Wellness, Lifestyle & Sustainability
Hello everybody! Welcome again to my back to school series. I am very excited today to bring a collab with one of my most admired bloggers: Rachel. Rachel is a creator based in Scotland, who produces YouTube, blog and Instagram content under her alias ‘Emma Blether’. We have previously worked to each other on a few posts, which I will link here. More recently I became the first official customer of her new online business: Emma Blether Prints. I’ll link all of her social medias at the end of the post (so keep reading!)
Today’s collaboration is on a study based topic! I absolutely love sharing tips on how to be more productive. I’ll be sharing how I stay on top of homework, studying and revision. Rachel, on the other hand, will be sharing How To Stay On Top Of Revision. I will link that post here to you can head over and read it!
School is approaching, and may have resumed for you. After 6 long months of online school, it’s definitely a shock to the system to have face to face teaching and… homework. The devil’s word. But homework is a necessary tool to help you improve with your subjects! This post applies to revision too, although revision is definitely organised by the pupil more so than the teacher. Anyway, let’s get into it, shall we?
Start As Soon As It Is Set
As soon as someone sets you a task, get started on it. No, I don’t mean get it all done in one night. If it’s a smaller task, of course go for it. However with bigger tasks and projects the largest obstacle is getting started! As soon as you can, get started. I usually do this by…
Plan, Plan, Plan
Planning! Rather than ‘go with the flow’ I like to outline the key points of discussion before heading into a task (I do this for blog posts too). You might be asked to carry out research on… Piet Mondrian – he was the first person that came to my head. Write out the questions you would like to answer in your research, then get started! But DON’T just simplify a Wikipedia document. Write down a few key points or mini to-do lists you would like to complete in your homework.
I have a sense that last paragraph made no sense. Sorry for confusing you!
I might have rugby club directly after school, which interferes with my ability to get started right away. So in my planner, next to where I’ve written down the homework criteria, I will place a sticky note with my initial ideas. This is especially useful for creative subjects that require brainstorming! Or even with sciences, jot down what textbook you think might be useful to complete the homework.
Writing down your commitments (clubs, lessons, homework etc) in a timetable is a severely overlooked way to manage time! If you had five tasks set on Wednesday, but your Wednesday evening was packed full of work, write down (on your schedule) an allotted time to complete the homework/revision. Is Thursday night free? Do it on Thursday!
Don’t Pile It All On At Once
Procrastination is not ideal. Neither is expecting yourself to complete millions of tasks at a million miles an hour. Use the schedule, as mentioned above, to spread out your work. A spot of revision every day is better than one huge day packed full at the end of the week. Small, but often! That’s my approach with homework. Always make time for family, friends and pursuing your passions. School is really important, but your whole world shouldn’t centre around it. Take breaks.
These pens are completely plastic free, and the ink is soy based (non toxic) so perfect if you’re wanting to make an extra effort this school year for the planet
Many thanks to Rachel for allowing me the chance to collaborate once again! Writing study centred content is actually so enjoyable for me. On top of that, I have a few ideas planned out! Stay tuned for more study content in my back to school series. If you do really like it, I might do it beyond September! Let me know what you think.
I’ll link Rachel’s part of the collab here, along with her Instagram, YouTube and business.
What is your advice for staying on top of homework? Which one of these tips did you find most useful?
Have a great weekend,
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The end of the semester is getting closer and closer, so staying organized with your schoolwork and deadlines is very important. Here are some easy ways to stay caught up instead of having to catch up.
- Plan in advance
Plan out your weekly deadlines in advance. I always use Sunday or Monday to get organized. Seeing those deadlines and crossing them off your list helps you stay motivated and productive.
- Stay productive outside of class and work
Use any down time you may have before, after, or between classes to work on assignments or other projects you may have. I think staying really productive while you are still at school or between classes keeps you from falling behind on assignments.
Use the weekdays as your key workdays so you can actually relax a little on the weekend and don’t have to cram all of your studying and assignments into your Sunday afternoon.
