college

Using Syllabi to Your Advantage

You walk into the classroom for the first day of Western Civilization, in your best ‘new semester, new opportunities’ wardrobe (i.e. your best pair of sweatpants). You find a seat in the auditorium-like room and sit down, making small talk with others around you. Suddenly, the professor walks in and before even taking roll, he immediately slaps a packet down on each student’s desk. It’s the syllabus, and the first of many syllabi you’ll get over the next few days.

It’s syllabus week. You go in for the first day of each class, getting an over-sized packet of information that takes your professor the rest of the week to explain. Some people hate it, thinking it’s a waste of time. Others love it, seeing it as an easy first week of the semester. It’s what you do with those packets, though, that make a difference in the way your semester goes. Are you one to throw them away? Do you put them in a folder, never to be opened again? If that’s you, it may be worth rethinking your strategy. Follow the tips below to learn how to make the most of your syllabi!

FILL OUT YOUR PLANNER

The best thing to use your syllabi for is planning your semester. The first step in doing this is to get a planner. There are plenty of options out there, both cheap and more expensive. Don’t be afraid to spend a few extra bucks on a nice planner. You’ll be more inclined to use it if you actually like the way it looks (and knowing you spend more money on it is a pretty good incentive itself).

Once you’ve got your planner, grab your first syllabi. What you’ll find is that almost every assignment you’ll have throughout the year is right in front of you. Go through the schedule portion of each syllabi and put those dates on your calendar. Do this during syllabus week while most professors aren’t assigning homework. Once you’ve put everything in your planner, the real key is to use the planner! Make sure to stay up-to-date with what’s due each week. Having everything in one place keeps you organized and on-track all semester.

HIGHLIGHT, HIGHLIGHT, HIGHLIGHT

If you’re anything like me, your syllabi will soon be looking more like the rainbow. I am a sucker for highlighters, and they’re a sure-fire way to make sure you stay organized. Planners aren’t for everyone, so the next best thing is to use the syllabus as its own planner. Toward the back of most packets, professors have already laid everything out into a neat calendar-like design for you.

While your professor is going over the syllabus (more like reading it to you, even though you, in fact, know how to read) whip out those highlighters and get to work. In order for highlighting to work, you have to color code. For instance, use a yellow highlighter for large projects, a blue highlighter for reading assignments, etc. This will make it a million times easier to find exactly what you’re looking for when due dates start coming up.

STAY AHEAD OF THE GAME

Sometimes you hear people say ‘You’re such an overachiever,” like it’s a bad thing, but let me tell you when you’re in college, overachieving can be your best friend. Luckily, your syllabi allow you the opportunity to get ahead in your classes when you have the time available, so that you don’t have to cram everything in at the last second.

Let’s say it’s Tuesday and you’re working through the required reading for that Western Civ class you were sitting in at the beginning of this post. Chapters one and two are to be read by tomorrow (Wednesday), the next two chapters by Friday. You finish reading chapters one and two and have no other homework to do for the night. The best thing to do is take a few extra minutes to read the next couple chapters while you have time so that by the time Friday rolls around, you aren’t forgetting, or hurrying, to read those chapters.

Perhaps my favorite thing about syllabi is they often tell you exactly what your final project or final exam will look like. In my case, my majors were both very project-oriented, so rather than taking a final exam, I turned in projects or large papers. I was always able to work on these throughout the semester, with help from my syllabi, so that I would have more time to do my best with them, and so that I wouldn’t be locked away in a study room at the library for the entire last part of the semester. For example, I took a literature class in which the final was a 25-page paper. I worked on this over the course of the semester, writing about three or four pages per week, if not more. I broke the assignment up so that writing 25 pages didn’t feel like as much. It wasn’t nearly as gruesome and I had more time to proofread (and more time to hang out with my friends) as the semester came to an end.

ATTENDANCE, GRADING SCALE, ETC.

Aside from the positive planning aspect of syllabi, they’re also good for keeping track of the way each professor handles a classroom because, as we all know, professors can all be very different.

