End of Semester Stress-Busting Strategies

Papers are piling up. Test prep has you restless. Your head feels like it’s being hammered. While the end of any semester is stress inducing for even the most steadfast students, there are steps you can take to tame your tension.

Work off your frustration by working out. Even if you don’t have time to do a full-blown gym visit, a brisk walk around campus can do wonders.

Spend time with people who energize you. We all know the type—after you spend time with them, you simply feel better. Taking a few minutes to close your eyes and meditate can also help you to find calm and focus.

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Countdown to Crisis: Time Management in a Crunch

So you’ve got a 20-page paper on the 2008 financial crisis due in a couple of weeks. But you’ve got a crisis of your own: You actually haven’t even started the paper yet.

Before having a meltdown, turn your bust into a boom. There are tried and true steps you can take to get back on track if procrastination plagues you.

  1. In the short amount of time you have left, set realistic goals, and don’t demand perfection from yourself.
  2. Only work on your project when your energy levels are at their highest.
  3. Break larger tasks into smaller ones—this will keep you from getting overwhelmed.
  4. Work for realistic amounts of time. Do not attempt to finish the project within a three hour time window if you know you are the kind of person who can only work for one hour at a time.
  5. Budget extra time in your schedule for unexpected hiccups in your project.
  6. Start now. The longer you put it off, the more anxious it will make you.

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Stupendous Study Tips for a Blissful Brain, Part III

While the idea of testing is as about as tempting as touching a tarantula, test practice on your own can yield big benefits. Research shows that when students test themselves after studying, they have a far easier time recalling the information than if they hadn’t tested themselves.

This is because retrieving information from memory improves your ability to remember it in the future. The more information you can consolidate in your memory, the more relaxed you’ll be for exam day. This way, you won’t be caught in the web of test taking anxiety!

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You’ll Be Ready for Showtime in No Time!

So you have a big exam in theater history. To get ready, you need to do a little rehearsal, but not the kind involving blocking or lighting. In order to best retain everything from Balzac to Beckett, you will need to do what is known as elaborative rehearsal. Such a strategy involves thinking about the meaning of what you study.

One of the best ways to do this is to write down the ideas in your own words. This is because when you generate information, you remember it far better than simply by recognizing it.  Try it—and when the curtain raises on exam day, your test performance will be drama-free!

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Take the Terror Out of Your Term Paper

So you’ve been given the horrifying assignment of writing about Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. If you’re like most people, simply the idea of writing is far more frightening than phantoms floating in the night. However, there are steps you can take to make the process less spine chilling.

  • Get to know your professor. Professors are people, not demons.  They want your success as much as you do. The trick is to get to know what they want. Meet with your professor during office hours to get guidance on parameters and ideas. The sooner you start this process, the better.
  • Get the big picture. Once you know what your parameters are, find out generalities on your topic. In this case, you might want to do research on gothic fiction. Where does Jackson’s book fit it? Can you compare it to other works of gothic fiction? How does it compare to other 20th-century literature? Are there any themes or patterns that emerge from your research?
  • Make an outline. Once you have some basic ideas, outline them. This will help you determine areas that need more research.
  • Keep track of your sources. As you gather your research, fill out your outline with notes. Be sure to note your information sources in your outline so you know what and where to cite for your reference list.
  • Integrate lecture notes. Are there any ideas or themes from your class lecture slides you can incorporate into your paper? If not, that’s fine. But if you do, weave them into your paper in the appropriate places; your professor will feel like she got through to someone.
  • Tie it all together. Does your introduction provide a good “roadmap” for where the paper is going? Do your paragraphs have good transitions? Does your conclusion sum up your main points succinctly and cogently?

At the end of the day, you can tame the spirits and specters of worry about paper writing. If you start early and put in effort, you’ll likely do great!

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No-Nonsense Note Taking

In the age of lecture slides and SparkNotes, many college student wonder why they should bother taking notes at all. Despite professors’ handouts and study guide websites, good old-fashioned note taking is still the best recipe for academic success.

