Friday, October 17, 2008


As you may have already found out, the friends that you have in high school are not necessarily the friends you will have later in college. Any friendship is something you have to work at, you need to nurture it.

People change and sometimes they change into people you don't want to be around. When you enter college, you're surrounded by new people - some that you click with, some that you don't. Be open to meeting new people. Understand that your old high school friends will be changing, just like you will be changed by being in college too.

Take the initiative to call or text old friends and ask about their college. If they aren't too far away, invite them to visit you at your college or make a point to visit them at their campus. Shared experiences are what cement a friendship.

Make a point of making new friends at college. You have to open up to new people, let them get to know you, and find some common interest.

Often, girls or guys will get so involved with their boyfriend/girlfriend, that they drop all other friendships. Often these college romances don't last. You get dumped. Then, just when you really need a friend to hang with, to vent with, you realize you have no one because you dropped all your friends when Mr./Ms. Special came along. College romances are fantastic, but keep your other friendships alive too.

Join clubs and organizations where you have a common interest. Or get out of your comfort zone and at least try a club that you feel is different from your views or interests, but be respectful.

The easiest way to make new friends is by having a ready smile, look people in the eye, and maintain your sense of humor when all else fails.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


My second year in college I took Anatomy and Physiology. It was a very difficult class for me, taught by the best professor I have ever had (but that is a whole different story). One of our assignments was to form a group of four, make a presentation with Power Point, on a disease. This assignment gave me an abundance of material about Spina Bifida which I turned into numerous assignments for other classes, collecting "A's" and "A+'s" along the way.

I collected and kept all the research my group did on Spina Bifida on my computer, including the Power Point presentation and the research citations. My group got the maximum number of points on our presentation so I knew I had great research on the topic.

Soon after I finished Anatomy and Physiology, I took a class in Epidemiology. The tests in this class were rough and the entire class was not doing well so the professor made an offer for extra credit. Anyone in the class who wanted extra credit needed to create a Power Point presentation and discuss in front of the class the incidence and prevalence of a disease. Well with very little effort on my part, I dusted off my Spina Bifida research, added in some additional statistics required by my professor and collected 45 extra credit points which zoomed my grade in the class up to an A+.

The next year, in a Health class, the professor wanted us to create a display of information on any health care concern. Once again, I immediately thought of Spina Bifida and simply had to print out my Power Point slides onto colored paper and paste them on the big display board, add a little decoration to liven it up and I was done. Because by now I was able to fluently discuss my topic of Spina Bifida, I easily was able to talk about my topic in front of the class and got an "A" on my project.

You too can parlay one research project into great grades in several different classes. Always save any research projects you do, you never know when you will have an opportunity to reformulate it into another project in another class. Why reinvent the wheel when you have 90% of it completed right in front of you? Plus, you will become an expert on the topic chosen thereby giving you an extra edge when you need to speak in front of your class about the topic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


It is so much more fun to socialize than to sit down and disciple ourselves to study. We want to do well in school, we want a great GPA, we want to be successful but we also want to party. So how do we decide what to do?

There is no reason why you can't have a decent social life and a great GPA. Grab a daily planner and schedule BOTH your time to party and your time to study and classes. Let's face it, most of our time is spent doing nothing productive. Maybe you are watching TV, napping, listening to music. Then we get stressed because our projects or homework aren't done and the test is coming up and our projects are due. Friends want us to go out and we are stuck trying to decide between doing homework or having fun.

By scheduling our work and our fun, we don't have to make a choice between school work and fun, it will already be scheduled for us. Pull out your daily planner and let friends know, "I'm busy until 8 PM but I'm free after that."

Be aware when you schedule your study sessions when are you at your best to study. For me, my best time to study is early in the day, afternoons I like to nap, and I like to socialize any time after 8 PM. I never schedule late afternoon or evening classes. I make the most of my time between classes by re-reading my notes and writing my index cards. Get your school work done early in the day, then the rest of the day belongs to you. Stressfree, you are ready to socialize with no guilt.

This post may be of interest:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Have you ever considered the real power our words have upon other people and have on ourselves? You may be like me, I forget myself and will say something without thinking. I don't mean to be insensitive or thoughtless, but I am at times. My words affect others and ultimately myself as well.

