How to Avoid Procrastination

We all know that feeling when your to-do list is already at capacity and you have a project due the next morning, but you just can’t wait to watch that YouTube video you heard about the other day...

Procrastination is a monster that attacks everyone, which is why we need to teach ourselves how to overcome it.

As a college student with a full-time job, 2 cats and 1 dog, I am actively doing something at least 16 hours each day. Needless to say, motivation needs to be my best friend at all times. That’s why I have developed pathways to keep my “procrastination monster” as far away as possible:

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Try the Breakdown Technique

It is psychologically known that big tasks that require a lot of time are usually left for last, as opposed to simpler tasks that can be completed more quickly. That’s when the Breakdown Technique comes in handy. Let me explain:

Imagine you had 1 month to complete 300 math problems. A professional procrastinator would simply forget about the task, and start worrying about it approximately 2-3 days before it’s due. Instead, as soon as you receive the task, you should take 5 minutes to look at what you need to do, and break that down into smaller steps. In this case, you could complete 10 problems per day, and by the end of the month, you will have completed all of the 300 math problems. Work on 15 of them each day, and you will be done in 20 days-- ahead of deadline! So, do not be frightened when you have a big project to hand in, just plan ahead of time and you will be fine.

Defy Parkinson’s Law

According to the Parkinson’s Law, work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. That means that if you have to do something that will take 25 minutes, but you have 1 hour to do it, it’ll take you 1 hour to complete that 25-minute task. You can use this law as an advantage by setting up artificial timelines that will force you to get work done more efficiently. Although, I’d recommend creating realistic timelines as aggressive timelines can lead to unnecessary stress.

Apply The Pomodoro Technique

They say that getting started is the hardest part, but many procrastinators struggle with maintaining focus just as much as starting to do work. The Pomodoro Technique is my personal favorite way to maintain focus on something. This technique was developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo and is one of the most used time management methods out there. It consists of breaking down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes long, that are separated by 5-minute breaks. Also, after four 25-minute work sessions, it’s important to take a longer break (15-30 minutes).

So if your procrastination monster has been attacking your brain, now you can defeat it, and achieve your goals. And if you’ve tried all of these tips and are still having trouble with procrastination, there are also many freemium apps that can help you keep organized and remind you of your deadlines (Wrike, Trello (a personal favorite of the entire LP team), Wunderlist, etc).

Things to Do (And Avoid!) While You Await College Decisions

So you’re waiting for mid-March when colleges will release a flood of seemingly life-defining decisions. Some people in your school are probably already wearing their college sweatshirts proudly, but you haven’t heard anything back or settled on a college yet. Thinking about when decisions will be released and where you’ll end up for the next four years and checking your email obsessively may be keeping you up at night. All of us instructors and essay coaches at LogicPrep were likely in your shoes. But as I wait for my students to send me the news, I have been thinking about what an infernal few months that was for me. Since hindsight is 20/20, I’ll share some tips about what to do, and what not do, that I wish I knew at the time.

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Dive deep into non-academic hobbies

I applied for college during a gap year, so I had plenty of time on my hands to freak out over what admissions officers might be thinking about my application. I found that one of my favorite hobbies, playing music, was an invaluable tool for escape. I would call up the members of my band and kind of force them to jam with me for hours on end. These hours flew by much quicker than hours scrolling online, and we got a lot better in the process! Even if you don’t play music, find something hands-on and physical to do that isn’t academic. It will get those endorphins flowing and help pass the time.

Try not to let negative decisions inform your chances elsewhere

I was rejected from about 6 colleges before I got into one. I will never forget my first rejection email from UCLA while I was out to a friend’s birthday dinner. It was like a kick in the gut, and the hits just kept coming. I would receive “We are sorry to inform you…” over and over in the next few months, and I began to question my literal value as a person based on those emails. It’s easier said than done, but try not to let these get you down. Remember, all you need is one acceptance you’re happy with!

Volunteer your time somewhere

This sounds sort of fluffy and moralizing, but it actually helped me a great deal when I was waiting for decisions. When you volunteer your time to some sort of cause you are passionate about, you are removing your “self” from the equation for a while. I don’t know about you, but when I have too much time to sit around and think about myself, it gets exhausting quickly. Chances are you just did a lot of that while crafting your essays and figuring out how to present yourself to colleges, so give yourself a break!

