Category Archives: Uncategorized

19 Jan 2021

College Board Ends the SAT Subject Tests

***This post reflects recently announced news and will be updated as more information becomes available.***

Today, College Board announced that it is eliminating the SAT Subject Test program. At Sentia, we had our suspicions that this change might be imminent; in the past several days our students have had difficulty registering for these exams on College Board’s website. In a closed webinar scheduled for today, we anticipate that the College Board CEO will deliver more details on the change. 

Additionally, the Essay section of the SAT will be eliminated. This change will be less profound for our students as most colleges have de-emphasized the importance of the Writing sections of both the ACT and SAT. Indeed, we anticipate that ACT will follow suit and likely eliminate their essay component in the coming 18 months. 

SAT Subject Tests have long been an important component of many of Sentia’s students’ application portfolios. While their demise – and the sudden rollout of these changes – will be distressing to some students, there remain several other means by which students who aspire to attend competitive colleges can stand out.

SAT and ACT scores will begin to hold more weight in the admissions process. With exceptional tutoring and sufficient tutorial planning, this change will allow our students to spend their preparation time focusing on one exam, rather than splitting time in the spring of Junior year between the ACT or SAT and two to three Subject Tests.

Grades, of course, become even more important when other components of an application dossier are eliminated. For most students, that means that judicious and appropriate academic support is more important than ever. Our teachers and academic mentors are well-equipped to ethically and efficiently ensure Sentia’s students are fully prepared to excel in their assessments – quizzes, exams, papers, projects, and take-home tests. 

What other ways can students stand out? At Sentia, we have long taken an approach that emphasizes academic mentorship, not just tutoring. After all, our motto is: At Sentia, we don’t just tutor; we’ll be with you every step of the way™. Our students work with their Sentia mentors to perform independent research papers ready for peer review, build inventions that win science competitions, start volunteer programs that transform lives, and learn curricula that far surpasses what’s offered at their schools. 


FAQs:

So, I can’t take Subject Tests?

Right. All Subject Tests (with the exception of the May and June 2021 administrations for international students) have been canceled. Students in the U.S. who registered for the May and/or June 2021 Subject Tests will automatically receive a refund. If you’d like to arrange for your fee to be credited towards a future SAT administration, you can contact College Board Customer Service at +1 (212) 713-7789 or sat@info.collegeboard.org

My dream school still says it highly recommends two Subject Tests. Wait, Georgetown still says it wants three!

Believe it or not, our friends at admissions offices at top colleges weren’t all given a heads up on this change. Students in the class of 2022 are likely to receive confusing information for a while. Will the tests you’ve already taken this year be evaluated as part of the admissions process? How about that Bio score from freshman year? The short answer is: we don’t know yet. Your scores may still be a part of your application or schools may go “test blind” on Subject Tests (meaning they will not look at them, even if submitted).

My child is homeschooled. Help!

Our homeschooled students who work with Sentia academic mentors and tutors will likely not welcome this news. SAT Subject Tests have long been a way for homeschooled students to stand out and demonstrate a wide range of deep knowledge. If your child is homeschooled, contact us so we can collaborate on a plan to ensure your child remains competitive in the admissions processes at top colleges and universities. 

My child goes to school in the United States and is applying to Oxford and Cambridge. What do I do?

Many students applying to schools abroad have used Subject Tests to meet application requirements. Some schools, such as Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, have long preferred AP exams to demonstrate knowledge. We anticipate that AP exams will become even more important – and perhaps required – in these admissions processes. If you aren’t currently planning to take AP exams, contact Sentia. We will likely need to revise your strategy.

My school doesn’t offer AP exams though. What do I do?