Let me give you an example of this. This goes way back, but this further proves how powerful our words are, that I still to this day think of this example often. Right before Halloween when I was in 6th grade (I told you this goes way back!), my neighbor and best friend who was a boy, Billy, was diagnosed with cancer. Billy and I, plus his brothers and sisters and my sister, would walk to school everyday and played together often. We all had been inseparable since 1st grade.
Now at that age, I knew nothing about cancer; all I knew was that Billy wasn't going to school with us anymore. Late in January, on a mild day, I saw Billy out riding bikes with another boy from school. I was mad that Billy hadn't been at school lately so I blurted out at him, "You don't look too sick to go to school to me!"

Those were the last words I ever spoke to Billy as he died February 20th. All these years later and I still haven't forgiven myself for that awful comment.

Conversely, sometimes we don't realize how a small but positive comment and smile of friendship or encouragement can help a friend, acquaintance, or stranger. You can make a difference in a person's life by diffusing potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable situations with a few well chosen words. And it costs you nothing! Try to make it a practice to be aware of the power of your words and make them positive.

Monday, October 13, 2008


One area that I spent a lot of time to figure out was how to schedule my classes to benefit me. In college, some people always seem to end up with the best class schedule. That was me. The time you spend ahead of time figuring out the best schedule for you, will benefit you all quarter/semester long.

Begin your search for the perfect schedule by getting the catalog listing the classes offered by your college for the upcoming quarter/semester as soon as it is available. Some colleges make this catalog available before listing the classes in their online registration program. You want to have this information as early as possible so you can begin to sort out what will be your most favorable schedule. Think of your class scheduling process as working a giant jigsaw puzzle where you need to pull all the pieces together.

What makes for a favorable schedule? One that more or less balances your work load. Don't overload your schedule with classes that all require you to write papers or have all classes that require heavy reading. You also don't want to take all your hardest classes at the same time, mix in at least one of the "easy A" classes. Review the requirements of your major and determine what mix of classes will give you the best schedule.

Next, find out how many sections each class has that you want to register for. If there is a class that you must get into that only has one section available, begin planning your schedule around that particular class. Then add the classes with more sections to chose from to your schedule.

The key here is to find a schedule that will benefit YOU and works for your strengths. If you absolutely cannot get up in the morning, don't schedule a class for 8:00 AM, likewise, skip on late afternoon or evening classes if your energy level dips at that time of day. Figure out what time of day you are best able to consistently show up for class, pay attention, take notes, and retain what is taught. Know how many classes you can manage successfully without negatively impacting your grades. It doesn't make sense to register for 22 credit hours and then fail several of those classes when you can't keep up with such a large workload.

Decide if it is better for you to bunch your classes to get large blocks of free time or scatter your classes to have small slices of time throughout your day. Also, would you rather be free Tuesday and Thursday, but be heavily scheduled on Monday, Wednesday, Friday? If you need to hold a job, that schedule may be best for you.

On registration day be at your computer, logged in, and ready to hit the keys at the moment you are first allowed to register. By the way, most colleges allow students who have verifiable learning disabilities or special needs to have priority registration. If this is you, make sure you have turned in the paperwork to entitle you to register first.

If any of your classes are full by the time you are allowed to register, consider "pink slipping" into those classes. I recommend registering for a less desired schedule for safety, but go to those full classes you can't get into and make a direct appeal to the professor on the first day of classes. Some colleges are real good about letting students into a class this way because they know a fair percentage of students will drop the class within a few weeks.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008


Enjoy your weekend but don't forget to check back with us come Monday! We will have interesting posts to help you get the most out of your college years. Thanks to all you readers out there. Now get your studying done early on Saturday so you can relax, kick back and enjoy your weekend!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Yesterday we talked about how to recover from a poor test grade. Today let's talk about what to do after getting a fantastic grade on an exam. You may think, what's there to talk about if I got a great grade? There is plenty to think about.

If any of you are soccer fans, you may be aware of the general belief that the time a soccer team is most likely to give up a goal to the opposing team is right after the soccer team scores a goal themselves. In other words, soccer team A will reduce their defensive efforts after scoring a goal, therefore letting soccer team B score a goal. Don't let this happen to you.

Psychologically, are you more inclined to slack off or reduce your study efforts once you have received a good or great grade on an exam? This is something we must all face and fight. After getting a great grade, you need to reflect back, what did I do this time that made a difference in my grade? Build on the positive results by repeating those things that worked, and eliminate the time wasters and ineffective study habits.

What can you carry over to help improve your grades in other subjects you are taking? Did a study guide help or having a study group or re-reading your notes and writing up index cards? Whatever you determine to the reason for your success, try to duplicate on your next exam and in your other classes.