DO NOT go on student forums

I really wish I had followed this rule. Sights like CollegeConfidential can seem indispensable for gleaning insight to cultures on different campuses, and often they are, but they can also be highly toxic. Threads of students giving other students “chances” on getting in based on their statistics seem to exasperate the stress they already face. I remember reading students who should have been Nobel Laureates posting their accomplishments and feeling like a nobody. Do yourself a favor and leave the decisions up to admissions committees, because these websites can really make the wait that much longer.

I know you might be thinking, “Well this is easy for you to say since you’ve gone to college and it worked out well for you”, and I used to say the same thing to my mentor when he would tell me to chill out while I was awaiting decisions. I promise if you can do just one thing on this list, it will make these next couple of months that much easier!

Regular Decision Notification Dates 2019

ARE YOU READY SENIORS?

Murilo visiting a student at Brown University.

Murilo visiting a student at Brown University.

Regular decision notifications will be out before you know it! Take a look at our list below to see when you will find out the news.

American University - April 1
Amherst College - early April
Babson College - April 1
Barnard College - late March
Bates College - April 1
Bentley University - late March
Boston College - April 1
Boston University - late March
Bowdoin College - early April
Brandeis University - April 1
Brown University - late March
Bucknell University - April 1
California Institute of Technology - mid-March
Carnegie Mellon University - by April 15
Claremont McKenna College - April 1
College of William and Mary - April 1
Columbia University - late March
Connecticut College - late March
Cornell University - early April
Dartmouth - late March/early April
Davidson College - April 1
Dickinson College - late March
Drexel University - April 1
Duke University - April 1
Elon University - March 20
Emerson College - beginning of April
Emory University - April 1
Florida State - March 28
Fordham University - April 1
Franklin & Marshall College - April 1
George Washington University (GW) - early April
Georgetown University - April 1
Georgia Institute of Technology - March 9
Hamilton College - March 20
Harvard University - late March
Haverford College - early April
High Point University - Rolling
Indiana University, Bloomington - March 15
Johns Hopkins University - April 1
Kenyon College - mid-March
Lafayette College - April 1
Lehigh University - late March
Loyola Marymount University - April 1
Marist College - mid-March
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - mid-March
Muhlenberg - mid-March
New York University - April 1
Northeastern University - April 1
Northwestern University - early April
Penn State - March 31
Pepperdine University - April 1
Pitzer College - April 1
Pomona College - April 1
Princeton University - late March
Rice University - April 1
Rochester Institute of Technology - mid-March
Rollins College - April 1
Sarah Lawrence College - late March/early April
Stanford University - April 1
Syracuse University - late March
Trinity College - late March
Tufts University - April 1
Tulane University - April 1
UNC Chapel Hill - end of March
University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) - end of March
University of California, Davis (UC Davis) - mid-March
University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) - March
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - mid-March
University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) - end of March
University of California, Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara) - mid-March
University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz) - March 15-20
University of Chicago - late March
University of Colorado, Boulder - April 1
University of Georgia - late March
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (U Mass Amherst) - early March
University of Miami - early April
University of Notre Dame - late March
University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) - April 1
University of South Carolina, Columbia - week of March 11
University of Southern California (USC) - April 1
University of Texas at Austin - March 1
University of Virginia - end of March
University of Washington - March 1-15
University of Wisconsin, Madison - end of March
Vanderbilt University - April 1
Vassar College - late March
Wake Forest University - April 1
Washington University in St. Louis - April 1
Wesleyan University - late March
Yale University - April 1

Wondering about a different school? Let us know below!


4 Things to Know About Deferrals

It has been a few months since most Early admission outcomes were announced, and while many of you have received definitive decisions, some of you may feel “in limbo” after being deferred from your Early choice(s). For those who have done the research, you know that universities have varying philosophies around who they defer and how many candidates they defer during the Early cycle. Certain schools—such as Harvard and Princeton—defer a large portion of Early applicants each year, while others—like Stanford—typically defer less than 10% of applicants to avoid a drawn out process for anxious students and families. Receiving a deferral notice can certainly be disappointing, but here are a few across-the-board truths to keep in mind (read: don’t lose all hope!) as you await your final decisions in late March:

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1. Your admission officer was impressed with your application.

Being deferred means your admission officer advocated on your behalf to the admission committee and led a thorough discussion on what they found to be most remarkable about your application. However, there may have been some hesitations among committee members that caused a “split vote” or an outright defer vote on your admission decision—meaning, while your academic and extracurricular impact was notable, the committee has decided to wait for more information in the Regular round before making a final decision (e.g., mid-senior-year grades, significant exams or awards awaiting final results, missing materials in your application, and/or more context provided by reviewing Regular Decision applications from other students at your school).

