It’s easy to get bogged down during this pandemic by the negative news that is surrounding us. Schools have closed in NYC, and cases are continuing to rise. After stocking up on essentials and quarantining themselves, the biggest question for many families right now is “how can I make sure my child does not fall behind in school?”
Though many schools have transitioned to online classes, there are still drawbacks to this new academic environment. The most significant of these is the decline in the rigor of the work being assigned. Due to the competitive nature of high school admissions in NYC, maintaining the same academic workload is essential in being prepared for high school application exams. One of the most notoriously difficult of these tests is the SHSAT or the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test. This is the test all eighth-graders must take in order to earn a seat at some of the most selective public schools in NYC.
Because this exam is so challenging, students need to have skills in mathematics and ELA at almost a ninth-grade level to succeed. Thus, it is understandable that many families are worried about their child keeping ahead of the curve for these tests. However, school is not the only way in which students can prepare for these admissions tests. In fact, some preparation can be done inside the comfort of your own home.
A tool that NYCMentors.org provides for free to keep our mentees ahead of the curve is IXL, an online test prep website that allows our mentors to track the progress of their students through the diagnostic IXL offers. In fact, the company has designed their tools to assess where students are based on the NY state test standard. Our students love to use it, which is demonstrated through the over 10,000 questions answered this past year. But don’t just take my word for it, look at what one of our mentees has said about our service and using IXL.
At our launch event hosted by our partnering organization Chess in the Schools back in September, Jonathan Manta, co-founder of NYCMentors.org who is currently a freshman at the McCallie School, encouraged some middle school parents and students to sign up for mentorship.
Above Jonathan Manta is speaking with the mother of Jeremiah Beckles about the opportunities with NYCMentors.org at our launch event.
One of these students was Jeremiah Beckles, currently one of our eighth-grade mentees, who has recently been accepted into Brooklyn Tech, one of the city’s most selective specialized high schools. In an interview, I spoke with him about his feelings about being admitted. “It is very fulfilling to be admitted into Brooklyn Tech,” said Beckles, “I am glad that I am able to go to a school close to me, which has a great education that focuses on STEM – especially in technology and mathematics.” When asked whether IXL is a good tool in preparing for this process, Beckles replied with a succinct but firm answer, “Definitely.”
Above is a meeting I had with Jeremiah Beckles during our mentorship program, which are done via Skype
“Overall the most stressful part of the process was taking the exam because it is not the same as a practice test,” described Beckles, “some important steps a family can take is to get ahead with practice and having a mentor who is available for their mentee to help them with academic and non-academic problems.” He is looking forward to the academic rigor of Brooklyn Tech and believes that this challenging environment will help him grow as a student.
As for his feeling about the mentorship program, Beckles cheerfully replied: “The mentorship program was fantastic, I felt that I had a lot of support and help.”
Michael N. Manta is a senior at Xavier High School in NYC and the Co-Founder & CEO of NYCMentors.org.
NYCMentors.org Inc. is a registered 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization that connects underserved middle school students with older peers to guide, support, and mentor them and their parents with the NYC high school options and application process.
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I had the experience of applying to both public and private high schools as an eighth-grader, and because of the vastness of my application process, I had unique exposure to interviews. Over the course of two months, I sat down with representatives from six different schools and was evaluated for my performance. What both intrigued and perplexed me was that I could utter the same phrase at Trinity and have it be received entirely differently than at Beacon. Different schools expected different attire and levels of formality, and some schools had unspoken interview rules, like that you must write a thank you letter to your interviewer to get accepted.
The advantages that come with involvement in extracurricular activities for middle school students are numerous. While one motivation for joining a club may be for high school applications, there are other reasons to consider joining one too. Academic clubs such as math teams, science teams, and Model UN can be a fun way to learn outside of the classroom and to learn important life skills.
Chancellor Richard R. Carranza put out a letter on December 18th, 2020, outlining the changes that will be put into effect and continuities for the admissions process for New York City public high schools, that have been made largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Carranza is also focusing on lessening inequities that were thrown into light by the pandemic, specifically the worse impact that Covid-19 had on students of color and low-income students, as well as keeping the process as normal as it can be, keeping in mind social distancing guidelines.
When looking into high schools, it is vital to stay updated on the current admissions process. In years past, most schools' admissions environments would not change dramatically. However, with middle schools using alternative grading methods, and tests being delayed due to the pandemic, high schools have had to update their acceptance criteria. With so much uncertainty and rapid changes during this time, it is important to remain up to date on high school admissions environments. Here is some information on how to keep yourself updated during these harrowing times.
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