To some, the private school admissions process has become as daunting as the college admissions process. One of the many elements required to apply to private schools is the ISEE or SSAT. For many students, this is one of their first experiences sitting for a standardized test. As such, it can be a bit scary for students and their parents. But it doesn’t have to be! Here’s what you need to know:
What’s the difference between the SSAT and ISEE?
These tests are similar in many ways. Both have a quantitative reasoning section, which tests a student’s problem solving skills and command of mathematical reasoning. Both tests also include a reading comprehension section, as well as a verbal reasoning section that involves synonym questions Finally, both tests end with a timed essay which requires a student to showcase their descriptive writing skills.
In addition to the quantitative reasoning section, the ISEE has a mathematics achievement section, which tests students’ understanding of content and skills taught in school. Overall, the math content on the ISEE tends to be slightly more advanced than that of the SSAT. For this reason, and because the ISEE has two math sections instead of one, the ISEE is generally best suited to students whose strength is math.
The ISEE’s verbal reasoning section is slightly less challenging than that of the SSAT, as it consists of synonyms and sentence completion questions. The SSAT’s verbal section tends to be more difficult — it includes a portion that tests a student’s command of analogies. Due to the challenging nature of this section, and because the SSAT only has one math section, the SSAT is usually better suited to students whose strengths lie in English and language arts.
The only way to know for sure which test is the best fit for a child is for them to take a mock test of each. Their experience with each test, along with a professional assessment of the scores, can help to determine which test a student should pursue.
When should my child take the SSAT or ISEE?
Most students take these tests in the late fall or early winter. Schools usually want to see scores by January, so families should count backwards to decide which test sittings are best suited to the timeline for admission.
How many times can my child take the SSAT or ISEE?
Each test has slightly different rules regarding this. Students can take the ISEE once per season. The fall season concludes at the end of November, and the winter season starts in December. So most students sign up for a test in each season. The SSAT’s rules are less restrictive; students are permitted to take the tests as many times as they’d like.
When should my child start preparing for the test?
Most students benefit from three to six months of tutoring leading up to their first sitting of a standardized test. Of course, this varies depending on a student’s baseline score, so it’s important for any student beginning the test prep journey to start with a mock test.
It has been a strange and devastating year, with rippling effects in nearly every part of our lives. One such effect has been a complete reimagining of how students attend school. For students who struggle to manage their time – indeed, for most students – hybrid and remote learning have presented serious challenges. Their schedules alone can be incredibly confusing; I have a student whose classes switch between live and asynchronous, remote and in-person. All of these classes have both homework and asynchronous classwork. For even the most organized student, keeping a schedule like this straight and managing all of the work can become overwhelming.
Beyond the logistics of keeping schedules, classwork, and homework straight, there lies the very real challenge of spending hours a day learning on Zoom, Google Meet, or some other remote learning platform. Having myself completed a teaching certification in July that required me to be on Zoom for seven hours a day for three weeks, I know first-hand how draining this can be.
So what can students do to make all of this easier?
I have my students write out a daily schedule, in which they clearly map out every hour of the school day. This helps them to keep track of their live classes, and it also helps them to block out time for asynchronous classwork. If a student does this at the beginning of the week, they can lean on this schedule to guide them through each day; it eliminates the energy spent on the guesswork of “where am I supposed to be now? What am I supposed to be doing?” Getting in the habit of creating a schedule also sets students up for success down the road. Many students struggle when they enter college because the combination of more free hours and heavier workload requires some top-notch time management skills. If a student has started implementing these skills in high school, it sets them up for success.
Another tip is to encourage students to write out their daily schedules on paper or in a physical planner, rather than on their phones or in Google Calendar. Working on a written schedule provides a nice break from screens, and there’s something satisfying about physically crossing tasks off of a list.
