Finding the best way to study that works for you in college is hard. I’m a first semester junior at the time of publishing this post and it took me about a year into my college experience to find what truly worked for me. And if I’m being honest, I continue to find study methods that work best for me as I continue on my journey through college. In fact, it’s become a joke between a few friends of mine that we will finally know the perfect way to study for us our last semester senior year right before our graduation. Because that’s how everything seems to work, right? But in all seriousness, studying is hard. I think with two years of college under my belt now I have some tips that hopefully you can find useful and that can be added to your study routine as well.

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Read the chapters before class

There is a reason your professor put those readings on the syllabus, typically the lecture will also cover the topics or the professor will add on their own thoughts to the text. Either way, it’s important that you have these readings done before you enter the class room. That way, the topic is already fresh in your mind and you will have an idea as to what the professor is talking about. The class that reading the text was most helpful to me was in my business law class. The professor had written the book and was very adamant that while a case could go either way, in his class there were right answers to how the cases should end. Going in to the lecture prepared and knowing what he expected from reading the text beforehand helped me so much in getting through the class successfully.

Make a list of questions before class

In addition to reading the chapters before class, I also think it’s important to make a list of questions before you go to class. Doing this gets you thinking about the topic before class and makes you more engaged during the class. The best class that I’ve done this for was my accounting class. There were several times while reading the text before class I didn’t understand the differences between several terms or formulas and by writing our questions about the topics before class I caught the information in the lecture and understood it. This is hands down one of the best things I’ve implemented into my study routine in college. I highly recommend if you take anything away from this post, let it be this tip. Now I even go into tutoring and study groups with a list of questions because it has helped me so much.

Go to study groups and study sessions

After my high school experience in a study group where classmates just wanted my notes because they knew they were good and I got nothing out of it, I went into college with a sour taste in my mouth about pursuing study groups. I actually never went to one my freshman year and now I completely regret that. I’ve had a much better experience in study groups in college. In fact, study groups is where I learned to write out questions before class. Now, my planner is filled with dates to go to different study groups. Working with people that are hard-working but have a different mindset than me has benefitted me in more ways than I can list. While those that have to help me learn different math concepts might not like helping me through a math problem (math is the hardest subject for me) I always seem to make it up to them by trading off notes for a different class with them.

Go to office hours

Talking to your professor or TA face to face is extremely beneficial. In fact, I highly recommend taking  the time the first week of classes to go to office hours and introduce yourself to your professors. If you continue to go through the semester and regularly go to office hours, your professors will be a huge help for you. When I ended up with mono fall of my sophomore year, I had already developed relationships with my professors. When I went to them to say that I was sick, but was still going to work my hardest to get through my classes, many of them granted me the ability to turn in work late if I let them know. In fact, the professor who is known for being one of the toughest professors in his department noticed that I was still at every class and granted me to opportunity to switch up due dates if I needed to (I literally looked like walking death for 6 weeks. It wasn’t pretty).

Write things out again if you don’t understand them using computer paper or a dry-erase board

If I ever struggle with understanding a concept I always pull out a piece of computer paper or my dry erase board and write it over and over again. Repetition is huge for me and grasping concepts. Whether it is a math problem I can’t master or a definition I can’t seem to get right, writing it over and over again seems to really help it stick in my mind.

Rewrite class notes by hand

I’ve always had a 5 subject notebook to take all of my class notes in and separate one subject note books for each class to rewrite my class notes in. As I said above, repetition is huge for me. I always highly recommend that you rewrite notes by hand rather than on your computer. Studies actually say that hand writing something is just as effective as reading it seven times.

Share notes with friends

If you happen to know someone who is good at taking notes like you are, ask them if they would be willing to swap notebooks with you so that you can gain information from each other. Sometimes other people will catch concepts from a lecture that you might have completely missed or just a simple definition that you missed because you were writing something else down. It’s always good to have someone to rely on that you can match you notes to and even if your notes are basically the same, at least you have a sense of peace that you caught all of the important concepts from the lectures.