College Board’s elimination of the SAT Subject Tests will allow College Board to assign greater resources to its Common Core planning and thus its AP curriculum. For students whose schools do not offer most – or any – AP exams, this change is challenging. We regularly assist our students in registering for AP exams not offered at their schools as well as mentorship to supplement their in-class learning with the material necessary to excel on those exams. We anticipate that in the absence of Subject Tests, greater emphasis will be placed on finding ways for U.S. students to take AP exams. At Sentia, we are committed to working closely with our students to ensure AP exam access and comprehensive preparation. The deadline to register for a May exam has been pushed back to March 12th. Please contact us ASAP so we can help outline a plan for any student who would like to pivot from Subject Tests to AP exams. 

AP exams have, in fact, been on the rise as Subject Tests have become less widely used. We’ve seen this trend strengthen over the past 20 years. Take a look for yourself:

This focus on AP exams is the most notable change, perhaps more so than the elimination of a test that only the most competitive students completed. College Board will create (and, yes, sell) more AP exams than ever before. These exams will likely become vastly more important in the college admissions process and yet they are not offered at many high schools throughout the United States or globally. Our students who attend elite boarding and day schools that do not operate on the Common Core curriculum will need to find new and creative ways to demonstrate their knowledge. 

Do I need to take the SAT Essay if I’m signed up for the essay component? Should I skip the essay part? 

We do not anticipate the essay component will be a relevant factor in admissions decisions going forward. If you’d like to adjust your reservation to SAT without Essay, you should contact College Board to do so. 

Rest assured that we will work collaboratively with your family to ensure this testing disruption does not leave your child at a disadvantage. At Sentia, we remain as committed as ever to assisting our students and families in navigating the dynamic and ever-changing world of learning and testing. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns; we welcome the opportunity to provide your family with the individualized, professional guidance and support you’ll need in the wake of this change.

31 Dec 2020

OMG I forgot to waive my FERPA rights… What now?

In short: don’t freak out. There are plenty of articles out there that will tell you how important it is to waive your FERPA rights on the Common App. While it’s true — understanding the FERPA waiver is an important part of the admissions process — forgetting to sign away your FERPA rights, we believe, is not an irreparable mistake. We’ve spoken with admissions representatives at several top-tier colleges on the matter and here’s what we’ve discovered… 

What is FERPA? 

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that gives parents the right to access their children’s education records, seek to have the records amended, and have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. Once a student turns 18 years old, or pursues postsecondary education at any age, these FERPA rights are transferred from the parents to the student. So, if you are in the process of applying to colleges, understanding and (most likely) waiving your FERPA rights is your responsibility! 

FERPA is relevant to the college admissions process because your education records will include your application to the college where you eventually enroll. More specifically, FERPA gives you the right to review confidential letters of recommendation that were provided with your application after you enroll. You read that correctly: this is all a matter of whether you will be able to access your application materials after you’re already enrolled at a college. 

A common misconception is that not waiving your FERPA rights means you will be able to review your letters of recommendation before submitting your application. This is not the case! Whether or not you get to look at your letters of recommendation before they are submitted is entirely between you and your recommenders. It is within their rights to share a letter of recommendation with the student privately if they so desire. However, in the academic world, recommendation letters tend to be kept confidential. Under no circumstances would it be appropriate to ask your recommender to read their letter.

What are the benefits of waiving my FERPA rights?

Admissions officers give the most weight to letters of recommendation that provide an honest and qualified assessment of the applicant. Failure to waive your FERPA rights could subtly signal to your recommenders or to the admissions officers that you don’t trust your recommender to write a strong and compelling letter for you. In the worst case scenario, the letter might be written in a less candid manner and interpreted as less genuine by the admissions team. In short, if a recommender knows that the student might read their letter at some point down the road, it may result in a more generic, less powerful letter. 

That being said, as long as you’re thoughtful and intentional about choosing recommenders who are supportive mentors and know you well, you can likely rest assured that your recommenders only intend to support you by helping you get into college. Letters of recommendation are an integral part of an applicant’s profile. Waiving your FERPA rights is just one more step you can take to ensure that your recommendations are strong and candid. 

What should I do if I forgot to waive my FERPA rights?

