SAT Book Review of The Month: The College Panda

The SAT is a source of anxiety for hundreds of thousands of students around the United States. Touted as one of the most important tests of a student’s life, the pressure some students feel to perform well leads to their preparation starting as early as their freshman year, loading up on books and finding the best tutors to get them through this test.

I am a firm believer in the fact that most people can perform well on standardized tests- all one needs is practice and the right tools. In my own preparation for the exam, I examined many different sources and reviews to find the most effective books. This knowledge, in addition to my observations within the tutoring company I work for, has led to my discovery of several lesser-known resources that I believe could be beneficial for those looking to prepare for the SAT.


The College Panda by Nelson Phu

In my opinion, the College Panda Math books are suitable for anyone looking to bring their math score up into the 700s. The College Panda SAT Math Advanced Guide and Workbook,  broken down into 27 different overarching topics, covers every concept you could see on test day, providing tips and techniques I have yet to come across in any other book. The book includes easy to follow explanations in a conversational tone and provides ample practice, with dozens of chapter questions following each topic.

To supplement his workbook, Nelson Phu captures the art of SAT questions in his 10 Practice Tests for the SAT Math book. Each test, structured similarly to the actual SAT, allows you to practice the math section under test conditions, preparing you for your actual test. Furthermore, his questions, while realistic, are slightly more difficult than the actual SAT, leaving you over prepared.

From personal experience, using Phu’s book helped me work faster and prepared me for the types of questions I saw during the real test. Because he tests each concept in a variety of different scenarios, I learned to identify exactly what the question wanted from me in a matter of seconds, allowing me more time to check my work. He also provides numerous shortcuts that helped me avoid silly algebra mistakes by simplifying my work. While many people gloss over this book in favor of more well-known companies, such as Princeton, I believe that this book is well worth the $30 price tag. Whether you struggle with the basic concepts of mathematics or are simply looking to get more efficient at answering SAT math questions, the book is likely to change the way you view the SAT math section.

Disclaimer: this is my own personal experience with the book and may be subject to bias. I do not promote the purchase of this book over others and would actually recommend taking this book out from the library or borrowing from a friend to save money.

Why We Need The Arts In Education

     Recent years have witnessed a rapid decline in emphasis on the arts in high schools and universities in favor of math and science courses. As a society, we have formed a distinct line between science and the arts, with many believing the optimal side is science. While there is value in teaching science and math courses, the arts are also essential to a quality education and should play a prominent role.

     The humanities, or liberal arts, includes subjects such as English, History, Philosophy, Art, Music, and Theatre – all of which are incredibly valuable to students. More so than other courses, these subjects promote critical thinking and analysis, enable students to think and write clearly, and teach invaluable skills that can apply to virtually any job. The skills emphasized in these subjects allow students to empathize, navigate social relationships, and develop an understanding of themselves, others, and society as a whole.  

     According to Bradley C. Thompson in “Liberal Education and the Quest for Truth, Freedom, and Greatness”, studying the humanities ensures that humans are capable “[…] of understanding the world and man’s relationship to it; of distinguishing between true and false, good and bad, just and unjust, honorable and dishonorable”. The humanities enhance the skills that enable people to understand aspects of the world and the people around them. Sufficient knowledge in the humanities can enable a person to think broadly and potentially alter society for the better. Especially in a democracy such as the United States, society needs people who can differentiate between good and bad, or just and unjust.

     There are also numerous studies that suggest the arts are greatly beneficial to students academically. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, low income high school students who were not exposed to the arts were over 5 times more likely to drop out of school. Furthermore, studies have shown that students who took art classes for four years scored an average of 91 points higher on their SATs than those who took art classes for a year or less. This indicates that there is tangible evidence that emphasis on the arts in schools can help students improve academically.

Additionally, the humanities can be used to enhance students’ understanding of other subjects, as discussed by Fareed Zakaria in In Defense of a Liberal Education.  In 1988, Dr. Irwin Braverman, a professor at Yale Medical School, noticed that his students’ power of observation and diagnosis were weak. His solution was to take his students to an art gallery, where they were asked to “examine paintings, forcing them to unpack the many layers of detail and meaning in a good work of art”. As a result, Braverman found that his students “performed demonstrably better at diagnosis after taking the class”.  The way that the humanities require deep analysis and examination demonstrates a level of deep, critical thinking that can be valuable in all aspects of life and can apply to numerous disciplines. This suggests that the arts can be highly beneficial to students, regardless of what degree they wish to pursue. In this way, emphasizing the humanities in education is invaluable to all students, no matter what their career goals may be.

