Educational Articles

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).

When New Chapters Come with New Challenges

The first semester of college is exciting—a new beginning in your life, a new chapter in your story, a new learning environment that promises to be a great fit!

Murilo poses on campus at Duke while visiting an LP Alum

Murilo poses on campus at Duke while visiting an LP Alum

And yet... college students now seek support for emotional and mental health issues in greater numbers than ever before. Since 2009, when anxiety surpassed depression as the leading mental health issue facing college students, the number of students experiencing anxiety has continued to increase each year. It is not clear whether the transition to college itself is a root cause of anxiety or whether college is the first opportunity for some students to access appropriate services or request an intervention.

College students reported causes of anxiety ranging from the challenges associated with managing competing commitments (new classes, clubs, sports, dorm life, Greek life, and other new social opportunities), the challenges associated with managing technology (addiction), homesickness, and the fear of not doing well (or well enough, especially after having worked so hard to get in) or of not getting a job after college.

Even at the secondary level, school administrators report concern about the mental health of students and an increased need for funding to meet these needs. In last year’s survey of school superintendents, for example, the New York State Council of School Superintendents (NYSCOSS) reported a 17% increase in the percentage of superintendents identifying increasing mental-health related services for students as a top funding priority (from 35% to 52%). Across multiple questions related to financial matters, 45% of superintendents responded that the capacity to help students with non-academic needs (including health and mental health) is a significant problem, and when asked to rank three top priorities, should funding beyond what would be needed to maintain current services and meet mandates become available, increasing mental health services emerged as the top priority among superintendents statewide. 

There is a consistent link and a positive correlation between student’s social and emotional well-being and mental health and their school success and academic achievement. Students who achieve academically at a high level are more likely to engage in healthy physical activity on a regular basis, more likely to get healthy sleep, and less likely to engage in risk behaviors and vice versa.

With the shortest day of the year on the immediate horizon, winter break provides students the opportunity not only to sleep in, but to recharge and reflect on the transition to college with their families. Talk with your first-year student (or sophomore or junior) about what’s working well, how to foster healthy relationships and routines, whether he or she feels supported appropriately on campus, and how to grow academically each new day as the days begin once again to lengthen towards spring.

At LogicPrep, we’re committed to supporting students throughout their entire journey - and that extends through college. Interested in learning some new organizational techniques or chatting about time management? Looking for support in Into to Calc or Econ or Psych? Our team is - and remains - here for you every step of the way.

LogicPrep in Forbes: What Standardized Testing Can Teach Us About Problem Solving In Business And Life

As the founder and CEO of an educational consulting firm, when Lindsay tells people about what she does, she usually gets one of the following responses:

a) Did you know I got a perfect 800 on my SAT/36 on my ACT? (Fill in the blank with some crazy impressive test score.)

b) College tests are the worst. I’m so glad I don’t have to ever look at the SAT or ACT again.

c) The SAT and ACT are pointless! I did terribly and look how successful I am now.

It’s no secret that the SAT and ACT tend to evoke strong emotional responses. What Lindsay has come to discover, though, is that these tests have more to teach us than we might realize, not just about math and reading but also problem-solving in business and in life.

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Read Lindsay’s latest feature in Forbes where she discussed her thoughts on what standardized testing can teach us about problem-solving beyond the classroom.

The Power of Elimination - Mastering Multiple Choice

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book -- but is a very powerful, underrated strategy!

“So, what can you eliminate?”

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My students will tell you that I must say this phrase at least 100 times each lesson, but there is a method to my madness. In almost every question on the ACT Math section, there is usually one answer that is completely out of left field. As soon as you see that answer, crossing it off immediately will ensure that you won’t accidentally choose it if it comes down to guessing. It will also help lead your brain to the right answer by narrowing your focus to the other answer choices. In the case of “plug and chug” questions, having to plug in 3 numbers versus 5 can save you precious seconds in the race against the clock.

Eliminating will not only help you increase your chances of selecting the correct answer, but it will exercise your intuition and confidence. Knowing the wrong answer can be just as useful as knowing the right one!

My Favorite (Free!) Website for ACT Reading Preparation

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Most of my students struggle with the ACT Reading section not because they can’t read, but because it is so difficult to manage the short time given. This is entirely understandable, the ACT is a unique experience that is hard to prepare for. Think about it this way, in the real world people normally don’t open up the New York Times and give themselves 5 minutes to read the top front page article. That would be just weird. Even if you wanted to do this, you wouldn't know how long the article should take you to read anyway. With every second counting, guessing an article should take you 6 minutes to read when it really should be 5 minutes can be quite costly.