Use your professor’s online resources

The number of people that don’t look through Blackboard to find resources from the professors completely amazes me. Many professors will post lecture notes, Power Point slides, study guides, and even practice tests from previous semesters to help you study. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to use these benefits and use them to your best benefit. Sometimes I’ve found that the professor pulls a question or two from the notes and practice tests posted online and seeing the test format beforehand definitely helps to ease any test anxiety you might have.

Create your own study hours

If you aren’t a morning person, don’t say you will study from 6:30-9:30am and if you aren’t a night person, don’t say you will study from 10pm-midnight, but find study times that will work for you when you are in your best element. For example, I always have class until noon or 1pm and after that I have the majority of my afternoon free until I go to work or organization meetings in the evening. To get my mind off of school I always work out after my last class of the day gets out then I dive into homework and studying for the day. I’ve found that I work the best in late afternoon on school stuff so that way I have my evenings for organizations, friends, and blogging. It’s the perfect balance for me and now it’s all about finding the perfect balance for you!

Now that I’ve shared my best intense study tips, I’d love you know what your best study tips are in the comments below.

Confession: I might be a slight creeper when it comes to the contents of people’s purses and backpacks. I’m always curious as to what their essentials are and what they carry with them so that I can justify my Mary Poppins everything bag to myself. In back to school season fashion, I thought it might be fun to share with you what’s in my college backpack.

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My Backpack

As a college student I highly recommend a North Face backpack. There is a reason they are a trend of sorts amongst college students. Not only do they have padded straps to help protect your back from the weight of your text books, they are also water-proof. If you have any experience in college, you know just how important it is that your backpack be water proof. From trecking to class in the pouring rain to setting your backpack on the floor in the lecture hall where the floors are wet, you need to know what your things are protected.

What’s Inside

My Planner

It wouldn’t be a post on my blog if I didn’t mention my planner. I’m not kidding when I say my planner is what keeps my life together. It contains all due dates, class times, organization meetings, and more. Having it in my backpack when I go to class is perfect because if a professor announces a quiz date I can always quickly pencil it in so that I remember. If you buy anything mentioned in this post, buy a planner. Please. You can also check out a more in-depth post about how I organize my planner here.

Pilot G-2 Pens

Hands down my favorite pens for notetaking are the Pilot G-2 pens. Personally, I never have any issues with them dying on me and I love how they write. I might be a crazy person for thinking that certain pens make my handwriting look better, but I promise these make my chicken scratch class notes look legible. And they come in all kinds of different colors which means I can rotate colors while rewriting notes or taking book notes to my heart’s desire. It’s the little things that keep you motivated in college, colored pens is one of them.

Notebook

I buy a 5 subject notebook to take my class notes in and then rewrite them into a separate notebook for each class later on. Only carrying one notebook at a time instead of five saves space in my backpack and doesn’t kill my back. It’s a win win.

Water bottle

You will never see me on campus without some form of water bottle. If I’m desperate some days I even use a thermos for my water simply because I’m behind on doing the dishes. Water keeps me going throughout the day and I can honestly tell when I haven’t had my normal water intake for the day.

Umbrella

If you’ve been following me for a while you might remember when I mentioned going through several umbrellas my freshman year (you can check out that post here). I can’t stress it enough to actually go out and spend a little extra money to buy a good umbrella. I never would have guessed the number of times I’d reach for one during my college career. My umbrella is in my backpack at all times and thankfully, the umbrella I currently have is over a year old.

Calculator

Being a business major I probably should have labeled this section with calculators considering the fact that I have 3 different kinds of calculators in my backpack because classes require different ones. My calculators are always in my backpack just in case I need to run into tutoring or decide to meet up with friends to do homework and study on campus. Plus, I think it’s helpfully to use my calculator during class so that I can make sure I’m properly inputting everything.

Back-up pencils and pens

Back-up pencils and pens aren’t to be used regularly during class. These pens and pencils are to go into your backpack that you forget about until you realize you ran out of led or forgot your pencil pouch at home before a test. No matter how organized and put together you are, sometimes you forget things or don’t realize just how low on led your pencils are. Personally, I forgot my pencil pouch at home before a math test and was super thankful that I keep back-ups in the front pouch of my backpack.

