More Information About Advice for Students Starting College

What does it take to be successful and happy in college (and long after)? Author, education expert, and President Emeritus at Harvard Derek Bok has some important insights on the matter.

Several million students are or will soon be entering college. If you are among them, you will have received much advice from parents and friends, and you will soon hear more from college officials. But you might also want to know what researchers have discovered about some important choices you will make that could have much to do with what you gain from your next four years.

Freshman surveys reveal why most students go to college. In 2012, as in prior years, 88% sought a “better chance for a good job,” and 81% wanted to be “very well off financially.” Curiously, however, most students today are not acting in ways that will help them reach these goals.

One careful study has discovered that the time undergraduates spend studying for class has dropped from approximately 25 hours per week in the early 1960s to below 15 hours today. Studying less is almost certainly a mistake. Research shows that students who study more tend to make greater progress mastering skills such as critical thinking, writing, and problem solving that are important for almost any vocation. Another survey has recently found that students in the 20% who improved these skills the most were three times less likely to be unemployed two years after graduation than the 20% who improved the least. Incidentally, undergraduates making exceptional progress could be found in every kind of college, from the humblest to the most prestigious.

Studying also has a greater effect on college grades than anything else you do, and grades tend to affect your chances of becoming “very well off financially.” One study of 20,000 alumni 15 years after their graduation from a group of well-known colleges found that those who finished in the top third of the class earned substantially more on average than those in the middle third, who in turn earned significantly more than classmates in the bottom third. Not surprisingly, more than 40% of these alumni (and over two-thirds of those in the bottom third), wished they had studied more in college.

The way you study can also affect success in college. Large majorities of students today admit to texting and reading e-mail during class. Those who do, however, tend to remember less, understand less, and receive lower grades than those who give instructors their undivided attention. The same is true of homework. Even listening to music while studying detracts significantly from retention and learning.

Whether students should study alone or with others is more complicated. In classes that assign problems as homework, group study is often helpful if students first try to solve the problems by themselves. But simply getting together with classmates to talk about assignments without first studying alone seems to inhibit learning rather than increase it.

In choosing courses, many students prefer classes with modest homework demands and easy grading. Yet taking harder courses with longer readings and more papers to write helps to increase learning. Classes on unfamiliar subjects can also expand the mind more than courses similar to ones you have already taken.

At this point, you may worry that success in college requires unremitting study. Not so. There will still be plenty of time for socializing and extracurricular fun. Once again, however, researchers find that not all outside activities are equally valuable. In general, active pursuits, such as participating in student organizations, talking with classmates, and community service, tend to be more fruitful, while devoting a lot of time to passive activities, such as watching TV or playing with the computer, seems to be linked with less conscientious study habits. Interestingly, paid jobs on campus are associated with higher grades, while off-campus jobs have the opposite effect.

Last but not least, college is a wonderful place to explore new interests, broaden your experience, and reexamine your goals. In doing so, you might think again about whether “being very well off financially” should be your chief reason for attending college. As it happens, there is research on that question too. According to several investigators, including a Nobel Prize­–winning psychologist, those most preoccupied with making a lot of money tend to be less satisfied with their lives, perhaps because they are more likely to neglect things that turn out to matter more, such as family, friends, and work they find truly absorbing and fulfilling.

Of course, the findings I have described are only tendencies and probabilities. Conceivably, you could be an exception. But don’t count on it.

Know More About Memorization Tips and Tricks

There are two parts to memorizing something: getting it into your brain and then getting it out again. Surprisingly, the first part is relatively easy. Your brain can hold a lot of information. Just think about all the song lyrics and tunes that are in your head.

Don’t try to memorize too much at one time. Instead, break it up into parts. If you are trying to memorize a poem, don’t do the whole thing at once. Memorize just one stanza at a time.

You can sometimes “chunk” information. Remembering 10 numbers in a sequence is hard (3 0 7 5 5 5 8 2 9 4). But remembering 10 numbers in telephone format is a lot easier (307-555-8294).

Remember just the critical information. If you are making a presentation about constellations, you don’t have to remember every one of them. Find out what your teacher expects for the presentation and focus on those aspects.

Repetition over time is the most important method of getting information into your head and retrieving it readily. Don’t cram; the information won’t stick. Repeat the information frequently over time.

Writing things down and saying them out loud are wonderful ways to help you remember things. When you use these two strategies, think about what you are trying to remember. Just don’t say things out loud when they will annoy other people.

Mnemonics work for some people. This is the strategy where you associate information with something else. One of the classics is the mnemonic for the planets, at least when Pluto was included: “My Very Excellent Mother Just Sent Us Nine Pizzas.”

Adding a tune to what you are memorizing can be really helpful. The best example is the alphabet song, which you probably learned when you were four or five years old. Isn’t it unbelievable that you could remember all 26 letters at that age?

One of the toughest memory tricks is unlearning incorrect information. Instead of trying to unlearn it, try recalling it with a different cue. If you are constantly misspelling “weird” as “wierd,” you can always get it right if you remember it as “We are weird.” The “we” will help you spell it correctly.

Here’s something you should memorize. Ask your friends for their memory tricks. They might not all work for you, but some of them certainly will.

Should You Know About Study Smart Tips

You know how to study—at least, you know how to study in the context of high school. But college is a whole new ball game, and you’ll need to develop a new set of study skills. Luckily, we have some insider advice for taking your study habits to the major leagues.

Study smart tip #1: don’t cram

According to a recent research study published by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), students who forego sleep to pull “all-nighters” and cram prior to a big test are more likely to perform poorly the following day. Ample sleep is critical for academic success. Students should keep a consistent study schedule leading up to their test and get a good night’s sleep to ensure a great result.

