Archive for October, 2007

How to Stay Awake & Alert While Studying (without Coffee!)

With midterms and final exams rearing their very ugly heads, you’re probably finding thatHow to Stay Awake While Studying study time is increasingly important. Too bad you have a job, clubs, a roommate, friends, family, dorm-room sleep hours (read: 3am bedtime), a cafeteria diet, and a bunch of classes wearing you down. Once you start reading that text book, suddenly a nice nap seems like a much better idea.

Read on to find out how to keep yourself awake, even if you’re studying in the wee hours of the morning:

  1. Drink a Lot of Water
    Remember this from my tips on how to stay awake in class? Well, water is even better for staying up when you’re studying. Dehydration can make you sleepy, so keeping your body hydrated will stave off those symptoms. If you are really sleepy, drink a lot of water to make sure you stay up—if you have to get up to go to the bathroom, it will definitely keep you awake! (Weird, but it works!)
  2. Take Breaks
    Your brain needs to rest if you want to study hard for a long time AND do well on your test. Schedule out your time so you can take a break—I would study for 45 minutes, break for 15, and so forth. Set the alarm on your cell phone so you don’t forget (or if you’re afraid you’ll fall asleep). Watch a TV show, talk to a friend, read a book, or listen to some music—but nothing school related at all!
  3. Exercise
    Exercise can be a great way to wake yourself up—take a short walk, dance to some music on your iPod, or head over to the gym for a little while. Taking a shower after a workout can wake you up even more.
  4. Don’t Study Somewhere Comfortable
    Don’t curl up on the common room couch or lean against some pillows in bed and expect to make it through 50 pages of text—getting comfortable is a sure fire way to sleep through your study time. Go somewhere with good, strong lighting, a non-squishy chair, and a table or desk. Sit up while you study, and change positions now and then.
  5. Eat a Snack
    Get your blood sugar up by eating a healthy snack (junk food will just give you a burst of energy but then you’ll crash). Apples are a good food to help you keep your blood sugar stable so you can stay awake (a lot of people say they will wake you up better than caffeine!)

Remember, I also shared some ideas to help you stay awake in class, so if you’re really sleepy, you might want to try those, too! Good luck!

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How do you stay awake during study time or worse–all-nighters? Any other study tips you couldn’t do without?

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63 comments October 29th, 2007

Dealing with a Natural Disaster or Emergency in College

By now you have probably heard about the wildfires spreading throughout San Diego, which also happen to be the reason I didn’t post on Monday. They have been burning for three days, and we still don’t know when they will be under control, so for now we are just praying for the best.

This has brought back memories of my first year of college, when fires shut down the UCSD campus for a week. It was really scary, and I had no car and no way to get home, so I had to stay in the dorms with some other kids. I wanted to give you a few thoughts about what you can do if you find yourself in this kind of situation.

Be Prepared. There are a lot of resources for how to prepare yourself for an emergency situation. Check out the links below:

Red Cross – Get Prepared and Preparing at Home
Preparing an Emergency Kit

Stay calm. This is the hardest piece of advice, but you really have to keep your wits about you if you find yourself near a fire, in an earthquake, flood, or other natural disaster. You might have to make some tough decisions, and panicking will just make that harder.

Get in touch with home if you can. Talking to your parents will make both of you feel better—it lets them know you’re okay, and they can help you figure out what steps to take next.

Listen to the authorities (your RA, your school, the government, etc). One of the biggest reasons that people get hurt or in trouble during natural disasters is that they won’t listen to the people who know what is going on. If the police tell you to evacuate, you need to do it. If the news says to stay inside and away from smoke, pay attention! It will save you a lot of time and trouble.

