Monthly Archives: February 2018

07 Feb 2018

Senioritis… The good, the bad and the ugly

You have accomplished the most amazing challenge you have ever undertaken in your life – you have been accepted to college! All your efforts have been rewarded with those magic words, “we are pleased to inform you of your acceptance”. Congratulations!

So what do you do now?  Or maybe the question is, what DON’T you do?

To avoid succumbing to Senioritis, keep these in mind:

Good Grades Matter

Think of your entire high school career as an audition for college. You can’t give up before the final curtain.  Keep those grades up and GPA in good shape.  You may be a second semester senior but don’t lose your focus.  You’re still a student!


Acceptance is not a guarantee

It can be very tempting to sit back and relax and not expend too much energy on anything. But don’t be fooled into thinking that once you’ve been accepted, you’re in no matter what. Your entire senior year is important. Once you complete your senior year and receive your diploma, college are still going to look at your grades – including the ones from your senior spring semester. If your GPA drops significantly it can tell colleges that you don’t care about academics. And they can rescind your acceptance. That’s right–you essentially get “un”accepted!


A good GPA leads to good scholarships and grants

Many scholarship and grant opportunities–as well as other forms of financial aid–often have requirements that include a certain minimum GPA level. The higher your GPA is, the more scholarships and grants you could qualify for.

Set short-term and long-term goals for yourself.

Having clear goals is the simplest way to stay motivated. Write down your goals for this semester, and be specific about how you’re going to achieve them. For example: What grades do you want in each of your classes? Do you need a specific GPA to maintain a scholarship or financial aid? What skills do you want to improve on before heading off to college?


Focus on earning college credit.

If you’re taking Advanced Placement or other college-level classes, you may need a certain grade or test score to get college credit. Doing well in these classes can help you place into more advanced courses, graduate early, and spend less on tuition—all very good things. Studying hard now can make a big impact on your college career.


Stay active and challenged

A lot of time is spent on completing applications, writing essays, going on college visits, researching majors and campus life.  Now that you’ve been accepted you’ll have more free time. While you continue to focus on academics, there is also time now to do fun (and enriching) things.

By senior year you have most likely taken most required courses and there should be room in your schedule for elective classes. Elective classes are those that you take not to fulfill a requirement, but because they interest you. So much of our motivation to learn lies in intellectual curiosity, and it can thus behoove seniors to indulge this instinct.

Taking courses because they are easy is a tactic that many students use, but this is not an effective way to avoid senioritis – your lack of effort in your easy classes may bleed into your challenging classes and threaten your grades. Signing up for courses that make you want to work hard may just increase your motivation in all of your studies.

You can also use your extra time to pursue your passions or hobbies, join a club or organization that you are interested in, cultivate your relationships with friends and family (you’ll miss them when you leave for college), read a good book, and plan your summer. Second semester is a great time for all of these things.

Get prepared for college life

You’re about to be on your own and you’re going to have be fully independent.  Second semester senior year is the time to figure out and practice things like how to have a balanced and healthy diet to sustain you through hours of tougher homework, how to deal with the extra free time that results from the less-structured college life, how to manage your money, how to do your laundry, and how to clean you room!

06 Feb 2018

Second Semester Junior Year

Second semester junior year is a critical time to prepare for the college application process that will begin senior year. From test prep to summer plans, every detail matters.

Key factors that should be on every Junior’s mind:

1. Academic Excellence

Every year of high school academic are important. Junior year is no exception but it is the last opportunity students have to prove consistently high marks OR a clear trajectory of growth.

If you had a weaker start in high school but you have shown consistent growth through second semester junior year, college admissions committees will look at your grades favorably. Remember, any progress you make senior year won’t be on your application transcript.

2. Leadership Positions

Colleges want to see a commitment to 2-3 extracurricular activities that you’re really passionate about. Being able to show a leadership positions that has made a difference in your school or community is the best way to prove you will an asset to the college of your choice and will be able to contribute to the school community.

Begin thinking about possible leadership position in your senior year while you are still a junior. Put your name in for captain, start planning your student council campaign, talk to your coach or teacher about how you can contribute more to the team.

3. Summer Plans

A productive and fulfilling summer is just as important as the school year for your college application. Options can include work, volunteering, travel, or study.  To have the best opportunities available, start planning for them before spring break of your junior year.  Most summer programs have application processes that will need to be completed before March.

