Educational Articles

“Campus Fiction” Books to Read Before Going to College

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There actually exists an entire subgenre of literature known as “campus fiction.” In fact, while I was at Princeton, they were offering a course for incoming freshman called “Student Life: The University in Film and Fiction.” While any book that involves a professor or a college student, even to a small degree, can get somewhat unfairly lumped into the category, “campus fiction,” generally takes place on a University campus and contains academia-centered plots in one way or another. And though these books are merely fiction, and (hopefully in some cases) not indicators of what you should expect on campus, they are still worth a read to get an idea of the setting. Below is just a short list of a few of the best books in the “campus fiction,” genre.

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

An extremely humorous book (albeit darkly humorous), Lucky Jim centers around a professor in a small college in Rural England who is in actuality, not so lucky at all. Attempting to secure his reputation as a scholar and lecturer, the somewhat unambitious Professor James Dixon encounters several mishaps and setbacks in the academic world. On the cover of the book’s 1954 first edition, the tale is aptly described as a “frolicking misadventure.”

The Secret History by Donna Tart

Part campus fiction, part academic thriller (if such a thing exists), The Secret History focuses on a group of six friends studying Classics at a small college in Vermont. At the outset of the book, you learn about the murder of one of the friends while at the college, as well as which one of them did it. The remainder of the novel is a rather twisted, suspenseful account of the events leading up to the murder, as well as its long term affects on the group of students.

Possession by A.S. Byatt

Named one of the best novels written in English 1923-2005 by Time Magazine, Possession does not take place on a traditional campus, but instead follows the journey of two graduate students in England as they become increasingly involved with the project of uncovering a hidden romance between two fictional, celebrated Victorian poets. Jumping between the present and the Victorian era, Possession is an inventive, addictive, and at-times metafictional story of intellectual obsession and scholarly devotion.

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

On Beauty takes place in a fictional college town in Massachusetts that bears a resemblance to Harvard, where Smith was living at the time she wrote the book. The novel primarily concerns the lives of a British professor and his family who have moved to the university for the father’s academic career. Inspired by E.M. Forester’s novel, “Howard’s End,” Smith addresses themes such as the cultural differences between England in the United States, specifically in terms of attitudes toward race, class, and the value of beauty. As the title would suggest, the book deals in particular with the theme of aesthetics, both in an artistic context and in the context of human appearance and standards of beauty.

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Though overshadowed by The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise is nonetheless a beautifully written, mostly autobiographical account of Fitzgerald’s time at Princeton as a young man from the Midwest. Though he ultimately left Princeton after a year, This Side of Paradise includes a glimpse into the ups and downs of his freshman year, and contains many critiques about the culture of social competition at elite universities. Fitzgerald wrote book, as the story goes, in an attempt to impress his future wife, Zelda Sayre, as a published author.

On Bookstores & Majors

My favorite bookstore in the world in the same city as my favorite sister in the world (side note: I have only one sister). It’s called Powell’s Books, which is an enormous warehouse of a building, yet somehow also feels cozy. In color-coded room after color-coded room, there are books on every possible subject and in every genre. Best of all, Powell’s shelves new and used books together, so If I’m traveling to Berlin, say, I can buy the latest guidebook… along with a 19th-century traveler’s diary.

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Nearly every Dec 26th, my family goes. And every time we enter, the same thing happens: we make beelines to different sections, roam the store following our varied interests, and don’t see each other again till we meet in the café with piles of books to choose from. Our tastes aren’t always what a stranger would guess: for instance, my brother, a composer, somehow finds himself in the international mysteries; I predictably dart for languages but somehow wind up in monographs about animal intelligence.

I’ve been thinking about Powell’s because it’s college essay writing season – and after my first question (“what do you plan to major in?”) I get to ask one of my favorites: if you were trapped in Powell’s Bookstore -- and had no phone -- where would you go? Which is another way of saying: what really makes you interested? What subjects actually bring you pleasure? And be specific, because Powell’s is huge! If you love “sports,” my next question will be: which sports? And then: the history of that sport? Stats? Memoirs of? Business management?

The larger question, of course, is what strange byways of knowledge would you like to explore? Because if I know which section of Powell’s you’d wind up in, I know something about you -– something better than what your major might be. I know what you truly find fascinating. And that is the beginning of really knowing someone.

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So choose your major wisely, but also: make sure at college – and in life – you make time to wander the bookshelves of Powell’s. Whether or not you actually find yourself in the real Powell’s or not.

