Stress and college applications—do they have to go together?



Each fall, the next cohort of students prepare to embark on their senior year of high school. For some this means little more than having only two semesters to go–the good, the bad, and the mediocre will all be drawing to a close in a matter of months, and their futures beyond that ever-lingering date in June remain stubbornly undecided.  But for others, this may feel more akin to clambering into a body of icy water with the full knowledge that they will have to swim through it for the next several months, clinging to their faith that what awaits them on the other side is far more than worth it.  In other words, knowingly subjecting oneself to a great deal of suffering on the basis that the ends will justify the means.  This, of course, begs the question.  Is it really worth it?  Will the constant, unwavering stress and anxiety that invariably plagues those students who decide on the competitive college-bound path be compensated for by the outcome?

Most unfortunately, no one answer can satisfactorily resolve these questions –individual circumstances and values are too large of a factor.  The A/B personality type theory, pioneered by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman in the 1950s, is widely used to categorize behavioral patterns as they relate to stress management, and can therein be applied to the predicament facing high school students.  People who tend to be less competitive and achievement-driven or lean toward a Type B personality may be less inclined to pursue the “icy water” path, as it is undeniably taxing and can feel thankless for long periods of time.  Correspondingly, the highly ambitious, driven, Type A’s of the world are more likely to embrace (or at least contend with) the difficulties that path presents to them for the sake of achievement. Thus, when evaluating the pros and cons of this grueling approach, such predispositions must be factored into any personalized conclusions about its worth.

For some students of the latter camp, the pressure is on as soon as they enter high school.  After all, the majority of colleges do consider freshman grades in admissions decisions–a fact that parents are often quick to remind their students of.  However distant the post-high school future may seem at the time, every test and homework assignment already counts toward that end goal.  This mentality, persisting throughout high school, is certainly conducive to a higher GPA, but it is not without its faults.  Having such high expectations for performance–whether they come from oneself, one’s parents, or an outside source–can potentially contribute to the development of a whole host of problems, including declines in mental and physical health.  Pediatricians generally agree that teenagers should sleep eight to nine hours each night, but what with homework, extracurricular activities, and other obligations, this is simply not feasible for many.  Patterns of sleep deprivation have more severe medical implications than people often realize, and are closely linked with depression.

This is not to mention the inconvenient reality that when fatigued, it is infinitely more difficult to perform well on exams and keep up with school work, which can lead students into a dangerous whirlpool of exhaustion, poor performance, greater stress, more exhaustion.  Once senior year rolls around and college applications are added to the already skyscraper-esque pile of to do’s, this effect is magnified tenfold.  It has become alarmingly normal for students to suffer mental breakdowns, severe headaches, and heart palpitations from the overwhelming pressure and anxiety that they feel, as staying on top of everything becomes an impossibility.

With all of this taken into consideration, one’s health and sanity may seem like a high price to pay for a college acceptance letter.  But somehow, there appears to be a general consensus from students who end up at one of their top-choice schools that the delayed gratification was, in fact, worth it–though of course, that may be because they were predisposed to think so anyways.

That being said, the eventual rewards cannot outweigh the mental and emotional costs of actually getting there for everyone.  Gaining acceptance to a top university is an extremely demanding process, and the pressures are undeniably weighty.  In an ideal world this would not be the case–being a successful student and viable college candidate while still leading a balanced, healthy lifestyle should be possible.  But given the current system, the best thing for a high school student to do is to know themselves and know their limits.  Everyone has a slightly different set of values and goals for the future, so allowing these, rather than any other set of perceived expectations, to inform one’s decisions as a student is essential in determining the right path to take.




It’s 48 hours away, but there’s still time to act on the ACT


Try teaching yourself 11 school years worth of English, reading, mathematics, and scientific reasoning in a few days. On second thought, don’t. Very soon, you’ll be breezing through the English, reading, math, and scientific reasoning sections of the ACT, but traditional cramming isn’t going to help you get there.