If you take out the class schedule, perhaps the most popular thing in syllabi is the attendance policy. It’s inevitable. You’ll rarely find a student that hasn’t considered just not showing up to class one day. Maybe you’re cramming for a test or you’re simply tired and need some extra rest. No matter the reason, it’s always important to know how many classes you can skip before it impacts your grade. That number varies with some classes allowing as little as two unexcused absences, others six or seven. Having a syllabus for each class allows you to keep track of exactly how many days you have so that you don’t miss one too many days and cost yourself a grade.

Something else that often varies from class to class is the grading scale. A 90 percent in your Western Civ class could be an A while it’s a B in your Statistics class and vice versa. Luckily, you don’t have to memorize the scale for each of your classes because, guess what, it’s in the syllabus. Keeping your syllabi in a place where you can easily access them will help you keep track of your grades so that you always know what you’ve got and what you need to do to maintain or improve them based on the requirements of each class.

Professors spend countless hours creating syllabi for the classes they teach because they find them to be important. The syllabus is your lifeline for your class. Some people even go as far as treating it like a legal contract between the professor and students. Every bit of information on each page has meaning and is, most likely, something you need to know and have readily available throughout the semester. Hold onto syllabi. Use them. They’re worth it!

CELEBRATE!

At the end of a long, hard, hopefully successful semester, you’ll want to have some fun. Lucky for you, before you throw away your supplies from the semester, your syllabi have one more use. Head outside, start a campfire, throw them in and celebrate! Those syllabi are perfect to fuel your fire and will keep it burning bright. Plus, it’s pretty relieving to officially take those classes off your mind. Just make sure you’re burning that fire in a safe place. 😊

If you have other tips on how to use syllabi to your advantage, tell us in the comments!

Thanks, College.

Common real-world skills we learned at college, in or out of the classroom.

  1. Parallel parking: If you’re from the city this might not apply to you, or if you don’t have a car. For those of us from the suburbs or country with a car on campus, we learned to parallel park soon after arriving to college.  This skill comes in handy often when travelling home, to the city, or on vacation.  It also widens your parking possibilities in any situation.
  2. Tolerance for extreme temperatures: As the weather gets colder, we adapt to walking across campus in the cold, with the wind blowing through our layers of jackets and long-johns. We learn in our first semesters to bundle up and forget about being cute.
  3. Independence: Whether you were looking forward to this or not, you become more independent in college. You have to if you go to college more than about an hour away from home.  You (hopefully) learn how to do your laundry, budget your money, clean your room without being prompted, and study and do homework on your own free will.
  4. Time management: Sometimes, it takes people their whole college careers to get this down, but everyone learns throughout their college life how important time management is. Some people know the importance of it and still choose to manage their time badly.  You have to balance classes, studying, work, friends, sleep, eating, and mental health.  Usually this “balance” involves giving up one or more of these things, which one depends on your priorities.
  5. Multi-tasking: You may have been good at this before college, but you’ll be a master by the time you graduate. Multitasking can look like many things: eating while you work, study, or walk to class, taking homework to work, or considering meeting with a study group to be hanging out with friends.

 

We learn a lot in college that may have nothing to do with our degrees, but these skills or pieces of knowledge are just as important as the information we learn in class.  What are some skills you’ve learned in college that have become useful in real life?  What are you most thankful for?

Time Flies – How to Slow Down & Enjoy It

Is it just me or is time moving way too fast?! Yet another semester over and another begins. Gretchen Rubin famously wrote, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Every day has a monotonous undertone and this is due to the fact that I know my schedule like the back of my hand. I am unconsciously going about the week as it is a good schedule, but a familiar one. Maybe you can relate, but I am here to tell you there are ways to perceive time more slowly. We do not have to be time’s hostage in this life. We are human and we will use our humanity as a tool to deliberately manipulate time. Here are some easy tricks to assist you in your life if you feel time slipping by too briskly.

Appreciate the little things

It is no secret that as we grow older, we take things for granted. Our computers, phones, cars, home, and even friends and family. You cannot blame us either as it is due to hedonic adaptation: the phenomenon where humans have a tendency to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. When you receive a new phone, it feels like the most ingenious device ever invented by man. Then after a month or two goes by, you are back to your “it’s just a phone” mindset. Could you imagine your life without a phone? This piece of metal and glass that connects you with most anyone and has all of the information published thus far in history, but you still throw it around to fidget with.