- Find your go-to study spot
Find a place you actually like to study, whether it is at home, the library, or another building on campus. If you like being there, you will probably stay longer and get more work done. I have a place I go three or four times each week and that is where I get a huge portion of my homework completed.
- Use the buddy system
Find a friend to go to the library with or just do homework with in general. You will feel more inclined to go to the library or finish up some difficult assignments when your friend is there doing the same thing. It is also a way to make schoolwork a little more fun, because you are both working on your own projects or homework at the same time.
Middle school is a challenging time for young children. Instead of one teacher, they have many. The academic expectations change. Hormones become part of the equation and their peer groups begin to change. It’s not uncommon for children to misplace their priorities, to focus too heavily on their social life, and to fall behind in school. With a little guidance and some clear expectations, your middle school aged child can more than survive middle school – they can thrive.
1. Help them get organized. Prepare your child for the change of academic responsibilities by talking to them about what they might experience. Guide them to start making decisions on how to organize themselves right from the beginning. Many schools sell planners; talk about the benefits of a planner and how to use it. Let your child choose the best planning tool for their needs.
2. Set time boundaries. It’s also important to talk about homework time, time for extracurricular activities, and time to rest. Work with your child to divide their time in a manner that seems realistic. Children this age often want to be involved in too many extracurricular activities. Help them establish priorities and learn to create boundaries for themselves.
3. Establish expectations. Communication is essential before school begins. It’s important to give them the information that you have and to guide them to make decisions for themselves. They’ll feel more empowered and confident if they have a role in decisions that affect them. However, it’s also important that they know what you expect from them. Are there consequences for a poor grade? Will you track their grades and homework assignments? What if they’re struggling? What should they do? Talking to your child helps them stay more focused, especially when they know that you’re there to support them.
4. Put limits on screen time. Studies have shown that parents who limit screen time have healthier and more well-adjusted children. The American Pediatrics Association recommends just one hour per day outside of school time for elementary-age students and two hours for kids in middle school through high school. That’s 14 hours per week for middle school children. (Screen time includes playing video games, being online, and watching TV. Homework on the computer doesn’t count.)
One way to help your child control their screen time is to give them a weekly limit such as 14 hours. They can use their time any way they see fit just as long as their homework is done. For example, they can watch seven hours of TV on Saturday and one each of the other days. They’re in control but you’ve set limits.
Finally, if you’ve established consequences for homework and grades, follow through on them. If you tell your child that they cannot get below a C or they’ll be grounded and they get a D, then it’s imperative that you follow through on the grounding. Firm and realistic consequences will help support your child to succeed.
Fortunately, there are apps that can help.
Here are the 12 best apps for your schedule, studying, money, and social life needs:
iStudiez Pro is the ultimate class and homework planner.
If you’re the planning type, you won’t be able to live without iStudiez Pro.
The app manages your class schedule, teacher contacts, and upcoming assignments/tests. It’s a school-specific calendar app and todo list beautifully rolled into one.
Price: $2.99 on iOS, $9.99 on Mac
Available on: iOS, Mac
Documents is the ultimate app for accessing all of your files and annotating PDFs.
It can be confusing to keep track of where certain files are, especially if you use multiple services like Dropbox and Google Drive.
Documents works with all of them (including Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft’s OneDrive, and Box) to show you all of your stuff in one place. You can edit Microsoft documents, annotate PDFs, browse photos, and read e-books in one app.
Available on: iOS
Wunderlist will help you stay on top of what you need to get done.
There are plenty of to-do apps out there, but Wunderlist is the best for most people. It has a good mix of features for everyone, including the ability to make multiple lists, collaborate with other Wunderlist users on different projects, and create reminders.
Scanner Pro will help you go paperless.
Part of being a student is having to deal with lots of papers.
Scanner Pro will help you easily scan any paper or receipt with your iPhone’s camera and save it as a PDF. From there you can save files to cloud storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive. The app can also find existing documents and receipts you’ve photographed already and turn them into editable PDFs.
Other free apps will scan documents for you, but Scanner Pro’s ability to produce a clean PDF with little effort is unparalleled.
