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Published: Tue, 22 Aug 2017 11:00:45 -0400


QUIZ: Can You Guess the Book from a One-Sentence Summary?

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 11:00:45 -0400

We get it. You know books. You know them by their first sentence, by their last sentence, probably by their fourth sentence of the seventh paragraph in the twenty-eighth chapter. But do you know them by their one-sentence summary? [viralQuiz id=367]

Campus Life at 100 of the Best Colleges, Summed Up in a Single Sentence

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 10:00:04 -0400

There is no greater Sorting Hat than the college admissions system, and SO MANY PLACES TO GET SORTED. If you've just started college, or you're wondering where to apply, you'll want to check our roundup of 100 of the best U.S. colleges to find out where your spiritual home is, what to expect and how to get your school pride on. If you want to click through to your college faster, use the alphabetical menu below... Arizona State University - MIT McGill University - University of California, Los Angeles University of California, Riverside - University of New Mexico University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill - Yale University  Is your school here? How'd we do? Is your school NOT here? What would its slogan be?

Open Thread for August 22!

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 09:00:30 -0400

QUIZ: How Dateable Would You Be in the 19th Century?

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 11:00:32 -0400

It’s hard to be considered "dateable" in the modern age. You have to be smart, funny, and in possession of at least three to five decent selfies with good lighting. I don’t have any of that, so I thought I’d check and see if people would have found me more desirable in the 19th century, a time when pretty much all you had to do was smile sweetly and upwards of ten suitors would be jockeying to take you off your family’s hands (for a dowry of $10,000 and twelve cows, of course). What I discovered is that I would be about as dateable in the 19th century as I am now, which is to say not at all. How dateable would you be? [viralQuiz id=366]

9 Ways to Deal with Homesickness When You Go Off to College

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 10:00:31 -0400

Going off to college is the rough equivalent of being pushed out of an airplane with no parachute. Now, it's true that I've never actually been pushed out of an airplane with no parachute, but that's not going to stop me from using this metaphor a lot. What I have been is homesick. And you're going to be homesick, too, whether you're going off to college next week or you're already there now, crying into your textbooks and missing your dog. So, without further ado, here's how to deal with homesickness while you're hurtling through the stratosphere of new adulthood: 1. CRY ABOUT IT. JUST LET IT OUT. When I bid adieu to my parents for the first time, I had to stop and cry in two separate bathrooms on my way back to my dorm. You are not above sobbing in the shower and pretending you're in a sad music video. None of us are. Chris Pratt does this. I have no evidence, but we just have to believe. 2. Homesickness results when you've been forced out of your regular routine, not unlike being forced out of an airplane. To combat this, do things that mirror your regular routine. Read your favorite books, like Harry Potter. Eat foods you would eat at home, like entire chocolate cakes. 3. Recognize that you are not abnormal. Everyone gets homesick, even Beyonce. 4. Go do stuff. This is not a trick to get you to go outside. I'm the last person in the world who would try anything like that, given the dumpster fire that is my social life. But leaving your dorm room and doing stuff (like jogging, hanging out with people, or going on ill-fated skydiving adventures) will acclimate you to this new place so that you can stop Skyping your cat. 5. USE GOALS. If you get through this week, reward yourself with something, like a new book, a snack, or a mini horse. 6. Technology has got your back. We no longer post our snail mail to the Pony Express of yesteryear. We don't hitch up our wagons for the Oregon Trail, say farewell to our families, and just kind of hope we all see each other again one day. You can text, call, FaceTime, or use that sweet, sweet Google Chrome extension that lets you sync up Netflix accounts, because the future is now. 7. Join a club. I know, I know. This sounds like recycled garbage advice from your RA. Full disclosure: I did not join any clubs, and I don't really regret that. But had I joined the Squirrel Watching Club or the Society for People Who Hate Coleslaw, it absolutely would have eased my homesickness. At the very least, it would have given me more to talk about over nightly Skype calls with my cat. 8. Give yourself one semester. After my first week, I decided this whole schtick just wasn't for me. I told myself I had to suffer through the semester (because then no one could say I hadn't tried, right?), and after that I was going straight to community college. Don't let that mindset dictate your ability to adjust, but for Dumbledore's sake, everybody does it. And there's nothing wrong with that. I felt better having a Plan B, just in case. By winter break, however, I was no longer plotting my escape. I had made friends. I'd figured stuff out. I was totally fine. In truth, most people are. 9. Recognize that you can do this. If going to college is like getting pushed out of an airplane with no parachute, then surviving your first year is like realizing you had the presence of mind to strap on some really cool mechanical wings at the last minute. And I mean, look at me. I overuse airplane analogies, I cry in bathrooms, and I Skype my pets—and even I conquered Homesickness Mountain. And you can, too. If you need more help navigating the tricky, parachute-less skies of college, check out Elodie's hilarious and helpful month-to-month guide!!  This post was originally published in 2015