The point is, to welcome novelty into your life. Remember when you were a child and everything was mind blowing to you? Induce a little childlike wonder into your day-to-day. Darwin said, “Attention, if sudden and close, graduates into surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement.” Take just about anything into your hands and really focus on it. Think about how much work has gone into making this thing, what it can do for you, and if it did not exist. You will quickly learn to be thankful for this object and see it differently every time you see it again. A little bit of gratitude goes a long way.

Plan for things

Do you remember the month of December as a child? Did it not feel like an eternity until winter holidays? Anxiously awaiting your gifts as you see presents begin to slowly appear under a tree in your living room. We can use the same principle as a tool in our lives. Plan for a trip or some event way in the future. Make it something you really want to do to be enthusiastic for it. Have a countdown timer that you can always refer to to shorten your patience. It is similar to if I asked you to close your eyes and not say anything. Then, tell me when you believe three minutes have passed. Minutes would drag on as when you focus on time, it slows down.

Don’t plan for other things

Planning a fun trip is a great way to slow time and have an adventure by the end of it, but how can I slow time down even more every day? Being spontaneous is an enjoyable tactic that you can perform with the free time you possess. Instead of binge watching Netflix shows, go for a walk or a bike ride in your area. If one sat down and watched shows all day versus taking a leisurely stroll through town, who would you say had a longer and more enriching time? It is important to shake up the routine often to be a more well-rounded person. When you feel yourself apart of your own familiar agenda with free time, this should be a cue to do something different. Go visit a new coffee shop and read a book or take a drive and bring along a coin to decide which way you turn. An added plus is when you are more spontaneous, you are going to be a better time to be around. We all like the person that flips the script when you are with them.

Learn a new hobby

Last time I ask you to think back to your childhood. Remember learning an instrument or practicing a sport? How long did it take you to learn cursive? Learning is a process and while it should be fun, it is also taxing on your mind. We can use this for our benefit to elongate the fourth dimension. Pick up a new skill be it drawing, gardening, cooking, photography, coding, or dancing. As a personal preference, it is good to pick a hobby that has a tangible result so the progress you make is clearly shown. This will make your motivation to stick with it more difficult to diminish. There is also no need to be hard on yourself with learning a new hobby. Remember that you are doing this to make your life more interesting and vivid.

There is an overarching theme throughout these tricks and that is to be mindful of yourself and anything not yourself. Taking in the world with a fresh pair of eyes can be the difference between a life of banality or a life of excitement. Living life to the fullest while we can, is the only fulfilling option we hold. Be grateful for our friends and family for being people we can trust and knowing that they trust us. To beat eternity is to stretch every moment into an eternity.

5 Ways to Survive the Stress of College

College is the best of times and the worst of times. Close friends, bad food, and memories to last a lifetime. College is also a ton of work whether it is yet another essay, pages of homework, or staying up all night finishing a group assignment that you have not started until that night, the workload is more than enough to cause stress. Here are five easy and helpful tips to see next semester with gratitude instead of attitude.

Organize and Plan

Keeping everything clean and easy to find is a simple way to experience less stress. Buy a binder or folders to keep the classes separate and to have a central location to put all of the papers. It also may be worthwhile to buy a planner or to use the calendar on your phone to remind you of assignments. Find what works best for you and invest in organizing yourself. Same goes with your computer. Create folders on your computer to have a location to save to when you are working on something digital. No more putting everything in your downloads and searching for the date modified instead of the arbitrary title you named it.

Studying can be boring and monotonous at times but try different studying methods to boost your morale. The Pomodoro Technique is the one I use which is to put a timer for 25 minutes and with zero distractions, you start your work. Go at your own pace but make sure you have everything on do not disturb so nothing will tempt you to sway away from work. After the timer goes off, you have five minutes to do what ever you need to do and then set another 25 minutes to work. This allows you to be efficient with the time you are offering yourself and still have some time for cat videos.

For your own mental sanity, set aside time to work and play every day. Have a goal in mind and when that is complete, go reward yourself with doing something you love. Psychologically, a reward system to finishing work provides the great benefits and little residual damage from the labor.

