Wherever you sit on the issue of testing, standardized tests and the accompanying pressures are part of the American educational system. Our city kids are faced with high-stakes tests from an early age, from the G&T to the ERB to Regents to the granddaddy of them all, the Scholastic Aptitude Test for college-bound high school students.
In order to improve their score, many teens enroll in SAT prep programs during their junior year. These classes usually meet twice a week for a few months, cutting into after-school activities and precious study time during an already stressful school year. So when it came time for my 11th-grade daughter to face the SAT challenge, we opted for a different solution: a six-day summer intensive course and camp in rural Southern Maine. While SAT prep is the camp's main objective, the kids also have plenty of time for traditional summer camp activities. The serene Maine setting on Panther Pond was just the respite my stressed-out city kid needed.
Slovenski Camp combines four hours of daily SAT prep with traditional summer camp activities. All of the outdoor fun helped make the intense studying a slightly less bitter pill for my daughter to swallow. The camp’s location on Panther Pond means kids enjoy swimming, kayaking, sailing and other water activities when they're not working. There's also a slew of on-land recreational opportunities such as volleyball, cross-country running and dodge ball. Evening campfires, sing-alongs and morning reveille are all Slovenski Camp traditions. The campground is also home to several six-day intensive sports camps, so not all of the kids are there for the SAT prep, adding to the diversity of the experience.
The camp is run by Peter Slovenski, the track coach at Bowdoin College and his wife, Dugan Slovenski. Their three sons have worked as counselors and, though the low-key Slovenskis don't brag about it, all of their children attended Ivy League schools, so their SAT prep has been honed in-house to excellent results.
During the school year, Dugan is a teacher for Maine Prep, and uses this method at Slovenski Camp. Maine Prep teaches specific content and test-taking techniques. My daughter liked the approach for several reasons. All of the questions used in the prep materials are from past tests. The limit of eight campers per session means a lot of personalized attention. She learned valuable time-saving techniques and how to troubleshoot "trick" questions. She even got tips on guessing strategies. My daughter came home with a giant binder of practice exercises and Dugan let her know that, if these materials were not sufficient, she would send more. When my daughter took the test in October, she scored very well.
The cost includes all materials, even the loads of books and practice tests your kid takes home. It's not cheap, but it's certainly more reasonable than many NYC SAT prep classes. Plus, teenagers enjoy what will likely be their last camp experience.
Although we can personally recommend Slovenski Camp, we've rounded up the other test-prep intensives on the East Coast below.
College Admission Prep Camp Intensive – Medford, MA
This 20-day immersive camp is run by Education Unlimited at Tufts University and includes SAT prep, help with crafting personal statements and visits to area colleges. It's also offered at West Coast locations.
Summerfuel College Admissions Prep – Medford, MA
In this two-week program, also at Tufts, kids are taught by the experts from the lauded Princeton Review. There's also a session right here in NYC at Columbia University.
KENT SAT-ACT Residential Program – Purchase, NY
For four weeks, teens prep for the tests in an extremely structured and distraction-free environment at Manhattanville College.
The Princeton Review College Discovery Program – Boston, MA
Campers do much more than SAT and ACT prep at this four-week camp held at Emerson College. They also hone their essay-writing skills, get feedback on college choices and visit nearby universities.
Julian Krinsky Pre-College Programs – Philadelphia, PA
This program, run by Villanova University, allows high school students to build an enriching summer catered to their interests. Students can choose their length of stay, from one week, to multi-week sessions and can live on campus or commute while taking full- or half-day sessions. SAT Prep is just one of the myriad of options students can choose.
Camp Lohikan's SAT Prep Program – Lake Como, PA
Lohikan lets campers customize their schedules, so they can pick all kinds of specialties, from circus arts to swimming, horseback riding to extreme sports. SAT prep is also an option.
Read about other great summer programs in our Camp Guide.
This post was originally published in February 2012.