Study smart tip #2: seek out effective study tools

Whether it’s using flashcards or re-reading passages in a text or e-book, all students have their own way of assessing their preparedness prior to a test. However, there are tools available that make the studying process much easier, more engaging and more effective. (You can check out McGraw-Hill LearnSmart™, an adaptive “digital tutor” that continuously assesses students’ knowledge and skills and provides personalized recommendations that helps them master content over time, as well as the McGraw-Hill Tegrity Campus, a comprehensive lecture capture system that allows students to “relive” the lectures that aren’t fresh in their minds.)

Study smart tip #3: jump around

A majority of students naturally review material for a test or a midterm in the order in which it was taught; that is, going through notes in chronological order. This type of studying, also known as “blocking,” may be effective for some, but research out of the University of South Florida suggests otherwise. If you study “out of order,” according to the research, you are more likely to retain standalone knowledge and are therefore able to recall information in a randomized way, which is how many tests are designed. Studying in sequence is restrictive, and forces you to remember content in the order in which it was studied.

Study smart tip #4: power down

The 21st century student is an avid “digital multi-tasker,” capable of answering the phone, reading and sending a text message or e-mail, and listening to music all while preparing for a test. Though this might be considered “the new normal,” these distractions might—according to research by Stanford University—negatively impact a student’s ability to retain and accurately recall information. While collaboration and discussion are an important part of the learning process, when it’s crunch time, students should opt for an environment that is quiet and void of any digital disturbances.

Study smart tip #5: books, then bed

A guide on memory issued by the Academic Skills Center at Dartmouth College recommends that students should review difficult material prior to bedtime, provided that a student is mentally and physically strong before hitting the pillow. This is because challenging information is oftentimes easier to remember after a good night’s rest, as the brain typically consolidates facts in your memory that are freshly accessible the next day.

Know More About Machine Learning

Machine learning is widely considered to be one of today’s hottest fields. But many of today’s students are unaware of what machine learning is and why it matters so much. Wondering whether you’ve got a future in machine learning? Here’s a closer look at this increasingly important area, along with why it matters so much.

What is Machine Learning?

SAS defines machine learning as “a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. Using algorithms that iteratively learn from data, machine learning allows computers to find hidden insights without being explicitly programmed where to look.”

Princeton University lecturer Rob Schapire puts it in simpler terms: “Machine learning studies computer algorithms for learning to do stuff. We might, for instance, be interested in learning to complete a task, or to make accurate predictions, or to behave intelligently. The learning that is being done is always based on some sort of observations or data, such as examples, direct experience, or instruction. So in general, machine learning is about learning to do better in the future based on what was experienced in the past.”

Why Machine Learning Matters

With the power of machine learning, says SAS, “it’s possible to quickly and automatically produce models that can analyze bigger, more complex data and deliver faster, more accurate results – even on a very large scale. And by building precise models, an organization has a better chance of identifying profitable opportunities – or avoiding unknown risks.” This leads to improved decision-making capabilities independent of human intervention with applications in a broad range of industries, including financial services, government, healthcare, marketing and sales, oil and gas, and transportation.

Machine learning is so promising, in fact, that Business Insider recently declared it to be “a revolution as big as the internet or personal computers.” With a track record of world-changing developments including everything from Amazon product recommendations to Google’s self-driving car, machine learning has already changed the world and how we live in it.

But that’s all just the beginning, according to experts like computer scientist and author of “The Master Algorithm: How the Quest for the Ultimate Learning Machine Will Remake our World” Pedro Domingos, who told BI, “There were two stages to the information age. One stage is where we had to program computers, and the second stage, which is now beginning, is where computers can program themselves by looking at data.”

Meanwhile, Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt forecasts that machine learning “will be the basis and fundamentals of every successful huge IPO win in five years.”

Machine learning is also lauded for its potential to improve customer care by automating certain tasks. Machines don’t always outperform humans — especially in matters of high-touch decision making — but in improving both efficiency and efficacy where technology prevails, machine learning can free people up to focus on what they do best.

And while we often think of machine learning as future terrain, it’s also happening all around us, including in the higher education space as a means of improving teaching and learning. Moving forward, it will support unprecedented personalized learning for use by everyone from students to advisors. In other words, with a background in machine learning, you can not only change the world, you can also apply what you know much closer to home.

Is Machine Learning for You?

Of course, machine learning studies aren’t for everyone. But if you possess an interest in and aptitude for computer science fundamentals and programming; probability and statistics; data modeling and evaluation;  and software engineering and system design, you may be suited for an in-demand career in this red-hot field.

The reality is, however, that if you want to “future-proof” your career, these subjects may be the key.

Concludes The Atlantic on career planning for today’s college students, “Students who are embarking upon their college studies should embrace one of two possible career strategies. The first is to look for jobs that are likely to favor human capabilities over artificial intelligence—jobs that depend less on having great swathes of technical knowledge than on having creativity and strong interpersonal skills, such as the ability to empathize. The second career strategy is to aim to be directly involved in the development and delivery of these increasingly capable systems, for example as a systems engineer, a data scientist, an AI specialist, or a knowledge engineer. In short, students can plan to compete with machines or to build the machines.”

Some Books Recomendation To Read After Grad School

Fret not, graduate!  You can still have a vibrant literary life after grad school—you might even find that you miss all that time you had for reading.  From common knowledge, to life lessons and novels, find something to whet your palate and dig in.

Take a look at these six reading suggestions that are sure to engage your brain.   Kick back and gobble up one of these delights.

1. Common Knowledge

Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything offers science snippets that you may have forgotten, or maybe didn’t have the chance to explore in graduate school.  In his quest to explain “nearly everything,” he delves into the history of civilization, the Big Bang, and arcane—but fascinating—questions from archaeology, anthropology, mathematics, philosophy, science, and, well, a taste of “nearly everything” else.

2. The Novel

If you haven’t read Jeffrey Eugenides’s Pulitzer Prizer winner The Marriage Plot, now is the time.   Follow three Ivy-leaguers as they negotiate writer’s block with their theses, tangled romantic relationships, spiritual crises, and the decisions that most of us face at some point in time.  Think you’re the only one going through it?  Think again.  You won’t be able to put this one down.

