6 Simple Steps That'll Make Studying Easier
Classes |  Source: N. Leeper, Shutterstock

6 Simple Steps That'll Make Studying Easier

Coulda used this last semester.

So, now it's summer and you're either soaking up the sun or back in the classroom for summer semester. Whichever it is, there is never a bad time to help yourself study better. Whether you use it now or next semester, here are some tips to make you more effective.

1. Speed it up.
Whether it's a lecture, an audio book or some absurdly long video, increase the speed it's playing at and you'll immediately notice how much time you're saving. The human brain has the ability to listen (and understand) words up to 400 words per minute. Compare that to the average speaking rate of 125 WPM -- or 100 WPM if it's one of my professors -- and you could potentially finish listening to something in a third of the time. Who wouldn't want that?

2. In one ear, not out the other.
I wish I could go back in time and figure out this hack in high school -- it's that good. While you're doing the mundane little things in life like: cleaning your room, doing the dishes, running on the treadmill -- hell, even sleeping -- try turning on a recording of what you're supposed to be learning. Even if you aren't giving it your undivided attention you'll still pick up a lil something.

3. Treat yourself.
Determine what your largest tasks are -- anything from writing an essay to studying for an exam -- and then divide them into smaller, more manageable tasks. For instance. If you have to write a 3,000 word paper, consider rewarding yourself after you've written the first 500 words, then the next, and the next.

Make the reward something simple that you can do easily and quickly. It could be an episode of your favorite TV show -- you can never go wrong with Friends -- your favorite sweet treat or a small nap. Just don't forget about the thing you're "treating yourself" for.

4. Chew-chew.
According to a study conducted by St. Lawrence University, chewing gum while studying could potentially improve your score. The act of chewing gum helps you wake up and give you a burst of energy when you really need it -- and when do you need it more than at 3 a.m. in the library?

Help yourself remember even more information by chewing the same gum while you study and while you're actually taking the test. Hubba Bubba here I come.

5. Find your light.
Have you ever noticed that in a class with no windows and harsh lighting you find it harder to concentrate? Well, it's no coincidence, it's science. When your body is introduced to harsh artificial lighting it becomes more stressed and it gets more difficult to focus.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you have too little lighting your body will be naturally tired and any information you put in your brain just won't stick. The best thing for you, your brain and your grades is to study someplace with loads of natural light. Trust me, it'll make a world of difference.

6. Work it out.
A good cardio workout is not only good for your heart and body, it's good for your brain too. When we exercise our bodies are flooded with serotonin and endorphins, natural chemicals that help you feel happy, energetic, and even focused.

While that's happening, our brains are getting more oxygen, which helps improve things like memory and learning. Do you need another reason to get your butt to the gym?

Image Alt
Classes |  Source: knowyourmeme.com

What I've Learned From Failing A Midterm

Read this before you have to learn the hard way.

As a first semester college student, I've had a lot of "firsts." Sadly, one of those "firsts" was failing a midterm. It was horrifying. I studied for hours, re-watched lectures, watched crash courses (shoutout to high school history), and took intense notes during lectures.

I was told all throughout high school that if you dedicate your time to college, it will be a breeze. College is not a breeze.

It doesn't matter how much time you dedicate to your classes or whether you write or type your notes just because you've been told that handwriting notes is better for memorization than typing. The key is how you manage your time with each class.

What I thought: The key to lectures is writing down notes as fast as you can not worrying about how sloppy they may be.
What I've learned: Downloading the powerpoint and typing notes underneath is more beneficial as you can keep up with your professor. Only when you study for the exam should you write out all of your notes and powerpoint topics. This is a good way to keep notes organized so that you will not have to waste time trying to figure it out later.

What I thought: Re-watching lectures is a good way to review the material.
What I've learned: If you don't dedicate all of your attention to the recorded lecture, you won't retain information and you will have wasted your valuable time. By retaking notes during the video lecture, you're bound to catch more information and it will make sense.

What I thought: Reading the books, chapter by chapter, is an efficient way to understand information.
What I've learned: You will waste hours reading entire chapters. Skip the chapter and re-read the power points and your notes. Only use the book for clarification.

What I thought: The only place to study is in the library.
What I've learned: There are a myriad of places on college campuses to study and switching up your routine study spot may give you a fresh feeling and help you retain more information.

While failing a midterm felt like the worst possible thing at the time may have actually benefited me. I learned that what I was doing wasn't working, and that I needed to find more effective ways to study.

