We posted a blog entitled How to Prepare on Your Own for the TJ Test several years ago. The general recommendations are still good, but it is time for an update.
Here are the components for admission to TJJSST (Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology):
Grades and course work
Math, science, and reading test in November
SIS essay with math prompt
Grades and course work:
Top grades are vital, and a GPA lower than 3.0/4 will disqualify an applicant. Most of the students who gain acceptance have completed geometry by the end of 8th grade, and students only taking algebra 1 in 8th grade are at a distinct disadvantage.
Math, ACT Aspire Reading and Science:
The math required for the test is basic math, algebra, and geometry. In the past, we have used old SAT tests from 30 years ago augmented with select problems to mimic the Quant Q. In order to adapt to the changes, we will increase the number of permutation and combination problems in response to students’ observations about the math last fall. Past materials from ACT Reading and Science for college admissions have served us well and were easier to locate than the ACT Aspire.
Assuming you make the first cut, you will need to get two teachers to write recommendations. It is important to remember that a teacher can only write about what he/she has first hand knowledge of. Your English teacher cannot mention that you won the math counts competition (unless she is the math counts coach). On the other hand, if he/she counseled you on the written aspect of a science fair project, that would be first hand knowledge. Don’t wait until the last minute to develop a relationship with your teacher. Be respectful and considerate in your interactions with all your teachers and ask thoughtful questions when appropriate. Remember to listen with courtesy when your classmates speak. Make sure to volunteer to help as needed and show you are the sort of student who is mature enough to handle the demands of TJ. Finally, make sure the teachers who write your recommendations have a successful track record.
SIS essay with math prompt:
Writing well is important, but the topic of your essay is crucial – you need something to write about. TJ has two ways to see your commitment to STEM: teacher recommendations and your SIS. To provide proper preparation for the SIS, start get involved with STEM now. If your family can afford it, go to STEM summer camps. Even without summer camp, you can still develop your STEM interests by working on projects on your own via the internet. Your local library also affords opportunities to pursue STEM interests. If you can’t get to the library on your own, get a friend or family member to take you once a week so you can check out books on a variety of interests. That sort of dedication to learning can translate to a compelling SIS prompt response. In addition, make sure to capitalize on your personal interests; a strong essay from a passionate author will regularly trump “preferred” essay topics.
What about the math prompt on the SIS? The last three years have seen the addition of a complex math problem on the SIS. Inspiring Test Preparation’s Youtube channel has explanations to two of the problems and a third is on the “drawing board”. Check out the videos there and then seek out other videos online for similar challenging problems.
What can you do with Inspiring Test Preparation?
Take our free at home math test for an first look at how well you do compared to the competition.
Sign up for a free 25-minute consultation to see what you need to do to get ready.
Come to our math drills on Tuesdays starting in February 2019.
Enroll in our geometry review/preview class the summer of 2019 — date to be announced.
Get essay writing instruction with Dr. Weinstein.
Enroll in one of our fall comprehensive TJ preparation courses.
Take our one-day SIS workshop in January.
Take our 3-hour diagnostic quant q, science, and reading test. Call Kate at 703-203-5796 to schedule. $100 fee.
“Just be yourself” – arguably the most cliché, most useless, and most frustrating piece of “advice” handed out on a day-to-day basis. But if it’s so useless, why do we hear it constantly when setting out for first dates, readying for interviews, or sitting down to start that all-important college essay?
A majority of college applicants know that the amount of time a reviewer spends poring over college applications is infinitesimal, so why bother? Regardless of the impressive awards you’ve spent your high school career amassing, to the person reviewing your file, you’re nothing more than a slip of paper – that is, until you differentiate yourself.
But is there such a thing as going too far – sure, every great joke can be ruined with poor delivery, but can every terrible joke be redeemed with a hilarious rendition? Are there experiences that are just so flat out boring and unimportant that, even with the proper storytelling, fall flat in a college essay setting?
My freshman year of high school, an admissions officer came to our school to do a presentation on how to write a college essay. After some basic tips and what to include, he ended the presentation by reading a few examples of his favorite essays. While I can’t recall the exact topics of the first two essays he read, they were wonderfully written and both told compelling stories. The third one, which left a permanent imprint on my mind, was about a three-year-old boy on a quest for his lost shoe. Despite the ridiculous pretense, I was hooked. By the time the lector was finished, the child-like and colorful layers of the essay had fallen away to reveal a surprisingly deep message. Not only did the essay demonstrate the applicant’s eagerness to explore and problem-solve, but its novelty and presentation kept me entertained. It was simultaneously the most fun and most meaningful essay I had heard in my life.
The college essay is the chance to show to the college admissions officer not only that you’ve done the preparation for college, but also how it has impacted you as a person and how you’ve grown and benefitted from having that experience. The college essay is an opportunity to tell that story from a personal lens. For example, loads of people have been skydiving, but not everyone conquered their fear of heights and have used that experience to challenge their fears, break new ground, and etc… (you get the idea). Even though people may experience similar circumstances, the way that they approach the situation and what they take away makes them stand out – and that’s exactly what the college officers want to see.
The first year Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology (TJ) switched to monitored SIS administrations, we taught 35 students in five separate workshops what TJ says it is looking for on the student information sheet and essay***. During those workshops we brainstormed topics to mention on the application and the candidates practiced writing answers to four prompts (three SIS prompts and one essay) under timed conditions. We reminded the students that TJ admissions says pretty clearly that they are wanting to learn about “a semifinalist’s prior experiences, goals, and interests”.