Surviving Finals Week

Finals week has crept up on us again – it’s time to dust off those textbooks and get down to business. Don’t be stressed, be prepared! Follow these important tips (and check here for even more!) to ensure that you make it through finals unscathed. From starting to study early, to giving yourself incentives, we cover it all. Keep reading

  1. START STUDYING EARLY – The finals themselves really aren’t the worst part of finals week – it’s the fact that we procrastinate, and then have to stress and cram 4 months of knowledge into our confused little heads in a matter of a day or two. Approach your exams and projects the smart way by planning out your goals for each class by day. Switch up the subject that you’re working on throughout the day if you tend to get bored, or stick with one class if you prefer to get in (and stay in) the zone. Do whatever works for you, but be sure to leave yourself more than the 12 minute bus ride on the way to the final. While I would applaud you for your boldness…no. Just no.
  2. BE HEALTHY – Exam week isn’t the time to be eating poorly, skipping the gym, or getting sick. Try your best to be healthy – you’ll not only feel better but you’ll perform better too! Stock up on brain foods and snacks like fish (who’s up for some sushi?), blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, nuts, avocados, and pumpkin seeds. It’s also important to drink plenty of water and maintain your regular exercise routine. If you’re not much of a gym nut, go for a short walk around campus once a day. Aside from the endorphins from exercise, the fresh air and sunshine can also do wonders for your mental health.
  3. GET SOME SLEEP – Like many of you, I’m guilty of pulling my fair share of all-nighters. While this may seem like a brilliant idea at the time, it could really be hurting your performance on finals much more than helping. While you sleep, your brain actually absorbs all of that information that you’ve been burning into your retinas all day. You’ll be less likely to forget the process of photosynthesis, or how to solve a quadratic equation, or that you didn’t put on pants and you’re halfway to the bus stop. Moral of the story? Get some shut eye.
  4. USE INTERACTIVE STUDY METHODS – Instead of just reading page after page of notes, try organizing the information in a different way that makes it more memorable. I’ve always found that rewriting my notes in a structured way freshens up the data in my mind and I’m less likely to be unconsciously reading/retaining nothing. You could also try making flash cards for exams that require a lot of memorization (and less comprehension). If you find it more effective to study with others, join a study group. Your classmates may have a different take on the information that could help you to understand or remember your notes more easily. Make up a song or mnemonic device together. Then, reward yourselves with fudge. Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.
  5. CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT – Do yourself a favor and don’t stick to one place for an entire day of studying. Research has shown that students retain more of what they study when moving around throughout the day. Spend a few hours in your room, a few at the library – maybe even a few outside if it’s nice – just be sure to switch it up. Pick places that are cool in temperature and have lots of natural light to maintain your concentration most effectively.
  6. TAKE BREAKS – To get the most out of your study time, take frequent breaks. While the “correct” number varies, taking at least 2 short breaks per hour (depending on your attention span) seems to work well for most. This may seem a little too frequent, but it has actually been proven to help keep the brain much more focused during the time you are studying, thereby improving your score on those pesky little finals.
  7. STAY AWAY FROM TECHNOLOGY – Yes, there will be certain times where you need to use your computer to study, but if you don’t – don’t take it with you! Distractions like Facebook, Instagram, and that really cool new game you downloaded with “that cute little puppy who does all those things and other stuff”, can lead to hours upon hours of wasted study time. Turn your phone off, or if you can’t be trusted, leave it behind along with your iPad, tablet, laptop, and any other assorted devices you have the “cute little puppy” app downloaded. Fear not, the digital world will most definitely not forget about you, and that cute little puppy will forever be cute.
  8. REWARD YOURSELF – Treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a dinner out with friends once you get through an exam or finish a final project. For one thing, it will boost your morale and reset your mind for the next final. And for another – it’s fun. We need fun to FUNction. Get it? Ha. Ha. But really, it’s important to have a silver lining in sight that makes you feel just a tad bit saner. You can also try setting sub-goals where you receive small rewards once you achieve them. For example, once you complete studying a full chapter, you get to turn on your phone and check Twitter for 5 minutes. The next time, Facebook for 5 minutes, and so on. If food is more of a motivator, try to replace sweets with those brain food snacks I talked about earlier – blueberries or some peanuts would make for a delicious reward at the end of study session.

That’s it! Use these tips to help you breeze through finals like it’s your job. Want some more advice? Check out more tips here.

