Posts filed under 'academics'

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

Exam Prep: Your Finals Prep List

Doing a double-take when you walk past the calendar, lately? Why do finals weeks always creep up so quickly?

Well, even if you’ve still got some time left, this handy to-do list will help you prep for that week of seemingly endless studying. Just remember, it’s all leading up to summer break–you can do it!

All Talk

Before you hit the books, take a few minutes to get these important conversations out of the way:

  • Talk to Your Boss about time adjustments for studying and test taking.
  • Talk to Your Profs or TAs in office hours about any concepts you’ve been struggling with (the day before the test is too late!). If you don’t have a test, you can still stop by for help with an essay prompt or thoughts about topic ideas you’ve brainstormed for your paper.
  • Talk to Your Roommate about both of your study plans for finals week. You don’t want to be up and studying when the roomie is trying to sleep, or have to deal with a study group invading your room when you want some quiet time. Agree on scheduling and figure out alternative study spaces in case your room doesn’t work out all the time (library, coffee shop, common room, quad, etc.).

Stock Up

Ditch the junk food and alcohol (which happens to be a depressant–you don’t want your brain or body slowing down during study time!) and pack your mini-fridge with these brain-and-body fueling snacks:

  • Apples are supposedly better than caffeine for a wakeup call. Plus they’re low-cal and yummy.
  • Trail mix is awesome because the dried fruit and nuts are super healthy (the Mayo Clinic is a fan) and help keep you full, plus you get a little kick of sweet with the chocolate chips or M&Ms tossed in.
  • Whole grain cereal is a perfect midnight snack: munch on it dry or add some low-fat milk. Keep some on hand in case you forget to eat dinner (trust me, it can happen). Think low sugar–Cheerios, Grape Nuts, Chex, etc… But I bet you could get away with some Frosted Mini Wheats. 🙂
  • Water, water, water. This should be your beverage of choice–being properly hydrated not only helps your body keep up its energy up but also (bonus!) helps your skin stay healthy.

Read On

Looking for study tips? Check out the SCL study archives! Here are a few posts to get you started:


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1 comment May 26th, 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

Write a Better Essay: Do You Know these Three “Unspoken Rules”?

Every now and then you’ll get a paper back covered in red marks for “mistakes” that weren’t forbidden anywhere on the syllabus or essay prompt–the unspoken rules of essay writing. By the time you reach college level writing, professors expect you to know them by heart, but the fact of the matter is, most college students slip up when crunch time comes around.

Read on to find out if you’re making some of the mistakes that make your professors slap their foreheads in pain:

1. Forgetting the Essay’s Default Style

So your prof assigned you a formal argumentative essay in which you have to argue the merits or pitfalls of underwater basket weaving, and you hand him a six-page paper detailing your personal distaste for the subject, with “I think” and “In my opinion” scattered all the way through it. Oops.

Fix It:

For the essay above, you should have used a formal, third person voice. That means leaving all the “I”s out of it, and focusing on proving your argument with evidence and facts instead of sharing your opinion (your prof will tell you if he or she wants your opinion!). You should also use “one” instead of “you.”

There are different appropriate styles for each of the four types of essay. In some you may use first person, telling a story from your perspective or sharing your opinion in an opinion piece. In others you might use a formal third person, like in the example above. You can learn more about the four types of essays and how to write them at Purdue’s Online Writing Lab:

2. OMG!

When I edited essays in college, I was shocked by how many people wrote academic essays like they were writing the professor an email, but then, I was already in on the unwritten rules. In fact, students using text slang in their papers is starting to make the news.

Fix It:

You should always be conscious of a paper’s level of formality, and when in doubt–be professional! Use correct grammar, run a spell check, and avoid using slang or idioms (those odd phrases that don’t make sense literally, like “It cost an arm and a leg”). Please, please, please do not use texting or chatting slang like “OMG” or “thx,” and never substitute “4” in the place of “for.” If you think this doesn’t happen in college, I’m proud of you. If you’ve done it, forgive yourself, move on, and never do it again! 🙂

3. He Was Mocked for Using Passive Voice.

When I was a freshman in college one of my friends sent me a frantic email. His professor had handed back his essay with express instructions to eliminate the passive voice, and he wanted to know–what the heck was passive voice?

Well my friends, passive voice is when the action of the sentence is acted upon by it’s subject. (Are you shaking your head out trying to figure out what I just said? Purdue has a great diagram here that will help!)

Fix It:

Whenever you can, try to use the active voice, and don’t forget to proof read and try to change your passive voice sentences to active! (That’s Purdue helping out again–they know better than I!)

