Blog

13 Jul 2020

What’s Happening on College Campuses this Fall?

As college students anxiously await news from their universities regarding what campus life (or lack thereof) will look like this fall, several schools have come out with announcements about reopening. Realistically, with COVID-19 cases spiking once again, the fall semester remains uncertain. However, several top schools have begun to set a precedent by announcing their plans for partial reopening. Keeping in mind that all plans are subject to change (public health crisis pending), here’s what we know so far as the following schools set a trend for the fall… 

Harvard 

On July 6th, Harvard announced that it will open its dorms to incoming freshmen this fall and ask sophomores, juniors, and seniors to seek approval to return to campus. In addition to freshmen, Harvard will house students who “must be on campus to progress academically,” namely those who do not have adequate resources to study off campus, struggle with housing insecurity, or require access to lab facilities. They have set a 40% upper limit on the percentage of the student body that will be invited back to campus. 

Though some students will be onsite in the fall, all courses will be taught virtually for students both on and off campus. Their rationale for encouraging freshmen to live on campus, despite all classes going virtual, is the potential for building a network of faculty, advisors, and friends that comes with living on campus.

University of Pennsylvania

UPenn, on the other hand, announced on June 25th that they will be inviting all students back to campus in the fall under a hybrid instruction model. Classes are scheduled to begin in person (to the extent possible) on September 1st and end on November 20th. (Classes of less than 25 students will be allowed to meet in person, to be held in larger-than-normal spaces.) The remainder of the semester, as well as final exams, will be conducted remotely. They will also offer the option to access all fall course material remotely if students are unable to return to campus. 

Housing-wise, UPenn will only guarantee housing for first-years, sophomores, and transfer students. These students will be housed in private bedrooms. 

Cornell

Cornell plans to follow UPenn’s lead, announcing on June 30th that they will welcome all students back to its Ithaca campus for the fall semester, blending in-person and online instruction. 

Like UPenn, the in-person semester is set to begin on September 2nd. Students will then return home for Thanksgiving break and finish the term virtually. For those unable to return to Ithaca, Cornell assures students there will be remote learning options available. 

MIT 

On July 7th, MIT released their plan to invite a maximum of 60% of the student body back to campus in the fall, prioritizing seniors and others who require in-person instruction and facilities to complete their coursework. There will be remote instruction available for all students off campus. For students on campus, there will be a combination of online and in-person instruction available. 

Like UPenn and Cornell, MIT classes will begin September 1st and students will depart campus before Thanksgiving. To minimize travel, all undergraduates will continue classes remotely through December. 

Yale

Yale announced on July 1st that they will be welcoming a portion of the student body back to campus in the fall. In each semester, three of the four undergraduate classes will be permitted to live and study on campus, in order to reduce normal density. Seniors and juniors may be on campus for the full year. First-years may study on campus during the fall and sophomores during the spring. Courses will be delivered in a hybrid “residential-remote” format in which professors largely teach online, with in-person instruction in some cases — including discussion sections, lab, and studio courses. 

As colleges piece together creative solutions in response to the current crisis, we anticipate getting more clarity in the coming weeks. Though we are seeing common trends in hybrid learning models and housing availability, each school is taking a slightly different approach to reopening. All of these schools make explicitly clear that students will be held to strict behavioral and testing requirements — presumably social distancing, mask-wearing, and regular COVID testing. 

As always, we are here to help navigate this challenging time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. Above all, we hope everyone is staying safe and well!

02 Jul 2020

A Student’s Guide to Avoiding Screen Fatigue

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

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

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

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

1. Curate your physical and virtual spaces 

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

2. Customize your on-screen experience

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

3. Perfect your lighting

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

4. Use the 20-20-20 rule 

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

5. Hydrate 

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

6. Know when to take a break!

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

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

24 Jun 2020

ACT Updates: Additional Fall Test Dates

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

September Test Dates: 

Saturday 9/12 

Sunday 9/13 – Now open to ALL students! 

Saturday 9/19 – NEW

October Test Dates: 

Saturday 10/10 – NEW 

Saturday 10/17 – NEW 

Saturday 10/24

Sunday 10/25 – Now open to ALL students! 

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

Also, please note: 

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

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

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

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

17 Jun 2020

What to do when your dream school goes test optional…

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

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

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

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

What does this mean going forward?

