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Mindfulness-Based ACT Prep for The Boys and Girls Club

Mindfulness-Based ACT Prep for The Boys and Girls Club

Grantly
May 4, 2021

We are so excited to bring Granite’s Mindfulness-Based ACT® Prep Program to the Boys and Girls Club of Middle TN for the Summer of 2021! 

Program Overview

Boys and Girls Club members will have the opportunity to take part in a two month comprehensive ACT prep program. Our team of educators will host in-person classes three times per week. Sessions will include english, math, reading, science, and (of course) Mindfulness For Academic Achievement! Club members will also have access to Granite’s ACT Everything App (a mindfulness-based ACT® prep app). Finally, Boys and Girls club members will have the opportunity to take part in two fully proctored official ACT® Tests. Boys and Girls Club administrators (and students) will then have access to a rich suite of statistics overviewing student success! 

Live Classes

Our team of educators will host in-person classes three times per week. Sessions will include english, math, reading, science, and (of course) Mindfulness For Academic Achievement!

Mindfulness-Based Software

Club members will also have access to Granite's ACT Everything App (a mindfulness-based ACT® prep app).

Proctored ACT®

Boys and Girls club members will have the opportunity to take part in two fully proctored official ACT® Tests.

GRANITE® Overview

At Granite®, our test prep services are powered by a “mindfulness-centric” holistic approach. Students are encouraged to go beyond simply memorizing test content and learn how stress reduction, focus training, and test taking strategy will help them perform at the highest level.

At Granite®, we cover the academic fundamentals of your test (math, grammar, reading, science, quantitive reasoning, etc..), but we also offer students the opportunity to learn how to excel at Test Taking Intangibles®: test day diet, sleeping to score well, meditation and relaxation to reduce test anxiety, focus training to boost attention, and much more. At Granite®, we like to call this Mindfulness for Academic Achievement®!

At Granite®, we encourage our students to think about test taking as an athlete might think about an event, considering how both mind and body can work together to perform at the highest level.

3 Ways to Motivate an Unmotivated Student

3 Ways to Motivate an Unmotivated Student

Parent working to motivate your son

1. Re-define Goals for Motivation.

“you are so smart, if you just worked a little bit you would get an ‘A’”!

One of the main variables that will impact student decision making, goal striving, and motivation is is what psychologists refer to as “self-worth”. Self-worth, in the context of education-psychology, is a person’s judgment of their dignity and/or aptitude. 

When a student receives a low grade on an assignment, after little to no studying, one of the most common responses from parents is “you are so smart, if you just worked a little bit you would get an ‘A’”! 

In this case, most parents are (with a kind-heart) hoping to boost the self-worth of their student. Unfortunately, however, this language could lead the student to develop an unhelpful pattern: “If I do not study and fail, my parents will tell me I’m smart (but lazy)”. Since we as a society value “smart people”, this will only reinforce the pattern. Furthermore, the student may develop a fear: “If I DO study and fail, my parents will think I am dumb!” This further reinforces the student’s inhibitions to study. Since the student receives a “self-worth-reward” for NOT studying and fears shame in the case of studying, the student’s incentives are completely misaligned. 

The best way to avoid the aforementioned problem of “misaligned self-worth rewards” is to re-define our goals for our students and subsequently the language we use to discuss these goals. If our objective is simply for our student to work hard, it is wise to put our goal directly (and EXCLUSIVELY) on hard work. A parent might try saying the following to a student before a test: “As long as I know you studied for 1-hour before the test, I don’t really care what grade you get.” 

By redefining our goals, we can make clear our expectations to our student, AND we can free our student of the toxic notion that working hard yet receiving a low grade is an indication of personal (self-worth) failure. 

2. Promote Internal Attribution for Motivation

“My kid is struggling with the class because his teacher is horrible!’”

It is not uncommon for a student to find themselves in a class with a teacher who they do not like. This lack of connection could be rooted in personal difference, apathy on the part of the educator (or student), or a host of other complex interpersonal variables. The reality is that humans are complicated and not everyone will get along! That said, we run the risk of leading our student to lose motivation when we are publicly dismissive of a teacher. It is not uncommon for parents to say (often CORRECTLY!) “My kid is struggling with the class because his teacher is horrible!” While this could very certainly be the case, verbal expression of the issue will lead a student to feel that “trying isn’t worth it”.

It is not uncommon “in the real world” for someone to have an incompetent boss, an abrasive teammate, or an unpleasant colleague. Still, none of these situations warrant giving up on a goal. It is incredibly valuable to learn how to navigate and thrive in less-than-optimal situations. 

When a student expresses dislike for a teacher, whether, for pedagogical or personal reasons, I give them the following advice: “Get as high of a grade in the class as you can”! This advice hinges on one key reality: If you have not put effort into the class, your criticisms will be dismissed; however, if you work hard people will pay attention!” In other words, if a student with poor class attendance and poor grades criticizes a teacher, most people will not take the criticism seriously; however, if the star student makes the same criticism people will listen! 

Put simply, being dedicated to the class of a teacher you do not like, positions you well to express your discontent with the class! 

3. Work with Mindfulness for Motivation

"The biggest factor influencing student motivation is simply maturity!"