Tips for College Move-In Day

It’s almost Labor Day, and if you haven’t begun moving in already (many freshman students are probably already settled in), it’s time to start going through your closets, stocking up on supplies, and most importantly, buying the cutest and coolest dorm room accessories and decor! 

For many, the task of packing up and moving can be overwhelming and stressful. The excitement you feel as a freshman wears off every year after that! It’s definitely a shock getting used to not only a much smaller space but one that you might have to share with a stranger. Fingers crossed for an amazing roomie! Here are a few tips to help ease your way back to school. 

 Resident balconies at Scripps College

Resident balconies at Scripps College

Simplify your wardrobe

You’ll probably be going home a few times between the start of the semester and when the weather starts to change, so I suggest bringing only what you need! You won’t need your heavy sweatshirts and jackets until the end of October, possibly even November. So, leave those at home so you have more space in your dorm closet. 

Hang, stack, hide

Learning how to organize everything you need will help you greatly! I highly suggest purchasing stackable drawers or totes to help keep related items together. This will keep your room clean and your items easy to find! Also, many schools allow you to raise your bed, and this adds much more space. Use your spaces wisely! 

Take a breather

Move-in day can be hectic. There are hundreds of students and their families mulling around campus. Once you have all your belongings in the room, it’s ok to take a moment to yourself and take a deep breath before unpacking. This will clear your head and help you feel ready to tackle the daunting task of getting your new room just right. 

 Dorm room at Bentley University

Dorm room at Bentley University

Coordinate with your roomie

I couldn’t agree with this point more! I remember when I was moving into my dorm, my roommate and I (strangers before college), communicated via email to discuss who would bring what. This ensured that we weren’t stuck with limited space because we had two refrigerators, two tv’s, two vacuums, etc. Touch base with each other before you start stocking up!  

Make it Yours

Even though there’s a lot of anxiety surrounding moving in, the best part is making the space truly yours. Your room should reflect who you are! So, buy those cool posters and wall art, get the bedding with the super cute pattern, and let your personality shine. Above all, have fun!! 

Good luck to all of our college freshman and returning college students in the new school year!! 


Rae-Ann 

LogicPrep in Forbes: Mentorship Lessons From Running an Education Company

As the founder of an education company that prepares high school students for college, Lindsay is often asked about LogicPrep's average test score improvement, college acceptance rates and other metrics by which we measure success.

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While we are deeply proud of our students’ outcomes, she feels that one of LogicPrep's greatest strengths is the least measurable (at least in numerical terms). What makes her most proud is when a student says that they enjoyed coming into our office, connected with their instructors and felt supported and encouraged.

Mentorship, which is such a powerful motivator for our students, has been equally essential to Lindsay's own development as a CEO. But it is by working with students and seeing them thrive that she’s come to learn how to foster these relationships in business.

Read Lindsay's latest feature in Forbes, which talks about the role of mentorship in her life and why fostering supportive, motivating relationships is essential to our students' success.

How Reading Can Help You Overcome Culture Shock

We work hard to prepare our Brazilian students for the cultural shock of starting college in the US. But what happens when our US team works with Brazilian students or comes to visit us in Brazil? 

Our experience shows that reading helps people to understand some of the cultural nuances that might not otherwise be obvious. We usually recommend a list of ten books that were written by accomplished Brazilian writers. The first book is always the same: Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. The purpose of my blog post is to write about this book and explain the importance of reading it to understand Brazilian culture.

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands was written in 1966 by Jorge Amado, one of Brazil’s most accomplished novelists. It tells the story of Dona Flor, a young woman living in the northeast of Brazil and married to
Vadinho. The plot begins with the sudden death of Dona Flor’s husband, known for being irresponsible and a great lover. Dona Flor remarries with pharmacist Teodoro, a well-respected man and described as being the exact opposite of Vadinho. The story evolves and Teodoro, Dona Flor and the ghost of Vadinho end up sharing the same bed and living together as a triplet.

This novel can be interpreted in many ways. My favorite version is the one that describes Brazilian culture as the perfect blend of formality and informality. In Brazil, the stiffness of behavior (Teodoro) and relaxed and unofficial style (Vadinho) walk together, hand-in-hand, in a balanced and yet chaotic way. Brazilians love to overlap work with social life; we exercise rule-setting but praise flexibility. In day-to-day life, Brazilians can have the most respectful manners towards their coworkers and yet call them by their nicknames. In addition, we talk to people on the streets with proximity regardless of being strangers.

