Back to School After COVID-19: 3 Tips for Hybrid Learning

It’s been twelve months since COVID-19 shut down our schools and pushed us all to virtual learning. After a very, very long year, it looks like Fairfax County Public Schools are finally heading back to school this month! Students are excited to see their friends, interact with their teachers face-to-face, and reclaim some sense of normalcy. While we’re all looking forward to this big step in that direction, hybrid learning will in many ways represent another “new normal” with its own set of challenges.

In today’s blog, I want to help you set your family up for success with hybrid schooling. Check out these three tips to go “back to school” the right way, then share this blog with a fellow parent who is counting down the days until that first school drop-off!

#1: Review Your Systems

No matter how your child learns—in-person, virtual, or hybrid—there are always due dates, assignments, and resources to keep organized. For many of us, the switch from in-person to virtual schooling last year required new systems for keeping things straight. The transition to hybrid learning will likely require further adjustments to your routine.

Take some time now to review your child’s systems for keeping track of assignments and due dates. When information is communicated both in-person and online, students will need a plan for keeping everything organized. Tools like Google Calendar, the DayBoard app, or even an old-school whiteboard can help your child track assignments and due dates in this new season. Once hybrid schooling begins, you may make additional tweaks as you figure out what works for your child and family, but go ahead and get some sort of systems in place as a starting point now.

#2: Have a Launching Pad

Before we went to online learning, we often recommended families create a “launching pad” for each child. This is a place, often a basket or cubby by the front door, where kids can put everything they need for school. The night before school, your child can place their school supplies, sports gear, and musical instruments in their launching pad. This cuts down on those early-morning frantic searches and the inevitable texts about forgotten “must-haves” as soon as you get to work.

When families stopped leaving the house for school (or much of anything else, really), there wasn’t as much need for a launching pad. With the move to hybrid schooling, however, it’s time to bring this routine back! Each night, encourage your child to gather everything they’ll need for the next day and put it in a designated “launching pad.” Doing this daily, regardless of whether the next day is virtual or in-person, will help your child stay organized and cut down on the back-and-forth confusion of a hybrid schedule.

#3: Work Ahead of Due Dates

Working ahead of due dates is a good practice no matter what, but it’s especially wise if your child is on block scheduling for hybrid school. We recommend students start assignments the day they’re assigned rather than the night before they’re due. That way, if there’s a question, your child has time to ask it in-person at school—especially if they only see their teacher in person once a week!

Working ahead like this can cut down on late-night homework stress, last-minute emails to the teacher, and incomplete or incorrect assignments. But we know this is easier said than done, especially if your child is a procrastinator by nature! Remember, we’re here to help.

Extra Support with Hybrid Schooling

Hybrid schooling requires strong executive functioning skills like time management and organization. These skills are critical to succeeding in school and life, but they must be learned! Of course, many students push back at their parents’ attempts to help in this key area. That’s where our expert coaches come in.

Our Executive Functioning coaches can help your child work independently and master those important skills. Click here to learn more and take our simple yes/no quiz to see if this program is right for your family!

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The Real Reason Your Child Procrastinates

They procrastinate getting ready, then walk out the door without their soccer cleats. They procrastinate studying, and no one knows they need help until the bad grade comes back on a big test. They procrastinate on a project, and the whole family suffers through a stressful late night before the due date.

As a parent, you’d love to help your child conquer their procrastination tendencies, but you can’t do that until you understand the underlying causes that drive the bad habit. In today’s blog, I want to help you understand why kids really procrastinate. This information will equip you to instill a sense of responsibility in your child—and regain some order and peace in your home along the way!

The Real Reason Kids Procrastinate

Before we dive into why kids struggle with procrastination and disorganization, let’s debunk some myths. No, you haven’t failed them as a parent. No, they don’t have insurmountable personality flaws. No, they’re not necessarily lazy or bored or overwhelmed. The problem isn’t a reflection of their character or your parenting. It’s simply a sign that their executive functioning skills need further development.

Harvard University defines executive functioning skills as “the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully. Just as an air traffic control system at a busy airport safely manages the arrivals and departures of many aircraft on multiple runways, the brain needs this skill set to filter distractions, prioritize tasks, set and achieve goals, and control impulses.”

