The Top 5 Tips for Picking Your College Major


Off to college in just a month or two? Currently filling out your college applications? One of the questions that students spend a lot of time thinking about as they prepare to go to college is “What will my major be?”  And, it’s a great question! What you study in college and major in will impact not only your time while in college but also what you plan to do post-college.  To make choosing a bit easier, we have narrowed down the top 5 ways to pick the right college major for you!

1. Don’t pick too soon! Many college freshmen are tempted to declare their major when they set foot on campus.  Many of us have thought:  I want to be a doctor… lawyer…artist…teacher – just fill in the blank – when I grow up!  But, take some time to explore different classes and gain some experience outside the classroom in your intended field of study to ensure you are making the right decision! Make sure you balance your interests and talents with practical experience when choosing your major – this will lead to a more informed choice.

2. But, don’t wait until senior year of college either! College is a big financial investment.  You should take some time to make your decision while also thinking about your graduation timeline. You don’t want to waste too much time!

3. Don’t choose the major that everyone else you know is choosing.  It’s easy to want to choose the major that many of your friends are pursuing or the one that is the most popular at your school; however, you need to pick what is right for you! Yes, it is fun to study with friends and be in classes with them, but you can always take elective classes with them. You will be working toward your major for several years and it will very likely have a large impact on your post college professional life – make sure it is something you excel in and enjoy!

4. Be informed! This is very important. Make sure you take the time to ask all of your questions. Talk to professors, upperclassmen, your advisor, and the career center about your major and what it may mean for career prospects after your graduate.

5. Don’t panic! Yes, selecting your college major is an important decision. But, you do have time and it is not an irreversible decision.  Remember, college is a time of self-discovery! Explore and discover what truly interests you and the right decision will come to you.


College Admissions in the Headlines: The Avoid the Summer Brain Drain and Read Edition

Poster-HeadlineHere are some of the latest, most interesting headlines about the college admissions process from media outlets across the country. Starting off…have a good read!

A college admissions counselor at an elite high school asked college admissions deans and high school counselors to send him recommendations of books that are great summer reads for parents, students and everybody else. Check out the unusual list. (The Washington Post)

There’s definitely a risk of “oversharing” in your admissions essay, say college admissions officers themselves. Word to the wise: be careful what you write about and definitely get a second opinion before you submit anything. (The New York Times)

Have you heard about the upcoming changes to the ACT? No, the content is not changing, but come 2015 test takers will be getting new score assessments that may be or may not be shared with the colleges to which you apply. Here’s what you need to know…and stay tuned! (The Wall Street Journal)

You shouldn’t consider attending a specific college without thinking about how safe the campus is. Here are some tips on what to know, consider, and discuss. (U.S. News & World Report)

You think the SAT, ACT, and the American college admissions process are stressful?  (Yes they can be!) Wait until you learn about how they do it in China. (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)


College Rankings: The other lists to consider!

foam fingerYes, academics in college are very important – that is the reason we all go to college, isn’t it?!  But, you will not just be attending classes while at college. You will be living on campus as well.

So, while academic rankings are very important in helping you select the colleges you will apply to, there are other lists to consider that rank colleges on everything from weather to athletics to Greek life.

We’ll break down some of those lists so you can check them out for yourself. This may even help you narrow down the schools you are applying to or open up some new choices — schools you may never have considered!

Weather: Do the winter blues get to you? Check out the colleges with the best weather. You can enjoy the sun and get a good education at the same time! (Colleges with the best weather)

Athletics: Are you a die-hard sports fan? Well then, the 20 Colleges With The Most Hardcore Sports Fans may appeal to you! (Colleges with the best sports fans)

Greek Life: If the movie Animal House and the Delta Tau Chi fraternity speak to you, then check out this list of the top 10 schools for Greek life.  They have assured readers that the selection of these schools was based on a very scientific process! (Top 10 schools for Greek life)

Campus Dining: Are you a foodie? The thought of beef stroganoff got you down? Well then, you must review the Daily Meal’s list of the 60 best colleges for food. They look at everything from the food being local and sustainable to student reviews and social media: (Best foodie colleges)

Dorm Rooms: Reluctant to give up the comforts of your bedroom at home? These 10 dorms may have you wishing you could move in now! (Top 10 colleges dorms in the country)

Good luck with your college search!


