Let’s Talk About Organization

August 25, 2014  |  Guest Posts  |  No Comments

Believe it or not, you need to be more than smart to do well in school. You also need to be really organized. If you aren’t organized, you’re likely to forget assignments, miss appointments, procrastinate so much you don’t study for a test—all that not so good stuff.

Obviously, it’s easy to say you have to be organized if you want to do well in school. It’s much harder to set up the systems you’ll need to actually be organized enough to do well. Here are some tips that you can use to help you with that.

1. Write Everything Down

Well, in today’s age, it’s more like “type everything in.” You know what we mean. When you write something down, says Dustin Wax on LifeHack.org, you’re using your spatial memory to help record that thing in your brain, which makes it easier to remember later on because often—like with the case of taking notes during a class—you’re forcing the different parts of your brain to communicate with each other and that tells your brain that what you’re writing down is more important than everything else you’re experiencing and subconsciously committing to memory.

Plus, if you write it down, you don’t have to work so hard to remember it: there’s a written record of its importance that you can refer back to…provided you can find that note. This brings us to our next tip.

2. One Thing is Easier to Find than Two

Keep all of your notes, schedules, and lists in one place. Seriously. This is easier to do now that there are digital storage lockers for our files and notes. For example, Meridian offers a student eplanner solution by which students can keep all of their homework assignments organized.

Yes, having one file for this and another for that is helpful and—if that makes it easier for you to track details you can set those up too—as secondary receptacles for your information.

Basically, you can set up your planner to be like the top box in a factor tree. Put everything there first. Then copy/paste details down. For example, under your catch-all box, you can have breakdowns like “daily assignments” “extracurricular stuff” “personal appointments” “when I have extra time”, whatever you need.

3. A Place for Everything and Everything In Its Place

That annoying thing your Mom told you was true: it really does make life easier if you know where everything is…and the best way to know where everything is, is to put everything away as soon as you’re done with it. Try to get into the habit of straightening up your room each night before you go to bed and taking the extra two seconds to put things where they belong over the course of the day instead of letting it all pile up. Do the same with your locker at school. If you keep things in the same space in the same order, finding what you need (and recognizing when something is missing) becomes a much simpler feat.

This is true for your time, too. Set up a schedule for yourself and stick to it. When you get into the habit of say, doing your homework at the same time (maybe right after school, just to get it over with), eventually you won’t have to force yourself to sit down. Your body will just want to sit down and work naturally.

Obviously it takes time to develop good habits like organization so it’s okay to build these skills slowly. Just work on them every day and before you know it, you’ll be the most organized kid in school!

Homework – A How to Guide

This is a guest post by Robbie.

It’s the night before your homework assignment is due. Honestly, work is the last thing you want to do right now. But you know it has to get done, so you sit down and just bang it out. It’s not pretty, but at least you get the points, right?

Stop right there. This describes pretty much every student at one time or another, but if this sounds all too familiar then it’s time to make a change. Homework, like time in class, is a hugely important part of the learning process. And if you’re shortchanging yourself on your homework then you’re going to pay for it later when the test comes around, I guarantee it.

Luckily, there are ways to get a lot out of homework without spending countless hours every night studying. So if you want to learn the material, prevent cramming before an exam, and just generally reduce your school-related stress, here’s a quick list of some of the things you should be focusing on when you sit down at your desk:

Get rid of distractions

It’s easy to fall into the habit of turning on the TV, texting, or checking your Facebook tab every 5 minutes, but these little distractions actually have an enormous impact on your ability to focus and absorb information. If your brain has to keep switching back and forth between work and play, it’s going to take a whole lot longer to get things done. Try putting your phone away and going somewhere quiet where you can concentrate on your work.

Don’t stay up

Most people don’t start their homework until after the sun goes down, and may still be doing work late into the night. If you’re tired, you’re not going to be productive, so get an early start and get to bed at a reasonable time. To shake things up, try doing some work in the morning.

Focus like a test

Everybody always says practice makes perfect, so why not apply that to your homework routine? Instead of waiting until the days before the final to take practice tests, treat each homework assignment like a mini-exam. That means trying to figure out problems on your own instead of going straight to your notes or the book. Remember, copying a problem and plugging in new numbers does not help you learn!

Study group…maybe

A study group is a great tool for learning, especially when you need a concept explained but don’t want to ask the teaching staff. However, there is a huge difference between a study group and a social group, and unfortunately they often get mixed up. So if you find that the group is just not focusing, bite the bullet and find a new group or do the work yourself.

Reflect on your work

This one is important and it’s something that very few people do! Take a few extra minutes (no more than 10) after you finish an assignment and make sure you could do the whole thing again without help. If you can’t, something went wrong!

These are a few easy tips guaranteed to improve your retention and reduce stress. The most important thing to keep in mind is that that homework is valuable and important, even if it doesn’t feel like it sometimes. So the next time you’re getting down to work try to build these habits, and you’re sure to see a difference in your grades!