3. Office Life

Joshua Ferris’s National Book Award Finalist Then We Came To The End charts office life—the good and the bad.  How well do you really know those with whom you work?  What is it about gossip, practical jokes, and coffee breaks that makes office life so… officey?  Ferris offers his readers—and especially new trads—a poignant and funny look at office life in the 21st century.

4. Dystopia

This genre has had a great resurgence with all of the global political upheaval recently.  Here’s one you should try, especially as a recent grad: Dave Eggers The Circle. Going for one of those high-powered tech jobs at a global company?  Just how connected do you really want to be to your colleagues—real, virtual, and otherwise?  Big Brother, of Orwellian fame, makes an ideological cameo in this one.  What are the limits of human knowledge?  Of human privacy?  Find out.  You’re in for a treat.

5. Organization

Laura Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Mornings—and Life shows us that mornings are the key to unlocking successful days.  She tracks real-life stories and scientific research that shows us why the earliest hours of the day are the most important.  Unsure how to structure your day now that you’re out of school?  Want to be successful at your new job?  Read this book, take control of your mornings, and off you go.

6. Life Problems

Grieving the loss of her father, and her lack of family, job, and home, Helen MacDonald wrote H is For Hawk.  Part memoir, part philosophy, and part history of falconry, H is For Hawk takes an original look at what it means to be an outsider, how it feels to be a misfit, and what it means to follow your instincts—all in the face of life’s daily complications.

Inspired?  You always have something to learn—and you can usually learn it from a good book.  Immerse yourself.  You’ll be thankful you did.

Prepare For A Master’s Degree In Management

If you’re looking for a career push in the business world consider a Master in Management, or MIM.  You’ll study at a top-notch program with an international focus—and you don’t need all the work experience typically required for admission to an MBA program.  Looking for great degree experience that offers hands-on experience?  With a MIM, you’ll get it.  Many internationally-focused MIM programs partner with global businesses to give you hands-on, real-world experience right out of the gates.  Ready to learn more?  Let’s take a look at five must-do’s to prepare yourself to go get that MIM.

1. Assess Your Starting Position.

Figure out what you want from a MIM degree—is there a management specialty that interests you?  Have you researched MIM programs?  Does your undergraduate degree match the prerequisites for acceptance?  Do you need to take a prep course or other short-term course to fill in any gaps for the entrance requirement? Do you need to take exams, like the GMAT before you can apply? Make sure you have the right qualifications for the program of your choice before starting the application process.

This is particularly important if you are considering overseas MIM programs. Apart from academic qualifications, you’ll need to assess your language skills. Is the course taught in your native language or another?  If you need to brush up on language skills, now is the time.

Consider your academic starting point, too.  Make sure you take a diagnostic and figure out where you are academically before you start.  Knowing where your strengths—and your weaknesses—are will show you where you need to focus and where you need to improve.

This is the time to fill in those gaps.  Need some help?  Contact the admissions office for the various MIM programs you’ve selected.  Someone there will steer you in the right direction. Or check out this handy tool that helps you compare and choose the right school.

Another strategy?  If you’re currently an undergraduate, make an appointment with your academic advisor—you won’t regret it.

Once you’ve figured out where you are in relation to where you want to be, you’re well on your way to that MIM.

2. Gain Work Experience

Unlike the MBA, work experience is not critical to a MIM.  However, it certainly doesn’t hurt.  Between one and three years can increase your chances of getting into a program of your choice.  Don’t underestimate the power of the internship, either.  Strong internship experiences, obtained during or after your undergraduate studies, can be just as impressive as a year or two of work under your belt.

What are the benefits?  You’ll have a taste of real-world experience—and with experience comes wisdom.

3. Top-Up Your Extracurricular Activities

This is your chance to shine, at least on paper—and to give an admissions committee real insight into your character.  Perhaps just as critical, if not more so, your extracurricular activities count.  Why?  They reflect your interests and passions.  What you do outside of work and school matters.

Are you interested in sports?  Showcase your interests and abilities on your resume.  If you were involved in academic or university associations, list them—and make sure to note whether you held leadership roles in those organizations.  Volunteer work is also a fantastic extracurricular activity to showcase. Even hobbies, like stamp collecting, yoga or woodworking will make a positive impression on the admissions board.  The key is to make sure your extracurricular activities give a sense of your interests and abilities, but leave an admissions counselor at your selected MIM program wanting to know more about you.

4. Prepare for the Interview

This is the time and place to show who you really are and what you care about—and what you can bring to a MIM program.  What made you choose a MIM?  Why did you select this school?  How will the program help you reach your goals?  What have you learned from your internship experiences?  How about work?  How do you handle difficult situations?  How are you helpful to your classmates.

Here’s the most important one: do your homework and make sure you ask at least one thoughtful question of your interviewer about the program or the school.  One caveat – in this case there are stupid questions. The answer to your question shouldn’t be obvious from the program’s website or marketing materials.

5. Take the GMAT

Ready to apply for a MIM?  Take the GMAT, the world’s most widely used and highly respected exam for graduate business degrees.

The GMAT will give you the competitive edge you want—and a high score can ensure that you will have a variety of options when it comes to choosing a MIM program.

What does the GMAT test?  Analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.  There are over 600 test centers around the world, but remember that the GMAT is given only in English. Non-native speakers, take note: if you need to brush up on your English skills, do so before the exam (see #1), and study with some professional assistance.

So, why is the GMAT important? The Graduate Management Admission Council, or GMAC, completed in-depth curriculum research and surveys of business programs and highly respected professors from around the world. And their research identified a quantifiable set of skills and metrics. Skills that business schools deem most important for successful students. Scoring well on the GMAT can’t ensure that you will become a business big-shot, but it’s a good indicator as to whether you’re prepared for the rigors of a MIM program.