     For all these benefits, the arts need to take on a more prominent role in schools. The humanities teach skills essential to thriving in today’s society and can be extremely beneficial to the overall education of students. The arts should not be deemphasized in high schools and universities; they need to take on an equal role to science and math courses.

Reading: 8 Second Attention Span

“There are worst crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” -Ray Bradbury

Reading is defined as “the action or skill of reading written or printed matter silently or aloud”. This can occur through any media evolving from the earliest historical records written on papyrus in ancient Egypt to modern-day E-Books from the Internet. During periods of history, only scholars and the privileged were allowed to learn to read making it a defining factor between the rich and the poor. This shows how literacy was valued as a skill throughout history and how now that almost everyone has access to it, we have to utilize it to educate ourselves.

In the 21st century, technology has advanced so far from its earliest forms especially when talking about access to literature and related subject matter. The creation of the Internet allowed for the development of digital libraries and thousands of databases that gives people access to unrestricted amounts of information at their fingertips. Instead of only professionally published works being available, now anyone can publish their writings through blogs and websites, consequently supporting the lack of quality control on the Web that can affect the public’s literacy and comprehension.

But, despite the issue of quality from the Internet, there is a more pressing concern.

Students are not reading. Current studies have shown that this generation only has an attention span of around 8 seconds. These 8 seconds make them unable to pick up a book and finish it without getting distracted, and compared to the decade prior, it takes more effort to complete a book.

Staten Island Technical High School students are no exception to these discoveries.

Mrs. Callan, an English teacher at SITHS shares that “Having taught 15 years I [can] see a decline in the student’s love of reading and reading outside the class.” After surveying a couple students about the last time they read, many of the responses demonstrated parallels to the discoveries.

Many couldn’t remember the last time they read a book of their own choosing but many did remember the last time they read, which were the textbooks pages assigned for homework by the school.

Kids aren’t reading for pleasure. Sabrina Tang, a Junior and member of the Creative Writing/ Literary Magazine Club reflects on the value of reading prior to this year. “Reading was a pastime for me… to relieve my stress… forget reality [and] all the troubles that were there.” But nowadays some of the books she reads are often school assigned.

With a keen interest in reading Ms. Callan similarly reflects that reading is, “a way to enter different worlds and places and to expand knowledge and thinking.”

However, despite the positive response and acknowledgment of reading there is still a problem that prevents kids from doing it. Distractions from social media platforms and the lack of time places a strain on kids and reading, widening the gap between them.

With many students at SITHS taking rigorous classes and extracurricular activities, the time left over is often devoted to spending time on social media platforms in order to socialize with friends or to relax. Online videos and television shows can extend the 8-second attention span of youths which lead reading to be defeated in comparison.

Although this decline may be seen as nothing but a side effect of technological progress has been reported it is detrimental. Studies have found that those using the online medium translates into the hobby of “skimming” in order to collect the most amount of information in a short period of time. However, regardless of the speed of information, there are also studies indicating the detriment to cognitive functions as people are constantly skimming such as the decline in reading comprehension.

However, how can youths change this decline?

They can start with themselves.

“Always have a book on you digitally [or] a hardcopy,” Mrs. Callan shares, a valuable piece of advice she has learned from Mr. Callahan himself who has an authentic passion for reading. While this may still be a challenge it can be considered a first step in the right direction.

Senior Franklin Zhu also offers another piece of valuable advice, “Read what you want to read [because it’s something] you should enjoy.”

As reading continues to decline it is useful to accept the idea that school commitments and lack of time pull away even the most avid of readers. But to all students out there, it is never too rekindle that dying flame.

The Sun and Her Flowers

The Sun and Her Flowers is the second collection of poems written by Rupi Kaur, following her #1 New York Best Seller for 52 consecutive weeks, milk and honey. This long awaited sequel was published 2 years after the first anthology got a second print in 2014.

Adorned with hand-drawn illustrations, the books were designed cover-to-cover by Kaur and are perfectly imperfect in the best way. They are messy, but that only adds to their character and aesthetic qualities. The drawings reflect on the poems, which don’t use conventional English grammar nor fit any type of structure at all. Despite these “flaws”, the publication has sold millions and its popularity continues to grow.

