Archive for December, 2010

5 Secrets to Getting Up for Class

At the beginning of the school year I posted a poll that let you share your top dreads about the back-to-class months. Coming in at #2 (trailing only 1% behind HOMEWORK itself) was having to get up for class.

I’m with you–it’s the worst! There is something really hard about rolling out of bed with only the prospect of class to look forward to. I hope these tips will help you get through the early-morning drag.

1. Schedule Classes Later. First things first: do NOT schedule a class for a time when you don’t think you can be up, ready, and out the door. After choosing an early morning class my first quarter at UCSD (one during which I almost always fell asleep), I quickly learned that I couldn’t make it to class coherent and ready to learn before 9am. So when you’re choosing next semester’s classes, pay attention to the times!

2. Bring a Friend. Scheduling a class with a friend means you are twice as likely to show up, because (hopefully) both your alarms will go off. Chances are one of you will make it out of bed! Getting a call from a friend (or stopping by to pick them up on the way to class) will give you both a second chance in case you hit snooze one too many times (and someone to watch your back so you don’t sleep through a test). Not to mention seeing a buddy is a little extra motivation to get to class.

3. Work With Your Roommate. Got a roommate whose bright-and-early prep practices drive you nuts when you’re trying to sleep in? Use it to your advantage! Consider timing your morning classes around your roomie’s, and get up and ready around the same time (just plan ahead so you don’t fight over the shower).

4. Get More Sleep. I know its hard to make yourself go to bed–especially when people seem to be awake and doing something interesting at all hours of the night in college–but going to bed a little earlier will (obviously) help your body get the rest it needs to recharge you for the morning. (Harvard Med shares some tips to help you improve your sleep.)

5. Set Your (Internal) Clock. Our bodies naturally tend toward self-scheduling; they get tired, hungry, etc. at about the same time everyday. In my experience, you can “teach” your body when to be alert and when to be sleepy–but it will take consistency and practice. If you want to learn to get up earlier, you’ll have to force yourself to do it as often as humanly possible–that’s the only way to train your body to wake up for 8am class instead of sleeping until noon. (Learn more about your internal clock here.)

And while we’re talking about sleep, why not check out these tips to help you stay awake during class (without resorting to a caffeine regiment).

Photo by Georgios Wollbrecht

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10 comments December 27th, 2010

5 Ways to Save on Textbooks

Did you know that the average student spends $800 every year on textbooks alone (and many students spend way more!)? If you ask me, there are much better things to spend that kind of money on, which is why I threw together this list of five ways to save on your textbook costs for next semester, with some help from our sister site the Pay for College Blog which has several posts about saving on textbooks (among other things!). Check it out if you’re looking to learn more about paying for your college education without breaking the bank.

And now, onward to textbook savings…

5. Think Resale

I know what you’re thinking–I haven’t even bought the books yet, why am I thinking of selling them?

Most students think of textbooks as a “sunk cost”–money you spend and never get back. But one of the best ways to save your cash is to sell your books at the end of each quarter or semester, and put the funds back towards buying your next round of books.

I recommend selling your books online, where you can usually get more than the campus store will offer you for your used text. That said, if you don’t see yourself making the effort to list and ship, take advantage of buy-backs at your school bookstore. Any return is better than none.

4. Talk to Other Students

First, if you can, talk to students who took the class before you and find out whether the class focuses more on the text, on lectures, or equally on both. Some profs suggest buying the textbook for use as a supplement to their lectures, but rarely test on it–you may not need to buy the book at all.

Second, talk to your classmates and see if anyone is up for book-sharing. You could split the cost and have joint custody–just make sure you have a backup plan for those high-study weeks before tests.

3. Rent or Borrow

Renting textbooks has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, and now you have more options than ever. While (in most cases) you won’t be able to highlight or write notes in the margin, you will most likely spend less to rent a book than to buy one. Try sites like,,, and which all claim to save 50 to 90% of the cost of buying the text brand new.

Also, many school libraries keep copies of required texts on hand. You might be able to check out the book for the whole semester, or you may be required to stay in the library to use it.

2. Buy (Not-From-the-Bookstore) Used

The on-campus bookstore may be convenient, but it is definitely not the way to save money. Their used book selection may be cheaper than their new copies, but chances are you can find a better deal if you look around a little more. Try or for great deals on used books online, check out used bookstores near campus, or talk to students who took the class last year.

1. Buy an Earlier Edition

If you ask me, the the best ways to save BIG on textbooks is to buy a previous edition of your textbook. While the new editions are selling at full price, you can sometimes get a previous edition for half that–or maybe even less. You may have to borrow a friend’s updated copy on occasion or deal with slightly differing page numbers, but in most cases the cash-saving benefit makes that little extra work way worthwhile!

