Archive for September, 2009

Three Easy-Peasy First Exam of the Year Tips

If you’re feeling a little under-prepared for exams to begin, take it one step at a time–and start with these.

Spend Some Time at the Office

You veteran readers will already be pretty familiar with this one–and I’m not talking about heading to your job. That office can wait! You need to get to “office hours,” that hour or two each week when your professors and TAs are available to talk and help you work out problems.

This is your opportunity to get face-to-face with the person who best knows what you need to study for the test–and he/she can even help you figure out the tougher concepts of their class. After all, they love the subject enough to teach it!

And don’t think you’ll be bugging your teacher–many professors complain that no one ever shows up to their office hours!

Go to Work

Okay, this time I am talking about your job. Studying for a big test like a midterm or a final can be stressful. Throw in the pressure and commitment of a job, and you could have a recipe for a migraine.

If you have a job (or other regular commitment, like volunteering at a hospital, etc.), take a little extra time one day to discuss your upcoming exam schedule with your supervisor. If you’re going to need to work a little less the week of the test, plan that ahead. Also, if your test is being held at a different time than usual class so that it interferes with work, make sure you notify your superiors of that, too.

Remember, you’re a student first, but most offices are willing to work around you a little so you can keep the title of employee, too.

Test Yourself

One of the best ways to really learn the concepts and info that just won’t stick is to take a practice test. You might have access to practice tests from your professors (you can always ask for one, or a previous year’s test, from your prof at office hours!). If you don’t you can quiz yourself or make up flash cards.

I’d definitely recommend flash cards if they make sense for your subject. They’re easy and cheap to make, you can start paring them down to the concepts you are really having trouble with, and they let you study whenever you have a few spare minutes on the bus or between classes.

For more tips, check out these handy study-tip posts:

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2 comments September 29th, 2009

Dorm DIY: Hip, Fab Dorm Decor

Everybody getting settled in okay?

If those cinderblock walls are getting you down–never fear! I’ve got some more great DIY ideas to spruce up your dorm room!

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Add comment September 23rd, 2009

3 Easy (FUN!) Ways to Meet New People in College

It’s easy to slip into a homesick slump after the initial adrenaline of moving out wears off, but don’t let yourself get bogged down with the blues–I’ve got three awesome ways to get your social life started right.

Go Clubbing… Sort of.

Want to learn how to knit, or play some intermural lacrosse, but your school doesn’t offer either? Head to the student center and start a club. Publicizing is easy on a college campus–there are billions of places to post fliers, many profs let you chalk info on one side of their lecture boards, RAs are willing and able to help, and then of course there are blogs, Tweets, and Facebook.

Here are some club ideas that took off at UCSD:

  • STITCH – A knitting/crocheting club focused on charity work. They taught members how to knit or crochet, then had sales of their goods (scarves, hats, etc.) each quarter, or gave away blankets to people or babies in need.
  • Muir Movie – Every year a bunch of students get together and make an independent film. They write scripts, do casting calls, film, edit, compose music–everything you can think of. And then of course they have an awesome premiere screening at the end of it all.
  • Inner-tube Water Polo – Indoor pools + inner-tubes + water polo. It is even more hilarious than it sounds.

And, bonus! Starting your own club looks great for leadership purposes, so you can add it to your scholarship apps and resumes!

TV Show Kick-Offs

It’s September, and while sadly that does mean homework has returned, it also means your favorite TV shows are starting to pop up with new seasons. Gather some like-minded people and some munchies and lay claim to your common room TV. Fav shows are great because they create common inside jokes and give you something to talk about once the show ends–plus you might get to sit next to that hottie from Chem for a full half an hour.

My Top Picks:

  • Project Runway; Started in August–catch up online
  • The Office; starts September 17th 9/8c
  • Fringe; starts September 17th 9/8c
  • Lost; starts January 2010
  • 24; starts January 2010

Want to watch a show/movie/video from online on your TV? It’s actually pretty easy, if you have the right stuff (and with so many people in the dorms, someone is bound to have what you need):

  • Find a laptop and TV with connection capability for an S-video, HDMI, Component, DVI, or VGA cable
  • For sound, either hook up your computer to the TV (you can use an iPod to Amp cable to hook this up, using the audio input on your TV and the headphone output on your laptop) or just get a good pair of computer speakers and set them up on either side of the TV, still connected to the laptop.

Did that make sense? If not, there are also instructions here.

Get Off Campus

Most college towns have a pretty good weekend scene, and depending on how urban or rural yours is, you could have a pretty wide variety of off-campus activities.

If you’re big city, there are probably hundreds of places you could go, but for suburban or small-town settings, start by checking out your student center or local community centers for cool stuff to do. One little club in downtown San Diego had swing dancing every Friday night, or you could get lessons for cheap at the community center in Balboa Park. There was always live music at one of the downtown restaurants, and in warmer weather there were outdoor movie showings. If you’re not big on nightlife, you could also try taking a class at a local YMCA, joining a book club at a local library, or signing up to volunteer somewhere. And obviously, if you do go out (especially at night) be smart and safe!

Okay, now get out there and make some friends!

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Add comment September 15th, 2009

Kick Start Your Study Habits

I love getting feedback from you guys in comments, emails, and poll responses, and one of the biggest concerns this year is getting good grades–which is exactly what you should be focused on in college. So right on.

The nice thing is that when it comes to studying, a little effort goes a long way. Here’s how to get ahead of the game this year.

Duly Noted

Get out your pen and paper–or your laptop–and pay attention during class. I know it’s tempting to email, chat, and surf the web when class gets slow, but none of those things will help you score well on a test.
Figure out your ideal note-taking style not for speed but for processing. Class should be your first “study time” so don’t settle for mindlessly copying down the notes. Try to really absorb what your professor is saying so that when you go to study later, its all review.

Some people process really well working on a laptop, but many of us are more visual and need to physically write notes and draw diagrams to keep the info stuck in our brains. Be honest with yourself about which type you are and you’ll find studying gets way easier.

Take Two

When you find yourself with free time during the day, skip the iPhone Wheel of Fortune and go over your notes from class that day. Just read through them once or twice, make notes about things you don’t understand, and plan what to go over in depth later.

Sometimes going over things right before bed is a good way to help them stick in your head–your brain keeps processing this information while you sleep at night (but you might start dreaming in calculus equations. You win some, you lose some.).

If you’re feeling antsy about spending daylight studying, remember that studying in the day means you’re free to go out and be social at night.

Schedule some Alone Time (with your books)

Scheduling study time is crucial, especially as you start adding more activities and work hours to your day. Map out a couple weeks before your finals week starts, planning when (and what) to study, when to work, and when to take breaks. Give yourself a couple extra days, too, because good studying usually takes longer than you expect it to (sorry).

The “alone” part is crucial, too. Spending time with a study group can be really helpful–especially if you’re still learning the material–but it is also really distracting (especially if your crush happens to be studying with you…). So if you decide to go the group route, pencil in some private study time, too. This will give you a chance to go over the things you personally struggle with.

Still freaking out about your first test of the year? Here’s an oldie but a goodie that really applies to any test: 10 Finals Week Survival Tips. 🙂  Deborah Fox, founder of Fox College Funding (and author of our sister site, the Pay for College Blog!) highly recommends the book, How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less by Cal Newport.  She told me her son, a college sophomore, has found it to be extremely helpful.

More study tips to come. And don’t forget to take some brain breaks!

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3 comments September 9th, 2009


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