Resist the urge to slack off and continue to reach for each and every point available in your classes. Carry that "A" or "B" grade all the way through to the end of the quarter/semester.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


You have just gotten back that big exam and your grade is awful. Now what can you do to get back on track before the next exam?

First, take a look back and examine what did you do to study and prepare for this exam. You must do a thorough review of exactly what you did right and what you did wrong because, to paraphrase a familiar quote, if we don't understand what has happened in the past, we are doomed to repeat it. That is, if we don't change the way we prepare for an exam, we will get the same sad result.

Second, re-read my post, What To Do After the Test, and follow up on the points listed. Specifically, argue close calls, ask for curve points, privately ask for special projects, and don't let any points go.

Third, come up with a new strategy for studying. You should have figured out what you did that didn't work, now begin to do what does work. Try index cards and re-reading your notes daily. Ask for and completely review any test study guides.

Start a study group with carefully selected members of your class. Make sure the people you study with will actually study and not just sit around and talk. A study group I knew spent so much time goofing off, almost all of them flunked the exam they were supposed to be studying for! If your study group doesn't help you to understand and grasp the material, don't waste your time meeting with them. In that case you are better off studying by yourself.

Remember that if you received a 60% on this exam, you need to get a 100% on the next to just average out to 80%. So this is the time to redouble your efforts to improve your grades.

Please come back tomorrow to read my take on what do you do after you ace an exam!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008


When it's time to schedule next quarter's classes are you and your friends on the prowl for that sterotypical "easy A" class? Does the "easy A" class really exist and how do you find it?

Let me start by saying, registering for the "easy A" class is a great strategy for those quarters/semesters that you have a heavy load or particularly difficult class to take. There is nothing to be ashamed about looking for the "easy A" class as long as it fulfills some requirement towards graduating with your college degree. An interesting article was published recently in the Washington Post, "Relax the Mind, Repair Your GPA". This article promotes the "easy A" class as a way to help the college student spend more time on difficult classes without sacrificing their GPA.

In the college I went to, Criminal Justice classes were known as "easy A's". These classes were crowded and hard to get into unless you were one of the first to register for classes. I took Intro to Criminal Justice and sure enough, it was an "easy A". The professor never took attendance, the homework was negligible, and the tests were cotton candy. I became so interested in Criminal Justice that I ended up a minor in it.

Another way of finding the "easy A" is to discover what you are truly interested in. If you are truly interested in music, take a music class. You are much more likely to do well in a class that captures your interest. You will want to read the material and will retain it because it is interesting to you.

Then there are the "easy A" professors. Don't we all love these guys? The key here is to give them a reason to give you that "A". Don't skip class and turn in low effort papers and expect to get that "A". Talk to your friends and classmates to figure out early which professors are the most generous with their grading and then register early for your classes.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Everyone needs to take at least a couple English classes in order to graduate. You also will be writing papers for various classes. I've got several ideas to share with you to increase your writing skills and improve your grades. I will add weekly to these ideas to help you improve your writing skills.

Most of the papers that you will write in college will involve getting information from other sources and rewriting it in your own words. All your teachers will give you speeches on plagerism. Please do not copy large passages without giving credit to the author. However, get as many sources on your topic as possible, read what your sources have to say and then put it in your own words. Or, make sure you properly credit the source.

English professors do not like when you use trite and overused sayings in your papers. Also avoid using statements like, "Let me tell you . . ." or "I want to say . . ." As my professor use to say, "Just say it, don't tell me you are going to say it."

Know the difference between:

  • "to", "two", and "too"
  • "there", "they're", and "their"
  • "its" and it's"

Proofread your papers thoroughly before handing them in. And if you can't do a good job proofreading your own paper, ask someone to proof it for you and you can proof theirs. Many colleges have help for this, you drop by and a knowledgable student will review your paper. As hard as it can be to hear someone critique your work after you slaved over it for hours, listen to what they say, get your punctuation and spelling cleaned up. One tip I learned about proofreading your own work is to isolate each sentence and begin from the end of your paper reading each sentence. This will force you to view each word on its own instead of skipping over and missing a potential misspelling or punctuation error.

Make your opening and closing paragraphs as strong and interesting as possible. This is where you either grab your audience (the professor) or lose them. Your middle paragraphs can be boring but you better have an interesting start and finish. Always give your paper a catchy title. Professors love that and it will pique their interest in your paper.

