Category Archives: Managing High School

02 Jul 2020

A Student’s Guide to Avoiding Screen Fatigue

If you’re spending more time than usual looking at your computer screen recently, you are in good company. Whether you’re using online study materials, reading an ebook for pleasure, or working remotely for an internship, it’s likely that you’ve experienced a touch (or more) of screen fatigue. 

What is screen fatigue, you might ask? Symptoms include impaired vision, strained eye muscles, inability to focus your vision, poor posture, headaches, as well as shoulder and neck discomfort. Additionally, there is mounting research indicating that excess blue-light exposure from screens interferes with our ability to set our circadian rhythm, which is essential for restful sleep. (And the importance of restful sleep cannot be overstated.) 

All that is to say, it is important to be intentional about the way we interact with our screens in order to get the most out of our screentime. For students especially, as schools go remote and exams are offered online, the shift from paper-based to computer-based education requires new strategies for effective, meaningful learning. 

We’ve pulled together the following tips for avoiding screen fatigue and setting yourself up for successful online learning… 

1. Curate your physical and virtual spaces 

Your physical environment can play a huge role in your level of focus and motivation. Finding a quiet space away from distractions is an obvious and essential part of curating a space that is conducive to learning. Don’t forget to curate your virtual space as well, by turning your phone on “do not disturb” mode and installing an ad blocker on your web browser.

2. Customize your on-screen experience

Be sure to consider what’s most comfortable for your eyes. Most online reading platforms allow you to increase font size, contrast, and select non-white backgrounds. These are all easy ways to eliminate the need to squint and strain your eye muscles. If you have trouble tracking while you read or you’re simply looking to take your online reading game to the next level, consider checking out BeeLine Reader. This Chrome extension uses an eye-guiding color gradient trick to pull your eyes from one line to the next, which can help increase reading speed and enhance focus. Plus, they’ve launched an initiative to provide free access for university students and K-12 teachers in response to COVID-19!

3. Perfect your lighting

Whether you’re reading a book or a computer monitor, lighting is key. If possible, avoid having a window behind you while looking at your computer screen. This will decrease the glare on your screen and make on-screen reading more enjoyable. Similarly, using a small table lamp, rather than a bright overhead light, may make your online reading experience more pleasant. 

4. Use the 20-20-20 rule 

If you struggle maintaining focus while staring at your screen, the anti-fatigue 20-20-20 technique may come in handy. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. (Set a timer on your desk to remind you at 20 minute intervals to look away from your screen for 20 seconds. Soon it will become a habit and your eyes will thank you!) 

5. Hydrate 

Hydration, like sleep, often feels like a magic cure-all. In the case of online learning, hydration is essential because eye tissue is predominantly water. So, if you become dehydrated, your eyes will feel extra dry. No matter how absorbed you are in your online course or reading material, don’t forget to drink plenty of water. 

6. Know when to take a break!

We want to support you in meeting all of your academic and test prep goals, but we recognize that an essential part of success is knowing when to take a break. If your schedule allows, try to use your weekends to reduce screen time and spend some time outdoors. Take advantage of whatever hobbies or activities help you feel refreshed and motivated. This positive momentum will carry over to the next time you sit down to tackle an online problem set or reading assignment. 

As new hybrid learning models take shape for the fall semester, we will be brainstorming more strategies for remote learning. So, stay tuned! As always, at Sentia we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

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.

10 Jun 2020

More Summer Reading Suggestions

Making the transition from reading for school to reading for pleasure can be a tricky one. Are you looking to get the most out of this unique summer by bulking up on your reading? We hope you’ve checked out our last blog post, where you’ll find our summer reading suggestions that double as SAT / ACT test prep. Maybe you’ve already exhausted that list or perhaps you’re looking for something different. In any case, we’ve pulled together some suggestions for the fiction lovers, scientists, history buffs, and future doctors out there… 

Looking to dive into some fiction?

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: This bestseller is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as they both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Normal People by Sally Rooney: Set in Ireland, this novel explores the relationship between two people who meet in high school and their ensuing on-and-off romance, complicated by social and socio-economic divisions. **Note: this book includes some adult content. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This beloved 1937 classic chronicles the life and love story of Janie Crawford, a fiercely independent African American woman who discovers herself through three marriages and the hardships of poverty in the South. 

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut: In this darkly satirical postmodern, sci-fi-esque novel, the narrator sets out to write a book entitled “The Day the World Ended.” On his journey, he explores a zany world of science, technology, religion, and the arms race. 

