Archive for April, 2010

3 Tips to Help You Graduate Early (or At Least on Time!)

Did you know that over the past few years, more and more students have been graduating “late”? It’s true–they’re taking more than the typical 4 years to graduate college, and you know what that means: extra years of studying, and extra years of tuition.

No thank you.

Wondering what’s going on? For many students its a combination of several factors, from difficulty wading through boring GEs to trouble getting in to their upper division courses to switching majors mid-way through college. Don’t get caught with a second Senior year! These 3 simple tips can help you make sure you graduate on schedule (or maybe even a little early!).

Cash in AP Credits

If you took AP courses in high school and passed the national exam with a 3 or above, you could earn college credit for those high school classes. Check out your school’s AP policy to see if you qualify, and make sure they received an official record of your test scores so you get your maximum course credits.

And once you’ve got those scores logged, don’t forget to make them count toward your GE requirements! My AP U.S. History score knocked two full classes off my GE requirements, so I only had to take one more history class to complete my GE history section. Don’t let those credits go to waste!

Make Time for Academic Advising

Even straight-A students need help understanding the ins and outs of college major requirements, so stop by your academic advisory office before you set up your classes for next semester. Your academic advisor can not only help you ensure you are on the fast track to your major, but also talk to you about opportunities like studying abroad or pursuing a minor. And they the inside track on classes, so if you’re having trouble getting in to a coveted upper division, your advisor may actually be able to help!

“Crash” Courses

Every quarter I signed up for 16 credits, plus one extra class (this gave the the freedom to drop one!). Sometimes that extra course was a “crash” class–one that had so many students already enrolled that I couldn’t be admitted without showing up to a few lectures and getting signed off by the professor. It takes a little extra work at the beginning of a quarter or semester, but most of the time I got into the class by the third or fourth class day–which meant I was able to fulfill my major requirements quickly, and rarely ended up taking a filler class instead of one I really needed.

If you are still having trouble after several crash days, don’t forget to pay your academic advisor a quick visit to see if he or she can help you get in!

These three tactics combined helped me graduate in under four years–which also let me get a jump on the job market as a new grad. Give them a try!

Good luck and happy studying. 🙂


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5 comments April 29th, 2010

5 Productivity (or Social Life) Boosting Gmail Features

Since you now all know that I’m a geek, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’ve scrolled through and checked out all the optional features found in Google Labs (that little green beaker in the top right corner of your screen) in the darling of all webmail, Gmail. It’s time to click on that bright green icon () and see what you’ve been missing–these 5 features are a must have for Gmailing college students.

Mail Goggles

Ever get home late–really late–and suddenly decide it’s a great time to send an email to your ex? Oops. Mail goggles is a ridiculous (but, honestly, probably pretty effective) way to make yourself think before you send. You set up your schedule to determine when it goes into effect (like maybe just for emails sent between midnight at 6am, prime returning-from-a-party times), and during those hours you have to solve three basic math problems before your mail will send. If you’re having trouble with the email-equivalent of drunk dialing, this one’s for you.

Undo Send!!!

Already hit send, huh? If you have this feature enabled, it’s not too late to take back that snarky remark about your prof–which you accidentally sent to the whole class. (Curse you, Reply All!) With Undo Send, you have a couple of seconds after your mail is marked “sent” to, well, Undo!!!

Text Messaging (SMS) in Chat

Want to text your BFF without having to search for your cell? (Or need a quick way to text yourself when your phone gets lost in piles of laundry?) Text messaging from Gchat lets you click on your friend’s name, open a chat window, and if he or she is offline, send a quick message right to their phone.

Mark As Read Button

Have you noticed how much work it is to mark an email as “Read” in Gmail? It takes a silly number of steps. The Mark As Read feature puts a button right beside your Delete button so you can quickly manage your mail. So simple, but such a big timesaver.

Google Docs Gadget

Access your most recent documents right from Gmail with a click of a button. A list of your 5 most recent docs appears on the left side of your inbox so you can go from reading your prof’s thoughts on your essay to editing it in one simple step.

Any of these features (or others) make your hit or miss list? Are you using different webmail that you love? Fill in your fellow students in the comments!


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1 comment April 26th, 2010

Cheap & Easy College Recipes: Honey Glazed Chicken Stir Fry

Stir fry is fantastic for several reasons:

1. It is served over rice, which makes it filling and cheap!

2. You can pretty much cook it in one pan–minimal clean up!

3. It is delicious.

4. It is FAST. And

5. It is really hard to mess it up.

This honey-glazed chicken stir fry (adapted from here) is one of my favorite new recipes–it is quick (takes about 20 minutes for me) and tasty. Plus it is a good way to trick yourself into eating tons of vegetables!

Ingredients – Sauce
3 T vinegar
3 T orange juice
1 T soy sauce
3 T honey
2 t cornstarch

Ingredients – Stir Fry
2 T oil
1 bag (about 4 cups) frozen stir fry veggies (less than $2 at Walmart, guys)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts


1. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl. Set aside. (If you’re cooking old-school 20 minute rice, go ahead and get that started, too.)