Monday, October 6, 2008


If you have more money than you know what to do with, then you can skip this day's blog (but please come back tomorrow!), but if you are like most college students, you need to read this. The art of being able to live within your means is one that many people never learn. Now here is the interesting part, if you are able to learn this now, while you are in college, you will save yourself from a lot of emotional turmoil and set yourself up to have much more fulfilling life.

Money affects how we view ourselves and others. We judge people as successful or failures at times due to the amount of money we believe they have. But the truth is sometimes hidden. We all know people who constantly show off the newest gadget, purse, clothes. You think to yourself, "She must be made of money" or "Wow, her parents really spoil her". The truth may be so different.

Due to their own insecurities or their need to impress others, they may be spending money they don't have. Someone who is spending a lot of money may also be sitting on a pile of credit card debt. Start growing credit card debt while in college and you are looking at a financial disaster by the time you are 25.

Now there is bad credit card debt and there is good credit card debt. The bad is when you can't pay your balance off each month, it keeps growing and you're paying a huge interest rate on your balance. Good credit card debt is when you CAN PAY IT OFF each month. It's good because it helps raise your credit score (which you will need when you buy a car or home in the future) and you aren't paying interest (an expense you don't need).

When you spend more than you can afford, who are you really kidding? Do you really need that $245 Coach purse? And if you can't pay off your credit card at the end of the month, how much is that Coach purse really costing you? Not having money for basic necessities or financial insecurity is stressful so it is important that you make good decisions with the money you do have. Being able to PLAN AHEAD will make your financial decisions easier and smarter.

Start by writing down how much money you have coming in for the month, then write down all your known expenses. Like this:

Net Pay from Job for October $360

Less: Gas for my car (100)

Less: My share of electric/cable (80)

Less: Groceries/eating out (150)

Less: Manicure (30)

Those are my known expenses. I have spent every penny I made for the month, therefore, I can not go buy a tanning package or get my hair cut unless I cut my spending somewhere else. For example, cut out the manicure and get my hair cut instead or don't eat out during the month and squeeze in that tanning package.

Begin to think outside the box to save money. Could you carpool and share gas? Talk to your roommates about making homemade pizza instead of calling for carryout or delivery. Purchase clothes from a consignment shop instead of an expensive department store. In future blog posts I will give you lots of ways to save on your living expenses and begin an emergency fund. Feel free to comment back to me any ways you save money that you want to pass on.

Begin to live within your means and you will thank me later.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I hope you have a fun filled weekend and will come back here on Monday. I have some interesting posts set for next week. We will be talking about your money and ways to live within your budget, great ideas on passing English and writing better papers, and the power of our words.

Don't forget to review your notes and write up some index cards this weekend. You will feel better about yourself when you work ahead.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Now I'm going to assume that you really want to graduate in four years, that you don't want to waste a fifth year's time and tuition. If so, here are some ideas on how to get that done.

First, get on your college's website and look up your major. Most majors will have their own page where you can learn exactly what classes you need to take in order to graduate. They will also list the requirements for getting into that major. Obviously some majors are more difficult to get into than others, with special grade requirements, or interviews, or other subjective criteria that will need to be fulfilled. THE EARLIER YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO GET INTO YOUR MAJOR, THE BETTER OFF YOU ARE.

Now you need to be realistic. Don't get your heart set on a journalism major that requires a 3.0 GPA when you have never achieved a 3.0 GPA in your life unless you know you are about to have a major life changing event take place that will suddenly turn you into a dean's list student. This next point is important. This does not mean you can't have a career in journalism, it just means you won't be able to graduate with a major in journalism. Don't let your major restrict what you can achieve with the rest of your life.

Second, list all the courses you need in order to graduate. Now let's say that you are a Sophmore that recently changed major so you have several courses that don't apply any longer to your new major. You also have several Freshman level classes that are required for your new major that you haven't taken yet. Changing majors more than once is fairly common and it is one of the main reasons that students to take five years or longer to graduate.

Third, take the list of classes you made above to an advisor at your college that is familar with your major. Make sure you haven't misunderstood any of the requirements or forgot anything. Once you are sure you have listed all the classes needed to complete your degree, you are ready for the last step.

Fourth, look in your college catalog of classes to determine when each of these classes is offered. Some classes are only taught every other year, or just in the Fall. You need to know this so you don't miss scheduling the class during the limited time it is offered.

Now you are ready to make your master schedule of classes over the rest of your college years. List what you will take quarter by quarter or semester by semester, balance your classes by those that require heavy reading vs. writing papers vs. math vs. easy vs. difficult vs. lecture vs. lab, etc. You need to mix and match your classes so that you aren't too heavy in one quarter/semester and too easy in another.