Available on: iOS
RefMe will put together your citations and bibliographies for you.
This nifty app uses your phone’s camera to scan a book’s barcode and create a citation formatted in MLA, Chicago, or whatever format your school uses.
Available on: iOS, Android
Duolingo will help you learn another language.
This app is nothing like a boring Spanish class. It turns learning languages into a game. Use it to brush up on your Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, or English.
The best part? It’s totally free.
Available on: iOS, Android
Tinycards is a handy flashcard app that helps you memorize things quickly.
The makers of Duolingo have another flashcard app called Tinycards.
Like Duolingo, it learns from you as you progress through a deck and shuffles information around to help you memorize efficiently. It comes with hundreds of pre-made subject decks to study with too.
iTunes U is a great resource for free lectures and coursework from many of the top schools.
Apple bills iTunes U as a digital homework system for classrooms, but it’s a great app to have even if you’re teachers don’t use it to distribute their lectures and homework.
That’s because it gives you free access to courses from some of the best schools in the world, like Statistics 101 from Harvard or Stanford’s course on how to code iOS apps.
Available on: iOS
Venmo makes it quick and easy to pay your friends back without cash.
If you’re a student and not already using Venmo, chances are you’ve at least heard about the app.
By logging into your bank account, Venmo allows you to quickly send anyone money without cash. People love adding fun emojis to transactions and watching what other people are paying each other for in the app’s social feed.
Available on: iOS, Android
Wolfram Alpha is like a turbo charged Google search engine.
Need help with trigonometry? Wondering what the unemployment rate is in a given city? Wolfram Alpha has you covered.
The search engine’s free app is an invaluable resource for all kinds of queries. Give it a try.
Available on: iOS, Android
Google Inbox turns your email inbox into a helpful to-do list.
Google’s experimental Inbox app for Gmail turns your emails into a todo list that’s intelligently sorted by category. It seamlessly integrates with Google’s other services, like Google Calendar and Google Drive, to help you be more productive.
Available on: iOS, Android
Find restaurants and other new places to go with Foursquare.
Foursquare is great at suggesting restaurants, bars, cafes, and other places on your tastes. If you’re looking for a place to do homework off campus, you can search for “coffee shops with free WiFi.”
Its vast collection user-created tips will ensure that you know the best thing to order too.
Available on: iOS, Android
It’s easy to become overwhelmed with assignments and projects with your college classes. Having a well-organized strategy to guide your studying with help you focus and complete your homework efficiently.
Many students have full-time jobs and families, leaving little time for homework. If your lifestyle falls into this category, having a plan will be critical to your college success. Follow the tips below to learn how to optimize the time you have.
1. Have a Clear Plan
Make yourself a to-do list or an outline to follow so your study session has specific goals. Attempting to complete homework without any structure will lead to your mind wandering off-task.
Prioritize Your Homework
Do you have any assignments with pressing due dates? Is there a large project you could begin making progress with? Sometimes classes have daily tasks that must be completed. Here are a few helpful tips when prioritizing your homework strategy:
Alternate easy and difficult assignments
Easy assignments give a quick sense of accomplishment. Work on difficult tasks when you have the most energy and motivation.
Complete assignments with the most immediate due dates first.
“Chunk” large assignments into smaller, more manageable tasks
2. Eliminate Distractions
Distractions will come. We’re surrounded by electronic devices that are constantly lighting up and buzzing with notifications that grab your attention. Learn how to drown out all of the distractions so you can focus.
Eliminate as many distractions as possible. According to research done by Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab, it can take up to 25 minutes to regain full focus after you’ve been distracted. That quick question a friend texted you or social media notifications are examples of distractions that will quickly derail your focus, making it difficult for your study session to be productive.
