Tag Archives: college

Study Tips for College Students

So, I’m seriously procrastinating on a test I have tomorrow. I decided since I’m worrying about it, I might as well write a post about it.

After the day is done, I look back and re-read my notes. If I have written them sloppy, the OCD in me forces me to re-write the pages. If I have written something I wanted to look up online or in the book, I go ahead and do that.

But when it comes time say, a week before a test, I don’t really do anything different. Mostly because I don’t know what else I should do. How do we make sure we have learned the material we already should have learned from that day’s lecture?

My #1 go-to method is flash cards. They are pretty awesome, portable, and there are now smartphone apps you can use (I like free, like studyblue) so you don’t even need index cards. But I use my time creating the cards as more study time; by the time I make the cards I should know at least 1/2 of the content from these methods:

  • First things first, is find a quiet place to study and shut off all interruptions. Gather all materials, and a drink and maybe a snack so you don’t waste time getting up. If you can study with it, bring headphones so you can listen to music.
  • Re-read all lecture notes. Highlight important things.
  • Go back to those highlighted things and write them down on a separate piece of paper, but re-write them in your own words and condense the information so it’s easy to learn. Use small words/phrases that are easily memorized.
  • Go to the book and write down more important stuff that wasn’t in lecture in your own words, condensed for easy remembering. If you already took book notes (which is easier than re-reading book text), go read that instead.
  • Now take a look at your paper and read over the phrases you wrote. These will become your flashcards. Write them down on index cards or use your app to make the flashcards.
  • Go through the cards until you get all of them right, and then go through it again. Use the flashcards multiple times per day until right before the test. Use breaks, waiting time, before bed time, etc. to study.

Reduce Test Anxiety

  • The night before, set many alarms and a back up alarm in case your first alarm fails so you don’t oversleep! 
  • Wake up early and eat a good breakfast. Take a vitamin.Make sure you have everything including a pen or #2 pencils and erasers.
  • Go to your class early and review your flashcards or notes. Go to the bathroom before the class starts so you don’t have to worry about that.
  • Read every question slowly and remember not to rush. 
  • If you have just crammed your dates, names, formulas or quick phrases (like PEMDAS), write them down in the corner of your test sheet or your scrap paper so you don’t waste brain energy recalling it repeatedly or end up forgetting them before you need the information.
  • Just try your best, and use the test results, no matter the outcome, to learn from for the next test. See your learning center or teacher for help if you get a bad grade.
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15 Ways to Have a Better Semester

stacks of binders with papers

Organize All the Things!

“There’s a word for students who go to class: Graduates.”

I’m a horrible student. I barely go to class, I drop and withdraw, I judge teachers by going on ratemyprofessors.com, and sometimes I never open the books, let alone read and take notes.

But I love learning. I love education. And when I go, I am the best student. I love notebooks. I love the excitement of the first day, and seeing how the class will unfold. When I apply myself.

But I don’t particularly like college. At least the way it’s currently set up. Memorization, the tiny percentage of great teachers, required classes, forced minors, lousy advisors, unorganized registrar, and the senseless work — all these things are not what education make.

With that said, getting a degree is an important, sometimes critical step, to getting a better job. Most degrees lead to higher-pay, better conditions, and a meaningful career. If anything, the process of receiving the degree should leave you to look differently at the world.

So I’m determined, despite all odds that shoot up against me every semester, to have a better semester. To be a better, more proactive student. To increase my GPA. To actually begin summer feeling like I’ve learned something. I was a great student in high school not TOO long ago, and I want to make my family proud — and myself. I CAN do this.

So here’s my list of ways that I’m going to try in order to have a better semester. Past students and current, feel free to add your ideas as well. Hopefully we’ll all learn something.

