23 May 2016

Know the Difference Between a Hyphen, En Dash, and Em Dash

Nailing the crucial difference between these types of punctuation can nudge experienced readers in your favor—something that is incredibly important during the college application process. The hyphen, en dash, and em dash are distinguished by, at most, a few pixels on your screen and their uses are similarly nuanced.

The Hyphen

Used to join intimately linked compound terms, the hyphen clarifies the relation among different words.

Example: “Long-term exposure to tobacco smoke can increase your risk of cancer”

The words “long” and “term” are meant to jointly describe the word “exposure”.

Other Examples: high-risk, free-for-all, eye-opener, all-American

The En Dash

The en dash is slightly longer than the hyphen and it is meant to denote items related by distance or time1.

Example: We are looking for students ages 13–20.

This can also be applied to date ranges and prefixes fixed to proper nouns if they denote a temporal relationship.

Other Examples: April–June, pre–Revolutionary War, 30–50 feet long

The Em Dash

The em dash is the longest of these punctuation marks and is also the most versatile. It works like parentheses to add a thought or an extra piece to the sentence. The use of the em dash is more subjective and is meant to enhance the reader’s experience than to denote a relationship between two words.

Example: I went to the concert—something I thought was a great idea until it rained.

The em dash can replace parentheses, colons, and commas, depending on how you’d like to use them. Keep in mind you shouldn’t be using more than two em dashes in a sentence

Other Example: My brother—the one who originally hated the idea—was totally on board this time around.


Check out these great resources for more details on proper punctuation:



22 Jul 2015

College Packing List: 5 Great Items Everyone Forgets To Pack


When packing for college, step one is remembering the essentials – everything from socks to phone chargers. But first-time college-goers tend not to forget the obvious items.

What they do forget are things that make dorm rooms feel more comfortable – more like home. Here is a list of 5 great items that will transform a sad dorm room into a place students will be happy to come back to every night.

5. Posters.


Homesick? If you’re from New York, hang a poster of the Empire State Building on your wall (or hopefully something less cheesy). Not homesick? Buy a Michael Jordan poster or one of your favorite musician. Posters add much-needed color and life to dorm rooms. 

4. Clip-On Lamps


When your roommate annoyingly turns off the lights before you’re ready to go to sleep, you’ll be happy you bought a clip-on lamp. You can attach it to your bed-post and keep on reading or writing or whatever (watching TV). 

3. (Shag) Rugs


First and foremost, rugs hide dirt and dust – two things most dorm rooms are well-acquainted with. Secondly, rugs transform your not-so-amazingly-clean-looking-floor into something you’d want to step on. And finally, they provide rooms with much needed warmth, color, and softness. Shag rugs (AKA super fluffy rugs) are, in our opinion, the best kind of rug for college. (You’d be wise to ship or even order your rug to school to have it there when you arrive, instead of lugging it from home.) 

2. Power Strips.



You won’t find many outlets in a dorm room. To make sure you can charge all your electronics at once – and to save energy, if you’re into that –  power strips are a must-have in college.

1. Reading Pillows


They look dumb. And you’re probably asking yourself when you’d ever use a “reading pillow.” But trust us, these things are great for college and provide much-needed back support when you’re on your computer and want to sit up in bed.


17 Jul 2015



Don’t know whether to take the SAT or ACT?

We’ve been there before. High schoolers across America (and the globe) face this question every year.

An impressive score on either test goes a long way towards helping students get into the schools they want to attend. So, how do you know which test is better for you?

Sadly, there are no obvious answers. The best way to figure out the ACT vs. SAT conundrum is to take a practice test for both. If there is one you feel more comfortable with, then that’s the test you should take.

That being said, a quick comparison between the SAT and ACT, below, might help you understand the major differences between the two. There is also a quick nine question ACT vs. SAT quiz that will – through over-generalization and not very much data – tell you which standardized test is probably better suited to your strengths.

But before gleaning too much from the comparison and quiz, remember that there’s no substitute for taking a practice version of both tests! Happy reading.

What do these tests feel like? A logic and reasoning test A more objective, clear-cut test
How do these tests align with my skills? The SAT is often (not always) better suited for English/History types The ACT is often (not always) better suited for Math/Science types
What about math? Need to know Math up until Algebra II Need to know Math up until Trigonometry
Science? No Science on the SAT Yes Science on the ACT
Big Picture? The SAT requires more analytical thinking and logical reasoning The ACT asks more straight-forward questions and requires straight-forward answers
Where are these tests accepted? Everywhere Everywhere
Is there an essay? Yes, and it’s currently required. *After May 2016, it will be optional. Yes, but it’s optional
Is one better than the other? Should I take both? No, both are equals in the eyes of colleges. And no! You don’t need to take both.   

Still not sure which test to take? Maybe this quick, nine question quiz will help.

