Blog

15 Apr 2020

SAT June Administration Cancelled

Earlier today The College Board announced that the scheduled June administration of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests will be cancelled. While the news was expected, The College Board’s revised testing plan will significantly impact rising juniors and seniors. Rather than adding summer testing dates, The College Board instead plans to offer its first administration on the previously scheduled August date, with additional dates rapidly falling in the fall: one administration in September, October, November, and early December. Should schools remain closed and unable to administer the SAT by August, The College Board has suggested it will offer a digital version of the exam to be administered at home. The College Board has been late to offering digital versions of its exams (the PSAT 8/9 and 10 can be offered digitally in schools but paper-based testing remains the norm) so the digital version, reportedly already under development, would need to be rapidly rolled out. 


The schedule change means students will need to be extremely well-prepared for the August administration as there will be limited time between administrations to adjust preparation schedules. Our students often take the May and June administrations and then decide whether or not to continue to prepare for the August administration given their Spring scores. Without the June administration, students should anticipate a preparation schedule through the summer and into the fall. And while we anticipate many colleges waiving or reducing testing requirements for this year’s applicants, strong SAT, SAT Subject Test, and ACT scores will make the prepared candidate stand out even more. 


While the change intensifies the summer test preparation schedule, it also provides the prepared student with the opportunity to take and retake College Board exams in the late summer and early fall with less risk of score backslide. 

We know this change will likely add importance to test preparation at just the time students are feeling most uncertain about their newly-established online schooling and uprooted summer plans. For rising seniors, writing college applications only adds to the anxiety. Rest assured, we are here to provide you with reliable and thoughtful revisions to your test preparation plans. We’re ready to collaborate with our partners, students, and parents to ensure our students are as prepared as ever come test day. 


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


Warmly,
Billy Wheelan

Founder

09 Apr 2020

New LSAT In-Home Administration

Billy Wheelan, Sentia Founder & Eduardo Villalta, Sentia Master LSAT Tutor

The Law School Admission Council, purveyor of the most popular test for US law school admissions, announced on April 7th that LSAC’s upcoming April LSAT administration would be canceled and replaced by a shortened version of the test to be administered on personal computers in the test taker’s home in the second half of May. 

LSAC was a late entry into the world of digitally administered exams, lagging behind competitors that offer the GRE and GMAT in rolling out a computer-based version of their signature offering. So the speed with which LSAC has pivoted to what might soon become a new normal of home administered tests is leaving prospective law school students in uncharted territory. (The GRE, an alternative to the LSAT, began offering an in-home option last month).

LSAC left open the door to additional administrations of the updated LSAT, dubbed LSAT-Flex, to be offered in the spring and summer “if the situation warrants.” Candidates registered for the April 2020 test will be automatically registered to take the new version of the test in the second half of May unless they choose to apply the credit toward a future LSAT date. 

The shortened LSAT mimics the organization’s practice tests and will include three scored 35 minute sections: one each of reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning. Test takers who struggle with the stamina to complete the traditional LSAT’s five sections (including one unscored experimental section) will likely welcome the change.  

Caroline Scott, Director at Sentia Education, calls the new offering a game changer but warns that while students may be more comfortable in a home setting, “distractions and connectivity issues could add stress to an already high pressure situation.” Still, most test takers will likely welcome the opportunity to sit for an exam in an environment that closely resembles that of their  practice tests. “Overall, the prepared student will benefit from this change.”

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!

13 Feb 2020

ACT Section Retesting: relief arrives for students taking the ACT with extended time

ACT now offers Section Retesting. Source: http://www.ACT.org

Taking the ACT plus Writing already clocks in at nearly 4 hours of consecutive exam time. For students with extended time accommodations, this lengthy test can drag on for an entire day.

However, ACT has recently incorporated some major changes to the way the test can be taken that will majorly benefit students needing extra time.

What are the changes?

ACT now allows students who have already taken the full ACT test, to re-take one or more specific sections of their choice. For example, if a student does poorly on the Science section, they may return on a different test day to focus their energy on that portion.

While this is already great news for the general population of ACT test takers, it has a particular impact on students with extended time.

Students with 50% extended time will have already been sitting for the exam for nearly three hours before they arrive at the Reading section. They may be burnt out and exhausted before even beginning the remaining two or three sections of the test.

With Section Retesting, extended time students can schedule their Reading, Science, and Writing sections for a later exam date. By doing so, they can give themselves a better chance of scoring at their full potential by coming into these sections refreshed.