Back in June, we put together several reading lists for students looking to bulk up on their summer reading. But did you know that reading is actually an excellent way to prepare for the SAT or ACT? Or really any test for that matter! Let’s break down the test sections and see how strong reading skills will give you a leg up on every part of the ACT or SAT…
English, Writing, and Reading
Of course, strong verbal skills will serve you well on the Reading and Writing Sections of the SAT and the English and Reading sections of the ACT. While it may seem that the English and Writing sections are mainly focused on grammar, punctuation, and syntax — not purely reading comprehension — strong reading skills are still essential to success. Many of the Writing questions require you to wade through long, convoluted sentences and then determine how the sentence might be improved. If you have lots of practice reading complex material in any context — from novels to articles to nonfiction — you will have a much easier time of understanding these passages. The errors may even begin to jump out at you!
The application of your reading skills to the Math sections of the SAT and ACT are certainly less intuitive, but equally important! The vast majority of math problems on these exams are not purely testing your mastery of mathematical concepts. Even the most straightforward problems are accompanied by text, some of which can be translated into mathematical notation if you are able to decipher what the problem is telling you. In the case of a word problem, this might look something like translating a paragraph into a system of equations. These problems — the ones that require you to read through a lengthy chunk of text before getting to the mathematical objective — can feel especially daunting. With strong reading comprehension skills, not only will these questions feel more manageable, but you will also be able to breeze through them with plenty of time on the clock.
Similar to Math sections, the Science section is full of scientific graphs and charts, but the bulk of the passages are paragraphs describing an experiment or situation. What skills will serve you best in distilling down and picking out the essential information? Your reading skills, of course! Basically, the Science section is a glorified Reading section: read the passage, synthesize the information, and answer questions about the material provided. Don’t be intimidated by the graphs and charts, they’re only there to help you!
Hopefully, we’ve convinced you to squeeze a little more reading time into your busy schedule. It will pay off not only in your test prep endeavors, but in whatever academic pursuits are on the horizon. Check out our post on Reading for SAT & ACT Preparation and while you’re at it, take a look at our general Reading Suggestions. Happy reading! If you’re looking for additional academic or test prep support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. As always, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!
It’s a tricky thing, embarking on standardized test prep. So many students and their families have voices in their ears, bombarding them with widely varying opinions regarding how to do it “right.”
“She’s going to need to meet with a tutor twice a week for a full year to come even close to the score she needs.”
“My son takes a practice test once a week! It’s the only way to do it!”
“No 8’s and 9’s on the ISEE? Forget about applying to any decent schools.”
These opinions can come from friends, family members, admissions counselors, tutors…anyone who has been through the process and considers themselves an expert.
Here’s the thing, though: the tests are standardized. Students aren’t. A student is not a number on a score report. And the number on the score report isn’t the final say in admissions.
After many years as a tutoring company administrator and tutor for various standardized tests, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of managing expectations. And here’s what I know: if a student meets with a tutor once a week for a few months, is motivated and focused in sessions, asks questions, does their homework, and takes a mock test roughly once a month, that student is very likely to improve their score. That improvement comes from a combination of learning new material and new strategies, learning how to manage time, and becoming more comfortable with the format of the test.
But what will that improvement look like? It’s not the same for everyone.
A student’s final score is almost always directly proportional to where they started from. If an ACT student comes into test prep having forgotten most of what they learned in Algebra, the priority will be to strengthen their confidence with those basic skills before moving on to more advanced math topics. And the speed with which they absorb and retain those skills will dictate how much more material is covered. If this student started with a 20 on the Math section of their first mock, and – within four months of tutoring – they’re up to a 25, that is a huge win in my book. Five points is quite a leap. Now, a 25 is not a 34, which is closer to what most students and their parents would like to see. But for that student, considering where they started, a 25 should be seen as a great accomplishment. It should be celebrated!
Celebrating small victories is crucial to progress in the test prep process. Giving students permission to focus on small achievements boosts their confidence and motivates them to continue to improve. Focusing on what they don’t have or haven’t achieved can lead to frustration, a feeling of helplessness, and – therefore – diminishing returns.
