Students study and receive midterm tutoring in Acton and Concord Massachusetts

It’s Finally Here: The August SAT

Coming to A Testing Center (Hopefully) Near You…


August 26, 2017 marks the (re)introduction of a summer SAT testing date, much to the applause of over-committed, rising high school seniors looking for an opportunity to prepare and sit for the SAT or SAT Subject Tests without the added pressure of a full plate of classes; extracurricular demands; and the time required in the fall to complete college applications.


This debut of the August test date is expected to draw a large number of test takers. Note that while the regular deadline to register is July 28, certain metropolitan areas, including Boston and New York City, are expected to experience high demand for the available number of seats.  Early registration is essential for preferred testing locations.


The availability of a summer testing date offers a number of potential benefits to students:


1.  The growth in the number of schools with Early Action/Early Decision/Priority application deadlines necessitates that students complete testing equally promptly.


2.  If a student has waited for the middle or end of junior year to test and would like the benefit of an additional testing opportunity, she can now do so without the demands of the senior fall staring her in the face.


3.  If a student was caught short in studying for Subject Tests, say amid the requirements of preparing for May APs toward the end of junior year, or perhaps missed the June test date due to other exigencies, there is still the summer to refresh recently-completed subject material.  This is valuable before the introduction of new coursework in senior year, particularly in courses that do not build in tandem ex. chemistry with little to no overlap with physics or biology.


4.  Initiating or refreshing test prep without the distraction of other academic pressures may enable the student to focus more on his preparation contributing, at least in theory, to a higher test score. Even though some school districts start up again in late August, the school year will not yet be in full swing.


5. At the very least sitting for a summer SAT, with the advantage of some breathing room in the calendar, can potentially make a huge difference for students disposed to anxiety in anticipation of high-stakes testing.


6.  For students who had put their eggs into the ACT basket but now want to try their hand at the SAT can now do so without having to wait for October of senior year to come around.  And…


7.  …those students who decide to — or need to — take the SAT in fall of senior year, can now potentially avoid the pressures of back-to-back October and November testing.  Testing as such, with precious little time in between to assess prior scores and shore up weak areas, is unlikely to be productive in significantly boosting scores.


For more information about the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and registration, visit the College Board website.


This guest post is courtesy of Marla Platt, MBA, an independent college consultant based in Sudbury, MA. Through AchieveCoach College Consulting, she provides personalized guidance to students and families throughout the college planning, search, and admissions process. Marla has been a frequent speaker at area college events; an alumni interviewer on behalf of Cornell University; and a volunteer coach at Babson College’s CLTP program. Marla is a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and can be reached via

Record player, close-up

Tutor Spotlight: Don Lippincott

Don Lippincott, who joined Open Door in Fall of 2016, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Classics major, and then went on to earn a Master’s from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts and an MBA from Boston University. He has a wide variety of experience teaching (including Latin in inner city Philadelphia and English in Greece) and mentoring (including advising students at Harvard). He also ran educational programs at Harvard Business School. Like all tutors at Open Door, he has an unquenchable thirst for lifelong learning that he shares with his students, and a busy life rich with passions and hobbies. We hope you enjoy learning more about him as much as we have!


Q: First of all, it’s so great to be able to collaborate with you here at Open Door! We all appreciate that you have had experiences that have required using a variety of coaching, mentoring, and teaching skills. What are some common threads?


I’ve always enjoyed working with young people, whether it was as a 20-something teacher in inner city Philadelphia or as a tutor in Athens, Greece, teaching English and helping Greek students apply to U.S. colleges. In addition, much of my career entailed advising university students in course selection as it related to both exciting learning opportunities or career options. It’s incredibly gratifying to work with students and to watch their thinking and “aha” moments happening right in front of you.


Q: All of us know students who avoided a college major in an area they loved, worried that it might not translate to value on the job market. Are you still glad you chose Classics, and how has your Classics major served you over the years? Would you encourage other students to choose a major not directly associated with career opportunities?


Respectively: yes, significantly, and yes!


My Classics major has enabled me to see patterns across languages and has greatly enhanced my facility for writing. In addition, it has helped me understand how systems work. The complexities of, say, the Greek language have taught me to analyze more deeply. Finally, it has helped me develop an appreciation for arts of all kinds.


I would definitely encourage most students to study something other than their professional school/grad focus. Moreover, if they can swing it, study abroad! It opens your mind to so many things. I spent my junior year in Greece, and as a Classics major, I was completely invigorated by everything around me. Even if you don’t get the chance to study overseas, however, taking a wide variety of courses will expose you to ideas and knowledge you might never get the opportunity to study again, or more optimistically,  inspire you to revisit things later in your career, in retirement, or even in lifelong hobbies.


