6 Tips to Set-up Your Dorm Room to Reduce Stress and Maximize Productivity

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College is a fun and exciting experience; you’re away from home, there’s lots of new people and countless events and activities. Remember, however, that you need to prioritize your studies, after all, you’re there to get an education. The way you organize your dorm room can help you perform better in your classes, but you have to set up an effective study space. Follow these tips to organize your dorm room to reduce stress and boost productivity.

 

Communicate With Your Roommate(s)

In the average dorm room, each student has about 96 square feet of space, that means you’re spending a lot of time in close quarters with someone you barely know. Open up the lines of communication early. Don’t claim the bed by the window just because you show up first on move-in day. Talk to your roommate about his or her preferences and concerns and communicate yours as well.

You may also find that you have different priorities and lifestyles. Maybe one of you is a morning person, or you may be more introverted or extroverted than your roommate. If you like to get up early and your roommate likes to sleep in, try to be considerate and be quiet while he or she is sleeping. Also, there’s no reason you can’t make time for your studies and the social aspects of college, but you have to be diligent about making a schedule and sticking to it. You may need to work with your roommate to designate certain times of the day for homework and studying and other times for being social.

 

Study at Your Desk, Not in Bed

Your bed looks very inviting when you’ve got 30+ pages of your textbook to read, but unless you go to the library or a study group outside of your dorm room, try to do all of your studying, school work and reading at your desk. When you study in bed, it’s easier to zone out or fall asleep, especially when you’re reading dry, or overly-technical material. Your bed should be the place where you rest and recharge; lugging your textbooks or laptop into bed sends your body mixed signals and studies shows using technology in bed can affect your quality of sleep.

 

Organize Your Desk

Organization is easier said than done when you have a dorm room that doubles as a kitchen, living area and study space. When it comes to your desk, however, try to keep it as organized and uncluttered as possible. “When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus,” according to Erin Doland from unclutterer. “The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information.”

A clean, organized desk helps you feel calm and focused on the task at hand. It also helps you keep track of important materials like study guides, notes and assignments, which is helpful when you’re juggling projects between different classes.

 

Reduce Distractions

This is where communicating with your roommate is key. He or she may like to listen to music or have the TV on while doing schoolwork but you may like it quiet. Can you find a solution that works for both of you? Also, consider limited noise and distractions while studying for tests. When you study, create a test-like environment: sit at your desk, try not to use your books or other references and reduce the amount of background noise, you may also want to time yourself if you know you will have a limited amount of time to take the test. This tactic is especially helpful when studying for Math tests. “A common mistake is for students to work on Math problems in too relaxed a posture,” according to USATestPrep. “They should be sitting at a desk, with minimal distractions, and working the problems exactly as if they were testing.”

 

Make the Most of Your (Limited) Space

Now that we’ve talked about how to set your room up to study, which should be your first priority, let’s talk about maximizing your limited living space. Most of the furniture will be provided by the school, but you can bring some additional shelving or plastic bins to create more storage space. Plastic bins can be especially useful in the bathroom (if you have your own) to store toiletry items so you’re not fighting over drawer space.

You can bunk your beds to create more floor space, but if you’d prefer not to, considering lifting or raising your bed to create additional storage space under your bed. Some students raise their beds high enough to fit their desk underneath, which creates enough space for a couch for lounging and relaxing. Make sure you check with your resident advisor before you do any manual labor on your room or furniture.  

 

Keep Your Space Neat

I know this might be your first time away from home, which means you don’t have your mom around to tell you to make your bed and pick up after yourself. Go ahead and enjoy your newfound freedom, but remember, there’s at least one other person in your room. While you don’t need to be a neat freak, your roommate may not appreciate it if you leave your things all over the room, so try to be considerate.

Also, talk to your roommate about your belongings. If you’re not OK with him or her using your stuff, make sure you let them know. He or she may feel the same way, so you can avoid any issues if you discuss this ahead of time.

 

Part of keeping your room clean has to do with designating specific areas for things like studying, lounging and relaxing and hanging out. Chances are you and your roommate may reorganize your room a few times during the course of the school year. As long as you have a dedicated, organized study space, you can play around with the rest of the room and figure out what works best for everyone. Living in a dorm room may be a big adjustment at first, but with some communication and planning, you can make the most out of the small space. Follow these tips to have a more organized, stress-free living environment so you can enjoy the other, more fun aspects of college. Remember, you need to focus on your studies, but after that, have fun and enjoy the experience.

 

The Less-Obvious Benefits of Studying

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You know you have to study. If you want the good grades, you’ve got to put the time and effort in with each class. While you think cramming for that big exam is just enough, you’re also wondering, “Shouldn’t there be more benefits to pouring over my entire notebook?” Luckily, for high school and college students, here are a few great examples of some little-known perks of doing your best while in study mode.

 

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  1. Become a Better Friend

When you take notes, especially if you are taking them from a lecture or video, you are practicing what is called “active listening.” Passive listening happens when you are listening, but you are thinking of the next step (such as what to say next). Active listening is when your mind is totally focused on what the person is saying so that you comprehend it best.

For example, if your BFF is talking about an argument with her mom, put your good studying skills to work to pick up on subtleties in her speech pattern or her mentioning of smaller details. Your friend will love that you are tuned in to her, and you will love that your mind is focused.

