FREE Note Organizer Template and Etsy Shop

Hiya!
It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything, and the reason for that is thousands of pages of homework, reading and life happenings. As a treat, I present to you all more planner templates and some Etsy news!

Sometime in December my genius boyfriend and I came up with some simple templates for DIY organizer type things. They’re not exactly planners, but can definitely be used for mapping out day-to-day activities, checklists and even some class specific things (see below). I’ve posted the weekly homework planning sheet in monochrome colors here.

NEW: Note Template for Language Class

Download it for FREE here: Language Planner Monochromo – PDF

Language planner

My little sister (Grade 7) and I both tested it for a few days and decided that the best use of this sheet would be either as a Study Guide template for tests or perhaps as a place to organize all notes at the end of the class. I am still a strong supporter of taking lots of messy notes in class, but at the end of the day when you review everything, this sheet could be a good place to organize everything you wrote down earlier. Put in a binder and you’ll have a nice collection for review! If you are looking for some more fun/colorful versions, it’s all in the Etsy Shop!

P.S. Use the coupon code STUDYFUN  before Friday, February 26th to receive 50% discount on these organizer friends!

P.P.S. We also have some updates on the sidebar – please welcome Karl from Studying Smart! Karl has a study blog as well, and it’s very impressive how much he has developed it in the last few weeks. Follow him and share the love!

How to Speed Read

These last couple of weeks have been homework-free for me. As much as I’d like to think that it’s because I did it all in advance, that’s not true. I’ve been slacking off quite a lot, and the 50-page articles that need to be read are finally catching up with me. After calculating how much time I need to read through everything carefully I realized it may be physically impossible after such a long break. So I figured now is the time to learn about some speed reading techniques and share them with you guys.

Speed reading: what is it and how is it learned?

I can’t how many times I’ve tried skimming through long texts, thinking I’m a pro at speed reading and not understanding why it’s so hard for others to learn. Well, it turned out I wasn’t speed reading at all – I was just looking through words without comprehending what they said, and in the end I didn’t remember anything. I’ll tell you right off the bat that speed reading is a science, and is not easily conquered. It takes knowledge of technique and lots, lots of practice. So there are a couple components to speed reading that need to be mastered: getting rid of sub-vocalization, reading in chunks and getting the big picture. These are the simplest terms I could come up with, but there are tons of articles that talk about it in more detail (see links at the end).

How to Speed Read
1. Getting the big picture

When starting to speed read the text, it’s important to know what the text is about. Spend a couple minutes looking and thinking about the title, some headings, keywords and perhaps footnotes. This will help you get the gist of the main idea and put things together when you start to speed read the text. Jotting down some notes when you get to an important idea is something to consider as well – remembering the material after speed reading it may be incredibly difficult.

2. Chunking

This is not the same as chunking to memorize things, but the general idea is the same – group words together to get through them faster. This also helps with not vocalizing them out loud, by the way, so these two things kind of help each other. If we read word by word and try to get the meaning of each one of them, we won’t get through the text even if we tried. But chunking those words into phrases and looking at the general idea works a bit better.

3. Sub-vocalization

When we read (and as you are reading now), we tend to pronounce every word in our head. Read this now, are you hearing your mind saying these words out loud? Yep, that’s what I’m talking about. The deal with sub-vocalization is that it slows us down immensely, and more often than not doesn’t even help with comprehending the material. To get started of the righteous path to speed reading, we need to get rid of that little voice.
It’s important to remember, though, that you can’t speed read through every text. Some texts, like novels and poetry, are not made to be skimmed through. I found that this technique works wonderfully with scientific article – the headings and conclusions are pretty clear to find and understand, and they are all structured pretty much the same way so I know where to look for what I need.

Here are those articles about speed reading I promised earlier:

The Truth About Speed Reading – methods, do’s and don’t’s and some more tips

Scientific Speed Reading: How to read 300% faster in 20 minutes – a great, very detailed guide with techniques and tips

What Speed Do You Read? – some help from Staples!

Speed Reading: Learning to Read More Efficiently – MindTools puts everything together in one place, I read this guide

You Can’t Speed Read Literature – another view on speed reading

Spritz – a wonderful app that breaks down articles word by word for speed reading

Accelerated Speed Reading Trainer – available for both iOS and Android, yay!

Read Quick – Speed Reading for iOS – okay, I love this one.

How do you get through long texts? What do you do to read faster? Share below!

