Category Archives: College Applications

24 Jun 2020

ACT Updates: Additional Fall Test Dates

It’s been an eventful week for the ACT. Yesterday, ACT announced significant changes to the fall testing calendar in the US. They have added an additional test date in September, two additional test dates in October, and ACT has opened up Sunday testing (previously reserved for students with religious conflicts) to all students in both months. In this unprecedented move, ACT has dramatically increased access to testing across the country. In summary: 

September Test Dates: 

Saturday 9/12 

Sunday 9/13 – Now open to ALL students! 

Saturday 9/19 – NEW

October Test Dates: 

Saturday 10/10 – NEW 

Saturday 10/17 – NEW 

Saturday 10/24

Sunday 10/25 – Now open to ALL students! 

In the official announcement, ACT emphasizes their commitment to providing a safe, socially distanced testing experience while maximizing access to in-person testing. Important to note, however, is that not all locations will be offering these new test dates. ACT still has the task of convincing locations to open for testing on a site-by-site basis. In California and New York especially, where state laws limit the number of ACT test dates, there is still uncertainty on how widely available these new test dates will be. We may not know for sure where these test dates are available until registration opens in the last week of July. 

Also, please note: 

The new test dates do not seem to be available to students testing outside of the US. (The ACT did not mention any changes to the international testing calendar.)

There was no mention of how this expansion may affect students with special testing accommodations. 

In other news, on June 18th ACT announced that section retesting — originally planned for this fall — will be delayed until later in 2021 in order to increase testing capacity for those who need to take the full ACT test. Needless to say, testing this fall may look very different from the original plan. 

As always, we are happy to answer any questions, concerns, or provide guidance in adjusting to these recent changes. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we are here to help as we all navigate this challenging time.

17 Jun 2020

What to do when your dream school goes test optional…

If you’re in the midst of preparing for college applications, you’re probably already aware that many colleges across the country are switching gears to a “test optional” policy in response to the impact that COVID-19 has had on SAT / ACT scheduling and availability. A handful of schools were already “test blind” — but, please don’t mistake the two! Before you abandon your SAT / ACT study plans, it’s important to understand the difference between “test optional” and “test blind” in order to put together an application that holistically captures who you are as a student and as an individual. 

What’s the difference between “test blind” and “test optional”? 

When schools decide to go test optional, that does not mean that standardized test scores are taken out of the equation entirely — this is only true of test blind schools. Colleges that are test blind will not consider test scores during the admissions process even if a student submits scores. Test optional schools, on the other hand, will absolutely consider your test scores if you choose to submit them. 

If you’re putting together your college list, it’s important to get familiar with each school’s specific policy on submitting test scores because there are several variations on the test optional theme. Some schools are requiring additional short-answer questions or submission of an analytical paper in place of SAT / ACT scores. Others have decided to waive testing requirements only for students who meet a minimum GPA. Also important to note, some test optional schools may still require test scores for out-of-state students, international students, or students applying for certain scholarships. Be sure to read the fine print! Here you will find a list of all the colleges and universities that have opted to go test optional. 

What does this mean going forward?

Zooming out from the chaos of the past several months, a trend towards more flexibility within standardized testing requirements was set into motion several years before the onset of the pandemic. The barriers posed by COVID-19 have certainly fast-tracked the shift to test optional, but it’s likely that even as the world settles back into some version of “normal,” SAT / ACT requirements will continue to change or simply never return to pre-COVID policies. Some schools are running an experimental pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of test optional, while other schools are announcing a full transition to test optional. Many, of course, do plan to return to relying on test scores once testing scheduling and availability normalize. The outcome of this nationwide experiment — the success of incoming freshmen in the fall of 2021 — will inform admissions policies for years to come. 

So, should I still plan to take the SAT or ACT? 

Though the test optional surge may feel like a relief, in reality many of the schools that typically require SAT / ACT scores will likely still expect to receive scores from students who do have access to testing. Plus, strong scores will only strengthen your application and could be essential in making you stand out among your peers. Considering that many other application components, such as extracurriculars, work opportunities, and class grades, have been interrupted, the SAT or ACT could be an excellent opportunity to set yourself apart academically. 