 

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  1. Practice Goal Setting Techniques

The main goal when you study is to know the necessary amount of information and move on. But when you study, you are also practicing goal-setting techniques that can help you become a successful person down the line.

Start by making the goal (memorize x amount of pages), plan for the goal (spend 25 minutes a day reading through notes), and then work towards the goal (the actual studying). When you’re out of college, you can use that same careful and detailed method to find your first job, work towards a promotion, or even run a marathon!

  1. Exercise Your Brain for the Future

People say learning happens every day, and starting good studying habits helps you learn better and faster. When you’re in the job market, being able to pick up new skills and knowledge makes you more marketable, and you’ll be able to talk about almost anything while showing off what you’ve picked up while pulling those all-nighters..

Studying is exercise and fuel for your brain. It fires up your nerves and speeds up the signals. In addition, learning something new also increases myelin, a fatty brain substance that powers up brain function. See? You’ve learned something new today.

 

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  1. Learn to Problem Solve

Critical thinking is a buzzword you’ve picked up by now — and for good reason. Critical thinking helps you process issues as they come in a creative, stress-free way. It additionally helps you see the world outside of black and white. For example, an algebraic question may have more than one way to solve it — one way being faster and more efficient, the other being slower but more detailed.

But with studying, critical thinking isn’t quite so obvious. Memorizing material your teacher told you isn’t helping, right? Wrong! When you study, you are essentially asking yourself questions and giving yourself answers. You are looking critically at material that you may have covered months ago. And you’re adding to your bank of skills and information that you can use to apply to other problems down the road.

Studying may seem like a pain now, but hopefully these facts motivate you to want to study and get more from your classes than just that great grade.

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I’m Not On The Dean’s List…What Happens Next?

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In college, it almost always feels like the pressure is on — especially when it comes to your grades. When the Dean’s List comes out for the semester or year, not seeing your name can be exceptionally hard to take, especially if you worked hard to be at the top of your game. However, missing the Dean’s List doesn’t have to shatter your confidence. Here are few things you need to know about how to get your mention next period and recover from the snub.

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What You Need to Know About the Dean’s List

Most colleges put out a regular list of students who are at the top of their level or major’s academic standings. However, not every school is the same. Some universities have Dean’s Lists that only take a few students while other schools name all students with a certain GPA.

Before you get upset about not being mentioned, you may want to check your academic handbook to see what your school’s standards are. A near perfect GPA may be harder than you think depending on your major. And when you compare yourself to friends at different colleges or even programs, you should keep these unique standards in mind.

 

Why the Dean’s List Matters

For one, being named on the Dean’s List means that you are a stellar, high achieving student. It also means that you have grabbed the attention of people such as academic advisors, counselors, professors, university staff and school Deans. These are people who can have great influence over your future, especially in terms of getting an internship or finding a job along the way.

Speaking of jobs, some headhunters use Dean’s Lists as a way to find great future job candidates, especially if they take a pool from a particular school. And in addition to career potential, being on the Dean’s List may mean access to selective scholarships or further merits at your school.

 

What You Can Do to Make the Cut Next Period

Being left off of the Dean’s List can bring up a host of emotions. Everything from self doubt to anger are totally normal. Give yourself a day to feel what you need to feel, and then focus on what you can do to get there next period. After you have researched what you need to do to make the Dean’s List at your school, it’s time to put a plan in action.

Four Steps to Help Yourself Get on the Dean’s List

  1. Get Your Counselors/Advisors Involved

If your goal is to get listed, don’t let it be one you keep to yourself. Let your academic advisors/counselors in on your plans as they may know the best way to raise your GPA. This may include helping you design a class schedule that can increase your chances or put you with professors who nurture students’ success.

  1. Map Out Your Future

If your school goes by an average GPA, it may take more than one academic period to boost your grades. Therefore, it is important to know what is ahead. An easy semester with light classwork may naturally get you ahead while a stacked session of challenging courses may make it even harder to get your goal.

  1. Focus on Earning Other Honors

The Dean’s List isn’t the only honor offered at almost every college. Instead, look for other achievements you can apply for or strive to get. This may include awards for your community work or a scholarship for your academic achievements.

  1. Stay Positive

Finally, don’t let not being on the Dean’s List get you down. While it’s a great achievement to have, you can still be an awesome student without the mention. Keep your chin up, your nose in the books, and your achievements close to your chest and you will find yourself closer to your goals in no time.

 

Healthier Alternatives to Red Bull on Campus

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If there’s anyone to sit there and tell you how much they love Red Bull, it’s me. Whenever I need energy on the go and I’m not in the mood for coffee, I spring joyfully to my closest CVS or 7-11 and grab the brand new Cranberry flavored Red Bulls to get me through the day. They’re delicious, convenient, bubbly, and surprisingly pretty refreshing for an energy drink(or so we think). Not to mention, they’re pretty inexpensive and usually have deals for a 2-‘fer’-1 buy. And – as I totally don’t want to sit here and nag all my fellow college students about how bad Red Bull is for you, I think it’s important to discuss what’s really at stake and maybe discuss a few alternative options. Before you stop reading, note that I’m not in any way trying to force you to stop drinking energy drinks but instead propose a few healthier solutions and suggestions on moderation.

