Will Your Kid Crack 2300 on the New SAT Exam?

The parent’s ultimate brag – "My Johnny got 1600 on his SATs" – will soon indicate mediocrity rather than genius and/or the most intense preparation that money can buy. Starting in March, a redesigned SAT is going to peg test perfection at 2400. There are other changes on the way, as well.

Adam Robinson, author of "Cracking the SAT" and of the new book "The RocketReview Revolution," speaks on the upcoming changes on Thursday, January 13, at 7:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble at the MarketFair shopping center on Route 1 South. Free. Call 609-897-9250.

In his talk Robinson lays out his opinions on how changes in the SAT put underprivileged students at a further disadvantage; why the academic strengths of girls actually works against them on the SAT; what girls must do to excel on this crucial test; what parents need to know about the new SAT and how they can help their children improve their scores; and how the SAT differs from school tests and papers.

Robinson, who has had an affiliation with the Princeton Review, is a graduate of the Wharton School and holds a law degree from Oxford. He began tutoring students in New York City as a way to support a writing career, and based on this part-time work developed standardized approaches to taking the standardized test, as well as other ETS tests, including the GRE.

Combining an interest in writing and experience in instructing students on how to approach the SAT and other life-altering tests, Robinson has written or co-authored eight books, including "Cracking the GRE," "Cracking the LSAT," "Cracking the GMAT," "Word Smart I" and "Word Smart II" (vocabulary guides), and "What Smart Students Know."

With the new SAT just months away, anxiety is running higher than normal among millions of students over what to expect and how best to prepare. A big change in the upcoming revised version of the SAT exam is a writing section complete with its own 200-800 score, which will include a graded 25-minute essay. An extra verbal section, in Robinson’s opinion, is going to present challenges for students for whom English is not a first language, and he is prepared to talk about what parents can do to help their youngsters over this hurdle.

He also addresses the most common cause of math errors (hint: it’s not a math mistake), and how to eliminate "careless" errors, as he throws out SAT factoids, including the top SAT vocabulary words of all time – aesthetic, conventional, dismissive, objectivity, and undermine. He also reveals what the SAT grammar questions actually measure (proofreading skill) and the five grammatical concepts that account for virtually all student errors.

Computer Training Still in Fashion at Mercer College

You have just decided that this is the year you want to start that website for your business, learn Quickbooks, or just get a handle on how to run Windows or the many intricacies of Microsoft Word. Now, while that wonderful resolution is still fresh in your mind, is the time to sign up for a class. But where do you go for help? Back in the year 2000, at the peak of computer and Internet revolution, the Princeton area boasted 20 computer training institutes, not counting adult schools. Today that number has dwindled to just 11.

One still viable source is Mercer County Community College. Perry Davis, who has worked as a computer instructor in both the business department and the continuing studies department for about 10 years, says that MCCC offers a computer class geared to every level of tech sophistication.

Courses for novices include "The Most Elementary Computer Course," a basic introduction for those "who have a fear of computers to become comfortable with basic terminology and concepts." A two-session, full-day course, it takes place on Friday, January 14, and on Friday, January 21, at 9:30 a.m. Cost: $212.

It covers computer jargon, hardware, software, computer systems, and different kinds of computers and their uses. Keyboarding, a four-session course beginning on Tuesday, January 11, at 6:30 p.m. (Cost: $249), and an Introduction to Windows, given in two, full-day sessions beginning on Monday, January 24 or as three evening sessions beginning on Tuesday, February 8 (Cost: $212), round out the basic offerings. Call 609-586-9446 for more information.

If you aren’t familiar with computers, this is where Davis suggests you start. "If you don’t know how to work Windows or you cannot touch type, you are going to get less" out of the more advanced classes, he says. "You need to know how to move files around and how to change them."

Investing your time and money in the basics is worthwhile and will save you money in the long run, Davis says.

Basic, intermediate, and advanced courses are also offered at the college for many of the most common software applications, including Microsoft Word (word processing), Excel (spreadsheets), MS Access (database programs), and MS Powerpoint (slide show presentations). Certificate programs are available for students who complete all three course levels.

Other computer courses include several desktop and digital design classes, a course in Quickbooks, and classes in web design and development, which Davis teaches.