2. Cut (raw) chicken into small cubes. Set aside.

3. Heat oil in a wok (frying pans work, too) on medium-high. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Remove veggies from wok.

4. Add chicken cubes to wok. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes until cooked through (no pink!). Push chicken away from the center of the wok.

5. Add sauce to the center of the wok. Stir until thick and bubbly. (This won’t take long, so watch carefully!)

6. Return veggies to wok, and stir chicken and veggies in sauce until heated through and well coated with sauce.

7. Serve over rice, and enjoy!

Makes 2 servings for normal people, or 1 for college boys. 🙂

Tip: Using pre-cooked chicken saves you a step (but it does cost a bit more). You can just push the veggies to the side, let the sauce bubble, and then pour in the chicken and mix it all together.

Bon appetit!

p.s. I’m looking for more easy recipes to try and share–email me at jamie(at)survivingcollegelife(dot)com to share yours!


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Add comment April 22nd, 2010

5 Techie Freebies I Couldn’t Live Without

Maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration, but nonetheless, here are the 5 freebies that make my little geeky heart go pitter-pat. 🙂

Photo Editing and Beyond
Photoshop’s Younger (Freeware) Brother. I heard about the Gimp way back when I was in high school, and to be quite frank with you, I wasn’t impressed. Yes, it had most of the features that Photoshop had, but the usability was terrible. Several versions later, its almost unrecognizable. I downloaded it last week (my PS Elements didn’t have the features I needed) and I absolutely love it. You might have a little learning curve if you are switching from Photoshop, but remember–Photoshop is hundreds of dollars, and the Gimp is free, so a little extra tutorial skimming isn’t so bad.

Yay Browsers
Browsing, Google Style. If you’re still browsing on IE (which keeps having security issues–yikes!), its time to take a look at what else is out there. My two primary browsers are Firefox and Google Chrome–both great browsers–and I have to say Chrome is my fav. It is more streamlined (you can run a google search right in the address bar) and has all the features you need in a good browser. Word of warning, though: Chrome is still new on the scene, so every now and again it won’t be able to load all the features of a site. Which is why I have my handy dandy Firefox standing by. AND both of them focus on keeping your browsing secure.

Internet Radio
Out of the Box. When I moved last summer from the jam-packed airwaves of San Diego to a quiet little spot on the east coast, I was a little disappointed at the slim pickings on the radio. Thank goodness for Pandora, which creates “stations” based on songs I like (and remembers what I dislike). Not only do I get to hear my old favorites, but it introduces me to new favs in the genres I’m interested in. Downsides? The occasional ad will play (and they have ads on their sidebar while you’re listening) and you can only play 40 hours of music per month for free.

Blogging Software
Send it to Press. I’ve used lots of different blogging platforms, but WordPress is by far my choice for free blogging software for anyone who will be blogging from their own domain. With tons of themes and plugins (and more every day), constant updates to make it better, and a user-friendly interface behind the scenes, it is the real deal, and it doesn’t cost you anything. One note, though–if you won’t be running your blog from your own website, I’d recommend using Blogger, which is easy to customize (there are whole blogs about customizing blogger!) and gets better with each update.

Video Chat & More
Share and Share Alike. I’ve mentioned Skype several times before, because I love it, but when they introduced free screen sharing, too, I really felt bitten by the love bug. Now I can video chat with friends (free!!!) anywhere AND use screen sharing to teach my dad how to work his iMovie without having to make a trip home. Oh Skype, you are just dreamy.

(Want more tips on great deals and freebies? Find out the 10 software freebies every student should know about, or learn how to get free food in college or how to trade books, DVDs, and video games online and get something new-to-you for just the price of postage!)

Are any of these freebies on your love/hate list? I’d love to hear your take–or find out which freebies YOU can’t live without–so fess up!

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1 comment April 12th, 2010

Make More Time: How to Study While You Work Out

I have a love/hate relationship with exercise–I hate it while its happening, but I love how great I feel when I’m done. And I love that it has more than just physical benefits (did you know exercise can even help stave off depression?), but I hate trying to find time to do it. If you feel that way, too, you’ll love these ideas to help you sneak exercise into your study time.

Sound weird? Think of it this way–if you combine two chores like studying and exercise, you could end up with more free time for fun stuff later. 😉

Book It (…or Notebook It)

Heading to the gym for some semi-stationary exercise? Take your books along. Equipment like the stationary bike, elliptical, and treadmill usually have space to prop up a book. You can also bring a notebook with your class notes if you don’t want to attempt fine print while you’re jogging. Bonus–focusing on your studies will help you forget how seriously painful an hour on the treadmill can be!