It is no secret that one of the biggest factors influencing student motivation is simply maturity! As adolescents grow, so do critical regions of the brain involved in long-term planning, decision making, and self-concept. While for the most part, these developments just take time, a mindfulness-practice can be an amazing way to nurture all these key regions of the brain. 

Mindfulness will train students to work skillfully with test anxiety, interpersonal struggles, boredom, and stress!

If you are new to mindfulness and don’t know where to begin, consider exploring some of our mindfulness courses. We have a mindfulness-based ACT® course to help students prepare for the college-entrance standardized test. Granite offers a course titled “Mindfulness for Academic Achievement®” which (as the name might suggest) is all about finding academic achievement through mindfulness. Finally, we even have a course that empowers adults to become certified “Mindfulness-Based Educators” (a great opportunity if you – as a parent – want to gain insight on guiding your student to a mindfulness practice).

Sources:

Everything You Need To Know About Filling Out Your FAFSA

Filling out the FAFSA
Students Graduate with Less Debt Thanks to FAFSA!
By Landon Funk, Granite Director of Education
Filling out college applications is strenuous, time-consuming, and, sometimes, boring. Now, add on applying for scholarships and federal aid, and you might feel a little overwhelmed. Well, you do not have to be. As someone who applied to around forty colleges and universities and for federal student aid, I can tell you firsthand that this process does not have to be as hard as it sounds – especially when it comes to applying for federal aid.
Dealing with the federal government is not something that you ever willingly want to do. There is a bunch of legal jargon and steps that make it difficult. Hopefully, this article will provide you with the knowledge and information about applying for federal aid that you need to succeed and come out of the process unscathed.
The first thing you need to know is that there are different FAFSA deadlines depending on which state you live and for which college your child is looking to apply. In Tennessee, our FAFSA deadline is February 1, 2021 for the 2021-2022 school year. Even still, your child’s future college might have a different, earlier deadline. Be sure to check out the college or university’s student loan/federal aid page on their application website.

Once you have decided when you are going to fill out the application, you will need to gather the following documents:

  • Child’s Social Security Card
  • Parents’ Social Security Card
  • Child’s Driver’s License (if they have one)
  • Alien Registration
  • Number (if not a US citizen)
  • Parents’ IRS W-2, IRS 1040, and Foreign Tax Returns
  • Records of Un-taxed Income (i.e. child support, interest income, etc.)
  • Records of Cash Information

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. In order to apply for federal student aid, all you have to do is go to Google, type in FAFSA, and click the first link that comes up. Once you are there, press “Start Here” under the question “New to the FAFSA process?”
FAFSA Webportal

How do I fill out the FAFSA form?

Once you begin you FAFSA, you will be prompted to create a FSA ID. This can be anything as long as you remember what it is. After you create the FSA ID, you will be asked to create a “Save Key” which is another name for password. Your FSA ID and Save Key will allow you to login and access your FAFSA at anytime.

If you need to logout of your FAFSA before you finish it, you may do so. All your information will be saved and you can return to the application by simply logging in.

After you have created your credentials, the form will ask you a series of personal questions. This is a good time to grab your documents that I suggested you grab earlier in this article as you will need them to answer the majority of the questions.
One question will ask if your child is “Dependent” or “Independent.” If you claim your child as a dependent on your taxes and will continue to do so, please choose “Dependent.”
With the personal information out of the way, it is time to choose the colleges and universities to which your child is applying. Fill out as many schools as you wish to send the information to. And don’t worry, if your child decides to apply to another school after you have submitted the FAFSA, you can log back into the form using your credentials and add another school.
The last page of the FAFSA form is a review of all the information you have already filled out. Be sure to read over it carefully, checking to make sure that each question is answered correctly. Then, sign and submit!

What do I do after I submit the FAFSA?

To make things easier for us, we can access our FAFSAs via an app that is available on both the Apple Store and Google Play. This way, you can always access the application no matter where you are or what device you are using (iPhone, iPad, Android, or tablet).

If you have any questions about the FAFSA or federal student aid process, please do not hesitate to email me at landon@granitetestprep.com. I will be more than happy to assist you with the form and any other questions you may have. Also learn how ACT® and SAT® tutoring can help you maximize your college scholarships!

Other Questions about College Planning?

Top Test Prep Companies

Top Test Prep Company Nashville
Top Test Prep Company in Nashville

Preparing for the ACT®, SAT®, or AP® exams can be difficult, time consuming, and expensive. That said, finding the best test prep can make the process exciting, empowering, and affordable! Recently, a student told me a story about the test prep center he had attended before coming to GRANITE®. Namely, the student’s previous testing center (it shall remain un-named) had paired the student with a fellow high-schooler who had scored LOWER on the ACT® than he had! Needless to say, their working relationship was not going to be fruitful. I was so shocked by this center’s practice, I wanted to create a list of the best test prep centers in Nashville. Clearly, I would rather EVERYONE learn with us at GRANITE®. However, should that not be “in the cards”, I want you to know the alternatives in town that have a great track record for success! Below are the lists of centers with professional test prep educators who are determined to help their students thrive. Additionally, i’ve added “Google Star Ratings” as an objective measure of the top test prep companies in Nashville! 