Breaking it down:

Studying in college is tough. You have endless deadlines to meet, activities and meetings to go to, sports, clubs, and not enough time in the world to get them all done and still manage to sleep, too. You end up feeling like there’s not enough time in the day to get everything you need done and not be a zombie at the end of it all. Reaching for a Red Bull (or four) in your mini-fridge seems like a brilliant solution for a much needed pick me up, but have you ever evaluated how long that lasts? What about after? Do you feel more tired after your energy boosts that results in a crash? These are all important things to take notice of when you’re consuming any type of energy drink, whether it be Red Bull, Monster, Amp, etc.

The problem:

As I understand your internal struggle and deep bond with the bubbly and sweet drink that we all know as Red Bull – there is no denying the side effects it has on people (yes, students are definitely included) during everyday life. Anything is manageable in moderation, but once you rely on things such as Red Bull for that extra pick me up, you start requiring more and more of it to give you just that one time, short-term burst of energy. Next thing you know, you have 6 empty cans littering your Residence Hall room and you’re wondering why your homework is stuck to your forehead and you’re bouncing from your roommates bed back onto yours.

Here’s the deal: Although Red Bull is deliciously sweet and relentless against those days full of extra snooze button slaps and groggy wake-ups, you really should monitor your intake. Like I said before, everything is manageable in moderation, but if you’re amping up (no pun intended) your intake of energy drinks each day just to stay awake, you’re creating a slow ticking time bomb for yourself, and for your body. Because energy drinks contain so much caffeine, they can really have negative side effects on certain people. It’s important to note that everyone is different. Every body is different. This means that the amount of caffeine and energy drinks your roommate may be able to gulp down, may not be the same for you. For those who aren’t used to consuming caffeine or are sensitive to it can have adverse reactions such as irregular heartbeat, nausea, inability to concentrate, light headedness, restlessness, and more. If you’re turning to Red Bull for your first time to boost your performance during studying sessions or an exam, you may end up over-caffeinating your brain and actually making yourself crash and not be able to concentrate. Energy drinks seem harmless, but for some people, this irregular heartbeat and raise in blood pressure can cause problems for people who have underlying health problems that haven’t surfaced yet. Just a few months ago, a college student who chugged an energy drink had a fatal situation when an underlying heart-valve condition couldn’t handle the excessive intake of caffeine through her blood system. Although rare- it’s important to steer clear from drinks that contain a lot of taurine (which your body repletes slowly on it’s own, by the way) to avoid any situations such as this one. As this is an extreme end of the spectrum (drinking Red Bull does NOT mean every person will have the same, if any side effects), everyone is different. Not to mention the hidden calories in these energy drinks and the unhealthy chemicals as well.

Plan of action:

Never drink a Red Bull again. Just kidding. You can still drink your favorite energy drinks, just try to cut back. Test them out here and there and if you feel jittery and uncomfortable when drinking them, drink a glass of water with every half-can or try something new. There ARE healthier alternatives out there that you may find you like better. I went from drinking Red Bull constantly to coffee, and am currently now hooked on something much more delicious and flavorful which leads me to my next point of discussion: Your options. Here’s my personal favorite –

1) Loose Leaf Tea– Before you knock it, try it. Drinking tea isn’t just for older people who like to read by the lake and sip on a glass of Chamomile. In all honesty, tea is where it’s at. If you haven’t tried visiting places like Teavana or Capital Teas, I would certainly recommend them. What’s cool about these stores is that you can actually smell and pick out your own varieties of loose leaf tea with both caffeinated or non caffeinated properties, and mix them to find your favorite blend. They have endless options from citrus, to relaxing, to chocolate, to roasted almond, you name it. The price is a little steeper than I’d like for a small bag, but if you section it off appropriately into the correct serving bags (or tea infuser) you can make a little go a long way. You can even try picking up the million different varieties of Tazo tea at your local supermarket or drug stores. They’re great for helping you wind down (or up) and do wonders when you’re sick. PS- if you love going to Starbucks with friends and worry about not having anything to get – they sell delicious loose leaf baggies of the Tazo mix, heated up to almost 200 degrees! (let it cool off a bit before drinking, then fall in love with the fresh flavors steeping right in your cup). Let the bag steep for a few minutes and take it out or leave it in: finding the right strength of your tea will help you monitor your caffeine intake as per your body needs.

2) Work Out– No, I’m not trying to subtly get you in the gym to work out for the upcoming Spring Break weather, I’m actually going somewhere with this one. It’s no surprise that working out has great benefits for your body, but it also elevates your mood and gives you more energy. If you’re really busy and don’t always have time to go through a precise workout routine, try taking a brisk walk around campus or taking the steps here and there. Once your body gets used to the action you’ll start feeling that pep back in your step. You’ll also feel really good about yourself, too which is always a plus.

3) Whey Protein Powder– Used by many for workout and dietary reasons, Whey Protein Powder is also an exceptional choice for keeping up with your nutrient intake. If you love making fruit smoothies all the time, scoop a bit of this stuff in them and watch your energy elevate. This stuff is great for your body because it’s a rich source of the 8 essential amino acids that aid your body in growth, energy and health. It will also help you stay fit and trim so you can couple it with those brisk walks around campus.