Note: Always check with your professor before buying a previous edition. Most profs are understanding about the need to save money, but for some classes–particularly advanced science courses–you may NEED the most recent version.


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2 comments December 20th, 2010

Quick Fixes for Winter Break Bummers

Let’s face it–two or four full weeks with the fam can get a little rough sometimes. Sure, time flies when you’re having fun, but what about those sticky situations that make everything just a little… lame. Here’s how to deal so you can enjoy these homework-free weeks of winter break!

Your mom has jam-packed every day with three hundred activities, and you have no time for your plans.

Have a little heart-to-heart, and explain that you’re excited to be home, and had hoped to be able to spend time with friends AND family. Ask your mom which activities are most important to her, and ask her which days you can skip out to meet your friends to catch a movie and wax nostalgic. The key is being willing to participate in the most important stuff (and have a good attitude about it–brownie points!).

Your family’s plans are, frankly, non-existent.

Take matters into your own hands. There are all kinds of activities going on this time of year–some cool, some dorky (my hometown does an annual dry boat parade… I’m serious…)–so get your siblings out of the house and go do something. If they won’t join you, round up some high school friends to go instead.

Bummer: Mom and Dad are cracking down on the “House Rules” now that you’re home for a few weeks.

While it’s reasonable that they have some house rules that must be followed, see if you can bend or stretch the ones that are really cramping your style by talking it out (and, obviously, talk to the more lenient parent!). For example, if your ‘rents insist that you’re home by ten, explain that you’re usually out later at school, you’re careful and cautious, and you’re willing to call in a few times between ten and (insert your reasonable but later curfew here) so they know you’re safe. If they’re still being stubborn, see if they’ll up the time if you have people over instead of going out.

Bummer: You miss your significant other who’s back home, too.

First: you’ve got technology, so use it! Make a Skype date for a night or two (or more) during the week, and take advantage of email, phone calls, and text to share whatever goofiness is going on at your place.

Second, get old-school romantic and write a love letter or two. It may sound cheesy, but I submit that there is nothing as heart melting as getting a hand-written letter from someone totally crush-worthy.


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2 comments December 16th, 2010

Cheap-or-Free Dates for the Holidays

Winter is one of the most romantic times of the year–all that cold weather leaves lots of excuses to snuggle up! Here are a few inexpensive ideas to treat your crush this holiday season.

  • Bake-Off. Mix up some of your favorite wintertime treats (I’m a sucker for frosted sugar cookies or a good batch of fudge) and see whose come out yummier. Food fights are encouraged, and taste-testing is a must. If you’re feeling generous, you can hand the goods out to family and friends.
  • Kid Flix. Pop some popcorn, snuggle under some blankets, and watch one of your childhood favorites. Some of my go-to kid-friendly movies for the holidays are Home Alone (1 or 2), Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and anything Charlie Brown.
  • Scarf it Down. Bundle up for those cold winter nights by outfitting each other for warmth. Scout out a cute scarf (Old Navy has them starting at only $5) or mittens for your sweetie. Feeling gutsy? Learn how to knit or crochet together and swap when you’re finished. (It takes a real man to be comfortable crocheting in front of his lady. 😉 )
  • Wrap it Up. Make gift wrapping fun by making an evening of it. Gather your supplies (wrapping paper, tape, scissors, and ribbon for starters), grab some snacks, and wrap gifts in front of the fire (but not too close). If you need a little something more to keep you entertained, throw on some music or a cute holiday-style romcom (I love the classic While You Were Sleeping).
  • Color Me Yours. Still looking for the perfect gift for your super sentimental mom/grandma/crush? Head over to a ceramics painting spot (like Color Me Mine) together and spend an evening making something special yourself. You’ll love seeing how artistic your sweetie is (or isn’t!) and you can tick one more gift off your list.
  • Let it Snow. Don’t hide away indoors when the snow starts falling–call up some friends and have a huge group date outdoors. Bundle up and prepare to relive your childhood: building snowmen, making snow angels, and the grand finale–a huge snowball fight.

Happy holidays!


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Add comment December 13th, 2010

DIY Holiday Gift Roundup – Gifts for Everyone!

I’ve come across so many great DIY gift ideas for this year that I thought I’d share one more roundup of awesome make-it-yourself goodness before we move on. I hope you’ve found something for everyone on your list. Don’t forget, there are lots of DIY gifting ideas in the archives, too–just scroll down to DIY!