There is no moral judgment here. It is what it is. When it comes to overcoming the cultural shock, there is no good or bad, worse or better. I feel strongly that understanding these cultural idiosyncrasies and ambiguities is an important step toward overcoming the cultural shock and emphathizing better with students.

How to Spend Your Summer: Consider Volunteering Your Time

During the long, lazy days of summer, it’s so tempting to simply relax and unwind after a busy year in school. However, you will have already read many of the posts on this blog encouraging you to make good use of this time, to read, to experience new things, travel and experience new cultures… Here’s another suggestion: volunteer your time to a non-profit organization. As well as helping the organization, this can benefit you in many ways: valuable experience for your resumé, a sense of community, well-being, and purpose, new connections, and friends.

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I have been volunteering my time from home for some years translating for non-profit organizations. However, earlier this year, I decided to fulfill a promise I had been making. I used to live in France and now, back in the UK, I like to spend my vacations across the small pond that we call the English Channel, getting my fix of French cheese! Each time I travel, I am aware of the refugees that are stuck in the port town of Calais and I have often said to myself that I will go there and do something to make a difference to these people’s lives, however small. This promise was hard to fulfill: there were family commitments, work, life took over. After seeing so much in the news about the desperate people who travel to the region to escape war, persecution and uncertain political situations in their own countries, finally, I decided that I just had to take action.

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I booked a few days off work and began my research. I discovered many non-profits working in Calais, supporting the refugees and accepting short-term volunteers. I posted in my local refugee help group on social media and within a couple of hours had managed to contact a group locally who were sending volunteers each weekend for the whole month. I found a woman who had booked the same dates as me and was looking for someone to take along, so I could just fit in with her plans – amazing, what a coincidence!

I decided to reach out to the community to see if I could bring donations of items that were needed. It was still cold, so I put out a call for hats, gloves and scarves, to my nearby and online friends as well as local churches. The generous response was overwhelming and I ended up taking 8 sacks of donations.

On arriving in France, I was nervous going to the warehouse that would soon be my place of work with the organisation Help Refugees. I need not have worried, I was met by a group of friendly, dedicated volunteers and staff, part of a community where everyone is accepted and respected, whatever their background or identity. During morning briefing, I learned more about the situation in Calais and how, sadly, the authorities were hostile towards refugees sleeping rough and also towards volunteers distributing food. I was then taken on a tour and discovered that I would spend the first part of my stay working in the warehouse, sorting blankets and sleeping bags that had been donated by the public. We had a huge sense of satisfaction when we had organised the area and made an inventory of all the items.

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The next day, I helped out with the organisation Refugee Community Kitchen. These amazing people cook hearty vegan curries for around 1000 refugees each day, as well as for the volunteers. The kitchen was an upbeat place to work; I prepped veg, washed up and prepared the portions for distribution while chatting to the other volunteers. It was interesting to hear their stories: many recent graduates who were taking a year out, a doctor who had given up her only free weekend in months to fly down from Scotland, an American who had already been volunteering in Greece, people from all backgrounds, all united in the common cause of helping people who had lost so much.

I left feeling that I had only made a minor contribution, but had gained so much: I saw a great deal of kindness and dedication and my faith was restored in humanity. I will be going back later this month to take some more donations and check in with how things are going.

I only gave a weekend, but it was a life-changing experience. I urge you to find something that you can be passionate about and give your time to. It doesn’t need to be a big commitment, even if it’s just for a few days over the remaining weeks of summer, you can make a difference and I guarantee that you will also benefit from what you choose to do.

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Seniors: How to Prep for College App Season

Dear Seniors,

With the blink of an eye, it’s somehow already August -- and before we can blink twice more, November 1 will be around the corner!

And we all know why November 1 matters.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as we tumble towards this important date:

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Draft up your college essay(s)

Once your school year starts up again, you’ll have homework, athletics, and other extracurriculars demanding much of your time. That’s why it’s a good idea to aim to return to school with a solid Common Application essay draft -- and at least a few Early Decision/Early Action supplements -- ready to go. We encourage you to research the universities on your list in depth so you can craft thoughtful, school-specific supplemental essays. This will make it super easy for admission officers to imagine you thriving on their campus (and hopefully welcome you into the incoming class!)

 

Consider creating a resume

While many of your favorites, most time-consuming extracurricular activities will likely be included in your Common App list already, you may want to share additional activities that have mattered to you. The “additional information” section of your Common App is a perfect place to include these, and it’s a good idea to format each one with organized bullet points -- just like you would a resume.

