Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a compilation of Summa's most frequently asked questions.

If you do not see your question answered below, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office, and our front office staff will be happy to discuss your question with you.

General
How do I register?

Is there a fee for consultation?
How much do your programs cost?
Who are your teachers?
What materials do you use?
Where are the classes held?
How long are consultation meetings?
How do I get in contact with my student’s teachers?
How are my kids doing in classes?  How do I get a progress update?
My student’s friends all want to be in the same class. Can we book them together?

PSAT, SAT, and the SAT Subject Tests
What is the difference between the SAT and the ACT?
What is the difference between the PSAT and the SAT?
When should I start preparing for the SAT?
What is the difference between the SAT Subject exam (SAT II) and the SAT Reasoning exam (SAT I)?
Are Subject SAT tests required?
Does Summa register students for the official College Board SAT?
How do I register for the official College Board SAT? 
Why does Summa offer so many different programs for SAT prep?
Can my student just come in and take a diagnostic test?

Changes with the New SAT
Since the new SAT is going back to a 1600 scale, will it be comparable to the old SAT version?
Why is the essay optional, and in the ACT as well? Who looks at the essay?
If the new SAT reflects the Common Core Standards, how might Summa incorporate the new standards into classes?
What do the upcoming changes in the SAT test mean for Summa?

Summa Junior Programs
Can I start enrichment programs at any time?
How many books do the students in Writing and Literature Programs read?

College Admissions
Is GPA the only thing that matters in college admissions?
How important is the college admissions essay?
How important are college rankings?
How do I get more answers about college admissions?
Why can’t I sign up my student over the phone or the internet?

 

General:

How do I register?

Before registration into a program at Summa, all students will need to meet with one of our counselors for an initial 30-45 minute consultation appointment.

At the time of the appointment, prospective SAT students will need to bring in an official PSAT or SAT test score report, or take a diagnostic test prior to the consultation. Students wanting to register for an enrichment program will need to bring in their prior year’s STAR test results and a copy of their current report card. After the consultation appointment, students may register for the recommended program by communicating with one of the administrators about which program they would like to register.

To schedule an initial consultation appointment, please call (858) 793-8880 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

Is there a fee for consultation?

There is no fee for the initial consultation appointment – this is merely a way for our counselors to get to know the student and answer any specific questions the student or family may have. Upon registration, there is an initial registration fee of $50.

How much do your programs cost?

Program costs are published on our program schedules, which are updated on a seasonal basis. You may view our schedules in detail by clicking here.

Who are your teachers?

Summa’s teachers have all received Bachelor’s degrees in their respective fields, and the majority are working towards or have already received a postgraduate degree (Master's or Ph.D.) in their field. Summa Education is committed to excellence in learning, and our selection and training of teachers reflects this core principle.

For more information about your student’s teachers, please click here to learn more about our teachers specializing in Humanities and click here to learn more about our teachers specializing in Math & Sciences.

What materials do you use?

Summa Education uses a combination of purchased and original materials, for both enrichment and test preparation programs.

Where are the classes held?

All classes, counseling appointments, and private tutoring appointments are held at Summa locations. To find the closest location near you, please click here.

How long are consultation meetings?

Initial consultation meetings are typically 30-45 minutes long. Students should attend the meeting with a parent or guardian. To schedule an initial consultation meeting, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

How do I get in contact with my student’s teachers?

To contact our teachers, all parents are welcome to email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach your student's teacher based in Carmel Valley or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach your student's teachers based in Rancho Bernardo. Our front office staff will ensure that all messages will be forwarded to our teachers.

How are my kids doing in classes? How do I get a progress update?

The Summa office does their best to send out regular progress reports for all students in all programs. School-year programs will typically have progress reports sent out every six weeks, and summer programs will have progress reports sent out at the mid-way point.

If you have specific questions in regard to your student’s progress, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

My student’s friends all want to be in the same class. Can we book them together?

Depending on the counselor’s recommendations, students may or may not be enrolled into the same program and section as the student’s friends. We strive to help students be successful at Summa, which includes determining a class and a study plan that fits each student’s particular needs.

For further inquiries regarding programs and signups, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

 

PSAT, SAT, and the SAT Subject Tests:

What is the difference between the SAT and the ACT?

The majority of the question types on the SAT and the ACT are very similar. However, there are some key differences between the two exams.

The SAT is comprised of three subjects: Critical Reading, Writing, and Math. These subjects have three sections each on the official exam, as well as an equating section (popularly known as the “experimental” section), which is not counted towards your score. One of the Writing sections includes a 25-minute essay to be written at the start of the exam. The remaining Writing sections focus on grammar. The Critical Reading section includes sentence completion questions (i.e. vocabulary), as well as questions based on short and long passages, testing your ability to think and read critically. The Math section includes multiple choice and free-response questions that require knowledge of math concepts through Algebra II. The test in its entirety, including the equating section, will take a total of 225 minutes, or three hours and 45 minutes, not including breaks.

