at that college of mine

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~October 20th, 4/100 days of productivity~

Stages of writing a essay! I got my SAT scores back and there was so much improvement in my reading section! I’m so proud of myself!!!!! But lol my math score went down by 20 points but that doesnt matter to much. I’m feeling awesome though! (so many unnecessary exclamation points)

How do you take notes & study?

Do you type your notes, or hand write them? And what is your method?

Also, how do you use your notes to study? Do you print them out and highlight them? Do you make summaries out of what you’ve written in class?

I’m very curious to know how you organize for school, so if you could tell me, I’d be very thankful!!

How NOT to study

“I’m going to start studying right after I’ve ______”…you won’t.

“Oooh, I’m going to highlight my notes with 49930 different colours to help me retain information” Highlight key words!!

“Everyone else has these amazing, expensive notebooks, pens and Macbooks. Maybe I need them too to be a good student.” Hint: You don’t

“There more I manage to cover during this hour, the more I’ll learn” Remember: Quality NOT quantity

“Revision is so unnecessary. I have a good memory and I know I’m going to remember this on the test I have in 2 months”… sorry to break this to you but you probably won’t remember a lot. Go through everything you’ve covered during the last week on the weekend.

“Oh boy, I’m so tired. I think I’ll just read this chapter in bed.” Hint: You’ll fall asleep

“Okay so I need to study this and this much to get a better grade than _____“ wth nonono. Study for yourself??

“Omg, I didn’t study today. I’m such a failure” You don’t have to study every day. You shouldn’t study every day!! Have at least one day a week when you do nothing school related, your brain needs the rest!
 
“I didn’t get a ____ in the test. I must be dumb idiot and a complete failure who won’t accomplish anything in life” One grade doesn’t affect your life one bit.

“I must study law, medicine or any other STEM subject to be considered a real hardworking student” Hint: Humanities and other subjects are just as hard, okay?

“My teacher is bad and that’s why I won’t ever learn this” Take your computer, open google, google the stuff you don’t get. Was it so hard? Don’t blame your teacher for not understanding something. They’re humans and not perfect. Be ambitious and try to teach yourself with the help of your friends, the internet, youtube, library books etc.

Doing well is much easier said than done. The best tip I have is to just do the work. It’s going to suck, but there’s no secret other than doing the work. Though, there are ways to make doing the work easier!

I. Time Management

  • Have a planner to gain a general idea of your week.
  • Schedule your time for studying but also schedule time for breaks.
  • Every morning I check what needs to be done for the day.
  • I treat college as a 9-5 job with a lunch break. This may not work for everyone, but this thinking allows me to be done by 5, and I usually finish everything for the day by that time.
  • Take a break after you finish an assignment. Allow yourself to feel proud for finishing and give yourself a reward.
  • Break up projects into smaller parts, this is incredibly important. It’s easier to do an outline, then a few paragraphs rather than doing an entire essay at once.
  • It’s not time well used if you don’t focus on the task at hand. If you’re having trouble, get rid of distractions using apps that limit phone/internet usage.
  • Don’t waste time on techniques that don’t work for you. I don’t rewrite notes, it doesn’t help me study. Instead I do extra textbook problems or I watch a video on the topic. 
  • Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to do the work, to study. Then just do a single problem, a single page or paragraph. Usually starting is the hardest part.

II. Studying & Learning

  • Be present during class by asking questions and answering problems.
  • Use phone-locking apps like Forest if you need to to stay focused on the class.
  • Skim lecture notes ahead of time. You don’t need to take notes on them, the professor will tell you what’s important.
  • It’s ok if your notes aren’t pretty as long as they’re functional.
  • Practice problems until you can’t get them wrong.
  • Try to teach the material to someone else. This will show holes in your understanding. Pretend to teach if you don’t have a friend in the same class.
  • If you need, study in the library. Honestly, studying at my desk in my dorm has worked just fine for me though.
  • Do the homework, there’s no way around it. This is probably the biggest tip here. Do the work.
  • Actually do the homework, don’t just copy answers. Understand the answers. You can’t copy on a test.
  • Speaking of tests, do as many practice tests as you can find. Once the real test comes around, you won’t be as nervous and it should feel familiar.
  • Nice pens and notebooks aren’t required. However, spend a dollar and get a pen that writes well enough that you’re not wasting time during class getting it to work. (I’ve been through this)
  • Do the extra credit. There’s no reason not to, and your grade will thank you.
  • Go to tutoring, not everyone knows everything. You might even make a new friend since most tutors at my school are also students!
  • Realistically, you don’t need to do every reading assignment as long as you know what your professor tests on. If you don’t have the time, its fine to only skim the assignment.
  • Make study groups. If you don’t have a friend in the class, it’s as easy as asking “want to work on the homework together?” In my experience, most people are happy to work with you.
  • Go to your professors office hours if you need help. Your professors are a valuable resource.
  • Ask your friends for feedback, I do this all the time.

