Tj Essay Tips For Kids

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How to get into Thomas Jefferson High School (ranked #1 in VA)?

Well, how did Serena Williams become the #1 ranked female tennis player?

Serena Williams didn’t just decide one day to play tennis with the pros.  No, she practiced, and practiced from when she was 4 years old.  She took lessons, attended a tennis academy for several years, and played for many hours every day.

Serena Williams wins the 2013 US Open

By the time Serena was ready to participate in the pros, she didn’t just show up at the tournament – she had 10 years of experience playing tennis, and she was ready to compete with the best of them.

So you see, when you want to be among the best, you have to start early to be ready.

Virginia’s best high school:
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST)

In Fairfax County, we are lucky to have one of the best high schools in the entire US (currently ranked #2 nationally by US News): Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (a.k.a. TJHSST, or “TJ”).  But getting in is not easy and students must start preparing early to be ready.

TJ is a school which caters to highly achieving students specifically focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and although it is located in Fairfax County, it is technically not part of the Fairfax County Public Schools district.  Instead, TJ is a Virginia state-chartered magnet school, which serves students from across several school districts in Northern Virginia.

So, when studying at TJ, students are being challenged by the best of the best in the entire region.

Getting into TJ is like getting into a pro tournament

Just like in a pro tournament, one doesn’t walk into TJ just expecting to get in.  It takes a good dose of preparation to have the best chance.

What’s required to get into TJ?

The first step is to live within the area serviced by TJ, such as the following 6 participating school districts:

Thomas Jefferson High School Participating School Districts in Northern Virginia

Once residency has been established, a student must start getting ready in 7th grade, since the student’s GPA in 7th and the first quarter of 8th grade are key components of the admissions criteria.

Then, there is also the TJ Entrance Exam:

About the Entrance Exam

When it’s time to apply to TJ, an 8th-grade student must take an admissions test.  This test consists of three sections :

  • Verbal
  • Quantitative
  • Essay

The Verbal section

The verbal section of the admissions test includes 3 types of questions:

  1. 5 scrambled paragraph exercises
  2. 15 logical reasoning questions
  3. 5 critical reading passages with 5 questions each

Once the verbal portion is completed, there is also a quantitative (i.e. Math) section:

The Quantitative (Math) section

The quantitative section is weighed the most heavily throughout the admissions process.

It consists of 50 multiple-choice math problems up to Algebra I with some basic Geometry included.  This section progresses from easy to hard questions.

The third section is the essays:

The Essay section

The essay component of the TJ test consists of two questions:

  1. Ethics-based: to show critical thinking
  2. Introspection: asks the student about him or herself to help the admissions committee to get to know the student better. (If possible, students should demonstrate their technical and scientific knowledge in the essay and prepare by reading Wired Magazine or Sci/Tech pages.)

Once the three parts are done, the test is scored.

How the admissions test is scored

The admissions test is scored out of 100 points, with students gaining a point for every correct answer and facing no penalty for incorrect answers.

When the test is done, then the admission selection starts.

TJ’s admissions process

Admissions to TJ are broken into two rounds:  to advance past the first round, students must earn at least 30/50 (60%) on the quantitative section.

However, the required overall score to advance past the first round is dependent on the student’s GPA:

  • If a student has a GPA of 3.6 or higher, they need an overall score of 65+
  • If the GPA is between 3.3-3.6, they need a 70+
  • If the GPA is between 3.0-3.3, they must score above 75

Once a student passes the first round of admission process, they move on to round two.

Round two of the admissions process

In round two of the admissions process, the committee reviews the complete application, including:

  • The essays written during the test
  • The quantitative (math) section of the test
  • Teacher recommendations
  • Student information sheet
  • The student’s GPA in math and science classes from 7th grade and the first quarter of 8th grade.

Once the student’s application has been reviewed in entirely in the second round, the best 450 applicants are granted admission.

And to give you some perspective, out of over 3,000 students who apply each year, only about 450 are admitted (that’s only about 15%).

Even though 15% might seem like a small number, I’d say applying is always worth a shot.

Think of Serena when you are preparing for TJ

Serena’s lifetime practice and hard work has paid off nicely with her winning many Grand Slams and being ranked at #1 for several years.  And just like Serena, a good student who has the drive and preparation to succeed, has a good chance of “playing with the pros”.

Important: Applications are due in mid-October

Applications for TJ admissions are due in mid-October.  The exact dates and details can be found here:

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – Admissions

And, since the first step of the process is to live in one of the participating districts, you can use the Fairfax County Map of School Boundaries to find the perfect home:

Log in to the Fairfax County Map of School Boundaries

Click to access the Fairfax County Map (with high school boundaries)

Log in to the Fairfax County Map of School Boundaries  to see the location of each of these boundaries within Fairfax County and to choose your ideal boundary.

  • Photos and videos
  • Highlights of the area covered by each boundary
  • Statistics about housing
  • School rankings for schools in each boundary

See you on the other side!

If you haven’t subscribed yet, why wait?

The FREE No-Tears Guide to Moving to Fairfax, VA

Downloading The No-Tears Guide to Moving to Fairfax, VA is free, and you’ll get access to our unique home-search (by school boundary).

Plus, you get the Fairfax County Real Estate Affordability Map, AND access to detailed information about each Fairfax County School boundary.

Image by y.caradec on flickr

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If your kids will be taking the SAT or GED or any tests that  require a timed writing essay, I’ve come across some great resources for timed essay writing practice.

Even if you don’t anticipate taking these tests, you still may want to do timed essay writing practice in your homeschool.  I used to give all week to turn in a writing assignment and until I realized that my daughter usually finished the same day (of course not the case with all kids), but I was trying to follow a traditional school schedule and in doing so, dragged things out too much.

Another benefit of doing timed essays  is to acquire the skill of being able to gather thoughts and express them in a short amount of time; this really is a really beneficial skill for life, in general.

So here are some awesome resources I have found for timed essay writing prompts.


This one is nice in that it arranges the prompts by type (description, persuasive, etc). There are about 23 prompts  here.

2. Georgia Regents

This is a list of topics approved for the Georgia Regents test:

It has about 634 prompts and they are ones that I think high schoolers would find interesting or relevant to their lives.

3. 501 Writing Prompts

The types of prompts you’d see on a timed essay test such as the GED or SAT…

4. Across the Curriculum Connections

Also, be sure to draw prompts out of things that your high schooler is studying to kill two birds with one stone (also, I’ve read that writing in content areas helps students to learn better in those subjects as well–even use writing in math)…………………….

Timed Essay Writing Guide

After reviewing one of the books we have on hand for writing a time essay for the GED (and drawing upon my homeschool experience, I came up with a little booklet for my kids to use while they are writing. I “crafted” it for my 17 year old who is studying for the GED, but I am having my 9th grader use it as well, insha Allah, for general essay writing practice. It’s a step by step book to use DURING the writing process/practice, until they feel super confident to go it alone. (So the book is really teaching, not me…a super timesaver).  Afterward, the essays are to be reviewed with mom or dad.

TJ (Timed) Essay Writing Companion (PDF)

Lastly, over at one of my now favorite resources for homeschooling high school, the HomeScholar, there’s a nice little article on providing regular practice in the homeschool for timed essay tests……Quick Essay Skills Earn Thanks

By the way, if you’d like a copy of items 1 and 2, the prompts, in PDF form, just let me know. I’ve got both of them in one document (ok, you could do that yourself, but hey, just offering)……

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