Davis says he particularly enjoys his work in the continuing education area because "the people are there to learn, not just to pick up credits." The web design and development classes attract a variety of people and a variety of age groups, "people anywhere from in their 20s to their 50s or 60s," he says. Some sign up because they want to start a personal website – perhaps to facilitate a job search or to showcase a portfolio – others, including many local small business owners, take a course because they know they need to be on the ‘Net, but cannot afford to hire someone to develop a site for them.

Davis has an extensive background in computers and web design. He worked for some 10 years as a senior vice president for Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising, in New York City, before deciding to look for work closer to home in 1994. Along with his position at MCCC, he also is employed as a consultant in database management and general management and was part of a team that worked with Princeton University on standardizing its campus-wide computer systems.

This spring he teaches "Introduction to HTML." HTML, or Hyper Text Mark-up Languages, is "the language of the web," he explains, "It is the underpinning of everything you see on the Web."

HTML is actually based on old-fashioned typesetting codes that were used when pages were set with hot lead type. "The typesetter had to be told how something was supposed to look, if it should be bold, or italic, or whatever, so little directions were set in brackets," he says. Today, the brackets "surround a block of text with codes, telling the software how things should look and what to do."

There is, of course, more to web design than just learning codes, says Davis. There are several basic rules to remember when designing a website, no matter what its purpose, he says.

Who is the website directed at? As with any advertising and marketing, it is important to know who your "market" is. Knowing who you want to view your website will help you to make decisions on what it should look like and what content you should include.

What is the website’s purpose? Is this a personal website, whose only purpose is to share information with family and friends? Is it a commercial website designed to attract customers? A website that is strictly informational will be more simple to maintain than a site that includes sales.

What do you have that is special that you want to communicate with others? If you want to attract people to your site, you must have something that others want to know about and are interested in.

But Davis’ most important bit of advice to those building their first website – or revamping an outdated site – is "keep it simple." Pages that are simple will not only download faster, they also make an immediate impression on the reader. While it may be tempting to use several type fonts and a lot of colors, just because they are available, a "clean" look often makes a better visual impression and is easier to navigate and to read.

Students who have mastered computer basics, and have moved on to web design, learn about meta tags and keywords, important codes that search engines use to locate a website. Meta tags are information about a site that is inserted into the "head" area of the site. While the average viewer will never actually see these words, "web bots" from search engines such as Google and Lycos scour the web searching for this information, which helps to locate your site.

After mastering the basics of HTML, website designers can continue to learn website development with several other courses offered at the college, including Intro to Flash MX, a software tool for creating interactive multimedia for the web; Dreamweaver MX, website design software; and Photoshop.

Executives whose secretaries were never taken away, moms re-entering the workforce after even a medium-length hiatus (remember, the computer revolution is barely 10 years old), and anyone else who needs to know an Apple from a PC, a bit from a byte, and a time-wasting mess of a website from a clean, get-results website, might want to check out MCCC’s computer course menu.

– Karen Hodges Miller

The Global Stretch

We may not be all so global as we think. In our progressive Garden State, studies show that while small and mid-size business revenues have skyrocketed exponentially over the past decade, their percentage of revenues from international trade has remained totally flat. Rumor and media keep assuring us that we are reaching beyond our borders, but in fact we are not.

To help overcome this fear of stepping across uncharted ponds, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) has formed the International Business Alliance (IBA). Grown out of the old New Jersey Global Business Initiative, the IBA provides a degree program, an ongoing series of individual training sessions, and educational and partnership contacts. As part of its pan-global initiative, the IBA offers an educational trip to China, to be taken this spring. Designed for small business owners, senior management, executives from mid-size firms, this group will coordinate with the Chinese people, attend trade shows and conferences, and be given opportunity to establish connections. Call 609-771-2299.

In the belief that trading worldwide is a top-down decision, the IBA kicks off its 2005 community program series with an "International Management" seminar held Saturday, January 15, at 9 a.m. at the college’s Ewing campus. Cost: $40. Visit www.TCNJ.edu. Featured speaker Douglas K. Peterson, executive director of IBA, hopes that this talk will arm business leaders with some basic tools.