You can study all you want, but if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work. As discouraged as you may feel, it is important to pull yourself back up and continue to work hard at improvement and progress.

Image Alt
Classes |  Source: universe.byu.edu

How to Keep Yourself Alive During Finals Week

Repeat after me: coffee and adderall are not food groups.

Though it might be hard to believe for some (me included), finals week is RIGHT around the corner. Soon the libraries will be crammed, Starbucks will be booming with students looking for caffeine to fuel study sessions, and computer labs will become war zones rife with students battling over the last pieces of printer paper.

During finals week, it's easy for some people to lose track of essentially anything not relating to exams, such as meals, hygiene, and overall health. This is a time where you're going to want to be on your A-game (literally), not trudging to your exam on an empty stomach, sniffling, coughing, with a total of nine hours and of sleep over the past four days. Here are a few tips to stay physically and mentally good to go for finals week.

EAT.
People, food is brain fuel. It's also body fuel. What happens to a car when it's out of fuel? It breaks down. Similar concept with us humans.

Skipping dinner to spend five more hours in the library is not going to help you in the long run...you'll be tired, hungry, and most likely not very invested in your work. Quality fuel = quality performance (for both cars and people).

SLEEP.
Remember that Big Bang Theory episode where Bernadette tells Sheldon that his cognitive function will suffer if he doesn't get enough REM sleep?

Well hun, I'm Bernadette, and you're Sheldon....keep your cognitive functions strong and go get your eight hours. Then you won't fall asleep on your chem notes.

HAVE A PLAN.
I like to work on one subject per day. Linguistics project on Monday, American Poetry paper on Tuesday, Women Poets research on Wednesday.

This way, I'm not stressed, I'm organized, and I actually get stuff done. My mental health doesn't suffer and neither does my productivity.

MAKE A TO-DO LIST.
Your assignments will seem a lot less daunting and stressful when you can fit them all in a list on a 3x5 notecard. Here's a fun tip: blow up balloons and write your assignments or tests down on each balloon. Once you finish the assignment or test, pop the corresponding balloon. I promise, it is THE most satisfying feeling evahhhhh.

Or, reward yourself after completing a big test. Activating your brain's reward system is a good way to combat stress.

TAKE BREAKS.
Contrary to popular belief, the all-nighter is not the way to go. Try the Pomodoro study method: get some solid work done for an hour or so, and then take a little time off. Eat a snack, go for a walk, watch one (ONE) episode of Grey's, then get back to work. Repeat.

I can attest to this one; you feel like you're getting a ton done, and the breaks are relaxing and rewarding.

EXERCISE.
It has been proven that exercise clears your mind and even boosts your brain. Plus, your body is reaping the benefits.

Plus, exercise is a great stress-killer. Go for a run on one of your Pomodoro breaks, then return to your term paper totally refreshed and reenergized.

THINK. ABOUT. YOUR. BODY.
Adderall is not a food group. Caffeine overdosing is a thing. Sleep deprivation is a thing. There are a lot of things that people do in order to get more study time, thinking it'll help them in the long run.

Pro tip: if you wouldn't do it under normal circumstances, don't do it during finals week.

Conquer finals week, everyone....good luck and may the curve be ever in your favor.

Image Alt
Classes |  Source: kpbs.org

Finals Week as Told by Hamilton

WORK!

It's that time of the year again....I'm not referring to the holiday season (I wish I was...), but rather to the not-nearly-as-merry finals season. Students across the nation are preparing themselves for never-ending biology cram sessions, for 10 page APA essays, and for breaking the world record for most consecutive hours without sleep, caffeinated or uncaffeinated.

As a fun little study break, which in my mind is crucial in order to remain sane during exams, I've compiled a list of finals week moments that you'll undoubtedly experience or witness in the coming weeks....told exclusively through Hamilton gifs.

You stayed up until 4 a.m. studying for your 9 a.m. Bio exam, you're in need of caffeine in order to begin functioning, and the Starbucks line is out the door, down the street...

When you finally realize the extent to which you procrastinated on literally everything leading up to the end of the semester.

When there's that one freshman in your Advanced Stats lecture that somehow has the highest grade in the class and you ask them how on earth they've been doing so well, when you understand exactly nothing.

When you thought you were being proactive by starting your American Lit final essay early, but the professor changes the requirements after you've finished writing half of it.