Auntie SparkNotes: New Kid Nerves

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 10:00:27 -0400

Auntie SparkNotes is off this week, so we are bringing you VINTAGE Auntie posts from the vault! Dear Auntie, This year, I'm going to a big public school. Last year, I was home schooled. Before that, I went to a small private school, so I'm not used to being in a school with a lot of kids. This will be my senior year, so I'll be in class with kids that have already gone to school together for a while. Do you have any advice about how to make friends easily? Also, how do I know where to sit at lunch on the first day? Thanks! Fortunately for you, Sparkler, there is indeed a way to accelerate your assimilation into you school's social sphere—albeit one that requires some extra-snug Confidence Pants and no small amount of nerve. But I know you can do it! So, here we go. And actually, I'm going to answer your last question first: how do you know where to sit at lunch? Basically, you look for a friendly and familiar face—somebody from your neighborhood, or your homeroom, or one of your earlier classes—and say something like, "Would it be okay if I joined you? I don't know anyone and I'm not sure where to sit." (And of course, you should avoid any lunch table whose occupants openly glare at you, point and giggle when you walk past, or respond to your approach by brandishing large knives and semi-automatic weapons.) People like to be helpful, and giving them the chance to do a solid for the new kid at no personal cost should be more than enough to ensure that you're invited to sit down... and if they don't, then congratulations, because at least you now know the location of your school's designated Douchebag Hangout. Every academic institution has one! I know, I know: "But wait!," you are probably saying, "what if there are no familiar faces? What if the cafeteria is a sea of nameless maybe-douchebags, rife with dangerous unknowns?" That's why, before you get to lunch, you need to do the work of acquaintance-making at every available opportunity. But don't worry! Because every school contains at least a handful of friendly, helpful people who want to make new students feel welcome, and if you make yourself visible, then they'll probably come to you. (And, if certain mid-1990s teen movies are to be believed, give you an awesome makeover and popularity pointers and some really bad advice about not dating Breckin Myer, after which you will snappishly call your new friend "a virgin who can't drive." YES YOU WILL.) So, on your first day, make your new-kid status obvious and make yourself available to be helped out by helpful people. Ask your homeroom neighbor if she knows the location of your next class. Ask your actual neighbors (if there are any your age) about the student parking regulations. Ask your English classmate if the teacher is really serious about getting detention for gum-chewing. Basically, make it clear that you're friendly and open to meeting new people, and chances are good that someone will respond by doing her best to help you get acclimated. Of course, the fact that this should work doesn't necessarily guarantee that it will work—since, unfortunately, you can't always count on high school students not to be inexplicably mean to each other. But being self-assured, talkative, and pleasant to everyone is your best shot not just at making instant friends, but at making friends in general. And if the unthinkable happens and you end up having to sit solo at lunch, do it with all the confidence and class you can muster. I promise, you won't have to do it for long. Have you ever navigated a new school situation? Tell us how you managed it! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at

Open Thread for August 21!

Mon, 21 Aug 2017 09:00:37 -0400

Auntie SparkNotes: Did I Choose the Wrong College?

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 19:17:48 -0400

Attention, Sparklers! Auntie will be on vacation until the end of August, but check back here on the usual schedule for fun, retro columns you might have missed the first time around. Dear Auntie, I am heading off to college in the fall, and for the most part I'm looking forward to the transition. Normally, I'm not the greatest at handling big changes, but I've spent the majority of my senior year looking forward to trying something new. At least, I thought I was. Earlier in the year I declared my major as mathematics, which at the time made sense because I'm very good at math, and I enjoy it. However, as of recently, I've begun to doubt my interest in pursuing mathematics in college and further on. I've started to question what I'm truly interested in and what I could see myself doing for the rest of my life, and as a result I've begun to look into other areas such as creative writing, psychology, and philosophy, all topics I had held a passing interest in, but had never seriously considered for a college major. This poses a problem, as my newfound interests don't exactly coincide with my math major—and to make matters worse, I've chosen to attend a STEM school, one of which doesn't even offer a major in something like creative writing or psychology. Whenever I attempt to talk to my parents about this, they automatically disregard my argument—they believe that my true talent lies in math, that not using my math gifts would be not living up to my true potential, and that these feelings of mine are simply my way of dealing with the stress of having to finally commit to one thing (I spent the majority of high school exploring different college and career options, albeit ones in STEM fields). I guess my question for you, Auntie, is do you think that this is something I should talk to my parents about seriously? Or could it just be a case of new school jitters that will go away once I start college? First things first, Sparkler: Yes, what you're feeling could certainly be temporary. But more importantly, what you're feeling is natural. Because if ever there were a time when it's normal to have doubts about your future, it's when you're sitting in that awful limbo period between making a decision and living it. What you're experiencing right now is the same anxiety that grips you when you're sitting in a restaurant you've never been to before, waiting for your food to come out, wondering if you should have ordered the burger instead of the chicken—only on a massive scale, since this particular chicken is one you'll be eating every day for the next four years. And when the only thing you know about the chicken is that you've chosen it—and that it'll be very hard to un-choose it if you don't like your choice—it only makes sense that you're feeling unsure. But that's why the best thing you can do, right now, is to look forward to learning more—especially when you have every reason to be hopeful about it. I mean, it's not like this is a choice you were pushed into despite serious reservations; you made an informed and reasonable decision to study something you like and are good at, and all you need to do now is get psyched about that. Seriously: every time you catch yourself wondering if you should have taken a different path, remind yourself that you haven't even started down this one yet—and that when you do, it's gonna be great. You're about to be in a place where you can really flex your strongest mental muscles! Isn't that exciting? Of course it is! So get excited, sweet pea. Psych yourself up. Think of all the things that were cool and appealing about this particular school, and let yourself look forward to them. None of this is to say that your STEM school is definitely-for-sure the perfect place for you—and if it's not, all the positive thi[...]