SAT and ACT Math Strategy: The “Three Right Triangles”

Making sense of “Three Right Triangle” questions (figure below) can be difficult. First, while there are two obvious right triangles (ΔADB and ΔBDC), the third is ‘lying’ on it’s hypotenuse! See the right angle at the top of the figure? That’s ΔABC.

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In order to make sense of the relationship between these triangles, let’s first look at their angles:

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To understand the relationship of the angles in this figure, let’s look at the largest triangle, ΔABC. It has a 90º angle, and two angles I’ve labeled and . Because this is a right triangle, a+c+90=180, or a+c=90. If that is the case, then any right triangle with either acute angle must have the other, as they sum to 90º. Let’s now update our drawing, applying this to the smaller two triangles (ΔADB and ΔBDC).

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Now we’ve clearly proven all three triangles are similar: they share the same angles and thus have proportional side-lengths. But applying this information can still be tricky with the current figure, so let’s extract each triangle from the figure, drawing them in a row:

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Hmm, this is certainly more clear, but it’s not very helpful that each triangle is lying on a different side. For simplicity’s sake, let’s call the side adjacent to angle the base and the side adjacent to angle the height. We should now be able to put each of these triangles “right side down.” See for yourself below:

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Let’s now apply all this to a real-life example from the ACT:

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In order to find line AD, first, label your angles (I like to use the same letter as the closest vertex):

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Remember our earlier proof that aº+cº=90? Well, let’s use that now, labeling the other angles:

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 12.47.33 PM

Like before, think of the line adjacent to as the base and the line adjacent to as the height. Draw all three triangles separately, keeping track of all vertices, side lengths and angles:

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Now that we’ve organized the given information in an easy-to-use format, solving the question will be much simpler. First, use the Pythagorean Theorem (or your knowledge of the Pythagorean triplets), to find the hypotenuse AC.

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Now that we know AC=25, either use the ratio between triangles or a proportion (shown below), to solve. I’ve labeled the side length we want to find, AD, as x.

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So, with organization, patience, the Pythagorean Theorem and proportions, the “three right triangles” question is no match for our geometry!



The Top 10 Ways to Get the Most out of Your College Visits this Summer

college visitOut to discover the college of your dreams this summer?  Whether you are flying out to visit a few schools or taking a cross country road trip to visit colleges around the country, we have the Top 10 things you need to do to make the most of your college visits.

1. Have a plan! Sounds simple enough, right? You want to make sure you map out each visit to maximize your time there. What do you hope to accomplish while on your visit? What do you want to see? Set goals, think of what you want to know about the colleges you are visiting, and write it all down. Having a plan in place will make you feel less overwhelmed once you set foot on campus.

2. Connect with students you may know who attend the colleges you are visiting. Whether you chat with them before you go or plan to meet with them on campus (some may be taking summer classes!) you will want to get the perspective of a current student.  What do they like about the school? What is student life on campus like? What are some challenges they may have faced there?

3. Explore academic departments. You’ll want to see what majors and areas of study colleges have to offer. Do they meet your needs? Is the area you want to study a strong department at the colleges you are visiting? How big are the classes and how are they structured? Classes can range from very small discussion groups to very large lecture courses and everything in between. This is a great thing to discover while you are on your college visits.

4. Visit the student union. This is where you may be spending a lot of your time. From buying books here, to eating, studying, and hanging out with your friends – this is an important building for you to check out when you get on campus.

5. Check out the student cafeteria. OK, we are not saying you need to eat here! Although, if you can that may be a good idea. You’ll want to know if that meal plan is worth it or not, and what college dorm food is really like. If nothing else, it will make you appreciate your mom’s home cooked meals that you may have complained about your entire childhood!