In fact, one of the ways the GMAT helps to identify strong MIM candidates is through the preparation process.  Preparing for the GMAT requires study skills, self-motivation and the ability to seek out and utilize resources, like prep courses and software, tutors and study guides.  Go for a combination of guided preparation by professional instructors, working on your own, and practice.  If you work best on your own, consider individual tutoring sessions, which you can do in-person or online.  If you enjoy group work, opt for a small, individualized course.

Know More About Summer Internships

We know.  It’s already summer.  It’s never too early to think about opportunities for next summer—and maybe even a late-summer opportunity this year.

Why are they so important?  It’s simple.  Internships give you valuable experience that can help you secure a job you want.

Let’s look at six in-depth reasons why internships are critical for success—and how you can maximize your chances of finding the right one.

1. Discover the real world.

Working as an intern gives you hands-on professional experience.  You’re not just there to do errands and make coffee—you’re there to work.  Bigger companies, like Facebook and Microsoft, for example, have internship programs in place to ensure that interns earn real experience.

Interested in interning at a smaller company?  No worries.  You can do that, too.  Just make sure you have someone to guide you through the process so that you can gain as much real world experience as possible.

2. Create your network.

While the internet is here to stay, there’s something to be said for face-to-face contact.  By interning, you begin to create that professional network.  How?  You interact with people.

Not only is it critical to your professional success, it will make an impact on your personal choices too.

When you intern, you gain opportunities to develop professional connections that could be beneficial to your career.

Yes—you can attend a networking event without doing an internship.  While that’s good, the internship gives you a more intimate understanding of companies and organizations—and the people in them.

3. Top up your resume.

A great resume is a key to unlocking your chance for that interview you want..  Think of your resume as an initial handshake with a company—it’s their initial impression of you.  A solid internship will prevent your resume from ending up in the trash heap.

A summer internship or a longer one will show a prospective employer that you mean business.  Be sure to add it to your experiences and ask your supervisors if you can list them as references.

4. Earn university credit.

Your internship experience counts not only toward your professional goals, but your academic ones, too.  Many colleges and universities offer credit for internship experiences.

How do you find out?  Ask.  Talk to your advisor or your career-services office to find out how you can make that internship work for your academic life, too.

5. Test your career plan.

Remember when we said “no strings attached?”  Well, there are none.  This is an opportune time to try something.  If you don’t like it, guess what?  You’re not stuck with it.

The summer internship is a perfect time test drive your career plans.

Let’s say you’re a marketing major and you land a summer internship doing marketing research—and you don’t like it.  Don’t fret.  You’re not tied to it.  Finish the internship, do a great job, and move on.  Do something else next summer.

If you love it?  Take more courses in it—and find another internship for the following year.  Better yet?  Go back to the same company if you loved it and see what you can do.

It’s all about opportunity.  This is your time.  Take it.

6. Gain confidence.

This might be the most important benefit of the summer internship.  Build your confidence.  Know you can do it—and you don’t know unless you try, right?

The summer internship gives you the chance to build your stores, so that when you’re ready to go on that job interview, you have the skills, the experience, the desire, and the confidence to make it happen.

Find the right opportunity and go for it.  Love theater?  Intern at one.  Love marketing?  Find a company that intrigues you.  Love marketing and theater?  Find an internship that combines both and work on a marketing project for a theater company.

Bottom line?  The options are limitless.  You need to have direction and drive—and if you need help?  Ask.  Lots of people out there want to help you.

Some Book To Read Before Study In Finland

Earlier this year we detailed seven can’t-miss Finnish movies in honor of the country’s centennial celebration. Next up as we draw closer to the 100th anniversary of Finland becoming an independent state on December 6, 1917? A round-up of five must-reads books.

1. Purge by Sofi Oksanen

When it comes to top honors, this book by Finnish-Estonian writer Sofi Oksanen pretty much took them all. Not only was it the first-ever novel to win both the Finlandia and the Runeberg prizes, but it also claimed the Nordic Council Literature Prize.

What makes this one so remarkable? For starters, Oksanen’s unique background (childhood in central Finland with summers in Estonia) uniquely qualifies her to write about “the real Soviet Estonia,” AKA “what Westerners weren’t supposed to see.” Specifically, this original novel spans 60 years while telling the story of two women from different generations both of whom suffer extreme violence while trying to survive in harsh conditions.

Says The Guardian of The Purge (the title, a reference to the deportation of Estonians to the gulags during the German occupation in World War II), “The purge is pivotal for the family at the centre of her story, but Oksanen also moves beyond the bitter dilemmas of collusion and resistance to deal with the more private horror of sexual violence during both peace and war.”

Not yet comfortable with your Finnish? No worried — Purge has been translated into 38 other languages.

2. The Year of the Hare by Arto Paasilinna

Thanks to a (literal) run-in with a rabbit, a man suddenly realizes what’s important in life. While it may sound like an unlikely plot for an internationally bestselling novel,  author Paasilinna is a master of dark humor.

While any of Paasilinna’s 29 novels are worthy of a read, The Year of the Hare — which the New York Times declared to be “a skewed and skewering look at Finland” — earns its spot on this list for being the author’s favorite.

3. Under the North Star Series by Väinö Linna

Okay, so we cheated a bit by picking this three-in-one, but you won’t be disappointed. Spanning 70 years, Linna’s compelling trilogy, comprising Under the North Star, The Uprising, and Reconciliation, follows an ordinary Finnish family through multiple wars thereby giving voice “to hitherto silent actors on the stage of history as it offers a comprehensive account of the social and economic realities reflected in the hopes, dreams, and experiences of Jussi and Alma Koskela and their children in the rural village of Pentti’s Corners in south central Finland,” according to Goodreads.

