Author: Robin Glover

Why It Is Okay to Not Be at The Top of Your Class

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As the semester draws to a close and finals loom, grades are a pressing worry now more than ever.  Are the grades you’re expecting not as good as you hoped?  Sometimes it can feel that despite your best efforts, your classmates outpace you with seemingly less effort.

I know in my case my high school did not have a strong math or science department.  I tried (and almost failed) a molecular biology class my freshman year.  Aside from the horrifically boring nature of the course material (sorry, biology majors!), I found that I was significantly behind my peers.  That realization can be incredibly deflating, particularly as you venture outside your comfort zone after getting general education requirements out of the way.

If you find that the deflating feeling just won’t go away, be assured that there is actually a name for it.  It’s called the Big Fish Little Pond Effect (officially recognized by psychology professionals), and you are in good company.  The effect is a hypothesis that the self-concept of students is negatively correlated with the ability of their peers in school. In essence, how you feel about your academic accomplishments depend snot only on your own successes but is correlated to the relative success of those in the school you attend.

 

I choose to be reassured by this knowledge, and I think it’s something every freshman should be informed of.  In your high school you may have been in the top ten percent, but when you get to college you’re suddenly surrounded an awful lot of other top ten percenters.

As long as you are trying, even though it may be of little comfort to you at the moment, you will likely experience the Pygmalion effect, which refers to the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, often children or students and employees, the better they perform. According to Wikipedia, “the effect is named after Pygmalion, a Cypriot sculptor in a narrative by Ovid in Greek mythology, who fell in love with a female statue he had carved out of ivory after it became human from his wishes.”

In other words, your classmates are likely experiencing the same feelings you are as you all struggle to get through a tougher course load.  All that work has a way of exposing weaknesses, but your own are likely to be magnified.  But according to the Pygmalion effect, the harder you work the better rewarded you will be in the long run!

-WonderBread

I’m reading iSpeak: Public Speaking for Contemporary Life

College, Dieting, and Driving Yourself Crazy

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We’ve done a lot of articles about how to maintain a healthy weight in college.  It got me thinking if we we’re covering this topic too heavily (sorry about the lame pun), but I think it makes sense to talk about it because college is hardwired into our hive brains as a time to discover what works and what doesn’t work.  Not that it’s a bad thing—there’s plenty of time when we’re older to get stuck in our ways.  For me, learning what works has been a six year long journey, ever since one summer when Hot Pockets consisted of about two-thirds of my diet and I gained forty pounds.  I had to teach myself everything about nutrition because Health class in high school focused on STDs and smoking for whatever reason.    So it’s time for a little honesty, which I feel a lot of nutrition blogs tend to leave out: there are no hard and fast rules that will get you to your goal.  Maybe it’s for brevity or to seem authoritative, but there’s bound to be variation in what works, and it would be nice if more health advice admitted that.  Some people are suckers for salty foods and some crave sweet stuff.  Some people love to eat to their heart’s content and then exercise like mad.  Here’s a list of golden rules all the health magazines repeat ad nauseum that haven’t worked for me, and may be worth experimenting with:

Eating breakfast.  This only makes me hungrier throughout the day.  Thinking about food so early in the day keeps it in my mind somehow, no matter what I eat.

Treating sweets as a “special” treat.  You know what takes the specialness out of something?  Doing it every day.  Eating a small bag of Reese’s Pieces daily keeps my sweet tooth at bay because I know I’ll have some tomorrow and the next day.  Studies have shown that a little sugar actually jump starts the brain when it comes to focusing.  The brain runs on glucose, and simple sugars are the quickest way to get glucose to the brain.

Strength training and cardio (together) religiously.   I used to work out for an hour and a half 5 days a week.  Looking back, that was completely insane (for me).  Exercising for the sake of exercising is one thing, but managing my eating properly makes my week a lot less hectic trying to schedule in gym time.  Quick bursts of cardio have been shown to be effective at maintaining general fitness, and if I don’t feel like doing one or the other, I don’t let that stop me from going.

Eating six small meals a day.  This one was probably the worst offender of all the diet tips I’ve gotten.  Six small meals a day left me constantly thinking about food, and snack sizes may as well be called “teasers.”  Who eats 3 crackers and a slice of cheese?  No bro, that’s not how eating works.  If I’m going to go through the hassle of preparing a snack and get a taste of that yummy goodness, I always eat more than I intended. Snacking fail, diet tip fail.

Don’t skip meals.  Skipping a meal may not be “health optimal” but let’s face it: no one is eating at the optimal level at any given point.  I’ve fasted for most of the day a few times by accident and I didn’t chow down on twice the amount at my next meal, because my stomach can’t hold twice the usual amount of food.

Protein, fat, and complex carbs at every meal.  Again, “optimal” is great but if you’re throwing in another food to achieve perfect nutritional nirvana, it can backfire because you’re also adding in extra calories.  I don’t know about you, but I have no idea how to accurately assess that ratio, anyway.

I’m a healthy skeptic (ouch, another bad pun) of advice because I’ve driven myself crazy trying to follow all the rules over the years.  I hope this helps!

-Wonderbread

I’m reading The Americans

Recover From An All-Nighter

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We’ve all been there.  You stayed up all night finishing up an essay, but now you’ve got classes, a meeting with your professor & a late night serving shift.  On top of that, your next day is just as gnarly looking.

Sometimes it’s just not an option to look a mess the next day, no matter what the circumstances.  Whether it’s an impromptu party you couldn’t say no to, or an assignment that takes longer than you thought–life marches on and you can’t afford to get behind.  Here’s how you bounce back.

Get up 20 minutes early to stand in the shower under hot water for at least ten minutes, as hot as you can possibly stand under the water.  This serves 2 purposes: 1) it gets you clean, 2) the hot water will relax your tense shoulders, preparing you for the coming day.