These are a few examples of common distractions that will keep you from focusing on your work:
- Sounds—ambient or otherwise
- People around you
- A messy room
- Electronic devices
- Extracurricular activities and hobbies
- Social activities
- Work and family responsibilities
Identify what there is in your life that distracts you most and do whatever it takes to eliminate those distractions. Here are some suggestions of solutions for your distractions:
- Study in your bedroom rather than a bustling living room
- Turn your phone off
- Turn off notifications on your laptop
- Some students find using noise-cancelling headphones very effective in helping them focus
- Turn on white noise, New Age music, or other ambient sounds
- Schedule your study time and don’t allow other activities to interfere. And stick to it!
3. Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking is a great way to tackle all the work you need to complete for your classes, right? Wrong. Individuals can most effectively process information from short-term to long-term memory when they are focusing on only one thing at a time. Prioritize your tasks and take your assignments one at a time.
Humans cannot, in fact, focus on tasks simultaneously. We simply move from tasks quickly. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT, points out that the brain has to switch back and forth between tasks because each task will use similar parts of the brain, and that conflict causes interference. Because of this interference, we have to choose tasks. This process of choosing conflicting tasks is called “executive function.”
Trying to multitask is hurting college students. A research study by the University of Connecticut has shown that it takes college students longer to complete homework when they try to multitask, and their grades are usually lower.
Multitasking is physically impossible. Don’t try to listen to an audiobook while working on a statistics assignment and keep up a text conversation with a friend. You’re only hindering the efficacy of your study time.
4. Take a Break
Considering how long it can take to get back on task, the thought of taking breaks for better focus and productivity seems counter-intuitive. Have you ever gotten to the point where you feel like your brain is “fuzzy”? You just can’t seem to focus anymore, and you aren’t understanding the assignment?
A study led by Alejandro Lleras, a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, showed that after focusing on a task for a long period of time (like doing homework), the brain loses its ability to maintain attention. Your performance actually declines. Taking periodic breaks will improve the quality of your study time, improving your comprehension.
Take a 10-minute break for every 45 to 60 minutes of studying. Stick to your time limits (setting a timer if necessary) to keep you on task.
At CollegeAmerica, our instructors understand the importance of prioritizing time and setting goals as a part of the academic process. Don’t hesitate to ask them for guidance with your studies. Use these tips to put together a homework strategy that works for you—and stick to it!
Making the most out of the time you have available for homework will set you up for success in your college classes. Contact us today to learn more about our degree programs. We look forward to helping you improve your future!
Stay on top of a heavy reading load
- M.Ed., Higher Education Administration, Harvard University
- B.A., English and Comparative Literary Studies, Occidental College
The level of out-of-class reading required in college can be pretty intense. If you’re new to college, your reading load is likely significantly higher than what you experienced in high school; if you’re a senior in college, the level seems to go up each year. Regardless of your specific situation, knowing how to keep up with college reading can be a serious challenge.
Fortunately, there’s no one right way to stay on track with your reading. A manageable solution comes from finding something that works for your own learning style—and realizing that being flexible is part of any long-term solution.
Determine How to Make Progress
Completing your assigned reading is more than just scanning your eyes across the page; it’s understanding and thinking about the material. For some students, this is best accomplished in short bursts, whereas others learn best by reading for longer periods of time. Think about and even experiment with what works best for you. Do you:
- Retain more by reading in 20-minute periods?
- Learn better by spending an hour or two really diving into the reading and not doing anything else?
- Need to have background music on, be in a loud cafe, or have the quiet of the library?
Each student has her own way of doing homework effectively; figure out which way is best for you.
Schedule Reading Time
Most students are great at scheduling things like club meetings, football games, classes, and other activities. Additional tasks, like homework and laundry, often just get done whenever possible. This kind of loose scheduling with reading and assignments, however, can lead to procrastination and last-minute cramming.
To avoid this problem, write down—and make sure you keep—time in your schedule to do your reading each week. If you can make an appointment to attend a club meeting, you can certainly schedule a regular block of time to complete your reading assignments
Some students take notes, others highlight, while a few make flashcards. Doing your reading involves more than just getting from page one to page 36; it requires understanding what you’re reading and, possibly, having to use that knowledge later, such as during an exam or in a paper.