What do you do to prepare for finals? Any tips we missed? Let us know!

Written by blogger, Sandy Gomez

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Surviving Summer Session

The dreaded words since high school… summer school! Believe it or not, many college students have to take summer classes. It could be because they need to retake a class because of a not so hot grade, but it might just be so they can stay on track with graduation…this is normal! I can honestly say that all of my friends have at least taken one summer class! Myself? I’m on number three…

Get organized with a calendar.

Think you don’t have time for a summer class? Think again! During my first summer class (which was a 45 minutes away, every day for six weeks), I was also managing a clothing store. This summer, I am working full time (1 ½ hour commute each way), with a part time job on the side while taking TWO classes. The classes are online, with only one day of commuting but online classes can be just as difficult as traditional courses. I’m not telling you this so you feel bad for me and my “busy bee” schedule. Instead, think of it as motivation for working out your own schedule!

To give you the last little boost you might need, here are some tips that ALWAYS work for me during summer session.

How to survive:

Prioritize!

Yes you want to go to the shore with your friends for the week but school is a little more important than getting a tan. My 21st birthday happened to fall during my first week of classes and work. I made time to see my friends, but still got up at 5:15 for work the next morning!

Time Management is key.

You MUST plan your weeks ahead, especially if you are juggling many things at once. You also must be prepared. Plan your homework, study, and leisure times. Also, be sure to read all of the information about due dates and expectations from your professor so you are not caught by surprise later. For example, I know I have two discussions and an exam due on Sunday night. However, I’m planning to visit my sisters to see my baby niece that day…and homework is the last thing I want to worry about. The solution? I handed in my work today! A great way to plan ahead is to use a calendar, agenda, or post-it notes so you can visually see your work load and be able to check things off a list, that’s my favorite thing to do! Set reminders in your phone if you have to, just stay on track.

Set Goals

This goes along with time management. Set goals with reading time, study time, etc. Based on your schedule for the week have a goal to read everything by Wednesday, finish your written assignment Thursday, and take your exam Friday.

Study!

Summer does not equal slacking. How will you pass exams if you don’t study? This is especially important if you are taking online classes. Sitting in a classroom helps you absorb a lot of the information (of course you will still need to study!). However, online classes force you to teach yourself and really focus. Besides learning the information at hand, give yourself plenty of time for study so you can really get the concepts down, but also seek help if needed. If you wait until the day it is due you probably won’t be able to receive much help. Also – because you are probably living at home, make sure to study in a quiet place away from everyone else. Studying in bed with the TV on and your little siblings running around probably is not the best idea.

Work with Work…

Your boss will understand that you are taking classes. If you need to only work four days instead of five a week talk to your boss! Even if you can’t have the day maybe they can offer you some advice or solutions to lower your stress levels.

Flash card envelopes.

I don’t know how you study, but I need music playing, I need to reread and rewrite the information, I need something to snack on and a drink, and I need every single thing I need to do written in front of me. Sometimes, I even go so far as to make a million flash cards and use two envelopes to test myself! If I know the answer it goes in the “IK!” envelope, if I don’t the flashcard goes in the “IDK” envelope.

Use your resources.

Professors are your friends! If you’re struggling, ask for help. Summer sessions are much shorter than full semesters. Because they are so compact, it’s important to ask for help as soon as you need it. If you wait until the end there is little time to recover and pull your grades back together.

R&R!

This is the most important. Summer is a time to rest and relax! Plan times to go to the beach with your friends, have a campfire, or just take a nap! If you plan ahead and use your time management and goal setting skills you can plan to have a free weekend, every weekend! That’s why I’m finishing all my work NOW so I can go to my sister’s house!

This is your summer; use it to your advantage!

What other helpful tips do you have about surviving summer classes? Post them in the comments below!

Written by Guest Blogger, Maria Cafferata

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First Test of the Semester? No Problem.

The first exam of the semester can be intimidating. Every professor has his or her own format and question style, making it hard to know what to expect. We’re here to help you prepare and show up to your exam feeling confident. Keep reading!

Talk to your professor. Stop by office hours or linger for a bit after class. Ask if he or she can clarify any formatting inquiries, provide sample questions, or elaborate on any material that you find unclear. Your professor is one of your best resources, so don’t hesitate to ask questions!