The ACT is comprised of four subjects: English, Math, Reading, and Science. The English portion, which is 45 minutes long, tests skills in grammar and rhetoric. The Math portion is a 60-minute section that includes only multiple-choice questions. These questions will test skills through Pre-Calculus. The Reading portion is a 35-minute section that tests reading comprehension skills, including both short and long passages. The last section, Science, is a 35-minute section that tests a student’s knowledge in Natural Sciences through interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem solving. These individual sections are scored individually, and then averaged to get a student’s final score ranging from 1 to 36. There is a final optional Writing section that is 30 minutes. This is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their writing skills. This section will be scored and reported separately and will include comments. The entire exam, without the Writing section, will take a total of 175 minutes, or two hours and 55 minutes.

Where the SAT is comprised of 170 questions, the ACT is comprised of 215 questions. While many students perform comparably well on the two tests, some argue that one is easier than the other.   Most colleges accept both the ACT and the SAT, which suggests that, according to college admissions officers at least, there is no substantive difference between the difficulty level of each test.

If you have questions regarding the tests or would like to discuss which test would be a better fit for your student, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

What is the difference between the PSAT and the SAT?

The PSAT and the SAT are very similar to one another, but there are a few key differences. College Board assumes that students taking the PSAT are just starting their junior year, so the math is relatively easier. Students taking the SAT are assumed to have completed their junior year, so the math is a bit harder (up to Algebra II). The SAT also includes an essay writing component, which the PSAT does not.

The PSAT is slightly shorter, taking students about two and a half hours, whereas the SAT takes about three hours and 45 minutes. Lastly, the PSAT is meant to provide a preview of the SAT and is not considered in the college application process. However, in the student’s junior year, the PSAT doubles as the National Merit Qualifying Scholarship Test, which is used to determine student eligibility for certain kinds of financial aid.

When should I start preparing for the SAT?

The earliest Summa enrolls students for the SAT program is after they have completed their sophomore year in high school. The student’s schedule, including school, exams, and extracurricular activities, will also be taken into consideration when finding the right SAT prep program for him or her. For many students, summer or winter break is a great time to study for the SAT because there is less distraction and more time to devote to SAT prep.

Each student is different and should discuss with parents and counselors when the best to begin this process is. For further questions, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

What is the difference between the SAT Subject exam (SAT II) and the SAT Reasoning exam (SAT I)?

The SAT Reasoning test is a widely-used college admissions test that covers Critical Reading, Writing, and Math. The test is three hours and 45 minutes. The SAT Subject exam tests a student’s knowledge in five different areas – English, history, languages, mathematics, and science – through 20 different tests, each of which is one hour.

Subject tests are meant to complement and enhance a student’s admissions package, highlighting the subjects in which a student excels. Where most colleges require applicants to take the SAT or ACT and report their scores, however, SAT Subject requirements differ from school to school. For example, the Subject Tests are no longer required for admission to the UCs but are nevertheless highly recommended.

Are Subject SAT tests required?

Depending on the school you apply to, Subject tests may or may not be required.

Many private schools will require students to submit two, or sometimes three Subject test scores with their college application.

Certain majors--Engineering, for instance--will require an SAT Subject score (SAT Math II, in the case of Engineering), whether or not the college in general requires it.

For the UCs, Subject tests are no longer required, but are still highly recommended.

Does Summa register students for the official College Board SAT?

Summa does NOT register students for the official College Board SAT exam. Students need to register for the test through the College Board website at www.collegeboard.org.

How do I register for the official College Board SAT?

Please visit the College Board website, www.collegeboard.org. If you do not already have a login, you will need to create a College Board account on the website prior to registering for the exam. You can also find the registration deadlines and the test dates on the website.

Why does Summa offer so many different programs for SAT prep?

Summa recognizes that each student is different and therefore learns differently and has different schedules and times that he or she can devote to preparing for the SAT. Our various programs require different time commitments from each student, although the materials and the quality of teaching remain the same, regardless of the program.

Because each student is different, it is important for our counselors to meet with the student and a parent or guardian prior to registration. For questions regarding specific differences among our various programs, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

Can my student just come in and take a diagnostic test?

We are happy to administer a diagnostic test for your student if he does not have a current PSAT or SAT score report available.

Students who are incoming 9th and 10th graders will be administered a PSAT diagnostic test, which takes about two and a half hours.

Incoming 10th and 11th graders will be administered a SAT diagnostic test, which takes about three and a half hours.

We do ask that students and parents schedule a diagnostic test prior to coming in for a counseling appointment. To schedule a time to take a diagnostic test, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

 

Changes with the New SAT:

Since the new SAT is going back to a 1600 scale, will it be comparable to the old SAT version?

Yes and no. In the broadest sense, each 200-800 scale should maintain roughly the same meaning in terms of relative ranking of students. For example, we have an intuitive sense that, for the current version of the SAT, a 700 in Critical Reading is a strong score. In fact, that score means you've done better than 95% of college-bound juniors and seniors who took the SAT. That sort of relative comparison will still be possible. On the other hand, the new "Evidence-Based Reading and Writing" section will be radically different from both the current Critical Reading and the old Verbal section. These changes are so large that it's better to think of this as a completely new test, one that measures somewhat different things than the old test. This new test will be as different from the old SAT as the current SAT is from the ACT.