Let’s take a look at a few of the myths surrounding note taking:

  1. Myth: “Once I get my lecture slides from my professor, I don’t need to take notes.” Truth: Getting your lecture slides from your professor is like checking a book out of the library. In either case, the knowledge has not been transferred to you. In order for you to really acquire the information, you need to actively involve yourself an absorbing it. Note taking is one of the best ways to do that.
  2. Myth: “In order to take notes well, I would have to write down every single thing the professor says, and that’s impossible. So why bother?” Truth: Yes, writing everything down is impossible. And while trying to write down every single word sounds like active learning, it’s actually passive learning. Part of your job as a student is to discern which information is important and which is not. You don’t want to be a robot who simply copies words, but a thinker who can proactively sift out pertinent information.
  3. Myth: “Once I take notes, I don’t have to look at them until right before the exam.” Truth: The best way to commit something to memory is to look at it repeatedly. Sure, you could try reading your notes repeatedly right before the exam, but you’ll do a better job remembering the material if you look it over throughout the semester.

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Tackling Test Anxiety

While stress-free test taking sounds about as feasible as a functional Congress, it can be done. In fact, there are several tactics you can employ to ensure you don’t have your own personal shutdown during your exam.

  • Get ahead of the game by getting a good night’s rest. When you get sufficient sleep, ultimately, you are more in control of your day. Make sure to spend your last hour awake doing relaxing activities, such as taking a bath or reading for fun. Try not to turn on your computer or watch TV, as their light mimics sunlight and confuses your body.

  • Visualize stellar test-taking performance. While it might sound like a bunch of hocus pocus, visualization can actually be quite effective because it primes you for success. Imagine yourself knowing the material and seeing that information flowing out of you and onto the exam page.

  • Don’t forget to breathe. Deep breathing is immensely helpful when we go into fight or flight mode, such as during test time. Twenty minutes before the exam, practice breathing in deeply, to the point where your belly rises and falls. Keep doing this until you feel your nerves ease up.


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Reading with a Raucous Roommate

So you’re trying to cram for a psych exam, and your roommate is blasting Miley Cyrus.

Before taking a wrecking ball to her stereo, you might want to think about what it is you really want to accomplish: getting a little peace and quiet so you can concentrate, right?

Here are a couple of tips to make sure that you do just that:

  1. Get to know your roommate. While you and your roommate may be vastly different, try talking to her to find out where she’s coming from. Even knowing just basic facts about each other can help you relate to one another.
  2. Set ground rules together. Try to agree on times when it’s too late to play music and decide what times the room should be noise free.
  3. Speak up when you have something to say. One of the worst things to do is to be upset and not say anything. If you have a concern, voice it POLITELY. Your roommate may not understand that what she is doing is annoying or offensive.
  4. Provide alternatives. If your roommate plays loud video games, suggest she use earphones.
  5. Step up your game if necessary. If after repeated requests your roommate is still disrespecting your boundaries, set up a meeting with your roommate and your RA. Your RA will have had practice in trying to help people overcoming similar problems.



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Stupendous Study Tips for a Blissful Brain, Part II

When you need to study several topics in the same study session, it’s wisest to review subjects that are as different as possible. This happens because interference from related information makes it difficult to access information.

For example, if you were to study Italian and then Portuguese, you would have more difficulty remembering information from both topics than if you were to study Italian and then chemistry.

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Stupendous Study Tips for a Blissful Brain, Part I

Fortunately for college students, researchers in cognitive psychology have discovered ways to get the biggest bang for your buck when you study.

For part one of this series, study tips include the following:

  • Study only a modest amount of material at any given time
  • In that short study time, study groups of concepts are related
  • Review that material more than once

When you study in this fashion, you will reduce the amount of interference from other information so you can encode what you are studying more successfully. Additionally, this will make the material more distinctive.

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