2. Post-deferral updates you submit can make a difference.

After receiving your deferral notice, universities will typically give you an opportunity to provide updates to your Early application through your applicant status portal. We strongly recommend submitting an update, not only because any new awards, impact, or recognition received can strengthen your overall candidacy, but also because it reaffirms your interest in the university and (if true) your intent to enroll if admitted. While you cannot make changes to an already-submitted Early application, these updates will be reviewed together with it in the Regular round, so be thoughtful about what you include and how you describe noteworthy developments that may have occurred since submitting your application on November 1.

3. Your application will be re-reviewed in full during Regular Decision.

Some students worry that if they weren’t admitted from a smaller pool of applicants in Early, then there’s “no chance” they’ll be admitted in Regular with so many more candidates. You’ll know from previous blogs we’ve written that the Early pool is typically comprised of the strongest candidates applying to any university that year, and if indeed you were strong enough to be deferred in the Early round, you’re certainly a very strong applicant in Regular as well. That is to say—stay positive, carefully craft and upload the aforementioned update, and trust that your admission officer will be looking for reasons to admit you with new evidence to share with the committee.

4. You’re still in the running.

With the exception of Georgetown, universities will not defer you if they believe you have zero chance of being admitted in the Regular round. If your counselor, research mentor, professor contacts, an ‘influential alum,’ or anyone else who knows you well offers to write a letter of advocacy on your behalf (without repeating anything already included in your original application), speak with your college advisor about which universities are open to receiving these and what could be most valuable to include in the letter to strengthen your candidacy further.

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We understand it can be frustrating to wait to learn where you may land, but unfortunately it’s difficult to calculate an individual’s chances of being admitted after a deferral, as it’ll depend on a variety of factors even the committee may not be able to predict, including the strength of the applicant pool in the Regular round and institutional priorities considered when admitting a well-rounded class. Universities understand the anxiety this uncertainty may cause, which is why so few of them (such as MIT) will explicitly state admit rates for deferred candidates. Nonetheless, in general, defer-to-admit rates will be very similar to the Regular Decision admit rates for a university in any given year, which admittedly can be quite low for some of the most competitive schools. However, we encourage you to see your deferral as an opportunity to explore other wonderful college options in Regular Decision and/or Early Decision II. Remember that you’ve submitted a broad slate of other applications to incredible universities, ultimately increasing your chances of being admitted to an awesome institution you’ll love.

3 Easy ACT English Tips to Boost Your Score

The following tips offer strategic approaches to specific question types on the ACT English section. For more thorough explanations of these topics, reach out to your LogicPrep tutor!

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1. When choosing between who and whom, use prepositions as a shortcut.

Prepositions are words that demonstrate the relationship between two things such as with, to, for, in, and on. When you get to a question where you have to choose between options that use who and whom, just look at the word right before it. If it’s a preposition like those listed above, choose whom. Otherwise, choose who. This shortcut works more than 95 percent of the time, so make sure to ask your LogicPrep tutor for an explanation that will cover the other 5 percent of cases.

2. The period and the semicolon are used interchangeably.

The ACT English section considers the semicolon and period interchangeable. As long as you’re connecting what could be considered two separate sentences, either punctuation mark can be used. So if you get to a question that offers two options, one with a period and one with a semicolon —and all else is equal— you can immediately consider both incorrect; no question can have two right answers.

3. For transition word or phrase questions, be strategic and immediately eliminate any equivalent options.

Similar to the prior tip, you should be strategic and eliminate options with equivalent answers since it would be impossible to have two correct answers. Most of the transition words or phrases on the ACT can be categorized into a few broad categories: contrast (however, on the other hand, nevertheless, etc.), similarity (likewise, similarly, additionally, etc.), or consequence (thus, consequently, therefore, etc.). When you get to such a question, look at the options and if two of them fall under the same category, you can confidently eliminate both, even without analyzing the context.

How Learning to Work Deeply Can Improve Your Test Scores

The New York Times recently published an article that caught my eye: “How to Actually, Truly Focus on What You’re Doing.” Needless to say, I read it while also answering emails. On the subway.