School folder

While I keep a folder for each class, I also have my school folder. In this folder I have all syllabi, office hour schedules, my due dates calendar, and any assignments that need to turn in that day. That way everything that I need is in one place. And yes, I did take inspiration from the elementary school homework folder. Some systems you have in life are meant to stay around for a while, just like the homework file.

That’s what is in my backpack, but now I’m curious. What’s in your backpack? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

 

Just like my semester goals posts are a tradition for me, my day in the life posts are a tradition as well. And while these posts aren’t the ones bringing in all of the views on my blog, I write them for myself. In a few years I will be able to look back on posts about how I spent my time throughout college while school was in and out of session. And that’s something that I’m very much so looking forward to being able to do.
But before we get started, let me just say that every day is not the same for me. I’m involved in several organizations, go to professional development courses, blog, work out, do school work, go to class, and work within the business school to better myself professionally. No day is ever the same for me, but I do have a routine that I always seem to stick to because without it I’d be lost without it. Just read this knowing that not every day looks like this. At all. Some days I’m focused on school work, other days I’m doing blogging tasks, and some days all I seem to have are organization meetings. Welcome to the crazy, hectic life of a twenty something. Enjoy friends.

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6:15am- Call me old school, but I wake up every morning to an alarm clock rather than my phone clock. Otherwise, I would not get up and moving. I immediately make my bed as soon as I get up. If I don’t have plans to hit the gym on campus later in the day, I head to the gym at my apartment complex. If I have plans to go to the gym later in the day I take this time to work on some school work. Crazy I know, but I work best in the morning. On this particular day I headed to the gym at my apartment complex. And pro-tip: if you have trouble finding motivation to hit the gym in the morning, sleep in your gym clothes. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
7:00am- After the gym I head back to my apartment and get ready. I turn on my coffee machine as soon as I walk in the door, hop in the shower to wash my hair and body, and make a hot cup of coffee. Then I do my make-up, hair, and get dressed for the day.
8:15am- Breakfast time. Lately I’ve been in a strawberry yogurt and granola mode, which means I’ll probably be eating this for breakfast for the next year. During this time I also pull out my planner and go over my schedule and to-do list for the day.
8:30am- Blogging tasks for the day. If I had a post go up, I double check to make sure everything looks good. I’ll also post on Instagram for the day and reply to e-mails. My Facebook and Twitter posts are typically either scheduled on Sunday or Wednesday night, but I always scroll through at least Twitter to stay caught up with everything.
9am- Since I don’t have class until 11, I work on reading and copying over notes for classes during this time.
10:20am- Pack up my stuff and head outside to stand at the shuttle stop to get to campus for my 11 am class. My apartment complex actually has a shuttle that takes us from the complex to campus and just runs that loop all day. It’s super convenient.
11am- Time for an afternoon of classes!
1:45pm- Out of class for the day and honestly probably eating the rest of the snacks I have packed for the day. After class I head over to the leadership office for my office hours.
2pm- I’m an ambassador for the leadership office on campus so I hold my office hours after class. During this time I answer students’ questions about being involved in leadership organizations on campus and even coordinate talking to larger groups about getting involved. I love the staff at the office and am always so glad that I decided to interview for this opportunity.
3pm- After I’ve finished with office hours I head over to the gym for cycle class. Typically I don’t go to the gym twice in one day, but my best friend is a cycling instructor and ending up subbing for the 3:30 cycle class this day. I couldn’t tell her no, so I ran over to get changed to join the class.
3:30pm- Cycling class time! Cycling is one of my absolute favorite classes to take and always have been. Since gyms off campus have stopped offering them I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I have to enter the real world.
4:30pm- Finished with cycling and freshening myself up before a few hours of homework.
5pm- Settled into my favorite spot in the Student Center with some dinner to get some school work done. I met up with several friends to get some motivation to get work done.
7pm- Pack up my belongings and say good bye to my friends so I can head to my 7:30 organization meeting. I absolutely love the organizations I’ve found and have been able to be a part of.
9pm- The meeting ran a little late tonight, but I’m finally able to catch the shuttle to head home.
9:30pm- Begin my night time routine of showering, washing my face, using my moisturizers, blow drying my hair, and brushing my teeth.
10:15pm- I crawl into bed and grab my laptop to work on blog stuff. I make sure that the next post I have scheduled is good to go and schedule posts for Twitter as needed. If I have any posts planned to write (or have the energy for that matter) I work on either writing a post or editing pictures for a post.
10:30 or 11pm- Depending on what I had to write for my blog, I head to bed!