  1. GO TO CLASS. Yes, studies have shown that those who attend class get better grades. Who would have thought? Sometimes, life gives us curve balls, and it’s hard to get everything done. My tip is to pretend like you’re waking up for your job — you wouldn’t just not go to work, so bring that attitude to attending every class.
  2. Organize your assignments for the semester during the first week of school. The first week of school is really just time to get the syllabi from your teachers, and plenty of students add/drop. Most let you out earlier than the scheduled time. So take this extra time to write in your planner (YOU HAVE ONE, RIGHT?) all of the assignments on their due dates that appear on each class syllabus. Write, in a different color (like red), if you have it, your important exams, paper due dates, and presentations. Also write it on the day a week before it’s due, to remind yourself that you should start that assignment so you don’t forget.
  3. Track what you do each day to the 1/2 hour or hour, and block out: time worked, class times, and time sleeping. See how you spend your time and make a conscious effort to block time for studying. I strongly encourage you spend your breaks wisely. For example, I have a 2 hour break this semester, so I know that is plenty of time to get homework done.
  4. Go to a quiet place on campus like the library (we have a quiet floor) to study and read/take notes/do your assignments so you don’t have to go home and risk being distracted.
  5. Write realistic goals for what grades you want to achieve, and calculate your ideal semester GPA. If you don’t know how, I will show you down below.
  6. Utilize the campus writing center, learning center/tutors, and counseling centers, seriously! They are free and valuable resources to help you write papers, edit, learn useful studying tips, and have a safe place to vent.
  7. Look at the university calendar and also write down those important dates like last day to drop, advising/registration for next semester, etc. so you’re well aware.
  8. Print out a degree evaluation so you know what classes you need to take still. Most advisors in my experience do little to help you, so make sure you are taking the right classes so you graduate sooner rather than later.
  9. Seriously invest in eating better and exercising. Spend 30 minutes walking around campus briskly, or use the gym – most are free on campus — and use your meal plan to eat the salads and sandwiches at the cafeteria instead of the grill area. Don’t drink monster or soda — but on those days you need caffeine, try the Monster Absolute Zero (I swear by this stuff), Diet Coke or Coke Zero, or switch to Vitamin Water/plain water. A cheap way rather than relying on those vending machines is to carry around a refillable water bottle — it’s also eco-conscious! Bring snacks so you don’t have to turn for the candy machine: try easily portable ones like trail mix, protein bars, pretzels, or a banana.
  10. On exam days, eat brain food like blueberries, salmon, and a good breakfast so you’re alert, not hungry, and don’t forget to study.
  11. After class, immediately review your notes when you have free time (like when you’re waiting for the teacher in your next class). Quickly highlight or underline important pieces while re-reading them. Do this after every lecture.
  12. Every week, I like to re-write my notes. I do this for many reasons. First, I often doodle a lot and write messy, and my papers become a mess and sometimes unreadable. Second, because writing (and re-writing) helps you to remember things better. You also get the chance to reword sentences that you may have copied verbatim from listening to your professor, to a language you may understand. Also, it is another way of studying – you obviously have to read the words in order to write them over, so you are reading the material again and helping it to stick.
  13. I don’t like the weird ways some people claim help them take notes better, like splitting the page down in half, or whatever, but this is what I do: I write important words, phrases/formulas to remember, and anything I want to study further or need to research to clarify, in the margins and on top of the page. This is the same concept. For some courses, I like to write a summary of what I learned on the bottom of the last page in my own words. It helps when studying for a test.
  14. If you actually open the book, you’ll find a lot of great tools to help you study. Most have questions and vocab at the end of each chapter, and a chapter summary! This is gold. Read the chapter summary before a lecture where you know the professor will give you a quiz/make you discuss, and you’ll be more prepared, even if you didn’t read the entire chapter.
  15. Don’t be afraid to drop a class or reduce your work load. College is HARD. I can attest to that 🙂 Sometimes you cannot do it all. Sure, there are people with 4 kids and no husband around to help and they go to school full-time and have 2 jobs, and have a 3.5 GPA, but I’m not her. So don’t compare yourself to other people and feel like crap because you need to realize your personal limit and say, I can’t do all of this. I need to cut down. Because if you don’t, your grades WILL suffer. And your sleep will definitely suffer. And your sanity, well…that’s already gone.

Bonus: Calculate your Goal Semester GPA

It is important to set goals. So a good way of focusing on being a better student is to set a realistic, yet challenging and specific GPA goal for the semester.

  • Make a table with 5 columns.
  • In column 1, list your current courses.
  • In column 2, list a realistic yet challenging goal letter grade.
  • In column 3, list the credit hours (most are 3, but some can be 4 and intensive classes can be 6)
  • In column 4, for each class list the points equivalent to your letter grade goal.
    A=4.0      A-=3.7       B+=3.3      B = 3.0      B-=2.7
    C+=2.3       C=2.0       C-=1.7       D+=1.3      D=1.0      D-=0.7        F=0
  • In column 5, multiply the number of credit hours by the points for each class. These are the quality points. Here’s an example:
    Biology |   B-    |   3 cr hrs |  2.7 pts  |  8.1 quality points
  • Underneath this table, add the number of credit hours.
  • Add the number of quality points.
  • Divide the total quality points by the total credit hours — that’s your projected GPA.
    example: credit hours: 15. quality points: 38.1.  38.1/15 = 2.54
    The projected GPA is 2.54

This formula works for calculating a close estimate of your end of semester GPA if you are good at tracking assignments and you have a good idea of the grade you think you’re going to get for each class. You can talk to your professor to ask how you’re doing and to ask for a grade estimate.