Pool your resources. Don’t rely on a few slides for an entire exam. Cross reference what you have in your notes with what is in the textbook. Make sure you thoroughly understand each subject so that, no matter how the question is asked, you’ll be ready. If a professor stresses a certain area, make sure to cover that an extra time.

Talk to your classmates or other students who have taken the class before. Talk to other students to see if they can shed some light on what to expect. (I am NOT – absolutely NOT – saying to ask for the answers. Not only is that cheating, you won’t learn a thing.)

Take it as a learning experience. Now that you have the first test under your belt, you’ll be more familiar with the next one. Determine which areas need improvement. Did the professor use material mostly from the book or from class notes? Was it a mix of the two? Keep this in mind for the next exam.

How do you prepare for the first test or quiz of the semester? Post a comment and share your advice!

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Food(s) for Thought

Having trouble concentrating while writing a paper, studying for a test, or working on a project? I’ve been there plenty of times whether it was for a big paper or studying for a midterm. Here are some foods and drinks that could help you improve your studying next semester – brain food, if you will.

Peppermint Tea:  Researchers have discovered that smelling the peppermint scent increases the body’s concentration performing tedious tasks.

Blueberries are the perfect study snack!

Trail Mix: This easy snack, consisting of raisins and nuts, will provide you with a healthy snack.  Raisins are beneficial because they contain potassium, which transforms sugar into energy.  Nuts add magnesium to your body, which helps nerves, muscle, and metabolism functions.  Higher levels of magnesium in your body help prevent fatigue, so you’ll be able to study longer!

Coffee: Coffee starts off your day with your body feeling revitalized and fresh.  The drink also helps with short-term memory.  However, try to stay away from adding additional syrups, sprinkles, or whipped cream which in this case does not help the body. In addition, no amount of caffeine is a substitute for a good night’s sleep so rest up!

Blueberries: This fruit is a great source for long-term memory and improves cognitive processing. Plus, they’re delicious!

Remember to always eat right, take study breaks, and get plenty of sleep. You’ll be headed for the Dean’s List in no time!

Written by Guest Blogger, Matt Goldberg

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We’re in the Home Stretch…Finals Week

Finals week: each semester we forget how draining it is until it sneaks up on us once again. The late night cram sessions, the fatigue, the crowded library tables filled with worn out students. The imperative need for a focused mind seems to make it that much harder to actually muster up the motivation for such a thing. Needless to say, the phrase “finals week” has become synonymous with “misery” for many a college student. Well, no more! As a seasoned veteran of plenty of finals weeks myself, I’m bringing you my little tips that always help get me through.

Plan: Even if you think it’s unnecessary, plan out your study schedule. Include meals, study breaks, and even a nap if you need one. Breaking the days down into segments will make the task at hand less overwhelming and will help you stay on track. Feel free to move things around each day too, to fit with what you accomplished the previous day.

Eat: This sounds simple, but it’s a concept forgotten by many students. I’m not just referring to eating a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner (you need fuel!), but to packing healthy and energizing snacks as well. Pack a banana, some water, some pretzels….whatever you prefer! Don’t get distracted by hunger when you should be focusing on the course material.

Ask: Ask questions if you have them! Stop by your professor’s office hours. If you feel comfortable with the material, ask about the exam format and if he or she has any advice to offer. If there is an area you can’t seem to master, ask them to go over it with you. Professors are a valuable academic resource!

Breathe: It’s test time! Stressing yourself out is of no use to you now (yes I know, easier said than done). You’ve studied hard, you know the material, and you’re ready to take the exam – all you need to do is breathe and envision it going smoothly. Now envision it again. Focus your energy into performing well, not worrying.

Celebrate: When I say “celebrate,” I don’t mean stay out until the sun comes up. What I do mean is that it’s important to acknowledge your accomplishment. By finishing another exam, you’re one step closer to being done for the semester. Even if you have back-to-back finals, go for a quick walk in between. Even if it’s for only a few minutes, take the time to revel in the fact that another class has been completed.

We can’t promise that finals will be easy, but you’ve come this far already so finish the semester off right! Being as prepared as possible will help finals week seem more manageable. Good luck!!

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Finals Week Made Simple

Preparing for dreaded finals week is so stressful! Here are some tips to make the week easier for you.

