Cliff Prisament is the new Executive Director at The Princeton Review. Working from their Westport location, Prisament is responsible for company’s operations in entire state of Connecticut and several counties in New York including Westchester and Rockland.
I met Cliff at a coffee shop in Fairfield and we chatted for over an hour about his new role at The Princeton Review, his college admissions philosophy, and his life as a high school teacher in China.
You are fluent in Mandarin and were part of the Shanghai High School International faculty, teaching ESL. Tell me what impact this has on your role as Executive Director of The Princeton Review.
Having previously taught high schoolers allowed me to see first-hand the incredible amount of stress and anxiety so many teenagers are under. Even in China, a large number of students take the SAT or ACT and have hopes of getting into top schools here in the United States. Because of this past experience, I can really empathize with our clients when they express fears or concerns about, among other things, the college admission process.
I would also say having worked overseas showed me the world is a much smaller place than we think. A parent in Shanghai is not much different from one in Connecticut and we all want the best for our children.
What does a day in the life of a Princeton Review Executive Director look like?
No two days are the exact same, but a large amount of my time is devoted to ensuring our team has the support they need to deliver the greatest possible customer service to our clients. As I’m still relatively new, every day is a learning experience, but I particular enjoy the challenge of expanding our business into new markets and getting the word out about how effective we are as a company. I recently attended the annual New York State School Counselors Association meeting and plan on attending many more professional events in 2017 - look for me!
As Executive Director, you are responsible for The Princeton Review operations in Connecticut and several counties in New York. Why was this position appealing to you?
I am so honored to have joined The Princeton Review. The appeal of working here lies in the fact we have a service with a proven history of effectiveness. Taking off my work-hat for a moment, I truly believe The Princeton Review is the best service for test prep because we combine content with strategy. It’s that duality that makes us unique and really works.
Being a native New Yorker from Westchester County, I loved how this position would allow me to expand in a place I not only grew up in, but currently live. I’m also learning more and more about the great state of Connecticut each day and have visited as far as Wethersfield. I’m also highly interested in the tech-industry and have been beyond impressed with how The Princeton Review’s live-online options so realistically duplicate the feel of an actual in-person class. It’s very amazing. Ultimately, I believe if you are going to work in an industry you should strive to be with the gold-standard, and in test prep that is clearly The Princeton Review.
Services such as test prep, tutoring, and college counseling can be costly. What if a student needs/wants help but has a limited (or no) budget. Do you have options for that family?
We certainly do! The Princeton Review has options for many budgets, but families should think of our services as an investment in the future. I would highly recommend anyone interested in test prep, tutoring or college counseling to call us for a complimentary consultation so we can better understand your individual situation and create a customized action plan specifically for you or your child. Not all of our services are the right choice for everyone so during this consultation, we will thoroughly review your current academic performance and mutually decide upon an action plan that will help you reach your goals. Please call us at 203-226-2899 to arrange this.
The college admissions process can be extremely stressful and competitive. What advice would you give students and parent who are presently eagerly awaiting both ED and RD admission decisions?
I would tell parents to “keep calm and carry on”, as those t-shirts say. I remember waiting my senior year for the University of Delaware’s admission decision. Everyday seemed like an eternity. Finally, one day I came home and saw a small, normal sized letter. I knew if I was admitted it would have been a big package, not a small letter. I was rejected. I ripped up the letter and was devastated. With that said, I used that devastation as a driving force and successfully transferred into the University of Delaware after spending one semester at Buffalo State College. I am proud to be a Blue Hen alumni.
Parents and students need to realize that while getting into your first choice is wonderful, many times you will be just as content at your second or third choice. In some cases, a second choice school actually works out to be a better fit than your “dream school”. Parents especially need to realize that while the stakes are very high, nothing is the end-of-the-world. I personally believe a lot of successful people have an inner drive that will emerge regardless of the school they graduate from.
Did you personally use The Princeton Review’s services when applying to college?
I did not, but certainly wish I did! I am fairly certain the reason I was initially rejected from the University of Delaware was because of my SAT scores. Possibly the ACT would have been a better exam for me at the time, but no one even told me about that possibility.
Here at The Princeton Review, we offer free practice tests for both exams so students can compare each and decide which is “better”. Both tests are equally as challenging, but in slightly different ways, so we strongly recommend trying both before settling on one. To register for a free practice test, just visit us at www.princetonreview.com. I would also highly recommend visiting our website for the latest, up-to-date information on thousands of colleges or universities. If you are a concerned parent or just looking to have a clearer image of the college-admission process, you can also make an appointment to speak with one of us locally in Westport. Finally, pick up a copy of our latest Best 381 book, it has such a wealth of information, you will be glad you did!