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Interview with the Founder of Tutoring 101 on College Visits: University of Arkansas

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Tanya Donaghey is the proud owner of Tutoring 101. She opened the business 1997 when she developed the programming for PreK-12th grade and SAT/ACT prep programs. She received her BS in Education from Baylor University in 1988 and her Master’s Degree from SMU in 1995. Her background in education is extensive: She has taught in the high school Gifted and Talented Program and various International Baccalaureate classes; taught the subjects of Government, Economics, World History, and American History; worked as Associate Director for a national company at three DFW tutoring centers; has written and published numerous articles; and has been asked to speak at many seminars and conferences including The Texas Association of Gifted and Talented State Conference.

And now she’s here to kick-start our newest blog series: College Visits, beginning with one to the University of Arkansas.

Q: So, Ms. Donaghey, what made you pick the University of Arkansas as our first stop on the College Visit series?

T.D.: 

My interest in the University of Arkansas (located in the picturesque spot of Fayetteville, AR) was first piqued when I read an article in a national magazine about the university and its incredible investment of over $1 billion in recent years. Of course, I was well aware of the University of Arkansas long before this article as many members of my church and several of my neighbors have sent children there over the years (not to mention the many students I’ve tutored who now attend school there). But it was the visit I paid to the University of Arkansas that made the biggest impact on me, and which most convinced me that it deserved the spotlight as the first university discussed in our College Visit series.

I have a unique perspective on the subject of higher education as I have been preparing students for the SAT and ACT as a professional tutor for many years now–higher ed, in other words, is a major component of my business. And now I am looking at the college application process from a personal perspective as my husband and I help our daughter look for the best college for her.

I am passionate as a mom and as a college prep professional about helping students find a calling and then pursue knowledge and research in their chosen field. College, in my opinion, is not about completing a series of unrelated courses, but about becoming educated with the goal of being well-prepared to enter a profession that you enjoy and in which you can make a difference. Thus, we engaged several U of Arkansas students in lengthy conversations during our visit to learn if their university was helping them to do just that. The students we met there were intelligent, involved, and–perhaps most importantly–completely aware of their strengths and of what paths they could (and should) take to become successful graduates. Two of the students we met with had elaborately worked out plans for a Plan A major and Plan B major (after all, medical school/law school may not be for everyone, and these students had very ambitious plans for their Plan B majors as well). The wisdom, planning, and foresight these students learned at the University of Arkansas greatly impressed me.

Q: So, a beautiful campus, motivated students, and an exciting new billion dollar investment! Seems like the University of Arkansas hits a lot of the big buttons on many high school graduates’ wish lists. You mentioned that you have unique requirements that you expect colleges to meet. Would you share those requirements with us? I know a lot of parents out there would be grateful for such a checklist as they begin the process of visiting colleges with their own children.

T.D.:

Of course! My requirements are simple enough but are often some of the hardest to find met in total:

  • A successful job placement track record and tools for university grads
  • An environment that is friendly and supportive to students
  • A motivated and studious student body and culture
  • A healthy number and variety of extracurricular clubs, teams, and opportunities for students to join
  • Local and on-campus employment opportunities
  • Engaged and well-respected professors
  • (And, of course, a gorgeous campus is always a plus!)

Q: You also mentioned that you were able to spend some quality time speaking with University of Arkansas students about their college experiences thus far. Could you share some of their stand-out details and pointers about UofA?

T.D.:

Gladly. There was one particularly well-spoken student we met with who was on a pre-med route (Plan A). He had a Plan B, however, just in case his feelings or interests changed during his time at college (which happens plenty often!), that would still incorporate his work to-date yet give him a new set of challenges and skills to build up: should pre-med not work out as anticipated, he would get involved instead in medical sales and development. What’s more, as we discussed his plans in greater detail, I learned that he even knew the names of the companies he could and was most interested in working for should he decide to follow his alternative route. His built-in flexibility and acceptance of life’s ability to change at the drop of a hat greatly impressed me–these are lessons and preparations I want and seek to instill in my own children and students.

Q: You also mentioned that a lot of the students you tutor through Tutoring 101 end up attending the University of Arkansas. Have you ever received any feedback from these tutees on UofA or explanation for why they chose it over other schools?

T.D.:

There are a lot of reasons so many of my students choose University of Arkansas. Besides being a well-respected school with an attractive proximity to Texas (to home, in other words), U of A also offers a very attractive tuition discount to Texas students who achieve certain scores on the SAT/ACT. What’s more, many Texas universities have lately been focusing on admitting only those from the top 7-10% of students in high schools. This means that the other 90%, many of whom are incredibly intelligent, have to go looking out of state for comparable college opportunities.

Q: And, finally, as a tutoring professional, you obviously have a very interesting and unique perspective on college preparedness. What kind of tutoring and study regimen might you recommend for any high school students who are interested in one day becoming UofA graduates?

T.D.:

  • Take rigorous classes throughout high school so that you will be prepared for the demands of college courses  
  • Enroll in AP and IB courses whenever you can (and according to your needs/abilities)
  • Take electives that are educational and that build up a variety of skills
  • Study toward and achieve your best possible SAT/ACT scores to qualify for the best level of in-state tuition benefits
  • Explore what majors and career paths intersect with your passions
  • And, if you’re in the area or are interested in distance tutoring, you can always get extra help and tutoring from Tutoring 101!
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