5 Ways to Hack Undergrad Studies

* This is a post written by my friend James from Homework Market. Whether you have just been admitted to college or have been studying for some time, read through these tips for help!*

From study groups and final exams to frat parties and sleep deprivation, there are many worries on the minds of undergrads. Social media feeds seem to be filled with tips on how to clean things, how to pack things, and other quirky little life hacks (like, clever things to do with binder clips and duct tape). But there are five hacks that make the undergraduate years more fun, more successful, and even less expensive.

If you need better sleep, better homework answers, better food, and a better overall college experience, then keep reading!

1.      The Food Hack

Food fuels our bodies and our minds. There are brain foods that aid in concentration like blueberries, dark chocolate, eggs, and spinach. There are foods that leave us bloated and exhausted like pizza, burgers, and beer.

Let’s face it, what college student couldn’t use better (and/or free) food?

College campuses are actually teeming with free food, and while much of college is about doing research, many students do not do enough research about free food.

To hack the college food situation, first research which clubs offer the best free food at their meetings. Then (no-brainer), attend the informational sessions, and maybe even join that club and attend their meetings. Also find out about concerts, recitals, an art exhibits, which typically include receptions with great food.

There is also an app called PocketPoints that tracks how long you keep your phone locked and rewards you with points. If you happen to be attending either Penn State or California State University, Chico, you could get free food while giving your undivided attention to your classes and professors. Win-Win!

2.      The Study Hack

College students studying together in a library
College students studying together in a library

Fed with (free) brain food and ready to tackle your studies? There’s a hack for that!

There are many apps that help students manage their time and study better. In the old days, college students used daily planners; today, they use apps like iStudiezPro to track schedules, homework, and grades. Another great app is StudyBlue, which boasts 350 million user-generated digital notecards covering every topic from Algebra to Zoology.

One of the best all-time study hacks is to start a study group. By getting together with like-minded students, you can divvy up the course reading. For example:

Let’s say you have 5 people in your study group and a 50-page reading assignment. Divide the 50 pages so that each person reads 10 and summaries them into 2 pages of notes for the other team members.

This way, each person reads the 10 pages assigned to them, plus 8 pages of notes written by the others, and . . . Voila! A 50-page reading assignment becomes much more manageable as 18 pages.

3.      The Textbook Hack

Portrait of a female learner having trouble studying
Portrait of a female learner having trouble studying

According to CNBC, “The College Board estimates that the average student in this country spends around $1,200 a year on books and supplies. A single book can cost as much as $200. Between 2002 and 2013, the price of college textbooks rose 82 percent—nearly three times the rate of inflation, according to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office.”

There are rentals, used books, and buybacks, but the real textbook hack is even better. Instead, much like open-source (free) software, there is a movement toward free, online course materials. A company called OpenStax offers students free textbooks that meet scope and sequence requirements for most courses. Another company, Boundless Textbooks, has been recommended by ABCNews and The Washington Post.

4.      The Roommate Hack

I have heard stories of students who lucked out with a roommate and became lifelong friends, business partners, and godparents to each other’s children. Comparatively, though, I have heard many more horror stories of mismatched roommates who make it impossible to study, to sleep, and to socialize.

Enter the roommate hack.

Apps like Roomsurf are much like a dating site, matching roommates based on a survey of questions. And Roomsync works in conjunction with Facebook and has amazing results like those of New Mexico State University, where students who used RoomSync had a 96 percent re-enrollment rate for the next semester, 6.6 percent higher than students who didn’t use RoomSync.

5.      The Sleep Hack

Young man sleeping in bed .

If you are eating well, studying well, getting free textbooks and a great roommate, there should be no reason not to sleep well . . . except for all of your other undergraduate worries. For those, you need a sleep hack!

A good night’s sleep helps you feel your best and perform at your best.

While I don’t know of an app that makes you sleep better (though there are some good white noise apps), the best way to improve sleeping habits is like this:

  1. Go to bed at the same time every night. You need at least 7 ½ hours of sleep, so work backwards, if you need to be up by 7:00 AM, go to bed every night by 11:00 PM.
  2. Exercise for 30 minutes every morning. Though it may be tempting to sleep an extra half hour, your time is better spent exercising. Better yet – go to bed at 10:30 to get a full night’s sleep and an extra 30 minutes to exercise the next morning.
  3. Create an environment for sleep. Whatever that means for you – white noise, ear plugs, chamomile tea before bed – make sure your space is optimized for a good night’s rest.
  4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Enough said – you already know they are not conducive to sleep.

These five hacks are sure to make your undergrad studies more successful. Try them out, and let us know what works for you!


About the Author

James Handler is the Head Educational Counselor at Homework Market. He is an advocate of cultivating student talent and intellectual ability. James travels the world to explore the differences in higher education, especially in developing countries where he can assist students reach their full academic potential.

  • WynnJ

    Hey Kat thanks for a great blog. Heard about it on the MedicalSchoolHQ podcast. I’m a post-bacc premed student and these tips help a lot since I’ve been out of school for a while. I’m in Seattle too, maybe I’ll see you around the U-District.

    • Kat (Study-Hack)

      Hey! Glad to hear from a fellow husky! How is Med School going? and yes, totally! I’m on campus all the time:) Shoot me an email, would love to meet sometime!

  • Really great hacks! Thanks for this awesome post! You mentioned exercising every morning and that is a really powerful tool, there has been research that constant exercising actually makes your brain work much better!

  • Lauren Grier

    Thanks for all the hacks Kat and James! I love the food hack, because it’s easy for me to forget that it does matter what we put in our bodies… cheese fries are always calling my name in biology!