TJHSST Semifinal Round

Out of the students who apply to Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology, about one third pass the first round November admissions exam and take the SIS/Essay test in February. For the Class of 2022, over 3,000 students — a number predicted to increase — applied and about 1,100 students were semifinalists. Of those, only 480 are admitted each year.

In order to stand out from the crowd, Principia’s TJ SIS/Essay classes focus on telling your unique story and on writing in a clear, concise, and logical way. We’ll cover the importance of structure, grammar, and concision as well as implement time management strategies including outlining, revising, and proofreading.

Principia offers TJ SIS/Essay classes over the summer and in the winter after the first round exam.


The SIS (Student Information Sheet)

Contrary to its name, the SIS is not a simple form that students fill out. The SIS involves 3 personal questions that are intended to reveal the applicant’s experiences, interests, and goals. Each response is limited to 1650 characters.

In our students’ essays, we encourage incorporating both self-reflection and future aspirations, connecting past experiences and career goals that coincide with TJ’s own mission and beliefs.

The Problem-Solving Essay

Officially, the TJ Admissions Office calls it a “problem-solving essay,” which consists of a math or science problem or a combination of both. We prepare our students for all possibilities; either way, it’s one essay with a maximum of 3700 characters.

One thing to keep in mind: TJ has already tested your math and science knowledge in the first round exam. What they’re looking for here is not only your ability to solve a problem but the ability to clearly explain your thought process and to demonstrate knowledge on a deeper level, making real-world connections and ethical considerations.



Teacher Recommendations

In addition to the SIS/Essay test, semifinals must also submit two teacher recommendations — one 7th or 8th grade math or science teacher and one 7th or 8th grade teacher of their choice.

According to the Admissions Office, “The form asks the teacher to reflect on his/her experience with you in the classroom, whether an applicant has particular traits important to the mission and goals of the school, and how an applicant may contribute to the learning environment at TJHSST.” 

2019 TJ SIS/Essay Classes @ Principia


Summer TJ/SIS Essay Class 2019

4 weeks

McLean, VA

Our Summer TJ/SIS Essay Class is a four-week intensive course designed to get students prepped for the semifinal round by tackling their activity sheets, personal essays, and math/science essays.

Six students max per class

Dates: June 29th - July 20th (Session 1); July 27th - August 17th (Session 2)

Times: Saturdays, 2-6 pm

Tuition: $675

Have a question before you register? Get in touch at


Winter TJ/SIS Essay Class 2019

8 weeks

McLean, VA

Looking toward the SIS/Essay exam in February, our winter class is an eight-week intensive course designed to get students ready for the test by tackling their activity sheets, personal essays, and math/science essays in the two-hour time limit.

Six students max per class

Session A: Saturdays, November 23rd - February 1st (9 to 11 am)

Session B: Saturdays, November 23rd - February 1st (11 am to 1 pm)

Session C: Sundays, November 24th - February 2nd (9 to 11 am)

Session D: Sundays, November 24th - February 2nd (11 am to 1 pm)

Session E: Thursdays, December 5th - February 6th (4 to 6 pm)

*All classes will be off for Thanksgiving (Nov 28-Dec 1st) and for Christmas (Dec 20th thru Jan 3rd)

Tuition: $675

Have a question? Check out our FAQ page or get in touch at

We are very happy to tell you that our daughter has been accepted and offered admission into TJ! She is very excited! I want to thank you for all of the attention and great support you provided to help her be prepared! I thought your professionalism and dedication to her made a great difference and gave her that confidence to succeed.
— Jeff, Parent
T. recently got a perfect score on his writing SOL, and he attributed it to all of the work he did with you! Thank you!
— Wendy, Parent
Thanks for a great class. A. learned a lot and is as ready as he can be. We really appreciate your help and would recommend Principia to anyone.
— Anne, Parent