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende: In this web of magical realism, Allende weaves together the triumphs and tragedies of the Trueba family, spanning decades while exploring the personal and the political. 

How about nonfiction? 

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer: In this riveting account, Krakauer details his experience in the epic 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a storm. 

The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer: In this Pulitzer Prize-winning true crime novel, Mailer depicts the short, blighted life of Gary Gilmore who became famous after he robbed two men in 1976 and killed them in cold blood.

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing: In this memoir, Laing shares her experience of moving to NYC where she confronts loneliness on a daily basis and explores the city through art. (This book feels particularly poignant in this time of self-isolation.)

Thinking about a college major or looking to explore new academic subjects? Check these out as a place to start… 

Economics

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins: In this partly autobiographical book, Perkins describes how he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then taking over their economies.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: Using an economics lens to explore the riddles of everyday life, the authors expose the inner workings of a crack gang, the secrets of the Klu Klux Klan to crime, parenting, sports, and beyond.

History

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari: Harari offers a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond: Diamond chronicles the ways in which the modern world has been shaped by geographical and environmental factors while dismantling racially based theories of human history. 

Science / Medicine

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande: Gawande, a practicing surgeon, tackles his profession’s ultimate limitation (mortality) and argues that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: In this profoundly moving memoir, a young neurosurgeon facing a terminal cancer diagnosis attempts to answer the question: What makes a life worth living?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot: In this work of investigative journalism, Skloot dives into the story of Henrietta Lacks, a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells — taken without her knowledge in 1951 — became one of the most important tools in medicine.

And, if your summer travel plans have been canceled, discover new places with these picks…

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton: After getting his heart broken, Knighton sets out to explore every national park in the USA. The result is this delightful sampler of the country’s most magnificent natural wonders. 

Feasting Wild: In Search of the Last Untamed Food by Gina Rae La Cerva: La Cerva captures the joys of both travel and food in this global culinary exploration, which traces our past and present relationships to “wild foods.”  

If you don’t see something on this list that piques your interest, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more personalized suggestions! We want to ensure that you have a productive and meaningful summer, even if that means spending more time at home with your nose in a book — which doesn’t sound so bad, right? At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

03 Jun 2020

Summer Reading for SAT & ACT Preparation

Summer Reading for SAT / ACT Prep

In many ways, the world is an unnerving place right now. If you’re having difficulty sitting down and focusing on your studies, you are not alone. Perhaps getting lost in a book sounds more appealing. For those of you looking to prepare for your upcoming SAT, ACT, or SAT II Literature exam, we have pulled together a list of suggested reading that may resemble some of the passages you will encounter on the test. These novels, short stories, and poems seem to be favorites of the folks behind the SAT and ACT. We’ve sourced this list from previously released official exams, pulling out content that has appeared multiple times or has been written by notable authors. Encountering an unfamiliar, difficult-to-understand passage on an exam can be very intimidating. By bulking up on independent reading that is in the style of typical SAT / ACT reading passages, you may feel more at ease on test day. So, if you’re looking for something to read this summer, why not kill two birds with one stone? Check out these SAT / ACT favorites and boost your confidence on test day! 

Fiction

A Clergyman’s Daughter by George Orwell: A 1935 novel that tells the story of Dorothy Hare, a clergyman’s daughter, whose life is turned upside down when she suffers an attack of amnesia. 

Middlemarch by George Eliot: A 19th century novel in eight installments set in a fictitious English town addressing social, political, and religious issues of the time period. 

The History of the Life of the Late Mr. Jonathan Wild, the Great by Henry Fielding: An 18th century satirical novel detailing the life of underworld boss Jonathan Wild. 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Stowe: An anti-slavery novel published in 1852 addressing the injustices facing African Amercans in the U.S. during the 19th century.  

The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster: A darkly satirical revenge tragedy, written as a play set in 16th century Italy.  

Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee: A novel set in the 1980s about a young Indian woman who changes her identity in order to adapt to American society. 

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid: A novel written in 1985 detailing the young life of a girl growing up in Antigua, an island in the Carribean.

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens: Dickens’ last novel, published in 1865, combining satire and social analysis. 

The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett: A novel published in 1908 following the lives of two very different sisters from their youth through old age. 

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan: A mother-daughter novel about love and grief set in contemporary San Francisco and a Chinese village.