20 Google Reviews (5.0 stars)
5/5
What people are saying:

"I HIGHLY recommend this service for anyone trying to improve their score."

"We would refer him and his company to anyone preparing to take the ACT."

Clearly we are just a bit biased here at GRANITE®! But how could we not be; we truly believe that our mindfulness-centric approach to education: Mindfulness for Academic AChievement®. Allows us to empower students like no other test center in the world! All that said, there is no one better to focus on than the happy families who have worked with GRANITE® educators! For example, one high scoring student said: “I’ve used Granite test prep, and my score went up 4 points from a 30 to a 34!!! I HIGHLY recommend this service for anyone trying to improve their score. Thank you so much!!!” A happy parent had this to say about their family’s experience with GRANITE “…helped our son prepare well beyond what he had imagined, and the results far exceeded our expectations. We would refer him and his company to anyone preparing to take the ACT. He is professional, courteous, accommodating, and knows how to customize the learning process for each individual student.” Even school educators are talking about the GRANITE® classes, programs, and software offered at their schools! “I highly recommend Grantly Neely of Granite Test Prep. He worked with a group of students at the school where I work and provided excellent tutoring. Despite it being a large group, he provided individual feedback and encouragement.”

27 Google Reviews (5.0 stars)
5/5
What people are saying:

Best ACT prep I’ve ever done! Thank you so much Mr. Joseph !

"Highly recommend ACT HELP Tutoring."

It is hard to argue with 27 perfect 5.0-star reviews! Needless to say, Joseph students love his teaching style, methodology, and results. An excited high scorer had this to say “I’ve been in his class for about 3 years and I’m now acing my honors math class, and also been able to score a 32 in the PSAT Math. He is an amazing teacher and can guarantee you a 36 on your ACT.” Guaranteeing a 36 – that is an impressive guarantee no doubt! It seems, however, that many students attending ACT® HELP are scoring a 36! Just look at this feedback “Superior, Talented, Smart, Awesome, Fantastic, Amazing Teacher! If you’re a serious student looking to score a 36, take Joseph. As long as you attend the class and do flashcards and study, you get a perfect score.”

33 Google Reviews (4.9 stars)
4.9/5
What people are saying:

"My daughter had an amazing experience with doing ACT Prep with Ngenius."

"Highly recommend their services."

Based in Franklin, TN, “Ngenius” could be a perfect choice for families in Williamson county looking for a neighborhood option. Ngenius is incredibly well-reviewed with an average star rating of 4.9 stars!  One family had this to say about the amazing convenience of working with Ngenius “My son went for tutoring for ACT. They were positive and very easy to work with on scheduling. My son increased his ACT score by 4 points due to their tutoring. Benny is great. We can’t say thank you enough.” Another family was incredibly excited at how QUICKLY they saw results “After ONE session with Benny, his ACT score went up four points. After five sessions, his composite score broke 30!” Needless to say Ngenius is helping alot of families achieve their ACT® dreams!

5 Google Reviews (5.0 stars)
5/5
What people are saying:

I would definitely recommend this class to any student looking to improve their score!

Scott Sherman tutored both my children for ACT Prep. He is the best! Scott is professional and experienced. Mary Lee Bunch and Associates are a well kept secret.

Located in Brentwood, TN, and therefore convenient for both Davidson and Williamson County residents, Mary Lee Bunch Associates, L.L.C. has consistently been an iconic force in the middle Tennessee test prep scene. A student had this to say “I took a class to study for the ACT here and it was very helpful. I had a score of 33 on my practice test, and after being tutored here for a month I got a 35 on the actual test! They are also all really nice here and will help you learn in a comfortable environment.” Everyone knows that tests can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, therefore, we love how Mary Lee Bunch manages to help students feel comfortable.

How Much is 1-Point on the ACT Worth in Dollars?

How Much is 1-Point on the ACT Worth in Dollars?