Not only is Under the North Star widely considered to be the most significant work of Finnish literature published during the country’s independence, but it also boasts an opening line that’s to Finns what “Call me Ishmael” is to English readers: “In the beginning there were the swamp, the hoe – and Jussi.”

Want more of the same when you’re done? Don’t miss The Unknown Soldier, which covers many of the same events and shares a main character with the trilogy.

4. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

Jansson’s novel tells the transportive tale of an elderly artist and her young granddaughter summing together on a small island off the gulf of Finland. Raves The Guardian “Jansson’s brilliance is to create a narrative that seems, at least, to have no forward motion, to exist in lit moments, gleaming dark moments, like lights on a string, each chapter its own beautifully constructed, random-seeming, complete story. Her writing is all magical deception, her sentences simple and loaded; the novel reads like looking through clear water and seeing, suddenly, the depth. As Philip Pullman so succinctly puts it, Tove Jansson was a genius.”

Love the children’s literary phenoms, the Moomins? Jansson wrote — and illustrated — them, too.

5.  Seven Brothers by Aleksis Kivi

After the death of their father, seven boisterous, often-brawling Finnish brothers end up retreating to the forest to make their own lives for themselves, ultimately returning to the farm as mature men ready to play their roles in society.

One of Finland’s most treasured books, Seven Brothers is not only a classic, but is considered by many to be the greatest Finish novel of all time. Meanwhile, author Kivi is the national author of Finland, despite the fact that Seven Brothers was his first and only novel.

While the season may be passing by in a blur, there’s still plenty of time left to get in your summer reads. But why not skip the thrillers and “chick lit” this summer and instead take a fascinating tour of Finland via the written word?

Best Ways to Avoid Procrastination

Procrastination is the bane of every student’s existence. We know what we should be doing; we just don’t want to do it. It’s easy to put off undesirable assignments until the very last minute, but then we’re forced to pull a stress-induced all-nighter. Seven cups of coffee later, we’re exhausted, frustrated, and turning in an assignment that hardly showcases our best work. Here are the top 10 tips to crush procrastination and actually get some sleep for once!

1. Get organized

You can’t do any work if you don’t know what assignments need to be completed. Invest in a planner or start using the calendar app on your phone. This makes it much easier to keep track of individual assignments and important due dates.

2. Set simple, achievable goals

Part of the reason we procrastinate is because the task at hand seems too daunting. It’s a lot easier to get started on a project when you establish simple, reachable goals rather than a big, vague plan. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ll study biology tonight,” say, “I’ll study chapter six tonight.” This makes your goals less intimidating and more attainable.

3. Create a timeline/schedule

After you set your goals, create a timeline to complete them. This could be a study schedule for your big exam coming up (“On Tuesday, I’ll study chapter five, and on Wednesday, I’ll study chapter six”), or it could be mapping out an essay you have to write (“On Saturday, I’ll write the introduction and conclusion”). Breaking an assignment into small chunks over time makes it much more manageable.

4. Set a deadline

So many people get trapped in the cycle of “Someday, I’ll organize my notes,” or “I’ll get to that math homework eventually.” The truth is “someday” and “eventually” never come. It’s important to set a specific date for when you want your goals to be accomplished. If you have an assignment due, aim to have it completed one or two days in advance. That way, if something unexpected happens, you still have extra time to complete it.

5. Get rid of distractions

It’s important to rid yourself of all potential disruptions before you begin working so you don’t get needlessly sidetracked halfway through your task. If you tend to spend too much time on Snapchat or Instagram when you should be studying, then shut your phone off (all the way off). Distractions could also be external sources, like annoying siblings. Try listening to classical music or white noise to drown out their constant chatter. Alternatively, you could change study environments all together and head down to the local library or coffee shop, where you can clear your mind and study distraction-free.

6. Time yourself

When loaded with assignments, it’s easy to overwork yourself. Set a timer for 60 minutes to prevent yourself from burning out. Then you can…

7. Take a break

It’s important to take mental breathers from school work every now and then. When your timer goes off, take a 10–15-minute break. Listen to music, take a walk, or scream into a pillow—anything that takes your mind off of work and allows you to relax.

8. Use incentives

Everyone loves being rewarded. It’s important to give yourself incentives, no matter how small. It could be something as simple as, “If I work on this assignment for an hour, I’ll watch an episode of my favorite TV show tonight.” Or it could be a bigger goal like, “If I get an A in math this semester, I’ll go to my favorite restaurant.” It’s easier to pay attention when something is at stake.

9. Get the hard stuff done first

This may make you want to push everything back farther. It’s hard to do something that you don’t want to do. But guess what? Once you do it, it’s over! It is best to complete your most challenging assignments first. That way everything after it seems easier and takes a shorter amount of time. If you keep pushing that English essay back, you’re never going to get it done. It’s best to buckle down and just do it.

10. Tell someone about your goal

It’s easy to forget about assignments or put them off if you’re the only person holding yourself accountable. If you really want to get something done, tell a friend or family member. Now there is someone holding you responsible for your goals. You can’t back out or slough it off. As an added bonus, you also have someone to celebrate your victories with, no matter how small. Whether it’s getting an A on that physics test or just finishing a project a few days in advance, your friend will be there to support you.

Tips To Upgrade Your Study Habits

Many students learn the hard way that college requires you to fine-tune your study habits. And it’s not about studying longer; it’s about studying more effectively and learning how to manage your time. You have to orchestrate your new college schedule—which often looks loaded with free time—and cope with a work load that is probably far greater than anything you’re used to. (You probably want to squeeze in some fun and relaxation with your friends too!)

Classroom expectations also change. “It is a much higher level of learning,” says Dianna Van Blerkom, author of College Study Skills: Becoming a Strategic Learner. In high school, many students do well just by memorizing facts, but college classes really delve into their subjects, and if you don’t understand the material, it will be difficult to progress. Van Blerkom, who has seen National Honor Society students devastated by a failing grade in college, says students “have to accept that it is like a full-time job, and they have to treat it that way.”

