A Better Way to Study the SAT

Since 2010, the Socratic Summer Academy at Colgate University has worked with hundreds of students from around the country and the world, helping them achieve dramatic score increases on their SAT -- on average, several hundred points in three weeks. Students come to Colgate not just to learn, but to be part of a vibrant camp community that nurtures their passions, exposes them to life on a college campus, and helps them overcome their individual academic challenges and prepare for their future

Spend a summer having fun with us, and shoot up on your SATs!

The Socratic Summer Academy was founded in 2010. It's a three-week sleepaway summer camp aimed at improvement on the SATs. Every year, using our tailored curriculum and in-house materials, in conjunction with official College Board prep materials, we help students of all different learning styles and starting scores add hundreds of points to their SAT, all while working hard to ensure they have a fantastic traditional summer camp experience.

How do we achieve our results?

First, we aren't like most test prep programs - as a residential academy with high teacher to student ratios, we emphasize small-group and one on one instruction, balancing classroom learning with test-taking simulations, coaching sessions, workshops, and interactive games.

Second, our program isn't a school - it's a camp. We inspire students to succeed on the SAT by devoting ourselves to making our program not a stuffy classroom, but a fun, exciting, and rewarding experience. Our highest praise came from one student, Danny Hwang, who told us in his 2012 testimonial: “I’ve been to camps for church, sports, and music … [of all of them, SSA] was the best camp I’ve been to." 

Third, our team of administrators ensures our curricula, program design, and teacher training remain unmatched. Our founder, Max Rosen, created SSA after years of working as a teacher and camp administrator; he later went on to graduate from Harvard Law School the valedictorian of his class. SSA's executive director and co-founder, Alyssa Bowlby, also co-founded a non-profit - the Yleana Leadership Academy - which works with low-SES students from Boston, Baltimore, NYC, and Philadelphia each summer to help them improve their SAT scores and get scholarships and financial aid to competitive schools.

What specific facets make our SAT program extraordinary - in both senses of the word?

At SSA, we have continued to iterate upon our curriculum and program with each passing summer. The following elements represent a number of the SAT teaching innovations we’ve discovered help improve comprehension, scores, and general enthusiasm. 

Individualized Attention

Every student is unique; each has a different need; although the strategies are broad and inclusive enough to apply to every student, tweaking their application is central to their success.

Adaptive classroom

Our program is designed to give each student unprecedented individualized attention. We call it the “adaptive classroom”: Every class has at least two teachers. This high teacher-to-student ratio allows instructors to split the class into small groups for each lesson, flexibly reorganizing their classes to reflect the fact that students may be better or worse on different concepts, test subjects, or strategies.

Team Teaching

Two teachers to each class of 4-8 students means our teachers have more energy, are better able to manage their classrooms, and have the time and resources to design new lessons and games and constantly take students for private one-on-one lessons. Our students never have to sit through classroom lessons that aren’t specific to their needs, and each student, regardless of starting score, gets highly personalized instruction.

Coaching teams

On day two of camp, each student is placed on a coaching team with a teacher as his or her “coach.” Each student meets 1-on-1 with her coach each week, after having received practice test results, to discuss her progress and set realistic goals for the next week. The coaching teams also work together in a variety of contexts: coaching teams compete in daily content- or strategy-based games; meet each night for drill sessions; and compete in nightly SAT games designed to test and teach certain key SAT concepts.

No homework!

In 2012, we replaced homework with proctored work sessions.  What this means is that no student struggles to understand something and gets frustrated - someone is always around to help, and assignments are proctored and interactive.  The lack of homework means that free time and other exciting program elements evade the typical, stressful shadow of homework—the sense that there is always something else that a student should be doing. We seek to teach students to balance work and play and to value more than just academic achievement.

Unlimited one-on-one + 150 hours

We are committed to providing unlimited one-on-one to every student, as well as over 150 hours of academic time.  It’s hard not to improve when so much of your life is spent in that single pursuit.

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Dynamic and Comprehensive Curricula

SAT camp is camp, not a classroom: We design it to be dynamic and endeavor to teach and motivate students through competitions, games, and interactive activities.


Game-ification—the transformation of lessons into interactive games—is a core tenet of our program. We have created numerous interactive group SAT games that reinforce and teach concepts and strategies. Students play many of these games in the classroom and end each day with larger-scale, cumulative SAT games that test what they’ve learned so far. Games include debate tournaments that reinforce essay structure, grammar concept reviews that test difficult concepts in rapid-fire succession, and reading comprehension exercises in which teams have to help each other to understand difficult passages.

