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Vol. LXIV, No. 14
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
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“What We Wish We’d Known”: Rower Entrepreneurs Teach Study Skills, Life Lessons to Area Students

Dilshanie Perera

Jake Cornelius and Charlie Cole are not only rowers hoping to make the cut for the 2012 Olympics, but entrepreneurs in the business of teaching high schoolers how to manage academics, match study habits with their individual learning styles, and how to become better students.

The idea for Milestone Academic Counseling emerged out of conversations about being a student, and the shared passion of learning. Mr. Cornelius holds degrees from Stanford and Cambridge, while Mr. Cole attended Yale as an undergraduate and obtained a Master’s at Oxford.

“We both have learned so much about how to be a student, without even knowing it, over the years,” Mr. Cornelius said. “We thought: wouldn’t it be great if there were a program that could teach kids this before they go through all of it? That’s our basic mission: Teach kids what we wish we’d known when we were their age.”

“The niche we’re trying to fill is geared toward high school students who aren’t completely sure how to manage themselves academically,” Mr. Cornelius said, with Mr. Cole adding that they work on everything related to academics, including “organization, time management, study skills and techniques, note-taking techniques, writing, reading — those are skills that define how you are as a student.” Additionally, specific subjects or exams can be reviewed, enhanced, and focused on.

“The first thing that we do is sit down with the kids and their parents and assess what they’re looking for and what they need,” Mr. Cole explained. An analysis of study skills, learning styles, and performance based on the individual student leads to the development of a flexible curriculum. The key is the one-on-one approach, as well as a method that is tailored to the specific student.

“One of the ways we distinguish ourselves is that we’re not trained as teachers; we’re not trained educators. But we’re all very good students, and that’s a different perspective,” Mr. Cornelius said. “We’re uniquely positioned.”

“It’s an awareness of the learning process,” Mr. Cole added, with Mr. Cornelius continuing, “and an awareness of the pressures kids are under. Particularly in such an academically-driven area, it helps to have a tutor with the understanding that after you leave your time here with me, you still have another two hours of practice and studying to do, and tomorrow you’re on the go from 7 a.m. to 7 at night. Our role is to figure out how you fit that all together, how you balance the academics, and the athletics, and the family and social commitments.”

They see Princeton as a unique incubator for Milestone Academic Counseling, and are looking to work with more students from the area and the surrounds.

While Mr. Cornelius and Mr. Cole work as the managers of Milestone, focusing on the big picture, pairing students with individual tutors, or a team of tutors, and overseeing the process, their employee-tutors are similarly armed with degrees from elite institutions and an enthusiasm for teaching.

“There’s such a body of knowledge there,” Mr. Cornelius said of their staff tutors, “and everyone has found a different way to succeed. A few of our tutors have ADD, and one did applied math at Harvard, and the other studied theoretical physics at Cornell, so they obviously figured out a way to make it work.” Having these varied experiences to draw on works for both the organization and the students.

“We’re about building relationships with the students, and one of the things that is unique about our tutors and about us is that we’re young, and we just did it ourselves,” Mr. Cole said. “When you’re trying to motivate a kid, trying to relate to a kid, and trying to get a kid to achieve his or her goals, that’s an asset.”

“There’s also a mentoring relationship there. Because the kids can imagine themselves being in the position that the tutor is in. It’s inspiring, and it shows you that being smart isn’t that bad,” Mr. Cornelius said with a laugh.

In addition to being elite students and educators, Mr. Cole and Mr. Cornelius are elite athletes, having begun their rowing careers at ages 12 and 16, respectively. The experience as both students and athletes throughout grade school, college, and even graduate school is something that has taught the duo discipline, self-awareness, self control, how to communicate with others, and time management, among other things.

They currently train early in the morning, work at Milestone during the normal workday, and train again in the evening. “We need to be busy,” Mr. Cornelius said, “that’s another thing this sport has taught us.”

The team dynamic of rowing also plays into the team approach of the academic counseling, and being able to use a combination of strengths to work toward a common goal.

“The biggest reward for us is that people have been pleased not only with improved academic performance, but an overall change in the student as an individual — more responsible, more engaged, more self-aware, more conscientious, and more independent. That’s what makes this a fun process. That’s what makes us want to keep going,” Mr. Cole said.

For more information about Milestone Academic Counseling, visit

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