Siobhan Brady, a pre-med major at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, said good grades always came easily to her. “In high school, I could get by without studying at all,” she says. Even freshman year of college wasn’t too tough. So when she struggled in sophomore year science classes, she was surprised. “I realized I had to put more effort in,” Brady says.

Scheduling secrets

Many experts recommend mapping out your academic requirements and activities. Don’t just look at one week at a time—really think about what is coming in the next month. “Studying becomes a process,” says Dan Hickey, a study skills instructor at Rochester Institute of Technology’s academic support center. “It is a strategic way of learning.”

College is often the first time students are truly independent, with no one to remind them about deadlines or wake them up so they don’t miss class. Although you may be taking fewer classes than in high school, each one is more demanding, covers more material, and requires you to study effectively to succeed.

“Students may not realize how active they need to be,” Hickey says. That means studying the syllabus and understanding what professors expect. Review notes immediately after class and preview the material before lectures, Hickey recommends. Then you can focus on material you’re struggling with, and you will also familiarize yourself with the terms and concepts.

Approach your studies as tasks to be completed slowly and steadily over the semester. “Do something for each class every day,” recommends Dr. Sandra U. Gibson, past Director of the learning center at Georgia State University and co-author of Making A’s in College.

Some students put so much effort into one class that they neglect their other courses, Gibson says. Once your grades start to slide, it’s tough to catch up in those other classes. And the emotional toll can make any student feel unable to meet the rigors of college, when in fact it is just a matter of studying more efficiently.

To avoid hitting that slide, constantly assess your study habits to see what is working for you. “I never used flash cards before,” Brady says. “Now I use them all the time, and they really help.” Brady, never one to ask for help from a tutor in high school, went to one weekly for an especially tough chemistry class.

Study skills are key

When you arrive on campus, take a study skills seminar. Sarah Harvey, a recent graduate of Trinity Collegein Hartford, Connecticut, and now a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, says her freshman seminar helped her adapt to the college pace. “A big thing for me was learning how to plan when classes didn’t meet every day,” Harvey says. “I had to look at the syllabus and figure it out, and figure out what the professors expected from me,” she said. She says she relied on personal planners/agendas, lists, and calendars to stay organized.

One of the biggest predictors of your success is also one of the easiest things to do—show up for class. Some students see attending each class as optional, Gibson says. Or they might skip a few classes to focus on an upcoming test in another area. Not only will you miss vital information, but some classes have attendance policies that could impact your grade. You might only have class two or three times a week, but professors pack a lot of information into that time and expect you to know it.

“The best thing students should be doing is self-testing and self-monitoring,” Van Blerkom says. “So many students read over the material and say, ‘I’ve got this.’ Maybe this worked with high school tests. However, when they study by reading over the material for their college exams, they are surprised when they do not excel because they thought they knew the material.”

Figure out what kind of self-testing works for you. For math courses, create problems and time yourself, Gibson says. Biology or psychology classes might require something like flash cards, where you record questions, facts, details, or concepts to quiz yourself. Flag information you don’t understand so you can focus your time even more. Finally, seek out study groups so you can get different perspectives on the material.

Tackle time management in high school

Even while in high school, time management is a habit worth mastering and cultivating to ensure college success. Setting daily goals and writing them down is a great way to prepare for college demands. Whether it’s with school, work, or sports, be mindful of expectations—be on time, be prepared, and put forth your best effort.

Some small tasks make a big difference. Professors often communicate by e-mail, so check yours frequently. Harvey says she had to remember to check her e-mail every day so she wouldn’t miss important announcements. (Gibson advises students to address professors formally when e-mailing them: use his or her proper name, spelled correctly, and compose your message as you would a letter, not a text message!)

“Students have to work a lot harder in college than they do in high school,” Van Blerkom says. Self-motivation is crucial. In high school, your routine determines many of your study habits: you are in school for a certain number of hours, have after-school activities, and generally study when you get home. In college, your weekly class time might only add up to a few hours, but the remaining time is not “free.” “Those are the days you have to work,” he says.

“You have to look at what is in front of you and what is forecast,” Van Blerkom says. If you have a soccer tournament scheduled for the weekend before a chemistry test, do some advanced studying and planning so you will be at your best for both events.

Diana Tamburri, an illustration major at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, found balancing academic and extracurricular activities tough. Tamburri says she loved joining the theater group—so much that she devoted a little too much time to the activity. “When I got to school, it was a shock because I had more free time, and I didn’t know what to do with it all,” she says. “It is all a big learning experience to figure out what needs to get done versus what you want to do. I learned [you must do] everything in moderation.”

Ask for help

Academic support centers recommend making a fixed commitment calendar, which includes the time you need to get to class, study, sleep, eat, and work. This will give you a realistic picture of your available time.

Office hours, which all professors usually have, let you work one-on-one with your in-structors. Harvey says she occasionally sought help from professors or teaching assistants, even though it intimidated her at first. “In high school, you see your teachers daily, and it is easy to ask questions in class or after class,” she says. “In college, you are in a big lecture, and it is easy to forget you can meet with them or send them an e-mail.”

College will bring huge changes in how you approach your studies. Be open to making adjustments, asking for help, and using ev-ery minute of your time to reach your fullest potential.

Make Studying More Fun

Not too long ago, a young woman reached out to us nerds here at CollegeXpress headquarters with a simple question: how do you make studying more fun?

Now, “fun” is really a relative term here. If you’re the sort of person who enjoys reviewing algebraic formulas as much as hanging out with your best friend, playing your favorite game, or cuddling with a puppy, then more power to you, because you have a rare and truly magical gift. But if you’re like most people, studying can be something of a chore—an important chore from which you will emerge prepared and more knowledgeable, but a chore nonetheless.

However, you can improve your study habits and make your process more enjoyable. You can learn how to learn more effectively, retain more information, and even do it faster. And, yes, you might even have some fun along the way.