Get supplies together—just in case. If you have the time and capability, you should make sure you have any supplies you might need. Start with non-perishable foods, water, first aid supplies like medication, antiseptic and band aids, a flashlight, and batteries. Then add on whatever else you might need depending on your situation. If you’re evacuating, for example, don’t forget extra clothes and underwear and a blanket. The nice thing about being on a college campus, is that they will take a lot of responsibility for you. In most cases, college staff or older students will be there to help you get wherever you need to go, and make sure you have shelter and food.

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Add comment October 25th, 2007

What NOT to Do About Roommate Problems

Dorm rooms (and even apartments) can be pretty close quarters, and even roommates who start off close can wear on each other’s nerves. Sooner or later, one of you is going to get grumpy, irritated, or downright angry—and how you handle that could make or break your friendship.

I lived with my roommate, Karly* (*I changed her name here, obviously), all the way through our junior year of college. We got along pretty well for the most part, but from time to time we bugged each other. I wish I could say that everything worked out perfectly, but I didn’t exactly have the perfect roommate problem experience. Hopefully you can learn from what happened to me:

  1. Don’t Trash Talk Your Roommate
    Karly didn’t really know how to cope when she was annoyed with me. Sometimes she would leave away messages on AIM about how I was bugging her. Other times she would have a gripe-fest about me on her blog, (which she linked to from her instant messaging profile so all our mutual friends could read it!). That was both embarrassing and hurtful. While I did my best to be a good roommate, I was always worried that I would accidentally do something that would end up on Karly’s blog for everyone to read.
  2. Don’t Avoid the Issue
    Aside from telling other people how much I bugged her, Karly didn’t make much of an effort to fix the problem. Sometimes she sighed loudly or refused to talk to me. The one thing she never really did was mention any of this to me face to face. That made it really difficult for me to even approach the subject, because Karly was pretending there was no problem.
  3. Don’t be Accusing
    I made every effort to be a good roommate, because I knew I had to get through a year with whomever I ended up with. Mostly Karly and I got along well—as evidenced by the fact that we lived together for 3 years—but we came from different backgrounds. The point is, your roommate probably isn’t trying to bug you, and accusations are more likely to make people defensive than to fix a problem. So be careful how you word the “can we fix this” conversation, and offer to be part of the solution. Instead of saying, “It is so obnoxious how you always have your stupid music on so loud. Would you cut it out?” you could try, “I think we both have a hard time studying with each others’ music on. Is it okay if we agree to wear headphones?”

Do you have any awkward roommate stories or tips about how you get along with your roomie? I’d love to hear them!

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13 comments October 18th, 2007

Why and When You Should Drop a Class in College

StudyingAre you thinking about dropping a college class? Or wondering what to do if you ever think you need to drop a class?

I’ve never been much good at math, but until my freshman year of college I had always managed to get by. Then came Calc 10A. Even though I took detailed notes in lecture and spent literally hours on my homework, I just couldn’t get it down. As the drop deadline approached, I realized that if I stayed in that math class, I could possibly fail my first course.

How do you know if dropping a class is a good decision? Most times, that decision involves both the “why” and the “when.”

If You Give it Your All and It’s Still Too Hard

If you are studying, going to class, and even getting outside help (did you know many colleges offer free tutoring on campus?) and you are still having trouble, you might want to drop the class. I dropped Calc because it was just too difficult when I added it in with three other classes. To get a passing grade in that class, I would have had to devote way less time to my other classes, and that would have really hurt my GPA.

If You are Coping With Emotional Hardship

There are times in your life when emotional difficulty can make it hard to focus in school. One of my friends had a close friend pass away during his senior year of college, and he decided to drop a class or two to give himself time to grieve. It’s okay to give yourself that leeway to help you cope during a time of emotional distress. Coping with issues like depression, an eating disorder, parents’ divorce, or a death can take a lot out of you, so don’t sacrifice your emotional health just to take an extra course.

Before the “Drop Date” Has Passed

The optimal time to drop a class is before the “drop date.” Before that date, a drop won’t go on your record. If you drop after the drop date, you often get an I (“Incomplete”) or a W (“Withdrawal”) on your transcript.