Why is the essay optional, and in the ACT as well? Who looks at the essay?

Making the essay optional brings the SAT into line with the ACT. Some colleges care about the essay and some don't. Currently, many highly competitive schools require that you write the essay if you submit ACT scores, and it's likely that these same colleges will require the essay on the new SAT. But if you're not applying to one of these schools, writing the essay may well be a waste of your time and money. (Because essays must be graded by humans, it's much more expensive to give an essay exam than one that is purely multiple choice.) As for who looks at the essay, the answer is often no one other than the graders who score it. The essays are available for admissions officers to look at if they so choose. In reality, though, admissions officers will rarely look beyond the score. They are busy enough already, and few of them will take the time to look at another writing sample unless there is some compelling reason. One circumstance in which they might want to read the essay would be if the application essays seemed suspiciously polished, perhaps written by someone other than the student. The SAT or ACT essay can provide a comparison in this case.’’

If the new SAT reflects the Common Core Standards, how might Summa incorporate the new standards into classes?

The goal of the Common Core standards is to ensure that students are ready for college (and careers) by the time they graduate from high school. These standards reflect the approach we've had all along. Summa classes already meet or exceed these standards. In fact, even though Common Core standards are only now being implemented in California public schools, the standards themselves were released in 2009, and we at Summa have used them in the design of our courses from the beginning of the company.

What do the upcoming changes in the SAT test mean for Summa?

Summa is perfectly positioned for these changes, because we've never focused on test tricks or skills that are specific to one test. Our attitude has always been that if you give students a high-level education in core subjects and then show them how to apply those skills to a test, they will come away both with higher test scores and with real skills in reading, writing, and mathematics that they can apply everywhere in their academic careers. We've already started to plan for the changes and will have our courses fully updated well in advance of the new test.

 

Summa Junior Programs:

Can I start enrichment programs at any time?

During the school year, as long as the student has already counseled and been approved for the specific program, students can join at any time. Parents will need to communicate with the front office staff when the student plans on starting. It is ideal for students in the Writing and Literature program to start at the beginning of the new book the respective class will be reading.

With Math enrichment programs, we would like to ensure that what the student is learning at school compliments the current topic being reviewed. For further questions or to register your student in one of our enrichment programs, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office.

How many books do the students in Writing and Literature Programs read?

The Writing and Literature programs typically read one book every 4 to 6 weeks during the school year. During the summer programs, the weekday programs typically read six books in the eight-week period, and three books in the weekend program. The Writing and Literature classes also incorporate grammar and vocabulary study.

 

College Admissions:

Is GPA the only thing that matters in college admissions?

No. Although grades and coursework are the most important components in college admissions, colleges examine students’ applications holistically, looking at grades, extracurricular activities, test scores, and the story that the student has to tell in the college admissions essay(s).

How important is the college admissions essay?

For just about every selective college or university, the admissions essay is a critical component in the overall "holistic" impression you make in your application package. While grades and test scores give the admissions officer a good sense of your academic preparedness, and the list of extracurriculars gives them a general impression of the depth and scope of your involvement in non-academic activities, it is the college essay that presents you as a full-fledged human being with a story. A good story will make a student "pop" off the page and stand out among the welter of equally strong candidates for admission. Your story will also tell the admissions officer how likely you are to not only leave your mark on campus, but also to go on and do great things after college. And every college, no matter how selective, wants to be able to say of students who go on to successfully lead, create, build, reform... "that's our alum!"

How important are college rankings?

A college's rank does not predict how happy you'll be there or how successful you'll be after. What it predicts is the response of your peers when you tell them, "I got into ____!" or the envy the person behind you on the freeway will feel when they see your sticker from ____ University on your windshield. What it predicts, too, is probably how rich and old the college happens to be. It does not predict whether it's the right place for you to pursue your academic or creative interests. Only research into each school you're interested in will tell you that (and campus visits are pretty important too).

In short, take the rankings with a grain of salt. After all, there are several different rankings lists produced by several different companies and organizations based on several different criteria. Don't get hung up on the rankings game.

How do I get more answers about college admissions?

Many of the admissions requirements that each college has are described on their web pages. To discuss specific questions in regard to your student and his or her admissions process, please call (858) 793-8880 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Carmel Valley office or call (858) 673-8988 or email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to reach our Rancho Bernardo office, so that we may better assist you and schedule a college counseling appointment if necessary.

Why can’t I sign up my student over the phone or the internet?

We don’t sign up students over the phone or the internet because we have many types of classes and many schedules—we need to sit down and meet with a student to understand his or her individual strengths and needs. We are the opposite of a “one size fits all” approach—we have dozens of different options for students. We also like to meet face-to-face with students so we can make sure there is a good “fit” with our program.

Summa’s classes require significant work and effort; students who are motivated and put in effort usually reach their goals. Students who are resistant or who seem like “prisoners of war” are not likely to do well in our program—and we don’t sign them up. You wouldn’t want a sullen, sulky person in your class—and none of our teachers want to teach someone who doesn’t want to be here. This “mutual selection” process is one key element to Summa’s success.