So, how do you make studying more fun and productive (because, let’s be honest: the less studying you have to do, the more fun you’re going to have)? It’s often a matter of managing your time well, scheduling intensive periods as well as breaks, giving yourself small rewards, and creating the right environment.

Manage your time

Time management may be the secret weapon to succeeding at . . . everything! All it takes is sitting down with a calendar (online or on paper) and your course syllabi, and just mapping out everything you need to do and the time you need to do it: projects, tests, part-time work, homework, parties, doctor appointments. Everything. It takes some work up front, but then you can take a step back and see what kind of time you have/need to complete your homework and study for upcoming tests and quizzes. If you’ve ever felt blindsided by a project, test, or even a social event, you owe it to yourself to give this a try.

Set the mood . . .

. . . with the right study environment! First, choose a designated, dedicated study area. And we mean a specific, unique spot: a different chair, a corner of the rug, even sitting at the foot of your bed as opposed to the head! Your spot may be in your dorm/bedroom or the library, but wherever it is, get in the habit of thinking of the place as sacred ground, where you are a studying machine. Whether you need complete silence or blaring Scandinavian dragon metal playing in the background, or if you prefer to lie on your bed or sit in a corner of the library, develop a study routine that will allow you to focus. Hints: clean, de-cluttered spaces are said to improve productivity, and video game soundtracks are engineered to help you focus. Speaking of focus, turn off your phone! And while you’re at it, limit your access to the Internet—or at least block distracting sites.

Make it a game

Are you the competitive type? Try competing against yourself to see how quickly you can get through your stack of flashcards—without getting anything wrong. See if you can improve your reading speed to get yourself under a certain number of pages in five minutes. Or try joining or starting a study group with friends and take bets on who can get the most right answers on your Calc II homework.

Take breaks

In that hour or two you’ve scheduled for studying (using your brand-new time management skills, of course), make sure you also give yourself adequate breaks. Set a timer—even a short one, like 25 minutes—and commit to working your butt off during that time. When the timer goes off, give yourself a few minutes to relax, drink some water, stretch, etc. Then set another timer and dive back into your studying. During you breaks, you can also . . .

Reward yourself!

Sweet treats and other snacks often come to mind as a “reward,” and that might work for you, but it’s also probably not a great idea to down a bag of potato chips after every 25-minute study session. Rewards can be as simple as allowing yourself to indulge in 15 minutes of completely brainless videos on YouTube. Or you can set goals, like scoring in a certain percentile on your midterm, and then buy yourself something fun when you meet them.

Of course, even after implementing all of these ideas, it’s important to realize and make peace with the fact that studying isn’t always going to be “fun.” By the sheer virtue of the variety of classes you are required to take in high school and college, you will likely prefer some classes to others. If you dislike a certain subject, it can be tough to get your head in the game when studying, but dwelling on how miserable you are is only going to make it worse.

In those instances, try to keep in mind that you’re setting yourself up for future success. Keep everything in perspective—i.e., you’re putting in 40 minutes of serious flashcard time now that pays major dividends in the form of potentially higher test scores, which might mean better school and scholarships available to you, which might mean less stress and more opportunities down the road for a long time to come. Look for the silver lining in your studies, and you just might find you have a greater appreciation for them.

Studying may still not be your idea of “fun,” per se, but by figuring out what methods work best for you, it is possible to make it a little more enjoyable and a lot more effective.

Simple Tips To Breaking Bad Habits from Vegetation to Procrastination

It happens to the best of us: Starting an assignment at the last minute. Sitting on the couch instead of doing something productive. Searching endlessly through a sea of stuff on the bedroom floor. Whatever condition you suffer from—procrastination, vegetation, disorganization—before you head off to college, try to leave your bad habits at home!

Okay, some of this stuff might be heavily ingrained in your brain already. But the transition to college will be a whole lot easier if you make some adjustments to the way you study, sleep, and spend time in general.

Take heed of this cautionary yet all-too-relatable tale of bad study skills, unhealthy habits, and dorm-room dilemmas—plus a few tips on how to turn things around.

A day in the (stressed-out, disorganized) life

Your alarm goes off. After hitting snooze for the fifth time, you finally roll out of bed. You check your phone and scroll through Twitter, Instagram, Yik Yak . . . Oops! You’re supposed to be in class in 10 minutes. You throw on some sweats, grab your bag, and run across campus. When you finally arrive, the professor gives you a dirty look as you interrupt class and sink into your assigned seat.

“College professors maintain consistent standards,” says Linda Moran, Director of the Hillyer College Study Center at the University of Hartford. These standards include being punctual with both start times and deadlines. “High school teachers often make exceptions for students,” she says, but in college, “unless a student has a documented learning disability or a medical note, there aren’t any exceptions.”

The professor continues with his presentation. The first slide is titled “Test Review.” Test? What test? You misplaced your syllabus weeks ago and totally forgot about it.

Paying attention to all of your course schedules can be a challenge, but it’s essential to managing your time effectively. A syllabus “outlines deadlines and the percentage of the grades associated with each assignment,” Moran explains. “When students miss deadlines, they become discouraged.”

And that’s just your first class; you still need to write a five-paragraph essay for another class too.

“Students often leave stressful assignments to the last minute, when it’s no longer possible to clarify a question with the teacher or consult a classmate,” says Robyn Scott, a private English tutor at TutorNerds. “College professors rarely give partial credit, and they can spot poorly completed assignments easily.”

Mapping out your semester with a monthly planner or e-calendar can help you organize important tasks and avoid penalties for absentmindedness. “Most university-level assignments are given with long-range due dates,” says Scott. “When students get an assignment, they should create a timeline where they must complete parts of the assignment each day.”

You need to finish up another project tonight, so you’ll have to save the studying for later. Now tomorrow’s plans have changed from hanging out with your friends to cramming until you know chemistry vocab like the back of your hand.