The good news is that these processes and skills can be taught and learned. Your child, who is continually forgetting everything from homework assignments to marching band instruments, can grow and improve. Don’t lose hope!

The Eight Executive Functioning Skills

Experts have identified eight executive functioning skills students need in order to succeed in school, work, and life. Understanding these key skills is the first step in helping your child improve their ability to manage their time, assignments, and goals independently:

  1. Inhibition is the ability to inhibit or stop distractions and impulses that can derail focus.
  2. Initiation is the ability to get started, especially when you don’t want to or when a task feels overwhelming.
  3. Shifting is the ability to “go with the flow” and recognize when things are out of one’s control.
  4. Emotional Control is the ability to process big feelings realistically and effectively.
  5. Working Memory is the ability to use visuals to track what one needs to remember or complete.
  6. Planning and Organization is the ability to think beyond one day and plan out long-term assignments.
  7. Materials Organization is the ability to keep digital files and paperwork organized and accessible.
  8. Self-Monitoring is the ability to accurately assess one’s performance and status.

As you read through that list, you may be able to identify some skills as harder or easier for your child. Recognizing areas of difficulty will help you know which skills your child needs to strengthen to improve their overall executive functioning.

How to Strengthen Executive Functioning Skills

Executive functioning skills are just that: skills. They can be learned, just like dribbling a basketball or solving math problems with long division. Yes, some of these abilities will come more naturally to some children than others, but nearly everyone can learn and strengthen these skills with guidance.

At Educational Connections, our executive functioning coaches help students learn and grow with…

  • Tools and Strategies – Students can use many different systems and strategies to stay organized, manage their time, and track their assignments. Our executive functioning coaches help students learn to identify, customize, or develop systems that fit their personality and needs.
  • Routines and Practice – Executive functioning skills take practice! Our coaches help students get into a rhythm of practicing critical skills daily and weekly so they can grow in confidence and independence.
  • Outside Support – Many students need outside support and accountability while strengthening these skills. Children often balk at their parents’ attempts to help but embrace the guidance of other adults. (Don’t take it personally—their resistance to you is a normal part of growing up!) Our coaches can provide that third-party support as students gain independence.

If your child struggles with executive functioning, we can help!

Our executive functioning coaches are trained experts who can help your child grow in these critical areas. With the help of our coaches and convenient online tutoring options, your child can grow in confidence, independence, and responsibility. (And your entire family can enjoy a more predictable and organized routine!) Click below to get started with a free consultation today.

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3 Good Reasons Why You Should Study for AP Exams

Studying for an AP exam can be a daunting task. The tests are long, in-depth, and cover a year’s worth of material. Especially as “spring fever” sets in, your child may be tempted to study a few times here and there or cram at the last minute, then wing it on test day. But there are three good reasons to study well for your AP Exams. Discuss these with your child and ask how they plan to prepare for test day. Then, click below to match with an AP coach who can help your student study and perform their very best.

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#1. Passing an AP Exam Can Save You Thousands of Dollars

You probably already know that passing an AP exam gives your child college credit, but have you thought about the amount of money that could save your family? In Virginia, in-state students spend an average of $500-800 per credit hour on college courses. Passing just one AP Exam could allow a student to test out of a 3-credit class, saving you between $1500 and $2400! If they attend an out-of-state university or private college, the savings can be even higher.

#2: They Can Kiss That Frustrating Subject Goodbye

If your child dislikes the subject of their AP course and doesn’t plan to use it in their career, they have another compelling reason to study hard! If they don’t pass, they’ll likely have to take a similar course all over again just to fulfill general education requirements in college. Don’t let all that hard work from this year go to waste! Any frustration with the class should drive students to put in the extra effort now so they can say goodbye to memorizing dates or practicing quadratic equations once and for all.

#3: They’ll Have More Opportunities in College

The more credits a student can get through AP exams, the fewer requirements they’ll have to fulfill in college. This frees up their schedule to double major, do an internship, hold a part-time job, take random classes that sound interesting, or even graduate early! College is an exciting time to explore, learn, and prepare for the future. Passing AP exams now will give your child more opportunities later.