At this point it will become clear to you whether you need to take classes over the summer or not. Taking summer classes can get you right back on track to graduate in four years.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


When you meet someone new, boy or girl, do you judge by character or by appearance? If we are honest, we must admit that more often than not, our judgements on people are based on appearance.

When I was a senior in high school, I had my own clique I hung out with. I shared several classes with two girls that I never gave the time of day. They were brainy, goody-goody types. I judged these two girls to be not my type, didn't bother to get to know them, they weren't like the others in my social clique.

I sat directly behind one and to the side of the other. From time to time we had to work together, in a group. By the time the school year was coming to a close, it finally dawned on me, both of these girls had a terrific sense of humor. They were smart, funny girls. They were not the most stylish or trendiest girls but I could tell they were headed for success. So as my last days of high school sped by, I had a mature thought, quit looking at appearances and look at a person's character. By the end of May that year, I told both of them that I wished I had gotten to know them better. And I meant it. I felt like I had missed out by not getting to know these girls earlier in the year and I vowed to try to not let that happen again.

How many people do you disregard right off the bat before you even know anything about them? Do you ever look at a person's character? What do your friends look like? Are they all carbon copies of you?

One thing I realized about most of us, we want everyone to be JUST LIKE US. We want people to agree with our opinions. We feel most comfortable with people who look just like us, think like us, act like us. But it is worth it to look beyond our own little group to get to know people who are different from us.

Different religions, different nationalities, different political parties, different races, different languages, different cultures, even different sexual orientation can widen our horizons and help us to understand new ways of thinking. Sometimes when we look beyond the surface appearance, we can learn to appreciate the differences and at the same time recognize similar character traits that all humans share.

So today, try this experiment. Pick an interesting person out of one of your classes that you would never have spoken to in the past and start a conversation. Smile, be friendly, be natural, but don't be judgemental. You may be surprised at what you find.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


You just got the exam back and your grade isn't looking too good. What do you do now?

First, ARGUE CLOSE CALLS. Do not sit back and just accept the answers the professor said are correct. If you have any, no matter how slim, reason to argue your answer may be correct, speak up. Most professors will give you points just by putting forth a semi-intelligent argument for your reasoning. Now here's the tip: make sure you speak up at the right time. Some professors want you to approach them privately immediately after the corrected exam has been returned, while others want these discussions to be held during class time. Use statements like, "that answer seemed ambiguous to several of us" or "question 9 was misleading the way it was written" or "my lecture notes indicated this while our text stated that". Get your timing down, be polite and serious in your reasoning, and see how many points you can pick up.

Second, ASK FOR CURVE POINTS. If the whole class has done terrible on an exam many professors will automatically add 5, 10 or more points to each student's grade. It never hurts to ask for curve points when the professor doesn't automatically offer them.

Third, PRIVATELY ASK FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS. When your grades are especially low, make an appointment to privately speak to your professor. Explain to your professor why you feel your grades are bad and what you plan on doing to improve and ask them if you could do a special project to improve your grade. Specifically state that you want to do a special project to prove your knowledge of the subject, that the test you recently bombed did not truly show your knowledge. Now many professors will refuse this request but then you follow up with a request for more help with the next exam, such as a specifically targeted study guide. If your professor does allow you special credit for a project, make sure you do the best job you can. Most professors will not give you a second chance with a request like this.

Fourth, DON'T LET ANY POINTS GO. Ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to get points in your classes. If the professor gives 10 points a week for turning in homework, this is an automatic 100 points (10 points x 10 weeks)toward your grade per quarter or 160 points (10 points x 16 weeks) for a semester. Are you turning in that homework every week or are you slacking because it's only 10 points? Here is a situation where you can guarantee yourself points and you can't afford to not take them, all of them. Whenever the professor is handing out points outside of exams, do what it takes to get the points. So completely answer those discussion questions, hand in the homework, show up for the participation and attendance points, watch how you format your papers, proofread your writing. It's all about getting your share of the easy points. Don't ever leave any points behind.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Many students feel pressured and stressed by their relationship with their parents. I'm here to tell you that there is hope at the end of the tunnel. I have some stellar ideas on how to reduce the stress in your relationship with your parents.

