Archive for November, 2007

Final Exam Survival Tips


I’m taking a short break from holiday posts to write for those you who have final exams coming up!

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in school, finals week can really take a lot out of you. These are my top 10 tips to help you survive finals!

  1. Mark Your Deadlines. First, mark deadlines like paper due dates and test times. Next, check for conflicts if you have two tests that overlap, or if you’re scheduled for work during a test time, you need to resolve that as quickly as possible.
  2. Set a Study Schedule. While you have your calendar out, mark out your study plan for the days ahead – you dont want to be studying for a history test on Friday if you have a Math test tomorrow. Schedule time for the nearest deadlines first, and break your time into hours and subjects. Don’t try to spend all day studying one thing or you will burn out. Also, remember that it will probably take you longer than you think to write a paper.
  3. Take Care of Your Body. If you don’t take care of your body, you could hit a slump right when you need the most energy. Take time to eat healthy meals (that means fruits and veggies, carbs and proteins, not just a Snickers bar and a Gatorade) and schedule time for sleep. If you are having trouble sleeping, check out these tips about how to fall asleep even when you’re stressed.
  4. Gather Your Supplies. Get your supplies: Blue Books, Scantrons, pens, pencils–well before the test starts. You don’t want to have to ask your professor if he or she has a spare Scantron.
  5. Make Outlines. One of the best ways to keep focused on what you’re studying is to make an outline (I’ve even made outlines of outlines for really hard classes). It helps if you pick out the key points which can serve as a study tool for later. Sydney at That College Kid has a great post about the basics of creating a successful outline.
  6. Rewrite Notes. Having a hard time making your lecture notes stick? Rewriting your notes takes longer than skimming them. The extra time you spend rewriting can help engrain the information in your mind.
  7. Get Creative. Everyone has a different studying style – some people are visual learners, others are better at listening. Find out what works for you, and do it. This can be anything from putting sticky notes with hard-to-remember facts on your computer monitor, to listening to podcasts of lectures while you eat breakfast.
  8. Be Honest. With all the stress and tension that goes on during this time, some students are tempted to get someone else to write their paper, to sneak an answer from the person next to them, or to plagiarize. It definitely isn’t worth it. Professors check for plagiarism, and the consequences of cheating on just one test could cost you your GPA.
  9. Take Breaks. Your mind needs time to rest and refresh, so taking breaks can help you feel more alert (as I mentioned when I wrote about how to stay awake when you’re studying). Make time to go for a walk, hit the gym, call a friend, or even watch some TV – it will help you refresh your mind.
  10. Finesse. For final papers, get someone to proof read! This is especially critical if you’ve done the whole paper all in one sitting. I did a lot of writing in college, and I can tell you from experience that you will almost definitely make some mistakes, especially during finals week. Also, make sure you staple your paper. You’d be surprised how many people turn in paper clipped or dog-eared final papers – it makes you look unprepared, and that could affect your grade.

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Photo: untitled by conejoazul

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8 comments November 29th, 2007

Holiday Gift-Giving on a College Budget

College usually means a tight budget, and that can be especially difficult during the holidays. If you’re worried your gift list will outweigh your wallet, read on!

Buying Great Gifts for $5. If you’ve only got $5 to spend, you can still give surprisingly fun gifts—the trick is to be both thoughtful and creative. Shop the bargain section at the bookstore, scour eBay for inexpensive original art, pick up a small scented lotion at Bath & Body Works, or browse IKEA for inexpensive kitchenware, candles, and other home décor. WiseBread has a great list of 25 great gifts for $5 or less with ideas ranging from Star Wars key chains (Emperor Palpatine is on sale for only $1.98) to photo albums.

Do it Yourself. If you have a creative streak, try making some gifts yourself! Check out my recent list of DIY Gifts for the ladies on your list (and keep your eye on the blog, more of these lists are coming up!). If you crochet or knit, whip up a scarf, hat, or mittens. If you paint, make small paintings for family and friends. If you enjoy writing, fill up a small journal with fun memories you have with the gift recipient. Use your talents!

Coupons and Discounts. If you’re shopping online, websites like Coupon Mountain, DealCatcher and RetailMeNot offer free coupon codes for great deals. You can even get a RetailMeNot Firefox Plugin that will tell you which coupons are listed for whichever page you are visiting. Also, if you haven’t yet discovered the joys of shopping at discount stores like Ross or Marshall’s, you should head over there before the big Christmas rush hits. It’s a little like a treasure hunt, but you can find some great brands at discounted prices if you take the time to look. Finally, don’t forget that a lot of places (including online stores like offer student discounts!