The article features a conversation with Cal Newport, the author of a 2016 book called Deep Work, whose title is also a term he’s coined for “the activity of focusing without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” Newport argues, rather convincingly, that there’s a cost to switching continuously between tasks -- even if it’s just to quickly switch between browser tabs to check your email. This cost is a psychologically recognized phenomenon called attention residue, and it can significantly reduce your productivity.

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Newport goes on to describe four rules for deep work; the one I found most fascinating was to “embrace boredom.” He notes that if you immediately reach for your phone and start scrolling every time a task begins to bore you, you’re effectively telling your brain it will never have to tolerate tasks that aren’t immediately interesting.

But as we might know from test-taking, homework, and the like, that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have to work through a tough task. And Newport’s research shows that doubling down on the task at hand by working deeply will bear much more fruit than trying to multitask or shifting to a new task halfway through. Fortunately, learning to work deeply is something we can train and work at improving, much like a muscle. So, I’m starting now. As soon as I’m off the subway.

Cognitive Offloading is the Most Important Test Tip You Didn’t Know Existed

Forgive me, dear reader, for this incredibly gimmicky-sounding title, but understanding cognitive offloading will improve your life — and subsequently, your test taking ability. Before I drown you in psychology jargon, I ask this:

Do you know that satisfying feeling when you write out a to-do list? The way your thoughts flow more clearly once you start typing or writing them? Have you ever asked someone (or set your phone alarm) to remind you about something later so you don’t have to hold mental space for it?

These are all everyday examples of cognitive offloading. In short, your brain can only juggle so many things at once — whether it’s keeping information in the background (like remembering something you need to do later) or actively handling a complex task (like planning out an argument for a paper).

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Cognitive offloading is anything you do to reduce the cognitive demands of a task: basically, to make it take up less mental space. You can then use that extra mental space to live your daily life less burdened by background stressors and focus on the task at hand, or to engage more deeply with a cognitively demanding task.

A favorite example: if all of your thoughts seem to be spinning around in your head with no clear way to corral them, offloading the responsibility of memory and organization from your abstract headspace onto a concrete piece of paper (or computer screen, if you must) makes things much easier to process.

My unsolicited life advice to you is to buy a journal and use it! This can be especially helpful if you are reading this as someone engaged in the test prep process yourself, in an incredibly formative stage of life rife with excitement, confusion, and anxieties. In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I’m not entirely sure when, if ever, that stage ends.

I understand you may have many questions — What does this have to do with test taking? Why is a 23-year-old giving me life advice? Why is the sun setting at 4pm in New York? I promise it’s all related and important somehow.

The good news is it’s fairly simple to apply this concept wherever your test-taking needs carry you. Every test — especially if it has a time limit — is a mind game and cognitive offloading should be a part of your psychological toolkit. Hopefully you’ve already heard or practiced these strategies and can now more fully contextualize them.

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In a test-taking context, cognitive offloading can accomplish two main goals: making challenging tasks easier and minimizing the cognitive demand of simple tasks.

The first is easy: write out your work, especially on math tests. If you don’t know how to get the answer, start writing what you know; if applicable, write the simplest equations you are confident in and integrate them on paper instead of in your head. Even the trickiest word problems can often be broken down into a few simple equations, but students get stuck trying to synthesize all of the information into the most comprehensive equation possible before putting pencil to paper. Psychologically speaking, writing more will actually make it easier for you to think

As for the second, the simple task of watching your timing can become incredibly cognitively draining, especially when there’s test anxiety involved. While mitigating test anxiety is a much longer and more complex process, offloading thoughts about time onto a watch is the simplest thing you can do. Any watch with a (silent!) stopwatch or timer will do, but if you’re an LP student you should have our watch, which is pre-programmed with timers for each section of the ACT or SAT. Trusting that the watch is keeping time, only a glance at your wrist away, allows you to release much of the pressure to be thinking about pace as you’re also trying to remember how to calculate arc length or wade your way through a fiction passage. It seems simple, but my students always report feeling less anxious about timing after practicing with their watch — and this lessened anxiety translates to better overall performance on the test.

If this topic is of interest to you, I’d recommend reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, or simply becoming more mindful of the ways in which you already use, and may further integrate, cognitive offloading in your everyday life. Alternatively, track me down at the LP office and I’m happy to ramble about psychology in person.