So what do parents want? They want me to
  • have better grades

  • be healthy

  • be safe

  • be polite

  • spend time with them

  • be successful

  • manage money better

  • not date losers

  • get a job

  • yada, yada, yada

Is it any wonder you are stressed out? Truth is, most of us want to please our parents but we also want to be true to ourselves. Most of us aren't experienced enough to get all that stuff right all the time. So we make mistakes, we screw up, things slip through the cracks, we make some bad choices.

So how do we repair and improve our relationship with our parents? I got two easy steps for you:

  1. Call your parents from time to time to simply say, "Thank you." Parents want to know that you genuinely appreciate the sacrifices that they have made for you, that you realize all that they have done for you. When you say, "Thank you for sending me to college." Or, "Thank you for coming to watch my soccer game." Big or small, when you say thank you, you are acknowledging to your parents that you appreciate them. That is music to their ears and takes such a small amount of time and effort on your part. Plus these thank you phone calls will pay big dividends when you need to make the "I need some money" phone call. Parents will feel much more inclined to hand over the money when they feel you are grateful for what you receive.

  2. If you screw up, recognize that you have made a mistake, come up with a plan to correct the mistake, and then call to inform your parents of what you have done and how you plan on correcting it so it never happens again. Parents want to know that you are mature enough to correct mistakes and learn from them. The worst thing that can happen is to make a mistake and not to learn anything from it. Then you are doomed to repeat your mistake over and over again. If you are able to communicate to your parents how you plan to never make that mistake again, you will tamp down the anxiety that parents feel when their child has done something wrong. You will be dealing with them as an adult would.

Hopefully your phone calls to your parents will only be filled with "Thank yous", but it is good to have a plan in case you need to make that difficult "I've screwed up" call.


My first year in college I happened to make friends with some upperclassmen in my major. It was a great way to get an inside look at what I would be facing in the next few years. These girls shared with me tips on how to get accepted into our major.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was at the expense of one of them named Angel. Like most majors, upper classes get harder and harder. You can't afford to coast. My friend Angel was able to achieve decent grades and was even on the dean's list.

Then spring semester rolled around . . . Angel started going out more at night during the week. Angel was drinking more and started smoking again. Her grades started slipping. She was barely holding on to a "C" which she needed in her major classes. Angel was getting desperate and that's when she decided . . . TO BUY A PUPPY!

Now folks, I love puppies, kittens, all animals, really! But when your back is to the wall and you really need to pump up your grades, the last thing you need is a distraction like training and caring for a new puppy.

Yes, the puppy was the last straw for Angel. She failed two classes spring semester and was kicked out of her major. She dropped out of college. When you are fighting for your academic life, you don't have the luxury of taking on unnecessary projects, like caring for a new puppy, or chairing the homecoming committee, or volunteering to bake 100 cupcakes for the bake sale. Tackle those projects when your grades are no longer an issue.

Always remember to keep your eye on the prize - getting your diploma! Make sure that the choices you make are leading you closer to your goals and not away from your goals.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Thanks for a great first week of blogging! This site has had great traffic, over 130 visitors. Thank you for your time and I hope you have found some useful tips to help you improve your grades or at least some interesting reading. Please come back and put me in your "Favorites" to make it easy to check this site daily.

Beginning Monday we will discuss more ideas to improve your grades and also talk about more interesting stuff like relationships, food, and money. Please send this link to your friends who may need this advice.

Enjoy your weekend and if you have implemented some of my strategies this past week, you can do it guilt free!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Hey, you don't think I'm talking about the guy getting down on one knee with a big diamond ring kind of thing, do you?

Really, in my quest to spend more time doing fun things and less time studying, I decided I must be engaged while in class. If you are already spending time to attend class, then you might as well get everything you can out of it. So what does it mean to be engaged while in class?
  • Ask questions

  • Participate in classroom discussions

  • Clarify unclear concepts

  • Take good notes by listening carefully to the lecture

  • Listen and record due dates for homework, projects, exams, study sessions

  • Read assigned material before the class lecture (you will understand everything so much more if you read before the lecture)

Now here is what NOT to do:

  • DON'T bring your lunch and spread out all over your desk like you're at McDonalds. How many notes are you taking while dipping your greasy french fries in ketchup?

  • DON'T come late to class. Get there early enough to set up your books, notebooks, pens, and pencils. No one wants to hear you rustling through your backpack while trying to hear the professor lecture.

  • DON'T leave class early. A lot of good information is given either at the very beginning of class or at the end of class. Be there to hear it all.

  • DON'T text or call on your cell during class.