4. Test Prep

Summer is a time when most students do not have the structure of a daily schedule. Summer before junior year is the best time to prepare for standardized college, or, if you have completed your junior year, it is the best time to conclude test prep so you can take official tests in the early fall.

Meeting with a tutor more frequently during the summer months and adding more practice will help you reach your score goals.

And don’t forget to check exam dates and make sure you register for the right ones.

5. Identify your Recommenders

Start thinking about who will write your letters of recommendation. Before you leave for the summer, ask your teachers if they will write your recommendation.


a) It is more courteous to ask for the recommendation (unless she has already agreed to write it, then begin your letter by confirming her offer).

b) Include a list of your accomplishments from freshman year to present. Don’t forget to highlight any leadership positions and include non-school related activities.  (This is an excellent motivation to write a resume).

c) Be direct and ask for a strong, stellar, outstanding… whatever word you choose… recommendation.

d) Provide a time line for a response and a date for the completed recommendation.

e) Close your request with a thank you and.

6. Narrow your College List

By the end of second semester junior year, you’ll want to have a preliminary list of colleges you want to apply to. Start the research. Know your “competitive tiers” – the schools that would be your target, reach, and safety schools.

7. College Visits

Use spring break to visit colleges while they’re in session. While it is nice to visit schools on your list, also take the schools with a variety of factors – urban vs. rural, big vs. small, public vs. private, etc. Information that includes a wide range of factors regarding schools and campuses will be helpful to inform your final choice.

8. Get Organized 

There’s a lot to keep track of in the college admissions process. Standardized test registration dates, early decision and regular decision application deadlines, dates to get your transcripts and your letters of recommendation – start adding these to your calendar NOW and review dates regularly during your senior year.

05 Feb 2018

Debunking the most popular Myths about the SAT and ACT


How do you know what’s true and what’s just a rumor about your standardized test scores will affect your college applications? Don’t Fall for These Five Misconceptions About the SAT and ACT

  1. Students should take both the SAT and the ACT.

Not true. While the tests are more similar due to the recent changes to the SAT, it’s still important for students to focus studying specifically for one test. By dedicating effort toward one exam, students can become completely comfortable with that exam and the test–taking skills it requires. Plus, who wants to sit through hours and hours of test by taking each one multiple times.

  1. Everyone at my school takes the SAT so I should take the SAT.

Student have a choice and they should choose the test that best reflects their academic strengths.

  1. Colleges prefer the SAT (or ACT).

Not true! At our last check, all US colleges don’t care which test gets submitted, so students should take the test that suits them best and submit that test.

  1. Everything is riding on my scores.

Standardized test scores are one factor that is considered when colleges are reviewing an applicant – but they are not the most important.  According to the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, college admissions officers consistently rank grades and course rigor as the most important admissions factors. So a student can have great test scores, but if his or her grades and courses aren’t up to standard, he or she may have a considerably lower chance of getting in. In fact, it can be a red flag to admissions officers if a student’s grades and test scores are wildly unmatched. That’s not to say that standardized test scores aren’t important. A score that’s too low could be the deciding factor of admission to reject that student’s application. It’s important to do well on standardized test scores, but it’s not the only thing to focus on.

  1. I have great grades so I’ll do well on the SAT or ACT without studying.

Ideally, by the time students are sitting for the SAT or ACT, they will have adequately covered the content and concepts being tested. However, curricula vary from school to school, and every student has different abilities. The truth is, for some students, there may be little overlap in what’s being taught in class and what’s on the test. For other students, some concepts may have been covered previously, but so much time has passed that they’ve forgotten some of the key elements. Much of the content students are tested on in the SAT or ACT is also presented in a different format, so even though they’ve covered the concepts before it may seem unfamiliar. There’s also the issue of time constraints, test-taking strategies, and other factors that don’t mimic traditional learning or the classroom experience. Just because a student performs well in class doesn’t mean he or she will do well on the ACT or SAT the first time around. A student wouldn’t go into any other test unprepared, and standardized college entrance exams are no different.

  1. The ACT is “easier” than the SAT.

This common myth – pitting one test against the other and even asserting that colleges value one over the other – never holds true. All colleges and universities equally consider both tests. No test is “easier” than the other. The factor that students must consider when choosing which test to take and prepare for is which one is a better fit for his or her abilities. At Sentia Education, we recommend students take a diagnostic test doe the SAT and the ACT under timed conditions to get an idea of which test they perform better on, which test they prefer and what aspects they need to prepare for.