Keep in mind that admissions officers will only spend a few minutes looking at your file during the initial review period. During this initial review, they are forced to make quick decisions, drawing conclusions about who you are from the materials that you provide in your application. Strong test scores can play a huge part in further solidifying your impression as a viable applicant whose profile aligns with pre-COVID admissions standards. So if you believe test scores could elevate your overall application, we highly recommend sticking to your original study plan and using this time to demonstrate your continued commitment and ability to succeed even in such tumultuous times. 


If you’d like more individualized guidance on how to achieve scores that will make your applications shine, we are here to help. Above all else, we hope you are staying safe and well. As always, at Sentia we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

22 May 2020

How to Have a Productive Summer 2020

This summer is going to be a bit unique between face masks, social distancing, and cancelled events. For those of you whose summer internships, courses, or other opportunities have been cancelled or gone online, we want to acknowledge how unsettling that must feel, especially if you’re working to strengthen your college application. As devastating as this disruption may be, don’t despair! We want to help you get the most out of this summer amidst COVID-19. We’ve pulled together some suggestions for how to use all of that newly-free time in a meaningful and productive way.

Test Prep

For the high schoolers out there, you may not be surprised (coming from us) that we highly recommend using this summer to strengthen your SAT / ACT portfolio. Hear us out: since most classes have gone pass / fail this past semester, Spring 2020 transcripts will not sufficiently reflect your academic strengths. When there is no distinction between an A+ and a C, it is impossible to demonstrate what subjects set you apart with a transcript alone. 

This marks a great opportunity to differentiate your transcript by loading up on SAT Subject Tests to prove that your competency far exceeds a basic “pass” grade. A “pass” on your transcript coupled with a corresponding 800 Subject Test score will paint a much clearer picture of who you are as a student. Need help figuring out which Subject Tests to take and when to take them? Don’t hesitate to reach out at info@sentiaeducation.com

Volunteer

There is so much need in the world right now. If you feel able to give back to your community in a meaningful way, go out and do it (at a safe distance while wearing a mask, of course)! Maybe you have elderly neighbors who need help grocery shopping, gardening, or running errands. Maybe you know a family with young children who could use some help with remote tutoring. Perhaps this sounds counterintuitive given the mandate to “social distance,” but this is an excellent time for community building. Take some time to reflect on how you can be of use in your community this summer. And, if possible, look for opportunities that are connected to your academic or extracurricular activities to increase the depth of your existing commitments. 

Volunteer work can be tremendously fulfilling for all parties involved. If you feel moved to scale up your community service efforts, why not put together a fundraiser to support a charitable organization? Not only will this be a rewarding experience for you and your community, but colleges look favorably upon those who seize an opportunity to make a positive impact. 

Check out VolunteerMatch, a great place to start your search for local volunteer opportunities. They even have a COVID-19 Resource Hub, where you can explore a directory of COVID-related and remote volunteer opportunities. 

Independent Projects

If you are someone with many extracurricular interests, now is a great time to dive deep into those hobbies. Give yourself permission to think creatively here! Just because your independent project is not associated with a mentor or a university (though it could be, if those connections are feasible for you or if you’d like to enlist the help of a Sentia Mentor), does not mean it is any less worthwhile. In fact, independent projects can be very valuable from an admissions standpoint because they demonstrate the ability to take initiative while highlighting your talents and passions. 

Learn a new art form, teach yourself how to play an instrument, start learning a new language or computer program… The possibilities are endless. Need more personalized ideas? We’d be happy to brainstorm with you. 

Read

Do you love reading, but haven’t found the time to read for pleasure recently? Now is the perfect time to hit the books — for fun, academic enrichment, or both! If you’re feeling (understandably) overwhelmed by the world right now, get lost in a fictional world. If you’re thinking about a college major, consider reading some material in subjects of interest. Maybe you will discover a new academic passion or learn something new about yourself as a student. 

Check out our blog next week for both classic and contemporary suggestions or contact us for some customized suggestions. It’ll come as no surprise that we’re all big readers at Sentia! 

Summer Classes

Okay, we know that this might not be the most popular option! But many selective summer programs have moved online and have reopened their application deadlines. If you act quickly, you still have time to enroll in selective programs, like Stanford’s Summer Session, NYU’s Pre College, or UPenn’s Pre-College.