Give the Gift of Food. Want to give something to everyone in your hallway without breaking the bank? Try gifting some cookies or sweets! My mom and I used to make “Peppermint Bark” for people every Christmas—it is so easy you can even make it in the dorms! All you need is some melting chocolate (this is different from regular chocolate—you can sometimes find it in the baking aisle, or in craft stores like Michael’s), some saran wrap, a plastic bag, a microwave-safe bowl, and some candy canes. Follow these directions to melt your chocolate in a bowl. While the chocolate is melting, crush up the candy canes in the plastic bag. Pour the crushed candy cane into the melted chocolate, and mix. Spread out strips of saran wrap on a flat surface, and spread a thin layer of chocolate mixture. Let cool and harden. Break it into pieces, and wrap it up!

photo: gift by modish

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5 comments November 28th, 2007

Inexpensive DIY Gift Roundup #1: For the Ladies On Your List!

Finding holiday gifts for family and friends can be really hard on your budget. One great way to make it through the season with your wallet intact is to consider making your own gifts. I’ve scoured the web for fresh, fun gifts you can make yourself. Keep watching for more gift ideas for everyone else on your list!

Make Your Own Journal. Perfect for beginners, this video tutorial shows you how to make a journal using paper, glue, and some 4×6 photos.

Cheery Bulletin Board with Pocket. Whip up this covered bulletin board, which includes a handy pocket for storing paperwork, ticket stubs, and anything in between.

iPod Cozy. Adorable and functional, this little songbird iPod cozy is easy to make and even easier on the budget.

Pretty Puffy Crocheted Winter Hat. Grab a crochet hook and a skein or two of yarn, and you’re ready to start this jaunty little winter hat.

The Perfect Tote. Make this smart looking tote bag for those girls (or moms!) on the go—perfect for schlepping art supplies, books, or just every-day necessities.

Homemade Chocolate Treats. You can make pretty much any girl happy with one of these simple chocolate desserts.

Triangular Cosmetic Bag. Easy, step-by-step photo instructions will walk you through making this cute cosmetic bag. It even shows you how to set a zipper.

Dishtowel Potholder. With just a dishtowel and a scrap of ribbon, you can throw together these potholders (my grandmas seem to collect these—why not add one more?).

Leafy Spring Handbag. Use this user-friendly tutorial to make a wide handbag perfect for anyone from your sister to your grandma, and anyone in between.

I hope you have fun with these DIY gift ideas—I’ll be posting more roundups like this one in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes open (or you can just subscribe via RSS or get email updates if you want to make it even easier!).

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Photo “Gifts – Las Vegas Style” by powerbooktrance

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7 comments November 20th, 2007

When and How to Change College Roommates

Sometimes it’s hard to know where to draw the line between a less-than-ideal roommate situation and an honestly unbearable one. Last week I shared some tips about how to handle roommate problems, but what should you do if you’ve tried those things and it still isn’t working?

Where to Start
Before you apply for a roommate change, it’s important for you to try to make it work. Aside from giving you a sense of having honestly tried your best, this will also make the housing office (or whomever you have to talk to about a roommate change) take you more seriously if you do decide to apply for a switch.

The first step is simply to discuss what you can do to make the situation better for both of you. If you are having serious problems and can’t work them out on your own, get someone impartial—like your Resident Adviser, for example—to listen to both sides of the story. Sometimes an outside perspective can help you understand each other.

If your roommate won’t agree to talk to any kind of mediator, you should still go to your RA and explain the problem. He or she may have a suggestion about what to do once he/she has more information about your particular situation. At the very least, your RA can serve as a witness that you tried to work out your differences, and can help you change roommates after he/she has seen that you’ve given it your best effort.

When to Change Roommates
Your roommate may not be your favorite person in the world, but if you can work things out, you probably don’t need to change roommates.

However, sometimes there are extreme cases of bad roommate matches—you fight all the time, you have completely different value systems, or one of you seriously disrupts the other’s life. In even worse cases, you might have a roommate who is emotionally, mentally, or physically abusive, severely depressed, or suffering from a condition like alcoholism or anorexia that seriously affects your ability to cope with things, too.
If you find yourself in a situation like this—one that feels hopeless, dangerous, or very uncomfortable—you should probably consider applying for a roommate change.

How to Change Roommates
Every college has a different policy about how to make a roommate change. Some will make the switch for you immediately, others only make changes at the beginning/end of a quarter/semester. To find out what your school’s policy is and to apply for a change, you will probably want to contact the Residential Life or Housing office. Your Resident Adviser can help you figure out where to go to apply for a change.

Consider talking to your roommate about the decision. Approach it calmly and rationally, simply explaining that you both seem to be having trouble making the living situation work, and that maybe a change would be a good idea. In some cases, this can help diffuse the tension between you during your last few weeks of living together (because you can both see the light at the end of the tunnel!). Though it might be awkward, it could be better than having your roommate angry at you if you go behind his/her back to request a roommate change.

It’s easy to keep up on my latest posts—you can get updates via email or subscribe to my RSS feed.

Good luck with your roommate, and feel free to email me if you have questions!