Grantly
October 18, 2019
As the founder of Granite Test Prep, a Nashville, TN based education center, I spend a lot of time working with students and families on increasing ACT scores, finding colleges based on these ACT scores, and finally using these ACT scores to pursue merit scholarships and financial aid to make college a little more affordable!
I recently had a family ask me a great question: “how much is one point on the ACT worth in dollars?”
I recently had a family ask me a great question: “how much is one point on the ACT worth in dollars?” At the time, I didn’t have a direct answer for them; however, I was curious and I wanted to find a more exciting answer than “it depends on what you and your family values etc…”
I was curious and I wanted to find a more exciting answer than “it depends on what you and your family values etc…”
Finding an answer to the value of a single ACT point began with seeing what other experts in the field had recorded. College admissions blog “The College Solution” claims that a one point increase in ACT score (given certain situations) could equal as much as $24,000 for students applying to The University of Indiana. While this figure is certainly interesting, at Granite we wanted to know more! We didn’t want to know simply what a 27 to a 28 meant at Indiana, or what a 35 to a 36 meant at Alabama, we wanted to know ON AVERAGE how much a one point increase starting at ANY SCORE meant for ANY SCHOOL.
To calculate the average dollar amount value of a single point increase on the ACT, we went out and built a list of ALL the ACT scholarships we could find, their dollar values, and their ACT cutoff thresholds and we let the statistics magic begin
Without anyone on the internet giving an absolute value for “the value of a single point on the ACT”, I went about using some tricks I learned in my economics degree and began building a data set! Our set began with the college readiness blog “Prep Scholar”. Their fascinating article “Guaranteed Scholarships Based on SAT/ACT Scores” outlined many of the ACT-based scholarships available to college applicants. Still we needed more data, so we went school by school and studied their scholarship and financial aid pages. To calculate the average dollar amount value of a single point increase on the ACT, we went out and built a list of ALL the ACT scholarships we could find, their dollar values, and their ACT cutoff thresholds and we let the statistics magic begin (see the bottom of the article for a description of the “statistics magic”).
Ultimately we calculated that a single point increase on the ACT was worth $8,451 over four years.
Ultimately we calculated that a single point increase on the ACT was worth $8,451 over four years. That means that for ANY score and ANY school we would expect and AVERAGE increase in scholarship of $8,451 for every single point you get on the ACT. Below is a graph of some of the schools we included in our calculations. Along the bottom of the graph are ACT scores, and for every ACT score you can see how many dollars that score would be worth after 4-years.
It should be acknowledged that not all schools give money for ACT scores. Ivy League schools for example (and other “highly selective institutions” like Stanford or MIT), don’t offer any merit scholarships for academics or athletics. These schools prefer to give all of their scholarship money in the form of financial-aid, a package of grants, student work options, and sometimes loans that make these (otherwise very expensive schools) often very affordable. Since these schools typically have acceptance rates in the single digits, the value of an additional ACT point is in your percent chance of being accepted. Look for our next article which will be “Acceptance Rates and the Value of the Marginal ACT Point”.
These schools prefer to give all of their scholarship money in the form of financial-aid, a package of grants, student work options, and sometimes loans that make these (otherwise very expensive schools) often very affordable.
If you are interested in how much more money you could get in scholarships given a certain school and your specific profile please feel free to contact us at: contact@granitetestprep.com. We spend all day helping students and families like you figure out how to raise ACT scores and then how to use these ACT scores most efficiently in the college application process.

Stats Corner:

For our friends who love statistics, want to learn about statistics, or are simply wary of random figures posted in blogs, here are the calculations and methods we used to get our numbers and graphs! If you DON’T like statistics don’t worry! This section just explains how we got to the number of $8,451.

Our data set was an aggregated list of merit scholarship amounts and their corresponding ACT threshold. Merit scholarships were only included if they depended solely on ACT score (so as to reduce risk of bias from unobserved variables like “student GPA” or “student achievement”.)
Our equation was modeled as follows: Dollars= ß1(Score) + C
Regression Results are shown below:
R-squared: 0.634
ß1 T-Stat: 9.174 (p>0.000)

Math Geniuses Don’t Exist.

Math Geniuses Don’t Exist.

Grantly
October 15, 2019
For many students, math (or another “math-heavy field” like computer science, physics, accounting, economics etc.) can be the most intimidating subject in school.

For many students, math (or another “math-heavy field” like computer science, physics, accounting, economics etc.) can be the most intimidating subject in school. Statements like “I’m not some math genius” or “I can’t possibly take that class” can be heard echoing down high school and college hallways alike, when math class is mentioned. 

“I can’t possibly take that class”

Parents and students typically attribute these mathematical challenges to “not being a math person” or “the class being just too hard”. After tutoring countless students in math, physics, economics, statistics and other quantitative classes that elicit stress in those with “numerical anxiety”, at GRANITE we think something different is going on. 

Math is different from history or english largely in the way it is expressed.

Math is different from history or english largely in the way it is expressed. English and history use words. While words can be long and complicated, ultimately they are still words. Words are comfortable; we use them to text our friends, read our favorite blogs, and follow the subtitles in foreign films. Accordingly, when an english or history teacher gives us a uniquely hard article, primary source, or novel, we can feel reassured that at the end of the day this challenging academic obstacle is still made up of words. Math by contrast is not built on words but on “notation”: symbols used to count, categorize, and estimate.

Words are comfortable; we use them to text our friends, read our favorite blogs, and follow the subtitles in foreign films.

It is not uncommon for a student to come across a math problem and leave the question blank, in spite of having all the skills needed. When reviewing the problem, the student will often say “I didn’t know that symbol, so I panicked and just skipped it”. This, of course, is not the fault of the student at all. Our mainstream cultural dialogue and academic systems consistently reinforce the idea that math is something extremely difficult reserved for “math geniuses”, and the resulting panic students feel is just a self fulfilling prophecy. 

…consistently reinforce the idea that math is something extremely difficult rese

What happens when smart kids don’t score well?

Student Taking the ACT

What happens when smart kids don’t score well?

