Gifted & Talented Education (G.A.T.E)

College Prep Information


When I ask my students how many of them have read a book for pleasure in the past month, less than TEN PERCENT raise their hands. How can we ensure that our children are prepared for higher education?  By promoting reading. Reading builds vocabulary comprehension, improves writing skills, and increases reading speed. All types of reading are valuable; the key is that the child have access to material that is engaging and enjoyable for them so that they will continue to read joyfully and independently.

Hints to Encourage Reading

1. Make sure that your child sets daily time away from electronic devices to interact with the printed page.

2. Build a family library that includes books of all reading levels for each member of the household.

3. Encourage and accompany them to the library to select books that they like.

3. Select and buy books as gifts that you believe your child will enjoy.  Choose books of the appropriate reading level.  All books are valuable and improve reading speed and vocabulary.  Do not censor or attempt to distinguish between " good" books and "bad " books.   Any reading is better than no reading.

4. Turn off the television and model reading.


KJ Melander



  • READ! One hour a day is ideal. A lifelong reading habit is the best way to prepare yourself for standardized tests, with their focus on reading fluency and grammar. Every test prep expert agrees on this, and offers it as their number one piece of advice. Choose books you know you will enjoy that will also challenge you; look up words you don’t know as you turn those pages. (If you use a Kindle or an iPad, this is super easy, as you can just click on the word!)

  • Read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. It will help on the SAT or the ACT, in your future English classes, and will continue to come in handy for years to come.

  • Use the Vocabulary Cartoons series to memorize about 50 words a week, or whatever you can manage.

  • Take a speed-reading course. There are many short and sweet varieties out there (such as MindFlow class from Test Prep San Francisco) that will teach you invaluable lessons in just one day of focused effort!

  • Google “Top SAT words.” Use any of the given sites (,, etc.) to set up a learning plan to acquire the words you do not know. (Master even the ones you’ve seen and kind of know in context, but couldn't define on your own.) Every week, quiz yourself on that week's words and last week's words. Every month, quiz yourself on the entire month’s words. (If you do only two words a day for the whole Summer, that’s over 150 words you will know!)

  • Use's “Word of the Day” function to master new vocabulary.

  • Use Barron’s Hot Words for the SAT to increase your vocabulary.

  • Using The Bedford Reader by X. J. Kennedy, read three short essays a day, underlining a sentence that represents the main point and a few sentences that represent the greatest supporting points for each one. This builds reading comprehension, speed, vocabulary, use of idiom, and command of structure. It's best to do this with a peer or a parent, with whom you can have a discussion as you compare underlined sentences arguing why your points are "more important" than the others.

  • Read the New York Times daily, as well as magazines like The New Yorker or The Nation. These texts feature new vocabulary in context and provide practice with reading difficult (and sometimes boring) passages on new subjects, often with complex arguments and several pieces of evidence. (These same pieces are adapted by the College Board for the Critical Reading section of the test!)

  • Stretch your fluency with numbers through Sudoku and other math games. (Again, you can make this fun by using an iPad or phone app if you’d like.) Specific math formulas and SAT/ACT strategies are best learned as you get closer to optimal test-taking time, but you can improve your basic math fluency through games.

  • Complete two chapters a week from a Kaplan or Princeton Review SAT math workbook. When you score yourself, circle the problems you miss so that you can retry them without knowing the right answers. If there is something you do not understand, look at the explanation. If you get it right on the second try, write down exactly why you missed it, and what you should do differently next time.

  • Find a site (such as or Khan Academy) where you can do math problems for points. Make an account and spend some time on math problems a few times a week.



Many colleges consider students' standardized test scores as part of their acceptance criteria. Colleges will accept either the SAT or the ACT and do not prefer one over the other. Your counselor can help you decide which test might be best for you. There are several distinct differences between the two tests and you may discover that one test suits you better. A handful of students take both tests junior year, in order to discover a better fit. Juniors should take the SAT in March or May or the ACT Plus Writing in April or June.  These tests can be repeated in your senior year for a higher score.

Regardless of what SAT dates or ACT dates you choose, be sure to register early so you can have the best selection of testing locations.

Some juniors may also wish to take two or three SAT Subject Tests usually in June, as they have just finished studying for finals at that time. A handful of colleges require two SAT Subject tests, and some even recommend submitting three SAT Subject tests.