To prevent yourself from having to reread later, be effective during your first read-through. It’s much easier to go back through your notes and highlights for pages 1–36 than it is to completely reread all 36 pages before your midterm.
Know That You Can’t Do Everything
It’s a harsh reality—and great time-management skill—to realize that doing 100 percent of your reading 100 percent of the time is nearly (if not actually) impossible in college. Learn what you can get done and prioritize. Can you:
- Work with other students to break up the reading, and then discuss it in a group later?
- Let something go in a class you’re acing and focus on a course where you’re struggling?
- Skim material for one course, allowing yourself to read materials for another with more time and attention?
Sometimes, you just can’t complete all of your college reading, regardless of how hard you try or how good your intentions are. And as long as this is the exception and not the rule, learning how to be flexible and adjust to what you can realistically accomplish will help you bee more effective and productive with the time you have to complete your reading assignments.
Learning to stay on top of homework in college is often a challenge, even for conscientious students. You no longer have mom or dad looking over your shoulder, checking to make sure your assignments are completed on time. Your schedule is often erratic and unstructured, without the comforting daily routine you had in high school. And your professors are too busy teaching thousands of other students to care if you complete the coursework. It’s entirely up to you to keep your head above water. But how?
Set Aside Regular Study Time
Once you hit college, say goodbye to a “normal” school schedule. You might have an 8AM lecture and be done by lunchtime on Monday, not start until 3PM (and finish after dark) on Tuesday, and have no classes at all on Wednesday. And then, of course, you want to make room for the rest of college life – work, campus events, clubs, fraternities, sports, and social activities. It can be hard to fit in a consistent block of time for homework – and if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself rushing to complete assignments late at night or early the next morning before school. You may not be able to study at the same time every day, but you can set up a weekly schedule that allows you to study at the same time each day of the week. So for example, you might block off an hour right after lunch on Mondays, an hour first thing in the morning on Tuesdays, and a longer study session on your free Wednesdays. A disciplined homework routine will keep you from accidentally forgetting an assignment or missing a deadline – just make sure you buy a good calendar or planner so you can keep track of everything!
Think About Your Study Environment
Living on your own in a dorm or apartment for the first time is very exciting – but it’s not particularly conducive to developing good study habits. There’s just too much commotion, too much noise, and too many distractions. You answer the phone or a friend drops by, you decide to put in a load of laundry or watch a little TV – and suddenly the whole day is gone before you know it, and you haven’t gotten any homework done. That’s why universities set up rows of study carrels in the library – so kids can have a reliable place to focus on their schoolwork. If you don’t like the library, choose a study area in another building – any spot that is quiet, comfortable, well lit, and away from the hustle and bustle. Set up a portable “study kit”. This might consist of a hanging file box or expanding file like the Smead TUFF™ Expanding Wallets™ that contains all of your supplies and school papers. Then settle in for an uninterrupted hour of work each day. You’ll find that you get your assignments done twice as fast as you would in the middle of all that “dorm chaos,” and then you’ll have plenty of free time to hang out with your friends.
Making Choices And Setting Boundaries
In college, your schedule becomes your own for the first time in your life. You will discover very quickly that you simply don’t have time for everything – and that’s when you learn to prioritize. Keep your calendar with you at all times and write down EVERY important upcoming to-do that you can think of – football games, dentist appointments, work shifts, classes, study sessions, club meetings, project due dates, social activities, you name it. Then you will be able to pinpoint scheduling conflicts and make a decision about which activity is more important. When faced with a choice between writing a paper and attending a party, it’s easy to say, “I’ll do it later” – but that only works if you pick a specific time and schedule it into your calendar! Just remember why you’re at school in the first place – for an education. And if the fun stuff is getting in the way of studying, you might need to make a few adjustments in your schedule.
We’ve talked about the transition from high school to college before – but perhaps the biggest difference you will find as a new college student is the change in academic schedule structure. This new college structure requires a lot more self-discipline and initiative.
