How can I roll my old 401K into a traditional IRA?

Um, we're an SAT prep company. We don't really give out financial advice. But since you ask, before selecting a fund you should carefully consider the fund's objectives, risks, charges, and expenses – especially the expenses part, which will be written in extremely tiny font so not even a person with bionic vision could tell that you're basically signing away your kidneys.

Oh my gosh. I can't believe I just asked you for financial advice! I'm so sorry. There's just so much on my plate these days.

That's okay.

I'll be honest with you. I find this whole thing really frustrating. When I was in high school, you just woke up one day, took your SATs, and that was it. Now everyone's spending thousands of dollars and then hiring these private college counselors to help with the application essays. Is it just me or is all this, you know, a little crazy?

Crazy is probably the nicest word we could use.

But aren't you a test prep company? Don't you want kids to do a million lessons?

Absolutely. In this economy, we high-five each other every time a parent signs up for ten. But here's the thing: a large percentage of the test prep industry's revenue is based on parent anxiety. Parents hear that their neighbor's kid is doing lessons with We Guarantee Your Son Or Daughter Will Get Into An Ivy League School So You Can Wear A Fancy Sweatshirt tutoring company, and then all of a sudden ten other parents are calling We Guarantee Your Son Or Daughter Will Get Into An Ivy League School So You Can Wear A Fancy Sweatshirt tutoring company because they don't want their kids to be behind.

The truth is, high-caliber SAT and ACT prep significantly improves scores. Students have to be willing to work, though. At Catalyst, we view the prep process as a 50-50 partnership. Our responsibility is to provide you with a comprehensive curriculum, a stellar tutor who is not only adept at explaining every key concept but also at motivating students to maximize their score, and a support staff that lets you know how your son or daughter is progressing throughout the entire prep process. Our students' responsibility is to ask questions, engage fully in the preparation process, and spend as much time as possible reviewing our strategies in the time between lessons.

Wow, you're really honest. Is that why I should go with Catalyst?

We know parents get a ton of SAT and ACT prep solicitations in the mail. With everyone claiming to be the best, it's probably difficult to distinguish one service from another. If you're interested in Catalyst, we'd be happy to give you a number of referrals who have successfully used our service, or you can consult the following chart to compare us with some of our competitors.


Other Companies We Would Love To Name If They Didn't Have Big Scary Lawyers On Retainer
We take the actual SAT and ACT every time they're offered to make sure our strategies are effective. Because we take these exams over and over again, we're able to use our insider knowledge to help students turn the SAT's and ACT's predictability to their utmost advantage. Pay tutors to take the actual SAT? Har! Good luck getting payroll to approve that one.
Our students have the option to prep in their home, at their own schedule, with one or two academically-compatible friends. Our students prep at our fixed yet extremely convenient location, at our fixed yet extremely convenient schedule, with 10 to 15 undisruptive students and one not in the least bit overburdened tutor. We also validate parking.
We use authentic diagnostic tests so our students know exactly what they're going to encounter on the morning of the test. If you're gullible enough to believe articles in biased, conspiracy-theory newspapers like The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, we use "mock" exams that get progressively easier to satisfy phony customer guarantees and give students an artificial sense of improvement. As if we're clever enough to think of that!
Our curriculum was designed by instructors who have earned multiple perfect scores on the actual SAT and ACT. Our curriculum was designed by instructors who have earned multiple stars on Candy Crush.
We offer comprehensive Bootcamps the weekend before every exam to make sure students head into the SAT with confidence, momentum, and every key strategy fresh in their mind. "Confidence.... Momentum.... Every key strategy fresh in their mind..." Hmmmm, I like the ring of that. Tell you what. First thing tomorrow morning - after coffee, a couple of danishes, listening to Stan in Accounts Receivable complain about the Yankees and his messy divorce - I'm going to punch out a few emails urging our people to urge some of our other people to look into that.


So you're saying Catalyst doesn't just provide a superior curriculum and support staff, but also provides more flexible tutoring options and authentic diagnostic tests?