For a landlocked Nebraskan from a stay-at-home family, Peterson really got around. While majoring in political science at the University of Kansas, Peterson received a Fulbright scholarship that took him to the most poverty stricken parts of Malaysia. There he took on the challenge of teaching locals the art of franchising with United States companies. "I realized that if any wealth was ever to come to these people," says Peterson, "it was going to come from smaller businesses on a partner-type level, not from some big corporation plunking down a plant and exploiting the population for cheap labor."

Peterson graduated from the University of Kansas with the class of l989, and went on to earn his Ph.D. in international management from the University of Nebraska. Prior to his current position at the College of New Jersey, he headed up the International Business College at Indiana State University.

For the smaller firm, with limited resources and manpower, opening up any new trade region becomes a stretch. Owners can seldom afford to send even one of their 20-person staff to feel out potential markets. Such expensive fishing trips, particularly internationally, are viewed as beyond their ken. Yet the simple truth is that other nations have what you do not, be it customers or resources. And with a little study, owners can transform a fishing trip into a well mapped expeditionary campaign.

Taking the plunge. "Probably the most important factor in trading internationally," says Peterson, "is to become truly committed to this aim." It doubtless will be one of your business’s most giant steps and will involve everyone. The company will need to create a whole new business plan, one that doesn’t just add on this new market, but rather redirects the whole scope. Can you not only sell, but ship on time, transfer funds, find new suppliers and advertisers?

Back in the late 1980s, hundreds of United States companies hungrily eyed China and its one billion population as the new, untapped market. They sent trade teams who sort of dabbled around in the Chinese marketplace with no authority or fixed intent. In short order, the Chinese became disgusted and ended up turning to their traditional enemies, the Japanese. At least these people knew what they wanted.

Cultural awareness. Shake your head in Turkey and you are accepting, rather than declining, the deal. If your Japanese partner scratches the table while you talk, he does not have a twitch, he is unobtrusively asking for more tea. Having a thorough knowledge of the culture you are entering does more than set you in tune with the polite niceties, it determines who survives.

For example, every culture has an accepted negotiating point. In Egypt and China negotiations can last seemingly forever, with the price varying wildly. In Eastern Europe, negotiating remains almost as short and dry as in the United States. Most of Africa falls somewhere in the middle of this continuum, with fixed bottom price obscured by a medium amount of haggling.

Environmental factors. Business floats amidst a blend of environments. The cost, competitive, legal, and banking environments swing widely in each country and each must be considered. Assessing your company’s chances dealing only in U.S. dollars, or American import/export laws makes for an uncalculated gamble.

Peterson also points to a whole web of risk that lies beyond the control of any adventuring capitalist. When Omar Quadaffe was openly salivating over foreign held companies in his realm, few would have been foolish enough to look toward an expansion into Libya. Yet direct nationalization is only the most obvious risk global investors face. Even mild political turmoil can pull down national stock prices and currency values. Engineered or accidental inflation can suddenly set your goods beyond the reach of buyers.

Health problems mean business problems as well, as many African investors have found out. The AIDS epidemic has emptied out entire factories throughout what is becoming the fiscally dark continent. And finally, the whole arena of intellectual property becomes an open free-for-all once you leave the protective American shores.

Where answers lie. So, where is a small business owner to turn with all these problems that need researching? Peterson reassuringly notes that help is available. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund provide full nation-by-nation details that help even small firms looking to expand. The IMF also offers mentoring services. Once you have selected your countries, visit their consulates. Consulates exist with the sole charter of enhancing trade. They are not, as many believe, some sort of tourist aid station for travelers from their own nations.

The Center for International Business and Education Research (www.CIBER.com) has a thorough library of information categorized by nation and industry. You can visit the above website or call 303-220-0100. Finally, Peterson notes, almost every major state school has an international business school with substantial outreach services. He cites Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania and University of Connecticut as the top in our area.

Since the dawn of the Silk Road, merchants have found new treasures and profits by trading just a little further afield than their fellows. While today’s technology may preclude endless months aboard a wooden ship or aback a camel, one thing has not changed. Fortune fav

Fortune favors the foreign investor who plans his expedition the most carefully and comes armed with the best information.