This is why I love JSTOR’s, the world’s leading digital library of academic journals, daily (free!!!) blog based on the papers they publish.

Sourced and written by their own high-quality writers, the content is on par with what you may see in an ACT Reading section. Even better, they divide the website topically so you can practice the passage type (expect fiction) that gives you the most trouble. Best of all, each article is listed with a reading time so you can time yourself even if don’t have time for a full section. Perfect for when you just have 5 minutes to practice.

JSTOR’s blog is the best free website out there to help you prepare for reading the ACT’s deep academic content under time pressure.

You can find the link here: https://daily.jstor.org/   

Good luck and enjoy!

The Other Half of the Test, and How to Master It

We all know there is a lot of material to learn on the path to mastering the SAT or ACT – formulas, grammar rules, reading strategies. But there is another skill to master: the mind game.

During the nearly four-hour test, pacing, endurance, and fatigue become huge factors in our mental performance. These hurdles make up the mind game: the psychological prowess needed in partnership with the material to maintain rigorous concentration during the test’s unique conditions. Rather than being learned in a lesson, these skills come from building the muscle of focus. And like any muscle, it needs to be trained. 

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Training is not something that happens over night – at our second trip to the gym, we don’t run a marathon. Instead, we take active steps to train this muscle during our practice.

Practice. Interesting word, that. What do we know about practice?

We are taught that practice makes perfect. This is not true. An aspiring pitcher who practices by bowling the baseball probably isn’t going to be very successful, even if they practice all day every day.

The truth is: Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.

This means when we prepare for the test but do not exercise the mind game, we are making permanent the limited focus and energy we are bringing to our practice. That is why it is so important to push ourselves to improve focus during all of our SAT/ACT practice.

There are steps we can take to train our focus and improve our mind game when we study for the tests:

THE ENVIRONMENT

Just like test day, your practice space needs to be distraction free. Find a quiet space, preferably with as few people around as possible. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. If kid brother is always practicing his air guitar and mom always has an endless number of phone calls, tell your family “Hey, I’m going to be studying for the SAT/ACT at 7 tonight, can I have an hour of quiet-time in the house?”

Most importantly, put your phone away. In another room, preferably. Practicing with it buzzing at the other end of the table is going to make permanent that little voice in your head wondering what your friends are texting you. It won’t be there on test day, so get it outta there.

Or better yet, head to LogicPrep anytime, and we’ll set you up in a distraction-free study space or an empty room. We’ll even hold your cell phone behind the front desk for you.

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THE BODY

Given the intensity of high school, it is understandable that sometimes SAT/ACT homework happens later at night than we might want. But attempting these endurance-based tests when we’re losing our energy to stay focused is bad practice, and builds bad mental habits. If you feel yourself losing steam, it might be best to call it a night and start up again in the morning.

Hunger can be just as distracting as tiredness. Stock up on brain foods to snack on before you begin your SAT/ACT practice, like nuts or berries. Just like with our phones, we do not want to make permanent the state of distraction that an empty stomach brings.

THE MIND

You know the feeling when you’ve read the same paragraph for the third time but still can’t remember what it is about? That’s your mind’s signal telling you that your focus is temporarily low and needs a little reset. There’s no use reading it a fourth time – we don’t want to make that mental state permanent. Instead, take a micro break. Try moving your body: walk up and down the stairs or do ten jumping jacks. Use this moment to wipe your slate clean and return to the question at hand as if it’s the first question you’re working on today. Slowly, our mental muscles improve, and we can reset and focus by simply taking a deep breath. But until then, note when your mind is drifting, and take active, physical steps to correct it.

In order to build the mental muscles required for staying focused during these large tests, it is important that you study in test conditions. Remember, practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Highlights from NACAC 2018

Every year college admissions professionals gather for the NACAC Conference to discuss the trends happening in the world of admissions. The conference this year took place in Salt Lake City and covered a number of new and exciting topics.

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A new way to read applications - Committee Based Evaluations

There is a relatively new way that applications are being read in admissions offices called Committee Based Evaluations that was started by an admissions officer at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, when you apply to Penn, your application is read by two people — at the same time, sitting right next to each other. One will be the "driver;” this person manages the “territory” (admissions speak for the geographic location) that the application is coming from. The driver is someone who is familiar with your school’s curriculum, opportunities, and overall grading system, and will focus on the more quantitative and academic side of your app (transcript, school profile, counselor recommendation, and teacher recommendations). The second reader will be assessing the more personal and qualitative components of your app (the application, essays, alumni interview, and any additional information or recommendations). The two readers will then discuss the applicant together as they read through the application to ensure the most thorough read. This strategy guarantees more eyes on every application — focusing on each facet — and we won’t be surprised if more colleges begin to adopt this procedure in the coming seasons.