 

Put together a portfolio

In addition to your intellectual curiosity, heart of gold, and impact in your communities, universities also love to learn about your artistic talents and passions. Have you invested a lot of time in a specific artistic discipline? If so, you may want to consider submitting an Art Supplement. Be sure to plan ahead, as each school that accepts this supplement may have different requirements -- and sometimes different (earlier) deadlines -- for students who want their portfolios reviewed with their whole application.

 

Follow up with your recommenders

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You’ve heard me say it many times by now, but I’ll say it again -- your recommendation letters can have a huge impact on your overall application. Many of you have just returned from fulfilling summers with exciting new academic and extracurricular experiences. Don’t forget to check in with your recommenders, ask them how they are doing, share any new information with them, and confirm that they have everything they need to write you a positively glowing letter.

 

Don’t forget about standardized testing

You thought I’d never mention it, right? Sorry :) October is typically the last standardized test that counts in time for Early Action/Decision applications, so be sure to register if you’d feel more confident taking it one last time. Remember: in addition to submitting your applications, you’ll also be responsible for releasing your standardized testing record to each university.

 

Gear up for interviews

Once you’ve submitted your application, some schools may contact you for interviews, which are most often used as another data point in a holistic review of your application. For some schools, interviews are optional, while for others, they are mandatory. Either way, you’ll want to carve out some time to prepare for these with articulate responses about your favorite academic subjects and teachers, leadership impact, curiosities about the university, and stories about other important experiences that have shaped you into who you are today.

 

Maintain academic excellence

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Remember, senior year grades matter, so now is not the time to let “Senioritis” kick in! Early applications will include grades from your first quarter, and Regular Decision applications will request midyear reports from your counselors. If you’re deferred in the Early round, it’s possible that admission officers want to see your full first semester grades from senior year, so keep up (or even improve!) your academic performance.

 

And even after Nov 1…

Just because you hit “submit” doesn’t mean you can forget about your application altogether. Be sure to check your inbox for confirmation about your application. Most schools will send you a link to a portal to track your application status. If you notice that any part of your application is missing, it’s your responsibility to make sure the school receives it promptly. Schools cannot review your application or share admission decisions with you without receiving your complete application.
 

Whew! This may seem like a lot to keep in mind in a short period of time. Luckily, the whole team at LogicPrep is here to help you succeed and put forward the best version of yourselves. No matter what, we know you’ll get into schools where you will thrive, not just as scholars, but as human beings ready to make an impact wherever you ultimately land. Don’t forget that we are your biggest fans!

My Biggest Regret in College & How You Can Avoid the Same Mistake

Ah, summer. The sunny skies, the green green grass. Beach time if you're lucky, study time if you're ... well, study time. Period.

Some of you are heading back to high school in the fall for another year, inching (or, from your parents' perspectives, hurtling) toward the Great Launch to College. And some of you are making the Great Launch even as we speak, preparing to enter a brand new world, surrounded by exciting new people and exciting new opportunities. Either way, in the short term or the (not very) long term, you are looking toward a time of choices -- what to learn, whom to hang out with -- and in many cases, it will be hard to make a truly wrong choice. You're going to learn a lot, no matter what you do, and learning is the whole point, and the joy.

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I have exactly one regret about my choices in college. In order to fulfill a curriculum requirement one semester, I was choosing between two science classes: one, a notoriously EASY course in electrical engineering, where the main assignment was to create a rudimentary website by the end of the course; the other, a notoriously HARD class on the physics and acoustics of musical instruments. Now, I'm a musician, and I love everything having to do with music. The acoustics class looked so intriguing ... but I thought to myself, "Do I really want to do hard calculus problems again? Wouldn't I enjoy myself more if I gave myself a break and coasted through the semester this time?" And so, like many others, I chose the website class ... and it nags at me to this day. 

 Sound waves from Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

Sound waves from Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

I got nothing from that easy class. (Well, I guess I got a lousy website, but even that is long gone.) But I still think about what it might have been like to explore the science of how music, my life's greatest passion, is actually physically made. I look at a rock band, or an orchestra, and think, "I could have learned how all those magical things are happening. How the strings vibrate the air, how the overtones color the sounds of the oboe and the electric guitar, how changing the length of the air column in the flute changes the pitch ..." But I didn't. I ... I chose the road MORE traveled by ... and that has made, if not all the difference, at least enough difference that I still look back at where those roads diverged.

So what I'm saying is: when it comes to the choices between the hard and the easy, remember to push yourself. Don't just float down the river; choose the course where there are rapids to navigate, because the rapids are thrilling and exhilarating, and even if you come out exhausted and bedraggled on the other side, you will remember it with joy and pride.