Lily Nevada by Cecelia Holland: The dramatic tale of a strong-willed woman who flees her dark and violent past to make a new life and name for herself in San Francisco at the dawn of the Gilded Age. 

Atonement by Ian McEwan: The reflective story of a young English girl in 1935 who witnesses an event during her childhood that spurs unintended, catastrophic consequences over the course of her life. 

The Master by Colm Toibin: A beautifully written novel set in the 19th century about a man who leaves America to live in Europe amongst artists and writers. 

Nonfiction

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon: An autobiographical travel book about the author’s unforgettable journey through the backroads of America. 

Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature by David Quammen: A collection of essays discussing bats, octopuses, crows, dinosaurs, animal rights, hypothermia and more. 

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks: A collection of seven paradoxical tales of patients adapting to neurological conditions including autism, amnesia, the restoration of vision after congenital blindness, and more. 

Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage by Deborah Cramer: The account of a scientific voyage from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to Barbados that brings the reader through the science and history of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Superforecasting: The Art & Science of Predicting by Philip E. Tetlock: Named one of the best books of the year by The Economist in 2015, this book draws upon finance, economics, psychology, and other disciplines to share how experts and lay people can make more effective and intelligent predictions. 

Short Stories

“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin: A short story about a black algebra teacher in 1950s Harlem as he reacts to his brother Sonny’s drug addiction, arrest, and recovery.

The Music School by John Updike: A collection of Updike’s short stories about people who find their ways in the modern world. 

Feel like reading some poetry? Check out these poems as a jumping off point… 

“Heart, take no pity on this house of bone” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Before the Birth of One of Her Children” by Anne Bradstreet

“Prosody 101” by Linda Pastan

“The Need of Being Versed in Country Things” by Robert Frost

“To the Memory of Mr. Oldham” by John Dryden

“The Dance” by Cornelius Eady

“In Memoriam” by Alfred Tennyson

“The Mountain” by Louise Glück

“To Marguerite: Continued” by Matthew Arnold

“The Young Author” by Samuel Johnson

Who knows? You might find yourself taking the SAT or ACT and come across a passage that you’ve already read. And if not, these reads will still add some thought-provoking variety to your literary repertoire. We hope you enjoy our suggestions! Stay tuned for next week’s blog post if you’re still eager for more book recommendations. We hope everyone is safe and able to find solace in a book, or elsewhere, during these unsettling times. As always, we are here to help.

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! 

07 May 2020

Last Minute AP Exam Study Tips

We know that the changes made to this year’s AP Exams may feel jarring to students who have been preparing (both academically and mentally) for their exams all year long. The biggest change, of course, is that all AP Exams will be taken online and will only be 45 minutes in length, with no multiple choice sections. We know that you have the potential to succeed on this year’s AP Exams, however unsettling these changes may be. We’ve pulled together a few last minute preparation and study tips that will help you go into your exams feeling ready to perform your very best.

Know the format of your exam(s)! 
The best way to avoid feeling intimidated or stressed about the new exam format is to understand it. Familiarize yourself with the format of the AP Exam(s) that you will be taking. The College Board has broken down the format of each exam. Check out their “Course Specific Exam Information,” where you will also find info on which specific topics will be covered on your exam. The College Board will not expect students to have learned all of the material on their original syllabi. Exams will only cover content that students would have learned prior to early March. Knowing what to expect will eliminate any mystery associated with the new exams and allow you to focus on what is most important on test day: staying calm and recalling course content. 

Shift focus to essay and short answer questions.
Because the College Board has narrowed down the kind of questions that you will encounter on your exams, it’s time to shift focus to the open-ended questions. Use the essay and short answer questions from previous exams as your guide. You will get a sense of how the College Board likes to ask these questions and, with practice, a feel for how you can best demonstrate your mastery of the AP content. 

Don’t overwhelm yourself with notes. 
Yes, this year’s AP exams will be open note. No, that does not mean that having all of your notes from the entire semester in front of you during the exam will be the best course of action. Have you ever taken an exam where you’re allowed to use one notecard full of notes? Oftentimes, the process of creating the notecard is the best study exercise. 

In other words, it’s important to make sure you don’t feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information at your fingertips during the exam itself. During your final days of studying, it may be useful to go through your class notes and create an abbreviated study guide in a format that makes sense to you — perhaps limit your guide to one sheet of paper, front and back. Familiarize yourself with your study guide. Make sure you know where you’ve located certain material on your study guide. Color-coordinating your notes and/or including visuals might be an effective way to commit content to memory, ultimately increasing your testing speed. When test day comes, regardless of how much you use your study guide, the process of tying together all of that course content into a manageable test-taking tool will pay off. 