6. Pick up a copy of the student paper. This is a great way to learn about what is happening on campus. From academics, to student groups, to events – this will have all the info you need to feel in the know.

7. Document your visit. Take pictures of what you like – and don’t like – while you are on campus. Having visuals can help you remember your visit more vividly after you are home.

8. Check out the libraries and computer labs. You will likely be spending a lot of your time in these two places so why not get a feel for what it may be like to pull an all-nighter studying for your first semester finals or writing that paper at 2am.

9. Rough it in the dorms! Well, you won’t exactly be roughing it…If you can, arrange to stay in the dorms, or, at the very least, make sure to visit the dorms. You’ll want to see where and how you may be living come freshman year.

10. Make a Pro/Con List.  Make sure to write down at least 3 positives and 3 negatives before you leave campus. At the end of all your visits, it may be difficult to remember the differences between all of them.

Happy Trails!


What to Expect Sophomore Year

AA052646Congratulations! You survived your first year of high school. You are now a sophomore and as a sophomore you will embark on a new journey come this fall. I like to consider sophomore year as the year of exploration. You are still getting to know your school and learning about the classes you can take, but don’t have to apply to college just yet.  Just because you’re not applying doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start thinking about and preparing for college.

Nervous about sophomore year? Don’t be! Here is a list of what you should expect sophomore year to help you get ready for college:

1. PSAT in October. Your class will be the first ones to take the new 2016 SAT as well as the new PSAT in 2015. The PSAT your sophomore year will just be for practice and help you get a feel for the standardized tests you will take in your junior and senior years. Please check with your guidance counselor as some schools don’t offer the PSAT to their sophomores.

2. Engagement in Extracurricular Activities. If you haven’t found your favorite school clubs yet, this is the year to do it! Get involved and sign up for activities that interest you.

3. SAT Subject Tests. The best time to take these subject-specific tests is when the material is fresh in your mind from classes. SAT Subject Tests are offered on the same dates the SAT is offered (except March), but make sure to review when the specific subject test you will be taking is offered, not all subject tests are offered on all SAT dates! Many colleges either require or recommend students to take these tests, so make sure to visit the admissions pages of the colleges you want to apply to.

4. Think about your recommendation letters. Colleges often ask for you to submit 2 or 3 letters of recommendation. Your teachers during your sophomore year can make great candidates for writing them, so develop those relationships to make sure you’re set up well for getting the perfect recommendation letter.

5. Start Learning about the New SAT! You will be the first class to take the new test. The College Board has already shared some important information and you can learn about it all on our SAT Test Change page. Remember to keep checking this page for the most up-to date info on the test change!   

For a month-by-month guide on what you should be doing during your sophomore year and for your entire college journey, please download our KapMap!


The Top Ten Things to Do the Summer Before You Go to college

Group of teenage students enjoying outside.On your way to college in just a few short months?! You are about to start an amazing journey. While you relax the summer before you start college, here is our list of Top Ten Must Do’s before you trade in your hometown for your college campus.


1. Visit all your favorite local restaurants. Of course nothing can compete with your mom’s homemade food, but, there is something to be said for your favorite local spots. When you are at college, you may find yourself craving your local pizza joint or that deli that had the best sandwiches ever. Before you leave, make sure to visit your favorite places.


2. Spend time with your parents. No really, we mean that. College is a great time to be on your own, but you will miss your parents (and they’ll miss you). You won’t be seeing them every day, so make the most of your time with them this summer.


3. Connect with your new roomie! You will be living – in very close quarters! – with this person for the next year.  Get to know your future roomie over the summer- this will help you avoid any move-in-day awkwardness.


4. Get to know your college town.  Yes, you have 4 years to discover it all, but who doesn’t love a sneak peek? Where are the best places to study? Where can you get the best pizza? Where are all those academic buildings? You’ll be in the know on move in day and avoid that typical “Yes, I am a freshman” cluelessness.


5. Road trip it with your friends! Saying good-bye is going to be tough. Having one last big hurrah with your friends and spending time together can make it easier to say good bye.