3 Reasons Why Traditional Last-Minute Cramming Won’t Help You Ace the ACT:

  1. You’ll tire yourself out by taking several long practice tests that will only frustrate you. The ACT will test you on years of material that you’ve learned throughout your school career. Long practice tests in the final moments leading up to the ACT won’t improve your knowledge or help you isolate your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll only exhaust yourself.
  2. There’s too much material. You may attempt to furiously memorize ACT vocab, but the chances that the specific words you’ve agonized over will appear on the test are quite small. The time you’ll spend making flashcards won’t be worth the score reward.
  3. You won’t know what to focus on. Beyond the four main sections of the ACT, the test is a web of concepts that test very specific abilities. Without guidance, you won’t be able to target your true weaknesses.

On the other hand, Edupath’s free College Passport for ACT app can help you soar on test day by targeting your prep and maximizing every precious minute of study time.

5 Reasons Why Edupath College Passport Is Your Ticket to Acing the ACT:

  1. Study in short 10 minute bursts. Unlike traditional practice tests, Edupath College Passport allows you to focus on test prep one core concept at a time in manageable segments.
  2. Isolate your strengths and weaknesses. Immediately, you’ll know the categories of questions that you’re missing. Edupath’s targeted approach will allow you to cultivate your specific weaknesses until they become your strengths.
  3. Concept help and tips. Stumped? Edupath College Passport offers hints and tricks to make even the most difficult questions solvable. Uncover concept secrets for test day that will help you approach tens of questions.
  4. Immediate and accurate score predictions. As soon as you finish a burst of questions, Edupath will update your progress. Watch your score and confidence grow instantly.
  5. Free and from anywhere. Forget lugging around a heavy prep book, Edupath College Passport is easily accessible from your mobile device. Whether you have a few minutes in between classes or en-route to extracurriculars, kickstart your prep anywhere, anytime.

Download the free mobile Edupath College Passport ACT now at!



How to Get into Your Dream School (without Actually Walking on Water)


You could ace your SATs, rack up a perfect GPA, score a membership in MENSA–and still mess up applying to college. How?

By blowing any or all of the approximately 2.9 zillion important college application deadlines that you’ll soon be juggling (while simultaneously attending school, staying on top of extracurriculars, keeping up with your social life, and generally trying to walk on water).

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5 Reasons College is Totally Worth the Cost


Wake up, go to school, do homework, repeat. Sound familiar? For some students, this routine starts in preschool and continues on all the way into college. Pressure from parents and peers alike can make the progression from high school to college seem natural and unquestionable – it’s just what you do. But why?

Every year, millions of students around the world enroll in higher education programs, yet many have no clear idea why they are doing so. Meanwhile, a growing number of critics in the media single out rising tuition costs and high-profile dropouts, leaving some students confused about the value of a college education. We’re here to clear the air. At Edupath, we support higher education and think that students should know just how valuable a college education can be. Here are 5 ways that college can benefit you personally.

1) MONEY. Let’s face it, at the end of the day, everyone needs an income. And guess what? Despite what you may have heard about dropout entrepreneurs, college graduates earn more… a lot more. On average, college graduates earn about twice as much as high school graduates. While college loans are nothing to scoff at, your increased income will totally be worth it, as this graph suggests.

Education Pays Graph from the Bureau of Labor

More Learning, Less Problems

2) JOBS. Much like money, everyone needs a job. And guess what? College graduates are twice as likely to be employed as high school graduates, as our lovely graph demonstrates above. Plus, that doesn’t even count job satisfaction! Compared to high schoolers, college graduates are twice as likely to be satisfied with their education, jobs, and finances.

3) KNOWLEDGE. Whether you attend a liberal arts college, a research institution, or a technical school, you will be learning all sorts of new things. Interested in art history or computer science? Take a class on it! If you like a subject enough, you can always major (or minor!) in it. As a bonus, you can use your portfolio of classwork when applying for jobs or graduate school.