First of all, stay calm. We have spoken with admissions representatives at a variety of top-tier schools who understand that students may at some point decide that they would like to waive their FERPA rights, even if they did not do so initially. Several of the admissions officers said that if a student would like to update their FERPA waiver status, they can simply send an email to the admissions office stating that they would like to waive their FERPA rights. Other reps indicated that emailing a digitally signed copy of the Common App’s Teacher Evaluation Form, where a student can check the “I waive my right to review all recommendations and supporting documents submitted by me or on my behalf” box, would suffice in updating that student’s FERPA status. 

At several other colleges, admissions reps were adamant that a student’s FERPA status does not impact their consideration of that student’s application, highlighting that the decision to waive (or not waive) FERPA rights is entirely between the student and their recommenders.

In summary: Don’t hesitate to call admissions offices directly! Be sure to get the scoop on how the FERPA waiver impacts the admissions process at each of the schools on your list. In general, if you make it known to an admissions team that you have no intention of gaining access to your application materials (primarily letters of recommendation) at any point during or after the admissions process, it is highly likely that they will have a protocol for allowing you to amend your FERPA status. 

If you ever find yourself in this situation, we hope you find this information helpful and stress-relieving. Here at Sentia, we wish everyone a warm, safe, and healthy holiday season and a very Happy New Year! As always, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

19 Nov 2020

Update on At-Home SAT / ACT Testing

Since the spring, there has been much speculation surrounding the launch of online versions of the SAT and ACT. With last-minute test center closings and the public health risks associated with in-person testing, at-home SAT / ACT alternatives would be a welcome relief to many. Many graduate school entrance exams, including the GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, successfully transitioned to an online, at-home format back in March. This transition did not come without its challenges. Proctoring, in particular, poses a unique challenge and has sparked significant public debate about the ethics and efficacy of automated proctoring services that are garnering more and more users during the pandemic. While many argue that web-based proctoring services are invasive and stress-inducing for test-takers, the College Board and ACT grapple with how to create accessible, cheat-proof, and glitch-free versions of their respective exams. 

As things stand now, ACT has indicated that students in the US can expect the release of an online ACT in late 2020 (any day now!) or early 2021. (The release seems unlikely before 2021). This version of the ACT is expected to look like the computer-based ACT that is currently offered to international students. The College Board, on the other hand, has not released any concrete information about when an online SAT might be available to the masses. They have cited internet access concerns as a central reason for the delayed rollout. For both exams, the technology requirements remain unknown. Unequal access to the technology required to take an online exam at home compounds the myriad of obstacles in making at-home SAT and ACT testing an equitable reality. 

As we all await official updates from the College Board and ACT, we’ve outlined a couple possibilities that have been raised:

Live proctoring – ACT and College Board both acknowledge that at-home testing will require proctoring on an unprecedented scale. ACT has been transparent about looking at several options, including the possibility of live proctoring for each full-length exam. This would require a webcam on each student for the duration of the exam. The College Board has not provided further details on how they plan to proctor at-home exams. 

Provisional score reports – The ACT has come forth with another option that would require students to take both an unproctored full-length exam and a shorter, live-proctored exam. With this option, students would receive a “provisional score report” for the full-length exam. In order to verify their provisional score, they would then take the short, proctored exam and the scores from each exam would be compared in order to eliminate or identify incongruencies in exam performance. It’s possible that this approach would inadvertently increase testing anxiety without providing a reliable means of verifying students’ skills. 

Perhaps, as at-home COVID testing becomes a more widespread reality, so too will at-home SAT and ACT testing. As always, we will stay up-to-date on the latest testing news as the pandemic progresses. Please stay tuned and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re seeking additional support. We are always happy to help; we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

03 Nov 2020

Getting Involved From a Distance

Though many students may want to give back to their communities in this time of tremendous need, finding volunteer opportunities while remaining socially distant is not always easy. With many community service organizations on pause or switching gears in response to the pandemic, some students may be struggling to remain engaged in volunteer efforts while also staying safe. If you’ve been previously involved with an organization with a mission that you’re passionate about, we suggest reaching out to them to see if there are any remote volunteer positions available. Many groups have created new remote or socially distanced opportunities for involvement, so definitely tap into those pre-existing relationships. Who knows? They might need help with a weekly newsletter or content creation for their website. If you’re looking for new ways to get involved, we have plenty of ideas — read on! 