That feeling when the professor says, "We won't be having a final during exam week."

When Einstein's in the library is closed and you feel personally betrayed by the one place that has always faithfully carbed up your study sessions.

When you're tutoring a failing student for their upcoming history exam, they STILL don't understand anything you've taught them, and you're slowly losing your patience and your mind.

When your Stats grade is posted and you see that your hard work actually paid off for once. #WORK

When everyone else is done with their finals and you have a test on the last possible time slot the Friday of finals week.

And when it's finally all over, you're going home, and you have no academic obligations for a whole month...



Image Alt
Classes |  Source: blog.storage.com

Studying for Finals Efficiently and Effectively

That time of year that work hard, play hard becomes work hard, work harder.

Ah, it's the most wonderful time of the year. And unfortunately, it happens to coincide with finals.

While studying for finals is awful, it's a time to reflect how fortunate you are to have the higher education opportunities you have and it's also a time to stock the fuck up on all the free snacks.

Here is my best shot at tips to follow during this wonderful finals szn.

1. Go light on the coffee.
As the coffee fiend I am, it hurts to say this. However, I stand by my words. Yes, a cup here and a cup there with a couple hours in between won't hurt you.

However, I will warn you against taking two shots of espresso and following up with another two venti fresh brews. I am currently watching my roommate trying to study for her math final but she can't stop twitching because she drank too much coffee. You will be too wired for your own good and you'll probably have a terrible night of sleep, which leads to difficulty retaining the information you worked so hard to obtain.

Trust me, I'm not trying to take your coffee away from you, just try toning it down. You need a lot less than you think you do.

2. Sleep, sleep, and sleep some more.
Sleep as in light, deep and REM...not sleep as in with that guy down the hall. Getting a good night's rest is like that lunch date with a friendly acquaintance you've been meaning to do for months now: you say you'll make it happen but deep down you know it never will.

Well, it's finals time now so you actually need to get it done. Sleep is SO much more important than you realize.

When you get deep sleep, you are boosting your immune system amongst other wonderful benefits. You need to get through finals week without catching a cold, and you'd be surprised to find that the best way of avoiding one isn't by consuming copious amounts of Vitamin C.

Also, when you get REM sleep, you are replenishing your body's supply of chemicals like serotonin, which boosts your mood, and you are also consolidating memories. Without REM sleep, you're studying will be ineffective and those 200 paintings memorized for art history? Out the window because your mind won't be able to consolidate the memories from studying. My point is clear: GET SOME SLEEP.

3. Get 30 minutes of exercise.
Getting oxygen to your brain can work miracles. Even if for only 10 minutes, do something to get your heart pumping. Run around the main quad, do 100 jumping jacks, or do something or someone else (if you catch my drift).

Whatever you decide to do, you will see the difference when you come back to study more. Your concentration will be heightened and it will be so much easier to sit down, think clearly and use your time effectively.

4. Drink copious amounts (of water).
Maybe this is something my mom made up, but constantly drinking water while studying is a necessity for me.

Every time my mind would get foggy, I'd take a swig. Every time I got bored and started losing focus, I'd take a swig...with lemon. Every time I got sleepy and my eyes got tired, I'd take a swig...with ice! There are so many ways to refresh yourself with some good ole' H2O. I highly suggest.

5. Keep eating normally.
I am guilty of trespassing this commandment. When I get extremely stressed, my body freaks out and I don't get hungry nor do I think of food. On days I'm anxious about an assignment or test, I practically have to force feed myself otherwise I would go a full day without eating but a couple of pretzels. However, eating normal amounts of good food is such a necessity to study well.

You need brain food to function! Imagine trying to drive a car without gas...it just doesn't work (don't be the smart ass to say, oh what if it's electric). Also, most importantly, don't forget to have a good breakfast the day of your final. It will help so much--if not your grade then at least you had something yummy to eat that day.

6. Find your distraction free zone (which sometimes isn't the library).
Although all my friends adore studying every night in the library, I absolutely despise it. It's too cold, too big and way too social to actually get anything done.

Some libraries are better and quieter than others, but I find my distraction free zones to be my own room and coffee shops. I can tune everything out and tune in to my work. Explore to find a place on or off campus that helps you work as productively and efficiently as possible.