Will Your Child Be Taking AP Exams? Here’s What You Need to Know

Now that you know studying for AP Exams is well worth the effort, what’s the best way to prepare for test day? Here are a few tips from our leading AP Coaches:

  • Put test day on your calendar now. You can click here for this year’s AP timeline from College Board. Pay special attention to testing days and the tip on using AP classroom resources.
  • Start preparing now. AP exams cover a LOT of material. Last-minute studying is stressful and ineffective. We offer 8-hour AP Tutoring programs spread out across the semester to help students prepare.
  • Devote study time to every subject. If your student is taking multiple AP exams, we recommend a unique AP Tutor and 8-hour plan for each one. Remember, each test could potentially save you thousands of dollars, so every subject is worth the effort!
  • Get a coach. AP Exams are different from any other exams your child has encountered thus far. They will have to go beyond memorizing facts and learn how to connect big concepts in a new way. Knowing how to identify the Big Idea for the science exam or answer Document Based Questions (DBQs) for the history exam requires a new approach to studying and practice. Plus, students will need to develop strategic study guides to use on the exam and practice answering free-response essays in timed settings. Our coaches help students review the materials, create a study guide, and practice with the new testing style so they can achieve their best possible score.

Don’t rely too much on the open-notes concept. AP Exams have allowed for open notes for years, and they still require a lot of studying. Having an open-notes exam makes creating a good study guide all the more critical. If the guide is too long, the student will struggle to find what they need in a timed setting. If the guide is too short, they may leave out important concepts they’ll need to reference in the test. That’s why our AP Coaches help students compile a study guide that will be most helpful on the test.

Get an AP Coach

Step 1: Get an AP Coach

We’ll start with a free consultation to learn more about your child’s needs. We’ll then match him or her with their ideal AP Coach based on their course material, schedule, and learning style.

Step 2: Receive Individualized Tutoring (Online!)

The AP Coach will provide eight hours of individualized, virtual tutoring sessions to help your child review the material, practice timed writing, and prepare for the unique style of AP Exams.

Step 3: Create a Study Guide

Students identify what’s important from each unit, then create a study guide that makes it easier to study effectively now and find critical information later during the open-notes exam.

Get an AP Coach

Don’t let spring fever, distance learning fatigue, or subject frustrations cost your child thousands of dollars in college credits or missed opportunities available to those with more freedom in their schedule. We’re here to help your student prepare and perform their very best!

Just click here to request an AP Coach or hit reply to email us directly with any additional questions. We’re here for you!

Missing in Action: Where Is Your Child’s Homework?

Even if you’ve been out of school for decades, it’s easy to remember that gut-punch feeling of sitting in class and suddenly remembering you forgot your homework. It’s happened to all of us—even though the systems were pretty straightforward when we were in school. Your teachers likely sent home a piece of paper with a list of assignments or wrote them on the whiteboard and waited for everyone to carefully copy them into personal planners.

Times have, of course, changed. Assignments are given, organized, completed, and submitted digitally. Systems and platforms differ from one teacher to the next. Add in the chaos of virtual or hybrid schooling, and it’s no wonder so many assignments skip through the cracks. Without as much in-person instruction, schools are forced to be more lenient, leaving it up to parents to ensure children complete their work and stay on track.

So how can you help your child stay on top of assignments without feeling like the homework police? That’s what today’s blog is all about. Read on for three simple steps to keep your child organized in this digital age. And why stop there? Get more of our homework tips here!

Step 1: Create a Site Map Together

If your parents were closely involved in your schooling, you might remember them checking your folder for homework assignments to ensure you completed everything and stayed on track. That parental support is helpful, especially with younger students, but the process is now a bit more complicated than quickly checking a folder. Especially when your child has multiple teachers, you may find that the platforms and procedures can vary slightly from one to the next. It can be scattered and confusing, but a site map can help.

A site map is a guide you create to keep track of where assignments are posted for each class so nothing gets missed. Sit down with your child and go through each class to review the systems for finding and submitting assignments. Take note of where everything is and any logins you may need, then compile the information in one handy guide.

Your child can then refer to this site map (with or without your help, depending on their age and executive functioning skills) every week to systematically check assignments for every class and teacher.

Step 2: Create a System That Works for You

If your child has only one teacher, he or she may have a straightforward system that works for your family. If so, great! Follow that one. But if you find your child is regularly missing assignments, work together to create a unified system that fits your family best.

