Phil Black, has spent a lifetime cracking the code on the world's most competitive programs: Yale University, Harvard Business School, Navy SEALs, Goldman Sachs, Entrepreneurship, Shark Tank (2X), etc.

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