A Wise Woman for Stressed Teens
|by Kim Epp Frenette, Dec 2013/Jan 2014|
If you have college bound teens, or know someone who does, you are probably familiar with the near hysteria created by preparing for the infamous SAT and ACT admission tests. In an increasingly competitive environment for top schools and scholarships, just cracking open a practice test or two no longer seems to cut it.
Test Prep is a billion dollar industry with everyone from private tutors to huge institutions like Princeton Review getting in on the game. One smart South Hills woman, Manjri Gupta who bought the Pittsburgh Chyten Test Prep franchise in 2010, was savvy enough to see the local opportunity, but wise enough to realize what she really needed to provide for stressed out teens: a test coach they can count on.
“You have to like someone to be able to interact,” explains Gupta. “Once confidence is built between tutor and student, learning becomes a natural process.”
Gupta says the hardest thing about her business is finding the right tutors. In addition to the right knowledge and background, tutors need the personality and style that will allow for trust between tutor and student. Gupta spends a lot of her energy creating a great team of tutors, and then making sure she gets the right tutor/student match.
“I always tell students to let me know if something puts them off about a tutor. The biggest factor is acceptability – (if it’s a bad match) it is a distraction. Once you have the chemistry, the learning is natural.” Gupta currently has 11-12 tutors on her team to maximize options. “Everyone has different expectations and learning styles” and as she points out, “sometimes students are not even sure what works for them.”
Gupta has bad news for ambitious parents who hope a Chyten class will automatically result in perfect SAT scores. “The student has to be in the driver’s seat. By grade 9 or 10 they have a mind of their own. We get all kinds of student but irrespective of where they start, it they have a “fire in their belly” and bring effort to the table, that is the most exciting.”
The same admonition goes to thoes seeking “fast and furious” results. “Learning is better in bite size pieces. There is only so much a student can process at one time.”
In many ways Gupta sees her job as part counselor. “We keep an eye out for anxiety. We want to see a balance… anxiety will work against students. We try to help them put it in perspective.” Manjri sees high stress levels in both genders. “Boys are a little more ‘controlled’ about it, but even they choke up. We try to make it all little casual, try to help them be calm.”
Self-confidence, or lack thereof, is another area of concern. Manjri has told more than one student “you know more than you give yourself credit for,” and a lot of her effort and the effort of tutors goes into making kids realize they can do it.
“There isn’t a silver bullet or a panacea for confidence, but I can see the effort from students overcoming their own personal challenges. They have the wind beneath their wings; I just provide the push.”
Coming from the corporate world where Gupta was a successful IT project manager, she admits there are downsides to running her own business. “No vacation days, no sick days! I also miss having different departments. It is hard being the sole decision maker and having to rely on your own expertise.” At least, she says, “your mistakes are your own. You can readjust and learn. So that is the best – and the worst!”
Ultimately, Manjri has no regrets about launching into the test prep arena. “Before I committed I explored many options. This was something I could see myself doing, something I could get behind and stand for.” Despite the challenges, Gupta says “I love doing this. I have a very strong team, we get good feedback,” and as for working with teens, she confirms, “I love that whole phase of life!”
Editor’s note: Manjri can be reached at 412 833-6060 for information or visit her website at http://www.chytenpittsburgh.com/
Manjri was a sponsor for our November “Strong for the Holidays” event, and while we are very grateful for her support, it is only a part of why we are writing about her now. Yes, this whole issue is connected to women associated with the event, but of the many we could have chosen, we think Manjri is a pretty cool business woman with an interesting strength in a competitive market. We also think she has a lot of wisdom to share with parents, and all of us.