For Kiddos

  • Rose Petal Tutu – A quick (under an hour) project that will get any little girl twirling, this cute tutu is filled with rose petals and accessorized with a nice big bow.
  • Padded Roll Up Cushion – Perfect for a reader or outdoor adventurer, this padded cushion rolls up for easy carrying between rooms (or forts) so it is always on hand.
  • Strawberry Pillows – Maybe I should have put these under gifts for ladies, because I totally want a crop of strawberry pillows to call my own!
  • Satin Flower Headbands – These adorable headbands are perfect for girls of all ages, and they look like way more work than they are!
  • Child’s Tool Belt – Great for playing pretend or helping Dad around the house–just add a couple of plastic tools and you’re good to go.
  • Animal Puppets – A quick and easy tutorial for super cute felt animal puppets. If you’re not a whiz with the whole sewing thing, fabric glue should work pretty well on these, too.
  • Glove Stuffed Animals – Pick up a $2 set of gloves at Target and you can whip up one of these adorable little animals yourself.
  • Felt Fishing Set – Felt fish + magnets + mini magnetized fishing poles = hours of fun.

For Ladies, Sistas, Mamas, & Girlfriends

  • Flower Bib Necklace – I love how simple and flirty this fabric-and-chain number is!
  • Modge Podge Bangle Bracelets – Make something custom and chic AND play with modge podge? Win-win.
  • Easy Breezy Scarf – Four simple steps, and you’ve got this awesome accessory all ready for gifting.
  • Custom Heart Plate – This custom plate tutorial has a lovey-dovey twist, but you could make it up any way you want. (For example, how cool would it be to make your own version of this?)
  • Uber Cute Menu Binder – An ideal gift for the cook-with-your-wallet type. Why not add some takeout menus to get her started?
  • Stenciled Animal Mugs – Super cute (and super quick to make), these animal mugs will brighten up any gal’s morning.

For Guys, Bros, Pops, and Boyfriends

  • Mason Jar Herb Garden – Some guys like to cook, some like to eat, but most like their food to have killer good flavor–enter this mason jar herb garden. Fresh herbs taste way better!
  • One Hour iPad Sleeve – Someone feeling a little protective of his new iPad? Whip up one of these one-hour sleeves to keep it safe.
  • Kindle Urban Camouflage Case – Is it a book? Is it a Kindle? No, its both!
  • Han Solo in Carbonite Chocolate Bar – If you thought that Star Wars fans get tired of creative ways to see Han Solo in carbonite… you were wrong. Plus–chocolate. Yum.
  • Pinhole Artwork – I love the subtle-but-artsy vibe of this DIY artwork. Pick your giftee’s favorite subject and get to work! (Photo above from Design*Sponge.)
  • Pocket Watch Wall Clock – Looking for something fun and quirky? Look no further–this pocket-watch wall clock should do the trick.
  • Super Sweet Eye Chart – The perfect way to say I Love You (yeah yeah yeah), in a modern-simple-clever way.

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Add comment December 9th, 2010

Cramming 101: Making it Through Last Chance Study Time

The last few days before a final always seem to creep up on us way too quickly, but when it’s time to cram, don’t just head to the library and drive yourself crazy. Here’s your finals week guide to effective studying.

Evaluate. I’ve written a lot about studying practices in the past, and now’s the time to honestly evaluate which style works best for you. If you work best alone, skip out on the study groups. If you’re a daytime studier, don’t waste daylight hours sleeping! And if you remember things better when you write them out, turn off the computer and pull out your pencil. Now’s the time to get serious.

Plan. I’m a huge advocate of making a study schedule–it will not only help you stay on track, but also helps you feel more in control during a very stressful time. Plan to focus study for your closest tests first, but intersperse your days with different subjects to keep your brain fresh. If you can, give yourself an extra couple of days for overflow in case you get behind.

Study. It sounds simple, but it’s not. Finals week is prime time for procrastinating (I used to excuse myself from studying by cleaning my room, rationalizing that it was so productive). So log out of Facebook, cut off your chatting, and if you can, turn off your internet connection completely. Don’t make excuses, just study.

Exercise is an awesome tool. It helps keep your brain active (while giving it a rest from all those flashcards), lets your body stretch, gives you a kick of adrenaline and endorphins, and is even thought to help ward off depression. When you take your study breaks, be sure to get up and move, even if it’s just taking a brisk walk outside for a few minutes.

Rest. Sleep deprivation is already a problem in college, but finals week it gets exponentially worse. If you don’t feel you can afford a full 8 hours (which is optimal for most people) indulge in some naps during study breaks to keep you going. Sleep helps keep your brain sharp and lets your body recharge (for a new day of grueling studying…).

Your body needs energy–especially when you aren’t letting it sleep enough–so don’t give up lunchtime to study. Eating healthy, regular meals and snacks will help you get more out of your study sessions, so head over to the caf (take your books if you must) and get your three meals a day.

Hydrate. One of the symptoms of dehydration is sleepiness, so kick that extra drag on your energy by drinking lots of water. Stay away from sugary drinks or coffee, which give you a rush of energy and then a potential energy crash, and (obviously) alcohol, which actually dehydrates you (in addition to dulling your studying skills!).

Good luck!


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Add comment December 6th, 2010

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