Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 26
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
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It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

LOVE OF LEARNING: “Our approach is to dig deeper and to look at how an individual learns best. We help someone who is not doing as well as he or she should be, and try to find what works best for that person.” Jake Cornelius (left) and Charlie Cole are founders and owners of Milestone Academic Counseling.

Full Range of Tutoring and Coaching Services Is Offered at Milestone Academic Counseling

Jill is struggling with math; Jack has trouble with languages; Andy plays sports and can’t concentrate on homework; Annie is involved in so many extra-curricular activities that there is little time left for study or to hand in papers on time.

All smart kids, but not working up to their potential in school. How to engage them and help them become enthusiastic about learning?

Enter Jake Cornelius and Charlie Cole, founders and owners of Milestone Academic Counseling. High achievers (graduates of Stanford University and Cambridge, and Yale and Oxford respectively), they want to share the skills that led them to their own successful academic careers with today’s students who may need guidance and support to reach their potential.

Milestone Academic Counseling grew out of a chance meeting when the two young men met in Princeton to train for the U.S. National Rowing Team in September 2008. Not only was rowing a shared interest, but they discovered mutual academic experiences and similar views on learning as well.

“Charlie and I both got masters degrees,” says Mr. Cornelius. “He in environmental policy and I in engineering. We both found that we had enjoyed learning and studying. As with any skill, you develop it through practice. You learn by doing.”

They opened Milestone in January, 2009, offering a focused yet flexible program, concentrating on three main areas: academic coaching, subject tutoring, and SAT prep. They realize that people often learn differently, and their tutoring is structured with that in mind.

Study Skills

“Some students are language-oriented, others more visual,” points out Mr. Cole. “We try to help the students learn in the way that is best for them. There are a lot of ways to do it right. We are solution-based.”

Also, he adds, “if the way the teacher teaches you is the way you like to learn, that works well. But that is not always the case, and then it’s hard for the students with different ways of learning. That’s where we come in. We find the best way to help them develop study skills that work for them.”

High school students have been the majority of Milestone’s clients, but they have also helped middle school kids too.

“We get a lot of interest from rising high school freshmen,” reports Mr. Cornelius. “”Once they’re in high school, there is a lot more homework, and a teacher will say something is due in two weeks. They need to plan their time carefully. Time management and organization are crucial. They need to make lists about what needs to be done when. There definitely needs to be structure.”

Initially, Mr. Cornelius and Mr. Cole meet with a prospective client and his or her parents, and assess the student’s situation. Why is someone who should be getting A’s getting C’s?

The Milestone team will evaluate the student’s strengths and weaknesses via a series of questions and tests, and then formulate an appropriate program. “We have a team of 10 part-time counselors, all Ivy League graduates and two Princeton undergraduates,” says Mr. Cole. “We have a lot of ideas to share with the students. We emphasize academic coaching, and build a strong, long-term relationship with the student. We coach them to focus, manage time, and think long-term. We want them to ask: ‘How do I prepare for a physics test coming up in three weeks?’ Our answer: ‘Become better organizers, note-takers, and critical thinkers.’

Subject Tutoring

Subject tutoring focuses on different courses in which students have difficulty. “We may help them with one course or even with all five courses that they are taking,” adds Mr. Cole. “We can work with them throughout the school year.”

Preparing for SAT tests is another important area, and with the highly competitive college acceptance environment, this is often a source of intense pressure for students.

“Standardized tests measure processing and response time,” points out Mr. Cornelius. “We help students prepare for these tests and to perform under pressure. To do well, a student must analyze problems, focus on issues, and not be led astray. Our goal is to take the fear out of test-taking. We have designed a program that enhances the student’s problem-solving ability. We work with him or her, using our exclusive study materials which include tests created by our tutors who had perfect SAT scores.”

The ability to concentrate is critical in a learning situation, and something many kids struggle with. Again, like so much else, it takes practice, note Mr. Cornelius and Mr. Cole, and there are different methods available to increase concentration.

The tutors generally meet with students two or three times a week for one or two hours, and sessions take place at the student’s home, the public library, or at the Milestone office at 20 Nassau Street. Hours are flexible, with many appointments in the evening or on weekends.

There is also a summer program starting in mid-July. “We will emphasize reading, writing, and critical thinking during the summer,” says Mr. Cornelius.

That Moment

Helping students in Princeton and the surrounding area is a source of great pleasure for him and Mr. Cole. “Kids 13 to 17 are looking for their identity. It’s important that they not think of themselves as unable to do better. Students will often underestimate their ability to do the work. We know they can do better, and we can help them.

“What our work is really about is that moment when a student says ‘I can do this!’ And along with that, when they actually start enjoying the school work. Then, we know we’ve made a difference.”

“When we see the change and see the look on someone’s face when they’ve gotten an A, it’s great,” adds Mr. Cole. “We’ve helped change their behavioral patterns and helped increase their self-esteem. We are as proud of them as they are.”

It is hardly a secret that high school kids enjoy hanging out with their peers and relate to those in their own age group. The fact that Mr. Cornelius and Mr. Cole are in their mid-twenties is a plus. They are close enough in age to relate to the students’ situation. They can make a connection. And students see them as successful role models. That they are also extraordinary athletes, training intensively for the 2012 summer Olympics doesn’t hurt either!

Milestone Academic Counseling offers a variety of pricing and study arrangements; anywhere from a few hours a week to a long-term investment of time over several months or the entire school year.

(609) 751-1677. Website:

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