  • DON'T check your cell during class. It's a distraction plain and simple. You can't be absorbing the lecture and taking notes if you're checking your cell. Plus, you will be making the professor mad.

Now here is the most important tip of all. Read your notes directly after class, fill in any missing areas, firm up any areas you are unsure about, plus you will be setting firmly this information in your memory banks. To further increase your memory of the material, take the time to write your 3" x 5" index cards immediately after reviewing your notes. (See yesterday's blog regarding the use of index cards.) If you read your notes directly after class and immediately write up your index cards, you are well on your way to superior grades.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Put this on your next shopping list: 3" x 5" index cards. Index cards will become your best friend when it comes time to study for your exams.

I used index cards in several different ways while in college. Depending on the material you need to master, you may want to use both sides of the index card, with perhaps a word on one side with its definition on the reverse side or a question on one side and its answer on the reverse side. Using Pharmacology class as an example, I would put "Beta Blocker" on one side of the card and on the reverse side I would list all the information I needed to know about Beta Blockers for my exam.

Another way to use index cards is to put main points from your lecture notes on one side of the card. This is especially effective if you use colored index cards and use all one color for similiar material. Once that material is mastered, you easily can eliminate that color from your deck of index cards.

The best way to begin using index cards is to FILL OUT THE INDEX CARD AFTER EACH LECTURE CLASS. If the professor stressed a particular point, you write up a card. Did the professor write something on the blackboard, you write up a card. Did the professor say, "You will see this again", then you write up a card on that item. Also if there are terms in bold print in your textbook, most professors will test on them so write up an index card on those terms.

The point is, if you expect it will be on a test, write an index card using as few words as possible to explain the term, concept, or material. I normally title the index card with what concept I'm explaining and then use bullet points. Here's an example (pretend it's on an index card!):


  • Looking for angina

  • Diagnose unexplained heart pain

  • Determine how much damage has been done to heart

  • All patients have injection of Thallium and xray, after exercise, more Thallium

That's it. I want to be able to look at the card and quickly get the information I need to know. If you write too much on each card, it's too overwhelming and you won't be able to quickly memorize the information.

If you write your index cards up after each class, the next step is to shuffle through your cards several times a day. As you are able to basically verbalize the points listed on the index card, that card can be removed from your pack. As time goes on, your pack of cards should become smaller until you only have the most difficult material left to master.

Before your exam, put all of your index cards back in the pack and go through them a few times to refresh yourself. If you follow this method, you will force yourself to study for a small amount of time each day or so and you will have NO NEED TO CRAM the night before a test.


Several years ago I was in a very difficult Pharmacology class. It was really important for me to get a great grade in this class. The first test was coming up. I had spent alot of time studying and I do mean alot of time. Hours and hours were spent with my book and notes. I ended up with a "C" on the test. That is when I decided to get smart about studying. I looked at how I studied and what I could do better next time so that I didn't spend all that time to end up with just a "C".

Here's what I figured out: Just because I had my book open and notes out didn't mean that I was doing anything to get that material into my head. Has this ever happened to you? You are sitting there with all your school notes and books out but in your head you are daydreaming, thinking about something else, listening to the TV or radio, anything but actually studying? I was wasting time, not really studying and not really doing what I wanted to do.

That's when I decided to GET REAL. I hate studying. I would rather do just about anything other than studying so I decided I would spend as little time studying as I needed to get a good grade. But when I did need to study, I would really put 100% effort in. That way, I would have more time to do the stuff I like to do.

I call it ACTIVE STUDYING when I put 100% effort into studying. I spend much less time studying but when I do study, nothing else interferes. So that means no cell phones, no texting, no TV, no friends, although sometimes I do listen to music. I'm in the zone. You will need to find what gets you in the zone and lets you stay in the zone. If you aren't in the zone, you are wasting time.

So what is 100% effort, being in the zone? This is when you are able to make connections between what you are trying to learn and what you already know. When you are able to make a connection you add to your knowledge base and you can go on to the next concept.

Here is an example: In Pharmacology we needed to know about different classes of drugs. One particular class of blood pressure drugs are Beta-Blockers. One way to recognize that a drug is a Beta-Blocker is that the drug's name will end with "OLOL". I was able to memorize this fact and remember it because I knew of someone who was taking Atenolol for high blood pressure. So when the test asked for the side effects of taking Metprolol I would know they are talking about a Beta-Blocker and to look to typical side effects of low blood pressure. I took something that I already knew (my friend takes Atenolol for high blood pressure) and matched it with what I needed to learn (Beta-Blockers are high blood pressure medications that end with "OLOL").