#YOLO, Education Edition


4) SKILLS. Aside from memorizing textbooks, you’ll also be building valuable professional skills, like working in teams, analyzing information, and managing your time. What’s more, you’re also developing the ability to take care of yourself as an adult. For many students, college might be the first time you’re in charge of your own laundry, meals, or finances. College is a great incubator for these types of life skills; think about it, where else will you have access to a large staff of people who are basically paid to support and guide you as you figure things out? Unlike the real world, college is full of safety nets.

5) FRIENDS. The friends you make in college are – for many people – friends you’ll share for life. Bonding with your peers through shared experiences (good or bad!) helps create lasting friendships and social groups. Your college cohort may also be an important part of your future professional network, and for some hopeful romantics, the chance to meet Mr. or Ms. Right.

Guy in Yellow Photobombs

BFFs 4 Life…except, maybe, for the guy on the right…

Let’s review: Money, Jobs, Knowledge, Skills, and Friends…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg (we haven’t even mentioned extracurricular activities). While it’s true that many college-related costs have gone up, the value of a college education is still crystal clear. Plus, services like Edupath’s very own (free!) Total College app make it cheaper than ever to get there.

But don’t take our word for it, ask the graduates themselves. When asked whether they thought their experience was worth it, college graduates overwhelmingly say: yes. So don’t go to college because your parents expect you to, or because other people are doing it; go to college because – in the end – you’ll be investing in yourself.

College really IS worth it

College: Totally Worth It


Go, Grads!

In 2014, Edupath helped thousands of students get the test scores they needed for admission to their dream colleges. Congratulations to our graduates on all your hard work! We wish you amazing success on your next adventure!


The Edupath Team

Edupath is your path to college

Edupath is Your Path to College


Hot High School Graduation Speeches: 9 Arresting Ways to Say Goodbye


The world is your oyster Dream big Never be afraid to try You are the hope of the future Commencement isn’t the end It’s the beginning Today is the first day of the rest of your life So proud of each and every one of you The class of 2014 will surely blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah 

When it comes to high school graduation speeches, “no cliche left behind” generally seems to be the rule. But every June, a few standout speakers manage to kick it up a little–or a lot.

Too Cool For School (obviously)

Too Cool For School?

1. Mitch Anderson, valedictorian at Belton High School in Texas, stunned family, friends, and school officials last year when he used his 15 minutes of fame to deliver a coming-out speech. “I feel the moment has arrived for me to be publicly true to my personal identity,” Anderson said. “So now, I can say, I’m gay.” Not everyone loved the talk, but on the bright side, no one in the audience fell down dead or anything.

2. Sandra Bullock was the surprise speaker for this year’s grads at Warren Easton Charter High School in New Orleans. The Academy Award-winning actress offered pretty much the most down-to-earth graduation advice ever, including these two game-changing gems:

  • Eat something green every day, with every meal.
  • Do not pick your nose in public. How about we just go get a tissue?

3. Troy Snyder, principal of Mead High School in Colorado, was busted for plagiarizing his inspirational commencement speech this spring. Turns out he’d stolen many of his remarks from Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, the bestseller by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg. Snyder ended up resigning. The class of 2014 ended up with an unexpected lesson in, um, integrity?

4. Rashema Nelson of Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C., excelled in high school academics and sports, just like her valedictorian peers around the country. Nelson, however, was probably the only valedictorian this year who was also a homeless shelter resident. “I wasn’t going to give up, so I didn’t give up,” Nelson said in her speech. Now headed for Georgetown, where she has a full scholarship, Nelson told reporters that “I just want a home. I just want somewhere I can call mine. I want my own shower.”

5. Kate Logan, who graduated high school back in 1998, stripped off her gown in the middle of delivering the valedictory address at Long Trail School in Dorset, Vt., and gave the rest of the talk buck naked. Appropriately enough, her speech emphasized “the road less traveled.”

Woman gets excited about funny graduation outfit

Three Cheers for Funny Hats!