What is Early Decision 2 really?

A panel of Admission Officers from Claremont McKenna, Colorado College, and University of Chicago examined Early Decision 2 and why those acceptance rates are significantly lower than Early Decision 1. Claremont McKenna saw a 13% drop in acceptances between the two rounds, Colorado College saw a 9% drop, and the University of Chicago declined to share their numbers. However, there were a few themes throughout all of their presentations that alluded to why this is the case. In addition to being a larger applicant pool in Early Decision 1 as opposed to Early Decision 2, students with “hooks” - something that allows them to stand out in the process - most often apply in the first Early Decision round. These students are the legacies and recruited athletes and oftentimes are able to have the conversation with admissions (via a coach) before applying, helping to ensure that their Early choice is within reach. The other notable difference that everyone (myself included) saw between the rounds is that the strength of the Early Decision 2 pool is weaker than Early Decision 1. Not in such a way that it makes it easier for a student to get in through ED2 as opposed to ED1, but because students sometimes overreach on where they are applying. This makes the choice of selecting an Early Decision 2 school that much more strategic for those students who either don’t get into their Early Decision 1 school or don’t apply in the first round.

The TOEFL has competition

Duolingo, the popular language learning platform, has rolled out a competitor to the TOEFL test. Using the data they’ve collected on language learning patterns from its millions of users, they’re able to test people on their level of English proficiency. They can do this at a much faster rate by having the test adapt to the user’s level of fluency, allowing them to complete it in 45 minutes rather than 4 hours. This test has already been adopted as an alternative to the TOEFL by top schools including Yale, Duke, WashU, Tufts, UCLA among others. More information (and an opportunity to try the test out) to come soon!

“Fit” isn’t just a buzzword — it’s an increasingly important angle to evaluating college applications.

The vast majority of universities are moving towards putting more emphasis on "fit.” A number of admission officers and deans that we spoke with brought up the importance of using fit to prioritize applicants — in a manner more prominent than it has been in years past. They spoke about this in the sense that applicants who may seem qualified for a school, but don't fit in (one example given was a non-STEM student applying to CalTech) wouldn't be accepted. On the other hand, students who might seem a little under qualified for a given school but are a really good fit for the campus and academic life would, in fact, be offered a spot. While this concept has always been a factor in the admissions process, it seems as though it will be weighed even more heavily. With this in mind, the narrative students share is even more important than ever.

You have more control over your recommendation letter than you think

Some high schools are developing a new format for writing letters of recommendation. While not the most groundbreaking news, some schools are trying to structure their letters to have individual sections for showing (1) how the student did in the larger context, (2) what his or her activities and interests are, and (3) what kind of impact he or she has made on the community or school at large. This means that it’s now more important than ever for students to diligently fill out their “brag sheets” — a term often applied to the self-reporting form students submit to guidance counselors. If this isn’t an option at your school, take the initiative to send your guidance counselor a summary of your achievements and contributions to your classrooms and community. This way, you can be sure your counselor will have plenty of glowing anecdotal information to draw from when drafting your recommendation letter.

Why Reading Will Benefit You When Applying to College & Beyond

It is quite clear that we live in a digital age where our minds are often inundated with information from platforms like Facebook and Instagram and also from text messages we receive from family and friends. We spend a great deal of our time responding to notifications, time that we could otherwise spend devoted to old-school, deep reading. I get it! In fact, I am sometimes guilty of it myself getting carried away by such distractions (and I even enjoy it). However, I think it is important to note the difference between the texts found in a book or informative article and the text messages found in your phone. I favor the former and here are a few reasons why:

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Engaged reading can only improve your SAT/ACT scores

First, as many of us know, the current college application process involves more than just completing a set of courses in high school and achieving a certain GPA. It means preparation for standardized tests like the ACT or SAT. It means proving your intellectual strengths. For the ACT or SAT in particular, building the habit of engaged reading is crucial to see progress not only in the verbal sections of the ACT/SAT but all throughout. I see this all the time with my students. In fact, various studies show that deep engaged reading is actually connected to cognitive progress over time. This cognitive progress can help you overcome the reading section of the ACT/SAT, give you exposure to new vocabulary and new ideas, and even give you new forms of reasoning to solve that super complicated math problem.