There are many other options and we’re always happy to provide customized suggestions. Our advice? Prioritize university affiliated programs that offer college credit. 

This is a difficult time. Admissions committees, professors, and advisors alike know this to be true. If you are struggling, please know that we are a resource and we want to help you feel intentional about the way you’re using this time. If that means writing about your experiences with COVID-19 as a way to process: go for it. Be sure to be kind to yourself, too, and build in plenty of time for relaxation. 

As always, feel free to send any questions or concerns our way. We hope you’re all staying safe and well! 

17 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Survival Guide for Parents: Best Practices in the Transition to Online Schooling

If you’re reading this it’s likely that you have one (or more) kids suddenly at home all day, every day with no end date in sight. One of the comments we are hearing most frequently from the families with whom we work is the difficulty of juggling space and schedule. With so many parents working remotely and students attending school from home, the house is suddenly feeling a lot smaller.

We’ve been working with homeschooled students and those temporarily unable to attend day school for over a decade and many of the lessons we’ve learned are applicable to the unprecedented situation with which we are grappling today. Here are some suggestions:

#1 Figure out your space
If you’re working from home and the kids are too, you should spend a half hour deciding where everyone is going to work.

Particularly if your family is sharing a small space, it’s crucial to think about noise first and foremost. Are you taking work-related calls from home? Set yourself up in a space where you’re least likely to experience noise bleed, even if it’s not where you usually work from home. Issue everyone a “do not disturb” post-it – kids can use it when they’re in a tutorial session or online class and you can stick it on the door or wall when you’re on a work call.

Working from home can make it feel as if the work day never ends – and that’s true for students too. Designate a shared space in the home as a screen-free family zone to relax and unwind together at the end of the day.

#2 Plan your schedule
Stability and consistency are the key to emotional and academic growth, particularly for teenagers.

Students are reporting to us that their schools are fairly closely replicating their traditional day-to-day schedules for online learning. But where there is flexibility, decide together how you’ll use individual learning time and then allow your child the opportunity to fill those gaps with mentally stimulating work that will challenge them.

Most of our students are using some of this “found time” to get in some extra preparation for the rescheduled standardized tests that will be administered near the end of the school year. This is also a great time to practice a hobby – or even read a book simply for pleasure!

For students who need a little more structure, post each child’s daily schedule on a whiteboard or wall of a shared space and perform three check-ins each day: the first to set goals for the day, the second at the conclusion of the school day to discuss a homework plan, and the third before bedtime to strategize for the coming day. If you have multiple children, try to delegate some responsibility to your eldest child to “lead” these mini-meetings. Encourage your child to write out tasks and goals on a notebook before bed to release thoughts of nagging tasks to come and set him or her up a restful night’s sleep.

#3 Decide when screens go off
At Sentia, most of our tutoring is performed remotely; Zoom video tutorials are how our students learn from their Sentia Tutors. But as educators we recognize there are times when screens should, and must, go off. We love puzzles and board games (overcome the steep learning curve and try Settlers of Catan – it’s a Sentia favorite) or take a family stroll. And Dr. Monica Lewin, Sentia’s Director of Learning and Teaching, reminds us all (me included!) to avoid bright artificial light before bedtime. Instead, do some journaling in an old-fashioned notebook to jumpstart your creativity or take notes or to organize your tasks for the next day.

#4 Communicate with teachers
Find out how assessments will be performed: what constitutes “class participation” for a grade in an online lecture? Are “in class” exams timed and how will they be delivered? What about pop quizzes and daily homework assignments? Will slides be delivered digitally or are students expected to take free form notes? Ask your child’s teacher questions and don’t be afraid to request more frequent updates on grades than you might otherwise during the traditional school year.

#5 Help your kids communicate with teachers too!
We’ve learned that students who are temporarily unable to attend school can sometimes struggle to adjust to modified teacher relationships. With no study hall or individual meeting times, it’s harder to ask for extra help when students need it and even more difficult for teachers to identify who is struggling. Encourage your child to perform weekly check ins – by phone or email – with each of his or her teachers.