Post-shower:

1) Eyedrops – nothing gives an all nighter away like red eyes.

2) Dress up.  When you look good you feel good.  Fight the urge to throw on sweats.

3) Scrub!  Lack of sleep makes your skin look dull.   Slough off all the dullness so that even if you feel tired, your skin will glow.

Pound water like it’s your favorite milkshake flavor, and though I’m not a huge fan of painkillers, it might be a good idea to take some ibuprofen as a preventative measure.  Eat something balanced, meaning complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fat.  Watch the caffeine intake—but a hot cup of coffee can do wonders if you really need it.

Keeping yourself pumped up throughout the day will keep your mind off how tired you are.  Leave last night in the past with some positive thinking!

-Wonderbread

I’m reading Beginning and Intermediate Algebra

Are You Academically Adrift? Part One

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Have you ever taken a class that seemed too easy?  You’re breezing through it thinking, this seems too easy but no one said it was a blow off class.  Every school has their Rocks for Jocks or Emails for Females but… Stats for Frats?

I had this exact absurd experience while taking a summer intro statistics course at University of Kentucky.  After 6 hours a week for two months and a grand in UK’s pocket I earned a vague knowledge that there is such a thing as a ‘confidence interval’—and an A.

I happen to know that a couple of people in that class did learn something.  One of the girls was extremely ‘math-y’ and seemed to grasp the concepts and formulas easily.  Why does our transcript say we learned the same amount, when I am absolutely 100% sure that her stats knowledge is exponentially more useful to her future employer than mine, but how is that future employer supposed to know?

Maybe in your head you rationalize it thinking, a credit is a credit, right?

The academically adrift student finds themselves in a similar situation, semester after semester.  Whether it’s a light reading load, easy grading, assignments that can be done an hour before class, or exams that require minimal studying, it’s easy to see how classes—and their grades—can lose value.

A book named Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, found that across the nation, critical thinking skills and time spent doing homework have decreased sharply.  As you can imagine just from reading the title, the book caused a huge ruckus among the academic community.   As a student, the results, if true are sobering.

  • 45 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” during the first two years of college.
  • 36 percent of students “did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning” over four years of college.
  • Those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest improvements. Students improved on average only 0.18 standard deviations over the first two years of college and 0.47 over four years. What this means is that a student who entered college in the 50th percentile of students in his or her cohort would move up to the 68th percentile four years later — but that’s the 68th percentile of a new group of freshmen who haven’t experienced any college learning.

The data suggests that Universities, may be ‘turning and burning’, a restaurant term for getting customers in and out quickly, which in turn allows the wait staff to make more tips.  The level of service need not be wonderful, so long as food sales stay up, or in the University system’s case, student numbers.  In the coming weeks, I will talk to administrators, hiring managers and recruiting firms to see if their experience and data supports the statistics found in Academically Adrift.

“The value of a liberal arts college education — to you, to employers — is that you’ve spent four years in a place where you were forced to consider new ideas, to meet new people, to ask new questions, and to learn to think, to socialize, to imagine. If you graduate, you will get a degree, but if you are not a very different person from who you are today, then college failed.” – Jonathan D. Fitzgerald, Huffington Post blog

-Wonderbread

I’m reading Criminal Justice in America

What New Moms and College Students Have in Common

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“You have zero privacy anyway,” Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy famously said in 1999.  “Get over it.”  More recently, a story came out about a father who angrily called a manager at Target, reaming him out over the phone that it was completely inappropriate for the company to send his teenage daughter coupons for diapers, formula, and breast pumps.   Two weeks later, he apologized to the manager at Target saying, “there were things going on in my house that I didn’t know about.”  Yup, his daughter was preggers.  College students, like new moms, are marketers’ favorite snack because we are forming the shopping habits we’ll have for life.

How did Target know?  According to the New York Times article that broke the story, several factors come into play.  Some you can’t change—you probably won’t, for example, switch to using only cash instead of credit cards—but there are simple steps you can take to make it harder for them to get this information.  The little bit you can do is crucial—stores like Amazon have been known to redline customers based on their recent purchases on other sites.  When you go to Amazon, a cookie is deposited onto your computer, which assigns a unique I.D. to your browser.  When you return to Amazon, that cookie reports back to Amazon.com (and their subsidiaries AND whoever they sell that information to) every site you’ve been on since and information about your activity there.  Amazon can then turn around and say, overcharge you for a luxury item because your shopping habits show that you are willing to pay full price for items.  It’s slimy, but not illegal unfortunately. “Third-party” cookies (that is, cookies that come from someone other than the web site you accessed directly) aggregate and correlate information about your visits to apparently unrelated sites.  Paranoid yet?   If you want a really good scare, turn off all the lights and play “Every Breathe You Take.”  Creepiest song ever written, am I right?

What You Can Do:

Turn off cookies in your browser.  You’ll lose a small amount of functionality (you won’t stay signed into your favorite sites) but for many that’s a small price to pay for a modicum of privacy.

Use 10minute mail.  Sometimes when you want to access a site, say a shopping website, it forces you to sign up and verify with a working email.  Cha-ching!  They can link all sorts of information to you with your email address because chances are, your login is connected with your email address for various other sites.

Install Ghostery, which detects and disables Javascript trackers.  Never heard of ‘em?  They work a lot like cookies, but instead of depositing information on your computer, it sends queries to your browser to ask where you’ve been.  They are ONLY used for analytic purposes, and serve no functionality to you whatsoever.  Ghostery is a free add-on for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.

Just because you can, install AdBlock to get rid of all ads in your browser, including Gmail ads that are (creepily) tailored to the content of your emails.  It’s that easy.

-Wonderbread

I’m reading Racial and Ethnic Groups: Census Update