III. Treat Yourself

  • Sleep and eat well. Coffee is not a breakfast.
  • Please, don’t force yourself to cram a subject overnight. This is where time management comes into play.
  • An over-stressed student is a bad student, but a little bit of stress is healthy.
  • Find what motivates you. Personally, I wish to become a researcher so I work hard towards that goal to get into a good grad. school.
  • You don’t have to join a club. I’m not in one, and my social life is just fine since I spend time playing games with friends at night.
  • But join a club if you want, even for a single day. You might meet some friends.
  • Really do whatever you want with regards to your social life. Do what’s comfortable for you.
  • If you need it, colleges have a therapist that you can make an appointment with.
Back to School: How to Get an A*/8 or 9 in an English Lit Essay!

Happy September, everyone!

As we all get our gears in motion to start a new year, I thought I would share my top tips for scoring the highest marks in English Literature essays. 

(P.S. Lots of these tips are applicable to other subjects too)


1. Don’t write about the character as if they are real

Unfortunately, this is a common error in English Lit essays. It is absolutely imperative to remember that a character is not a person, but is a construct of the writer in order to present an idea or theme. No matter the question, you should be linking your answer back to the writer’s ideas and theme of the text, even if it doesn’t seem obvious what the theme is on the first inspection of the question. Using the author’s name frequently in your essay will demonstrate that you recognise the character is not a real person - ‘Shakespeare portrays Macbeth as a tragic hero, as defined by Aristotle as…’

2. Don’t analyse the plot

Avoid analysing the plot or when things happen in the text. Don’t write ‘When X happens it makes us think Y’. Instead:

  • Analyse the writer’s use of language, structure and form to create meaning
  • Do a close language analysis of specific words/phrases, including a sound analysis (plosives, assonance, etc.)
  • Do a structural analysis of what happens when and why that’s important (Freytag’s pyramid)
  • Do an analysis of form (stage directions, dramatic monologue, etc.)

3. Keep your answer relevant throughout

You need to be explicitly answering the question - not going off on a tangent nor trying to change the question to suit an answer that you want to write. One way of avoiding this is by starting each paragraph with a topic sentence, summarising what that paragraph is going to be about and how it answers the question. Another method is simply by rewording the question into your answer at the start and end of every paragraph. At least. For greater impact, include synonyms of the word, which can also help with the readability of your answer.

4. Avoid PEE/PEEL/etc. where you can

Thousands of students are taught the same, basic Point-Evidence-Explain (or variant) analytical paragraph structure. If you want to stand out, show academic strength, and achieve the highest marks then you must break free from the chains of PEE! (This also applies for your introduction format. ‘In this essay, I will argue…’ gets pretty dull after reading it 100 times)

For my students, I will be teaching them to write What-How-Why paragraphs:

WHAT has the writer done?

HOW have they done it?

WHY have they done it/is it effective?

This way, your focus is always on why the writer has chosen to use that specific language/structure/form, but it allows you to be creative in crafting your response. Being able to discuss the ‘why’ of literature is the key to unlocking the highest grades. Reading through examiners’ reports this summer has made one thing clear - it is not enough to merely spot linguistic devices or structural features. You must explain why the writer has chosen them and why that is an effective choice (or not).

5. Avoid sweeping statements about context

The main advice here is to only include comments about the context of the text if it adds to the analytical point that you are making. They should not be a bolt-on sentence, but they should enhance your answer.

Further, sweeping claims like ‘All Jacobean women were oppressed by society’ is far too vague. On the other hand, a comment like ‘Lady Macbeth is a disturbing example of womanhood because she denies her gender at a time where the role of a woman was clear-cut, even patriarchal, in Jacobean society’ suggests that you have a greater understanding of how context can influence the writer’s choices.

6. A plan is your best friend

Always, always make time to plan your answer. A method I recommend is, first, circling the key words in the question (character/theme, what you are asked to do, where in the text you are asked to look, etc.). Secondly, write all of your ideas down onto the page, highlighting parts from the extract if you have that in front of you. Finally, select a judicious number of points that you are going to talk about (quality not quantity here) and number the order in which you are going to make them.

