Zoom for the Beholder
In contrast to the camp in-person of previous years:
I have seen little difference in the actual teaching, except for maybe a missed question or two (because of connection error) the conversations flow smoothly and it truly does feel similar to camp in person. Personally for me it is a lot easier to organize, being at home instead of at my aunt and uncle's house and also not having to bring a bag anywhere with all of my books and what not. Now I can neatly file them on my desk and I'll have them ready at all times without fear of "forgetting" or "bringing the wrong packet" which has happened before. There are things now that are much easier, screen sharing is a huge plus and provides for a better understanding and learning experience. The learning environment is also a little easier, as I remember being very scared to answer questions in front of everyone in person, now if I really want to I can private message the instructor or another student if I need clarification or help. I think the important aspects of the camp have been preserved very well and now with Zoom we have enhanced learning with the ability to broadcast the teacher's screen. Especially helpful when, for example, you answer a math question with a graph or a figure and no longer need to duplicate the question onto the white board.
Math (9-10:30 am)
I cannot emphasize how much I enjoy Dr. Li's style of teaching and I have learned numerous tricks to just math in general, not to mention some pretty handy life lessons as well. I think the questions provoke enough thought and cover enough math material that there will not be a single math question on the SAT that I have not encountered in SAT camp, there are some questions that I think would never show up on the actual SAT (at least anymore) but I enjoy learning about them nonetheless. I think the biggest problem I see is the time management. I like when Dr. Li has the entire hour and a half to discuss answers to questions and even though it means more homework, I would rather work on the questions out of class. Not only does it give me more time to think out my answers as well as the reasons why I think I may be right or wrong, but it also is more time efficient as everyone works at a different pace. Overall every time I come for a session in the summer, I know my grasp on math, my critical thinking skill, and my ability to understand questions will improve and I'm always excited to see what new problems I will encounter and their solutions.
Vocabulary is with Dr. Thomson at 10:30 am, and though I truly enjoy learning and expanding my vocabulary (as I frequently hit a writer's block in many essays due to a lack of vocabulary), I think an hour and a half of just learning and expanding on vocabulary is too much. I say this especially because during the latter half of the day in writing I feel the ticking of the clock as we try to complete writing sections, review answers, and also try to fit in essay time at the end. I enjoy the V-Quizzes, but I think the vocabulary sheet review should purely be based on questions students have. Then the rest of the morning could be used for essay time (something that I can personally say I wish to improve). I do enjoy hearing Dr. Thomson's anecdotes and life lessons every morning though, there is nothing that Dr. Thomson says that cannot be taken to heart and then used in my own life and it is very profound.
Writing (2:00-3:30 pm)
Writing class is the one I look forward to in the sense that I need help in writing the most. Dr. Thomson is very good at showing us helpful tips and tricks of the SAT writing section as well as providing very helpful explanations to questions that sometimes seem incredibly opaque. I don't think there is anything to be improved about the writing section other than the time constraint mentioned earlier. The essay portion of class is one of my favorites, as it presents the most challenge to me. I enjoyed in previous years striving for that 20 and seeing my scores come back and steadily rising closer and closer. Not only are the remarks and critiques on the essay invaluable to my improvement, but I personally believe the essay is the most difficult. Given not nearly as much direction as the other sections (in which you are limited to four choices and have a 25% chance of simply being lucky and guessing the right answer) the essay depends entirely on one's ability to write cohesively, analytically, with fluency, and concisely. Reading the difference between good and bad works, explaining why they are good and bad, and studying in depth other articles is very helpful and I only wish we had more time. The essay section is directly applicable to so many subjects, and areas outside the SAT, and so I think it's important to review and discuss.
Reading (3:30-5:00 pm)
Reading has been my favorite class for the past 3 years, not only have the instructors been outstanding, but the works we read in class, the texts we analyze, and the discussions we have always leave me amazed, intrigued, and wanting more time. Reading is difficult because of its demand for attention to detail, analysis, and logic. However, it has never felt overwhelming or unnerving as I always feel that any missed question can and will be explained by the instructor. My reading has significantly improved in the last three years and now it is one of my better sections, despite having the most questions. The part of reading that I truly look forward to each year and enjoy however, is the texts that we read and analyze in class. It was actually last year's class that inspired me to research more into the works of Ernest Hemingway, and begin my journey of deeper text analysis. It was specifically "The Hills like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway that finally revealed the joy and the intrigue of truly analyzing a text. I believe this is the sole biggest take away from SAT camp, this helped in every aspect of my life as it had taught me a fundamental element of thinking: critical thinking. Critical thinking is used in every section of the SAT and it was the text analysis that introduced me to the power it had. It was truly an experience that defined a moment in my path to higher learning.
Overall, I am never disappointed with my experience with the SAT camp, and the only complaints I do have are all minute and more of personal peeves than true problems that need to be solved. I kept on trying to be more critical and find things that could be improved on, but the only major thing I thought of was the problem of time management. This was my 100% honest review and reading it back, I think the reason why it seems sort of sugar coated is because I genuinely appreciate SAT camp so much as it is. I am very glad that I was introduced to Dr. Li's SAT camp way back in 8th grade and I enjoyed Dr. Li, Dr. Thomson, and all the other instructors that greeted me every year for this experience. I'm saddened that this will be my last year in the SAT camp and that it had to be virtual instead of in person, but I will never forget what I learned at this camp and I want to thank you for creating such a wonderful program.