As a major bonus, I met my wife in that study abroad program in Greece – and she was a French major! She enjoyed the program there, too.


Q: You noted the connection between systems of language and better analytical skills. What about a connection between strategic planning and test prep?


Good question. Assuming that most of our students have been exposed to similarly excellent school systems, I really believe that a good test-taking strategy can be a key differentiating factor. Each student has different strengths and gaps, so I try to tailor strategies to each student. Sometimes hybrid approaches can help play to a student’s strengths.


Q: About those lifelong hobbies, you’ve always played tennis. Do you play to play, or to win?


I play to win, because I’m pretty competitive – in attitude, if not in skill level. And now I’m mostly relegated to doubles, where I spend far too much time trying to win on drop shots and lobs instead of hitting it hard like I know I can. I try to play twice a week throughout the year.


Our family has always been addicted to sports: one of my grandfathers was an Olympic medal winning sprinter and the other was a strong college catcher. My dad was a college soccer player and sports writer, and I have many athletically talented cousins. Tough acts to follow!


Tennis aside, for me, my favorite thing in life between age 6 and 16 was all things baseball, mostly playing it. Since then, I most love watching tennis and ice hockey.


Q: I heard that you also collect vinyl! Who are your favorite bands from back-in-the-day, and do you listen to any current vocalists or bands?


Favorites: The Kinks and Bob Marley. The best concert I ever saw by far (and I have been to many) was Marley and the Wailers at Philly’s Tower Theater way back in 1976. The Kinks in London at the Royal Albert was also a great show! I find that I – and many other guys – underappreciate female stars, so I’d like to mention just a few for today’s students to check out:

  • Janis Joplin, an amazing and charismatic live performer
  • Grace Slick, the voice behind Jefferson Airplane
  • Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention, who had a magnificent voice and emotive style
  • Eva Cassidy, another great voice
  • Maria Muldaur


In terms of current music, I gravitate toward lefty folk, country, and rock, like Steve Earle, Luka Bloom (an excellent Irish folkie) and Dwight Yoakam (who actually isn’t so lefty). I also like The Konks. I could go on.


Q: Finally, every tutor at Open Door seems to love pets, and some occasionally even bring one to the office. Can you share about your current pet?


Compared to his half brother, who used to attack pickup trucks, Leo, our Cairn Terrier, is an angel. He’s 16-years-young and still likes to roll in the mud!


Don Lippincott holds his Cairn terrier, Leo
                  Don Lippincott and Leo

abstract horse painting

Student Spotlight: Elise Jandl, May 2017 Student Artist

We are happy to introduce our first featured student artist, whose work was on display at Open Door for the month of May 2017: Elise Jandl, a sophomore from Acton-Boxborough Regional High School.


We asked her some questions about her process and inspiration.


Q: What inspires you? Do you have a favorite artist?

A: I’m inspired by the artist Vik Muniz. He uses unique materials – things like sugar, thread, and other random objects – to create art that makes a statement, which I have always thought was cool.


Q: What’s your process like? Do you have a vision for your piece before starting?

A: I’ve kind of given up on having a picture in my mind beforehand of what I’m going to do, because I hardly ever stick to the path and always end up changing things! I’m definitely the most productive when I don’t think about it and just start drawing/painting whatever comes to mind.


Q: When you are creating an abstract piece, what are you thinking about? Color? Shape?

A: Actually, when I’m creating abstract art I usually like to choose a theme or some kind of mood, like peacefulness or sadness or something, and then build off of that with colors or shapes or objects that I feel portray that mood.


Q: When did you start making art? And how have your subjects changed over time?

A: I started making art all the way back in preschool! I loved drawing horses, cats, and dogs. I’ve definitely expanded my interest to other things besides animals, but I do still really like to draw horses!


Q: Have you taken any courses that stand out?

A: I have been loving the art class I am taking in school right now. My teacher, So Hyun Kong, is really great and provides us with a lot of both materials and good ideas. Right now we are doing a project based on societal issues like poverty and homelessness, and how personal challenges like depression are also important to and affected by society as a whole.


Q: What are your favorite materials?

A: I found out that I love drawing with charcoal, which I started doing in my art class this year. I also really like oil pastel. I love how bright the colors are.


Q: Are you thinking about a career in the arts?

A: I have no idea if I want a career involving art, but I do know that it’s going to continue to be a hobby and something I spend my free time doing!


Cardinals oil pastel drawing
Untitled by Elise Jandl (2017)   Colored pencil on paper