App State GEAR UP Preps More Than 15,000 Students

Jody Freeman said it can be natural for schoolteachers and administrators to feel hesitant when an outside instructor teaches their students. 

That feeling dissipated when MasteryPrep instructor Zola-Kai Pollard completed an ACT Boot Camp session that left more than 100 students and even teachers energized and enthused about strategies they could not only use on standardized tests but also within their classroom courses.

“Teachers are funny; you’ll hear, ‘Who is this person and why are you inviting them to our school?’ But when Zola walks in, commands a room of more than 100 students and teachers, delivers valuable content review, tips and tricks, and leaves hours later with students and teachers engaged and enthused about what they can bring back to their classrooms, then you have a high-quality product combined with an amazing service of human element and presentation that is irreplaceable,” said Freeman, GEAR UP Coordinator at Wilkes County Schools in North Carolina.

Appalachian State University GEAR UP, At-A-Glance:


Approximate Number of Students Served


School Districts Served


Elementary and High School Partners

Since 2018, MasteryPrep has partnered with Appalachian State University GEAR UP to provide ACT products and North Carolina Math 1 resources to more than 15,000 high school and middle school students across 11 school districts in western North Carolina.  

MasteryPrep partners with GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) at colleges and universities to level the playing field by providing academic resources to high need schools. These partnerships increase students’ academic performance and preparation for postsecondary education; number of students receiving scholarships and entrance into four-year institutions; and increase students and their families’ knowledge of postsecondary education options, preparation, and financing.  

GEAR UP is one of App State’s college access partnership programs, including Upward Bound, College Advising Corps, Young Eisner Scholars, Empowering Teacher Learning, among others.  

As part of its academic focus, GEAR UP improves students’ access to and performance in a rigorous curriculum that includes Math 1 (one of four high school mathematics courses required for graduation), computer science and STEM courses, as well as improving ACT performance. GEAR UP exposes students to entrepreneurship, learning opportunities, careers, financial literacy, and the college application process. 

“That’s what I love about the MasteryPrep product – it’s by no means replacing what students are taught, it’s enhancing their skills, to maximize the time available to get the best results on the ACT.”

In 2020, App State GEAR UP received $29 million in federal funding for a seven-year extension to improve the postsecondary enrollment, retention, and completion rates of the 6th-12th grade students. The grant project addresses systemic and sustainable strategies for increased college readiness, with the goal of creating a college-going culture in each GEAR UP partner school. In 2021, a total of 1,911 App State GEAR UP students who were participants in a previous GEAR UP grant program enrolled in postsecondary education.

“GEAR UP is a powerful tool to provide equity in education by creating opportunities across economic, academic, and cultural categories,” said Freeman.

One favorite MasteryPrep ACT product of Freeman’s is the TruScore Testing & Analysis for the ACT + Study Hall, which includes official ACT® practice tests, followed by instant results where students can view answer explanations, review skills on questions they missed, and teachers can gauge students’ strengths and weaknesses.

“I love the fact that in TruScore, students learn why answers are incorrect, and then they can practice similar questions to fix their mistakes,” Freeman said. “If you don’t know why you missed a question, then you’re going to continue to miss it. That’s how you improve.”

MasteryPrep finances an annual scholarship to App State GEAR UP students to go towards future college tuition for a GEAR UP student who completed the entire ACT prep course.

“In my sophomore year, I had never taken the ACT. I didn’t want to go into the Pre-ACT without any idea of what was expected from me, so I chose to complete all the Mastery Prep modules to prepare as much as possible,” said Ella Irving, a former scholarship recipient, graduate from Watauga Innovation Academy, and current student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.   

“I knew I couldn't study for a test if I didn’t know the content, and Mastery Prep was the perfect solution. I thought the software was beneficial in that I was able to practice similar question types and manage my use of time to stay under the allotted time for each of the four ACT sections. I am very thankful for the scholarship, and I encourage other students to use Mastery Prep.”

Unpaid testimonial. Individual results may vary, and testimonials are not claimed to represent typical results. ACT score average and gain data courtesy of MasteryPrep client district and based on year over year ACT test data for the same cohort. All testimonials are real participants, and may not reflect the typical user’s experience, and are not intended to represent or guarantee that anyone will achieve the same or similar results.

About MasteryPrep:

MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources for the SAT®, ACT®, TSIA2, EOC, and WorkKeys®. MasteryPrep is the nationally preferred SAT and ACT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education and licensed by ACT to include official ACT test questions in its programs. MasteryPrep partners with schools and districts to help level the standardized assessment playing field. MasteryPrep has ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies” for six years and is a featured “Entrepreneur 360” company.


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