I’d love to hear about a day in your life. What time do you typically wake up and go to bed? When are you most productive? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

My sophomore year of college was a defining year to say the least. I made it through mono, got accepted into the business school, got my first rejection letter from an organization I interviewed for, dropped my sorority, had a new job, watched several of my friends graduate, and defined more about what I want to do after college. While none of these things are a big deal, a lot of emotion came with some of them and sometimes I wished maybe there was someone there to prep me for some of this stuff. While no one’s sophomore year will be exactly the same as mine (I wouldn’t wish mono on my worst enemy) I hope maybe some of these tips resonate with you guys whether you are going into your sophomore year or not.

17 Things I Learned my Sophomore Year of College

Decide what is best for you and do it

The summer before my sophomore year I made the decision to drop my sorority. I had absolutely nothing against the girls or anything against the sorority really, it just simply wasn’t for me. I couldn’t picture myself living in a room with 5 other girls, participating in weekly chapter meetings through my senior year, learning chants for formal rush, and being asked to give so much of my time when I wanted to put my time to other use. My one year in sorority was great, but simply wasn’t something that I wanted to continue in. I had to do what was best for me and ended up dropping the summer before my sophomore year. I still see the girls from my chapter all over campus and love catching up with them. They have been super supportive of my decision and have all enjoyed hearing about my involvement in other things on campus as well.

It’s never too late to join new organization or committees

A senior in college told me at the beginning of my sophomore year that it’s never too late to pursue a new committee or organization. Sometimes opportunities come up to be a liaison for the Women’s Leadership Conference or a new organization is starting up and gives you the opportunity to be a leader. It doesn’t matter if you are entering your sophomore year, you can still find new organizations to join. Not everything has to be figured out during your freshman year.

Make time for your friends, even if it gets in the way of school work sometimes

Second semester I ended up with a job that was semi demanding. I worked most evenings and weekends and even had to do on-call shifts. If I wasn’t working then typically I was working on school work to get caught back up and I definitely let several friendships go to the backburner. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would realize that sometimes nourishing your friendships comes before school work. There are several friends that I will be apologizing to and that I need to make amends with after being a horrible friend this last semester.

Things don’t always go as planned

My senior year of high school I had it all planned out. I was going to rush a sorority and be super involved in it until graduation, live in the dorms freshman year, live in the sorority house my second year, RA the third year, and live on my own the last year. So far the only things that have gone as planned are living in the dorms and living on my own. And I’m okay with that. In college I’ve discovered organizations and things to be involved in that weren’t even on my radar my senior year of high school. I wouldn’t change the direction my college experience has gone for a thing.

Start networking. Now.

It was easy for me to get into the mindset that I was a sophomore and still technically had 3 years to network. Little did I know, getting on multiple company’s radars as soon as possible is only in your benefit. You don’t want to find your way to the business fair your second semester of senior year only to realize you don’t know how to sell yourself to a potential employer. Go to the job fair now so that you learn from your mistakes before you are in a crunch to find a job. While making mistakes might be something you give yourself a hard time about, you at least know what to improve on for next time.

Just keep trying and working

Saying that the math and economics classes that my marketing major requires has killed me is an understatement. I’ve never had to work so hard in a class to barely be able to scrape by with a B or B+. I’ve failed tests, I’ve completely aced tests, I’ve miserably failed tests, but I still managed to keep my head up. I knew that I just had to keep trying and keep working because the end of the class was in sight. If you are anything like me, it gets to the point where you are counting down the weeks and days until you are finally done with stats.