Maybe your child can pick out an “old-school” paper planner to track assignments on a weekly and monthly basis. (This can be especially helpful as students get older and big projects have multiple milestones spread out over time!) Or perhaps you both prefer to use Google Calendar or another online calendar that you can both access from any device at any time.

You may also decide to get a whiteboard, where your child can write out their assignments at the start of each week and strike through them as they go. This process keeps students organized and inspires a feeling of accomplishment that motivates them to stay focused and finish everything on their to-do list.

Whatever you decide, start with the site map from step one to ensure no assignments are missed, then transfer them weekly into the system you create together for a more unified task-tracker that works for you.

Step 3: Focus on Completion over Perfection

As the parent, it’s not on you to ensure every homework assignment is perfect and error-free. This level of oversight will leave your child discouraged and resentful of your input. Instead, focus on helping your child track and complete the assignments. Celebrate their efforts and growing independence as their executive functioning skills improve. This encouragement will pay off much more in the long run than ensuring every math problem they complete is correct!

Plus, letting your child complete their homework without your correction can help the teacher better gauge your child’s mastery of a topic. When every homework assignment is reviewed and revised by a parent, it’s harder for the teacher and student to recognize when a little extra support or further clarification would be helpful.

Focus on completion over perfection, and you’ll build your child’s confidence, preserve your relationship, and get a much better idea of how your child is progressing with each subject.

Bonus Tip: How to Know When Your Child Needs Extra Help

Managing time, tasks, and assignments requires executive functioning skills. These skills take time to develop and come more naturally to some children than others. If you follow the above steps and your child is still struggling to manage deadlines and keep track of assignments, don’t lose hope. He or she can still learn these important skills but might need some extra support to get there.

If your child responds well to your help with tracking and organizing assignments, that’s great! Help them with their systems and look for opportunities to encourage more independence over time. However, many kids balk at their parents’ efforts to help. Don’t take it personally—this is a normal part of growing up! In most cases, students are often much more open to the input of another adult, like an Executive Function Tutor.

Our Executive Function Tutors are highly skilled in helping children develop systems and habits that work for them. They can help your child get their homework organized and completed now while also instilling the skills they’ll need to manage tasks and time independently in future grades and into adulthood. If you’re tired of your child’s assignments going “missing in action” and want to see your child strengthen these life-long skills, we can help! Click below to get started with a free consultation.

One last thing to keep in mind: If your child is only struggling to complete assignments in one class, he or she may need extra help in that subject. When students feel confused by a topic, they often put off their assignments because they dread feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. Of course, delaying assignments until the last minute only makes things worse!

In this case, you may decide to combine subject tutoring with executive functioning tutoring to build your child’s confidence and skills. To learn more, click below to schedule a free consultation. We’ll help you explore your options so you can identify the best course of action for your child.

We even provide more homework and study tips that we didn’t get the chance to cover fully in this blog. Click below so you don’t miss out on new strategies to help your child stay on top of his or her assignments!

What’s a Good SAT Score for College Admissions?

Over the past 20+ years, we’ve helped thousands of high schoolers improve their SAT scores. Most of their parents have asked us some version of the question: What’s a good test score for college admissions? It’s an important question. After all, the main goal of taking the SAT is to help students get into their top schools.

Just recently, a reporter with U.S. News asked Ann Dolin to shed some light on this important topic. You can click here to hear her thoughts and read the full article or simply read on for a recap and overview.

You can get even more standardized testing and college prep tips and tricks sent directly to you here!

SAT Scores for Top Schools

The SAT features two main sections: evidence-based reading and writing, and math. Although there is also an essay portion, the score for that is still considered optional. Each section is worth a maximum score of 800, and the combined final score can range from 400 to 1600.

Identifying an ideal SAT score within that range depends, in part, on where a student plans to apply.

“It depends on where the student wants to attend,” Ann Dolin shared with U.S. News. “What we’ve been sharing with our students is to dive into each school’s website and determine the mid-50th percentile of last year’s incoming freshman class, and what that range is.”

U.S. News shared those ranges for some of the top schools in the country, and the mid-50th percentile was generally in the 1470 – 1570 range. Other schools can have an average range closer to 1200 for accepted students.

If your child has a list of schools to which they hope to apply, check out the stats for those schools to get an idea of a good goal for your child’s SAT scores.