Exercise

Getting the heart pumping can be a great way to relieve stress when college has you down. Going for a run, lifting weights, or dancing for a period of time can help to reset your mind and body to attack the day with relentless optimism. Not to mention it regulates your sleep cycle, metabolism and energy. Would it not be great if you did not have to drink four cups of coffee throughout the day? Exercise may just be the answer you are looking for to obtain more energy for your day.

Meditation

Simply breathing can make a world of difference for your mindset. Meditating every day can provide positive benefits such as an increase in happiness, self-awareness, and concentration. It also decreases stress, anxiety, and aging. “Meditation is mind without agitation,” Narasimhan says. When it comes to stress, we could all use a mind without unnecessary turbulence. Reminding yourself what your purpose is and aligning your values through breathing often can make your motivation unstoppable.

If you do not have time for simple meditation, get credit for it. Most Universities have stress management courses offered in their curriculum. The class is an easy three elective credits and truly does assist you in your college journey. Look for it under the social work category of classes.

GET MORE SLEEP

I know this sounds a little counter-intuitive. Getting less time to do more work? Sleep holds amazing benefits that we have grown to forget. The simple method here is to be more productive, sleep more. When we lack sleep, our quality of work decreases. You may be doing a lot of work but probably not a lot of quality work. There are serious health problems with sleep deprivation such as trouble concentrating, high blood pressure, risk for diabetes, risk of heart disease, weakened immunity, and weight gain. Basically throwing all the benefits of meditation and exercise away because you are not sleeping enough. Take the time needed each night and get a full eight hours (or as close to as you can) of sleep. Tiredness is not a trophy and it is something we should not be striving for.

Do Something Creative

This one is easy. Every person has their form of art be it painting, drawing, playing an instrument, cooking, or underwater basket weaving. Setting time aside every day to mastering your craft is a fun way to relieve stress and increase overall well-being. According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, engaging in just one creative activity each day can make you more likely to feel “energetic, enthusiastic, [and] excited.” It goes on to say, “Overall, these findings support the emerging emphasis on everyday creativity as a means of cultivating positive psychological functioning.” There you go, science has now supported the idea of creating art for clear benefits. Get working and create something beautiful.

College is an adventurous odyssey filled with self-discovery and a metric ton of ramen noodles. It is a lot of seemingly unnecessary work and stress but it is all worth it in the end. Hopefully with these simple methods of stress management, college will be more of a positive experience.

Balancing a Part Time Job on Campus

We all like making a little money on the side, but balancing a part time job and schoolwork is tough. Even for the best students, scheduling around classes and work shifts is a challenge. When academics get rough, oftentimes a job becomes a nightmare. But never fear! I’m here to give you some advice on how to manage your academics and your part time job at the same time.

Scheduling Your Time

Schedule everything! Make sure to use Google calendar as much as possible, scheduling everything from your workouts to your study times. By scheduling when you study, work out, and take breaks, you can prevent wasting time. Budgeting lets you know where your money is going. Scheduling lets you know where your time is going. By scheduling your time, you will stop having those days where it feels like you’re scrambling to get everything done. Below is an example of my Google calendar for a day earlier this year.

Balancing a Part Time Job

An example of my weekly calendar

Talking With Your Boss

Your boss is a person too, and they probably also had to juggle a million and one things in college. They get it, I promise. If you’re having an especially bad week, talk with your boss and ask if she can cut some of your shifts. If she can, she probably will. Employers know an unhappy employee is often a bad employee. If you feel uncomfortable about speaking to your manager, consider brushing up on your workplace communication skills starting with this article from Forbes. Should talking to your boss fail, you may be able to swap shifts with a fellow employee. Worst case scenario, they say no. Why not ask them before resigning yourself to a week of torture?

Balancing a Part Time Job

Treat Your Part Time Job Like a Class

Treat your job like any other class, in every possible sense. Don’t skip your job. Try to schedule your shifts the same way you would a class. Ask your manager if you can work at a consistent time every week. If possible, try to block it in with all your other classes. For instance, most of my shifts as a tour guide were right after my classes. I could get all my structured responsibilities out of the way early, and then have the afternoon to work out or do homework. By treating your job like a class, you’ll develop better professional habits and use your time more efficiently.

Do you have any tips on how to manage a job during the school year? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!