I first started tutoring while I was still an undergraduate and have been doing it ever since! My very first tutoring jobs involved some volunteer tutoring and teaching English for Geometry class to a couple of study abroad high school students from Korea. I moved quickly into test prep, first teaching SAT and ACT, then adding additional tests throughout the years.
Students sometimes ask me why I never went to law school or business school even though I had the test scores to get into the best programs. My answer is always that I love the tests and I love helping other students achieve those goals, but I have no interest in becoming a lawyer or going into corporate myself. I’m perfectly happy tutoring, and I love that I’m always getting to learn new things.
16 years tutoring in person, including 8 years of online tutoring.
Graduate teaching assistant at University of Hawaii at Manoa – Second Language Studies
Teacher at Hawaii English Language Program
Test prep tutor at Kaplan and a couple of smaller academies in Seattle
Ratings and Awards
5.0/5.0 star rating out of 1500+ hours logged on Wyzant (top 1% of Wyzant tutors)
Kaplan Tutor of the Year (2005)
800 Verbal, 790 Quantitative (1999 official score)
1600 on recent practice tests
36 on practice tests
170 (official score)
175-180 on multiple full-length prep tests
169 Verbal, 170 Quantitative, 5.5 AWA (official score)
95th percentile on practice tests
Education & Selected Work Experience
PhD (in progress): University of Hawaii at Manoa – Second Language Studies
MA (2017): University of Hawaii at Manoa – Second Language Studies
BA (2004): University of Washington – Linguistics and Psychology
Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions (2003-2012): tutor, teacher, faculty manager
Although I can definitely sympathize with those who find standardized tests annoying at best or deeply problematic at worst, I’ve personally always enjoyed them. Part of the reason is that I’ve always thought of them partially as a logic puzzle. If I can figure out strategies to approach the questions and techniques to keep myself encouraged while testing, I can perform my best. I still remember taking the CogAT test in elementary school and working through techniques to tackle hole-punching questions I’d never seen before. After that, I was hooked.
I spent K-12 in a predominantly low-income neighborhood. Ours were not the best schools in the city, but my classmates worked extremely hard and it rubbed off on me. When the time came for my SAT, I studied hard. I did practice test sections from library books on my bedroom floor next to the heater in the winter. I even studied vocab while on a family vacation at the beach! I told everyone my goal was a 1400, but secretly it was a 1500. And secretly secretly, it was a 1550.
When I got my scores back with a 1590, I was so happy! I also was kicking myself, since I found out that the math question I missed was one I had changed my answer on…
My test scores have opened up so many doors for me. Not only did I get admitted to the University of Washington with not one but two full-ride scholarships, but I also used my test scores to get a job at Kaplan my junior year. And I’ve never looked back. Later, my GRE scores and teaching experience got me full funding for both my MA and my PhD.
It’s true that test scores are only part of an application, and generally not the largest part. However, it’s also true that raising your scores can unlock opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be available. I’ve worked with student athletes looking for a score to provide recruiting eligibility, military veterans looking for a score that will allow them to use the GI Bill, and students of all ages looking to make their application that much stronger and hopefully qualify for scholarships.
My Life Currently
I’m currently bouncing back and forth between school in Hawaii, my home base in Washington state, and my research and fiancé in South Korea.
Given my academic background in Second Language Studies, it may come as no surprise that one of my hobbies is learning a foreign language. Currently, I’m working mostly on Korean. I’ve studied at Yonsei Korean Language Institute in Seoul and spent the summer of 2018 with the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship studying Korea in Gwangju. These days, I’m self-studying. I’m also a firm believer in language exchange as a study method.
Why I Love Tutoring
I tutor because I love seeing my students make progress and succeed. I love hearing back from students telling me about the programs they got into, the scholarships they were offered, and most importantly the confidence they gained. These emails and texts are by far the best part of my job.
Now that I’m tutoring only online, I love being able to work with students from New York to Hawaii and everywhere in between. In one week, I might get to hear about a hockey team in California, the basketball scene in Georgia, a robotics competition in Washington, a new puppy in New York, and an upcoming wedding in Hawaii. I enjoy being a part of my students’ lives, even if briefly.
Selfishly, I love tutoring because of the flexibility and variety it offers. I get to work with students of all ages, from the bright, goofy 3rd grader to the self-motivated and very determined LSAT student. I also never get burnt out working with the same test day after day. I consider myself very lucky to be able to do what I love.