How to Improve Your SAT Score

If your child will be taking the SAT in the next couple of years, a good place to start is with a mock test. This gives students a valuable practice run with the format and timing of the SAT and provides a baseline score for test prep.

With a baseline score in hand and a goal score in mind, students can begin working towards a higher score. There are three ways to improve SAT scores:

  • Review Test-Taking Strategies – Students can learn strategic methods for selecting an answer even when they aren’t sure.
  • Work on Targeted Content Review – Students can review mock test scores to identify weak spots and focus their practice on challenging content.
  • Take Full-length Practice Tests – Students can take additional mock tests to track their progress, get extra practice, improve their pacing, and boost their mental stamina for test day.

While some students can get sufficient practice via independent study or group classes, students typically see the most improvement when they invest in private SAT tutoring that’s catered to their goals, strengths, and weaknesses.

Submitting SAT Scores to Test-optional Schools

As you research your child’s top choices for college, you may find that one or more of them is a test-optional school. This means students can choose whether or not to submit a test score.

In these cases, students can decide not to submit a test score without hurting their chances of admission. However, even if your child is applying to test-optional schools, it’s still a good idea to go ahead and take the SAT or ACT and strive for their best possible score.

While test-optional schools don’t penalize applicants who don’t submit a score, submitting a good test score can still strengthen an application. Once your child has a test score, you can consider the strength of the application with versus without that score to decide the best path forward.

A Guaranteed Score Improvement

At Educational Connections, we’re confident that our proven approach to SAT and ACT test prep can improve students’ scores. In fact, if a student completes a full program, including all homework and practice tests, we guarantee a score increase or three sessions (four and a half hours) of free tutoring are on us.

We want to help your child get into his or her top choice of school, and that starts with a strong test score! Click here to learn more about our unique SAT test prep program, or click here to schedule a consultation today.

6 Study Strategies for Better Grades in 2021

a hand writing

“Focus on completion, not quality.” That was one of our primary pieces of advice for parents in the difficult transition to virtual learning last year. Just getting your child in front of a Zoom class on time and through an independent assignment was a big enough ask. It wasn’t the time to stress over whether or not every practice problem was accurate.

As we (finally) move into 2021, we know your child’s grades may not be what they once were—and that’s okay. The start of a new year is the perfect time to reassess and implement new study strategies. Now’s the time to end this academic year and start this calendar year strong.

Read on to discover six study strategies that can help your child improve their grades this semester. Each research-backed method is from The Learning Scientists and proven to help students study more effectively, retain more, and perform their best.

Strategy #1: Spacing

Last-minute cramming for a big test isn’t just stressful—it’s also ineffective. Research shows that students who practice spacing by spreading out their studying over time ultimately perform better. As you figure out your family’s routine in this new year, encourage your child to set aside a set window of time each day for studying. They can then use that time to regularly prepare for upcoming exams. This strategy will make big tests feel less intimidating and improve their recall on test day.

Strategy #2: Retrieval Practice

When left on their own to study, many students read over their class notes a few times and call it a day. According to researchers, this common study method isn’t a very effective way to retain information. Instead, students need to practice recalling information without looking at their notes. Flashcards and practice tests are tried-and-true methods of retrieval practice. Another idea? Encourage your child to write or sketch everything they remember on a particular subject, then review their class notes for accuracy and missed points.

Strategy #3: Elaboration

It can be hard for young students to wrap their minds around big ideas. Elaboration can help. This study strategy encourages students to elaborate on big ideas with smaller details and even make connections to other big ideas. This may sound abstract, but it’s quite simple to practice. Next time your child studies a new topic, engage them in a conversation about how things work and why. Encourage them to ask questions and seek out answers or to create a list comparing and contrasting two different ideas. As they explain these big ideas to you (and themselves), they’ll get a much firmer grasp on complex material.

Strategy #4: Interleaving

Imagine going to the gym for a workout and only doing one exercise—like push-ups—for the entire hour of your workout. You would quickly grow fatigued yet leave many muscles unworked. That’s why personal trainers pick a variety of exercises and lead you through a rotation. Interleaving works the same way. Instead of choosing one subject, idea, or topic to study for an entire session, allow your child to pick a few and rotate. Switching between ideas while studying will help your child strengthen their mental muscles, stay focused for longer, make connections between topics, and increase their mastery of all the materials.