Need to brush up on a particular topic? There’s no better source than the College Board itself.
AP students and the College Board are navigating this new online terrain together. The College Board has an excellent YouTube Channel where they are streaming online lessons for each AP course, which can be re-watched at any time for review. In the description for each video, you will find links to handouts and resources related to that content. Use these resources! Practicing with content put out by the College Board is the best way to feel prepared on test day. So, if you know you have areas of weakness in your AP course material, check out a lesson from the College Board and see what they have to share. 


Despite the unforeseen changes, with these tips we hope you will feel confident going into the upcoming at-home AP Exams. And of course, if you could need an expert to walk you through a specific content area, you can contact info@sentiaeducation.com. Our team of AP specialists are ready to help with any last-minute questions!

16 Apr 2020

Coronavirus: ACT over SAT?

Billy Wheelan, Founder

ACT’s June administration, though in doubt, remains on for now. We should know in the coming days if testing centers will be able to accommodate June 13 testers. Now that there are officially no SAT administrations scheduled until August, the July 18 ACT is becoming a more attractive option for students who want to test over the summer instead of waiting until practically the fall. We can’t know for sure what will happen in the coming weeks but the July administration (not offered in the state of New York, so New Yorkers should register in a neighboring state), should it be offered, would provide an opportunity for students to test earlier in the calendar year than if had they waited for the SAT in August.

For students applying to the most competitive schools in the United States, the decision to switch to the ACT brings with it another big benefit: more Subject Test dates. Because a student must choose between taking the SAT or up to three SAT Subject Tests on each test date, making the switch to the ACT frees up testing dates in August, September, October, November (not available to international students), and December for Subject Tests should The College Board administer them on all planned testing dates. That factor alone provides a compelling reason to consider switching test prep from SAT to ACT for those students who score similarly on a concordance table between the two tests. 

Finally, ACT has more experience offering their exam digitally than does The College Board. We believe if the global pandemic continues and both organizations are forced to develop in-home options, ACT is better prepared to make that rollout happen more smoothly than The College Board. 

As always, we invite you to contact us if we can be of service to you.

19 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Survival Guide for Students: what to do when your school moves online, PART 2

Well, we’re back and ready to provide you with some more exciting tips on how to manage your (unexpected) transition to online learning. And, don’t forget to join us on Friday, March 20th at 1pm EST for our webinar on how to make these SAT / ACT schedule changes work to your advantage!

Here we go…

#6 Use your screens, then put them to bed

We know it might feel like your phone is your lifeline to the outside world. And we love our screens too! But as educators we recognize that there are times when screens just need to go off. Rather than play another round of Plants vs Zombies, grab the whole family and try a board game or maybe even a classic puzzle. Trust me, you won’t find a better distraction from stress than searching for that exact tiny grey piece in a 1,000 piece puzzle composed mostly of clouds and sky. (Can you tell how I’m spending my free time during this quarantine?)

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, take notes or to organize your tasks for the next day, or just read a book. 

#7 Learn something new

We all have something on our list that we have been “planning” to do for ages. Mine is to learn how to brew the perfect cup of coffee. 

Listen, I know that technically your day is already spent learning, but this is your chance to learn the exact thing that you want! Fascinated by Japanese culture? Learn how to draw anime. Ready to step up your breakfast game from a hastily grabbed Cliff bar? Let Thomas Keller show you the art of cooking the perfect fried egg. Obsessed with sports? Become a master statistician and learn how to predict game outcomes

#8 Read

Remember reading for pleasure? It was that thing you did before you had to read a hundred pages a night for History and English classes. Well, now’s a great time to get a few pages in. Sure, you can work your way through some of the greatest works in the English language. But if you want to read Harry Potter for the first time (meaning: again) I won’t judge. Just pick up a book, put your phone on airplane mode, and get lost for an hour.

#9 Practice gratitude

These are challenging times and it’s normal to feel anxiety. Write in a notebook three things you feel grateful for today – maybe it’s your family, friends, health, even a beloved pet you now have a bit more time with. Whatever you choose, big or small, reflecting on what’s good in your life has the capacity to make each day a little better. 

