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Scoring high for college scholarships

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Posted: Monday, October 26, 2009 11:00 pm

A high score on the SAT or ACT tests may get high school students admitted to their top choices for colleges, but the tests can also land students with scholarships that can essentially provide them with free college degrees.

Studying for these two standardized tests can be intimidating with so much riding on the results.

Melissa Winn, a senior at Desert Vista High School, has high hopes to attend Texas Christian University. With a sister currently in college, she wondered if she would be able to get the financial aid necessary to attend TCU.

“I got a 26 the first time I took the ACT, and I knew that I needed to improve my score if I wanted to get the scholarships I needed,” Winn said. “I was open to tutoring because I wanted the scholarships.”

Winn’s mother, Lori Maxwell, began searching for a tutoring program that would help her daughter. While searching online Maxwell came across a program called Chyten, which is very popular on the East Coast.

“I saw that they had a campus in Scottsdale, and even though it’s a bit of a drive, I decided to give it a try,” Maxwell said.

On Melissa’s first visit to Chyten, she was given a free test with questions from the SAT and ACT. From the results of the test, Chyten is able to decide if students are more suited to take the SAT or ACT.

“They can tell kids which test to take based on how they think about each question,” Maxwell said. “My daughter was better suited for the ACT, and most schools only need one of the tests.”

After determining that Melissa would take the ACT, Chyten designed a program for her and gave Maxwell price quotes.

“I ended up paying $1,800, but I look at it as spending money now to save money later with scholarships,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell did not have to wait long to see if her investment would pay off. When Melissa took the ACT for a second time after being tutored at Chyten, her score jumped from 26 to 30.

“The highest score you can get on the ACT is a 36, and now Melissa is getting letters from all kinds of schools, including Harvard,” Maxwell said.

According to Maxwell, part of why her daughter’s score improved so much has to do with the confidence she gained from being tutored at Chyten.

“They made sure that Melissa knew what to expect so that she wouldn’t freak out during the test,” she said. “They told us that the graders spend less than 20 seconds looking at each essay, so things like handwriting and organization are important.”

While being tutored at Chyten, Melissa’s tutors simulated the test conditions.

“My tutors timed me on each section so that I knew what I was getting into and I wasn’t nervous,” Melissa said. “They made sure that I knew all of the rules that I would need to know.”

All tutors at Chyten have their master’s degrees, and half of them have PhDs. According to Melissa, the tutors were fun and helpful.

“My English tutor was a Shakespearean actor, and my math tutor made everything a game,” Melissa said. “It was a lot of fun, and I caught on very fast.”

Ellie Vogel, director of the Scottsdale location of Chyten, said that her program has a long track record of success. Neil Chyten developed the Chyten philosophy when he began preparing students for college entrance exams in 1984.

“Mr. Chyten lives in Boston, which is the back woods of schools like Harvard and MIT,” Vogel said. “He started preparing a very smart group of kids looking to go to those schools, and he had a lot of success.”

According to Vogel, the Chyten program is successful because it focuses on every student as an individual.

“Every kid can learn, they just have to be taught the right way,” Vogel said. “We try very hard to figure out the learning style of the student, and pair them up with appropriate teachers.”

The next SAT test date is Nov. 7, and Vogel hopes that students will come to Chyten to prepare for the exam. Several of her tutors live in Chandler, and they will be tutoring in Chandler on Sundays so that students do not have to drive to Scottsdale.

For more information on Chyten, visit or call (480) 990-7374.

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