6. Anders Zetterlund used his valedictory speech this spring at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, Minn., to debunk commencement cliches about entering the real world. “We [high schoolers] may not have to pay taxes or invest for retirement or even make our own dinner most of the time,” he said, “but if you look at pure workload, I’d say we are decidedly in this ‘real world’ everyone likes to talk about. Sure we don’t do the 9-5 grind like all you real-world adults in the audience; we do the 24/7 one.”

7. Cody Simpson served as this year’s valedictorian at Atlanta Country Day School in Georgia (the school caters to celebrity students). Just days before the ceremony, Simpson caused a kerfuffle when he posted a shot of his naked posterior on Instagram. But apparently the Dancing with the Stars sensation still has his feet firmly on the ground. “Ladies and gentlemen, intelligence will always remain the sexiest thing in the world above all,” he recently tweeted.

Graduation speech: and special thanks goes to Wikipedia...

But most of all, I’d like to thank Wikipedia…

8. Angela Brandi wanted her time on the graduation podium to be extra-memorable. So instead of delivering a speech, the 2014 valedictorian of Valders High School in Wisconsin sang and performed “The Cup Song,” substituting her own custom-written lyrics. While weird, the idea wasn’t 100% original–three years ago, when Brandi’s big sister was Valders’s valedictorian, she sang her speech, too.

9. Erica Goldson, valedictorian at Coxsackie-Athens High School in New York in 2010, got really, really real in her remarks. “I have successfully shown that I was the best ‘slave,’” she said in a speech dissing not only her own achievements, but those of the entire U.S. educational system. “I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I’m scared.”

Congratulations–or whatever (!)–to the class of 2014.

Throwing graduation caps in the air is nice, but so is picking them up again afterward

Commencement Caps: The #1 Source of Graduation Litter


Naked Confessions: What’s Wrong with “Tacky” Application Essays?


In a June 15 New York Times story, columnist Frank Bruni laments a trend toward students “oversharing” in their college application essays. Drawing on the remarks of a former Yale admissions officer, he goes on to describe the high-stakes faux pas of three unsuccessful Yale applicants (a self-described Casanova, a young woman with an unusually breezy attitude toward bodily fluids, and a guy worried about the size of his private parts).

NYT Columnist Frank Bruni

Frank Bruni: NYT Columnist & Admissions Essay Critic

Who Defines Poor Taste?

Bruni accurately highlights the sense of desperation that students and their parents may feel in the face of today’s ultra-competitive college admissions standards–a sense that can lead to disingenuous efforts to stand out from other applicants. He is not out of line, either, to wonder about the judgment of an applicant who submits a soul-baring essay when a more conventional approach might be a less risky option. Less sound, however, is a fundamental assumption that underlies Bruni’s criticism of oversharing: that certain topics–not just the unusually lurid examples he describes in detail, but also “eating disorders, sexual abuse, self-mutilation, domestic violence, alcoholism, [and] drug addiction”–are simply in poor taste.

One problem here is that taste, unlike GPA or SAT scores, is neither an objective nor a quantifiable measure of college aptitude. It is, however, a way that one class differentiates itself from another–specifically and historically, the “haves” from the “have nots.” All too similarly–and despite decades of social and educational reforms designed to level the playing field–access to higher education still skews across class lines.

Futurama Meme: Not Sure if Essay is Brilliant or Horrible

Unlike SAT Scores, Taste is Relative

Taking the Personal Statement Seriously

With its emphasis on matters of taste and convention, Bruni’s critique also overlooks the crucial issue of authenticity. Not for nothing do college officials refer to a student’s central college application essay as the “personal statement.” Some high school students, at 17 or 18, have led sheltered lives. Others have already faced extreme adversity. Both types of students are capable of flourishing in a college environment. Neither type should be penalized for writing candidly about the circumstances that have shaped their lives–and, more important, how they have dealt with those circumstances.

