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!

Before our Classes Begin: A Checklist

A quick checklist to prepare for the upcoming semester.


1. Office supplies.

The most important step of all (probably not, but why can’t it be?). Go out and get yourself some cute stationery! Journals, pens, pencils, highlighters, extra paper, sticky notes, etc.

2. A planner.

I don’t know about you, but a few weeks into any quarter I stop using my planner completely. I feel confident enough in my memory, despite the numerous times I’ve forgotten to turn in assignments. A new year is the best! time to go out and get a new planner. Some posts: Free printable weekly to-do templateplanners online, filofax love, chronodex planner, bullet journal.

3. Check the classes
Make sure to take a look at the class websites and read the syllabi (syllabuses? that sounds weird). Take a look at the textbooks and see if there are any assignments that need to be completed prior to the first day. See some reviews on, get an idea of what to expect from a class.

4. Have some note-taking options

Note Taking Methods
This is my favorite part of all. Lately I’ve been using my iPad to take notes. I must say I’m very pleased with how it turned out, although you definitely can’t do this for every class. There is no need to decide on a note-taking method right away – it would make sense to attend the first one or two classes to get the feel for the way it’s taught. However, once you do decide on a method, try to stick to it. There is nothing worse than having to figure out disorganized notes on the night before an exam.

Good luck to everyone in this coming quarter!

The stars in the spotlight this week:

Mostly Morgan
Nitty-Gritty English
By Hannah Joy


Finding a Job in High School and College

Getting a Job in High School&College

In High School

Here the job market mostly depends on your age. Since all of the jobs are part-time and relatively easy, you only need to take your pick and pursue the position. Your future career may not depend on this choice, but it sure will help with making the first job experience more pleasant. Since high school students don’t have a degree in a specific subject area, most of the jobs require simple skills. Some options are:

1. Babysitting – ask your neighbors and family friends if they need some help or know someone who might! Let your friends know you’re open to recommendations. I can’t count how many times my friends weren’t able to make it to their babysitting jobs and gave my number to the families, so it worked out quite nicely for moi. In addition to babysitting, I worked at a child care since sophomore year of high school. It was a fairly easy job, and I was even able to sneak in my homework at times. So a lot of children were involved in my high school career, but everything worked perfectly fine for me. More options: pet sitting, house sitting, yard sitting, and basically anything that has the word sitting in it.

2. Store/Restaurant/Small Business – working at a small business enables a more personal work environment, which to me is very important. Restaurants require a food handling license most likely, and stores won’t let you touch the money until you’re 18, but there are definitely some possibilities at getting a job not related to that. For example, stacking shelves, being a host/hostess at a restaurant, helping out customers, etc. Even if you think you’re not old enough or qualified for a position, it never hurts to ask. That way the employer will know that you’re looking for something and keep you in mind.

3. Tutoring – if you know someone who needs help with homework, why not help them out? It can be a friend or a classmate, and maybe even someone from a grade or two below you. You can also work as a tutor in the community center, the library or the YMCA. The best way to get to this position is probably to volunteer first – ask around (have I mentioned that already?) and see if anyone needs help. Volunteer, get some experience, and soon you’ll be able to tutor others for pay.

4. Volunteer/Internship – while internships aren’t as available during high school years, there is plenty of volunteering opportunities out there. Pick an organization, sign up and get that experience on! If you are planning ahead for college applications (which you definitely should), make sure to pick something useful and worth talking about on the application. Red Cross, YMCA, care homes, maybe even online companies – all it takes is a couple of phone calls and/or emails to find out! Remember, it never hurts to ask.

All in all, make sure to get your name out there and let me know that you’re available and looking for work. While you probably won’t get a job that requires high qualifications, it will definitely be a good start for your CV and first job experiences.

In College

Most college students look for jobs for either one or both reasons: get a little extra income or work experience for a future job search. While it is important to find a position that you like, it’s also important to relate it to something you’re interested in or your intended career path.