A tutor can set a student up for success with these small victories by working with the student to set reasonable goals. For example: answering the first 25 questions of the ACT Math section correctly on their next mock; writing down their own word choice for the synonym portion of the next ISEE mock before looking at the answer choices; really drilling the comma rules and nailing those questions on the next SAT mock test.
In a process that can feel overwhelming and intimidating for many, setting realistic goals and managing expectations only sets students up for success. This idea has guided my work as a tutor and administrator for many years, and I think it has had a hand in helping my students to feel empowered and motivated in their navigation of the test prep process.
Now that SAT Subject Tests have been discontinued, all heads turn to AP exams. In the absence of Subject Tests, AP exams will be key for students who are looking to demonstrate their mastery of more specialized academic areas, beyond the scope of the SAT or ACT. AP exams in 2020 looked far different than years prior, as College Board was forced to create alternative modes of testing to accommodate COVID-related health and safety protocols. With the pandemic ever-present and 2021 AP exams fast-approaching, College Board has released final details on this spring’s AP exams after learning from the challenges of last spring.
This year, there will be three test dates for each subject:
Administration 1: May 3-7, 10-12, 14, 17 (exact date depends on the subject) – These will be available as a paper-based in-school test only.
Administration 2: May 18-21, 24-28 – These will be available as either paper-based in-school tests OR as online at-home tests.
Administration 3: June 1-4, 7-11 – These will be available as either paper-based in-school tests OR as online at-home tests.
The type of test (at-home online or in-school paper-based) and test date will be determined by the student’s school. The abbreviated, open note AP exams of last year have been redesigned to more holistically reflect the curriculum of each AP course. This year’s online AP exams will be full length, can only be taken on a laptop or desktop computer, and free-response questions must be typed. For more detailed and subject-specific information about 2021 AP exams, check out College Board’s official 2021 AP Exam Format Information.
We understand how important AP exams are this year and how jarring it is to pivot from preparing for one test to another. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re seeking guidance on how to navigate the recent changes from College Board. We are always happy to help! At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!
There is no denying that over the past year, our world has been subsumed — in many ways — by utter chaos. Whether you’re a middle schooler preparing to transition to a new high school, a junior studying hard for the SAT, or a parent balancing work and your child’s remote curriculum, it’s probably safe to assume that your stress levels have been higher than normal (if not through the roof). At Sentia, we are committed to providing holistic academic mentorship to our students, and a huge part of academic success is the ability to deeply engage intellectually while remaining emotionally balanced. Of course, we hope that all of our students are finding ample time to rest, take breaks, and eat a healthy diet, but we’d like to introduce a few more tools to the arsenal of strategies for combating rising stress levels. Check out (and please consider implementing) these tips for managing stress. Read on!
Indulge in distraction when you need a break.
When you feel your anxiety level rising, take note and act accordingly: give yourself a break. Breaks are a tried and true way to reset your mind and body. Giving yourself a moment to simply breathe, go on a walk, catch up with a friend, or watch cute animal videos can have a re-energizing effect. When you sit back down at your desk after allowing your mind to wander, you are more likely to have the stamina to focus and successfully retain information.
Perhaps this adorable video of a cat comforting a nervous dog will do the trick or maybe this live jellyfish cam will bring you a sense of calm. Whatever it is that helps you reset: indulge as needed. Taking breaks in not a weakness by any stretch; recognizing when your focus is waning and stress levels are rising is key. Having the tools to reset those levels is a great strength.
Get up and move!
Short bursts of exercise can have a significant impact on your mood. Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, claims that just three minutes of exercise can improve your mood drastically. Dr. McGonigal suggests selecting a song that brings you joy and moving your body in a way that feels good to you.
Throw a one person dance party! Do jumping jacks. Spin around in circles. Do push-ups. Whatever it is, if you move your muscles and get your heart rate up, you will be rewarded with a boost of dopamine. Chances are you will feel more alive and energized when you get back to your studying, writing, or Zoom class.
Try five-finger breathing.