Robbie Fluegge is currently a sophomore studying Applied Mathematics at Harvard University, and has worked as a tutor and cancer lab assistant for several years. He also works as a management consultant for Argopoint LLC at www.argopoint.com, a consulting firm based in Boston. He hopes that he can help his fellow students excel in their classes!

The Danger of All-Nighters

February 21, 2013  |  Guest Posts, Observations  |  No Comments

This is a guest post by Sam.

Pulling an all nighter happens to the best of us, various reasons can occur to cause it, such as forgetting that important test you have tomorrow, or if we were too busy socialising during the weekend to recognise the importance of the test until it’s almost too late. The solution? Staying up all night to enable you to put the hours of study in. However, whilst this may allow you to study and prepare for the test, this can be bad for your health. This article is aimed at raising awareness to your health after pulling an all nighter.

Staying up all night can benefit you in an emotional sense, by staying all night, you are increasing the dosage your body gives you of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that is linked in with our pleasure and happiness feelings. This leads to a short term heightened positive feeling than had you slept, however, there are negatives to staying up all night.

According to researchers at the University of California in Berkely, your body boosts you with dopamine, it also heightens your emotional senses, which may be lead to erratic and possibly dangerous behaviourisms. This is linked in with the “Fight or Flight” mental mode that your brain will enter if it becomes increasingly tired, this is an issue, as it replaces calm and rational thoughts. This was found after some extensive research into student minds, details of the research can be found here.

As such, some of the more common symptoms of doing an all nighter include;

  • Signs of lack of energy (Yawning, heavy eye-bags and diluted eyes)
  • Slower brain to body responses
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Emotional thoughts heightened.

Whilst these symptoms may not seem like a large issue for the average student, research has shown that it is possible to decrease your learning capability permanently as well as increasing the chances of developing anxiety disorders. Staying awake throughout the night on a regular basis, isn’t good for the brain, as it can cause sleep deprivation as the brain will have no time to rest itself from it’s constant state of activity whilst we are awake, leading to our body not functioning as it is meant to, this can further lead up to, weight gain, potential brain damage and an increased chance of developing diabetes.

If you must stay up all night, then I would strongly suggest that you take 2 or 3 hours out of your night, and get a small nap in that time. This will allow your brain to rest, and help ‘recharge’ your body, allowing you to be more aware and rational the next day.

A similar research, completed by the University of Toronto, Canada, came up with similar results, Dr Wright, who conducted the research commented that “What we found was quite astonishing, the group that slept not only appeared less tired, but they were also in pleasant moods and performed daily tasks with ease. The group that remained awake, however, became increasingly tired as the 72 hours passed. Many of them began to show signs of mental instability and a lack of coordination, while others broke into spontaneous naps and had to be removed from the study.”

This bad habit isn’t limited to Ivy League schools or pre-med doctoral students who are traditionally associated with janky sleep patterns. Students at a Christian college and students who are pursuing degrees online are just as likely to be affected and should be made aware of such research. If you’re a student, advice on how to avoid staying up all night to study.

Student Loan Debt – The Current Situation

January 9, 2013  |  Guest Posts, Personal Development  |  No Comments

This is a guest post by Sam.

The amount of student debt is climbing at a significant rate. It was announced by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that the figure crossed the earlier estimate made by New York of $1 trillion in the fourth quarter 2012, and the figure is to rise further according to experts.

All the borrowing is taking place irrespective of whether students will find employment or will be able to pay back these loans. Private student loan borrowers may be at a greater risk. Every loan that is discharged will incur a loss to the lending parties, and their immediate response would be to place reserves in the form of expensive capital to offset the risk. This is going to increase the cost of borrowing for new students due to the increase in interest.

Policy makers have made private student loan dischargeable, which means the private students may be able to pass the effects of early life bankruptcy if they fail to repay the debt.

Legislators also maintain belief that modifying the Bankruptcy code can lead to modest relief. However, proper policies will be required such as changing the ‘under hardship’ concept to provide relief to relief based on the economic status of borrower.

The Department of Education also updated their income-based repayment plan, which has been in effect since 21st Dec, 2012. Previously, the program had cap payments at 15 percent of the discretionary income of students, while the left balance can be forgone after a gap of 25 years. Under the updated version of the program, called ‘Pay as You Earn’, the remaining balance will be forgiven after 20 years while the cap payments will take place at 10 percent.

The eligibility includes a federal student loan that has been borrowed after 1st October, 2007 and on or after 1st October, 2011. Over 1.5 million students will benefit from the updated version. This program excludes private student loans (already in a safety net due to discharge option) and federal parent college loans. It’s available for students who want to borrow for a bachelor’s degree from college. Students are slowly becoming aware or this program.