In high school, many of your classes are arranged for you, where in college you arrange your own schedule and consult with your adviser. And, while you’ll spend fewer hours in class during college,the amount of work you will have to do outside of class is much greater. This is where a lot of students struggle, as the responsibility to make time for this work outside of class is, often for the first time, entirely on you as the student.
Joyce Draper, Independent Educational Consultant and founder of Draper College Consulting , said preparing high school students for this shift is important.
“When I meet with families, I like to have a college readiness conversation with them because I actually think that’s one of the most important parts of this whole process. When we sit down and think about getting into college, yes that’s important, but we want to be able to stay there and when we’re there, we want to be successful. So I spend a lot of time talking about college readiness and what that needs to look like in a high school student, and what kind of skill sets they need to have to be successful in college,” said Draper.
These skill sets include a good system for taking notes, organization skills, competency with essay writing, and structured study techniques for tests and exams.
“That basic understanding is key. It’s just a very different responsibility in college that you have on yourself,” said Draper.
Draper advised that students plan on spending three hours studying and doing homework for a class for every hour spent in class. Most professors give students a syllabus at the beginning of the class that provides major due dates. While some assignments may be smaller and can be done in a fairly short amount of time, students need to have a more planned out system for big-picture deadlines, such as a long essay or research paper, or an important exam.
“Whether they do this in a planner or their phone or an app, they absolutely need to be able to break down those huge papers. They have to monitor themselves and create [their own] deadlines. For example, if you’re writing a 25-page paper and it’s due in two months, every week you need to plan out a deadline as to what’s going to be due for that paper so it all comes together and you’re not working on it in the last moment,” said Draper.
It is also a good idea to plan to finish a big assignment like this a few days before it’s due so that you can, in this case, take it to the writing center and be able to re-edit after taking a step back from your work. Breaking down these deadlines will allow you to stay on top of your work and not have a 25-page paper feel so daunting.
“The reason we stress is because it seems like there is so much to do and so little time to do it. I create infamous spreadsheets with my students that list out all of the needed application materials and their due dates. We then agree upon how we are going to proceed, how often we are going to meet, and which one we are going to tackle first–usually based on the deadlines,” said Jessie Pilewski, Career Coach at Earlham College .
Draper compared these big assignments to the college application process, which may be the first time a student has encountered a series of deadlines for a final outcome.
“When we spend all that time looking at all the components of a college application process, that’s how we have to break down a large paper or a big exam,” said Draper.
But, you will have to hold yourself accountable for these deadlines and the work associated with them, as no one in college will be telling you, for example, to put down your cell phone and get to work.
“There’s no one monitoring you but yourself. The most important thing, I think, in college is establishing a routine and when the best time is to study for you,” said Draper.
Distinguish a consistent time that works for you based on when you’re most alert and what your schedule allows for. Whether you prefer to study in the mornings, afternoons, or evenings, establishing a routine for this will help you stay on top of your work.
Part of this routine may also be establishing a study space. While many students utilize the campus library, you may want to study in a different space on campus, a coffee shop, or your living room. Wherever you feel you can be productive can make for a great routine study space.
While you will have to take the initiative to actually do the work and utilize resources, one way to help you ease into this accountability is to find someone to help hold you accountable.
“Find a person on campus who can be ‘your person.’ Make sure that they fully understand your goals and the steps you need to take to get to the next step. This can be a professor, mentor, or even a friend,” said Pilewski.
The college or university may also provide resources and groups to help students with academic and career-focused work.
“Last fall we started the Graduate School Accountability Group, and this spring we have a Job Hunters Group for seniors. Both are informal weekly meetings, with snacks provided, where students come and work on whatever part of the process they are on. A career coach is present to help facilitate and answer questions,” said Pilewski.
Pilewski said she also has students schedule “work hour” appointments, where they can work through a major task or assignment with her and other students. Your career coach, academic advisor, or professors may provide similar opportunities.
Establishing a system and routine for studying, along with scheduling your deadlines, will help you stay on top of your work and be academically successful in college. Everyone goes through a learning curve between high school and college, so make sure you take advantage of campus resources to help you make this transition.