If you are writing a comparative essay, each paragraph must start and end with a comparative point about whatever it is you are comparing (characters/themes/etc.) I suggest the following format:

X is presented in both text A and text B. However, in A the author uses device 1 and 2 to demonstrate X. On the other hand, in B, the author demonstrates X via use of device 2 and 3.’ Then write one paragraph for each text. Repeat this again for another similarity. And again for a third - if you think that is appropriate.


Photo credit @eintsein 🌻

university tips

*from someone that survived her own first year of university

  • university is SO different from high school; a brilliant student in high school can be just a mediocre university student, and this is simply how it is when people from all over the country come together in a class. 
  • so it is okay to stress, but only if afterwards you’re just trying your best! it doesn’t matter how much you already know (though it helps), but how willing you are to learn! so, really, if you want to be there, you can make it!
  • make sure you eat properly; after a while, your body will start feeling gross and it’ll eventually show in your capacity to do your work. go out, buy that extra meat, extra salads, extra fruits, at least every once in a while. it’s not luxury, it’s a need
  • go the extra mile. no matter how optional a task may be or how tongue-tied you feel on a particular day, put yourself out there. write that essay, do that projects, speak about your ideas. your teachers really appreciate it when they ask for interractions from students and they provide, and it’s nice to have your teacher know you by face and by actions. it might prove useful when they’re grading you during the finals as well.
  • go to all (most) of your classes, no matter how optional the attendace is or how little you understand on the moment. in the long run, it will matter, and it’s super helpful to complete all your materials with the extra knowledge you got from the class. and no one and nothing will truly replace a teacher’s explanation.
  • try to make friends with those around you; most are probably just as lost and lonely as you are and it’s good to have people around you who can motivate you when you’re done or with whom to simply share the struggles of getting an education. sure, not everyone will like you, but those that will, make sure they can stick.
  • get involved in all the extra programmes that you’re interested in! you’re young and a student once! these opportunities are mostly a once in your lifetime thing! get out there and try everything: go to that book club, get your ass for the cinephile gathering, sign up for exchange programs, help out your teachers with their projects, do volunteer work! whatever floats your boat, but just do it!
  • also keep your eyes wide open to catch all the interesting lectures happening in your school. check those posters, check those subjects, check those dates and go. most of the times, you’ll leave knowing much more and having something to think on.
  • do your reading and assignments ahead of time! you don’t want it to be 2 dayss before your first exam, and you still have to finish essays and books.
  • the library really is your best friend! either as a study place or alternative to spending all your money on the source materials for your homework.
  • tidy up at least once a week; as school materials will start pile up, it will be harder and harder to find anything and you’ll only just end up frustrated
  • no one knows you better than you do, so make sure to take only the amount of work you know you can do. it’s okay if you want to keep your first year as free as you can, so you have time to acommodate, and just as okay it is to try all the available classes if you can. 
  • keep your facebook name your real one so people can find you. make sure you’re in every possible group within the first week of university, so you know what’s going on. use said facebook groups to ask about teachers and classes, or find offers on used textbooks that are much cheaper than if you would have bought them yourself.
  • talk with the upperclassmen if you have questions, or simply for tips! really, it tickles our ego to have people actually interested in the experiences we have to share and most of us are more than happy to clear any misunderstandings or help you guys get a classroom right.
  • carry pills and proteine bars with you, especially if you spend a long time away from home! you never know when pain or hunger hits you, and it is better to be prepared than sorry. 
  • it became a running joke at this point, i know, but right during the exam period you’ll want to do everything you haven’t done ever. so make sure you nurture your hobbies as well as your studies, and hopefully your interests are not too time consuming or at least require frequent/long breaks.
  • literally no one cares about how you look; so wear that make-up and nice clothes if you feel up for it, but if you don’t, that’s fine as well.
  • it will be done in the blink of an eye. so be true to yourself and your wishes, enjoy what you’re studying and, remember, you can do it!
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✨  back to school printables bundle  ✨

back to school season has started, yay! As a ‘thank you’ to all 1000 people who followed me I made this printables bundle with everything you may need during your school year. I’m on uni so this is more of a ‘back to uni’ thingy, but I bet hs students will make a great use of it too! Anyway, thank you for following me and here goes!

Click one of the links below to download a PDF file:

▪️  grid note taking sheet  [prev]
▪️  lined note taking sheet
▪️  to do list
▪️  keyboard stickers
▪️  2017/18 school calendar
▪️  class schedule  [prev]
▪️  term+definition sheet

[A BUNDLE DOWNLOAD] - a zip file including more colors & PNG files!

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