The Fat Envelope
A Discussion Of All Things College Admissions and Test Prep
Here is a very interesting column by Linda Chavez about the SAT being under attack. The column has been syndicated to a number of major newspapers over the last week or so.

Lots to chew on, including some discussion about racial bias in the SAT (the standard argument from anyone who wants the SAT abolished) and the revelation that schools that make the SAT optional have the ulterior motive of increasing their U.S. News ranking. 
Delayed for a few weeks this year, here are the new U.S. News college rankings. Of course, the rankings have the normal arbitrary "shakeups" since U.S. News wants to sell magazines. I've posted previously about my distaste for the rankings, and my thoughts from last year remain true this year. 

If you are a high school senior starting the college admission process, please do not take the rankings as gospel. Schools don't become "better" or "worse" over a few months, and they should definitely not be taken too seriously. Use the lists as a resource, with the understanding that the rankings are nothing more than a general guideline as to a school's overall reputation. 
I don't suppose many of you think that football and vocabulary go together.  But this writer at Sports Illustrated does!  Turns out some serious SAT vocabulary rolls of the tongues of commentators everywhere.  Can you say "encroachment?"  Then use is it in a sentence that doesn't refer to linemen.
I know, I know.  You've heard enough advice about exercising already.  You know it's good for your heart, your lungs, your muscles and your bones.  But it's also great for your brain!  It makes you sharper, keeps your brain healthy as it ages, and even grows new brain cells!  Wow, right?  But I just came across another great reason to the hit the gym.  Exercise is great for warding off feelings of panic.

Wait!, you say.  I don't have panic attacks.  How does this apply to me?  Remember that anxiety comes in many forms, and I bet many of you can relate to the term "test anxiety." The SAT is a really important test, and it's amazing how common it is for students to feel nervous enough about it to trigger heart palpitations, sweaty palms, and bouncy-knee syndrome.  But the physical manifestations of anxiety pale in comparison to the cognitive ones.  Anxiety sends your ability to concentrate straight down the drain.  You're so focused on the implications of the test and the fear of doing badly that you can't do your best. Clearly, it's a good thing to keep the anxiety in check.

So back to exercise and how it can help.  The authors of the study I linked to earlier don't go into WHY they think exercise reduces panic, but I've got some theories that will probably make sense to you.  First, exercise fatigues and relaxes your body, so you'll feel relaxed, too. It's hard to get yourself worked up into a state of high anxiety when you've just burned off all your excess energy, right?  Next, I suspect since exercise produces a lot of the same physical manifestations of anxiety, like sweat and a pounding heart, you and your body get used to experiencing these sensations so they stop generating an anxiety response.  Finally, exercise can build your self-confidence.  Running your first 5K without a break can make you feel like the king of the world.  That confidence will seep into the rest of your life, as well.  You'll feel more assured while your doing your test prep, and you'll go into test day knowing that you'll do your best.  There may be a host of positive effects of exercise on the chemical balance of your brain as well.  

I hope I've convinced you to get off the couch and into the gym.  Exercise is good for your life not only now, but for all the years ahead of you.  So just do it.