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You’ve mastered washing your hands to your favorite song twice. You’ve caught up on all your secret-pleasure YouTube dives and Netflix shows.

You’ve counted the number of wood floor planks in your bedroom, maybe even in your entire apartment? And then turn see your pile of SAT/ACT books in the corner and wonder: when and how will I let the 11th grade beast back out of its coronavirus cage?

 

We feel you. Here is a quick guide to making 11th grade your best grade yet – from home.

1. Slow Down and Connect with Yourself

Before you tackle any of the old dragons, close all the screens and take a minute to check in with yourself and your new, mostly-indoor life. If you are like most people, the swiftness of this change is kicking up a flock of anxieties – and anxiety and stress DO NOT practice social distancing. They shelter-in-place right with you. So breathe. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Expect to take your time to adjust to this new life; mountains are climbed one step at a time. 

 

Try this simple meditation right now. Meditation is an extremely skillful practice for taming anxiety and connecting to yourself. 

 

  • sit in a favorite chair away from distractions (preferably behind a closed door)
  • take three big breaths
  • on the third breath, close your eyes, relax and let the body settle into stillness 
  • let your breathing find its own rhythm and feel your body breathe. Appreciate that your body does this for you all on its own!
  • when your thoughts pull your attention, notice and bring your attention back to the breath
  • continue the duration of the session

 

Start with 5-minute sits a couple times a day and extend their length the more you practice. There are many phone apps (Insight Timer, 10% Happier), zoom groups and YouTube channels devoted to helping you start meditation at home. I am a professional meditation teacher as well as a tutor and can help you get rolling, too.

2. Go outside and move

Get out and feel the sunlight; the world is safe and beautiful, viruses and all. We are not built to stare at screens ad infinitum (as much as our life seems to fit on them). We are built to move and appreciate experience. While respecting the 6-foot buffer between you and others, enjoy moving the body: run, dance, cycle, hike, shadow box, shoot hoops, do yoga, you name it. Like meditation, natural sunlight and exercise are ESSENTIAL to feeling good and doing all the following 11th grade ninja-ing you can do to get into the college of your dreams (which, by all estimates, will have moved back to IRL by fall 2021).

3. SAT/ACT prep - solo or with an online tutor

For online SAT prep, especially for math, the Khan Academy is the #1 resource. Connect it with your College Board PSAT results to get a personalized SAT prep course. For ACT online support, there is no equivalent to Khan Academy, but the act.org site has practice sections and tests that are good. The reading sections for both tests are best helped by a good reading habit: read for pleasure and growth. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or one of those novels that you leave for spare time – stuff that will challenge your vocab and brain – are a good choice. Start a reading club with friends over Zoom! Our tutors are facilitating book clubs with students of all ages as well. Interested in joining one? Just ask!

 

You can find more tips for building your vocabulary (which helps with SAT and ACT reading) on our blog!

 

Of course, nothing beats personalized support, and no one delivers that better than our tutors. Take advantage of some down-time to meet with a tutor online. Our online tutoring is discounted 25% as we offer 75-min sessions for the price of 60 mins. Our online platform features video, whiteboard, and screen-sharing capability. Join us!

4. Do some mock testing

Whether you've starting prepping for that test -- SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests, AP Exam -- or not, you likely have some time on your hands to sit down and do some full-length mock tests. The SAT and ACT have cancelled all exams until June, but June will be here quickly and that is the favorite test date for SAT Subject Tests anyway. Which Subject Tests can you study for this year?

 

Having extra time to tackle standardized exams is a real silver lining! If you're at the start of your test prep journey, we can send you a diagnostic test to do from home. Just sent us back the bubble sheet and we will grade it and analyze the results as if you had done the mock test with us at the test prep center. And if you've already started studying, continue doing about 2 mock tests per month to keep practicing what you've learned and learning from your mistakes. Remember that "perfect practice makes perfect." It's important to go over your mistakes (with or without a tutor) to understand why you got a particular question wrong and how to get it right in the future, so you're not practicing making the same mistakes over and over again.

We're happy to send you any number of mock tests to take at home, along with proctoring instructions. You can even have a a family member act as a proctor and help with timing. Drop us a line to order that test via emails!

5. College visits

Many schools post a virtual tour to their website in which a video walks you around the campus and displays information about different facilities and amenities. Visit school websites, research their majors, classes, teachers, clubs and dorms and ask yourself: could I see myself here? Next, reach out to that school’s admissions office to ask to connect with students and teachers willing to chat over email or video. When in-person interactions and visits aren’t possible, these communications are an excellent alternative. (Search college websites for admissions offices contact info). Learn more helpful tips on college visits at this blog post. Need help with your college list and applications? We have one of the best teams in NYC for college admissions. 

6. Start that college essay

This could not be a better time to start brainstorming the oh-so-paramount college essay. Why? Because with all this self-directed time, you now have the   s    p    a     c     e   to dream. The strongest essays have your original voice and point of view, which tend to come out when you are not writing under pressure. Click here for 17 ways to leverage the spacious field of dreams that is your quarantine staycation to spark a golden college essay. To support you, we at Ivy are offering my popular online college essay bootcamps. Get your essay done in two days!

7. Move your school club online – or start a new one!

Miss your school club? Had dreams to start one that seem thwarted? It’s surprisingly easy to move clubs online – or launch one – with video meeting platforms. With the more flexible hours of home school, it’s a great time to experiment. Start a mentorship program tutoring younger students through the quarantine adjustment over video chat. Partner with a school in foreign country also dealing with the shutdown and create an international study-pal group. Work on the school play, or the school newspaper, or speech and debate, or mock UN. Download Snap Camera to add fun filters and backgrounds. I have seen theater clubs rehearse over zoom and it is amazing. You can do this!

8. Boost your resume as a remote intern

Worried the outbreak cancelled your chances at those key resume-building spring break and summer experiences? Many orgs and businesses are working remotely and probably still need extra help from high school students. Spend some time researching online orgs and companies that excite you. If you need help with ideas, ask your parents or one of us college admissions tutors. When the dust settles in a bit (I would say around April 1st), reach out to the org and offer to help with small projects. Ask to pair with a mentor over zoom and/or sit in on department video meetings to learn more about how the org works. Most companies and orgs appreciate genuine interest and offers of support, and at a time of crisis, you may find they are more open than usual.

 

So power down those screens, step outside, take a deep breath and get dreaming: what can you do next to make this semester the best one of your high school career?

Meet Justin


Armed with a Masters in dramatic literature from the Sorbonne (Paris) and an MFA in playwriting from Yale, Justin has helped hundreds of students boost their scores as a test prep tutor (SAT/ACT, SAT/AP French) and boost their admissions prospects as a college application consultant and college essay coach for over 10 years. He has taught writing at Yale University, Wesleyan University, the Sorbonne, in high schools and privately throughout New York City with all ages. He is also a professional meditation teacher and loves sharing meditation hacks to cruise through stress on test day (ask him about being the meditation teacher for Facebook).

Sign up for Justin's 2-day workshop!

Do you need to take your college essay to the next level? Are you finding it hard to even begin? We're here to help you get your essay done - and make your top college go WOW.

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