Solving the Mysteries of Subject Tests

The SAT Subject Tests have been produced by the College Board since 1937, though over the years they have gone by several different names and seen several redesigns of the tests. As the tests themselves have changed, so have the ways in which schools use them in the admissions process. In the current landscape, many colleges have shifted from requiring Subject Tests for admission to either recommending them or considering them. Even as this shift occurs, it is important for students and parents to understand how Subject Tests can work to their advantage in the admissions process.

For highly achieving students in school, the Subject Tests offer an opportunity to show a more specialized level of knowledge than either the general SAT or ACT would. Though many schools have removed the requirement of Subject Test scores because of the financial burden they place on lower-income students, many of these same schools still recommend or consider these tests, meaning they can help boost your profile for admission or help you earn merit-based scholarships from the school. For certain test-optional schools, Subject Tests may actually be submitted in place of an SAT or ACT score on the application. Most schools that consider the Subject Tests will ask for scores from two subjects, and a full list of universities that use Subject Test scores can be found here.

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As students start to consider what colleges they may be interested in, it makes sense to start to develop a plan for how and when to tackle Subject Tests. As freshmen or sophomores, some students take their first AP classes, such as AP Biology or AP World History. As a freshman or sophomore taking AP classes, I would recommend exploring a practice Subject Test as you start to prepare for the AP in the spring. The May Subject Test date tends to coincide well with the AP testing dates, so if you are feeling strong in your AP classes, you could get a head start on these exams. However, the vast majority of students who take these tests will do so in their junior year, while some will even wait until senior year.

For juniors who are interested in schools that consider Subject Tests, there are a few possible paths for getting them done. Though most students will simply wait until the May and June Subject Test dates because they line up with the AP testing dates, this can create an overwhelming spring workload for students who are in multiple AP classes and taking multiple Subject Tests. Though waiting for the spring dates makes the most sense for the Subject Tests that relate to specific class material, the Math and Literature Subject Tests are not directly tied to a curriculum. For students looking to alleviate some of the anxiety of spring, tackling these Subject Tests in October, November, or December of junior year can be a great way to get ahead. For students who may not have realized they needed or wanted Subject Tests until later in the process, taking them in May or June of junior year may not be an option since the focus may still be on the ACT or SAT. In this case, the Math and Literature Subject Tests offer a great alternative, as you can take the summer between junior and senior year to prepare for them. Like with the SAT or ACT, the Subject Tests are highly predictable in their content, so the best way to tackle them is to start thinking about your planned schedule early and to give yourself plenty of time to study and prepare.

2019 Goal: Read More

Even though January 1st has passed, there’s still time to add “read more” to your New Year Resolutions list. Believe it or not, reading is important for more reasons than just succeeding in school (although that’s a pretty important reason!).

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A 2009 study performed at the University of Sussex by Dr. David Lewis found that reading can reduce your stress levels by up to 68%! This is a higher percentage than other commonly prescribed stress relievers such as listening to music or talking a walk. When your body is under stress, you may be unable to focus, have trouble sleeping, or notice that you get sick a lot more than usual. Managing stress is important for you to remain healthy and happy all year round!

“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination” - Dr. David Lewis

So as the weather begins to worsen and the spring ACT and SAT test dates get closer, try managing your stress by reading for a few minutes each day. If you need some reading suggestions, check out the LP library, which is filled with books recommended by your favorite instructors! Or be sure to check out January’s book of the month: Sirens of Titans by Kurt Vonnegut.

New Year, New Team Members!

Introducing LogicPrep’s newest team members!

Amy, COO

With over 20 years of experience in the education industry, Amy is a relentless champion of business optimization with extensive experience leading teams.

She is passionately devoted to the development of high-functioning organizations; not only mentoring employees, but also teaching them to mentor each other. At The Princeton Review she created a team of Tutoring Managers across the country that was a hive of objective-focused activity, with constant exchanges of information and expertise.

Amy brings her data-driven, motivational leadership style to LogicPrep, where she is committed to empowering every member of the team to deliver the best service and outcomes to each student and family.

Amy enjoys biking around NYC, cheering passionately for sports teams to which she has no allegiance, and seeking out the best oyster bars.


Matthew B, Instructor

Hailing from Austin, Texas, Matthew graduated from Princeton University with a BA in philosophy and went on to complete an MFA in poetry at New York University. In addition to instructing his students at LogicPrep, Matthew works as a Teaching Artist at Teachers & Writers Collaborative, introducing children around New York City to poetry and creative writing. He lives in Morningside Heights with his cat, Opal.