Learn to budget and how to stick to it

The number of people that have told me they just kind of wing their budget make me cringe. You realize that the tall caramel macchiato everyday adds up to over $140 a month right? While if you’ve personally budgeted for that it’s completely fine, but if that comes as a surprise to you maybe it’s time to track your spending a little more closely. You can definitely still budget for fun things like Starbucks and Noodles, but do it knowing you can still pay for your rent, utilities, and gas for your car.

You can’t do everything

At my university there are over 700 organizations to choose from. 700. It’s not uncommon to run into people who think that they can juggle seven very demanding organizations at once. While it might be something some people can manage, it can wear down even the most Type-A people out there. Know that you need to have time for yourself and time for your friends. While there will be busy times in life (hello 3 tests in one day), at least have a schedule that will allow for a little down time after the busy has subsided.

Don’t do something just to add it to your resume

This kind of feeds off of the point above, but you should never join something just because it could potentially look good on your resume in the future. If it’s an organization that you love and have passion for, absolutely go for it and do it. But if you are dragging your feet to go to organization meetings and find yourself making tomorrow’s to-do list during the Monday night meeting, it might be something you need to drop. It simply isn’t worth sticking with things if you aren’t enjoying it.

Buy the Nemo and Dory pencil case

It doesn’t even have to be Nemo and Dory and it doesn’t even need to be a pencil case. Maybe it’s a lunchbox, a pencil pack, or even a backpack. Whatever it is, even if it has characters, buy it. I felt like a kid in a candy store when my mom took me to Target to buy school supplies and I spotted the Nemo and Dory pencil pouches. I honestly walked out with both pouches and at the time of writing this I am almost 21 years old. It’s the last time in life that we can have fun school supplies because I can almost guarantee that (sadly) Nemo won’t be office appropriate.

Start building your professional wardrobe

Maybe I’m the only person who has been watching how business women dress since the age of 5, but I excitedly jumped into the opportunity of buying professional pieces when the occasion came up. I’ve bought my 3 piece suit, I have three different colors of pants, I have another fun jacket, I’ve bought several blouses, I have a few button ups, I have some nice pencil skirts, and I’ve bought a few basic shells to wear under a blazer. Don’t even get me started on the shoes that I’ve purchased to go with my clothes. While there is much more expanding that I can do, as a college student I have myself set at the moment.

A rejection letter isn’t the end of the world

In the fall I interviewed to join a business fraternity. I was sure that I was a shoe-in so I only interviewed for one fraternity. I definitely messed up with that decision and got a rejection letter a few days after my interview. I had never really gotten a true rejection letter before that unless you count the retail stores that never called me since I was too young to work at them freshman year of high school. The letter got to me and I ended up not even interviewing for it my second semester. I completely regret that and plan to interview for several business fraternities my first semester of junior year.

Introduce yourself to your core professors

I go to a fairly large university and by fairly large I mean it’s not uncommon to have multiple 500 person lecture classes. In classes that large, it’s pretty hard for your professor to know you by name. Once you’ve been accepted into your program and finally get to take more classes geared towards your major you will notice that you have several of the same professors over and over again. This is your chance to introduce yourself so that you have someone to go to should anything come up. Say you need a recommendation from a professor. Who will you go to if none of your professors know who you are?

It’s okay to change your major

Towards the beginning of my sophomore year I listened as one of my friends told me that she felt she had chosen the completely wrong major for herself. She felt stuck and like there was no going back since she had already made it a year in. In all honesty, she wasn’t stuck. There was plenty of opportunity for her to be able to go back and rethink what she wanted to do, especially with a year of experience under her belt. Personally, I think it might have been the perfect time for her to make that decision considering she had been able to spend a whole year at college and experience different classes and figure out what she wanted to do.

Going out doesn’t have to define you, but still go out and have fun

This point on the post might highlight the fact that I go to a major party school, but just work with me here. A lot of people only see you as a “dedicated party person” when they see you out at the bars Monday-Thursday with Friday-Saturday nights just being considered “regular”. Personally, I have way too much going on to be able to go out on a true school night, but I do look forward to going out on Friday and Saturday nights since I will finally be 21 at the beginning of my junior year.