1. Career Center – although it sounds like the University’s career center only helps out with graduating students, they can definitely provide you with some tips about the job search. Some websites for looking up part time and full time jobs in your area, making your resume sound crazy awesome, and dates for some internship and job fairs.

2. College-owned website for job search – I found my campus job on UW’s website huskyjobs. It lists for me all on and off campus jobs, I can upload my resume and cover letter for employers to look at. It’s a great site and most college career centers provide this kind of websites for students.

3. Sales/Food nearby – if you’re looking just for some small monthly income, it may be a good idea to look into nearby shops, cafes and clothing stores. Although the competition is high, most students who look for a job are actually able to get one. Look around, ask around. You know the drill.

4. Start with an internship – if you’re having a hard time finding a paid job, maybe look in the direction of internships. Some of them are paid, some are not, but they are a great way to start getting experience in the field you’re interested in. Career centers usually hold internship fairs where you can walk around, talk to potential employers and share your resume for them to look at.

5. Blog! My favorite one, obviously! A part-time job consists of at least 10-15 hours of work every week. If you blog every day and try your best to promote a blog, find sponsors, etc., you can actually get quite a good income! I’ve recently found a few blogs written by college students who use it as their source of income – MostlyMorgan, for example. Morgan writes up monthly income reports, which are very useful to look at if you are trying to promote your blog. If you are new to the blogging community, check out her guide on how to start your own blog.


How I Survived Finals


Before I tell you the whole procedure, I’d like to note that this quarter was one of the most important quarters in my college career (so far). The thing is, there is a certain GPA requirement to get admitted to the Psychology Major. It’s not very high, but various past circumstances have forced me to retake a class to raise the GPA. That wasn’t fun, obviously, but I will talk about that later sometime. The point is, raising the GPA takes a lot of effort, and this quarter was extremely stressful because of that, since my admission to the major depended on it.

I must say now that I did pretty well – scores above average, and good enough to raise the grades suitable for the admission. Three finals in a row wasn’t super fun, though, and it took me a lot of effort to get organized. Here’s what I did:

1. Create a study schedule and follow it.
I know this one is a little obvious, like you would have totally thought of that without me saying it for the millionth time. I’ve written a few posts about this, you can check them out here: How to Make a Study Plan Make a Study Guide.

2. Use every free minute.
I think my scores definitely had some room for improvement, and I definitely had enough time to study for it. My laziness and procrastion got in the way, unfortunately, and I now regret every minute I spent watching Gilmore Girls instead of studying.

3. Prepare your snacks!
I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like the more studying I have, the more hungry I get. Is it because I’m secretly bored or maybe my stomach is trying to distract me? I don’t know, but having some snacks and a cup of hot tea nearby creates a more comfortable and cozy setting for me.

4. Sleep.
Probably the most important thing you can do to get all your energy (large dozes of caffeine excluded). Most teenagers and adults need at least 8 hours of sleep every night, and not getting all of them takes a toll on your test performance. Here are some more posts about that: The True Value of SleepThe Power of Naps, No More All-Nighters

5. Actually study.
Here it is, the mistake that brought me to failure to many times. Just kidding, I’ve never failed any subject really, but I’ve definitely received scores below the ones I’ve expected. As easy as it sounds, studying doesn’t mean simply rereading the textbook or your notes. This quarter I tried to do all the practice problems assigned and quiz myself as much as possible. This technique is called active recall, which works when you retrieve the information from your memory so many times that it actually stays there. Read about it here: About Memorization. There are several Memory Techniques you can use to make the best of your study time as well.

How do you get through your finals week? Comment below!

Study for Multiple Choice Tests

file211251473046 (1)When preparing for a multiple choice test, it’s quite easy to relax and think “Oh, this test will be easy because all the answers will be on paper.” Unfortunately, this kind of thinking often sets us up for failure. Professors and teachers are familiar with such attitude, and make the tests even harder and more confusing.