– Bart Jackson

The Elements of Consulting

What does a prospective client look for when searching for a management consultant? What do clients value the most? Management consultant Lloyd George speaks on these issues at the next meeting of the New Jersey Institute for Management Consultants.

The meeting takes place on Monday, January 17, at 6:30 p.m. at the Doral Forrestal. Cost for the dinner meeting is $40 for members and $60 for non-members. To register call Alberto Caballero at 201-784-6310.

Founded in 1968, the Institute of Management Consultants USA, Inc. is the national professional association representing management consultants and awarding the CMC (Certified Management Consultant) certification mark. The group’s purpose is to establish professional and ethical standards for management consultants, to provide continuing education and information relevant to the profession, and to increase public awareness of the management consulting profession.

The New Jersey chapter provides a number of services for its members and others who are considering a consulting career, including regular education meetings and workshops for consultants, networking with others in the field, promotion of consulting to businesses and professionals and a referral process.

"Clients and prospects value six aspects and six attributes of the consultant’s offering," says George. He has learned his "magical 12" during 30 years of experience as a management consultant. "I have reflected both on what has worked and on what hasn’t," he says.

George is a consultant who specializes in business valuations, damage assessment and business strategy implementation. In addition, he advises and coaches executives and business owners in transition.

George is a member of the society’s Business Valuation and Litigation Services Committee and past chairman of the New Jersey Society of CPA’s forensic directory subcommittee. He also serves as secretary of the Society’s Mercer County Chapter and has been as vice president of the West Windsor Chapter of Business Network International and chairman of its Membership Committee. He previously taught financial and management accounting at Framingham State College and is currently on the adjunct faculty of Mercer County Community College’s Division of Corporate and Community Programs, where he teaches Total Quality Management and Business Succession Planning.

George has multi-industry experience in health care, pharmaceuticals, financial services, manufacturing, and federal and state government. He was chief of staff to the chairman and CEO of the Citigroup Investment Management and Private Banking Group and held several executive positions at MetLife. He has also worked as assistant corporate controller, director of systems development, and director of customer financial services for Bristol-Myers Squibb. He served as controller for the Shared Services Division of Dennison Manufacturing Company and worked for eight years in both audit and consulting with Arthur Young & Company, now a part of Ernst & Young. While there, he also served as deputy commissioner for the audit division of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and has worked with a number of not-for-profit corporations.

He is also a former officer of the United States Coast Guard and a graduate of the United States Coast Guard Academy, where he received a bachelor’s degree in engineering. He received an MBA in management from Boston University. George is a combat veteran, a Certified Valuation Analyst candidate and holds the CLU and ChFC credentials. In addition, he is certified in the use of "Strategic Leadership Development" tools and techniques offered by Management Research Group, Inc. and career management techniques offered by Lee Hecht Harrison.

George’s varied experience has given him a unique perspective on the consultant/client relationship. Making sure a prospective client understands and appreciates his "six aspects" is particularly important, he says. When working with prospective clients a consultant must "persuade them that these offering points are real."

The "six aspects" include:

Need. "Current and future needs must be assessed intelligently and realistically in the context of the prospective client," says George. The needs "must be articulated to the prospect."

Capabilities and Competencies. The prospect wants to be assured that the consultant is capable of completing the project. "Competencies," he adds, include both the "innate and the learned skills and credentials" of the consultant.

Passion. "Prospects value the appearance of passion for their issue," says George. "The onus is on the consultant to relate to the prospect in a way that is engaging. It is wonderful to be objective about a project, but the consultant also needs to be engaged, warm, involved, and connected."

Fair Price. "Prospects and clients expect to pay a price that they believe worth it; one that is fair, they want to know that they are not being gouged."

Appreciation for the dynamics of the situation. "The consultant," says George, "should be engaged enough that when a situation changes, he can see and maybe anticipate it." The consultant should be able to tell if the "scope of the engagement" has changed.

George uses an acronym SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to explain how he assesses a situation. The consultant, he says, should understand the strengths and weaknesses of the client and see how they relate to opportunities and threats. "Prospects and clients value that a consultant has a clear sense of changing dynamics and understand them and can move with the flow," he adds.