“Somehow this awful study habit became popular and even encouraged,” Scott says of the common college practice of “cramming.” It drains students both mentally and physically, she explains, and “students who squeeze eight hours of study into one day, the day prior to the exam, will almost always self-sabotage without knowing it.” After writing a test date in your planner, pencil in a few study days as well to avoid last-minute marathon sessions. “Once a work load is broken up into smaller parts, it becomes less overwhelming,” Scott says.

The next day you return from class, sit at your desk, and lay out your study materials. You do this after you check Facebook, Vine, and Tumblr, of course. You turn on the TV for a little background noise. Oh no—a Friends marathon. And this is your favorite season! One episode won’t hurt, right?

Procrastination is not a lost art, and it’s easy to focus on anything but school work when you have social media, smartphones, and other time-sucking entertainment at your fingertips. That’s why it’s helpful to set up shop in a peaceful environment conducive to studying, says Scott, like the library, a campus study center, or another quiet area. She also suggests turning off your phone entirely and temporarily blocking distracting websites with a free productivity app like Self Control. Designated breaks, study buddies, and personal rewards can also help motivate you to finish tedious tasks, i.e., enjoy your favorite show after an hour of studying instead of binge-watching five episodes before you start.

You finally crack open your textbook, but just as you finish skimming chapter one, your roommate walks in. She’s getting ready to go out and proceeds to crank her party playlist, try on every outfit in her closet, and toss the rejects on the floor—including some clothes she borrowed from you. She says she’ll be back later and leaves the room a disaster area.

“Many students today have grown up having their own room and are not used to sharing a space with others,” says Jana Valentine, Director of Residence Life at Providence College. “Most of the time, the other roommate doesn’t even know that their habits are bothering their roommate,” adds Amy Pollock Drake, Assistant Director of Housing at SUNY Binghamton’s Office of Residential Life.

Your version of a clean room, proper bedtime, and other appropriate roommate behavior may differ, but communication and compromise can help keep your relationship harmonious. “It can be intimidating to talk to your roommate directly about what is bothering you, but in most cases the other student is open to making adjustments so that both people feel comfortable in the space,” says Drake.

“Pay attention to both verbal and non-verbal signals from your roommate, and communicate regularly and clearly, not via text or Post-it note,” advises Kelly Beers, Assistant Director of Residence Life at the University of Maine. If you have trouble getting the conversation started, your resident assistant is always there to help.

Hours later, you finally give up and look at the clock. It’s 4:00 a.m.—and you’re not even done yet.

“So many students sabotage sleep at the expense of staying up late to study,” says Karen Jashinsky, founder of youth fitness company O2 MAX Fitness. She recommends getting at least six hours of shut-eye each night. Studies show that skipping just one night of sleep affects the brain similarly to a concussion, while more research finds students who get less sleep also get lower grades.

These bad habits can spoil other aspects of your life as well. “Late-night studying and too little sleep often lead to overeating or craving things that are not so good for you,” she says. In addition, “Students tend to compromise workouts at the expense of studying.”

You’ve been meaning to hit the gym this week, but your bed sounds so much more appealing than a treadmill.

“Even though we hear that exercise is good for stress, it often falls by the wayside when stress and lack of sleep are combined,” Jashinsky says. “Rather than thinking of working out as this huge activity, break it up into five- to 10-minute increments if you are pressed for time and sleep.” Sit-ups, squats, and yoga stretches are quick and easy exercises that can be done in a dorm. “Little things add up, and something is better than nothing.”

Learn More About Guide to Studying By Good Students

As warmer weather approaches, there’s nothing like being shut inside with a textbook to herald impending exams. The flurry of flashcards and barraging begs for extra credit is the stuff nightmares are made of! Although studying may be madness, there is a method to it. Here’s mine:

1. Your page-staring needs repairing

Let this be abundantly clear: if your study method includes staring at a page, it needs to be revamped. No amount of time spent looking into the soul of the word “antimetabole” will help you differentiate it from “anthimeria” on a test. In order to effectively encode information into your memory, you need to interact with the material. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do this both electronically and by hand. Draw a chart, create flashcards with pictures, make acronyms, compose a song, hear the information spoken to you, or pretend you are giving a speech about the information and recite as much as you can from memory. It doesn’t really matter how you absorb the information as long as you are effortfully processing it.

2. Ma’s good old-fashioned recitation

As much as you don’t want to hear this next bit of advice, it really is a lifesaver. For subjects ranging from foreign languages to math to orchestra, repeated practice or rehearsal of information is a great way to nail down difficult or abstract topics. Cognitive psychologists have found that it is much easier to retain information repeated over a long period of time than information that is “brain dumped” in a short period of time (aka cramming). So, while rote memorization is often frowned upon as shallow learning, it is a good method to practice when trying to secure technicalities like spellings, vocabulary meanings, and even musical numbers. Be selective about the types of information you leave to be purely memorized, and try to break down larger topics into manageable pieces. Additionally, if you can, give yourself plenty of time to slowly commit individual pieces to memory.

3. Life-saving resources for the 11th (or 12th) hour

Oh, high school student, why do you still assume that you can teach yourself the entire pre-calculus curriculum in one evening? As much as the real world would retract their sympathy in a hot a2 + b2 = cminute, we masters of the late night know what it’s like to feel wholly unprepared the night before an exam. That’s why we’ve put together a quick last-resort list of resources that can help you absorb a lot of information in a very, very short amount of time. The first, and perhaps best, is Quizlet. By eliminating the need for pens and note cards and cutting work time in half, Quizlet’s online flashcard system is not only very simple to operate, but allows you to auto-define terms and upload pictures. Whether you generate your own flashcard set or search a bank of pre-existing ones, you can then choose to study the information in different modes like speller, matching, or fill-in-the-blank. The site even generates a test for you out of the information you’ve inputted.