6. Register for your classes. You don’t want to be stuck in that class. Take the time to register early and get into the classes that you are interested in.


7. Buy your textbooks. Now that you are registered, get those books! You don’t want to spend your first few days on campus in line at the bookstore. You want to be exploring campus and making friends.


8. Shop! Who doesn’t love shopping? Make sure to get everything you need for your dorm room. If you need help getting started with a list, look no further than Our Top 10 Must Haves to Pack for College.


9. Apply for a credit card. No more being able to ask your parents for cash as you run out the door! Now is the time to enter the world of financial independence! – or at least to enter the world of having your own credit or debit card.


10. Learn to do laundry! You will want clean clothes – trust us. And you won’t be able to wait months for mom to do it when you visit her – trust us!


11. Ok, so we said Top Ten, but we also want to say – relax! You are going to start an amazing journey soon, but take some time to enjoy your hometown, your family, and your friends when you don’t have academics to worry about!


College Admissions in the Headlines: The Value of a College Degree Edition

Poster-HeadlineHere are some of the latest, most interesting headlines about the college admissions process from media outlets across the country. Starting off…a college degree is so worth it.

A new set of income statistics asserts that college is worth it…big time. In fact,  a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable that it is now.  (The New York Times)

If you haven’t applied to college yet, but want to enroll in the fall, there’s good news. More than 250 schools are still looking to add students. More good news: Most still have financial aid available too. (Forbes)

High school students and those already in college from a variety of Asian-American backgrounds can apply for specialized scholarship programs. May is a particularly busy month, so get going! (U.S. News & World Report)

Many college applicants are still withering on wait lists, hopeful that they’ll eventually make it in. This waiting may even last for another month or so. Can anything be done to lessen anxiety or positively impact the outcome? Note: statistics show that few applicants actually achieve their desired results.  (The Boston Globe)

A lot has changed since current high school students’ parents applied to college. For instance: selfies during graduation and pets in the dorms! (Associated Press)


Top 10 Must Haves to Pack for College

moving-to-collegeSenior year is winding down and your freshman year in college will start in a few months! The summer will be filled with graduation parties, good-byes to high school friends, enjoying your hometown, and of course – shopping for college must haves!

Of course, you’ll be bringing your laptop, clothes, and bedding! But what else do you need to survive freshman year in the dorms? Read on to find out!

1. Bathrobe – Communal bathrooms. Need we say more as to why this is our top must have? You should definitely invest in a nice, comfy bathrobe. As you make your daily trek to the shared bathroom, you will be remembering that Kaplan list you read of must haves for college!

2. Under bed storage bins – Your dorm room will be small. And you are likely going to be sharing it with a roommate. Make the most of your space by investing in these storage bins. Plus, when your parents visit, it is a great way to quickly clean up your room (just throw everything into one of those bins!).

3. Mini fridge – Need a soda to get some extra caffeine for late night studying? Isn’t it much better to have that cold soda in your room than to hunt for change and make your way down to the vending machines at night? Bonus – you can keep any uneaten late night pizza in there and have it for breakfast the next morning!

4. Laundry hamper – unless you plan to visit mom every week for laundry, this is a must have for you! You don’t want to try and lug down a week’s (or several weeks) worth of laundry without one of these.

5. Extension cord and power strip – Computer, printer, lamp, cell phone charger, TV, to name a few. You’ll need one of these to keep everything charged and working!

6. Mini tool kit – Re-decorating your dorm room walls can be fun! Make sure to have a mini tool kit so you have all the essentials to hang photos, posters, or twinkling lights.

7. Shower caddy – You’ll want one of these to organize and carry all your bathroom essentials in. No one wants to hunt for that lost tube of toothpaste before their 8am class!

8. Travel coffee mug – Coffee may be your new best friend when you go to college. Keep your coffee warm and save some trees while you’re at it! Bonus – you may even save money as some coffee shops will give you a discount for using your own mug.

9. Flip flops – this communal bathroom thing keeps coming up! You’ll also want flip flops to throw on when you are running down to the laundry room to throw your clothes in the dryer or meeting up with a friend in your dorm for some studying.