Colleges want to know that you’re reading

Second, aside from standardized tests, colleges and universities admire students who go out of their way to delve into readings of their interest. So much so that often colleges and universities might ask for your favorite outside readings (not assigned in your English class) on their applications. Columbia for example asks “List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year” in one of their 2018-2019 supplement prompts. Boston College asks “Is there a particular song, poem, speech, or novel from which you have drawn insight or inspiration?”. Both of these questions provide an opportunity to show that you strive to become more informed in areas that interest you. Reading in this case becomes an advantage during the application process. You can use a book to talk about your passions and values or how a book pushed you to explore a certain subject.

You’ll understand the world better

Finally and most importantly, reading is a tool to learn greater empathy. I read an article recently that asserts this: words serve as a vehicle that transports you through someone else’s perspective. When you read deeply and meaningfully, you come across characters that are just like you. You also get exposed to others that are completely different than you. But reading is so intimate that you are often looking through the eyes of a character whether understanding their struggle or celebrating their success. In fact, different parts of our brain that have to do with emotion activate as we read about the life of a character. As the article pointed out, when we are deeply engaged with a story our brains mirror the actions and feelings of the characters. When we read, we exercise our brain to process new ways of forging relationships between ourselves and others. You have the opportunity to gain more sophisticated ways of understanding the world.

You might favor reading quick posts on your phone because it requires minimal effort. However, keep in mind that with minimal effort comes minimal rewards. You might be slowing your test preparation progress. You might be giving up an opportunity to increase your reading speed and comprehension. You might be giving up an opportunity to understand the thoughts and feelings of someone different.

What I would encourage is instead for you to choose to participate in deep reading. Pick an area that you like, something that interests you, and research a book related to it. If you still have a hard time finding a book, come to any of us at LogicPrep and we will gladly help you.

Reading makes us smarter, more informed, and more empathetic. These characteristics will be highly valued as you apply to college and even beyond. Why not start building them now? You want to go into college showing maturity through empathy and also demonstrating that you can handle the volume and complexity of college-level reading material.

LogicPrep's Favorite College Application Essay Prompts (and How to Answer Them)

We asked our team of experts to share their favorite (or least favorite!) college application essay prompt and how they recommend responding. See their advice below!

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Andrew

Washington University in St. Louis: Tell us about something that really sparks your intellectual interest and curiosity and compels you to explore more. It could be an idea, book, project, cultural activity, work of art, start-up, music, movie, research, innovation, question, or other pursuit.

Andrew’s tip: A question like this is great because it's inherently exciting. There's no implied expectation to start with some wild hook or pithy remark. Really, the best way to start with this kind of question is just with free brainstorming, or even going back-and-forth with a friend. Imagine: what kind of class would you read in a course catalogue and go nuts over? Or start listing out some of your favorite (or just recent!) classes, books, movies, etc. and start spitballing: what grabbed you? Once you've filled a half page (or more!) with everything that jumps to mind, start rereading your notes. Do any immediately lead you to ask another question? These cascading questions can be a great sign that you really have an interest to describe here.


David

Villanova University: Describe a book, movie, song, or other work of art that has been significant to you since you were young and how its meaning has changed for you as you have grown. 

David’s tip: I love this one because it allows you to both revel in a work of art or pop culture you've loved as a kid and also show the tools you have now to look at it with more adult eyes. I recommend going back to something you loved before you were, say, 7. Because all great works you love as a kid have so much more there waiting to be explored!


Eli & Julia

University of Virginia: What’s your favorite word and why?

Eli’s tip: This is a great chance to be creative and really stand out in the process - think outside the box!

Julia’s tip: This prompt allows you to fill in the cracks of your application with whatever aspect of your personality you feel hasn't been addressed elsewhere. Is the rest of your application quite serious? Choose a silly word (like my personal favorite, "guacamole" -- it's impossible to say without smiling). Are you bilingual? Choose a non-English word of significance to you. A language nerd? Choose something with an interesting etymology, like "clue". Still can't come up with anything? Then work your way backward: pick a story that you want to share with your Admissions Officer, and come up with a word that will serve as a segue allowing you to tell your tale.


Fausto & Marjorie

Common Application: The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?

Fausto’s tip: This question gives you an opportunity to acknowledge a time when you struggled and overcame a challenge. By reflecting on challenges and setbacks, you will demonstrates courage, perseverance, a sense of maturity and self introspection. Think of an obstacle that resulted in an "aha" moment. Show how that obstacle was transformational - what did you learn? how did you change?