These three simple things can help make your essays much, much stronger, so start here and work your way up. I’ve got more essay writing tips coming your way in a bit, so once you’ve mastered these basics you can take your essay writing to the next level. (Weird what you look forward to in school, isn’t it?)


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3 comments March 26th, 2010

Study Tips: How Future Doctors Study

Well my honey is making his way through the first year of med school, and I do NOT envy him his workload. But at least his study techniques are useful! Check them out:

“Pimpin'” It

So when the hubs came home from school on Monday he casually asked me, “Have I told you about pimping?” You can probably imagine the look I gave him after that weird question, but he quickly explained that it is an actual term med students use for one of their study techniques–explained to him by his 40-something class moderator (and she is a serious and respected ER doctor who just finished her second residency).

The basics of “pimping” are simple: You go over your notes and study alone, and then get together with someone you work well with and take turns firing off questions at each other, one after another. It is fast paced and intense, and really gets your synapses firing.

The way my sweetie and his study comp do it is to simply say something like, “Tell me about keytones.” The questioner lets his partner start off with a simple description, and then fires off questions until the discussion continues. They spend hours doing this, but hopefully your major doesn’t require that much “pimping.” 😉

Become the Teacher

Another method that works really well for a lot of the study groups is to take turns being the teacher. One of my sweetie’s study groups gets a small room in the library and each take a topic they’re familiar with to re-teach to the group. They discuss problems, hypotheses, and questions together, go over anything confusing from lecture and of course mess around cracking jokes and stuff, which helps them all stay sane on full-day study dates. Then they swap teachers.

The group gets the benefit of going over notes again, while the teacher gets to really focus on wrapping his or her mind around their teaching topic.

Solo Study & DIY White Boards

While group and partner studying are both awesome ways to dig deeper into material, you first need to have the foundation of solo-study. For tips about how to study on your own, check out these memory tips and consider these thoughts on how to kickstart your study habits. (Still not getting anything done? Time for some ridiculously easy ways to kick distractions.)

A new tip we picked up from a second year med student this year was to DIY a whiteboard (shown above!). It is really easy and ridiculously cheap. We found a huge sheet of whiteboard at Home Depot and cut it down to fit on our desk (they have a saw available for free there). We got four desk-sized pieces for only 10 bucks, so the extras got passed on to other students. Now the hubs slaps down his computer and notes on the whiteboard, and writes down chemical reactions, internal processes, and all kinds of things I don’t understand, like the stuff he wrote in the photo you see up at the top there…

Bonus points if you know what’s going on in that photo. It is a super-intricate process of creating ATP… And such. Haha.

Even if you aren’t a science student, this could be a great tool for brainstorming essay ideas, diagramming sentences, time-lining historical events, and making a note-to-self so you retrieve laundry before it gets stolen. 😉

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8 comments February 26th, 2010

It’s FAFSA Time Again…

I’m not going to lie, I hate filling out the FAFSA (a.k.a. Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It feels a lot like just another tax form. BUT, higher education financial aid gurus (including my boss, nationally recognized college funding expert Deborah Fox) recommend that you do it anyway, so let me break it down for you:

Why Should I Apply for the FAFSA?

According to Ms. Fox, every student–even students who probably won’t qualify for need-based aid–should fill out the FAFSA. If you come from a family on the lower-end of the income scale, you could potentially be awarded federal, state, and school funding (including “free” money you don’t have to pay back, such as grants and scholarships).

If your family is in the mid- to higher-end income range, you should still file the FAFSA because it is the only way to qualify for federal student loans (which are much, much more consumer-friendly than private student loans, as they have lower interest rates and more protections for you, the borrower).

What Do I Need?

To apply for the FAFSA, you’ll need to provide a good deal of information, including your personal income for the past year as well as your parents’. Ms. Fox has outlined how you can prepare ahead on her Pay for College Blog in a really helpful post called How to Get a Jump on the FAFSA. Look it over (or just send the link to your parents and hope they do it for you!).

How Do I Get Started?

Start by visiting, the official online application for federal student aid. Next year’s application (for the 2010-2011 school year) will be available on January 1st of 2010 (that’s not too far away!) and you’ll want to fill it out ASAP because a lot of the aid is awarded based on who applies for it first.

(Important: Do NOT visit other sites like, which is a service that will charge you to file the FAFSA. The FAFSA is completely free, so don’t get swindled!)

I’m no expert, so if you’re just getting started with the FAFSA, I suggest you click over to these helpful posts at the Pay for College Blog, and be sure to link your parents in, too, so they can help you prepare:

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1 comment January 15th, 2010

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