  1. Put together study packets for all of your classes. These packets should include notes, decks posted by your professor and practice problems.
  2. Make a schedule to map out when you are going to study and what specifically you are going to work on. This will help you allocate your time between classes. I’ve found that whenever I make a study schedule I instantly feel less stressed. It helps me to know what I need to do and when I need to do it rather than just feeling like I need to do everything at once.
  3. If you are unclear about any material, visit your professor during his or her office hours. I have gone to my computer professor’s office hours so many times this semester! At first I thought he would be annoyed with me, but he actually said he appreciates that I’m so dedicated to doing well in his class.
  4. Be sure to take study breaks. If you study too long without taking breaks, it will be harder to focus. During my study breaks, I love to watch music videos on Youtube. Right now I’m obsessed with all of Adele’s videos!  Here’s one I particularly love: http://bit.ly/tybChW
  5. Take care of your body with exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep. This will help you focus and also help you avoid getting sick. I try to walk briskly for at least 30 minutes a day (it helps clear my mind and get my heart rate up) and eat scrambled eggs and fruit for breakfast on test days.

Good luck and remember the end of the semester is almost here, so study hard now and then you will be able to relax and enjoy your break!

~ Guest Blogger Natalie B., Indiana University, Finals Week Hero

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How To: Get the Most Out Of Your Classes

Sure, the “College Years” are an important time to make friends and to be social, but at the root of it all, college is really a place to get an education. Getting the most out of your classes is a whole lot easier once you understand how to use all of the resources your college provides for you, namely your professors! Below is a list of tips and tricks to help you really get the most out of your educational experience:

  1. Go to class – Though this concept sounds really obvious, the truth is a lot students don’t actually attend class. Every once in a while you might have a legitimate reason to skip but, for the most part, do your best to show up to every class session. You’ll feel better knowing you didn’t miss any scheduling changes or other minor details!
  2. Make friends in your classes – Class is much more bearable when you have someone to share the experience with. In addition, making friends gives you someone to study with, to clarify material, and maybe even hang out with outside of class.
  3. Participate –Participation helps clarify things you might be unsure of and shows professors that you take their material seriously. Because you are not zoning out or watching the clock, it also helps class fly by much more quickly!
  4. Attend office hours when you can –By the time exams roll around, you will be steps ahead of your classmates because you will already have asked the questions they’ll  be saving up all semester. Most professors are eager to help and are one of the most valuable resources you can find.
  5. Be polite – Think manners are unrelated to succeeding in school? Think again. I once had a fellow student talk during an entire 45-minute presentation of mine. When he finally stopped talking, he started texting. Appalled, it took all of my remaining energy to not publicly call him out for being so rude. The experience, however, got me thinking: this must be exactly how professors feel when students talk and text during class! Whether or not you believe it, professors notice…and appreciate…good classroom manners. How can you expect them to take you seriously when you don’t afford them the same courtesy? Think about it next time you start playing Words with Friends during a lecture.

~ Guest Blogger, Sandra Webb, The College of New Jersey, ’11

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Study Tips

“I couldn’t tell you what I learned from school, but I could tell you a story or two.” Okay, so maybe Asher Roth couldn’t tell you what he learned in college, but for the rest of us, we have to take a thing or two away from our college classes. (Afterall, most of us are putting ourselves into debt indefinitely just to be here!) Unfortunately, that means we have to spend a lot of time studying and preparing for our next exam.

However, studying isn’t so bad if you learn how to get the most out of your study sessions! Here are a few tips to help you maximize your study sessions so that you have more time to enjoy the college life Asher loves so much:

  1. Identify your study style. Do you like silence or background noise while you’re studying? Can you study in your room or does that provide too many distractions? Do you comprehend material when you read it or do you need to make flashcards or study guides to synthesize material? Remember that what works for your roommate or even that super smart guy in your Intro to Chem class may not work for you. Try different study aids and environments until you find what works for you.
  2. Find the perfect study spot. Some prefer to study in the silent solace of the library; others prefer somewhere with some background noise, such as a student center or café. However, don’t limit yourself to where you can study! Sometimes the best study spots are “hidden” on campus. For example, our campus has an old chapel that they reconverted into study space. I discovered it second semester my freshmen year, and it’s still one of my favorite spots two years later! Besides being beautiful inside, it has plenty of outlets to plug in your computer, couches if you prefer to study somewhere a bit more comfortably (or take a nap), and is located in our student center, making it easy to grab a coffee or a snack without interrupting your study session. Explore your campus; you never know where you’ll find the best study spot! Full posts →
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