Student Spotlight: Fatima Martinez

Fatima Martinez leans against a counter.

A senior at Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High School, Fatima Martinez knows the importance of careful preparation and goal-setting. “A lot of my friends say you can’t really study for the SAT,” Fatima said. “But I think that you can. CollegeSpring shows you that.” Fatima is a shining example of how test prep can transform a student’s college application. She raised her own score by about 300 points from the PSAT to the SAT.

Fatima’s big score gain didn’t just happen. She had never even heard of the SAT until her junior year of high school. “I feel like [that] is really bad,” she said, “because had I had exposure to it sooner, I would have prepared for it.” 

Learning about the SAT was a shock to the system at first: “I was really scared. I get really nervous when it comes to tests. I just freeze. And it is timed, so that puts a lot of pressure on me.” 

She didn’t let that pressure stand in her way. Fatima’s CollegeSpring mentor helped her learn how to approach the test. “He told me a lot of stuff I didn’t know, like the structure of the test, and the way you can get through questions that seem intimidating. That helped me a lot.” 

Demystifying the SAT also helped with her test anxiety: “By doing the practice that the CollegeSpring book had, I was like, okay, these questions seemed impossible, but if I practice with [my mentor], and if I break these questions down, I can totally get those ten points, you know? A goal that seemed impossible was now possible.”

The simple fact of practicing the SAT helped Fatima get more comfortable with the exam and improve her score. “After I finished CollegeSpring, the SAT wasn’t as intimidating as it used to be. At first it was really foreign.” Learning how to manage her time in a high-pressure situation also helped: “You know when they say, the more practice the better? I think it’s just getting used to the time crunch. You internally build your own timer. Pacing is key.” 

Fatima is applying to several colleges, where she wants to major in psychology and minor in English. She submitted applications to UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara, the University of Chicago, and Wellesley. The range of colleges she has applied to mirrors the breadth of her academic interests: “My favorite subject right now is English. As well as United States Government. Oh, and psychology!”

When she isn’t working toward her academic goals, Fatima loves to read. She enjoys realistic fiction, and she follows the news. She also indulges in the classics: “The most recent book I’ve read is the infamous Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It was pretty good.” In addition to being one of the cornerstones of English literature, Hamlet reminded Fatima of her childhood: “Since I had grown up seeing The Lion King, I saw a lot of parallels.”

Fatima has this advice for students beginning the CollegeSpring program, which she also dispenses to her younger brother: “If you’re struggling with a question that you see on a practice test, look over it. Go step by step. Tackle it. Sure, you might think, ‘Oh, let me just skip that question.’ No! It might be an easy question, and you just have to tackle it. Helping the test not seem that intimidating, I feel like that’s a big step.” 

“All it takes is thirty minutes to do one question or two a day, and you can get to where you want,” Fatima told us. “Making small goals, small wins, I think that adds up a lot.”