Strategy #5: Concrete Examples

No academic subject is free of abstract ideas. From complex statistical concepts in math class to complicated reading passages in English, students are continually asked to grapple with and master abstract ideas. The best strategy for doing so? Concrete examples. Compiling a list of concrete examples (by using class notes and their textbook or brainstorming with peers) helps students understand and remember big ideas. Even better—have your child explain why each example works as they make their list to help them grasp patterns and connections.

Strategy #6: Dual Coding

No, we’re not asking your child to learn computer coding for this last strategy. Dual coding is a study strategy that combines words with visuals. When your child comes across a visual (like a map or diagram) in their study materials, they should stop and use words to describe them. And when they come across a chunk of text, they should stop and create their own visual. Infographics, diagrams, or cartoon strips can help a child illustrate ideas. Combining words and images when studying will help your child better understand the material now and remember more of it on test day—win, win!

Get Help When You Need It!

After the whirlwind of 2020, your child may need extra support to catch up and get ahead before the end of this school year. Our expert tutors are trained in helping students with subject-specific struggles, executive function skills, and general review and preview.

No matter what last year looked like for your family, we’re here to ensure this year is as successful and stress-free as possible. You deserve a little extra support! Click below to schedule a free consultation, and we’ll connect you with a handpicked tutor to provide the exact help your child needs.

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Our Most Popular Blogs of 2020

No matter how prepared you may have felt at the start of 2020, armed with New Year’s resolutions and a fresh planner, there’s no doubt this year was nothing like you expected. The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it new parenting and educational challenges for all of us.

As you’ve come to us with your questions about virtual and at-home learning, we’ve done our best to answer them and provide the support you needed in this trying year. In this special end-of-the-year blog post, we’re looking back at our most-read blog posts of 2020.

Read on to see what advice resonated with parents like you and maybe even find some helpful tidbits to prepare you for whatever 2021 may hold (hopefully, some peace, calm, and in-person learning, right?!).

Post #1: Why Kids Struggle with Virtual Math (And What Parents Can Do About It!)

Even in a typical year, we get a lot of requests for our math tutoring services. Math is abstract and challenging. Plus, it’s cumulative. Each new skill builds on the last, so failure to master one unit can make future units even harder.

In a traditional classroom, teachers can at least monitor the room for signs of confusion or overwhelm, but as learning moved online, it was easy for students to fall through the cracks and fall behind. Many concerned parents reached out to us for advice, especially when their children pushed back at their efforts to help along the way. 

In this blog, Ann Dolin addresses those frustrations and outlines practical tips for helping your child succeed with virtual math (without ruining your relationship along the way).

Read It

Post #2: How to Ask a Teacher for Help When You’re Virtual

Teachers want their students to succeed. That means they want and expect students to ask for help. In the physical classroom, they encourage students to seek out that help by looking for physical signs of confusion and making themselves available after class and during lunch. 

In a virtual classroom, however, teachers’ ability to monitor the class is limited. It’s up to kids to speak up when they’re struggling or need clarification. For students who are reserved, nervous, or shy, this is a big ask. Many choose to stay silent instead and quickly fall behind.

In this popular post, Ann Dolin shares quick tips for families who need to ask for extra help within the virtual learning environment. Check it out to discover the best time to ask for help, specific questions to pose to the teacher, and more.

Read Now

Post #3: What does it take to be a tutor at Educational Connections?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a tutor at Educational Connections? Do we hire high school students? College students? Teachers? Who exactly will be supporting your child in their academic journey?

It’s a good question, and this blog post from Ann Dolin will clear things up. At Educational Connections, we’re proud of our high standards and unique process because we’ve seen how well it works. In the past 21 years, the families of over 10,000 DC students have trusted us to support their child’s academic journey!

Check this popular post out to discover what exactly we expect from our tutors and how we sift through our extremely skilled team to match each student with the best possible tutor for them.

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Post #4: 3 Tricks to Keep Kids from Interrupting While You Work from Home

Supporting your kids through the transition to online learning is tough. Balancing it with your own full-time job? Well, that can feel impossible.

Ann Dolin wrote this post to encourage parents that working from home with kids isn’t easy, but it is possible—as long as you have a few strategies to keep you sane!

In this popular post, you’ll find three hacks to help you set and keep boundaries so that you and your children can focus and get things done (without all the tension or yelling). Hang in there, working parents! This one’s for you.