In the future I will go through other methods of making these connections between what you already know and what you need to know. By the way, I ended the semester with an "A" in Pharmacology.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Okay, it's the week before the big exam. . .what should I be doing to insure I ace that test? In order to do well on your exam you need to KNOW WHAT TO STUDY.

I have several tricks up my sleeve and after reading this, you will too. First off, ask your professor for a sample exam. This is especially important for the first exam of the quarter/semester. Each teacher has a different way of wording their questions. You need to know how this teacher asks test questions. By reviewing a previously given test by this teacher you can discern their way of asking questions. Plus it gives you insight on whether this teacher uses "all of the above", "none of the above" or even worse, "A and B only" type answers.

When reviewing the sample exam, see if you understand clearly what the teacher is asking. Do they use words or terms that you don't understand? How confusing are the multiple choice answers?

Make sure to ask the professor for a breakdown on what will be on the exam: how many multiple choice questions, True/False, fill in the blank, short answer, essay. This is important because if the entire test is multiple choice you only need to study to RECOGNIZE THE ANSWER. Whereas with fill in the blank, short answer, essay you need to actually know your material.

Additionally press the professor to breakdown what percentage of questions will be about Chapter A vs. Chapter B. Assure the professor that you will be studying everything but that you want to put your studying time to best use and make sure you are putting the right emphasis on what the professor feels is important. Most professors want you to do well on their exams and will be helpful (if you ask!) in telling you where to spend your study time.

Finally, if in class the professor was not willing to discuss in detail the upcoming exam, visit the professor during their office hours and ask again. Reassure that professor that you only want to make sure you succeed in their class and that you want to target your studying to insure that success. Most professors will reward that initiative with good insider information.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How do I get started studying smart?

Here's the situation: your parents are nagging you about your poor grades, you feel hopeless to improve your grades. That's where this blog is going to help. I have some very concrete ideas to assist you in studying smart. Some of these require that you start before the test, some are useful while taking a test.

Let's start with classroom attendance. First off, we all know that perfect attendance would help us in attaining better grades, but really what gets you noticed is attending class on days when most of your classmates have slacked off. Think about it. . . your teacher won't notice you are in class if the classroom is filled. But the teacher will notice you are there if the class is half empty. That teacher will be grateful for those students who made it to class even though it was raining cats and dogs, or it's the day after a campus-wide party, etc.

These are the most rewarding days to attend class. These are the times when a teacher will let down their guard and give those students who bothered to attend the upper hand in the next exam. Many teachers will give out hints, tips, extra credit points because the teachers want to reward those students.

How do you get these extra credit points, tips, hints on what to study? Ask.

When you find yourself on one of these special days where many students have skipped class, this is your opportunity to bond with the teacher, get to know the teacher as an individual. Your big impersonal class now becomes much more personal since there are fewer classmates cluttering up the room. It becomes an atmosphere of we are all in this together, let's help each other out.

Specifically, I would say, "Mrs. Brown, it wasn't easy for us students who showed up to get out of bed this morning, but maybe you could make it worth our while by giving us some tips on what you think is important for us to study on our next exam?"

Or, "Mrs. Brown, the weather today didn't make it easy for us to get to class so could you give us some extra hints on what we need to know for our next exam?"

Or, "Mrs. Brown, how about giving everyone who showed up an extra credit point for the extra effort we made in getting to class today?"

The worst thing your teacher can say is "No." If you ask in a respectful manner, no harm will come to you and your classmates who are present will love you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Welcome to Study Smart

Welcome to my new blog. I recently graduated from college Summa Cum Laude. I'm not bragging, just wanting you to know that I know a thing or two about studying and making great grades. It occurred to me that many of my fellow students had no idea on how to get good grades, how to approach studying for that big exam, how to structure their classes to get through college in 4 years or less.

My blog will give you concrete ideas on how to study, give you strategies to improve your GPA, and get you through college quickly without spending every hour memorizing. Also along the way, I'll also blog about relationships, parents, budgeting when you have no money, athletics, Greek life, and other such stuff.

I encourage all of you to send me your strategies too. Let's share what we know to help all of us to study smart. College should be the best years of lives, not the most stressful!



This blog is for high school and college students trying to improve their GPA's, get through college in 4 years (or less), pass their courses without spending every waking hour memorizing facts.

Along the way, I'll also pass on information on living within your means, job interview skills, relationship help, and how to get along with your parents.