16 Jul 2015

A (Fallen) Hero: Atticus Finch, Legacy, & The Common App Essay

Since 1960, the year Harper Lee first published To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus Finch has figured prominently in the hearts, minds, and college essays of America’s youth. Atticus – the staunchly principled Southern lawyer (who heroically defends Tom Robinson, a black man unjustly accused of rape) – helped Mockingbird win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961. He stood as a model of moral courage and unflappable resolve in the face of injustice and racism. And now, the literary icon thousands of students have surely written about to help them get into college, is the subject of dismay, confusion, and disappointment.

On July 14, 2015, 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird was published, a previously undiscovered Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman, was released to the public. It appears that Watchman was actually a first draft of Mockingbird – a fact which makes the book all the more shocking; readers are confronted with a very different Atticus. The Watchman Atticus belongs to a group closely tied to the KKK, and is thoroughly unwilling to change with the times. What makes this discovery so surprising is that Watchman is set 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird, which begs the question: how could this be the same man? How could this heroic father become as bigoted and backwards as the very people he stood up against in Mockingbird?

In some ways, though, Watchman makes To Kill A Mockingbird, and more specifically Atticus Finch, all the more extraordinary. Mockingbird was written through the eyes of Atticus’ six-year-old daughter, Jean-Louise, who understandably saw Atticus, her father, as a hero among men. His moral failings, therefore, went unacknowledged. But much of Atticus’ actions in Mockingbird, even in light of Watchman’s revelations, still prove heroic; Atticus did defend Tom Robinson, a black man in the South, from an unjust hanging; he did sit outside Robinson’s cell one night with a shotgun to protect him from a violent KKK mob; and, most significantly, he did manage to put aside his archaic personal views when it was called of him. Though in the wake of Watchman, our perception of Atticus may have changed, Lee’s two novels combine to form a powerful message: We can put aside personal beliefs, however strong they might be, to do what is righteous in the end. As such, Atticus Finch’s integrity may even be more praise-worthy today than it was 55 years ago, given the intensity of his troubling convictions. For college-gazing high school students who, until Watchman, were thinking of writing about Atticus on their Common App, maybe there is still something there worth exploring.







16 Jul 2015

Joining 25 Clubs Isn’t The Move: How To Handle Extracurriculars

So you’re in your junior year of high school, freaking out about how few extra-curricular activities you have compared with your friends, and you promptly join 25 clubs. We’re going to stop you right there.

Joining some clubs? Well, that’s a good thing. Colleges like to see that you’re interested in causes, subjects and ideas outside of the classroom. Captain of the Academic Quiz Bowl team? Great! Student council member? Awesome!

But when you join 25 clubs in an effort to show colleges how involved you are in the world, their skepticism begins to grow.

Nobody, and by that we literally mean nobody, has the time, range of interest, or empathy to truly care about and be active in so many clubs. You know that. And more importantly, colleges know that.

What they do want to see is a narrative. If you’re interested in writing, college admissions officers should read your app and say:

“Oh, this kid Jimmy loves writing. He’s a contributor to the school’s literary magazine, is president of the school’s Book Club, took a creative writing class over the summer, and won a Scholastic writing award for one of his poems. He’s also on the varsity tennis team and is a Latin Affairs club member, which is awesome. But most of all, he’s a writer.”

Get the picture? Joining a reasonable number of clubs that make sense in the context of your larger interests will make your application more attractive to Admissions Officers. They want to understand who you are. Listing as many random clubs as possible won’t help them do that.

So, join clubs that align with your interests. Be an active member. And make sure the clubs you join create a plausible, compelling narrative.


05 Dec 2014

SAT Question of the Day

The holiday movie that aired on television last night was so poorly done that it was                                                        (A)                                                 (B)               (C)                                           practically unwatchable, especially when compared to the classic holiday films such                                                                       (D)                                                                                                   as It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas in Connecticut. No error                                                                                                                                                          (E)

Answer and Explanation

03 Dec 2014

SAT Question of the Day

A circular disk is placed in front of a light so that it casts a circular shadow on the wall opposite the lamp. If the shadow of the disk is 200% the size of the disk itself, what is the ratio of the radius of the shadow to the radius of the disk?

(A) 1:2
(B) 1:√2
(C) √2:√3
(D) √3: 1
(E) √2: 1

Answer and Explanation

01 Dec 2014

SAT Question of the Day

First-time writers would be wise to eliminate any clichés or other ______ expressions from their writing.

(A) circumlocutory
(B) ambiguous
(C) vulgar
(D) hackneyed
(E) incoherent

Answer and Explanation

28 Nov 2014

SAT Question of the Day

If the average of a, b, and 40 is 72, what is the average of a, b, and 82?

Answer and Explanation

26 Nov 2014

SAT Question of the Day

At the first Thanksgiving, people would be surprised to learn how different it was from our own.

(A) At the first Thanksgiving, people would be surprised to learn how different it was from our own.
(B) At the first Thanksgiving, it would surprise people to learn how different it was from our own.
(C) Because the first Thanksgiving was so different from our own, it would surprise people.
(D) People would be surprised to learn that the first Thanksgiving, it was so different from our own.
(E) People would be surprised to learn how different the first Thanksgiving was from our own.

Answer and Explanation