06 Feb 2020

Getting stuck on quadratic equations? Consider using this trick.

Image result for quadratic equations

Using a calculator program is still the best way to solve questions involving quadratics on the SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests in Math levels 1 and 2 (here’s a video showing how you can do this on a few different standard-issue graphing calculators).

However, if you aren’t using a graphing calculator, or if programming one isn’t an option, this technique is a great way to solve quadratics.

Solving quadratic equations using the quadratic formula is often time consuming, and the long formula can be difficult for students to memorize. Or, students are taught to factor out the expression and use trial and error to solve. This strategy can end up being an inefficient use of your time during a timed exam.

It turns out there is a better way–and, it even works for equations that are not easily factorable.

In this article from the New York Times, A Carnegie Mellon Professor of Mathematics describes a new, surprisingly intuitive method to solve quadratic equations.

Written and video tutorials of the process can also be found directly from Dr. Loh’s blog, through this link.

Happy solving!

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.

20 Dec 2019

If your application was deferred, here’s what you should do.

It’s normal to be a little disappointed that you didn’t get a simple “yes” from your school of choice. 

If your application has been deferred, you have been moved from the early pool of applicants to the Regular Decision pool. You will be competing against all applicants who submit their applications Regular Decision. However, there are many things you can do to increase your chances of acceptance in the Regular Decision round. 

Being deferred is a sign that you are qualified for the school; it usually means there is a weak spot in your application profile, or you need to find a way to distinguish yourself more. This is the time to pull out all of the stops, and go the extra mile to gain acceptance!

 

Step 1.  Read the college’s deferral letter. Sometimes, they will give you specific things you can do to improve your application and specific things NOT to do. Then, reflect on your application – could your personal statement have been tighter? Were there any typos in your application? This won’t help your application to your deferral school, but it will help with your Regular Decision applications that will be due soon. You should also identify any additional leadership opportunities that could enhance your application. 

Step 2. The next thing to do is to get on the phone and call the admissions office directly. Ask to speak to your Regional Admissions Officer; usually you need to leave your name and number and they call you back (remember to specify when you are available to take the call). You want to accomplish two things with this phone call:

  1. Find out how you can improve your chances of admission
  2. Make a connection with the officer, and reiterate how the school is one of your top choices and you would love to attend.

Stay positive throughout, and don’t make any excuses; simply try to get some information. If you can, briefly tell them about one or two new developments, and ask if you can email them updates. That’s all; a short conversation is totally fine, but YOU need to call–not a college counselor, and not your parents. 

Step 3.  Write your first deferral letter, and send it out by January 15th. To write this letter, start by reiterating that the school is your top choice, and you are still committed to attending. Follow this statement with 2-3 updates on any defining accomplishments you have achieved since you submitted your application. Conclude by thanking the admissions committee for taking the time to review your letter. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post in which we will describe how to create this letter, and what to write in it!  

This step is extremely important. You should also plan to send another of these letters in late February with additional updates, so make sure to keep your grades up, and rack up special accomplishments if possible. 

Step 4.  Turn your attention to recommendations. A good package of recommendations would include the following.

  • 2 letters from Alumna of the school. If you have any family or friends who are Alumna, ask them to write you a letter of support and send it to your Admissions Officer. The purpose of this letter is for them to “vouch” for you, but it doesn’t have to be a lengthy recommendation. Make sure to remind your recommenders to include their contact information within the letter itself. 
  • A recommendation from a Senior year teacher, coach or mentor. This will be a more formal recommendation to add to your file, and they should tailor their letter to this school.

Step 5. Talk to your Guidance Counselor about sending a Mid-Year transcript with your most recent grades (assuming they are good!). Colleges will be re-evaluating your application packet when it is time to decide who is admitted and who is not. Showing them that your grades have improved since you first applied will give admissions offers a good impression of your commitment to your studies. It may earn you more points towards being placed in the “admitted” category.

Being deferred means you’re still in the running. These steps will give you what you need to distinguish yourself. And, learning to advocate for yourself in the right way is a valuable life-skill! While you certainly do not want to overwhelm or harass admissions officers, showing your continued interest– and your persistence when it comes to achieving your goals– can improve your chances of moving out of the deferred pile into “accepted.” 

In the meantime, finish up your other applications. Even though you may feel disheartened, make sure your Regular Decision applications are as strong as possible. Don’t neglect these just because you’re holding out hope you’ll get in to your first choice school. You’ll need options– and who knows, you may end up with a change of heart later on! 

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!