There is no capitalization in her works, and people often criticize it as a cliché attempt to seem edgy. This also applies to her lack of punctuation and seemingly 

random line breaks. However, what is not known is that Kaur is from Punjabi descent, which is relevant because Gurmukhi script has the same qualities. There are no uppercase or lowercase letters, and the only punctuation is the period. Kaur says that writing in this way is “less about breaking the rules of English, but more about tying in my own history and heritage within my work.”

The Tumblr-esque nature of the poetry has drawn in millions as the topics and themes of the writing instill relatable emotions as well as empowering advice. This connection with the poems is shared by both her audience and Kaur herself, who says, “it’s like becoming my own best friend and giving myself the advice I need.”

Common themes include self acceptance, growth, femininity, heartbreak, and moving on. The relatable words describe feelings that are very difficult to pinpoint, but some of the works seem unoriginal or conventional as if you’ve heard it somewhere else before. For example, page 113 reads: “and here you are living / despite it all.” This seems to be limited to her shorter poems, however, because the longer poems are often her own real experiences.

The beautifully constructed poems are often minimalistic, but the motifs still shine through and are thought provoking. They often reference the weather, such as the winds of change or cleansing rain. The lengthier pieces feel like a story, but are still inspiring and have unique perspectives such as personal experiences with her psychologist.

The aura is often melancholic, but there are also surges of empowerment and togetherness. An effect of this includes how the people all relate and feel a little less lonely or alienated due to the knowledge that other people can feel the same emotions. That is one of the reasons I love her poetry: it is relatable and helps people get through adversities as well as give advice in a way. Kaur’s words always make me ponder the meanings behind her abstract words. This allows for a unique interpretation from person to person, and only strengthens my admiration of the book. If you have time, pick up the book at your local bookstore or check out Kaur’s instagram @rupikaur_ where she often posts excerpts of her own poems.

Final rating: 4.5/5

Crocs Are the Only Shoes You Should Be Wearing

Crocs started off as boat shoes in 2002 but quickly became an international phenomenon. The foam clog design was iconic in the late 2000s — one might even call it the Yeezys of 2008. Since then, there has been debate as to whether these shoes are cool or really just ugly. Some refer to it as “plastic hooves,”and even worse, people have named it the “world’s ugliest shoes — hands down.” However, others have embraced the shoe’s “ultra hip” style. It’s a simple fact that crocs are comfortable. Big C for Comfy!

The plethora of holes across the shoe provide for optimal ventilation — gone are the days of sweaty and smelly feet. A Utah teen recently ran a half marathon in Crocs and described the experience as “having a fan in your shoe.” Ample space in the shoe creates an inviting environment for toes that have been crushed by “trendier” shoes such as Converses or Vans. As someone who made the mistake of running in Vans, I can confirm that it is not a pleasant experience.Thinking back, Crocs would have been better running shoes. Excellent arch support paired with slip resistance only adds to the appeal of these clogs. Wearing any other shoe is simply just unhygienic and irresponsible.

Not only do they have medical benefits, but it has made appearances in New York Fashion Week, London Fashion Week, and on the feet of several celebrities. During London Fashion week, models from Christopher Kane’s runway weren’t wearing the typical stilettos but customized crocs. Embellished with pins called Jibbitz, the Crocs made the models look chic and surprisingly stylish. Afterall, why try to bust into painfully high heels when you can wear spacious Crocs? Moreover, celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Mario Batali, George W. Bush, and Kate Middleton were seen sporting Crocs. Who knew George W. Bush was so fashion forward?

Anyone can look as hip as Michelle Obama in Crocs. With its affordable price points and availability in Walmarts nationwide, it’s hard to NOT buy Crocs. Crocs come in a variety of colors, making it a breeze to style with. They come in gorgeous prints and patterns. Wear camo crocs with your distressed Urban Outfitters jeans! Wear tropical crocs on your vacation to the Bahamas! Going to Norway to look at the Northern Lights? Wear the fur-lined crocs, which of course, come in camo or tropical prints. The possibilities are simply endless.


In recent years, Von Dutch and Juicy Couture have made comebacks at Urban Outfitters stores all across the nation. And obviously, it’s a known fact that Urban Outfitters is the breeding ground for the newest trends. So grab your pair of crocs before they become popular and unoriginal. Haters will mock your shoes, but deep down, they will admire your boldness and courage to style it with your outfit. Be a trendsetter and own the hip Crocs look! CROCS. WILL. CHANGE. YOUR.LIFE. You won’t have to sacrifice style for comfort with crocs. Like Hannah Montana, you can have the best of both worlds.

However, if Crocs are not your thing, you can always settle for joots as an alternative! Joots may be the next big thing!