4) Black Coffee – This is the hardest option for me since I hate the taste of black coffee, but there are times where I will brew myself a cup and nix the creamer and sugar. I know tons of people who drink their coffee black, and I raise my Ninja Turtle coffee mug up in salute to their brave efforts. If you don’t mind a strong brew of coffee, this may be a great option for you. Coffee actually has great benefits for your body, aiding in the prevention of diabetes, cancer, and even increases your metabolism. Just be careful not to over do it!

5) Eat right – Last, but certainly not least, feed your body with foods full of nutrients and protein to get you through the day. If you’re stumped on healthy ideas that are delicious to make in your residence hall, head here for a few ideas. The key to energy is eating natural foods jam packed with vitamins to sustain you during your long days of classes. Try to avoid over processed foods, like the kinds you pull out of a cardboard box and nuke in the microwave for 4 minutes. Try some fresh fruit, lean meat, and veggies to get your energy up and churnin’.

Do you have any other alternative tips and tricks? Share them!

 

6 Reasons You May Not Be Doing As Well In School As You Should Be

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Getting good grades in college is a task on it’s own. Your classes are usually scattered throughout the day, and they last for hours at a time. You may be tired from extra curricular activities or organizations and be piled up studying for tests and exams. Every once in a while, we study as we should be and do all of our work but still can’t seem to catch the grade we’ve been hoping for. This doesn’t mean that you are “dumb” or incapable of learning college-level material, but instead may mean you’re having outside conflictions or distractions. If you feel like you may be in this boat, here’s 6 points you can check off your list to see if you’re being distracted.

1) Where are you sitting in class? Can you see?– In my early years of school, I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why everyone else around me just seemed to “get it” and why I was the only one left staring at the wall in a confused daze. I often felt like no matter where I sat, I just couldn’t really get involved in my teacher’s lecture. I later found out once the world of contacts were introduced to me, that the whole time I was confused because I just couldn’t see. The thing was, I thought I COULD see just fine – until I put on my contacts and saw that trees have leaves. Yeah, it was that bad. But the thing is, I didn’t know I wasn’t seeing as clearly as my fellow classmates. Once I got contacts/glasses it was much easier for me to follow along in class because I could see what the teacher was writing on the board and what they were pointing to. If you know your vision isn’t as good as you’d like it to be, it may be time you check out a pair of reading or distance glasses. Now a days, they have some really stylish alternatives, so don’t be self conscious of being “four eyes”! Also, if you have problem seeing from the back of the class, it is your responsibility to get to class early enough to get a seat in the front.

Of course, the first step to paying attention in class is to sit in the front, where you can see. You’re less likely to distract yourself with things such as your cell phone or talking to other students because you know your teacher will see you, and possibly call you out in front of the whole class. You’re right by the teacher, so you’re more likely to be interactive with them and hear every word they say. Sitting in the back of the class allows you to be distracted by other noises and your fellow classmates bumping ear buds or cell phones. Cut out the distraction by sitting in the front and following the lecture. If you have a problem with falling asleep in class, this will help that too. Your teacher’s voice will naturally sound louder to you, and you’ll be too afraid they’ll see you doze off to slip into slumber-land. If you need to get up and get some fresh air, go to the bathroom or get some water and come back. There’s nothing wrong with a little break.

2) Are you interested in being interested in the material? – Nope, I didn’t type that word twice on accident, there’s actually a truth behind this one. Everyone has those classes they’re required to take but aren’t interested in. These unfortunately are unavoidable. The easiest way to get through these are just link up with other people you know who are taking or have already taken the course and get the help you need from them. For the classes that are deeper into your major that you just don’t understand and don’t care to understand, you may need to ask yourself if you’re pursuing the right field of study. Picking a major should lead you to study something you’re interested in or passionate about. If there’s no interest, try something new. You have to want to learn in order to absorb. As long as you’re doing your work and trying to get good grades, you should do well. Get the help you need and make sure to ask your professor about their office hours in case you ever need some extra clarification on a subject.

3) Are you asking for help when you need it? – I know I’ve mentioned this a million other times, but this bullet is very important. Concepts usually work off of a ‘building block concept’ which allows you to move on and understand one concept to move onto the next. Sometimes, you can move on to the next concept without completely understanding the first IF your professor a) moves past the topic rather quickly, b) jumps to another un-related concept after, or c) doesn’t test you adequately on the first concept before moving on to the next. At the time, you may love these three options because it takes the stress off of you to understand them in that moment, but you end up with more stress in the end once the test comes around and you feel too behind to catch up. This is why it’s very important to get the help you need as soon as you don’t understand something. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Your professor will love the fact that you took the initiative to ask them questions or come see them in their office hours to make sure that you’re getting the hang of things. This way, if you ask for help and still do poorly they’ll be more likely to let you retake the test than if they saw you struggling and didn’t ask for assistance. Take it from the girl who was queen of understanding enough to “just get by”. Eventually you’ll have to buckle down and work extra hard to get up to speed, resulting in a lower grade than you’d receive if you paced yourself and didn’t overwork yourself last second.

