Chengling Zheng

The Bronx High School of Science (Class of 2022)
Cornell University (Class of 2026)

Imagine taking SAT prep remotely: sitting through boring lectures, falling asleep on Zoom, grinding Tetris on the side. Now imagine the unfathomable: 70+ students and I, at the onset of the pandemic, attended the SAT program at Accelerate Academy and actually enjoyed ourselves! My summer of 2020 was filled with entertaining presentations, an enjoyable class environment, and laughs that hurt to the core (as well as crying over stupid practice problems because they were hell, but we don’t talk about that).

Andrew’s original curriculum is incredibly detailed and definitely challenging, but he tears apart each bit of information and feeds it to us (apologies for the poor analogy, but like a momma bird and baby bird!), simplifying the material to ensure we understand the fundamentals of the exam and exam topics. More importantly, his class was not just hours and hours of boring reading and writing passages or algebra practice. He gives tips and tricks for tackling seemingly difficult problems and includes vocabulary lessons to help expand our language skills. Additionally, Andrew incorporates current events and history—often political—into his slides to give us more insight into the real world. As someone who was admittedly a bit lacking in civics and the world around us, I felt that I finally began to develop a grasp of the society in which I live, establishing skills crucial beyond the scope of the aptitude exam. In this respect, I truly believe Andrew’s unique curriculum makes Accelerate Academy stand out amongst other competitors.

Just like his curriculum, Andrew is a character himself. He appears intimidating, but he is definitely more than just a strict teacher. To me, he’s a friend, a therapist (kind of a harsh one though), and a mentor, providing support that I did not know I needed. He stays after every class to answer our questions, exam-related or not. He will be there to crack some awful jokes (editor’s note: characterizing these jokes as “awful” is misinformation) with you, offer genuine advice for when you need it, and, most importantly, guide you. He is not just an authority figure who throws test materials at you and calls it a day, but rather someone who will go out of his way to check on you and push you to improve—both academically and personally. He has an uncanny perception of your strengths and weaknesses, and utilizes that to shape you into a more well-rounded person. My math, for instance, was always decent, but my first reading and writing diagnostic scores were categorically dreadful (#Asian). My reading/writing and math scores differed by over 100 points, but after weeks of learning the actual material and applying my newfound knowledge, I was able to minimize the score gap (down to 10) between the two sections.

Having such heartfelt admiration for Accelerate Academy (I really think it’s Stockholm’s), I returned two years later to be Andrew’s teaching assistant. I still enjoy sitting in on his lectures and listening to him mock unintelligent politicians and rant about society, all the while helping his next group of SAT students achieve their potential. To this day, I still feel that I am learning from Andrew and his classes, and I’m certainly not the only Accelerate alum who feels this way.