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How I Got to College

How I got to College

Hello lovelies,

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about getting to college, so if you are a high school student preparing for this absolutely crazy application/SAT’s/Admission Essays period I hope this may be of some help to you. The key is to start early and have some kind of idea before you start, hence why I’m posting this now. I’ve been getting tons and tons of questions about studying for the SAT and ACT, tips for writing the best essay, what classes to take beforehand, grades, etc., so I’ll just go over each one one by one. (See some helpful links below!)

The Grades

The obvious thing about receiving grades in high school is that they need to be good. The not-so-obvious is that they are not the most important aspect of your career. Although most university look at your academic GPA, the new “holistic review” idea is also considering how challenging and diverse your courses were, what you have going on in the extracurriculars are and some personal circumstances if you mentioned those in your essay. I know someone whose parents were getting a divorce in the middle of her junior year. The poor girl was affected so much that her grades fell way below average. Next year, however, she was able to bring them back up and explain in her personal essay what had happened. So unless you are applying to the top Ivy League type schools, you do not have to have a perfect GPA.

SAT/ACT Prep

I cannot begin telling you how many people began taking their SAT’s in the fall of their senior year and were freaking out about not getting them back in time. So please start studying for these early! I was lucky enough to take a prep course through Princeton Review (expensive, but worth it! My cumulative score increased by 400 points!), which started in the beginning of my junior year. Once I took it and did as well as I could on the test, I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. However, my trouble was that I couldn’t decide which test to study for – ACT or SAT. ACT is a more of a knowledge-based test, where you are actually tested on what you already know. The SAT doesn’t really go too deep into the material, and essentially everything depends on your attention span and how many practice tests you’ve taken. I took both tests (it doesn’t hurt to try them both!) several times and simply submitted my best scores to the university. It worked out fine and I got the scores I wanted!

Extracurricular Activities

Nowadays most colleges pay so much attention to extracurriculars that it almost feels like they’re more important than grades. These include school clubs, sports, leadership, hobbies, volunteering, jobs, internships, family duties, etc. Basically, whatever you’re doing outside of school counts as an extracurricular activity. It’s important to stick to few things for a longer period of time than trying out this and that for a month or two. I feel like I had a pretty good set of out-of-school things going on, such as volunteering at the Red Cross for a few years, working at a child care facility, being a secretary/treasurer and member of French Honor Society as well as a member of the National Honor Society, and taking a whole bunch of other classes that weren’t associated with school. I feel like anything you can show a passion and dedication to would work fabulously – universities want people who will stick around for some time and work hard.

AP/IB/Honors Classes

Short answer: take them. Long answer: take as many as you can, but don’t overload yourself with craziness. Over my high school career, I took 5 AP classes: US History, French, English, Statistics and another French class. It was tough, but manageable as long as I didn’t procrastinate. What ended up happening is I entered college with 20 credits, which would have cost me some $17,000…! Not only that, but I was also more prepared for university work load than I would have been if I took all the regular high school classes. AP and Honors classes require a lot more work and are a bit harder, I agree, but they are so worth it. I only wish I took more of them in school!

The Essay

Oh, this is the worst part. How do you actually promote yourself? How do you tell colleges, “Pick me, pick me!!!” without sounding arrogant, pathetic or desperate? Personal essays require a lot of work. It’s not something you can sit down, write and submit in one evening. Make sure to find someone to read over your essay. Actually, as many people as possible. Be honest and write from your heart – do not try to guess what the admissions people are looking for. You don’t have to think of something heroic you’ve done or make something up to make them feel bad – just write what’s on your mind and use a lot of descriptions.

By the way, my college essay was ridiculously cheesy. I wrote about my German friend coming to my house in Russia and how my friends tried to speak English to her and how it all totally changed my life. Wow, it sounds dorky even now. But I think it was the way I wrote it and conveyed my feelings about the situation that really worked. I got some help from my parents, English teachers, even family friends, and hearing their opinions was invaluable. This is where I would like to direct you guys to my good friend Jacqueline from Nitty-Gritty English, who talks about writing tips for reluctant writers. If you get stuck on your essay (or any essay for that matter!), go take a look at her blog – there will definitely be something that can help you.

Meeting Advisers

Last but not least, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to talk to your counselor and advisers about choosing and applying to a university. They are the best people that can tell you about studying there, all of opportunities you’ll get, living conditions, etc. They can even help you with your admissions process, getting through that essay or maybe some unique application problem you’re having. Go and talk to any adviser. If not to ask questions, but to talk to her/him and introduce yourself.