This one is a Sentia favorite: five-finger breathing. When you feel your stress levels skyrocket, focusing on your breathing is always an excellent idea — but sometimes it’s not that easy. Five-finger breathing is a technique that guides you through controlled and even breaths. So, put down your pencil and follow these steps:
Step 1: Hold your hand in front of you with fingers spread.
Step 2: With your index finger on the opposite hand, begin to trace the outline of your extended hand, starting at the wrist and moving up the pinkie finger.
Step 3: As you trace up your pinkie finger, breathe in. As you trace down your pinkie, breathe out. Trace up your ring finger and breathe in. Trace down your ring finger and breath out. And so on.
Step 4: Once you’ve traced your entire hand finger by finger, reverse the process and trace from your thumb back to your pinkie. Be sure to inhale as you trace up and exhale as you trace down.
Dr. Judson Brewer, director of research and innovation at the Mindfulness Center at Brown University, has created a video explaining the technique, which we hope will help you engage and re-center your mind while crowding out worrying thoughts.
It’s easy to spend the entire day inside when you’ve got your nose in a textbook, back-to-back Zoom lectures to attend, or a rigorous test prep regimen to adhere to. But, making time to get outside each day is crucial; spending time outdoors can result in meaningful improvements to mental health. Many studies support the notion that spending time outside surrounded by nature can spark physical changes in the brain that are associated with improved mood.
If you are lucky enough to live somewhere with wilderness close by, a walk in the woods during a study break might make your workload feel more manageable. If you live in an urban area, where’s the nearest park? Or perhaps a walk down a tree-lined street will provide enough of a nature fix to get you through the next chapter or lecture.
We hope you are finding some semblance of normalcy, calm, and healthy productivity during these challenging times. If you are seeking additional support, we are always here to help. We would be happy to brainstorm with you more stress relief strategies that suit your learning needs. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!
***This post reflects recently announced news and will be updated as more information becomes available.***
Today, College Board announced that it is eliminating the SAT Subject Test program. At Sentia, we had our suspicions that this change might be imminent; in the past several days our students have had difficulty registering for these exams on College Board’s website. In a closed webinar scheduled for today, we anticipate that the College Board CEO will deliver more details on the change.
Additionally, the Essay section of the SAT will be eliminated. This change will be less profound for our students as most colleges have de-emphasized the importance of the Writing sections of both the ACT and SAT. Indeed, we anticipate that ACT will follow suit and likely eliminate their essay component in the coming 18 months.
SAT Subject Tests have long been an important component of many of Sentia’s students’ application portfolios. While their demise – and the sudden rollout of these changes – will be distressing to some students, there remain several other means by which students who aspire to attend competitive colleges can stand out.
SAT and ACT scores will begin to hold more weight in the admissions process. With exceptional tutoring and sufficient tutorial planning, this change will allow our students to spend their preparation time focusing on one exam, rather than splitting time in the spring of Junior year between the ACT or SAT and two to three Subject Tests.
Grades, of course, become even more important when other components of an application dossier are eliminated. For most students, that means that judicious and appropriate academic support is more important than ever. Our teachers and academic mentors are well-equipped to ethically and efficiently ensure Sentia’s students are fully prepared to excel in their assessments – quizzes, exams, papers, projects, and take-home tests.
What other ways can students stand out? At Sentia, we have long taken an approach that emphasizes academic mentorship, not just tutoring. After all, our motto is: At Sentia, we don’t just tutor; we’ll be with you every step of the way™. Our students work with their Sentia mentors to perform independent research papers ready for peer review, build inventions that win science competitions, start volunteer programs that transform lives, and learn curricula that far surpasses what’s offered at their schools.
So, I can’t take Subject Tests?
Right. All Subject Tests (with the exception of the May and June 2021 administrations for international students) have been canceled. Students in the U.S. who registered for the May and/or June 2021 Subject Tests will automatically receive a refund. If you’d like to arrange for your fee to be credited towards a future SAT administration, you can contact College Board Customer Service at +1 (212) 713-7789 or email@example.com.