If you need help staying on track with school assignments, getting ready for the ACT, SAT, or Subject Tests, or just learning something new, we’re here to help. Sentia’s Academic Mentorship tutoring is significantly discounted for families affected by COVID-19 school closures. Talk it over with your parents and then email or call us today to create a bespoke program tailored perfectly to your unique needs.

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

17 Mar 2020

Coronavirus Survival Guide for Students: what to do when your school moves online

Ok, this isn’t what I thought my spring break was going to look like either. But now that we are all navigating some new learning environments, I wanted to share with you some of what we’ve learned over the past ten years working with homeschooled students and students who are temporarily unable to attend traditional school.

#1 Connect with your friends
It’s easy to get sucked into the TikTok spiral (we’re all guilty of it) but don’t forget that it’s important to meaningfully connect with friends, particularly in times of anxiety like these. FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype a friend from school just to say hey. PartyHub on Fortnite! Or even just pick up the phone and call. Whatever you do, make sure you take some time to be present with your friends even when you’re physically apart.

#2 Organize your time
It’s easy to end up “working from bed” when you’re not reporting to a classroom each morning. Fight the temptation to stay up late and join your class in your pajamas by keeping a schedule similar to the one you maintained at school. That means going to bed each night and getting up each morning at the same time, getting the sleep you need to function optimally (most teens need between 9 and 9½ hours – yes, really!), and making your mom proud with your showering and teeth brushing habits. And “get dressed” for school – even if that just means switching from one set of comfy lounge wear to another.

Your day at school was probably tightly scheduled, but not all schools are replicating that same structure as they move online. So it’s up to you to make a plan:

— Keep track of your day-to-day tasks with a simple planner. You could use something as straightforward as this one, an old fashioned notebook, or a digital planner.

— Maintain current organizational habits. If you have a special notebook for recording homework, keep using it.

— Be realistic. Don’t try and cram all of your schoolwork into less time than a typical school day. Create your own schedule equipped with breaks, snacks, social time and anything that normally keeps you sane during the school.

— Create goals. Maybe you have never felt like you have quite enough time to study for that AP Biology weekly quiz. Perhaps your Spanish vocab is a little too limited. Time is finally your friend – use it to your advantage to set and surpass personal academic goals to set yourself up for success when school is back to normal.

— Schedule time to meet with teachers. Online learning is new for your teachers too and it might be slightly more difficult for them to identify who needs an extra hand. Help yourself (and them!) by proactively checking in.

#3 Get a head-start on standardized test preparation
You know it’s true: test preparation is difficult enough without simultaneously balancing a heavy course load, extracurricular activities, and a busy social life. Use some of your found time to prepare for newly rescheduled ACTs (look for exams on June 13 and July 18) and SATs (likely in June and August plus one TBD in between – but only time will tell). And don’t forget about SAT Subject Tests! Literature, Math 2, and Physics are our most prepped tests here; take a practice test out of the Official Guide for all SAT Subject Tests and see how you do or contact us to get started preparing with one of our expert Sentia Tutors.

#4 Brainstorm college applications
Wait, what? Yes, I’m talking to you class of 2021. Now’s a great time to research schools, plan some enriching summer activities, and get a draft of your personal statement started. Identify some goal schools and the grades and scores you need to get in. No day but today!

#5 Don’t neglect your extracurricular activities
If you’re an athlete, being stuck at home without daily practice can be frustrating. Instead of bouncing a tennis ball off the wall on repeat (cue mom’s screaming), circuit train in the yard or an empty local park – if there’s one nearby that meets social distancing requirements – or get your sweat on at home. Am I doing that retro Cher workout my sister loves? No. But hey, whatever floats your boat.

I’m a theatre guy and love the arts. If you do too check out the newly-free opera streams at the MET (seriously, do this. It’s fancy but also fun!), take a Masterclass, watch famous live performances at OnTheBoards.TV (free with code ARTATHOME20), or practice the bassoon (N.B.: bassoon required).

Check out some more tips later this week in our Coronavirus Survival Guide for Students: what to do when your school moves online, PART 2 (catchy title, right?)

If you need help staying on track with school assignments, getting ready for the ACT, SAT, or Subject Tests, or just learning something new, we’re here to help. Sentia’s Academic Mentorship tutoring is significantly discounted for families affected by COVID-19 school closures. Talk it over with your parents and then email or call us today to create a bespoke program tailored perfectly to your unique needs.

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

P.S. I’m doing a webinar on Friday March 20th at 1pm EST to learn how to use schedule changes to your advantage and get the scores you need for admission to your dream school. Join me!

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!