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Keep Your Mind Sharp During the Summer (For College Students)

DSC_4657Summer is usually a time to take a much needed 2 1/2 – 3 month vacation from the rigors of college life. But what happens ends up being is ample time to kill off some brain cells and forget the concepts we spent all semester studying. By all means, go and have some fun, but it couldn’t hurt to throw in some educational stuff in there, too.

Go for a walk. Or a run. 

It is scientifically proven that exercise not only feels good, and makes you healthier, but it also keeps your mind sharp. A healthy cardiovascular system means that your brain gets enough blood pumping, which helps you to remember and focus better. If you go a step further and walk or run for a cause or competition (or both, which is fun), then you get to experience the unforgettable joy and pride of helping other people. Want bonus points? Search for the articles that back up how awesome exercise is for your body. Biology majors and anatomy/physiology types will love this.

Go to a Museum

This is a pretty fun way to spend a day with someone special and have a nice outing, plus you’ll forget you’re actually learning. It’s different and if you have to go in a new city to go to one, then you get to make a day out of it, too. There are many museums for art, history, culture, and pretty much anything you might be interested in. Some of the smaller ones are free, and others only require a donation — or you can pick up free passes at your library. Another perk is the AC! Don’t know where to go? Just do a quick Google search for museums in your area.

Go to an Aquarium or Zoo

Like museums, aquariums are a great way to spend a day with one or two good friends or a date, and they are actually pretty fun and interesting. Plus, who doesn’t love sea animals? Some aquariums will offer special things like “feed the sea lions” or an Imax movie about dolphins and sharks. Zoos offer similar perks, but it’s also fun because there are many exhibits and different animals to see. Going to the zoo is a great place to have a picnic (and it’s cheaper than buying food there).

Watch a movie in a foreign language 

Subtitles are allowed, of course, so you know what’s going on, but you’re brain is able to get a workout while watching a movie. By both reading the subtitles, and listening to words in a new language, you’re working out your brain double time. There are a ton of great foreign films just waiting for you to explore them — so don’t be scared to branch out of your comfort zone. If you’re into a second language or if your major is Spanish or Chinese, then you can turn the subtitles off  (or don’t look down) and try to see if you recognize what they’re saying. You will learn language faster if you immerse yourself in the language and hear other people speaking it properly.

Learn online – for free!

There are a ton of websites available to help you in your research, but why save them for school? There’s educational websites for every type of major and interest, and you may even get a head start in some of your school courses if you learn some great concepts during your own time and pace. So next time you’re bored online, why not do something relatively productive? Here’s a brief list, Google for more:

There’s obviously many more, but this list is just to get you started.

Write in a Journal

Writing helps you to process information and decompress from the day. It is a repetitive, soothing activity and usually done during quiet times or with soft music. You can drink a cup of coffee or tea, and write without fear of deadlines or editing. It is also a great way to form to-do lists and goals, and to reflect on your innermost thoughts and behavior. And the more you write, the better you will be, and the easier it will be to think of ideas for future papers. Even just 10 minutes a day will help.

Read, and Read Some More

Reading is obviously the best way to keep your mind sharp during the summer, but I’m not really talking about the steamy romance novel you read at the beach. Sometimes it is good to read an intellectually stimulating book. For one, you learn something new, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Biographies are very entertaining if you choose the right author (and a person who influences or inspires you), and you can learn a lot about their success or life lessons. Fiction can also teach you great words, and how to evoke emotions with the words you choose. Expand your vocabulary and you’ll always get good grades on your papers. Stuck in a literary rut? Try something completely new and out of your element. You’ll diversify your writing and vocab, and you might find that you love Shakespeare, just not in a school setting. You can even read the classics for free if you download a Kindle app on your mobile device or PC.

This is just a short list of ideas, and most of them are free or cheap. Anyone else got any more ideas they’d like to share?

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