If it Won’t Affect Your (or Your Parents’) Financial Situation

A lot of times things like non-school insurance coverage, grant money, or scholarship fund dispersal is dependent on the number of credits you are taking in school. Some insurance companies, for example, require you to be a “Full-Time” student (this usually means you have to be taking at least a certain number of credits; my insurance company required “12 or more” to consider me “full time”).

When You NEED To

Some things in life you can’t control. If for some reason—be it emotional, physical, or mental—you and your parents decide that you need to drop a class at any time, then do it. You can always retake the class later. If you have extenuating circumstances, don’t be afraid to talk to an academic advisor about it, too, and see how they recommend you proceed with dropping or retaking the class.

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2 comments October 15th, 2007

Finding Free Legal Music & Video Downloads & More

A lot of kids get pretty excited to use P2P software like LimeWire when they get to college—away from Mom and Dad’s watchful eyes. I’m sure you’re aware that sharing copyrighted music and videos is illegal, and you’ve probably heard that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) is tracking down students who pirate music. They even try to get your school to work against you by matching your name to your IP address for them.

The other issue with P2P software is that, if you aren’t careful, it can give anyone access to your personal files, which may contain credit card numbers or your Social Security number. You may not think so now, but that is a big deal. If someone gets a hold of those numbers, they can potentially use your credit card or steal your identity—and that could really mess you up, even later on in life.

Luckily, there safer options—you can often get free music and videos legally. Check out these spots to download, watch, or listen to free, legal music & video:
Ruckus is a website that offers totally free album downloads to college students. They offer music from current popular artists like Kanye West and Boys Like Girls to older hits like Bruce Springsteen. Not every school is signed up for Ruckus, but you can always petition to have it offered at your school by submitting a request on the website.

iTunes offers free album tracks every week, both from little-known artists and from more popular artists like Colbie Callait. They also have quite a few TV shows that you can download for free—usually the pilots (first episodes) of new shows, but sometimes other episodes as well.

TV Network Sites

Networks often post full episodes of their most popular shows for free on their websites. For example, you can watch full episodes of popular shows like Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Heroes, and more on the ABC Full Episode Player and the NBC website.

MySpace is a great place to find free music. Most popular bands have music you can listen to for free in their music players, and some—from the up-and-comers to the basic garage bands—let you download and keep their songs for free.

Know of more places to get free, legal music? Email me or add a comment below!

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6 comments October 11th, 2007

Should You Get a Job in College?

When I started school at UCSD, my parents thought I could earn my half of my college expenses by working really hard over the summer. That may have been true when they were in school, but college costs have skyrocketed, and for most kids, that just isn’t possible. I had to work and take out loans to finally get my degree.

But is it really a good idea to get a job during school? Here are a few things to think about as you make that decision.

You are a Student First
Both you and your employer need to be aware that your top priority is your education. That means that you need to decide how many hours a week you can work and still thrive as a student, and schedule work hours around class and study time. You also need to talk to your employer ahead of time if you will need time off to take an exam or to study extra.

You Need Balance
For most of my college career, I was a full-time student taking 16 units (4 classes), and I worked about 12-15hrs/week while school was in session. Some students can handle more, some need to work less. I had to plan my time carefully so I could study, do homework, get to work on time, and still have some time to hang out with friends.

Using Student Loans
Most students can’t earn their entire tuition and do well in school, so don’t think it’s a bad thing if you do have to take out student loans. The goal is to keep your debt low, but you also need to perform well in your classes (so you don’t have to pay even more to retake them!). You also need to consider your physical and emotional health—overworking yourself can be seriously harmful to both. So cut yourself some slack, and if you need to use loans to supplement your earnings, just be sure you do your research so you get the best deal!

You can learn more about paying for college at the Pay For College Blog. Browse through the archives for articles like how to get a discount on tuition and other smart tips.

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2 comments October 10th, 2007

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