  1. I don’t need to take the SAT or ACT until the spring of my junior year.

While this is the most popular time for high school students to take college entrance exams, it leaves students with little time for improvement should they not perform as they expected. Also, with finals, AP exams, extracurricular activities and challenging courses, spring of junior year can leave students stretched thin – which can hurt test prep and performance.

The truth is, many students will have covered the most frequently tested concepts on the SAT and ACT by sophomore year of high school, so for some students it can be better to take the test a little earlier if they’re ready. Through test prep sophomore year and earlier in junior year, students can get a refresher on the content they’ve already covered – allowing them to take the test earlier and have more time for adjustments. Also, they can learn test-taking strategies and tips that don’t necessarily require prior knowledge of the content.

  1. You can’t really improve your Reading score.

You CAN improve your Reading score by expanding your vocabulary, honing your critical reading skills, understanding the author’s point of view, and mastering your test-taking skills. So read – books, newspapers and anything else you can get your hands on.  Sentia Education offers expertise on additional skill-building tools.

  1. Students should take the ACT only if they’re strong in science

The science section of the ACT measures a student’s ability to read charts and graphs and interpret data. There is little need for actual science knowledge to do well on science section of the ACT. Being strong in science may not translate to the ACT science section.

  1. You should take the SAT or ACT as often as you can.

At Sentia Education, we recommend students take the SAT only a couple of times. In place of official tests, we offer a numerous practice tests that help students and tutors identify continued challenges as well as gauge test readiness. Don’t treat the official SAT or ACT as practice. Practice tests are for practice. The real thing is the real thing.

  1. Since the essay is optional, you don’t need to take it.

We encourage students to take the ACT with Writing and include the SAT essay in their registration. Before making your decision, you should check the requirements of the colleges you are applying to. Many colleges either require or recommend that applicants include the essay and, if that’s the case, you definitely want to take essay portion of the test.

Even if you are not quite sure which colleges you may be applying to, it’s best to include the essay in case it is required or recommended by any of the schools you do end up applying to, especially since you cannot take the Writing section test by itself.

  1. I don’t have to take the subject tests
  • 26 colleges recommend SAT subject tests
  • 37 colleges accept SAT subject tests.
  • 44 colleges require SAT subject tests.

     The ACT is NOT a substitute for the SAT & SAT subject tests

  • 26 colleges recommend SAT subject tests. Of these, 23 do not let the ACT replace subject tests.
  • 37 colleges accept SAT subject tests. Of these, 36 do not let the ACT replace subject tests.
  • 44 colleges require SAT subject tests. Of these, 25 do not let the ACT replace subject tests. (e.g. Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown, and all UC schools)
  1. Test prep doesn’t work.

Studies collected by FairTest show that good test prep programs can raise a student’s scores by 100 points, and in many cased, even more. Sentia Education works with each student individually to identify strengths and weaknesses in both concepts and skills as well as in strategies.  A targeted approach to test preparation utilizes a student’s existing skills and helps them translate them to the standardized test format. Most of what students encounter on the ACT and SAT reflects specific math, reading, and writing skills they have already learned in school. General academic performance will, in many cases, predict performance on standardized tests. Students who have worked hard and earned A’s are in great shape to do well on the ACT or SAT.

The key to success on standardized tests is to work hard in school, and then do enough focused test prep to become completely comfortable and confident with the content and question types encountered on the ACT or SAT. There are a variety of test-taking strategies which can boost your student’s score.

The misconception comes from the fact that — in addition to explicitly testing math, reading comprehension, verbal reasoning, and writing skills — both the ACT and SAT take basic or foundational concepts and ask test-takers to apply them in ways that can seem tricky. The tests also try to measure critical thinking and problem solving ability, abstract skills that are built into all high school subjects rather than taught in a particular class.


02 Feb 2018

The PQRST Method of Studying

The PQRST Method of Studying

 This is a method of reading a textbook so that the information you read really does enter your long term memory. It is based on work by Thomas and H. A. Robinson, Spache and Berg and R. P .Robinson. Its sometimes cryptically known as SQ3R.

So what can it do?

The method has been shown to improve a readers understanding, and his/her ability to recall information. In other words, the reader is more likely to learn, and to learn more, of the material he/she is reading. If you use this method, reading won’t be a waste of your time.

How does it work?

In this method you follow five steps – Preview, Question, Read, Self-recite and Test (PQRST). The middle three steps apply to every section within a chapter whilst the first and last steps apply to the chapter itself. You may find that many textbooks are compiled in a way which makes this method easy to apply, using an introductory passage, and questions at the end.