7. Work with a study buddy or two.
I think it never hurts to study with someone else. Whether it be that god awful linear algebra class or organic chem, working with a study buddy or study group can help alleviate the misery. They split the misery of studying for a difficult subject amongst a crowd, help you learn important things you might not have paid attention to if you were alone and provide you with someone to explain things clearly.

Imagine: instead of wasting time sitting in your room alone, agonizing over the problem you can't solve and the box of brownies you just scarfed down, you're quickly getting three problem sets done! Trust me, study groups are the way to go. Plus you can make new friends to hang out with after finals hell week is over. Cheers!

8. Take a deep breath.
Yeah, sounds stupid but sometimes all you need in life is to calm the fuck down and remind yourself that the world is not ending. You are taking a test.

You are privileged enough to have a shot at becoming a part of the 6.7 percent of the world population that has the opportunity to hold a college degree, so do everyone a favor and stop complaining about it. Take another deep breath, put things into perspective, then proceed studying and kicking ass.

9. Stay positive.
Although this piece of advice stems partly from my argument in #8, and is partly because I simply don't want to hear you complain, I truly believe in the power of staying positive. Pretty much everyone is in the exact same boat as you, so your complaining and pessimism is just wasting precious studying time!

I also believe that thinking positively about future outcomes for a final, or for anything for that matter, will bring good forces to you and your life. Studying and taking the exam will be so much easier if you stay positive: congratulate yourself for understanding something or solving a problem correctly, and work harder to understand things that are confusing instead of badgering yourself by saying that you will fail.

Go into the test with high spirits, a pleasant outlook and hope for the best. If you worked hard and studied as much as you could, that is the best you could do. Might as well have a good attitude about it than be that pessimist that brings down everyone's day, including your own.

10. Stop doing precisely what you're doing right now: procrastinating.
Now that you have all the tricks of the trade, get your ass off this article and go study. No further comment.

    Image Alt
    Classes |  Source: adm.ntu.edu.sg (edited)

    Four Ways All Nighters Are Destroying Your Body

    Finals fifteen anyone??

    Fact: I am known for perpetually pulling all-nighters. You could say I've had years worth of experience, dating back to my elementary school days when I refused to fall asleep due to my early onset FOMO.
    I didn't reach pro status until my freshman year of college when I pulled not one, but two all nighters in a row for a politics paper all thanks to stress, coffee, and having a partner in crime to take on the madness.
    I may joke about this "skill" and take solace in my peers taking on the challenge, but I think we can all agree that all-nighters can't be good for our health. I don't know about you, but I feel like I've probably cut days, if not years of my life off from the lack of sleep in college. Totally worth it for that piece of paper we get crossing the stage, right???
    I'll let you decide that for yourself. In the meantime, here are some pretty alarming facts about what those all-nighters are actually doing to our body-- besides making us look insane.
    You'll Likely Gain Weight
    In addition to being awake for more hours (aka more time to snack), when you don't sleep your body responds by creating changes in hormone production. Two of these major hormone changes occur with an increase in Ghrelin (aka hormone which tells us when to eat), and a reduction in Leptin production (aka the hormone that tells us when to put down the food).
    Talk about a terrible combo. It's no wonder I always crave the chocolate and chips at four in the morning... Finals 15 anyone??
    The Caffeine Hurts Your Heart
    I don't know about you, but I feel like I could practically be sponsored based on the alarming amount of coffee I consume on a daily basis, exorbitantly worse during exam weeks. Caffeine was the only way I could get through those nights, admittedly slightly shaking and delusional.
    While caffeine does give us that initial "high," that spike means you're doomed for the eventual crash and burn. If that weren't enough, it turns out that long term caffeine use can actually cause anxiety and irregular heart rhythms. Yikes!

    Your Brain Stops Functioning
    When you have an exam the next day, it's only reasonable you attempt to memorize the material from the entire semester in one night, right? Might seem like a somewhat effective strategy given how common it's used, but in reality "your brain loses efficiency with each hour of sleep deprivation."
    Meaning, you'll have trouble remembering all those terms you stayed up trying to memorize. Yet again, karma strikes.

    Your Stomach Will Hate You
    Ever wake up after three hours of sleep and your stomach feels like it has a bomb ticking inside? There's a reason for that. When you don't sleep, your body can't break down and filter the glucose (sugar) from the previous day.
    Do this regularly, and it can actually lead to permanent damage- I'm talking diabetes or kidney failure. On second thought, taking that one bad grade on a paper is starting to sound like not such a bad thing after all...