Use a planner

During my second semester of sophomore year one of the boys didn’t use a planner at all. He would simply roam the hallway looking for someone in that stats class to keep him up to date on when the homework was due, when the tests were, and when quizzes would be. He honestly didn’t know that a test was going to happen until the day of the test. While not everyone who doesn’t use a planner will be as disorganized as this boy, it does go to show how much you may not know about. It wouldn’t be one of my blog posts if I didn’t stress getting a planner and using it.

Consider becoming an RA

While I’ve never been an RA on a college campus, I was a community assistant at my apartment complex off campus. While my community assistant job was nowhere near as demanding as the job of a RA, it was a very good job for me to have. It taught me how to work on the fly for things that I am not trained on and to appreciate a normal 9-5 job because I served on-call shifts which meant I could get a phone call anywhere between 8pm and 9am.

So I’m curious, what did you learn this previous year from college? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Dear parents of college students,

dear parents of college students...

Photo Credit: LaTonya Williams Photography

Moving out is difficult. We all have seen the pile of clothes, decorations, notebooks, and memos from home accumulating in our bedroom or the living room shortly before move-in. I don’t know about you, but for me that’s when it gets real. That’s when I know in the back of my mind that ‘the pile’ means trekking back to college without all of the home made meals, shopping trips together, and ultimately always having your presence around the house. Yes, there are times where I mutter under my breath that I can’t wait to get back to school and I don’t know why I moved home for the summer, but that seems to be what comes with being a twenty-something. Just know that one of the main reasons I come home is for you. To lay on the couch watching TV shows making comments about it and attempting not to burn the brownies again. To be able to run to Wal-Mart together even though we hate that store and going to open houses around town just because.

Your advice is something I’m finally willing to listen to even with how much I pushed it away in high school. I’m finally ready to listen to your experiences with bad roommates, living on your own, drinking too much for the first time, failing a class, not seeing eye-to-eye with a professor, going through a break-up, and adjusting to independent adult life. They are finally stories I’m ready to listen to because I want to hear that someone else went through it too. Yes, you probably aren’t too happy with me that I messed up, but hopefully you will be understanding because we’ve all been there.

When I don’t call or text every day or even every other day, remember that it’s not because I’m pushing you away. It’s because I’m finding myself at my university. I’m going to classes, studying, meeting up with friends, and going to organization meetings. I promise that when something exciting happens I’ll text or call you after it happens. Just know that sometimes I need that hour long phone call even when you really need to get work done before tomorrow. I promise the long phone calls are worth it, we both need them.

Thank you for your sacrifice. Even if you aren’t paying for all of school or any living expenses, there is so much that you have given up to give us what we want and know that I finally appreciate it. The food you send me home with, the care packages, the sweet notes in the mail, covering my part of my bill when I come short, gifting me with money to do laundry, and so much more. It only took over 18 years for me to get it and fully understand what it took to get me where I am, but I appreciate it. I appreciate it more than words can describe on here.

I finally appreciate the family traditions and silly quirks the family shares. I still want to go school supply shopping before the year begins simply because it’s something we’ve done since pre-school, I want to go to at least one baseball game over the summer since finally our team won the world series, I want to help out with making super for Christmas day, and I can’t wait to help with the Black Friday shopping list. I miss the random trips to bigger cities to go shopping at the ‘better stores’, I miss baking cookies in the middle of the night, and random ice cream outtings.

Overall, you are one of the biggest role-models in my life. I turn to you for everything that comes up as I venture through college purely because I crave your opinion. I miss the way ‘mom does it’ and how everything has your touch on it. I want to hear how you’ve gone through the same things I have, even if you might be disappointed that I found myself in that situation. I want all your tips on how to make the perfect grilled cheese from home and might need some tips on how to get that stain out of my favorite white shirt. I want to hear that I have a chance of surviving a crazy thing called adulthood and that my college major will take me somewhere in life. I want to hear that you also woke up at 2 am panicking that you weren’t going to graduate on time and that you also had that one professor who counted off pointless things on your test. I want to know that someone else went through this craziness called college (or at least understands what craziness I’m going through in college) and that it will all be okay. Because when a parent says it will all be okay, it gives me the best sense of peace in the world. Thank you for that.