Photo by Georgios Wollbrecht

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2 comments November 12th, 2007

How to Fall Asleep When You’re Stressed


School and work can put a tremendous amount of pressure on you, so it’s no wonder so many college students have a hard time falling asleep. I know that I have always had an especially hard time getting to sleep before a exam or when I have a new, difficult responsibility at work. Luckily, I have found tricks that help me relax enough to fall asleep (that don’t involve counting sheep!).

Get Ready to Relax. If you want to get a good night’s sleep, you have to prepare both your mind and your body. Put on something comfy—nothing too tight or otherwise uncomfortable—and turn your lighting lower. Fluorescent or other white colored lights will hurt your eyes and keep you too alert, so use a lamp that has a warmer colored light (it should be a glowing light, like from colored Christmas lights, not a glaring light). Also, turn off your computer screen and the TV. If you are sensitive to sounds, you might want to have some white noise—I usually turn a fan on before I sleep to help me tune out the sounds of the street outside. Then climb in bed and get comfortable—arrange your pillow, make sure your blanket is warm enough, etc.

All set? Okay, now try one (or all) of these relaxation exercises:

  1. Tense and Relax. This is a great thing to do if your body feels tense. Starting with your toes, slowly tense every muscle in your body one by one, and hold the tension. Tense your toes, feet, legs, and all the way up your body–every single muscle including all the ones in your face! When your body is completely tensed, start at your toes again and release the muscle tension in every muscle one by one, like a wave moving from your feet to the top of your head. As you relax, try to focus on each muscle, and let it fully sink down against your bed. Breathe deeply as you relax.
  2. Read a book. Pretty simple, right? Make sure you have low, glowing lighting, and choose a calming book—no thrillers! Focus in on what you’re reading (don’t allow your brain to wander off into worries about test scores and due dates) and when your eyelids start to feel heavy, turn out the lights and let yourself relax into sleep.
  3. Paint the Room Black. Not literally—this is a relaxation technique for when your mind feels very busy. First, close your eyes and imagine yourself in your bedroom. It should be a room you know very well so you might want to try your room at home if you’re not used to your dorm room. Now start to visualize making the room darker—in your mind, turn off the lights one by one, lower the shades or close the curtains. Your room should look dusky now. Now, imagine slowly painting the room a calming, safe-feeling black. Paint the walls, the floor, the furniture, clocks, photos—everything. Really focus your mind on this and don’t let it wander to anything else. When everything is painted your visualization of the room should just be a pitch black, and your mind should be blank.

If all else fails, I’ve also found that focusing your mind on deep breathing can help you release tension and sink into sleep. For more in depth information, you might want to check out this article on how to fall asleep from How Stuff Works, and has a good one about power napping to catch up on the Zzzz’s you might miss tossing and turning.

Don’t miss my next post!

Good luck falling asleep, and don’t forget to share your own tips and tricks with other readers by leaving a comment or sending me an email!

Photo by Georgios Wollbrecht

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7 comments November 8th, 2007

How to Handle Roommate Problems

How to Handle Roommate Problems

Want to know what to do if your roommate is driving you up the wall? A couple of posts ago, I wrote about how NOT to handle roommate problems. So now that you know what not to do, here are a few steps you should take:

  1. Get Ready to Talk it Out. Bringing up any kind of problem with your roommate can be really hard, especially if you don’t know each other very well. Unfortunately, talking is a must if you want anything to get resolved. Remember to be nice instead of accusing, and to choose your words carefully. You want to get a result, not get your roommate all angry and defensive.
  2. Fix the Biggest Problem First. Choose the one thing your roommate is doing that you absolutely cannot stand–start there, and be nice! Do NOT start the conversation by bringing up a list of things that drive you nuts. Your roommate will either be hurt or angry, and that will make him/her unlikely to want to work things out with you. Save the little stuff for later.
  3. Review the Ground Rules. If you took my advice in September, you have already set some ground rules with your roommate that both of you agreed on. (And if you haven’t, now might be a good time to do this.) If one of you isn’t following the ground rules, talk about them and see if you need to revise them.
  4. Consider All the Options. Most problems have multiple solutions. If one solution doesn’t work for one of you, see what other options you can come up with. The first solution may not always be the best for both of you. For example, if you can’t concentrate on studying while your roommate is on the phone, you could:
    1. Agree to take phone calls in the hall, common room, or some area away from your room
    2. Agree on “quiet hours” when the room is reserved for studying
    3. Study somewhere else, like in your dorm’s common area or at the library

Remember, it is crucially important to avoid being accusing. Try to make the conversation about how both of you can make the situation better–if your roommate has to abide by a rule, make sure you are clear that you will do it, too.

I’ll be posting soon about what to do if your roommate really isn’t working out. Don’t miss it!

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Good luck!

photo: converse ripple by eloch_86

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3 comments November 5th, 2007

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