Karl Schellscheidt moved from a home office in June and is about to go live with a new SAT prep product and a new company, ePrep Inc. Customers download specially created versions of the SAT test, enter their results in an online account. A four-test package costs in the neighborhood of $400.
Schellscheidt got into tutoring while he was working on his master’s degree in education from Seton Hall University. When people heard he was a graduate of Princeton University, they sought him out, and he was happy to earn some extra money. He received his bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1990, his education master’s from Seton Hall in 1993, and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2000.
Schellscheit taught math for awhile at the Hun School, but continued to tutor students privately, then he went to the University of Pennsylvania for law school, all the while continuing his “hobby” of tutoring kids for standardized tests. Eventually he got so busy tutoring that he quit being a lawyer, although he does maintain his New Jersey bar membership.
But surrounded as he was by privileged kids, day in, day out, he thought back to his own upbringing in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Union, New Jersey, and felt “a desire to help kids who wouldn’t have access” to expensive tutoring. So he started a free blog last August offering information on college planning and SAT preparation.
He could provide the SAT tips himself, but he enlisted the help of some retired or semiretired experts in college planning and financial aid to create written and video blogs on his site: Fred Hargadon, a dean of admission at Stanford and Princeton, each for 15 years; Don Betterton, financial aid director at Princeton for 30 years; and Seamus Malin, in admissions and financial aid at Harvard for 40 years.
For example, he asks Malin: “What are colleges looking for these days in applications?” and the response he gets is: “They’re not looking for the well-rounded students—they are a dime a dozen; they are looking at the well-lopsided student, rounded and excellent in one area.” Betterton walks site visitors through the financial aid process; he feels people overdo admissions research and neglect financial aid, with the result that their kids get into schools they can’t afford.
With private funding, he and his colleagues are introducing a new SAT prep product. “What will make it unique,” he says, “is that it is entirely video based. I feel we have a unique delivery platform.”
From 16 years of experience tutoring, Schellscheit has a good feel for all of the possible reasons why a kid misses a particular problem as well as alternative solution approaches. And he will be offering this expertise in video clips that are available for each problem in the tests that ePrep has created.
Customers purchase either four or eight full-length tests, which they complete on their own, but under simulated conditions. A four-test package would cost approximately $400 and an eight-test package probably a little less than twice that, but prices have not been finalized. When students are done, they log onto ePrep, access their account, enter their answers and hit submit. The computer will score the test immediately, calculating both a raw score and an estimate of “what you are on pace to get and what percentile.”
At this point the student can launch into a review. Every question has a video explanation. “We think that today’s YouTube generation would rather click on an icon and hear an explanation rather than read an explanation,” says Schellscheidt. He tries to proactively address all issues a student might be encountering.
“We expect to expand very quickly,” says Schellscheidt. The firm plans to roll out a PSAT product in October and an ACT product by January. The company also has plans for second-language versions, which will include English videos with the possibility of a voice over in Mandarin, Korean, or Spanish. —Michele Alperin
ePrep Inc., 338 Wall Street, Princeton 08540; 609-924-2263; fax, 609-455-6702. Karl Schellscheidt. Home page: www.eprep.com.