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

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

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

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


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

10 Jun 2020

More Summer Reading Suggestions

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

Looking to dive into some fiction?

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

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

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

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

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

How about nonfiction? 

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

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

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

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

Economics

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

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

History

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

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

Science / Medicine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03 Jun 2020

Summer Reading for SAT & ACT Preparation

Summer Reading for SAT / ACT Prep

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

Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nonfiction

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

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

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

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

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

Short Stories

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

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

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

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

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

“Prosody 101” by Linda Pastan

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

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

“The Dance” by Cornelius Eady

“In Memoriam” by Alfred Tennyson

“The Mountain” by Louise Glück

“To Marguerite: Continued” by Matthew Arnold

“The Young Author” by Samuel Johnson

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

22 May 2020

How to Have a Productive Summer 2020

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

Test Prep

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

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

Volunteer

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

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

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

Independent Projects

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

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

Read

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

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

Summer Classes

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

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

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

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

14 May 2020

COVID-Related News: Grad School Exams

For those of you who have been preparing to sit for the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT in the coming months, we know how unsettling it must feel when a global pandemic disrupts your carefully calculated grad school preparation. Fortunately, each respective entity is working hard to keep us informed about modifications made to the format, administration, or schedule of their exams. Identifying the information that is relevant to your situation might feel daunting. Here’s what we know about the official changes made to the following popular grad school exams: 

GRE Update:

The Educational Testing Service (ETS) is now offering a GRE General Test at-home option. The at-home option is identical in content, format, and on-screen experience to the GRE exam taken at a test center. During the online exam, test-takers are monitored by a human proctor. Per ETS, at-home administrations are currently available around the clock every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday through June 30th. Appointments may be available as early as 24 hours after registering for the exam, but in our experience, most students wait 2 – 3 weeks for an appointment, so be sure to plan accordingly. Looking to take the GRE at home? Start the registration process here

Please note: If you are planning to take the GRE, you MUST take the test on a PC or laptop with a Windows operating system. If you attempt to take the exam with Mac iOS software, you will be denied access. This is crucial. If you have any questions about whether your software is sufficient for the at-home GRE, check out this equipment and environment checklist, where you will also find info on what constitutes a suitable testing environment (private room, built-in camera, microphone, and more). If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to us! 

GMAT Update: 

Like the GRE, the GMAT Online Exam is becoming widely available as the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) continues to support students who are working to meet upcoming business school application deadlines. The GMAT Online Exam is remotely proctored and open to all prospective test-takers. The most notable change is the omission of the Analytical Writing Assessment Section. The online version will include the Quantitative, Verbal, and Integrated Reasoning sections, with the same number of questions and time per section as the in-person version of the exam, for a total exam time of approximately 3 hours. 

In an impressive feat of flexibility, appointment times are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can schedule an appointment up to 24 hours before an available testing window. Registration is now open until June 15th, at which point public health conditions will be re-evaluated and future appointment dates will be added as needed. 

Please note: The GMAT Online Exam can be taken on both Windows and Mac PCs or laptops, but do check out their system requirements before registering. 

LSAT Update: 

The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has announced the unveiling of an online, remotely proctored version of the LSAT: the LSAT-Flex, which has been on the horizon for some time now. Check out what we have to say about the new LSAT in-home administration. In short, candidates who were signed up for the April LSAT have been automatically registered for the May LSAT-Flex (administered during the week of May 18th). Likewise, those who were registered for the in-person June LSAT as of April 29th can opt to take the June LSAT-Flex (administered during the week of June 14th). 

Registration for the June LSAT-Flex is now open! LSAC encourages prospective test-takers, especially those who prefer to test at a certain time of day or have scheduling conflicts, to sign up as soon as possible. Slots will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis — so nail down that time slot while there are still plenty of options available!

LSAC notes they do plan to resume offering the in-person LSAT once public health conditions allow. However, if the LSAT is in your future, stay tuned because this online, shortened version of the LSAT may prove to be a welcome change. As the world adjusts to a “new normal,” the LSAT may transition permanently to an online “new normal.”

MCAT Update:

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has not made any indication that the MCAT will be moving into remote territory. All May test dates have, of course, been cancelled. As of May 8th, three new test dates have been added to the calendar (June 28th, September 27th, and September 28th). Three test appointments will be held per date. Registration for these dates is now open. 