The University of California now requires only the SAT or ACT for admission. Students applying to the UC campuses may also want to take and submit two SAT Subject Tests to be competitive for the more selective campuses. If the scores are strong (equal to your SAT/ACT scores or better), you can include them in your application to give you a competitive advantage.

Select Subject Tests in areas that are your strongest. To help you determine which subjects to take, talk with your subject area teacher and review sample SAT Subject Test questions online. Please note that Language with Listening tests are offered only in November. For freshmen and sophomores in advanced classes, taking an SAT Subject Test at the end of the year may be advisable.

Senior year you will have three opportunities to retake both the SAT and/or SAT Subject Tests: October, November, and December. Similarly, you can take the ACT again in September, October, and December. All three dates will enable scores to arrive on time for private colleges, the UCs and the CSUs.




Formal test preparation can begin as early as the summer before your junior year, but don't overdo it! Schedule time for community and enriching activities to give yourself a needed break before the junior academic year starts. Generally formal test prep should begin in the middle of your junior year to prepare for the spring exams. If you have a lot of extra time, are anxious about standardized testing, or have serious reasons for wanting to get going early, then reaching out to a test preparation company to have an initial planning discussion, so that you are ready for junior Spring, can be a good idea. 

Informal test prep (see previous entry on the GATE page) should be ongoing.  

Purchase a test prep book such as Kaplan or College Board and spend a few hours each week reviewing the questions and answers.  

Check out algebra and geometry textbooks from the local library and go over the chapter reviews to brush up on math. The SAT only tests through advanced Algebra.


ALHS and the SF public library offer free test prep classes throughout the year for the SAT exams. Check with the college and career center, or your counselor.

Khan Academy is now offering free online test preparation.

Method test prep offers an online course for a fee.  

College Board offers an in depth study for the SAT. You should devote one hour of time spent doing problems to three hours figuring out what went wrong and how to avoid the issue again. (The online program is more expensive than the official study guide, but the official study guide does not explain any answers.)

If standardized test-taking is not your strong suit, you may be happy to know there are several schools that don't require any standardized tests!


The following are websites that have access to programs for College Preparation



Minds Matter for low income students (free or reduced lunch) applications accepted from 9th graders only with 3.5 GPA


Youth Art Exchange ( free) summer and spring paid internships and free classes during the school year

Classes in music, photo, fashion design, architecture, printmaking


ACE Mentorship (for architecture, construction and engineering)



CSSA: California State Summer School for the Arts

animation, film, video,creative writing, dance, music , theater,and visual arts

SIG Summer Institute for the Gifted (866)303.4744



Free summer immersion program for rising 11th and 12th graders



Workshops, internships and job shadows



University Prep  (866) 303-4744, (203) 399-5421


Academic Talent Development Program at Berkeley


COSMOS; summer programs in science, math and engineering at UC campuses


Youth Art Exchange ( free) summer and spring paid internships and free classes during the school year

Classes in music, photo, fashion design, architecture, printmaking


Youthworks : Summer Internships in San Francisco


Build San Francisco Institute: Architectural Design


California College of the Arts: scholarships available( grades 9-12)

classes in the arts, architecture and industrial design, photography and creative writing


Spotlight on the Arts

Paid summer internships at arts organizations (low income SF residents)


Academy of Art University  free summer scholarships for precollege arts programs

5 week programs- see your art teacher or Ms. Melander to apply



Summer Fellowship Program (paid work experience)

Students work part-time and get paid for 6-weeks with an industry partner at 20 hours a week. Dates: June 13 to July 27 with mandatory Friday workshops. Please let students know that more sites are being acquired and our application will continuously be updated with new sites.

The application link is here.


Summer Career Exploration Program

Students participate in either Automotive or Building and Construction Trades for 5 weeks: June 13 to July 20 (Monday to Friday) with worksite rotations to local partner sites twice a week. Students earn a $1,000 compensation for completion. 

The application link is here.


Productive Summer Guide

Please also share the Productive Summer Guide for those students interested in other opportunities this summer. 

The link is here.


Youth Resource Fair

Have youth sign up for the Youth Resource Fair on March 17th 2018 from 10-3pm at the Hilton Hotel (333 O'Farrell St.). This is an opportunity for youth to meet companies currently hiring, work on their resume, learn about internship opportunities, or just build their network. Encourage youth to sign up and go!

Sign up here. Flyer is also attached.