Become a Tutor

If you’re a student experiencing remote learning, you probably understand this reality all too well: Online school is challenging. There are plenty of kids out there who are looking for support in making the most of their remote learning. For those of you who enjoy working with children, virtual tutoring can be an excellent way to support young students and share your knowledge. There are many platforms out there for remote tutoring. Generally, virtual tutors are paired with a student or group of students who they meet with weekly to work on a specific subject. If you’re interested in learning more, check out these organizations as a jumping-off point: TeensGive, UPchieve, and GO Project.

Pen Pal Opportunities

Social isolation is pervasive among the elderly even in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of others while flexing your written language skills, you might enjoy getting matched with a pen pal. There are several programs that match volunteers with seniors citizens for letter exchanges and updates. Here are a few good places to start your pen pal search: Adopt a Senior, Friends for Life, Pandemic Pen Pals. Or, if you’re interested in connecting with seniors in your local community, consider reaching out to a local nursing home to see if they’re open to pairing you with a pen pal. This could be a meaningful opportunity to forge a relationship with someone with very different life experiences than your own. Oftentimes, those are the most interesting and fruitful friendships! 

Use Your Language Skills 

If you speak a foreign language, there are many virtual options for volunteering your language skills. Bilingual students may want to consider tutoring virtually, as discussed above. In the world of translation, there are plenty of opportunities for students with sufficient fluency in another language. Translators Without Borders recruits volunteers who want to translate texts into different languages for various NGOs and nonprofits. This organization recognizes that the dissemination of reliable COVID-19 information (in as many different languages as is necessary) is absolutely essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19. TED translators is another great opportunity. These translators volunteer to subtitle global TED Talks, enabling their ideas to reach a broader audience by transcending language barriers. 

Check Out VolunteerMatch

Back in May, we proposed several ideas for how to have a productive summer in 2020. Of course, volunteering was high on our list. If you haven’t already checked out VolunteerMatch, now might be a great time to do so. Here, you can search for local volunteer opportunities. Plus, they even have a COVID-19 Resource Hub, where you can explore a directory of COVID-related and remote volunteer opportunities. 

We hope you find some inspiration in these suggestions and we encourage you to seek out involvement in whatever areas are most exciting to you! Despite the unprecedented circumstances, we want to make sure you feel supported and engaged in whatever you are doing during these challenging times. We’d be happy to help brainstorm more personalized suggestions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

18 Sep 2020

ACT Math: Is It Getting More Difficult?

Since 2016, the ACT Math section has undergone some changes that, indeed, have made the section a bit more difficult. The ACT has introduced a wider variety of advanced math topics since 2016, though it has not increased the emphasis placed on difficult questions. Rather, the ACT rotates these topics among the most challenging math questions that typically show up at the conclusion of the section. The bulk of the content remains the same, but you may run into some questions towards the end of the math section that feel more challenging.

ACT vs. SAT Math 

While the redesigned SAT has narrowed its focus in the math section and tends to include more algebra (accounting for more than 60% of the math sections!), the ACT has moved in the opposite direction by expanding its scope to include a broader variety of advanced topics. For example, over the past several years the ACT has begun including topics like matrix multiplication, conic sections, asymptotes, terminal sides and coterminal angles — the list goes on. 

The range of topics covered by the ACT is looking more and more like that of the SAT Math II Subject Test. The key distinction here, however, is that the ACT is not placing the same degree of emphasis on the hardest math concepts — chances are the advanced topics will show up in small numbers towards the end of the section. 

