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High School Prep Genius - An Academic Guide to Excellence (book) Review by Jennifer Smeltser

Updated SAT and ACT Information and Introducing the CLT
Maven of Memory Publishing

If you have a high school (or middle school) child, yes, you should be shaking in your shoes whenever you think about preparing your child for college. The moment need not last long, because there are many resources available to help you (the parent) and your child begin the preparation process. One of those resources is the book High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide to Excellence. The book has become my “academic Bible” for helping me prepare my children for college.

The High School Prep Genius, first published in 2012, is written by Jean Burk and her daughter Judah Burk. Both offer great information regarding the college preparation process. Along with the parent perspective, Jean has more than a decade of experience teaching college test prep programs. Judah shares her thoughts as a product of the college prep process that led to her 4.0 academic success in high school and through graduate school. She also brings to light some lessons she learned about “getting the grade”.

“The purpose of education is not simply making the grades. It is to gain knowledge about the world and practical applications of such knowledge.” ~ Judah Burk

Together, the Burks have written a thorough resource. It has been updated, since its original publication, to include SAT and ACT information and content regarding the new Classic Learning Test (CLT) that is now a widely accepted college entrance exam.

The book is geared towards students and parents (or guardians) and may be used independently by the student. I have found the book to be most effective as a one-on-one study with my child. College preparation is just as much part of homeschool education as other subjects. The High School Prep Genius has prompted many discussions that have been a value to both my children and me. Although the book focuses more on the college-bound student, it may also benefit a student who has another goal in mind.

There are four sections:


The planning begins as early as fourth grade with tips on how to set the tone for academic excellence earlier in a student’s life, becoming eligible for programs like the Duke TIP and visiting college campuses as early as middle school. There is so much detail, like month-to-month checklists of actions students should complete during each grade level. Students are encouraged to map out their high school years and that includes action items during the summer months. Parents also have grade level checklists to complete as well as homework assignments throughout the book.

Foundation for Personal Success

I think this is one of the most important sections in the book, because students need to know how to responsibly care for themselves; personally, financially and socially. The way they manage themselves in those areas plays a great part in how successful they will be in reaching excellence. Some of the other areas I like that are addressed are learning financial management and the safe use of technology.

Foundation for Academic Success

Keeping in mind that “education is for learning . . .not just memorizing” are key points to remember. Creating the proper learning environment, developing effective study habits and eliminating unnecessary items in one’s life are ways to achieve academic success. Tips on how to take tests and overcome anxiety, completing quality papers, time management and increasing eligibility for scholarship opportunities are some of the other covered topics. Homeschooling parents will also find the section on how to grade (ex: how it works and grade point averages are determined, etc.) nice lessons and a great reference.

Foundation for Future Success

For all students, success does not equal graduation from a four-year college. This section promotes opportunities for you and your child to discuss their future. Will they attend a four-year college, junior/community college or head in the military? Maybe they would like to delay college for one year and travel before continuing their education.

Students learn how to walk through the college preparation process from visiting college and university campuses of interest, taking entrance exams, completing applications and presenting well at college interviews (with dos and don’ts tips). There is information that guides students before and after stepping on the college campus to begin their freshman year.

There are additional resources are in the Appendix section of the book. As a lover of books, I appreciate the extensive, but not exhaustive list of great literature books students should consider reading on their journey. Students will also learn how to create a high school transcript.

The High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide to Excellence is an awesome resource and one that every family should have and read through. Along with basic steps that should be completed in the college prep journey, readers will get their questions answered. The book functions well as a “counselor” answering many questions that students and parents have in high school as they prepare for college. Many of the college prep skills they learn in high school are ones they will use in college. If you have more than one child, I would suggest purchasing a book for each one as well as one for yourself to use together. The High School Prep Genius: An Academic Guide to Excellence is a book your child is going to want to take with them to college for easy access when they need answers.

-Product review by Jennifer Smeltser, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November, 2017