The diagram below illustrates the method:

  1. PREVIEW an assignment by scanning it.  Read the chapter outline at the beginning of the chapter.  Pay attention to the headings of the sections and subsections.  Read the summary.  The point is to get an idea of the main topics and sections of the chapter.
  2. QUESTION As you read through each section, start by asking yourself “what am I supposed to learn in this section”. This helps to get your brain in to sync with the topic being discussed.
  3. READ. Next, actually read that section. Do it carefully, think about the meaning and relate this to other things you know about this and similar topics. Do some underlining or highlighting of key words. Don’t overdo it! If you want to take notes, read the whole section first, and then summarize it later.
  4. SELF-RECITATION requires that you try to remember the main points of each section and that you say them out loud (if possible) to yourself. Check back against the text, and note the things you missed out. Ensure that you didn’t miss them because you haven’t learnt them. Only then go on to the next section and Question again.
  5. TEST yourself after you have finished the entire chapter.  How many of the main ideas from the chapter can you remember? Think about the relevance of what you learnt and how it all fits together. Reread any chapter summaries. Even though you have only just read the chapter, now is the best time to test yourself.


01 Feb 2018

How to study more effectively

  • Hate to study?
  • Can’t concentrate for more than 15-20 minutes?
  • Manage to make average grades from what you retain in class and with the little studying you manage to do?
  • Tired of being average.

Studying is not the same as learning.  Here are some strategies to help you study effectively:

  1. Know your purpose. Scan the content to identify the most important concepts you need to know to achieve the top grade. Make a list of items to memorize. Quantify – only by being objective will you increase your productivity.

All goals should be “SMART”

  • S pecific (not something vague)
  • M easurable
  • A chievable
  • R ecorded (written down)
  • T imed (have a time limit)
  1. Limit studying time. Study for specific periods of time or to learn and master a specific concepts or problem set. Either way, be sure you study for 100% of the time you commit to – no smartphones, no internet, no TV, no distractions.
  2. Multiple Sources. Sometimes its not enough to know ‘just enough’. You might not completely understand a topic/concept or you may understand some of it but not enough.

To solve this dilemma, read/view/talk to multiple sources. Remember: one author may explain something better than another. Its vital to refer to different sources to strengthen your understanding.

Select the best sources. If there are high-yield versions of textbooks, pre-made notes optimized for retention, mnemonics collections, essential problem sets (and solutions), use them.

  1. Feynman technique. This Mental Model, named after Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize Winning Physicist, designed as a technique assist with learning new concepts as if you were explaining them to a complete beginner. His technique includes drawing diagrams, schematics and notes on a blank sheet of paper.
  2. Cultivate daily habits. The best approach to successful studying is to train daily for a relatively short amount of time. 30 min of difficult math problems every day is much more effective than 3 weekly sessions of 2 hours each.
  3. If you’re going to take notes, do it right. Note taking is associated with better retention rates than just reading or reviewing pre-existing notes.
  4. Don’t cram for tests. If you are going to do well in a test then you need to be relaxed. In the days before a test you should do nothing more stressful than a couple of hours gently reviewing your notes to assure yourself you know your stuff.
  5. Make a study guide. As the student puts together a study guide, he also is putting small chunks of information systematically into his brain.  An auditory or kinesthetic learner can talk out loud as he creates his study guide.
  6. Put together a study groupFor older students, it is a good idea to study the information with others.  It gives students the opportunity to make sure each student understands the material and has studied in a comprehensive manner.  Students can quiz each other on information and create outlines for possible essay questions.
  7. Use flashcards. If you need to memorize things, you need tools. Create your own or use one of the apps available
  8. Practice and test yourself. The best way to learn is to use the knowledge you are trying to acquire. You’ll figure out your weak spots in your understanding of complex concepts. There are resources online to test any kind of subject.
  9. Planning can reduce stress and anxiety. Set your goals, plan your studying techniques and stick to the plan.
  10. Cultivate the right mindset. Essential qualities of all productive students include: Diligence, Discipline, Direction and Durability.

Do exactly what you have to do daily, no matter what.

Think positively!  Try to imagine yourself getting an A+ on the exam.  Imagine getting questions you know the answers to, expressing yourself clearly and concisely, and feeling good about yourself and your performance.  Think about how good you will feel inside when the test is over and all your preparation has paid off.