Grantly
December 19, 2018
“If I am working hard, why am I not getting the score I want?”
As the founder of Granite Test Prep, an education consulting and college readiness company based in Nashville, TN, Grantly Neely spends most of his days talking with students about test scores: what they mean, how to raise them, and whether or not they even matter. It is not uncommon for students to excel in school, yet struggle when it comes to test taking. In these cases, the solution can often be to get a tutor; however, when test grades don’t improve or ACT scores don’t increase, students can become disheartened and lose confidence. Teachers may tell families things like “your student is doing her/his work and understands the concepts, I’m not sure why s/he is struggling so much on our tests.” Or a student will be consistently performing academically, only to perform far below expectation on national standardized tests (PSAT/SAT/ACT), in spite of prep courses, tutors, and practice tests. At this point it is only fair to wonder: If I am working hard, why am I not getting the score I want?
For many students, this unfortunate gap between understanding and “performance” is a product of our preparation methods.
For many students, this unfortunate gap between understanding and “performance” is a product of our preparation methods. Tutors, review books, teachers, and even well intentioned youtubers, typically focus exclusively on the test content, completely ignoring the reality that performance on tests is driven just as much by an understanding of test content as it is by the “intangibles of test taking”. It is likely these “intangibles” are so frequently ignored that you might not even know what I mean. At Granite Test Prep we are fascinated with these test taking intangibles and typically focus on two major intangibles: the ability to stay focused through the entire duration of an exam and the ability to stay calm when an exam is not going exactly as we like. Our focus, calm, and confidence vary naturally from day to day. Accepting these as key variables on test taking success, we often attribute undesired scores to these intangibles. It is not uncommon for parents to sympathetically say: “don’t worry honey – you just had an off day!” Still, this consolation leaves students with a question: why did I have an “off-day” and how can I have more “on-days”?
There are many exercises and strategies that are designed specifically to help test takers have more on-days.
Fortunately the above question has an answer! There are many exercises and strategies that are designed specifically to help test takers have more on-days. These exercises help build up focus or calm, depending on a student’s need. Therefore, if you struggle to demonstrate what you know on exams and tests, practicing mindfulness might be a great place to start. It is important to remember that mindfulness is a skill and an exercise, while some benefits can be experienced in only a couple days, most of them don’t start to show up for a few months. If you want to try a simple meditation one of our favorites is outlined below:
Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a “brain pull-up”over four years.
  1. Find a comfortable seat and sit upright

  2. Close your eyes

  3. Take a couple deep breaths

  4. Notice any sounds or scents in the room

  5. Notice the ground beneath your feet

  6. Notice what your breath is doing (don’t change it – just notice)

  7. Begin counting your breath 1 on the in breath 2 on the out breath (again we aren’t trying to control or influence our breath just gently count)

  8. Once you reach a count of 6 start back at 1

  9. If you notice your mind wanders just bring it back to whatever number you last remember being on. No need to feel frustrated with yourself, simply bring your attention back to your breath; you are building the “focus muscle” of your brain.

  10. Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a “brain pull-up”

  11. After 10 mins is complete open your eyes and go about your day!
    Source: “Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course

Considering what you eat is also very important when thinking about test performance. Cutting-edge scientific research shows the importance of nutrition in supporting the focus and calm needed for academic performance. Many student’s struggle with long tests simply because they don’t bring any snacks. Rapid changes in blood sugar level can wreak havoc on our ability to focus. Accordingly, keeping a steady energy level by eating small snacks during all breaks can be extremely helpful to test takers. These snacks should be high in protein and low glycemic index.
Rapid changes in blood sugar level can wreak havoc on our ability to focus.
High glycemic foods (white bread, candy, soda) can cause crashes and subsequent brain fog. The world of nutrition for academic performance is complicated things like fiber, probiotics, and fat also have critical implications on how our brains work. Learn about how “Medical Students See Lower Cortisol Levels (stress hormone) after 8-weeks of probiotics”
Small changes can have huge impacts on test scores, so just choose a couple intangibles that resonate with you and work on those.

When evaluating how test taking intangibles affect our performance on standardized tests it can be tempting to feel overwhelmed thinking: “I have to change my entire lifestyle just to do well on tests!” That is absolutely not the case! Small changes can have huge impacts on test scores, so just choose a couple intangibles that resonate with you and work on those. If you have any questions about the world of test prep feel free to reach out to us at contact@granitetestprep.com we love chatting with people and sharing our recommendations!

Author: Grantly Neely is a certified KORU mindfulness teacher, founder of Granite Test Prep and Nashville native. For more about Grantly and his amazing team of educators CLICK HERE

What test takers can learn from athletes about a 24% GPA boost and 13% increase in confidence

What test takers can learn from athletes about a 24% GPA boost and 13% increase in confidence

Grantly
November 21, 2018
“the GPA of [the] “brain training group” had increased by 24%… [and] a 13% increase in self reported confidence”
We know that athletes work out to perform at a higher level for their sport. Be it baseball, tennis, basketball, or soccer — it is understood that you will only be able to perform at the highest level if you are training your body. Not surprisingly your brain needs a similar type of “workout” if you want it excel on tests and projects. Doing math, writing papers, or creating art are all great “brain workouts”. Still, one brain workout has been largely ignored until recently.
Still, one brain workout has been largely ignored until recently…

Thousands of cutting edge scientific studies are finding the value of mindfulness-based brain training exercises for academic achievement. Just as an athlete works on cardio to improve endurance, a student should use a mindfulness-based practice to build up attention span. When an athlete lifts weights to get stronger, a student might use mindfulness to strengthen memory. The parallels between physical fitness and brain fitness are endless.