Continual reinvention and revaluation of the consultant’s offerings. "Prospects aren’t interested in yesterday’s offerings," George says. By constantly updating knowledge, a consultant "reinvents and reinvests in himself to continue to offer value."

In addition to these marketing aspects, George also lists a "pyramid" of attributes or traits a consultant should have. They include trust, integrity, relationship, delivery reliability, metrics, and dynamics.

Each of the layers of the "pyramid" builds on the other during the consultant/client relationship, he explains. "The ultimate measure of quality is the dynamics of the relationship," says George. "If it is to be productive and on-going, each of these attributes must be present."

"A prospect or new client only trusts the consultant a certain amount." To develop a deeper sense of trust and rapport, the consultant must show that he has a good sense of integrity. "Practice what you preach," he cautions. "Without that continuation of integrity, trust is broken."

Building a relationship, step five in the pyramid, goes hand in hand with the fourth step, reliability of delivery. "If you are reliable about deadlines, they will believe you."

Metrics, step six, is one of the most important aspects of the consultant/client relationship, George says. "The consultant/client relationship rarely works without metrics (measurements of success). Make the metrics real to the client even if the situation is not easy to measure," he advises.

Finally, the consultant must remember that the dynamics of the relationship change with time. "The relationship with the client changes; the situation changes; the business changes," he says. As these things change, "a consultant must have the ability to stay engaged and maintain the relationship. To do that, all of the other attributes have to be there already."

– Karen Hodges Miller

Adult School Sign-Up

Registration is now underway at the Princeton Adult School. Offerings this year include more than 130 courses ranging from abstract art and classical music to "Papyrus to Paperback," a lecture series about the book in history.

There is also swing dancing, cooking, and financial planning. Students can register online or by mail.

Highlights this semester include several new courses and lectures. Eminent scholars from a variety of disciplines will discuss the social history of books and of the people who read them. Books will also be the subject in courses on "The Power of the Novel," and Dante’s "Inferno."

There are also four cooking courses, including one on easy and elegant entertaining. Course listings also include such old favorites as introduction to computing, Hatha-yoga, ballroom dancing, and automotive repair.

"Every year we aim for the proverbial ‘something for everybody,’ PAS president Nancy Beck said in a prepared statement, "and I think we’re closer than ever. We have more than a dozen new courses. We’re really excited about two new music offerings, ‘Mozart’s World,’ and ‘Evolution of the Symphony.’ And, of course, the movie series is back. We also have two special language courses: Italian for travelers and Spanish for travelers. In addition, we continue to offer our very popular foreign language program, which includes all the usual ones plus Latin, Japanese, Arabic, and Russian. We’ve also expanded English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and have five advanced courses."

The diverse course listing for the upcoming semester includes nine lecture courses, 35 language courses, 15 studio arts workshops, 16 exercise and fitness activities, six studio music classes, 21 courses listed under hobbies, special skills, and recreation, six business and professional courses, and 10 computer courses. Under business, offerings range from eBay simplified and how to start and succeed in your own business to courses tailored to individual needs, including estate and financial planning.

Classes, which are held Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Princeton High School and other locations throughout the community, begin on Tuesday, February 1 and Thursday, February 3.

Registration online and by mail is already in progress. Popular classes fill up fast, so quick action by prospective students is advised. Students can register online at www.princetonadultschool.org or by mail using forms in the back of the adult school catalog. Those who have not received a catalog can obtain a copy at any area public library. Registration forms and the entire catalog are also available on the Adult School website: www.princetonadultschool.org.

The Princeton Adult school has been offering classes since 1939. Over the years courses have ranged from bird watching and gourmet cooking to lectures on the universe by leading astrophysicists.

PAS teachers, who are professionals in their respective fields and often nationally noted authorities, include faculty from Princeton, Fordham, and Rutgers Universities. Recent speakers have included such notables as Neil Tyson, Director of the Hayden Planetarium, novelists Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates, and historian James McPherson. Beginning with 20 classes, the school offered over 130 different courses in each of two terms last year with a total enrollment of some 5,000.

Popular classes fill up fast, so quick action by prospective students is advised.