By pushing the upper limits of math content difficulty, the ACT requires students to achieve a higher level of mastery in advanced math concepts in order to attain top scores. This may be part of a larger scheme to more effectively populate the full score range, with more of a tangible distinction between scores in the 30-36 range. Fewer students with perfect scores allows for a broader range of scaled and raw scores. 

How Useful Is My Calculator? 

Additionally, the ACT writers seem to be crafting problems that render your calculator less useful. By asking more conceptual questions or asking for answers in terms of variables rather than numerical values, the ACT pushes test-takers to more deeply understand the content. The ACT is also directly assessing math vocabulary by asking for the computational definition of independent events in a probability question, for example. Without explicit knowledge of these terms, a student will be less likely to select the correct answer and a calculator will be of no use to you in these cases.

All this is to say: Yes, the ACT is including more difficult concepts in the math section, but not to worry! Every test-taker is experiencing the same increase in difficulty level and scores will be scaled accordingly. For top score hopefuls, mastering the advanced math concepts will be key to working towards that 34, 35, or 36. If math is your strong suit, this may be an opportunity to make your ACT score stand out. If you’re struggling with ACT math content, trying to figure out how to structure your study regimen, looking to take your test scores to the next level, or anything in between, we would be happy to help. Don’t hesitate to reach out! At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

28 Aug 2020

SAT Test Center Closings

If you are planning to take the SAT in the near future, be sure to keep an eye on the SAT Test Center Closings page on the College Board website. It is important to note that individual test centers decide whether or not to administer the SAT, pending health and safety. College Board notes, “All weekend test centers must adhere to local public health guidelines and follow College Board requirements.” In the rapidly changing landscape of a pandemic, this could mean unexpected test cancellations (even at the very last minute). 

This page will be updated with new information every three hours. We recommend checking the College Board website, your email, as well as your individual test center’s website the night before and morning of your scheduled exam. There is also the possibility of test centers reducing their capacity, in which case test-takers will be notified by email. It is essential that College Board has your correct contact info in the event of a last minute change. You can confirm your contact details here.  

If your test center makes the decision to close, expect to be contacted directly by email or text for more details on the cancellation, reduced capacity, a refund, or a possible location change and makeup date. 

If your test center is closed, you can register for a future test date. 


We understand that the possibility of a last minute change must feel jarring, especially for those who have been preparing diligently for your exams. As we all navigate this unprecedented and unpredictable time, we are here to help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. At Sentia, we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

26 Aug 2020

International ACT Cancellations for December and February Test Dates

On August 25th, ACT made the official announcement that all international ACT administrations will be cancelled in the months of December 2020 and February 2021 due to the risks posed by COVID-19. ACT cites new testing procedures and safety precautions at the root of the decision, which anticipates complications and school closures due to the upcoming flu season and a potential COVID-19 resurgence. 

Students who were already registered for December and February test dates have been notified of their options, which include placement in an alternate testing date in the 2020-2021 year at no charge or a full refund. 

In the meantime, September and October international administrations will move ahead as planned. 

For those whose study plans have been disrupted by this announcement, coming up with a contingency plan is imperative. You may want to consider the following options.

Plan to test in October: If you are already far along in your test prep and feel ready to test sooner rather than later, consider moving up your test date to October. 

Plan to test in April: If you have not yet started your ACT prep, you may want to wait until the new year before diving into your study regimen. Or, if you have already begun studying, put your studies on pause until January or February in order to avoid burnout. 

Consider the SAT: If taking the ACT in October or April will not suit your needs, you may want to set your sights on the December 5th or March 13th SAT administrations. Though the pacing and structure of the ACT and SAT are different, about 80% of the content overlaps. So, by preparing for the ACT you have already been inadvertently building a foundation of knowledge for the SAT as well. 

If you are seeking more guidance in navigating these recent developments, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are always happy to provide support and answer any questions or concerns.

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™!

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.