4) Are you putting in the work required? – Sometimes we do poorly in class not because we don’t understand the material but because we don’t put in the work required to keep up the grades. I can’t tell you how many friends I have who were fully capable of understanding the material in class, but neglected to do any work on their own at home. You could be the smartest student who gets A’s on all of their tests and does the work in class, but end up getting a D in the class because you failed to do any outside work, projects or papers. This is one of the silliest mistakes you can make. Even if you think the work you are receiving is “busy work” and you thoroughly understand the material, still do the assignments if they’re worth credit. This plus attendance makes up for more than half of your grade. Why jeopardize it? Do the work!

5) Do you have your materials? – If you’re like me, you try to save money where you can. School books can be expensive and often times hard to obtain. I’ve had multiple classes where I’ve tried to get through the course without ever buying my textbook. Some classes I came out successful and others, not so much. Between asking classmates to share their book and researching information off the Internet, I found I could get the information I needed without spending 100$ per book. The problem? This made me look unprepared in class and made me bother my classmates to use their materials every day. It’s not fair to rely on your prepared classmates because you aren’t prepared (see: Don’t be THAT guy). This also goes for your homework assignments or other materials. Just because you didn’t take the time to do your homework doesn’t mean you have the right to get angry at your classmates if they don’t let you copy theirs. If you choose not to do the work or be prepared, be prepared for the grade consequences. If you’re worried about the price of books or don’t have a car to drive to the book store to get them, there are plenty of other places to get your textbooks and for a lower price. For advice on buying textbooks, read our earlier blog here. There’s various websites such as Chegg.com and Valore textbooks who will let you pay to rent or borrow a book and send it back when you’re done. AND, with companies like Chegg, they plant a tree for every book bought or rented! So, while you’re borrowing a book at a discounted price you’re also doing something good! Just make sure to send the books back in good condition or you will be charged further fees.

6) Is something outside of class on your mind? – Life can often times get messy. You may be swamped with other classes or extra curricular activities. Maybe you’re stressed out and not feeling well. You may not be getting enough sleep at night and not getting along with your roommate. Maybe you’re extremely anxious about financial matters and how you’re going to pay for your next semester. Maybe you’re fighting with your significant other or best friend. Whatever the case may be, if your mind is very consumed thinking about things that deeply affect you, it will be much harder for you to focus on anything else. The first thing to remember is to not be embarrassed. Everyone has situations that they have to go through and overcome. The first step is finding out what’s bothering you and what you can do to fix it. If you have something you’re keeping in and are anxious about, it will make you very on edge until you get it off your chest. Whatever it is, it will be okay. Find someone to talk it out with and clear your mind. There are plenty of resources and groups on campus that are available to you for any issues you’re facing. If it’s finances, see a financial adviser. If you’re feeling ill, go to the infirmary. If you’re really tired and can’t sleep or are conflicting with your roommate, try to talk it out with them and if necessary, pull an RA aside and speak with them about it. Whatever the case may be, you’re not alone! Once you get whatever it is bothering you off your chest you’ll feel much better and will be able to fully focus on your studies. Also don’t forget that if you’re going through a hard time it may be beneficial to let your professor know. They may not excuse you from any assignments or let you retake a test, but they’ll understand you have things outside of class going on that are bothering you. This will show them that you care about the course and doing well but just need some assistance. In some cases, they may even help you out!

If you go through any of these 6 pointers and find that you’re familiar with what I’ve said, it may be time for you to re-evaluate your grades and performance. The first step to fixing a problem is recognizing and approaching it – the sooner you realize what it is that’s holding you back, the sooner you can get back on track! Do you have any other tips? Share them with us in the comments!

Midterm Grades Not What You Expected?

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If you haven’t just finished taking your Midterms, there’s a good chance you’re right in the middle of them. If you are one of the students who have already taken them- and received your grade, you may be feeling less than great about the outcome. If you got one (or more) of your Midterm grades back and noticed that you received much lower marks than you would have liked to see glaring back at you in a big, red letter, maybe it’s time to double check your points.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If you have received a low grade on your exam and felt like you were completely blanking during the entire time you were taking it, then your low grade marks are more than likely warranted. But, if you felt really confident about your test and can’t see how your high percentage resulted in a low letter grade, skimming over your markings for accuracy may be beneficial. Professors are normal people too, meaning that it isn’t abnormal for them to make a mistake here and there. If you’ve dissected your exam with a fine tooth comb and still believe that you received a grade in error, here’s a few things you can do to clear up the matter professionally.

1) Ask your teacher to go over the exam in class- If time and class materials allow, it may be a good idea to ask your professor to go over the exam during class time. There may be some other students in your class who also are confused about why they received the markings they did. And, if you and those other students had the same issue but did miss out on some of the points due to lack of attention, vague test directions, etc, your teacher may decide to adjust the grading process for a curve or decide to not count a particular question. Seeing how your teacher graded each question along with the correct answer could give you some clarity into why you missed those points.