Mindfulness powered brain training literally increases the density of “grey matter” in our brain.
The connection between time spent in the gym and time spent with the aforementioned brain exercises continues if we look at the anatomy behind these respective gains. Mindfulness powered brain training literally increases the density of “grey matter” in our brain. Grey matter, the material made up of billions of neural-connections, is the critical building block for many of our brains most important regions. Specifically, mindfulness has been shown to increase the size and density of the hippocampus (the area of the brain associated with memory), the temporoparietal junction (the area of the brain that deals with language and attention), and the posterior parietal cortex (responsible for keeping us focused on the task at hand). If your team’s coach thought you needed to strengthen your biceps, you would do concentration curls. On the flip side, if you had a hard time focusing on tests, your tutor should recommend the appropriate brain training exercises.
If your team’s coach thought you needed to strengthen your biceps, you would do concentration curls. On the flip side, if you had a hard time focusing on tests, your tutor should recommend the appropriate brain training exercises.

So what is an easy way to get started with some “brain pull-ups”? Below is an easy ten step guide to begin practicing. If you have specific questions set up a meeting with a Granite Prep educator to discuss your goals and needs.

Enjoying the benefits of mindfulness isn’t difficult, nor is it particularly time consuming. The simplest mindfulness exercise (a breathing meditation) only takes ten minutes a day and goes something like this:
  1. Find a comfortable seat and sit upright

  2. Close your eyes

  3. Take a couple deep breaths

  4. Notice any sounds or scents in the room

  5. Notice the ground beneath your feet

  6. Notice what your breath is doing (don’t change it – just notice)

  7. Begin counting your breath 1 on the in breath 2 on the out breath (again we aren’t trying to control or influence our breath just gently count)

  8. Once you reach a count of 6 start back at 1

  9. If you notice your mind wanders just bring it back to whatever number you last remember being on. No need to feel frustrated with yourself, simply bring your attention back to your breath; you are building the “focus muscle” of your brain.

  10. Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a “brain pull-up”

  11. After 10 mins is complete open your eyes and go about your day!
    Source: “Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course

If you aren’t completely convinced yet, let the numbers speak for themselves. Below shows the results of a study conducted at the University of Almería, Spain. The study randomly split a high school into two groups; one group received mindfulness brain training, the other did not.
…after the training, however, the GPA of the “brain training group” had increased by 24% for the semester whereas the “no brain training group” didn’t see any change in GPA.

GPAs of the students were recorded and then compared to GPAs at ten weeks later. Before the training, the two groups had very similar GPA’s, after the training, however, the GPA of the “brain training group” had increased by 24% for the semester whereas the “no brain training group” didn’t see any change in GPA. The students who received the mindfulness training also saw an increase in academic confidence. These students enjoyed a 13% increase in self reported confidence. Once again, the group who did not receive any brain training did not see any change in confidence. The results from the study are shown in the table below (to read the full study click here).

If you are looking to bring your academic performance and self confidence to the next level, getting into a mindfulness practice to train your brain is a great place to start. Try getting in a habit of doing the exercise described above every morning or afternoon for ten minutes.
Just like with any exercise, you won’t start noticing the results right away. Just like it takes time to build muscle, it takes time to build our brain.
Just like with any exercise, you won’t start noticing the results right away. Just like it takes time to build muscle, it takes time to build our brain. That said, after staying with this exercise for a month or two you will likely begin to notice a sharper and calmer mind. For any questions about what exercises would be most helpful for your particular goals reach out to us at contact@granitetestprep.com or leave a comment below and we will answer!

*The Stats:

At Granite Prep we feel it is critical to maintain the highest integrity with our statistics, so we publish t-statistics and confidence intervals for all our figures. The t-statistic for the difference in academic achievement between our groups’ pretreatment was 0.846 (not statistically significant ). This is a good indication that the groups were infact randomly assigned. The pretreatment difference in confidence was 0.858 (not statistically significant), again speaking to the randomly assigned nature of the groups. The t-statistic of the difference between treatment and control groups after the ten weeks was: 3.62 (p<0.001) and 4.86 (p<0.001) for GPA and confidence respectively.
If you don’t know what these numbers mean, but you are interested check out this great course on research statistics!

Grantly Neely is a certified KORU mindfulness teacher, founder of Granite Test Prep and Nashville native. For more about Grantly and his amazing team of educators CLICK HERE

Sources:
Franco C., Mañas I., Cangas A.J., Gallego J. (2010) The Applications of Mindfulness with Students of Secondary School: Results on the Academic Performance, Self-concept and Anxiety. In: Lytras M.D., Ordonez De Pablos P., Ziderman A., Roulstone A., Maurer H., Imber J.B. (eds) Knowledge Management, Information Systems, E-Learning, and Sustainability Research. WSKS 2010. Communications in Computer and Information Science, vol 111. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

Yogurt to Reduce Stress

Yogurt to Reduce Stress

Grantly
October 21, 2018

Overview:

How does nutrition affect learning? How can I focus longer? Why do I experience nausea before exams? What are probiotics? What foods contain probiotics? Where can I find probiotics? Can I find local probiotic rich foods? Why do probiotics matter for test prep?
When preparing for the SAT, ACT, or any other exam, considering the effect of nutrition on academic performance is critical.