Help, Please: Tsunami Relief

AuctionDrop (www.auctiondrop.com) has announced a fundraising program to allow people to help disaster victims in South Asia by bringing in used cameras, computers, and consumer electronics to any UPS Store in the United States. Simply drop off the items (at no cost to the donor) and AuctionDrop will sell them on eBay and donate the net proceeds to CARE’s Earthquake and Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation Fund.

"This is the worst natural disaster of our lifetime. We all want to help the victims; that’s why we’ve opened up our organization to aid in the relief effort. We are processing donated items at cost and will sell them on eBay, giving the net proceeds to CARE for disaster relief. I’m appealing to everyone to do what they can to help," Randy Adams, CEO of AuctionDrop, said in a prepared statement.

Aiding the effort in the Princeton area is Anne Sweeney of Anne Sweeney Public Relations in Monmouth Junction. In an appeal to other central New Jersey residents, she writes that "there are so many inspiring efforts in response to this calamity and I know you have contributed to them already. However, this is an opportunity to get rid of those seldom used items that are cluttering up your desks and drawers and put them to good use."

Sweeney explains that CARE is the principal charity of World Wings International, the social and philanthropic organization of former Pan Am flight attendants, of which she is a member.

"For the past several years we have supported CARE projects in Third World countries geared to helping women and children," she says. "In the next few weeks, I will be traveling in Vietnam and Cambodia with several other World Wings members, visiting CARE projects in those countries. We are also supporting CARE’s Earthquake and Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation Fund with contributions from chapters and individuals. The goal is to raise $25 million to deal with the present crisis and the equally important rebuilding efforts."

To help, bring used and new cameras, computers, and consumer electronics to any of the 3,700 UPS Store locations in the United States. The CARE fundraising code for donors to enter on their form is 0198. The UPS Store location will pack and ship the item to AuctionDrop’s centralized processing center, where it will be photographed and listed for sale on eBay. Once the item sells, AuctionDrop will issue a check to CARE’s Earthquake and Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation Fund. All donated items that remain unsold will be dispensed to the Salvation Army.

Donors can visit www.auctiondrop.com to see how much money has been raised to date for the disaster victims or with any questions.

AuctionDrop is a retail company that sells consumers’ goods on eBay for a fee (although it is charging no fees in connection with this relief effort). Operating out of UPS stores, the company receives funding from leading Silicon Valley venture firms Mobius Venture Capital and Draper Associates.

For more information on this initiative, contact Andrea Roesch at AuctionDrop, 650-868-4654, andrea@auctiondrop.com.

Grants Awarded

Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission granted nearly $164,000 to 45 arts groups, including the Plainsboro Public Library, $2,100; Rutgers Film Co-op in New Brunswick, $10,000; South Brunswick Arts Commission, $2,100; South Brunswick Parks & Recreation, $2,100.

Also among the recipients were Alborada Spanish Dance Theater in Old Bridge, $7,950; Christ Church Episcopal in New Brunswick, $2,100; Cranbury Arts Council, $2,100; Girl Scouts of Delaware Raritan Valley, $2,200; Highland Park Recorder Society, $4,500; LKB Dance, New Brunswick, $4,000; Middlesex County Plays-in-the-Park, $10,000; Middlesex County Vocational & Technical School of Performing Arts, $1,500; Monroe Township Patrons of the Arts, $2,100; Monroe Township Cultural Arts Commission, $6,500; and New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra, $7,200.

The New Jersey Department of Labor has given $300,500 so that Middlesex County College can train more than 850 employees in English as a Second Language (ESL). These employees work at five warehouses in Jamesburg, including Barndes & Noble.

"We are thrilled to have this opportunity for our booksellers to become more fully proficient in the English language," says Bill Duffy, executive vice president of distribution for Barnes & Noble. "It’s part of our longstanding effort to help our people advance in their careers and take a more active role in their communities. We are pleased with our collaboration with Middlesex County College and know that they will provide the best possible training."

The New Jersey Business & Industry Association has agreed to help expand the elementary school programs offered by Junior Achievement of New Jersey (www.newjersey.ja.org). These programs provide students with a better understanding of economics and other foundational business concepts. Deloitte, HSBC, and PSE&G are already involved with JANJ, and they will participate in a campaign to link learning in schools with the skills students need in the business world.

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