Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Zen Student Journal: AmeriCorps and Working Abroad

The following post is the first in a series from one of our LSAT tutoring clients. You can read about their experiences by clicking on the "Zen Journal" label above.
My travel companion looked at me in disbelief, “We are going to Colombia for three months, and you are only packing one backpack.  And it’s half filled with LSAT prep books. Are you out-of-your mind?” Insane, no. Determined, yes. After a dismal performance on the December LSAT, I became obsessed with scoring the ever-so-elusive 170, so much so that it significantly impaired my practical judgment. 

How was a girl feasibly going to study for the LSAT, enroll in intensive Spanish courses, and volunteer all at once? But, hey, we’re in the 21st century, and a gal can have it all, or can’t she?

Two weeks into my Colombia adventure, panic over the upcoming June LSAT began to immobilize me. I would be in Spanish class and all I would think about was ways to improve my approach to the logical reasoning games. I would be teaching English and instead of focusing on the importance of the subjunctive, I would turn the conversation towards logic. I would often stay at our hostel instead of joining day excursions to discover the city because the guilt of not prepping was unbearable.

But all the time I spent studying wasn’t improving my score. I needed to find a way to study smarter. As a nomadic volunteer, I couldn’t afford private tutoring and the two prep-books I brought were insufficient. One day, by pure chance, I stumbled upon Zen 180. At first, I was skeptical--a free blog for my LSAT prep? I thought everyone was trying to cash in on the LSAT. 

What was the catch? There had to be a catch. So, I scheduled a free consultation with John via the interwebs.  Although he was 2500 miles away, that half an hour with him convinced me that I needed Zen 180’s help. John and his team scrutinized the PrepTest results I had entered into their online system and were able to gain insight into my performance that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. Their analyzer breaks down my strengths and weaknesses, categorizing them, and then presents them in a visually accessible way. With that, I can track my progress and isolate the areas that require improvement.

With Zen 180’s assistance, I have been able to cut my study time without sacrificing my learning. I’m studying smart. I no longer feel that I’m poring over the questions and making the same mistakes over and over again. 

Because of this, a weight has been lifted. I’ve been able to go out and enjoy the beauty that is Colombia. I am present while I’m volunteering and my Spanish is improving! That said, I still have mini-breakdowns, especially now, since the June LSAT is eight weeks away. I am still not sure I can do it. But Zen 180 is giving me a way to prep thousands of miles away from the States, and in addition, because of their discounted services, I can afford to work one-on-one with a tutor. As I am not the kind of learner who can just read explanations and have “ah-ha” moments, I need a guide to help me visualize questions and answers. Never before did I encounter a test-prep company whose mission is really to help people succeed without just looking at the bottom line. 

With Zen 180, I can augment my data-driven self-study with dedicated, compassionate, Harvard-educated tutors, and I'm working on enjoying Columbia and having it all.