To avoid this, it’s important to study as if the test will have open-ended questions.This means that you have to practice in a way that will let you understand the material, not merely recognize familiar terms on paper. There are a few components involved in this kind of test prep, and if you do a little bit of each, the knowledge and practice will add up in the end to form a bigger picture.

This is the procedure I’ve been going by in the last couple of months, which has been working out quite well for me:

mc drawing1. Go over and annotate all notes and textbook readings

Start doing this as soon as the quarter/semester/class begins. It’s easy to get behind, but if you review and annotate every evening for 20 minutes, it will be much easier before the test.

2. Create a mind map that links all of the new concepts together and helps you create a bigger picture.

3. Start taking practice tests at least a week before the test.
It will be useless to cram and do five practice tests on a Sunday night, but if you take a test each day of the week in advance, it will not be as difficult and overwhelming.

4. Practice answering open-ended questions.
These have been saving my butt these last few weeks. Even though all of my exams are multiple choice, the best indicator of your knowledge is how well you are able to pull information out of your archival memory and into your working memory. And as a bonus, the more times you do this, the better you remember it in the future and the easier it is to recall again.

5. Identify Key Terms.
It doesn’t matter whether you create flashcards or cover the definitions with your hands: knowing the key terms and formulas is crucial to creating connections between concepts and coming up with “the big picture”. Just remember to actually think as you memorize the terms, because mindless memorization can only get you as far.

To sum it all up, I would like to say that the key to remembering information better and long after the test is to use a technique called elaborative rehearsal.  The basic science behind it is easy, though: pay the most attention to the meaning of the words and concepts, link new and old ideas right away, and try to mindlessly memorize things as little as possible. There are numerous sources and articles (1, 2, for example) that show that people who memorized a list of random words by focusing on how the word looks like or sounds like instead of focusing on the context in which the word was given to them, have remembered much fewer words than those who understood the meaning.

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iPad Apps for Students


If you have made the decision to use a tablet or an iPad for school, congratulations! I have found it to be so helpful, both in terms of freeing up some space in my backpack as well as keeping everything organized and in one place. One frequent question I get from my Tumblr followers is what are the top apps you can use for school?

Here is a quick list of productivity, note-taking, document reading, to-do list and some fun apps that can be integrated into your school life.

1. To be Productive

  •  When studying, the Pomodoro Timer can help you organize your schedule. The Pomodoro Rule (aka 45-15 rule) allows you to work for 45 minutes and rest for 15. Studying in smaller chunks like these helps you keep your best focus and re-energize when the concentration goes down.
  • If you are not a fan of set schedules, but would like to keep a clean and organized to-do list for all your activities, I’d recommend the GoodTask app

2. To Be Organized

  • To those who enjoy keeping a calendar online, Sunrise Calendar is a beautiful app. Similar to iCal, it includes Google calendar, Exchange and iCloud support, and is available on laptops, iPhones and iPads. It is also offered on Android!
  • StudyCal is also a great option for students who like to keep their daily tasks, class schedules, assignments and even grades all in one place.

3. To Take Notes

  • I take notes using GoodNotes app (Here is a screenshot). It is very simple and easy to use, doesn’t lag, and has handwriting recognition in case you need to do a search of you notes. Also includes PDF annotations as well as allows you to take photos and insert them right into your notes.
  • Another option is Notability an app very similar to Goodnotes, except that it offers a voice recording device and allows you to listen to the recording and see how you wrote your notes during lecture. Super cool!
  • Evernote and OneNote are also great apps for taking notes in class, but mostly if you prefer to type them. Both are saved on a cloud and are accessible from any device!
  • For various short and random notes, the App Store offers Post-It app, which lets you create Pinterest-like boards of post it notes from your photos.


4. To Study 

5. To Keep your Files

  • Microsoft Office: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneDrive, etc. These can be found in Bundles in the App store for free! Good to have just in case.
  • The app I use is Documents Free. It’s very simple and saves everything even if I’ve just opened it once. Helps with files like class syllabus that I randomly decide to check in the middle of the year.

6. Other Helpful Apps

Here is a screenshot of my iPad and the apps that I use: