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23 Jan 2018

Spring Semester – To Do’s

Hello, and welcome back from winter break! With your short reprieve from reality now over, we thought now would be the perfect time to remind you of your future realities: college!

Your school year is now about halfway over (yes, the technical midpoint of your school year is a month or so away, but winter break certainly seems like a midpoint), and that means you still have a lot of work to do. In addition to the mandatory schoolwork, you also have the odious tasks of college admissions to think about. So, with that in mind, here are our suggestions for what you should be working on for those frigid and gelid winter evenings!

Seniors
For the most part, your hard work should already be done. You’ve already applied to most of your colleges, right? If you have any applications left, complete them now. Literally. Right. Now. Do not delay anymore, as deadlines are final!

After your applications are in, wait patiently. Plan a reward for yourself for when those acceptance letters start to roll in. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get into your first-choice schools. That’s why you didn’t just apply to one school. In general, relax!

That being said, don’t slack in school. Keep up your hard work for a few more months, and make sure colleges don’t reconsider their decisions to admit you.

Juniors
You have the most on your plates this spring. Make sure you registered for winter or spring SAT and ACT administrations. Find out how many SAT Subject Tests you need to take for the schools you’ve been looking at, and register for those.

Next, study, study, study for the tests. Consult this blog for SAT and ACT practice questions, and don’t hesitate to ask for help from one of our talented and charismatic tutors.

Additionally, you should plan on visiting colleges in the spring and summer. Find out what schools are the best fits for you, and ask counselors at the schools what they need from you for your application. Try to narrow your list of schools down to a top 20 or 25. Sentia also provides college-consulting services, and our talented admissions experts would be more than happy to help you in your search.

Finally, keep up those grades! Your junior year is far and away the most important of your academic career, at least in terms of college admissions. Set a goal for yourself to get the best grades you’ve ever had in your life. A new year is a great (albeit arbitrary) time to turn a new leaf and become the best student in the history of the world. If you need help with your grades, don’t hesitate to ask Sentia for help there too. (See a trend, here? Ask for help in any areas of school. Better to be over prepared than underprepared, right?)

Sophomores
You should begin thinking of registering for standardized tests. You’ll need to take them at some point over the next two years, so you may as well get them out of the way earlier than the rest of your peers do. Take a practice ACT and SAT, and see which test is a better fit for you.

Regardless of which test you take, start improving your vocabulary now. Vocabulary is a major part of the SAT, but it can’t hurt you on the ACT to have an extensive vocabulary either. There really is no such thing as knowing too many words. And it is easier (and better) to learn vocabulary words slowly over several years, rather than cramming them into your brain a month before you sit for any tests. Read books and magazines at your difficulty level or even above your difficulty level, and improve your critical reading skills alongside your vocabulary.

You should also start looking at colleges and considering your options. Do you want to go to a big school or a small school? Close to home or far from home? In a city or in the middle of nowhere? Get at least a general idea of what kind of school you want to attend. Trust us. It’ll save you hours of time in the future.

Finally, keep your grades up. Having consistently high grades will make you a more attractive applicant to colleges, and now is also a great time to instill important study skills for your future academic career. If you need help with your grades, don’t hesitate to ask Sentia for help there too.

12 Jan 2018

How Do YOU Learn?

 

Most of us can learn anything we put our minds to.  However, we have a preferred way of learning. Get to know your learning style and study in the ways you learn best.

Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning while others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed.

There are Seven Learning Styles

  1. Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn.

Strategies to use, depending on your preferred learning style:

Visual Learners

  • Use graphics to reinforce learning­­, films, slides, illustrations, and diagrams.
  • Color coding to organize notes and possessions.
  • Write out directions.
  • Use flow charts and diagrams for note taking.
  • Visualizing spelling of words of facts to be memorized.

 

Auditory Learners

  • Use tapes for reading and for class and lecture notes.
  • Learn by interviewing or by participating in discussions.
  • Have test questions or directions read aloud or put on tape.

 

Kinesthetic Learners

  • Experimental learning (making models, doing lab work, and role playing).
  • Take frequent breaks in study periods.
  • Trace letters and words to learn spelling and remember facts.
  • Use computer to reinforce learning through sense of touch.
  • Memorize or drill while walking or exercising.

Express abilities through dance, drama, or gymnastic

02 Jan 2018

Stress… What it is and how to make it work for you

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

Any one preparing for the standardized college admissions test knows that this definition is a perfect description of the feelings and emotions created by these tests.  But did you know that stress that is managed could actually be a good thing?

A 1979 London research study recognized that stress could be beneficial. Yes, you read that correctly – beneficial! The benefits of stress can be found in two main ways; First, stress can actually enhance performance and, secondly, stress from challenges, not threats, invite physiological responses that improves thinking by making the heart beat faster, adrenaline surge, the brain sharper and the body release a different mix of stress hormones which aid in learning.

You can rethink stress by understanding that it is a normal response when we care about what’s at stake.

Since stress is unavoidable, working out how to harness it may be wiser than trying to eliminate it.

Embarking on a mindful approach to the test prep process might sound hokey, or perhaps like a way of complicating a process that is pretty straightforward: study the material, take practice tests, get results. But being mindful is a practical and subtle way of managing stress – AND it puts YOU in control.

So… How can you be “mindful”

  1. Become aware of your thoughts. There’s a little voice in your head that’s talking to you constantly. 
What is it saying? How do the thoughts make you feel?
  2. Take a breath. When you become aware of a thought (any thought, positive or negative) take a breath. Let your thoughts come and go without analyzing them. Be aware of what happens to the feelings caused by stress?

Let your breath serve as a cue for you to be fully present in this moment. On the next exhalation imagine any tension in your body flowing out through the soles of your feet into the air. Let your tension go on the exhalation and on the inhalation breathe in relaxation.

  1. Guided Imagery. Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that utilizes the power of the imagination and all of the senses – what we feel, see, hear, taste, and smell – to create a relaxing scene. Guided imagery can be used to visualize positive outcomes, especially in stressful situations. For instance, if a student is anxious about an upcoming test, she imagines going through it in a calm and relaxed manner beforehand. This is called a mental rehearsal.
  2. Positive Affirmations. Positive statements can help students feel less stressed and more in control of their emotions. Examples of positive affirmations are:
    • I feel calm
    • I am confident
    • I can do well
    • Let go of (anxiety, fear, tension, etc)
  3. Question your thoughts. If your thoughts are of self-doubt or self-criticism, replace the latter part of the “What if” proposition with a positive quality that relates to the specific situation or preceding thought. Ask yourself:
  • What if I’m good enough?
  • What if I’m smart enough?
  • What if I have what it takes?
  • What if I succeed?
  1. Be willing to see the situation differently. There are objective facts about the college admissions process. There are tests (the SAT and ACT) for which you can prepare. College admissions officers will consider your test scores when evaluating your application. How you relate
to these objective facts is up to you. When you feel stressed out, anxious, or scared, tell yourself “I am willing to see this situation differently.” Keep an open mind, and stay willing to be positive and relaxed.

Test prep is a process, but when you bring your whole self to the experience, amazing things can happen.

 

 

18 Dec 2017

Colleges Aren’t Different. The Teachers In Them Are.

 

In a New York Times article titled, The Fundamental Way That Universities Are an Illusion,” Kevin Carey digs beneath the outer-most layer of schools – ultimately finding little in the way of a unified, coherent educational personality. When we peel away the outermost layers of universities, Carey writes, all that’s left are individual teachers – all armed with their own idiosyncrasies. The teachers, not the school, make the education.

Carey likens each teacher, in each wildly different department, to an entrepreneur—bringing to the table his or her very own approach to the education of students. The type of education students receive at U Penn, for example, wholly depends on the individual classes students take, the professors who teach those classes, and the departments those classes are in.

So is a Williams College education unlike a Northwestern one? That depends on the teachers. This understanding of what makes schools different is especially important to keep in mind during the college process; it matters less where you land, and far where you place yourself once you’re there.

On the outside, colleges might give off a distinct personality. But once you strip back a few layers, the outer coherence gives way to radical inner variation. A couple teachers will shape your education, not the school you attend.

If you want to read the whole article, click here.

07 Dec 2017

Choosing the SAT and ACT or to switch tests

You received the scores to your official SAT or ACT and it is not what you hope.  While this situation can be disappointing, is you took the standardized test early in the college application process, you may have time to retake it.

Now the question is should you retake the same one, or consider changing your focus and registering for the other college entrance exam instead?

Considerations to review before you decide.

  1. Avoid unnecessary testing: Taking both test offers no benefit. If you’ve taken a practice diagnostic test in both the SAT and the ACT and your scores are relatively similar, then stay the course and continue to focus on the test you just took or begin to focus on other elements of the college admissions process.
  2. Consider the causes of your low-than-expected scores: Why didn’t you achieve your score goal? Did you struggle with the exam content and format, or did circumstantial elements complicate matters?

Many factors can affect your testing performance, including anxiety, fatigue and illness. With illness, chances are slim that you would face the same challenge twice.

Extra preparation time before your next test date can reduce anxiety and fatigue.

If your poor performance was primarily due to circumstances or a lack of preparation, you should retake the same test. You will have less preparation to do, since you are already familiar with the format. You will also have a ready-made guide to which sections you should concentrate on studying.

  1. Compare test formats: With the recent redesign of the SAT, there is less separation between the two major college entrance exams, but there are still some differences.
  • The SAT has no dedicated science section – though science is included elsewhere on the SAT.
  • The SAT has a slightly different format for its math portion which does not allow students to use a calculator for the entire math section.
  • The ACT and SAT both have a big emphasis on  The ACT has a much larger focus on geometry and includestrigonometry, matrices, graphs of trig functions, and logarithms.
  • SAT reading questions are evidence-based, requiring students to cite specific lines and passages to support their answer choice.
  • The SAT and ACT require identical grammatical and writing skills for the English / Writing+Language sections, and for the essays. Not a single fact or concept is different on one test than on the other. If you learn all the material required for the SAT, you won’t need to learn a SINGLE new thing in order to get a perfect ACT score (and vice versa). It’s all a matter of strategy.
  1. Weigh your time constraints: Learning a new exam format and a fresh set of strategies can be time-consuming. Despite the similar content of the two exams, the different pace necessitates distinct answer-optimization strategies.

If you have two to three months available you have more options than only a few weeks until the next official tests.

In summary… Consider the causes of your poor performance, the differences between your test options and your available time before taking your next step.

 

24 Nov 2017

10 Reasons to LOVE Standardized Tests like the SAT and ACT

You’re probably adept at rattling off reams of reasons why you hate, hate, HATE Standardized testing.  Everyone does. It’s a grueling, difficult exam with tremendously high stakes. It’s a source of conflict with your parents & competition between your friends. Tutors are pricey, studying is boring, and between school, work, socializing and heaps of extracurricular activities… you don’t have time for this! And to top it all off: Standardized tests are terrible measures of one’s potential to succeed! This test is pure evil!

Or is it?

In this blog entry I will give 10 reasons why the SAT and ACT is not so bad… awesome, even!

10.) For some students, Standardized Tests are much needed second chance. If you’re like me and slacked off during freshman and sophomore years of high school, the Standardized Tests are great ways to demonstrate newfound focus and academic potential to colleges. Coupled with a strong junior and/or senior year transcript, good Standardized Test scores will make you a viable candidate at many universities, even if you messed up parts of your high school career.

9.) Critical reading passages are really interesting! Here, I am going to let you in on a little secret: if you approach the critical reading passages with a focused, open mind, you’ll find that they are super interesting! It’s easy for students to say that critical reading passages are dry and boring–this is an excuse for disengaging from the material and not trying your best. I have NO idea why so many adults reinforce this ludicrous idea. Reading  passages come from recent (good!) novels, present wide-ranging scientific ideas & personal perspectives, and debate important issues. What is boring about this?!

8.) You’re entitled to a treat when you’re done. Twinkies, burrito, day at the beach… take your pick!

7.) Studying for the Standardized Tests teaches you important stuff you don’t learn in school, like good grammar (and, in turn, good writing skills) and how to think flexibly about math, apply strong problem solving techniques and use the math they do know in flexible ways. It asks that students go beyond applying rules and formulas to think through problems they have not solved before” In short, studying for Standardized test math promotes cognitive creativity.

6.) There are lots of available resources to help you prepare. Because so many students take the SAT and ACT it’s fair to say the test has been cracked. Not only are numerous books devoted to divulging essential content and strategies, but Sentia Education is also excited to pair you with an expert tutor, who knows exactly what material you need to know to score your highest.

5.) Misery loves company. You and your friends may grow closer through complaining about taking the SAT, ACT and SAT II Standardized Tests. Also, the fact that the eleventh grade class is simultaneously suffering promotes a feeling of community, a feeling of: I know this sucks, but we’re in this together.

4.) As you practice, you get to see the results of your hard work pay off.
Most students who work with a (good) tutor, or study a lot independently will see a big increase between their first practice test and their final score. Seeing this payoff is fun, encouraging, and will remind you that you can accomplish a lot when you work hard & put your best foot forward.

3.) You have more than one shot to take the test, and colleges will only consider your highest score. So you can relax a little. Unlike most of the exams you take in school, the SAT isn’t a one shot deal.

2.)  Completing the SAT, ACT and SAT II’s are a rite of passage, and an accomplishment that promotes confidence. Throughout life, you will be forced to face scary challenges head-on. As you meet & succeed in the face of these challenges, you will grow more confident in your abilities.

A driving instructor (shout out to Tony from Formula One, best driving instructor ever!) once told me that high school students face two, seemingly insurmountable tasks: the driving test, and Standardized Tests. Completing these tasks means proving to yourself that you can complete these tasks–that you are strong enough to succeed and persevere despite a mountain of pressure. Knowing this about yourself is invaluable.

1.) And most importantly, the SAT or ACT get you into college! Despite all its unpleasantness, these Standardized Tests are your ticket to college–one of the most exciting and challenging parts of life. This is the ultimate reward of the college admissions Standardized tests!

11 Nov 2017

Know the Difference Between a Hyphen, En Dash, and Em Dash

Nailing the crucial difference between these types of punctuation can nudge experienced readers in your favor—something that is incredibly important during the college application process. The hyphen, en dash, and em dash are distinguished by, at most, a few pixels on your screen and their uses are similarly nuanced.

The Hyphen

Used to join intimately linked compound terms, the hyphen clarifies the relation among different words.

Example: “Long-term exposure to tobacco smoke can increase your risk of cancer”

The words “long” and “term” are meant to jointly describe the word “exposure”.

Other Examples: high-risk, free-for-all, eye-opener, all-American

The En Dash

The en dash is slightly longer than the hyphen and it is meant to denote items related by distance or time1.

Example: We are looking for students ages 13–20.

This can also be applied to date ranges and prefixes fixed to proper nouns if they denote a temporal relationship.

Other Examples: April–June, pre–Revolutionary War, 30–50 feet long

The Em Dash

The em dash is the longest of these punctuation marks and is also the most versatile. It works like parentheses to add a thought or an extra piece to the sentence. The use of the em dash is more subjective and is meant to enhance the reader’s experience than to denote a relationship between two words.

Example: I went to the concert—something I thought was a great idea until it rained.

The em dash can replace parentheses, colons, and commas, depending on how you’d like to use them. Keep in mind you shouldn’t be using more than two em dashes in a sentence

Other Example: My brother—the one who originally hated the idea—was totally on board this time around.

 

Check out these great resources for more details on proper punctuation:

 

 

02 Nov 2017

SAT vs. ACT

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Don’t know whether to take the SAT or ACT?

We’ve been there before. High schoolers across America (and the globe) face this question every year.

An impressive score on either test goes a long way towards helping students get into the schools they want to attend. So, how do you know which test is better for you?

Sadly, there are no obvious answers. The best way to figure out the ACT vs. SAT conundrum is to take a practice test for both. If there is one you feel more comfortable with, then that’s the test you should take.

That being said, a quick comparison between the SAT and ACT, below, might help you understand the major differences between the two. There is also a quick nine question ACT vs. SAT quiz that will – through over-generalization and not very much data – tell you which standardized test is probably better suited to your strengths.

But before gleaning too much from the comparison and quiz, remember that there’s no substitute for taking a practice version of both tests! Happy reading.

  SAT ACT
What do these tests feel like? A logic and reasoning test A more objective, clear-cut test
How do these tests align with my skills? The SAT is often (not always) better suited for English/History types The ACT is often (not always) better suited for Math/Science types
What about math? Need to know Math up until Algebra II Need to know Math up until Trigonometry
Science? No Science on the SAT Yes Science on the ACT
Big Picture? The SAT requires more analytical thinking and logical reasoning The ACT asks more straight-forward questions and requires straight-forward answers
Where are these tests accepted? Everywhere Everywhere
Is there an essay? Yes, and it’s currently required. *After May 2016, it will be optional. Yes, but it’s optional
Is one better than the other? Should I take both? No, both are equals in the eyes of colleges. And no! You don’t need to take both.   

Still not sure which test to take? Maybe this quick, nine question quiz will help.

 http://snack.to/q7c9a1d4

21 Oct 2017

Joining 25 Clubs Isn’t The Move: How To Handle Extracurriculars

So you’re in your junior year of high school, freaking out about how few extra-curricular activities you have compared with your friends, and you promptly join 25 clubs. We’re going to stop you right there.

Joining some clubs? Well, that’s a good thing. Colleges like to see that you’re interested in causes, subjects and ideas outside of the classroom. Captain of the Academic Quiz Bowl team? Great! Student council member? Awesome!

But when you join 25 clubs in an effort to show colleges how involved you are in the world, their skepticism begins to grow.

Nobody, and by that we literally mean nobody, has the time, range of interest, or empathy to truly care about and be active in so many clubs. You know that. And more importantly, colleges know that.

What they do want to see is a narrative. If you’re interested in writing, college admissions officers should read your app and say:

“Oh, this kid Jimmy loves writing. He’s a contributor to the school’s literary magazine, is president of the school’s Book Club, took a creative writing class over the summer, and won a Scholastic writing award for one of his poems. He’s also on the varsity tennis team and is a Latin Affairs club member, which is awesome. But most of all, he’s a writer.”

Get the picture? Joining a reasonable number of clubs that make sense in the context of your larger interests will make your application more attractive to Admissions Officers. They want to understand who you are. Listing as many random clubs as possible won’t help them do that.

So, join clubs that align with your interests. Be an active member. And make sure the clubs you join create a plausible, compelling narrative.

 

16 Oct 2017

A (Fallen) Hero: Atticus Finch, Legacy, & The Common App Essay

Since 1960, the year Harper Lee first published To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch has figured prominently in the hearts, minds, and college essays of America’s youth. Atticus – the staunchly principled Southern lawyer (who heroically defends Tom Robinson, a black man unjustly accused of rape) – helped Mockingbird win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. He stood as a model of moral courage and unflappable resolve in the face of injustice and racism. And now, the literary icon thousands of students have surely written about to help them get into college, is the subject of dismay, confusion, and disappointment.

On July 14, 2015, 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, a previously undiscovered Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman, was released to the public. It appears that Watchman was actually a first draft of Mockingbird – a fact which makes the book all the more shocking; readers are confronted with a very different Atticus. The Watchman Atticus belongs to a group closely tied to the KKK, and is thoroughly unwilling to change with the times. What makes this discovery so surprising is that Watchman is set 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird, which begs the question: how could this be the same man? How could this heroic father become as bigoted and backwards as the very people he stood up against in Mockingbird?

In some ways, though, Watchman makes To Kill A Mockingbird, and more specifically Atticus Finch, all the more extraordinary. Mockingbird was written through the eyes of Atticus’ six-year-old daughter, Jean-Louise, who understandably saw Atticus, her father, as a hero among men. His moral failings, therefore, went unacknowledged. But much of Atticus’ actions in Mockingbird, even in light of Watchman’s revelations, still prove heroic; Atticus did defend Tom Robinson, a black man in the South, from an unjust hanging; he did sit outside Robinson’s cell one night with a shotgun to protect him from a violent KKK mob; and, most significantly, he did manage to put aside his archaic personal views when it was called of him. Though in the wake of Watchman, our perception of Atticus may have changed, Lee’s two novels combine to form a powerful message: We can put aside personal beliefs, however strong they might be, to do what is righteous in the end. As such, Atticus Finch’s integrity may even be more praise-worthy today than it was 55 years ago, given the intensity of his troubling convictions. For college-gazing high school students who, until Watchman, were thinking of writing about Atticus on their Common App, maybe there is still something there worth exploring.