The AAMC has temporarily shortened the exam in order to increase testing capacity while following social distancing protocols in test centers. For more info on how this notoriously lengthy exam is being shortened, here is a breakdown of the new version. Test-takers can still expect to be tested in all four sections with fewer questions in each, for a total exam time of 5 hours and 45 minutes (rather than the typical 7 hours and 30 minutes). The scoring for the shortened exam will be identical to that of the full-length exam. 

As we all experience the daily sensory overload of COVID-related news, we hope our updates provide some clarity as you take these important steps towards graduate school. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you are seeking additional academic or test prep support during this challenging time. As always, at Sentia we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™! 

07 May 2020

Last Minute AP Exam Study Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

01 May 2020

COVID-Related News: ACT / SAT / AP

We hope you’re staying safe and well. With daily updates and changes on the standardized testing front, we are here to provide the most up-to-date COVID-related news. As always, we want to ensure that you feel supported in the test prep process. At this unprecedented time, having clarity on the when’s, where’s, and how’s of taking your SAT, ACT, or AP exams is essential. Here’s what we know: 

ACT Updates: 

Though ACT June test dates have not been officially cancelled, there is still a strong likelihood of June cancellations. We recommend that students registered for the June administration utilize the Flexible Scheduling option to change their June test date to July for free. At this time, July seems a safer bet and officially changing your test date may relieve some of the uncertainty-induced stress and allow you to create a more productive test preparation schedule.

Without any formal announcement, ACT has also opened up their July test date to New York state! Currently, there are no available testing sites in NYC, but this could change, so keep an eye on your registration portal. 

Looking ahead to the fall, ACT will be offering three previously planned test dates on September 12th, October 24th, and December 12th. While we don’t have full details on timeline yet, ACT will also be unveiling their new at-home digital testing option in the late fall / early winter. 

This option would allow students to take the test at home on a computer, which would certainly be a game changer. (This is becoming a trend in the world of standardized testing, check out what we have to say about the new online LSAT.)

In other ACT news, starting in September 2020 students who have already taken the full ACT exam will have the option to retake one or more specific sections of the test. Section retakes will eventually be offered digitally as well, which will be a test-taking timesaver and speed up the wait time for receiving scores. 

SAT Updates: 

Continue preparing for the August exam! (See our previous post about June cancellations and recommendation.) The College Board plans to provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of 2020 beginning in August, public health permitting. This means that students will be able to test on August 29th, September 26th (new!), October 3rd, November 7th, or December 5th. Remember, most colleges will accept scores through the November administration for early applications, so rising seniors still have four remaining opportunities to test.

According to College Board, students will be notified during the week of May 26th about registration for these test dates, but we recommend keeping an eye on your email and the website in case anything changes. Rising seniors without test scores and students registered for June test dates will be granted priority access before registration opens up for everyone else. The College Board will be sending out clarifying information on what that priority access looks like on the week of May 26th, as well. 

AP Exam Updates: 

AP exams will look very different this year: all exams will be delivered online, to be taken at home. The tests will be limited to 45 minutes and the multiple choice portion of all exams will be eliminated. Additionally, exams will be open note. Check out these tips for success on open note exams and stay tuned for more tips on how to approach the new exam format. 

AP exams will be offered May 11th – 22nd, with make-up exams offered June 1st – 5th. Though having more time to prepare for your AP exams may seem appealing, all students should plan to take their tests during the May testing window. If you encounter any issues in May, the June testing window will serve as a contingency plan. No additional make-up dates will be offered, so it is crucial to plan to take your exam(s) in May! 

This year, AP exams will only include content that is typically covered by teachers through early March. The College Board assures us that they are committed to upholding the integrity of their AP exams, especially under such unusual circumstances, which will mean extra attention to exam security and fairness. They will be utilizing tools to detect plagiarism and other testing irregularities. 

Despite these major changes, the College Board is determined to honor the time and effort that high school students have poured into their AP classes this year. They are enthusiastic that colleges will give credit to students with qualifying 2020 AP scores. Many top colleges including Yale and the UC schools have publicly pledged support for granting 2020 AP credit. Many other colleges, however, are still evaluating how they will handle incoming scores. Because of the changes made this year, it’s possible that there will be no official mandate for schools to offer AP credit. As more colleges comment publicly on the matter and set a precedent, the landscape of 2020 AP credit will become clearer.

We know this testing season holds many unforeseen changes. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions or need additional support. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™ — especially in such uncertain times.