My dream school still says it highly recommends two Subject Tests. Wait, Georgetown still says it wants three!
Believe it or not, our friends at admissions offices at top colleges weren’t all given a heads up on this change. Students in the class of 2022 are likely to receive confusing information for a while. Will the tests you’ve already taken this year be evaluated as part of the admissions process? How about that Bio score from freshman year? The short answer is: we don’t know yet. Your scores may still be a part of your application or schools may go “test blind” on Subject Tests (meaning they will not look at them, even if submitted).
My child is homeschooled. Help!
Our homeschooled students who work with Sentia academic mentors and tutors will likely not welcome this news. SAT Subject Tests have long been a way for homeschooled students to stand out and demonstrate a wide range of deep knowledge. If your child is homeschooled, contact us so we can collaborate on a plan to ensure your child remains competitive in the admissions processes at top colleges and universities.
My child goes to school in the United States and is applying to Oxford and Cambridge. What do I do?
Many students applying to schools abroad have used Subject Tests to meet application requirements. Some schools, such as Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, have long preferred AP exams to demonstrate knowledge. We anticipate that AP exams will become even more important – and perhaps required – in these admissions processes. If you aren’t currently planning to take AP exams, contact Sentia. We will likely need to revise your strategy.
My school doesn’t offer AP exams though. What do I do?
College Board’s elimination of the SAT Subject Tests will allow College Board to assign greater resources to its Common Core planning and thus its AP curriculum. For students whose schools do not offer most – or any – AP exams, this change is challenging. We regularly assist our students in registering for AP exams not offered at their schools as well as mentorship to supplement their in-class learning with the material necessary to excel on those exams. We anticipate that in the absence of Subject Tests, greater emphasis will be placed on finding ways for U.S. students to take AP exams. At Sentia, we are committed to working closely with our students to ensure AP exam access and comprehensive preparation. The deadline to register for a May exam has been pushed back to March 12th. Please contact us ASAP so we can help outline a plan for any student who would like to pivot from Subject Tests to AP exams.
AP exams have, in fact, been on the rise as Subject Tests have become less widely used. We’ve seen this trend strengthen over the past 20 years. Take a look for yourself:
This focus on AP exams is the most notable change, perhaps more so than the elimination of a test that only the most competitive students completed. College Board will create (and, yes, sell) more AP exams than ever before. These exams will likely become vastly more important in the college admissions process and yet they are not offered at many high schools throughout the United States or globally. Our students who attend elite boarding and day schools that do not operate on the Common Core curriculum will need to find new and creative ways to demonstrate their knowledge.
Do I need to take the SAT Essay if I’m signed up for the essay component? Should I skip the essay part?
We do not anticipate the essay component will be a relevant factor in admissions decisions going forward. If you’d like to adjust your reservation to SAT without Essay, you should contact College Board to do so.
Rest assured that we will work collaboratively with your family to ensure this testing disruption does not leave your child at a disadvantage. At Sentia, we remain as committed as ever to assisting our students and families in navigating the dynamic and ever-changing world of learning and testing. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns; we welcome the opportunity to provide your family with the individualized, professional guidance and support you’ll need in the wake of this change.
In short: don’t freak out. There are plenty of articles out there that will tell you how important it is to waive your FERPA rights on the Common App. While it’s true — understanding the FERPA waiver is an important part of the admissions process — forgetting to sign away your FERPA rights, we believe, is not an irreparable mistake. We’ve spoken with admissions representatives at several top-tier colleges on the matter and here’s what we’ve discovered…
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that gives parents the right to access their children’s education records, seek to have the records amended, and have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. Once a student turns 18 years old, or pursues postsecondary education at any age, these FERPA rights are transferred from the parents to the student. So, if you are in the process of applying to colleges, understanding and (most likely) waiving your FERPA rights is your responsibility!
FERPA is relevant to the college admissions process because your education records will include your application to the college where you eventually enroll. More specifically, FERPA gives you the right to review confidential letters of recommendation that were provided with your application after you enroll. You read that correctly: this is all a matter of whether you will be able to access your application materials after you’re already enrolled at a college.