The institute of College Access and Success analyzed that a student who has a debt of $26,000 upon graduation, and earns $25,000 per year will have to pay $69 monthly under the new program as compared to the $103 payment under the Income Based Repayment program.

The Pay As You Earn program is also a blessing for those who are rejoining school from work. Both the programs offers hope to millions of students who would otherwise be left in the debt darkness for the rest of their lives.  The Government is working to create awareness for the program and how it works.

Four Energy-saving Tips for Savvy Students

October 22, 2012  |  Guest Posts, Observations, Tips and Tricks  |  No Comments

Everything’s as you imagined: You just signed the lease on your new house or apartment at school and you’re all revved up to move in with your best buddies and future roommates. Cherish it – don’t let the honeymoon fade any quicker than it has to. But with that in mind, know that not every second spent in your new home is going to be nonstop laughs, drinks and $1 pizza. Outside of academia, college encourages students to take on new responsibilities. One of your new duties as a renter probably includes paying for your electricity, and you won’t be able to afford many more pizza parties if your first bill gets mailed out with a huge price tag.

Whether you’re at college in New Hampshire or Texas, electricity terms and conditions will bind you to a sizeable bill if you’re not careful. Follow these quick tips and you’ll be able to keep your electric costs more than manageable:

  1. Turn the lights out. It sounds ridiculous – of course you should turn the lights out – but you’d be surprised how easy it is to leave them on when you have just three or four people around at all times. That goes for your appliances, too. If you’re the last one awake at night, make sure you take a quick check around the house to make sure no one’s left the TV on. Who wants to fall asleep to the distant murmurs of Jersey Shore reruns, anyway?
  2. Close your windows, lock your doors. Again, it sounds so simple, but if you’ve got an electric heating system, it’s important to keep everything airtight. With so many people coming and going all day, it’s important to pay close attention to your home’s openings and entryways. You probably won’t have to jack up the thermostat all that high if you’ve sealed everything correctly.
  3. Share. You’re roommates – you love each other, right? Of course you do. There’s no need to coop things up in your room when you’ve got tons of common space for everyone to take advantage of. If every one of you is keeping food in your room and running your own refrigerator to keep it cold, your energy costs are sure to soar. Think about pooling your resources in one, efficient common fridge that everyone can use. Leftover pizza for everyone!
  4. Talk to your landlord. Landlord-tenant relationships stretch across the board for college students. You might have heard the horror stories, but there are plenty of reasonable landlords out there who will help you keep your home in tip-top shape. He or she may have been renting the house out for years and probably knows the ins and outs of it. Keep an honest, open discourse with your landlord and see what you can find out about potentially reducing the energy bill.

There you have it – the four easiest ways to keep your energy costs down while you’re at school. Take these tips to heart and make sure all your roommates are on the same page. Come this time next year, you’ll be happy to look back at all the memories and money you saved over the course of two semesters.

5 Things College Students Don’t Know About Car Insurance

October 11, 2012  |  Guest Posts  |  No Comments

College students paying their own way – who are becoming more in number due to the country’s economic troubles – often struggle to pay their expenses. When it comes to things like rent, utilities, gas and groceries, the bills can pile up quickly. And then when you add in auto insurance payments, it seems that the never ending cycle of financial obligations rears its ugly head.

Unfortunately, most college students don’t know that saving on car insurance is one of the easiest ways to reduce expenses. Here are 5 things you might not have known about car insurance:

1) Your credit matters

Your insurance company uses a series of criteria to determine what you pay in premiums. One of those is your credit history. If you’ve racked up a lot of credit card debt, or you have applied for a number of loans in a short period of time, you may have to pay more. To get the best auto insurance rates, keep your credit use under control.

2) A higher deductible equals lower premiums, but may not be the best option

It can be tempting to opt for a higher deductible plan so that you can pay lower premiums, but that may not be your best option. If you get in a situation where you have to make a claim and you can’t pay the deductible, you run the risk of being denied future coverage.

3) Full time student discounts can help you save

Whether you’re a high-performing student, or you live on or near campus and don’t use a car very often, you may have access to discounts. Good student discounts enable you to save if you meet a certain GPA and attendance requirements, and resident student discounts account for where you live and how much you drive and apply that to your premiums to help you save. There are a ton of money saving apps, so get going!

4) Driving certain cars can be costly

Some cars are targeted more frequently than others for theft, and thus are more of a risk for the insurance company to insure. If you’re driving a Honda Civic, Honda Accord or any other car that’s at a higher risk of being stolen, you may pay more. Ask your insurance provider if your car carries a higher risk of being stolen.

5) Where you park matters

Do you park on the street, in a driveway, in a parking lot, or in a garage? If you live an apartment and have to park on the street or in a lot, the insurance company considers this more risky due to the higher probability of a non-moving accident or a break-in. Consider all your parking options to get the maximum benefit on your auto insurance policy.

Doing some research and knowing how the system works can help you save, and can ultimately help you focus more on your education and enjoying your college days.