Here at Granite Prep we are fascinated by what makes students into great test takers. When preparing for the SAT, ACT, or any other exam, considering the effect of nutrition on academic performance is critical. The connection between nutrition and academic performance is not a new one; however, thanks to cutting edge research the importance of brain food for students is more clear than ever before! Probiotics have recently become the focus of countless innovative research studies, as more scientists are asking: how does nutrition affect learning?

Probiotics and Anxiety:

A team of neuroscientists led by John F. Cryan at The College University of Cork in Ireland made breakthrough discoveries on the impacts of probiotics and mood. Cryan compared the performance of mice who received a diet rich in Lactobacillus to a group of mice who did not receive any probiotics. The mice were placed in mazes and their behavior and stress hormones were monitored. The mice who had a diet rich in probiotics were notably more curious, less anxious, and showed lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone. Furthermore, the mice had a healthier distribution of the neurotransmitter “GABA” (the same neurotransmitter targeted by most fast-acting anti-anxiety medication). In Cryan’s own words: “These mice were more chilled out.

The mice who had a diet rich in probiotics were notably more curious, less anxious, and showed lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.

As was discussed in “Getting Over Test Taking Anxiety“, a calm mind is a higher achieving mind. Therefore, the anxiety reducing properties of a probiotic rich diet could be extremely beneficial for students struggling with test taking anxiety.

Probiotics and Endurance:

One of of the main obstacles students face in the world of test taking is endurance. Maintaining peak mental focus for three hours or more is extremely difficult. Fortunately Dr. Cryan’s work on probiotics seems to share insight with us on endurance and probiotics as well! Just as a swimmer or track star might consider how probiotics boost athletic performance, so too can test takers consider the effect of nutrition on academic performance and test taking sharpness.
“The mice with a probiotic rich diet simply wouldn’t give up.”
The aforementioned University of Cork study addressed the resilience of it’s mice by seeing how long they were willing to swim in a forced swim test before “despair”. Mice who did not eat probiotics would swim for 4 minutes on average before giving up. The mice with a probiotic rich diet, however, simply wouldn’t give up, swimming well past the end of the 6 minute test.

Upset Stomach and Exams:

For many students an upcoming exam can cause days of frustrating and uncomfortable stomach issues. Many students report test anxiety as causing heartburn, nausea, or other G-I issues. It seems that probiotics might offer a solution to this issue as well!
One day before the students’ big exam, the “probiotic group” had notably less stress hormones (cortisol) in their system than the “no-probiotic group”.
A cutting-edge study published by the American Society for Microbiology, studied the effect of probiotics and medical student test anxiety. For 8-weeks, half of a medical class was given a probiotic supplement (Lactobacillus casei) and the other half (the control group) was not given any probiotics. One day before the students’ big exam, the “probiotic group” had notably less stress hormones (cortisol) in their system than the “no-probiotic group”. Furthermore, the probiotic group reported far less “stomach discomfort” before the exam. Therefore, if you are like the millions of other students who experience a “nervous stomach” before exams, probiotics might be a great solution to both reduce stress and settle your stomach.

Finding Probiotics:

Probiotics can be found in a wide array of foods. Olives, Pickles, Tempeh, Kombucha, Miso, KimChi, and Yogurt are all rich in probiotics (among countless other tasty snacks and drinks). Simply including a bit of these treats in your diet might lead you closer to all the helpful benefits described.
For our local Nashville readers who love yogurt, we suggest Franklin, TN based Noble Springs Dairy. Founded in 2009 by Dustin and Justine Noble, this hotspot of local agriculture is only 6 miles from downtown Franklin. Dustin tells us that some of his favorite ways to enjoy his farm’s amazing probiotic rich creation include: “with honey and granola for breakfast” or “in a smoothie”.
Dustin tells us that some of his favorite ways to enjoy his farm’s amazing probiotic rich creation include: “with honey and granola for breakfast” or “in a smoothie”.
The Noble’s yogurt is more than simply delicious, it is packed with all the healthy probiotics important for academic achievement. Our yogurt expert, Dustin was also kind enough to share with us the strikingly diverse strains of probiotics in his yogurt.
This delightfully creamy superfood contains a half dozen unique probiotic strains shown to boost immunes system health, reduce stress and promote a resilient mind, support healthy cholesterol levels and healthy weight, and even help your body naturally fight tumors.
It is quite possible that starting your morning with a bowl of Nobles Spring’s yogurt might just be the healthiest choice you can make. For y’all who can’t wait to include this delightful Tennessee treat into your diet, the Noble Spring’s Dairy yogurt can be found at area farmers markets, Whole Foods, Turnip Truck, and Produce Place.

Author

Grantly Neely is a certified mindfulness teacher and founder of Granite Prep a company dedicated to helping it’s students achieve their ambitions while building resilient minds.

Sources:

Check out the research and data behind our blog posts!
Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve
Javier A. Bravo, Paul Forsythe, Marianne V. Chew, Emily Escaravage, Hélène M. Savignac, Timothy G. Dinan, John Bienenstock, John F. Cryan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2011, 201102999; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1102999108
Kato-Kataoka A. Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota preserves the diversity of the gut microbiota and relieves abdominal dysfunction in healthy medical students exposed to academic stress. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2016;82:3649–3658.

Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course

Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course

Grantly
September 21, 2018

Don’t let stress slow you down

Test taking anxiety can be unpleasant, but it can also hinder test performance. The authors at PSYCOM explain that: “your body releases adrenaline, and the energy used to do good thinking gets diverted into being on high alert. Our brains prepare for the worst, and it becomes all too difficult to imagine doing well and to answer questions.”

What is Mindfulness?

At Granite Prep we like to refer to Mindfulness as “pull-ups for your brain”. Similarly to how an athlete will run miles, do reps, or swim laps to get stronger or faster, a student can do mindfulness exercises to boost focus, calm, and even curiosity.
The reality is that being “in the zone” (calm and collected) isn’t just a gift; its something that can be trained and nurtured.
The reality is that being “in the zone” (calm and collected) isn’t just a gift; its something that can be trained and nurtured. LeBron James uses mindfulness to get over free throw nerves. Oprah talks about the power of mindfulness for relaxing. Wall-street giant Ray Dalio built his entire hedge fund (“Bridge Water Capital”) around the lessons he learned from Mindfulness.

The Science:

Before we go any further, lets be clear that mindfulness isn’t simply a fringe habit of a couple famous people; it is a well researched practice with evidence based support for test taking anxiety. A collaborative study involving Drexel University, Mass General, and University of Pennsylvania found that a 3 week mindfulness-centric class aimed at reducing test taking anxiety both helped students feel more calm, but also boosted grades by 8-points on a 100 point final-exam (compared to the prior 100 point midterm). In other words, doing mindfulness between the midterm and the final gave students a full letter-grade boost!
“In other words, doing mindfulness between the midterm and the final gave students a full letter-grade boost!”
As a point of reference, another group of students in the class received Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for test taking anxiety. CBT is the current gold standard technique used clinically for reducing anxiety. Fortunately, the study revealed that BOTH mindfulness and CBT had a SIGNIFICANT impact on reducing test taking anxiety for the students.
“BOTH mindfulness and CBT had a SIGNIFICANT impact on reducing test taking anxiety for the students.”
Interestingly, however, only the mindfulness group enjoyed score increases from the midterm to final, the CBT group scores stayed basically the same. It is theorized that while mindfulness and CBT therapies are both highly effective at helping students relax and reduce anxiety, only mindfulness helps students score better because of it’s benefit of helping students focus on test material (instead of anxious thoughts). Results from the study are shown below:
Blue = Mindfulness-Centric (ABBT) Test Taking Anxiety Reduction
Red = CBT Test Taking Anxiety ReductionBlue = Mindfulness-Centric (ABBT) Test Taking Anxiety Reduction

Test Taking Anxiety Reduction Techniques vs Exam Scores

(Click on the image to read the full study)
CBT is the traditional approach used by therapist to help patients reduce experienced anxiety. This study shows that CBT is certainly effective in that capacity. That said, when comparing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Mindfulness, both seem to offer a reduction in stress and anxiety, but only Mindfulness also increases exam scores.

How do I learn Mindfulness:

“Enjoying the benefits of mindfulness isn’t difficult, nor is it particularly time consuming.”
Enjoying the benefits of mindfulness isn’t difficult, nor is it particularly time consuming. The simplest mindfulness exercise (a breathing meditation) only takes ten minutes a day and goes something like this:
  1. Find a comfortable seat and sit upright
  2. Close your eyes
  3. Take a couple deep breaths
  4. Notice any sounds or scents in the room
  5. Notice the ground beneath your feet
  6. Notice what your breath is doing (don’t change it – just notice)
  7. Begin counting your breath 1 on the in breath 2 on the out breath (again we aren’t trying to control or influence our breath just gently count)
  8. Once you reach a count of 6 start back at 1
  9. If you notice your mind wanders just bring it back to whatever number you last remember being on. No need to feel frustrated with yourself, simply bring your attention back to your breath; you are building the “focus muscle” of your brain. Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a “brain pull-up”
  10. After 10 mins is complete open your eyes and go about your day!
“Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a ‘brain pull-up'”

If you think you could benefit from mindfulness and want to learn different techniques we love to recommend HEADSPACE (linked below). Headspace founder Andy is a brilliant teacher and has been working in the field of mindfulness for nearly his entire life.
HEADSPACE

Furthermore, if you are looking for in person mindfulness instruction specifically for test taking anxiety the instructors at Granite Prep are always happy to help. Using our proprietary technique of blending mindfulness with class or test specific material, we are able to give students a unique opportunity to perform at his or her highest level.
Whether it is the SAT or ACT, Pre-Calculus, or Physics we have created innovative solutions to help students thrive. Granite Prep offers both one on one private tutoring and institutional seminars.

Author

Grantly Neely is a certified mindfulness teacher and founder of Granite Prep a company dedicated to helping it’s students achieve their ambitions while building resilient minds.

Sources:

Brown, Lily & Forman, Evan & Herbert, James & Hoffman, Kimberly & Yuen, Erica & Goetter, Elizabeth. (2011). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Acceptance-Based Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Therapy for Test Anxiety: A Pilot Study. Behavior modification. 35. 31-53. 10.1177/0145445510390930.

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