#6 Respect your tech
Manage your internet pipeline. Netflix and videogames take up a lot of bandwidth. If your whole family needs to work online, limit streaming activity to off peak hours so Zoom calls and google docs (two tools we use a lot with our students) continue to work seamlessly.

Digital natives are adept at using technology in and out of the classroom. If your daughter describes playing Fortnite as “hanging out with friends” or snapchats pictures of the floor to maintain “streaks,” ask her about it. Phones and computers are – for most teens – a central way in which they maintain friendships when separated by physical distance. That’s especially important in times of uncertainty and anxiety.

If your student needs help staying on track with school assignments, we’re here to help. Sentia’s Academic Mentorship tutoring is significantly discounted for families affected by COVID-19 school closures. Contact us today to create a bespoke program tailored perfectly to your family’s unique needs.

At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™.

P.S. Join us on Friday March 20th at 1pm EST for a webinar with Billy Wheelan to learn how to use schedule changes to your advantage and get the scores you need for admission to your dream school.

Sign up now!

30 Jan 2020

Six tips for divorced parents of college-bound kids

 

Divorced parents can unite to help their child gain acceptance to the right college.  Sentia Education’s Founder and Managing Director, William Wheelan, weighs in with his expert advice in an article from College Covered. You can read the article and learn more about this topic here.

07 Nov 2019

Hold on: check your CommonApp for these 5 common mistakes before hitting “Submit Application”

Dr. Monica Lewin, Learning Specialist

 

1. Proofread. Seriously. 

Students should proofread their applications as “print preview” PDFs, and they should ask an adult — teacher, parent, or guidance counselor — to proofread them as well. Nothing will put a bad taste in an admissions officer’s mouth faster than seeing you misspelled “recommendation” as “reccomendation”. Plan out your submission timeline to include ample time to get feedback from one or more proofreaders. In truth, you should plan to submit your applications early! Colleges prefer to see you are a responsible, organized student who gets work done on time.

2. Don’t slack on the “Why X School” Essay.

Students should be careful to use very specific, insightful reasons when composing each school-specific essay section.  Generic reasons like small class size or prestige won’t suffice. Colleges have started to weigh “demonstrated interest” as a major factor in the admissions process.  Be sure to identify and convey all the unique details that intrigue you about the school or a specific major, without simply regurgitating information from their website. Instead, research the classes, programs, activities, and faculty. Is there a particular professor that impresses you?  What charmed you at your last campus visit? Be sure to mention how specific faculty, staff, or alumni you spoke with contributed to your interest in the school. 

3. Fully flesh out your list of extracurricular activities.

Although the activity section of the Common Application is limited to a certain number of characters, students should make sure all of their activities are well explained. If needed, put these extra details in the “additional information” section. This is especially true for any obscure abbreviations or uncommon activities that an admissions officer may not be familiar with. And, even if you think the admissions committee might not care about a hobby you’re serious about, talk about it! It’s also better you include the details of your activities in this section rather than attaching a Resume document, which has a chance of being forgotten. 

4. Don’t over-share.

You may have heard people say that colleges are looking for applicants who have overcome some type of hardship, but you should avoid using the ‘App as your personal pity party. Balance your challenges by also discussing what you’ve learned and your positive features as an applicant. Give examples of how you made the best out of the situation, or describe what you learned from the experience. Colleges want to admit students who they think are mature, who can take responsibility for their own success– not those who see themselves as helpless victims of circumstance. 

5. Lying won’t fly. 

If an admissions officer notices inconsistencies in your application, it’s likely to end up being tossed straight in the “rejected” pile. Reviewers can add up the hours in your activities section to know if you’ve embellished your extracurriculars to a superhuman degree; they will notice if the way you describe your accomplishments doesn’t line up with your letter writers’ accounts. Furthermore, some universities may evaluate all the applications from a given high school at the same time, so if they see two applicants list themselves as President of the English Honors Society, for example, they will call a guidance counselor from your school to check this out. 

After you submit…

Congratulate yourself! The college application process is stressful. However, keep in mind that your hard work does not stop here. Keep up with your academics– schools may check back in on your second semester grades. This will be especially critical if you are waitlisted or deferred… We’ll elaborate on this more in a future post! 

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.

Remember:

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.