You left out the part about us taking the actual SAT and ACT multiple times per year to make sure our strategies are truly effective.

Oh. Right. So you're saying Catalyst doesn't just provide a superior curriculum and support staff, but also provides more flexible tutoring options, authentic diagnostic tests, and the collective insight of instructors who take the SAT & ACT multiple times per year?

"Collective insight"... I like that.

Thanks. I did marketing for seven years. By the way, how many times can you take the SAT? My friend told me it doesn't matter because colleges average your scores, anyway.

There's technically no limit to the number of times a student can take the SAT or ACT, though we're fairly certain there are parts of the Geneva Convention that prohibit parents from making their son or daughter take the test more than three times. In our opinion, students who do their homework and study a few hours each week really shouldn't have to take the SAT more than three twice. We're not naming names here, but some students and parents get really hung up on ten points here, ten points there. If you're looking to go from a 1200 to a 1350, then you should absolutely take the test again. But if you already have a 1390 and want to take the test again simply to get a 1400, please understand that those ten extra points won't make any difference in your college acceptances

As for colleges averaging SAT scores - that's just a rumor that circulates every year. If a student takes the SAT or ACT a few times and submits all his or her scores to a college, the college will not average the scores. Some schools, such as UCLA, look at the best score a student received on any one test date. Other schools, including many private and Ivy League universities, allow students to mix and match their best scores from different test dates to get what's called a "super score."

What about improvement? How much do your students' scores typically increase?

Students who have taken the SAT or PSAT before using Catalyst generally improve 250 to 300 points after completing our program. Students who have taken the ACT before using Catalyst test generally improve 4 to 5 points after completing our program. In the interest of honesty, parents should know there is no tutor or prep company capable of replacing sheer determination. Year in and year out, the students who perform the best are the ones who put forth the most effort.

This may be a change of subject, but… I have a mole on my calf that I'm concerned about. I don't think anyone in my family's had any serious skin issues, but I went in the sun a lot as a kid, and I'm a little worried.

There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Because each has many different appearances, it's important to know the early warning signs. If your mole has changed color, increased in size or thickness, changed in texture, or is larger than 6 millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser), you need to see a dermatologist.

What if we don't like the tutor?

At the risk of sounding like eHarmony, we conduct a thorough personality evaluation before matching a new student with a tutor. We ask new students to tell us about any previous tutoring experience they may have had, about teachers whose methods best match their learning style, and about any particular traits they're seeking in an SAT or ACT instructor. If a family calls us after the first session and tells us they're not thrilled with the tutor we've selected, we immediately re-match the student with a new tutor and follow-up to make sure they're completely satisfied throughout the prep process.

Well, I have to say, this all sounds really wonderful.

Thank you. Do you think you're leaning toward Individual Prep or Prep With A Friend?

Hold on a second. I feel like I had another Frequently Asked Question.

No problem. Take your time.

Time... time – that's what I wanted to ask! I heard if you can get a doctor to say your student has ADHD, they can get extra time on the test, and that colleges don't even know which students have received extra time on the SAT and ACT.

That's true. Students who are diagnosed as having ADHD or other learning differences can apply for accommodations that may give them extra time on the SAT. There are many students out there who genuinely merit these accommodations. Unfortunately, there are also many clinical psychologists out there who are more than willing to take your money and promise you extra time on the test, even if your son or daughter doesn't need extra time – and they can't deliver on their promise. If you go to a doctor who makes you fill out a questionnaire asking "have you or anyone in your family ever worn a hidden camera for Dateline NBC?", you should probably look around for a new doctor. If you believe your son or daughter merits accommodations on the SAT or ACT, we're more than happy to recommend reputable individuals who can assist you with your application.

Well, like I said, this all sounds great. I've had Frequently Asked Questions with a lot of different companies, but I think I like you guys the best. I'm going to call Catalyst right now and sign up for ten lessons and possibly the SAT Bootcamp. You guys take Discover?

All forms of plastic. Glad we could help – and look forward to speaking with you soon!