A common misconception is that not waiving your FERPA rights means you will be able to review your letters of recommendation before submitting your application. This is not the case! Whether or not you get to look at your letters of recommendation before they are submitted is entirely between you and your recommenders. It is within their rights to share a letter of recommendation with the student privately if they so desire. However, in the academic world, recommendation letters tend to be kept confidential. Under no circumstances would it be appropriate to ask your recommender to read their letter.
What are the benefits of waiving my FERPA rights?
Admissions officers give the most weight to letters of recommendation that provide an honest and qualified assessment of the applicant. Failure to waive your FERPA rights could subtly signal to your recommenders or to the admissions officers that you don’t trust your recommender to write a strong and compelling letter for you. In the worst case scenario, the letter might be written in a less candid manner and interpreted as less genuine by the admissions team. In short, if a recommender knows that the student might read their letter at some point down the road, it may result in a more generic, less powerful letter.
That being said, as long as you’re thoughtful and intentional about choosing recommenders who are supportive mentors and know you well, you can likely rest assured that your recommenders only intend to support you by helping you get into college. Letters of recommendation are an integral part of an applicant’s profile. Waiving your FERPA rights is just one more step you can take to ensure that your recommendations are strong and candid.
What should I do if I forgot to waive my FERPA rights?
First of all, stay calm. We have spoken with admissions representatives at a variety of top-tier schools who understand that students may at some point decide that they would like to waive their FERPA rights, even if they did not do so initially. Several of the admissions officers said that if a student would like to update their FERPA waiver status, they can simply send an email to the admissions office stating that they would like to waive their FERPA rights. Other reps indicated that emailing a digitally signed copy of the Common App’s Teacher Evaluation Form, where a student can check the “I waive my right to review all recommendations and supporting documents submitted by me or on my behalf” box, would suffice in updating that student’s FERPA status.
At several other colleges, admissions reps were adamant that a student’s FERPA status does not impact their consideration of that student’s application, highlighting that the decision to waive (or not waive) FERPA rights is entirely between the student and their recommenders.
In summary: Don’t hesitate to call admissions offices directly! Be sure to get the scoop on how the FERPA waiver impacts the admissions process at each of the schools on your list. In general, if you make it known to an admissions team that you have no intention of gaining access to your application materials (primarily letters of recommendation) at any point during or after the admissions process, it is highly likely that they will have a protocol for allowing you to amend your FERPA status.
If you ever find yourself in this situation, we hope you find this information helpful and stress-relieving. Here at Sentia, we wish everyone a warm, safe, and healthy holiday season and a very Happy New Year! As always, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!
Since the spring, there has been much speculation surrounding the launch of online versions of the SAT and ACT. With last-minute test center closings and the public health risks associated with in-person testing, at-home SAT / ACT alternatives would be a welcome relief to many. Many graduate school entrance exams, including the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, successfully transitioned to an online, at-home format back in March. This transition did not come without its challenges. Proctoring, in particular, poses a unique challenge and has sparked significant public debate about the ethics and efficacy of automated proctoring services that are garnering more and more users during the pandemic. While many argue that web-based proctoring services are invasive and stress-inducing for test-takers, the College Board and ACT grapple with how to create accessible, cheat-proof, and glitch-free versions of their respective exams.
As things stand now, ACT has indicated that students in the US can expect the release of an online ACT in late 2020 (any day now!) or early 2021. (The release seems unlikely before 2021). This version of the ACT is expected to look like the computer-based ACT that is currently offered to international students. The College Board, on the other hand, has not released any concrete information about when an online SAT might be available to the masses. They have cited internet access concerns as a central reason for the delayed rollout. For both exams, the technology requirements remain unknown. Unequal access to the technology required to take an online exam at home compounds the myriad of obstacles in making at-home SAT and ACT testing an equitable reality.