Read Now

Thank you for trusting us to provide you with advice and support in this challenging year. It’s an honor we don’t take lightly, and we’re glad to hear these posts have helped parents like you.

Did you know we post and email out one or two new blogs just like these each and every month? They always feature tips, tricks, and strategies for guiding your child throughout their K-12 journey. Click below to subscribe, and you can receive every update straight to your inbox! You’ll never miss a post and can unsubscribe at any time.

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Control What You Can: Admissions Factors to Consider in COVID-19

In a year where not much is within our control, it’s good to know what you can control in the test prep and college admissions process.

In this final post, we’re going to talk about a few of things your child can control when working to strengthen their college applications.

3 Ways to Improve Scores

One thing your child can do to strengthen an application is to work to achieve their best possible score on the SAT or ACT. Once your child has mock test or actual scores in hand, there are three ways a tutor can help improve those scores.

1. Review Test-Taking Strategies – Test-taking strategies are things like using the process of elimination or working backward to get to an answer when you aren’t sure right away. These are “best practices” and can vary based on the test and section. 

2. Work on Targeted Content Review – Maybe your child needs to brush up on geometry because it’s been a while. Or perhaps grammar rules weren’t their strength, and they need a refresh of that content. Focusing on those weak spots can help improve scores.

3. Take Full-length Practice Tests – We’re currently offering mock tests virtually so kids can take them safely at home. They mimic the real test so students can practice and improve their pacing and boost their mental stamina before test day. 

In each of these areas, students need to know and work on their weaknesses. It seems counterintuitive since students often hear, “Work on the things you love to do and focus on your strengths!” But when it comes to test prep, focusing on weaker areas helps to improve scores more than a generic approach or focusing on areas where the student is already strong.

Our tutors combine these three methods to tackle students’ weaknesses and improve scores. We’re so confident in our approach that we even offer a test prep guarantee! If a student completes a test prep package program and their scores fail to increase, we will provide three complimentary sessions.

Additional Areas of Focus

Working on weaknesses to improve test scores is one of the key things students can do to improve college admissions applications. Another? Getting help with college application essays—and starting early.

No matter how a school considers test scores, essays have become vitally important. Juniors can take control by working on application essays and test prep during their junior year and over the summer. Then, when senior year arrives, they can focus on their grades. (Fall semester grades are still important for applications!)

Plus, working ahead on these things can enable seniors to get in their applications by the early action deadline of November 1st. This reduces stress in their senior year so they can focus on their grades and enjoy every moment of a very special year—and so can you!

To make this entire process easier for you and your family, we offer The Road to College, a special college admissions program for high school students. The Road to College is our way of making the college admissions process as stress-free as possible. Click here to learn more and schedule a consultation. We’re here for you! 

Thank you for joining us for this special 4-part series on college admissions during COVID! Do you have additional questions about testing or college admissions during COVID? Do you need help identifying the best test or test dates for your child? Are you looking for a virtual test prep tutoring program guaranteed to raise your child’s scores? If so, click here to schedule a free consultation with one of our test prep experts today!

SAT/ACT Test Prep During COVID-19

Once you’ve decided whether or not your child should test and taken the first steps of practice tests and test selection, it’s time to pick your child’s test dates and begin test prep.

Pick Test Dates Strategically

Once a child selects the SAT or ACT, it’s time to pick test dates, and we encourage students to do so strategically. Research shows that most students achieve their best score in the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. We suspect it’s because they’re older, they’re more mature, and they have more curriculum under their belt. 

With that in mind, it really is okay to take a fall test, but you want to consider if your child will have the capacity to test again in the late winter or spring. We recommend “pairing test dates,” which means planning for two test dates.  After the first test, the student can identify areas of weakness. Then, they can practice, practice, practice to improve their score in those areas on the second attempt.  

For the ACT, for example, you could pick a December and a February date, or maybe a February and an April date. For the SAT, maybe it’s a December and March date, or perhaps a March and May date.

If you’re not sure which dates are best for your child, we can help! We do this all the time and offer free consultations for exactly this purpose. Click here to schedule a free consultation, and we’ll use your child’s PSAT score or SAT/ACT practice score to determine the best test timing for your child.

Decide How to Prepare

There are essentially three ways a child can prepare for the SAT/ACT.

