Chariot Learning Blog

Most of what we commonly refer to as test anxiety is simply a function of unfamiliarity with a test and lack of confidence in performance. Sometimes, the terms also refers to a strong negative response to stress in a moment. Whatever its cause, test anxiety represents a serious obstacle to those who suffer from it, one that can almost always be overcome with the right strategies and practice. However, in some individuals, the source of test anxiety lies much deeper than basic nerves and negative self-talk. Sometimes, anxiety is genetic: A functional single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene (rs4680) is a gene variant that has been shown to predict the ability to maintain cognitive agility during combat and competition. Critically, COMT Met (low-activity; high dopamine) allele carriers outperform Val (high-activity; low dopamine) homozygotes on a variety of cognitive tasks. However, the relationship between genotype and cognitive performance appears…

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While test-optional admissions has always been a reality for some college applicants, the current prevalence of this policy introduces an awful lot of uncertainty into already anxiety-provoking process. In previous years, students whose test scores didn’t meet a school’s stated standards often turned their attention elsewhere. These days, more and more students choose to roll the dice by applying without scores–to their detriment. The media has been promoting a story that the last year of expanded college admissions, where more students than ever representing more diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic strata than ever have applied to highly selective schools, represents a triumph of test optional policies. Yet, that narrative remains misleading without data on which students were accepted. We don’t have all the numbers, but professionals I trust on the admissions side have estimated that 85-90% of accepted students to most test optional schools over the past five years sent scores,…

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Is any aspect of college admissions more mystifying than the determination of financial aid? The concept of “need” and how different schools consider need in both admissions and aid decisions goes deeper than most people realize. For clarity to the topic of need blind and need aware admissions, I turned to college consultant Jona Jacobson. Jona Jacobson is an independent educational consultant based out of Rochester, NY who coaches students on choosing colleges and completing their college applications and essays. A former attorney and substitute teacher, Jona is in her ninth year of advising students and families through the college application process, both locally and nationally. What are five things you will learn in this episode? What do the terms “need,”  “need blind,” and “need aware” mean in college admissions? What is gapping? Do all colleges meet 100% of need? Does need or the lack thereof influence admissions decisions? What does it…

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Any time test scores come back, some test takers invariably underperform relative to expectations just as sure as some NFL teams underperform during the first official week of football (I’m looking at you, Bills!) Often, the reasons driving these regrettable outcomes are very similar despite the dramatically different nature of the challenges. Sometimes, the problem lies in inadequate preparation. Sometimes, the problem comes down to insufficient commitment. The problem may be a sign of lack of persistence or a call for more coaching and practice. Bad outcomes may even be the result of factors outside of your control. No matter why a team loses or a test score comes back lower than expected or desired, the answer is always the same. press on. President Calvin Coolidge eloquently explained the necessity of tenacity and resolve: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more…

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When Frank Herbert wrote “Fear is the mind-killer” in the sci-fi epic Dune, he might have been thinking of academic performance. Research suggests that stress is so powerful that it can actually shrink the brain. Of course, outstanding test preparation instills massive confidence on test day, but if anxiety strikes, the solution may be a simple power pose. Researchers Dana R. Carney, Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap wondered if a person could fake it ’til she makes it, whether nonverbal displays govern how we think and feel about ourselves? They predicted that posing in high-power nonverbal displays would cause neuroendocrine and behavioral changes that would trigger elevations in testosterone, decreases in cortisol, and increased feelings of power and tolerance for risk. Their findings in Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect NeuroendocrineLevels and Risk Tolerance confirmed their hypothesis: By simply changing physical posture, an individual prepares his or her…

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Happy Labor Day! This holiday deserves a special place in our hearts, and not just because it marks the point at which all New York state students return to school. On Labor Day, we honor the contributions that workers have made–and continue to make–to society. We are all, in a very real sense, workers. Where our labors take us depends entirely on our sense of purpose and the clarity of our goals. Once you’ve fixed your eyes on a worthy prize, be smart about your efforts and try to have some fun, but, more than anything else, commit to doing the work.

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