2) Visit your professor during office hours- If you’re in a big lecture hall with 50+ students in one class, you may not get the attention you need to discuss your exam questions with your professor. Instead, try to stop by your professor’s office during out-of-class hours and ask if they wouldn’t mind spending some time going over your exam with you. Showing your teacher that you’re concerned about your grade and that you’re being proactive to keep them up and managed is a beneficial factor in their eyes. They want to see that you’re taking the responsibility and actions to keep up with your academics. And, you never know, your teacher may notice that they made a simple calculation mistake and have no problem updating your score for you. Try not to go into this meeting hasty and angry; if you were a professor with over 100 students, you’d have high chances of making a simple mistake too! And no, it’s not because your professor hates you or is an evil person, they may just have made a careless mistake and can clear it up for you easily.

3) If you and your professor are still butting heads- If you believe even after the above listed actions that your professor is still keeping points from you that are rightfully yours, taking the issue to the next level up may not be a bad idea. This doesn’t mean break down the front door of your College Dean’s house and demand they look into your issue and serve you your well deserved justice. If you’re going to take the matter to a higher authority you have to be respectful and go up the ladder in the right way. Going to someone at the very top of the line won’t get you anywhere. They have large scale issues to deal with, and you getting a 73.5% instead of a 74% is not their top priority- or concern. If you feel like you want to take it up the ladder, sit with your professor and tell them that you respect their decision, but you have a difference in opinion and as a student, you have the right to take a matter to the chair that manages your professor and you’d like to respectfully do so. This does NOT mean storming into your professor’s office and intimidating them with news that you’re taking the issue to the higher power. You never know if you’ll end up taking this professor again or needing a recommendation letter. Be tasteful, respectful and reasonable.

If you received low marks because you didn’t know the material or realized you have a bad case of test anxiety, there are always tutors and extra help available to you. There are plenty of groups and people on campus who are available to help you study for an exam or learn some concepts. If you feel like you get test anxiety during a test full of other students, you may want to ask your teacher if you can set it up to take your exam in a quiet room in the library. Of course, you will be monitored and your cell phone will NOT be allowed to come out, but at least you won’t hyper focus on how fast other students are finishing their exams or how many times the guy behind you is popping his gum or kicking your chair.

And if all of that fails, you can always go to your professor and admit defeat. They don’t want to see you fail, in fact they want to see you do well. If you explain to your professor that you tried really hard but just blanked on the material or thought the test was really challenging, ask them if you can possibly retake a new version of the exam or make up for it. In many cases, your teacher will be flexible with you and let you make up some, if not all, of the points you may have missed out on. Whatever happens, don’t freak out! There’s always a positive outcome that can be reached if you approach the situation respectfully and with the purpose of reaching an outcome, not being angry and hasty.

Ace Your Midterms With These Three Tips

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I always thought that midterms came way too quickly. You’re so hyped up about the fresh start that comes with the new school year that you quickly fall into your new groove. Before you know it, Halloween starts to approach and midterms start lurking over your head. Your midterm grades always put your performance on the spotlight both academically and in terms of your parents. When you go off to college, your parents want to make sure you’re getting the help you need and studying hard. Trust me, they’ll know when your midterms are before you do, so study up and prepare ahead of time to ace the grade. If you just looked at your class schedule and realized you need to start preparing, here’s three study habits to get you on the right track for your midterms.

1) Study in ADVANCE- Don’t procrastinate. 15 minutes here and there will do you a world of good if you consistently stick to studying daily. Waiting until the last day to study for your midterm is just going to confuse you more and may possibly aid you in mixing up key terms and blanking on questions. Instead, start a week in advance. Make sure that you go over your entire study guide (if you have one) and find any gaps or areas that are fuzzy to you. If your professor didn’t provide you with an outline, make one. The more organized you are, the better. Waiting until the last night to study leaves you a very narrow window of time and resources to find the information you need, and retain it. Try to limit distractions as well, like turning off your TV and music while you study. If you work better with music playing, turn it down low enough to where it’s not distracting you and make sure you have sufficient lighting. Give yourself a few study breaks here and there to walk around and stretch a bit. This gets the blood flowing to your brain and increases activity!

2) How do you study?- It’s no question that everyone studies and learns differently. What may work for me may not work for my fellow student or vice versa. Some people may have photographic memories, or some may learn better by rewriting the same material over and over again. Some people study best with study trees and others can just remember and absorb information as they learn. Whatever your case may be, find a study method that works for you and stick with it. If you need to, make flashcards or catchy phrases to remember concepts during crunch time. Go over your material and then have a friend or your roommate quiz you. By doing this, you can find which concepts you aren’t sure about, and spend extra time polishing those up. If you feel like you can’t grasp a certain idea or don’t understand it, seek some help! That leads us to point three..

3) Get help when you need it!- I always knew what concepts I struggled with. Some I’d understand and catch on to, but others would leave me lingering after class scratching my head and failing pop quizzes. Eventually, the teacher will move on with the next block of class material and at that point it’s your job to get some extra help if you need it. You could easily skip to the next block of class material as well, but then you’d leave that fuzzy, grey area for the concept you didn’t understand. And, much like the fundamentals you learn in elementary school, each concept serves as a building bock for future material. Failing to stop and get the help you need leaves you one step behind your classmates, who will quickly catch on to the other “blocks” while you’re stuck a step below, still confused.