And you know what else? It's never too late to pick the challenge. We live in a world where we can go back and find those textbooks on musical instruments, and learn what we never pushed ourselves to learn back then. So I think I'm gonna go do that ... gonna head down the rapids I steered myself away from so long ago. See you on the other side.

Why the Diagnostic Process is Crucial to the Test Prep Process

The diagnostic process is the first step for everyone in what is a very long road. Why do we do this? It is extremely important for the student, the family and our staff to understand where we are starting from on both the SAT and ACT; knowing what you're up against is half the battle. Sometimes knowing what you don't want to do in your test prep is just as important as figuring out what to do, and we want all of our families to understand all of their options in totality before making a decision together. After we complete the diagnostic process, we can prepare a game plan for each student that addresses their specific needs.

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A question I get asked all the time now is why take both tests during the diagnostic process, as many students come in with a preconcieved idea about which test might be best for them after conversations with friends and siblings. The truth of the matter is that experiencing a diagnostic SAT and ACT brings clarity for the entire process. Creating a unified goal for us to work towards is crucial - and if they don't expereince both tests, many students will may ask themseves "what if?" once they hit the first plateau in their preparation.

Another key component in the diagnostic process that sets us apart, is the ability to meet with different instructors and pick whom you would like to work with. While all of our instructors are incredibly talented and bright, they all bring different personalities and teaching styles. Finding the right fit for each student is paramount to success.

At the end of the process, we want to empower our students to be in control of their test prep. This is an important process that allows for a lot of growth and we want to foster that growth.

In the words of our late founder, Jesse Kolber, "don't be the sage on the stage, be the guide on the side."

What Happened with the June SAT?

People are fired up about the June SAT.

When the College Board released SAT scores last week, many students noticed something off: they missed the same number of questions as on previous tests, but their scores were lower. In some cases, students answered more questions correctly only to see their scores go down.

How is this possible? Well, unlike most high school grades, the SAT scores that get reported to colleges are not "raw" scores that directly reflect the percentage of questions answered correctly. Instead, they are “scaled” scores out of 800 in each section. This scaled score is what allows colleges to compare a score that a student received in May in Brazil with a score received in October in Florida, or a score received by an applicant this year with a score received by an applicant last year.

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There are minor variations in difficulty between one test form and another, so the scale used -- commonly called the test's "curve" -- changes slightly from test to test. In one typical test, missing 5 questions across the two math sections might lower a student's score from a "perfect" 800 to a 760. In another, the same number of errors might only lower the score to a 780. The College Board calls this process test equating, and it's based on test statistics, not on individual performance.

This kind of "equating" -- and the frustration it can cause students -- is nothing new. So why are people so upset about the June SAT? Two reasons: First, the curve was the steepest by far since the new SAT was first administered in 2016. According to some students' score reports, missing the same number of questions resulted in scores as many as 90 points lower than in previous test administrations. A gap that large raises alarms: while equating works well between tests with only a slight variation in difficulty, it doesn't work well when some tests are substantially "easier" than others. The frustration over the curve is felt particularly strongly among high-scoring students since a test with a steep curve fails to distinguish meaningfully between content-based errors and a small number of careless mistakes.

Second, four items were removed from the Verbal side of the test (two from the Reading section, and two from the Writing and Language section). The test is designed to be able to provide an accurate score even when some questions are deemed flawed after the fact and removed from consideration; still, having four items removed on top of a steep curve for an "easy" test has left many students feeling like the College Board's June test was simply unfair.

What can be done?

The College Board has released a statement affirming that scores are accurate, so don’t expect any adjustments to the test's scale or scoring. Instead of focusing on this one test, students should remember that standardized testing is a long game. Most of our students take the test multiple times in part because the tests -- as well as individual performance -- can vary from day-to-day. The ultimate goal of testing is to present colleges with a score that reflects your hard work and your abilities, and it's difficult for any one test to indicate more than just your performance on a single day. This is a big part of why many colleges "superscore" the test, taking the highest score from each section across multiple tests. Even rising seniors still have several opportunities to take the test again, including August 25 (registration deadline July 27, late registration deadline August 15), October 6, and November 3.

The June test was unusual -- and with all the outcry, you can be sure the College Board will be working even harder to ensure consistent test difficulty in the future. But under normal circumstances, "equating" makes the tests more fair, not less. If you're well prepared and one test section feels harder than usual on test day, you should expect the curve to reflect that. And if you unexpectedly finish a section earlier than usual, be sure to take that opportunity to double check for careless mistakes.