Hong Sen Du

The Bronx High School of Science (Class of 2019)
Columbia University (Class of 2023)

As a plump little 5th grader, I did not know what to expect when I first stepped into Accelerate Academy. Accelerate was the first prep center I was introduced to, and it will forever be the only one that I can firmly say has made me grow both individually and academically. For my fifth grade enrichment classes, my teacher (Mrs. Valles) understood that learning was not defined by memorizing formulas or reciting dull literature; instead, she instilled in me the notion that learning must also have a creative aspect. From improving my writing skills by writing/directing my own play to exploring mathematical concepts through collaborative games with other students, I believe Accelerate set me up to have a successful middle school career, and I had only positive things to tell my mom when she asked if I wanted to continue learning at Accelerate.

It wasn’t long before I started thinking about where I wanted to go for high school, and I knew that Accelerate’s SHSAT program (then taught by Andrew) would help me reach my dream. In my experience, Andrew’s balance between playfulness and strictness fosters an academically-driven environment that promotes awareness of your mistakes. However, it would be wrong for me to say that Andrew’s SHSAT class was a breeze. The countless number of reading tips and mathematical concepts I needed to master was mind-boggling, but Andrew’s dark sense of humor and tireless motivation ensured that I always had a support system behind me. His unique style of teaching helped me get into my dream high school, and I even used his same techniques when I volunteered to teach low-income students how to do well on the exam.

Soon enough, I realized that the college application process was just over the horizon, and I knew I needed to attain a high-enough SAT score to have a chance against millions of students all around the world. My mother actually enrolled me in some SAT prep center that a friend had recommended to her (Sorry Andrew! I had no say!), but it wasn’t long before I began complaining to my mother about the lack of development I had attending the Sunday lessons. Unlike my time at Accelerate, my time there was spent on taking quizzes on random vocabulary and merely doing practice on packets clearly printed out from other test prep books. I soon became disillusioned with the SAT learning process.

Of course, I returned to Accelerate during the critical summer between sophomore and junior years of high school. I was fortunate enough to be taught by Andrew once again after three years, and somehow, he still managed to maintain the same enthusiasm for his students and keep the same spiky haircut he has had for most of his life. Unlike teachers at the other prep center, Andrew had his own array of SAT questions that he developed from analyzing years of old exams. Instead of forcing his students to memorize vocabulary, Andrew gave us mentally and visually stimulating PowerPoint slides on specific examples of how particular highly-tested words are used. To develop our reading capabilities, he even assigned A Game of Thrones as outside reading and quizzed us on our understanding. It is through these methods that Accelerate Academy clearly stands out when compared to other prep centers and that students are able to reach their fullest potential. Instead of bland lessons on the topics tested on the SAT, the classroom is instead always filled with genuine laughter often brought on by Andrew’s charisma and the comfortable environment. My writing ability improved tremendously during my time there, and I managed to eliminate practically all my math mistakes in such a short amount of time, all the while actually enjoying my time at prep. Despite being semi-bullied by Andrew (don’t worry, he bullies only me), I wholeheartedly recommend Accelerate Academy to anyone who wants to develop academically and, just as important in my opinion, personally. I have stayed with Accelerate for basically a third of my life, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.