Remember that your professor is there to help you and that there are lots of other resources available to you if you need the help. Try scheduling a meeting with your professor during their office hours and explaining to them what you’re having problems with. It’s much easier for them to handle your unique study habits one-on-one instead of a class of 50+ students. You may be relieved to find that your professor can explain the concept in a different light and give you that refreshing “Ah-ha” moment to keep you going. If you don’t want to see your professor, find a tutor through your campus library or your counselor. There’s also many groups and organizations around campus that have students who enjoy helping others grasp concepts. If studying hard isn’t getting you by and you need a little extra help, don’t be ashamed. Get the help you need and ace those midterms!

5 Nifty Note Taking Tips

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College is all about jotting down notes from class in a hurried frenzy. You want to make sure you’re capturing every key point your professor says so that you can go back to your residence hall and review them later. But sometimes, the lecture moves a little too fast and you miss out on key ideas and vocabulary. The problem may not be that you’re incapable of being a great note taker but that you just haven’t found a note taking technique that works for you. As everyone learns and studies differently, you may be trying to study in a way that confuses you more. Keep reading to find out some different note taking techniques you may find helpful.

1) Read the material BEFORE class- If there’s any required reading to do before class, make sure you do it. It may be a little time consuming to read three chapters, but you’ll be much more attentive in class knowing what’s being talked about. Being prepared before hand will also allow you to participate in group discussion and have first-hand access to the professor if you have any questions about the concepts. Listening to other student’s questions and applying it to what you’ve read will also help you grasp an understanding on what you need to work on and what you really get.

2) Bring an audio recorder- This may sound a little out of date, but this method can be really helpful. Considering that you’re not picking a seat way in the back of the lecture hall, an audio recorder can be a great way to capture things during class while you take down the most important notes. This way, if you have a professor that speaks very fast and you just can’t pencil down everything fast enough, you can catch it on tape and rewind it later as a refresher course. An added bonus would be to play it in your car while driving to class for a quick review before a quiz or exam. This hands free studying mechanism is a great way to get active with your studying. Maybe looking at hand written notes just doesn’t do it for you and a recorded message would benefit you more.

3) Take notes with helpful reminders- Have you ever had teachers growing up that would associate class formulas or concepts with funny songs, memories or modern day ideas? For example, do you remember PEMDAS? Or, “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally”- which was used to remember the order of operations in mathematics. PEMDAS, which stands for “Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract”, also was known as “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” as a way for students to remember the operations in a non mathematical way. Adding a story about “Dear Aunt Sally” makes the formula more interesting as students can make up and apply a catchy phrase and story to the mix. I used this kind of example when taking Art Appreciation. My professor instructed us to remember historical painting’s names as well as dates and painters. To remember all 150, I made a personal story from each painting and somehow tied in the painter’s name. Thus, I gave my own personal stories to each painting as a way to remember them in a way that worked for me.

4) Divide your notes into categories- Taking bullet points can get a little messy and unorganized if you have a professor that likes to jump around between ideas. In order to stay organized, divide your notes in to columns and use one side for notes you take during class, and on the other side add notes from the same concept from your textbook. Since most of your class material will come from information out of your text, having both the in class as well as key points from the reading will help you get a full picture on the idea. Make sure that when you’re taking notes you’re writing them legibly. Your 6 pages of notes will be no good if you can’t read them 2 hours later. If you must write really fast, try to jot down your notes and then while the information is still fresh, head to your macbook or laptop to type them out. This will help you keep an electronic copy for future use (and if any of your friends happened to miss class that day and you’re feeling nice enough to share your work), and help you write out your thoughts more in depth. You can even make an Excel sheet if you feel like being fancy, and add both in class notes and textbook notes in an organized table.

5) Take notes and rewrite them again- When I was younger, my dad thought an amazing way for us to remember rules and concepts was to write them .. 500 times in a row. Something about penciling in “I will not miss the bus” 500 times made me catch that bus on time from that point on. As this is a little extreme, the idea applies to your studying. I’ve noticed what works for me is to take down my notes, reflect on them, and then re-write the concepts I struggled with the most a few times and in different ways to really grasp the idea. Since I have more of a photographic memory, picturing the few different ways I wrote it down and explained it was actually very helpful for me when I experienced test anxiety. If you’re one of those people who has a photographic memory like me, try associating pictures or little doodles of concepts next to your notes. If you must, make little stories or thumbnail sketches that correlate with the vocabulary. Remembering what you doodled will help trigger what the definition was as well.

No matter which way you prefer to study or learn, a few things are essential for all. These are being focused and concentrated, eliminating distractions, allotting enough time to study efficiently and being alert and awake to pay attention. Trying to cram your studying into the last hour before you go to sleep will just have you rushing through it to hit the hay. Your brain will be more groggy and less alert to really absorb the material. Instead of cramming, study a little bit every day and build up the ideas. If you have any questions about material, make sure you write them down while you’re studying to ask your professor or check the reading. Being confused on the material will only confuse you more when trying to recall information during a test. Make sure you walk into your class or test confident that you’ve studied adequately. Fear and anxiety comes from uncertainty. Eliminate that by being prepared.

"Advice for Students: Taking Notes that Work"    -- Useful introduction to the "The Cornell System" note-taking technique.