Alright, sorry about the long rant! Let me know if you have any questions or concerns below in the comments, email or Tumblr! I’d love to help out!

Links:

Nitty Gritty English – Tips for Reluctant Writers

Unigo – Find College matches, scholarships and career advice

Zinch – My personal favorite. Used this one through and through back in the day!

Niche – See what fellow students say about colleges, their grades and admissions experiences. Loved it!

Parchment.com – Calculate your chances of getting into college! Used it!

The College Board – Your scoop on AP Tests

Princeton Review – SAT/ACT Prep

College Rankings: Good, Bad or Ugly? – Be smart about those college rankings.

Scholarships and Financial Aid – My collection of websites for scholarship searches

Organizing with an Expandable Folder

A few days ago I received a question from a fellow student about organizing folders. I’ve been having that same problem for a long time now – with getting organized and keeping things in one place. So today I went out and purchased a simple expandable folder (see below) with 7 pockets. Right now I only have three classes, so that will give me a bit more freedom with filing handouts and homework to turn in.

I’m sure most of you have seen the folder I’m talking about:

Expandable Folder
So I am using two pockets for each class: one of all papers and another for homework that needs to be turned in. This system may go aloof in a little bit, but in a perfect world that’s how I would go about it. This quarter I got a small notepad for taking notes and will talk about it in the next post. So those fit perfectly into my new 7-pocket folder as well as all the other papers. Because the folder can expand to humongous widths, it gives me freedom to stuff as many materials and books in there as I wish. So I think I’ll stick with this friend for a while now :)

Expandable Folder 2

 

How do you guys organized all your homework papers and assignments? Share in the comments!

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Retaking Classes

I have a confession to make: I had to retake the easiest class in my college curriculum last quarter. It was embarrassing to talk about – most people consider the class a joke. I felt terrible about my parents paying extra when I could be taking a more important class. And the worst part was explaining to other students why a Psych major has to retake a first requirement.

The truth is, I’m happy I took the class again. It raised my grade from 3.0 to a 3.8 and improved my overall Psych GPA to the point where I could safely apply and know I could be accepted. I don’t want to blame the first professor entirely…but I want to blame the first professor at least a little. As hard and I tried to study and memorize for that class, it wasn’t enough to receive my desired grade. The guy didn’t adjust the mean grade, which ended up being 2.2 on a 4.0 scale! In my opinion, this is unacceptable for a beginning Psychology class. To make things worse, there’s no way to file a complaint..

Enough rambling now, let’s talk about the do’s and don’t’s of retaking those fun fun classes!

The Don’t’s

  • When retaking any class, easy or difficult, don’t take it as a joke. It’s easy to think that you’ve learned the material before, but remember that the reason you’re retaking the class is because you didn’t learn the material well enough or correctly.
  • Don’t use your old notes and study guides. It’s possible you missed something in your studying last time, so it may not be a good idea to use the same materials.
  • Don’t miss any information. Listen carefully to the lecture and soak it all in.
  • Don’t feel bad about it. Don’t put yourself down because of a minor set back like this, don’t get distracted.

The Do’s

  • Adjust your study habits, take better notes, and use all the resources you’re provided with. Clearly something went wrong last time so changing up your strategies may be a game changer.
  • Make friends in the classes. Connections, connections, connections. Form study groups and ask for help all the time.
  • Try hard. It would be a bummer if by the end of the quarter the grade could be improved and you’d realize that you could have worked harder.
  • Do what you gotta do and everything will be okay!

Good luck in classes!

Decluttering For The New Quarter

My oh my has my desk suffered through a lot this year! I’ve been trying to come up with a nice little system to keep things in their places for a while now, and now the opportunity has come! As part of these Christmas/New Year’s gifts, my favorite person ever built me an organizer to keep all my papers, pens, sticky notes, and other office supplies. It has a very nice rustic look, which I love, and comes with a variety of pockets and dividers for all sorts of things. I’ve placed it near the corner of my desk so it wouldn’t cover anything, and am very happy with how things are looking here.

before and after

If you are looking for a nice excuse to reorganize a desk – look no more! I definitely recommend getting one of these super duper awesome organizers. They are sold in our regular office supply stores like Staples, Office Depot and Target for sure. If you’d like to get a more artistic, handmade or vintage look, here are my favorites:

Show me how you organize your desk on Twitter or Tumblr