It’s important here to note that colleges explicitly attempt to tease out revealing information (applicants are not, as some assume,  given free rein in choosing essay themes). Consider, for example, the following Common Application essay prompts for 2014-2015; nearly all top colleges require a 650-word response to one of them:

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure.  How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea.  What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content.  What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

For one high school senior, a candid response to almost any of the above questions might center on their efforts to improve their time in the 100-yard dash, and lessons learned about perseverance and self-acceptance. For another, the response might focus on trying to cope with an absentee parent–and, again, lessons learned about perseverance and self-acceptance. The external factors described in these essays are, by definition, personal, specific, and unique to the individual writer. The real takeaway of a strong application essay, however, is unvarying. The point is not the external situation that the student describes, but their own efforts to influence or come to terms with the situation, and the personal growth that occurs as a result.

Using feathers and glitter to make an admissions essay stand out is not really a good idea

Honesty? Yes. Glitter? No.

Candor: Not the Kiss of Death

At Edupath, members of our staff have, in the course of their careers, reviewed hundreds of essays and helped students of differing socioeconomic status gain admission to college. Some of these students have chosen conventional topics for their essays–for example, how traveling, playing sports, being a camp counselor, or learning to embrace their culture of origin enhanced their personal growth. Others have written about some of the same deeply personal topics that Bruni cites as over the top, such as coping with an eating disorder or adjusting to a parent’s unforeseen coming out as gay.  In our experience, students who write about more revealing topics in a way that focuses on their personal growth do not fail to receive offers from their colleges of choice, including Ivy League schools.

We would hope that, contrary to what Bruni implies, the three “oversharing” students were not denied admission to Yale solely because their essays included content that he considers in poor taste. With its stringent acceptance rate of just 6.2% (meaning roughly 94% of applicants are denied admission), Yale is among the most selective colleges in the nation. In this competitive atmosphere, only students who emerge as top-tier across a broad range of assessments–including GPA, standardized test scores, extracurriculars, teacher recommendations, honors and awards, and community service–are offered admission. Surely these quantifiable measures influenced the Yale admissions officers’ decisions as much as the content of the “oversharing” students’ essays.

But if college admissions officer are really, as Bruni suggests, dismayed to receive personal statements that are, well, personal, then perhaps they need to ensure that the essay prompts themselves do not invite candid responses. Otherwise, the most successful applicants are likely to be those who have already learned an extremely cynical life lesson: that people don’t always mean what they say.

Keep Calm and Write Your Essay

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose





What are you doing this coming Saturday morning? If you’re reading this post, chances are that you, like hundreds of thousands of other high school students, will be taking the ACT. If you’re a human being (and we’re betting you are), it’s only natural to feel a little anxious. Or, okay, a lot. But fretting and sweating won’t do a thing to spike your ACT scores. Nor will a giant bout of last-minute studying. Here’s what to do instead so you sail into the test feeling confident and at the top of your game.
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10 Last-Minute SAT Tips That Involve Absolutely No Studying


For your test prep pleasure: 10 last-minute test tips that involve absolutely *no* studying. They’re designed to benefit the two most common types of students — those who have already studied their posteriors off (take a look, is yours still there?) and those who, well, haven’t.

Step 10. Give Your Brain a Break

Sick of studying for the SAT? Or, on the other hand, maybe you’re feeling totally unprepared. Either way, this test just isn’t something you can master in one night. So don’t wear your brain cells out trying. Hang out with a buddy, go for a run, watch a goofy movie. Be kind your mind, and it will be kind to you.

Step 9. Snooze Until You’re Satisfied

You might already be planning to hit the hay (or, more likely, the mattress) at a reasonable hour on Friday night. But learning coaches recommend going to bed earlyish on Thursday, too. No burning the midnight oil. No cramming to find out where midnight oil is produced, or charting its economic and environmental viability in comparison to ten other types of fuel. No, really.

Sleepy student

He should’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.