How to Stay Focused in Class

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When school just starts up, your motivation levels to succeed and study hard are sky rocket high. You still have you parent’s voice echoing in your head to study hard and do your homework. You haven’t yet experienced what it’s like to wake up late for class, and you’re still getting over your new-to-college jitters. Even if you’re a returning student to a university, you always promise yourself a fresh start to your academics and to aim for that Dean’s list.

But, as time goes on and the weather changes, the motivation to be early for class and get an “A” on every assignment slowly dwindles down. You start waking up later and postponing your studying later and later. You’ve met tons of people in your residence hall and in class and have started going out with them to the local hang outs after classes. You’re so amped up about making new friends and your growing social circle that you forget the reason why you’re really at school, to learn.

If you find yourself sitting in class with your mind focusing on everything BUT the lecture, you’re suffering from more than a lack of focus; you’re suffering from lack of motivation. It happens to the best of students from time to time, and if not taken care of quickly enough can result to bad grades or in the worst case scenario, failing a class.

If you find yourself feeling unmotivated, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1) The reason that you are away at school, is to go to school. Meeting all of your new friends and having you first place away from home are added bonuses. Your job as a student is to study hard and get good grades so that you can get your degree and better your future. A lot of money goes into you receiving a top of the line education that is only there for you to be successful later in life.

2) Setting up a reward system for yourself can be an excellent motivator. If you are really feeling sluggish and dragging your feet to write that paper, set up a reward for yourself for when you complete it. A trip off campus to your favorite restaurant with a friend or a relaxing run at the gym are great ways to keep your mind stimulated while doing your work. The important thing is to not rush through your assignment to get to the reward. If you’re going to use the reward system, make sure you’re putting in 100% effort and not just blasting through the work to get it done.

3) Have a friend be your personal cheerleader! Okay, so that’s a little much, but having your friends on board with your efforts to get back on track will help keep you motivated. If they’re good friends, they won’t bug you about going out when you have work to do, and will even offer to stay in with you and crank it out while they do some of their own homework. Remember that there are plenty of times to go out and be social with your friends, but there IS a due date for that assignment you need to finish. You’ll feel so much better after it’s out of the way, and you’ll feel good when you get it back with a good grade (with no late deductions).

4)Sit in the front of the class- We all know lectures can be a little boring. In fact, every college show I ever watched growing up had at least one student drooling on their desk mid-class. I always noticed that I’d stop paying attention in class if I couldn’t see well or couldn’t hear what the professor was saying. The feeling of being able to doze off in class unnoticed was also a contributing factor to me slacking off. To curb the habit, I found myself a seat at the front of the class that kept me awake and stimulated the whole time. Knowing that the professor was right there to yell at me if I dozed off was enough to keep me bright eyed and bushy tailed long enough to get through the class.

5) Take a break. Sometimes focusing too hard on your work can create a mental blockage. Writers often experience this as “writer’s block”, where they’re prevented from moving on with a piece due to clouded or jumbled thoughts. If you’ve been staring at an assignment for three hours and can’t seem to get it done, get up, take a walk, grab a snack or stretch your legs a little. Standing up and re-stimulating your brain gets your blood pumping and gives you more energy. You’ll sit back down with a clear mind and will be able to tackle that assignment from a new perspective.

Studying with Music- Good or Bad?

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If you’re like me, the type of music you listen to depends on your mood. If I’m feeling peppy and energetic, I’ll listen to pop music or something with a good beat. If I’m feeling a bit more tired and sluggish, I’ll listen to something a little softer with a slower tempo. When it comes to studying, I’ll either listen to music that keeps me awake if I’m tired or will keep me relaxed if I’m anxious about a test or exam.

Studying with music has a different effect on everyone. What may work for you may distract someone else around you, like your roommate. If you’re one of those people who likes to have the music playing while you’re studying or doing your homework, make sure it’s soft enough to not disturb your roommate if they’re trying to sleep or study themselves. An alternative is to wear ear buds or headphones so that you can listen to whatever you want and not bother anyone else around you.

For me, I always found it helpful to have music playing in the background, even if I’m not particularly listening to it. I more so cringe at the sound of “dead air” that eventually will put me to sleep and curb my studying efforts. Listening to music while studying help keeps my brain awake and gives me enough pep to work through my assignment. On the other side of the token, if my assignment is really difficult and I don’t understand the instructions all too well, listening to music sometimes scrambles my brain more.

If you’re studying for a test where you have to remember a lot of key points, figureheads or dates, sometimes using the beat to your favorite song with some creative lyrics can help you come up with a catchy way to remember what you’re studying. My professor once made a song about the artists and dates of famous paintings that I remembered for months on end. I’ve lost it now due to lack of practice, but at the time I referred to that song every time I had to recall a painting from that era.

The point here is to find out what works best for you. If you noticed that you don’t write your best work while listening to your favorite music station, then try writing your next assignment with your music off. If you notice that you can concentrate more and your thoughts are less scattered when your music isn’t playing, then maybe you are one of the people that work better without background noise.

If you’re one of those people who hate “dead air” like I do and need to listen to music while working on your homework or while you’re writing, make sure it’s something low key enough to not completely distract you from your work. After you’re done writing, turn your music off (or at least down) and re-read your paper for clarity and fluidity. This will make sure you haven’t skipped over any small details while bobbing your head back and forth to the ever so viral “Call Me Maybe”.