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 and see your pile of text books in the corner and wonder: when and how will I let the high school beast back out of its coronavirus cage?
We feel you. Here is a quick guide to making 10th grade (or 9th 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 adjusting 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 ninja-ing to prime you for a killer 10th or 11th grade year.
3. Start thinking about the SAT or ACT
If you haven’t started work on the SAT or ACT, now is great time to crack them open and see which of the two you like more. Check out our SAT vs ACT guide or make time for a diagnostic test that we can send you via email.
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 vocabulary 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. Start thinking about your college admissions "resume"
Many high school students meet with a college admissions coach for the first time in the 9th or 10th grade. It's great to start thinking about who you are as a college-bound candidate as early as possible. Think about how you want to present yourself and what you can start doing now to show your true colors. Then, take notes about which classes you may want to take each year of high school to achieve the resume-building you've planned. Which AP courses interest you? Which SAT Subject Tests might you choose? What kinds of internships, summer jobs, and summer programs at universities match your interests? We can help guide these brainstorms and point you in the right direction, if you like.
5. Decide whether you're taking any SAT subject tests
Are you tackling AP Bio, Chem or Physics this year and planning to continue with STEM subjects in college? With the material fresh in your mind, the June after sophomore year is the best time to take SAT subject tests in these areas. An hour each, they show colleges your advanced knowledge and skills in these topics and can considerably boost your application – some schools even require them depending on what programs you apply to. Doing APUSH and think you might study history in college? The SAT Subject test in US History will also be in June. Now is a perfect time to check out these tests on the collegeboard website where you can take 30 sample questions for each topic. Ivy Tutors Network has many tutors who specialize in these tests.
6. Do some diagnostic standardized testing
Start test prep by taking a diagnostic exam to test your skills and knowledge from home. Having extra time to tackle these 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 email back the bubble sheet so we can grade it and analyze the results as if you had done the diagnostic 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 family member act as a proctor and help with timing. Drop us a line to order that test via email!
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 the Author: Justin Taylor
Justin is a college application expert with more than ten years experience helping students raise their admissions prospects. Yale, Georgetown, Vanderbilt, Boston College, and NYU are some recent admits for happy students. He has taught writing at Yale University, Wesleyan University, the Sorbonne, in high schools and privately throughout New York City with all ages.
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