Marjorie’s tip: This is actually my least favorite prompt. Like any prompt, the “lessons we take” from setbacks or failures can result in a good essay, but so often it’s a trap!  Students set up artificial “challenges” wherein other students misbehave (e.g. in a homophobic, misogynist, or racist manner) and, having witnessed this behavior, they confront the “challenge” of what to do about it! This results in a judgmental rather than an introspective narrative. Or worse, the student addresses an authentic setback or failure...but dwells on actual failure resulting in an essay leaving what might best be characterized as a “Wah wahhhhhhh” impression rather than a positive impression on the reader.


Grace

Stanford University: The "write a letter to your roommate" essay.

Grace’s tip: I'd recommend answering it colloquially (without being disrespectful or crass, of course) while revealing your voice and personality, any quirks and weird fun facts about yourself, and general excitement about specific opportunities (name them) Stanford has to offer -- and how you're pumped to explore all of those things together with your roommate. 


Matthew

University of California Application: Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side.  

Matthew’s tip: I love the way this question defines creativity in such a broad fashion, beyond the usual associations the term has with the arts. I'd recommend writing about an activity they don't suggest. Baking cookies? Doodling on your converse sneakers? The weirder, the better! 


Sean

Yale University: Most first-year Yale students live in suites of four to six people. What do you hope to add to your suitemates' experience? What do you hope they will add to yours?

Sean’s tip: I love this Yale-specific question because it brings back a flood of memories from my time in the residential college system. Having gone through Yale, I would advise someone who is applying to lean into the second half of the question. "What do you hope they will add to yours?" During my time at Yale, I was exposed to some truly unique people and experiences, and most of them happened in the form of impromptu trips to people's hometowns, meals they cooked, or concerts of their favorite bands. These experiences both broadened my interests and helped me make life long friends. It may sound tacky but its true, and that is one of the goals of Yale's residential college system. If you can speak to this, the admissions officers will see that you are applying for a wonderful reason: your peers.


Stuck on an essay prompt not listed here? We can help. Contact us today to get started!

Bounty of the Bard: The Profit of Minor Insights

As many of my students know, I am a self-professed Shakespeare obsessive. His writing – plays and sonnets – might first be introduced in middle or high school as seemingly distant, foreignly-rendered text, but the reality of each line teems with vivid, living and immediate human experience. This experience isn’t something apart from what you, the student, or I, the instructor, might be familiar with – somewhere, in any given line from any work of Shakespeare’s – from the popularly known to the obscure – contains an articulation of every complex emotion that can be experienced: all one needs to do is be paying attention.

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How is this relevant to education practice, or test prep, you might ask? In a larger sense, our shared work toward test prep mastery is centered on self-knowledge and improvement – we strategize around our strength and perceived weaknesses to build a more confident, fully-rendered you (and the human care and reflection built throughout Shakespeare can be a key tenet of that process). 

Let’s look at this in detail: Act I, Scene I of the comedy Taming of the Shrew:

No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en.
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.

Cush Jumbo and Janet McTeer in Phylida Lloyd’s 2016 Production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park (   Photo courtesy of the Public Theater   )

Cush Jumbo and Janet McTeer in Phylida Lloyd’s 2016 Production at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park (Photo courtesy of the Public Theater)

In the very earliest moments of the play, Tranio (the servant of a secondary character, someone to whom, in the larger scheme of narrative, we might pay little to no attention) delivers an invaluable, sharp insight of empowerment. Enjoyment, and sincere investment, is key to effective growth in any capacity – particularly academic. It’s all about finding your point of entry. Perhaps the content is key, and you readily invest in any fictional work; perhaps you’re of a puzzle-breaking mind, and analyzing and breaking the patterns of the test is your tactic of approach; or perhaps, simply, your drive to put in the work is to finish as soon as possible. Success is personal, and honest-to-goodness happiness is key.

And maybe there’s a lesson to be taken not only from the text, but also from the fashion of its use. A kernel of profundity placed within the early lines of a minor character – easy to overlook, and even easier to not give credence to when notice is taken. Shakespeare imbues every character with expansive humanity, whether central or tertiary. There is human use to this – in the attention we pay to people of all stripes who enter within our narrative – and certainly educational use, too. 

There is innate value in detail-oriented attention, and by taking in every aspect of how value is delivered to us, in Shakespeare, in life, and in the testing room, build a stronger, more comprehensive understanding as we move forward. A growing profit, indeed.