10. Mini reading light – You’ll want one of these to attach to your bed so you can do some late night reading. Bonus – when you want to catch some Zzz’s you can let your roommate borrow yours so you are not kept up all night by the bright lights of a lamp.

Happy shopping!



Raiders of the Scrambled Paragraph

Taking a TestIn a city where third graders see standardized tests, New York City’s SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test) should feel largely familiar to the 8th grade, standardized-test-veterans who take the exam each fall.

Of the test’s 95 questions, 50 are math multiple-choice and 30 are reading multiple-choice, both written in the style a student would expect them to be. This is not to suggest that one should not study for this test, but that the format of these 80 questions will be familiar.

The SHSAT’s other 15 questions showcase its idiosyncrasies. At the beginning of the exam are two exotic question types: 5 scrambled paragraphs and 10 logical reasoning questions.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the former, Scrambled Paragraphs, and delineate what they are, how they’re built and we can do to answer them.


Looking at the above example, there is a topic sentence, followed by five sentences not in the correct order (hence the name “scrambled”). Students receive two points for correctly ordering all sentences; no points are awarded for partial completion.

At first glance this can be very intimidating, especially because there are 120 different ways we could order those five scrambled sentences! Not to fear, however – as long as we first consider how these questions must be written, the path to their solution is straightforward.

A Question Made to Be Answered
Prose often has twists and turns such that a paragraph’s sentences could be re-ordered without affecting its meaning. But on a test there can only be one correct solution. Which means there can be no ambiguity in how the paragraph is written. How does the test maker achieve this? How do they build these scrambled paragraphs such that the correct order is indisputable?

The Cornerstone
In order to be unscramble-able, each sentence in a scrambled paragraph must conclusively connect to its preceding and following sentences. The test maker achieves this by adding key words to each sentence that connect it to neighboring sentences.

Our goal as test takers is to locate and apply these keywords.

Guided Practice

Let’s try this with the above example! First, read the sentences as they’re presented and look for any words that could be used to connect one sentence to another. Pay special attention to any structural words (although, however, thus, before, after, etc) and pronouns. Reprinted below is the same scrambled paragraph with key words underlined in red.
Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 9.20.20 PM

Sentence-by-sentence analysis:

Q: “Vivaldi” last names are only used after a person’s full name is written

R: “Antonio Vivaldi” full name! must be before Sentence Q.
“This rule” where was a ‘rule’ mentioned? Sentence T

S: “After” comes after sentences where Vivaldi is alive (Q, R, U). “However” must contrast with the previous sentence.

T: “In fact” this sentence provides an example of a previous statement. What other sentence mentions art, death and accolades? the Topic Sentence

U: “These followers” The pronoun ‘these’ must come after a sentence with ‘followers.’Sentence Q

Now that we’ve located the key words embedded in each sentence, it’s time to start unscrambling. A nice obvious pair here is the topic sentence and T. If possible, it would be helpful to find the sentence that must follow T. Because R refers to the ‘rule’ in T,it must come next. (Thus far: T-R)

What follows R? Either Q, S, or U. Fortunately for us S must come after the sentences which describe a living Vivaldi, so that’s out, and U must come after a sentence that mentions Vivaldi’s ‘followers.’ Thus, Q must be next. This is helpful, because Q mentions Vivaldi’s “imitators,” the very same people referred to as “followers” in sentence U! (Thus far: topic-T-R-Q-U)

What’s left? S, which describes Vivaldi’s death (death generally being at the end, rather than the beginning, of a story). S also uses the contrast word “however.” Does S contrast with its predecessor U? Yes indeed! U mentions an illustrious follower, while S describes composers who developed new styles instead of following.

Unscrambled order: T R Q U S

Now that you’ve seen the power of keywords in action, try this for yourself with the following paragraph:


ʇ n b s ɹ :ɹǝʍsuɐ

Interested in more SHSAT practice? Click the following link for SHSAT Practice Test Day! http://bit.ly/1jp8KKV


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