Step 8. Think Through Your Pre-Test Morning

Prevent unnecessary test-day drama by planning ahead. You don’t have to obsess – just nail the essential details. Like:

  • What time does the test begin?
  • Where is the testing center?
  • How will you get there?
  • What time will you leave home? Add half an hour to your estimated travel time in case of unexpected delays.
  • Is someone giving you a ride? If so, make sure they are on board for this trip, and know when you need to leave.

Step 7. Plan Your Wake-Up Call

Getting plenty of sleep is good. Getting it while the test is actually taking place – not so good. Set your alarm for a time that allows you to get dressed and eat breakfast without rushing. Set a back-up alarm as well, just in case. And finally, have someone else in your house set their alarm, too. Who knows why standardized tests start at such uncivilized hours… But c’est la vie – that’s the way it is. On the upside, you’ll be out of there by early afternoon – nap time!

Keep Calm & Plan Ahead Sign

Now that’s good advice.

Step 6. Avoid Nakedness

Set out your clothes the night before. Think comfortable. Think non-distracting–at least to you. Think superstitious, if that’s how you roll. Officially, you’re allowed to tuck a lucky rabbit’s foot or some similar small item into your pocket (Your brother’s foot – probably not).

Step 5. Pack These Before You Go To Bed

Just like nightclubs, standardized tests are guarded by super-authoritarian humans who will definitely insist on checking your ID and admission ticket. If you don’t have the right stuff, you won’t get in. End of story. Prevent test-day snafus by printing out your ticket and packing up all essentials the night before. You will absolutely need:

  • An acceptable photo ID
  • Your SAT admission ticket
  • Two sharpened No. 2 pencils
  • A calculator with fresh batteries

You may also want to bring:

  • Water and snacks for quick energy during breaks
  • A book to read while you’re waiting for the test to start. That way, your brain is warmed up and you’re in reading mode right from the get-go.

Step 4. But Don’t Pack These, Please

Any electronic device, including phones, tablets, cameras, computers, music players, and recording devices. Also, anything that even resembles any of the aforementioned items. It might help to pretend that you’ll arrive at the test in a covered wagon, wearing a calico shirt, and looking forward to square dance season.

Step 3. Breakfast on Brain Food

We’re not saying breakfast is the most important meal, because that would be annoying. But for maximum endurance – as you’re no doubt aware, the SAT lasts almost four hours – you’ll want to consume something with more staying power than a bowl of Froot Loops or a Cinnabon. Can’t go wrong with protein, you know. If you’re a fan of coffee or tea, pour yourself the same amount you usually do. If you don’t already drink caffeine, today is not the day to start.

Breakfast = brain food

This kid is ready! …Maybe a little *too* ready.

Step 2. Turn Demons into Angels

In terms of body chemistry, being nervous and being excited are pretty much identical states. Try telling yourself how “excited” you are, reinforcing the idea of upbeat anticipation rather than OMG dread.

Step 1. Put Test Stress in Perspective

The SAT is not — like, so not — the defining event of your life. Two years from now, you won’t care how you scored. In ten years, you might even not remember how you did. And a hundred years down the road? By then, people will have smarty-pants chips implanted in their brains at birth and only a handful of very learned, very wrinkled historians will ever have heard of that legendary rite of passage known as the SAT. So there.

Now go forth, and do good.

Scotty McCreery, NCSU college student

Celebrities in College: 5 Famous Kids Who Aren’t Too Cool for School


Celebrities, as gossip magazines are constantly telling us, aren’t so different from us regular folks. They have “bad-hair” days. They “have too-fat-for-my-pants” days. They have “I’ll-never-love-again” days, “I-can’t-believe-I-actually-said-that” days, and “the-sad-thing-is-I-don’t-even-like-tequila” days. And, it turns out, a large number of celebs have also had “welcome-to-college-life” days, “wow-I-actually-had-fun-writing-this-paper” days, and “my-roomie-is-my-new-BFF” days.

Here’s the scoop on five celebrity kids who – despite fame, fortune, and killer bodies – craved the college experience so much, they just couldn’t stay away.

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