5 proctored practice tests -> clear weekly metrics

Students take five proctored practice tests from official College Board administrations over our three-week program. Our best metric for improvement consists of weekly practice tests, proctored in a meticulously simulated test-taking environment - Alyssa, our Director, takes the SAT the three times per year that adults are permitted to sit for the SAT (each time in a different high school and/or city) to get a feel for kids' actual test-taking environments and ensure that we are replicating it as much as possible.

Practice tests are graded immediately to give students constant feedback, and each student receives a detailed test report with concepts/question types s/he/they got right and wrong, as well as a sense of how s/he/they has improved since the last test. In concert with their coaches, students work to develop individually tailored strategies each week.

A Well-Oiled Schedule

Our schedule has been developed meticulously over the last ten years to maximize SAT scores and efficiency while minimizing the inevitable stress of prepping for a test that can feel like it decides both college and the rest of your life!

We try to make sure we balance the academic necessities of the SAT with the fun of the traditional summer camp experience - we seek to teach students to balance work and play and to value more than just academic achievement. To that end, the schedule undergoes a careful review and gets tweaked every year based on the senior staff’s ever-greater pool of accumulated knowledge about what energizes the students and reinforces both fun and academic vigor.

We break up the day with strategic study breaks, games, and interactive activities to keep the students engaged and emphasize that we see it as their and our collective responsibility to keep the program exciting.

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Extraordinary, Caring Master and Supporting Teachers

We frequently get asked about the qualifications for SSA staff:

  • Teachers are recruited from highly selective universities and have, in the past, come from Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Stanford, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, Georgetown, Amherst, Colgate, Tufts, Middlebury, Haverford, UCBerkeley, McGill, Vanderbilt, UVA, and Wesleyan - just to name a few.

  • In order to qualify for an interview with SSA, master teachers (graduated from college) must score within or above the SAT’s 97th percentile and supporting teachers (undergrads) in the 94th percentile.

  • Each teacher participates in an extensive, two-week specialized Socratic Summer Academy training with our camp director and senior staff before camp starts in order to master strategies, content, and teaching techniques.

Beyond these fundamental technical/quantitative qualifications, the fundamental quality we look for in a teacher is a real desire to be a mentor or counselor. The job of an SSA instructor doesn’t end at 3pm: Our teachers find students who need extra help and meet with them during free times. They give students advice about college and school. Outside of the SAT, they play sports with kids, prepare campfire skits, and accompany students on the piano for talent shows.

What makes an SSA teacher extraordinary is not just her ability to teach the SAT -- every SAT program should be able to say that; it’s her ability to ensure that every SSA camper goes home not just with an improved score, but with extraordinary summer memories. 


Camp is a community--built not just around SAT improvement, but weekly campfires, group activities, and fun. Every student has access to Colgate University’s full athletic facilities--a pool, two gyms, basketball courts, tennis courts, and hiking trails. This sense of community enriches our camp and also helps us to motivate and inspire our students. As one student noted in her testimonial, “You bond with a lot of kids, you bond with the teachers, and you have friends encouraging you, other friends excited about their scores. It made you want to do better.”

Our Record of Excellence

SSA is currently entering its eleventh summer. Over our last ten summers, we have helped hundreds of students improve hundreds of points on the SAT -- both the old and the new. In that time, we have refined our curricula, improved our teaching methods, and learned how better to create a thriving community of learners. In other words, we've been doing this for a long time, and our experience has made us better and better at it.

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Socratic Summer Academy: SAT Camp at Colgate University

June 28, 2019 - July 20, 2019

Smores! Campfires under the stars! Dodgeball! Scavenger hunts! Don't forget the summer camp!!

The great thing about SSA is that it's not just an SAT boot camp - it's also an amazing traditional summer camp experience - dodgeball, singalongs around the campfire with guitar, songwriting class with the piano in the dorm, capture the flag, volleyball, scavenger hunts, story-based games, hikes in the wilderness. It's fun. Students often believe that they’re in for a boring summer of slogging through academics - but after three weeks of living on an amazing college campus having fun with friends and teachers, they're sad to go home.

A holistic approach to the SAT has never been more important.

2019-2020 is a complicated year for folks thinking about college: the SAT has changed, college admissions are getting increasingly competitive, many folks are considering going test-optional, and the college process itself seems to become more stressful and more nuanced with each passing year. The test may change. But at SSA, our academic philosophy, nurturing camp community, and exceptional team has ensured that our program remains the most effective, most fun, and most nurturing place to prepare for your future anywhere in the country.