As we all await official updates from the College Board and ACT, we’ve outlined a couple possibilities that have been raised:
Live proctoring – ACT and College Board both acknowledge that at-home testing will require proctoring on an unprecedented scale. ACT has been transparent about looking at several options, including the possibility of live proctoring for each full-length exam. This would require a webcam on each student for the duration of the exam. The College Board has not provided further details on how they plan to proctor at-home exams.
Provisional score reports – The ACT has come forth with another option that would require students to take both an unproctored full-length exam and a shorter, live-proctored exam. With this option, students would receive a “provisional score report” for the full-length exam. In order to verify their provisional score, they would then take the short, proctored exam and the scores from each exam would be compared in order to eliminate or identify incongruencies in exam performance. It’s possible that this approach would inadvertently increase testing anxiety without providing a reliable means of verifying students’ skills.
Perhaps, as at-home COVID testing becomes a more widespread reality, so too will at-home SAT and ACT testing. As always, we will stay up-to-date on the latest testing news as the pandemic progresses. Please stay tuned and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re seeking additional support. We are always happy to help; we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!
Though many students may want to give back to their communities in this time of tremendous need, finding volunteer opportunities while remaining socially distant is not always easy. With many community service organizations on pause or switching gears in response to the pandemic, some students may be struggling to remain engaged in volunteer efforts while also staying safe. If you’ve been previously involved with an organization with a mission that you’re passionate about, we suggest reaching out to them to see if there are any remote volunteer positions available. Many groups have created new remote or socially distanced opportunities for involvement, so definitely tap into those pre-existing relationships. Who knows? They might need help with a weekly newsletter or content creation for their website. If you’re looking for new ways to get involved, we have plenty of ideas — read on!
Become a Tutor
If you’re a student experiencing remote learning, you probably understand this reality all too well: Online school is challenging. There are plenty of kids out there who are looking for support in making the most of their remote learning. For those of you who enjoy working with children, virtual tutoring can be an excellent way to support young students and share your knowledge. There are many platforms out there for remote tutoring. Generally, virtual tutors are paired with a student or group of students who they meet with weekly to work on a specific subject. If you’re interested in learning more, check out these organizations as a jumping-off point: TeensGive, UPchieve, and GO Project.
Pen Pal Opportunities
Social isolation is pervasive among the elderly even in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of others while flexing your written language skills, you might enjoy getting matched with a pen pal. There are several programs that match volunteers with seniors citizens for letter exchanges and updates. Here are a few good places to start your pen pal search: Adopt a Senior, Friends for Life, Pandemic Pen Pals. Or, if you’re interested in connecting with seniors in your local community, consider reaching out to a local nursing home to see if they’re open to pairing you with a pen pal. This could be a meaningful opportunity to forge a relationship with someone with very different life experiences than your own. Oftentimes, those are the most interesting and fruitful friendships!
Use Your Language Skills
If you speak a foreign language, there are many virtual options for volunteering your language skills. Bilingual students may want to consider tutoring virtually, as discussed above. In the world of translation, there are plenty of opportunities for students with sufficient fluency in another language. Translators Without Borders recruits volunteers who want to translate texts into different languages for various NGOs and nonprofits. This organization recognizes that the dissemination of reliable COVID-19 information (in as many different languages as is necessary) is absolutely essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19. TED translators is another great opportunity. These translators volunteer to subtitle global TED Talks, enabling their ideas to reach a broader audience by transcending language barriers.
Check Out VolunteerMatch
Back in May, we proposed several ideas for how to have a productive summer in 2020. Of course, volunteering was high on our list. If you haven’t already checked out VolunteerMatch, now might be a great time to do so. Here, you can search for local volunteer opportunities. Plus, they even have a COVID-19 Resource Hub, where you can explore a directory of COVID-related and remote volunteer opportunities.
We hope you find some inspiration in these suggestions and we encourage you to seek out involvement in whatever areas are most exciting to you! Despite the unprecedented circumstances, we want to make sure you feel supported and engaged in whatever you are doing during these challenging times. We’d be happy to help brainstorm more personalized suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!