Listen In

Have a lit class to read for, but find yourself falling asleep a few chapters in? Try downloading the audiobook version and taking your iPod along for your workout (or hey, even on the walk to class).
Tons of classic public domain books are available (for free! And it’s legal!) at–but be warned, they’re all read by volunteers, so not every reading is stage-worthy. You can also check out your local library for CD versions (not legal to rip those, though, just FYI) or if you’re willing to lay down some cash, check out the huge selection on iTunes.

Buddy Up

It’s hard to flip through flashcards while you’re lifting weights, so why not bring a study buddy to the gym? Grab a friend and quiz each other (or even just casually discuss–that will help info stick, too!) as you spot each other or run laps on the track.

Get Creative

One of the things I noticed–especially when I was just learning to study the collegiate way my freshman year–was that sitting in the library with a book was not the only way to study.
One of my favorite techniques was to put post-its by my doorframe and on my desk with mini-notes about whatever I was struggling with that week. I’d see them so many times a day, that eventually the information would sink in.

Obviously the post-it idea won’t work for a work-out situation, but you should try to come up with your own outside-the-box solutions. For example, if you’re struggling with reading notes and jogging at the same time, take along a podcast of your professor’s lectures instead (or even snag another related podcast–there are all kinds of educational downloads available online).

(Want more tips about getting fit and staying healthy at school? Try out these dorm room workouts, and learn about eating well, calming down, & exercising in a small space.)


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Add comment April 8th, 2010

Summerwise: Get in Gear Early

Hey! It’s Spring! Do you know what that means? It means there are only weeks–and, okay, some really gnarly tests–between you and summer break. And do you know what that means? It means it’s time to get your summer plans going so you can optimize those three months and make them fully productive (and fun!).


I know that right now a summer of pools, sleeping in, and TV marathons sounds amazing, but too many pajamas-only days and your sense of accomplishment (and, uh, your social life) will start to wear thin. You may have forgotten in the heat of midterm exams and all-night cramming sessions, but summer can actually be pretty boring if you don’t get your buns in gear.

While you should definitely indulge in some relaxation time (you’ve earned it, right?), try to build a healthy balance of work and play into your summer schedule.

Work It, Baby

So, what qualifies as “work”? Aside from the typical part-time or full-time job, which is a wonderful way to earn the cash you need to enjoy summertime and stay afloat during school, there are tons of other productive things you can do:

  • Volunteer. Choose something you’re interested in, and offer to lend a hand free of charge. Whether you’re dog-walking at your local vet or learning the ins and outs of construction with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering is a great way to meet new people, have unique experiences, and build your resume.
  • Scholarships. If you quit applying for scholarships after you graduated high school, you are really missing out–there are tons of local and nationwide scholarships available for students in both undergrad and graduate programs. Up your odds of winning by searching out and applying for scholarships with a limited applicant pool–search for those targeted to your major, personal interests, or other unique characteristics.
  • Tutor or Teach. If you’re not looking for a full time job but still want to bank a little something, tutoring might be a great option for you. Sylvan and Kaplan routinely hire college students to teach and tutor high school or younger aged students.
    If you’ve got a different kind of skill to share, check with your local community college or community center. They often allow people to provide one-day seminars on things like computer literacy or other useful skills. A heads up, though–you’ll want to be prepared with a syllabus and behave professionally.

(Looking for more ways to do a little more this summer, or more info and resources about the items above? Check out these 5 ways to stay productive this summer.)

Play Days

Okay, you’ve scheduled your work hours, lined up some volunteer time, and even planned a day to placate your mom by cleaning out your closet. Now the good stuff!

Since your play days aren’t as easy to nail down (your parents might let you ditch Aunt Ethyl’s dinner party for work, but probably not for a trip to the beach) I suggest you make yourself a Summer To-Do List. Write down everything you want to do–from big road trips to little things like stopping at your favorite local pizza place–and squeeze them in whenever you can!

(Planning a trip? Here are some cheap ideas for summer vacations.)

Why Now?

Yes, summer is coming, but there are tons of things standing in your way–the calendar and your professors, for example. So why am I telling you to start getting ready now?

Well, I hate to say it, but the early bird gets the worm. The majority of colleges get out within a few weeks of each other, so if you want to snag a summer job, you’ll be in competition with a flood of other college students going home. That means early planning could be the difference between a you who has money for a movie ticket and the you who has to settle for watching a DVD with your date while Mom and Dad are in the next room.

Fun stuff deserves planning, too. It not only gives you something to look forward to (which you’ll need during finals week!), but also allows you to do some money-saving research so you don’t go back to school sans-cash. If you’re traveling, start checking out sites like STA TravelPricelineStudent Universe, and other travel sites to compare hotel and flight costs. If you’re staying home, find out which nights are free-popcorn night at the theater, or if your student ID can get you a discount at the burrito place downtown.
Get the dirty work done now, and you can really make the most of those three luxurious months to come.

Happy planning,

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1 comment April 5th, 2010


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