1. Independent Prep – If you have a very independent, motivated student with strong practice test results, they might be fine buying a book or using an online resource to practice independently. 

2. Group Classes – Your child can take a group class with lots of other kids. Right now, those are all happening virtually. If a student is relatively strong in all areas and just wants to review test-taking strategies and get general practice, this might be a fit. But it doesn’t provide time or space for customization based on a child’s particular needs for improvement.

3. Private Tutoring – The advantage of private tutoring—and the reason it’s the only option we offer—is that it can be customized to each child. Our tutors can work with your child to identify their strengths and areas for improvement. By focusing personalized instruction on the skills a child finds most challenging, the tutor is more likely to help boost their score.

Whichever path you choose, don’t wait until close to test day to begin! The brain works best when you space things out rather than cramming at the last minute. Most students test two or three times, and they generally start test prep about two to five months before their first test, depending on how much they need to work on. We recommend weekly sessions with practice homework in between to best prepare students and build their confidence.

To learn more about our test prep tutoring during COVID-19, click here. You can also click here to schedule a free consultation. Our test prep experts are happy to answer your questions and handpick a tutor for your child’s testing needs!

You can also click through to read our last post in this special series on college admissions: Control What You Can: Test Prep Factors to Consider in COVID-19.

To Test or Not to Test: How COVID Affects the SAT and ACT

For 2020-21 seniors, test scores are, for the first time ever, completely off of the table. Since COVID cancellations made it so difficult for students to test in the spring, schools are not requiring an SAT or ACT result for admissions. 

If your child is a senior this year (2020-21), important admissions factors will include their grades in college prep classes, strength of curriculum, admissions essays, extracurriculars, recommendations, and AP/IB test scores. Testing isn’t much of a concern.

But what if your child is a junior, sophomore, or freshman? Read on to learn more about what you need to know. 

Test-Required, Test-Optional, and Test-Blind

After this year, we expect schools to once again fall into three different categories:

  1. Test-Required – These schools will require students to submit an SAT or ACT score with their application.
  2. Test-Optional – Students can choose whether or not to submit a test score. While not submitting a test doesn’t hurt, submitting a good test score can help. Most students choose to test. Then, they decide whether to submit the results based on the strength of their application with or without them.
  3. Test-Blind – These schools won’t consider test scores at all, even if they’re terrific. They’ll just focus on other factors. Although no scores are required for this year’s seniors, we don’t expect many schools to be test-blind for future applicants.

The specifics of these policies can vary from school to school, even within one state, so it’s important to look into the guidelines for the schools on your child’s list.

For example, UVA is test-required for any students not in this year’s senior class. As of right now, their website indicates that current juniors will be required to submit a test score with their applications next year. William and Mary, on the other hand, is launching a test-optional pilot. For the next three years, they’re going to test out a test-optional policy, then decide whether or not to revert to their test-required policy. 

James Madison, George Mason, and Christopher Newport are test-optional—so is VCU, although test scores are recommended there. Typically, when you’re applying to a college, you should follow their recommendations!

Reporting Test Scores to Colleges

Unless every school on your child’s list is test-blind (which is unlikely), they’ll want to at least take the test—but they don’t need to automatically report their scores!

Even test-required schools allow for “score choice.” This means the student can pick their best score from all of their attempts to share with schools. You can wait until your child is done with all of their test attempts and report only their best score to colleges.

There’s also something called “super scoring,” where the college will cherry-pick your best sub-scores from each attempt. For example, let’s say your child takes the SAT and gets a 500 on math and a 600 in evidence-based reading and writing. They retake it, and the scores reverse. They get a 600 in evidence-based reading and writing but only a 500 in math. With super scoring, the school will take their 600 in reading and writing from the first attempt and their 600 in math for the second attempt for a final score of 1200, which is better than the 1100 they actually got each time. 

A new change to the ACT is that the ACT will automatically super score. So if you take the ACT twice, colleges will only see your super score. With super scoring, testing multiple times can’t hurt and can only help! This is good to know because a small score increase can make a big difference and open up more options for a student.

With all of this in mind, it’s good to get the ball rolling on practice tests and test prep—just know you don’t need to automatically report scores right away. 

For now, visit our next post in this college admissions series: The First Steps of SAT/ACT Test Prep.