tips for undergraduates

Confessions from Undergrad

I’m going to let you guys in on a secret. I was a terrible student while getting my BA. I only took good notes in one class, fell asleep watching assigned videos, had no idea how to read effectively, had study marathons, and highlighted everything in my text books.

So you guys don’t make my mistakes and so you can learn from my own I’m going to let you know what I did wrong and how to do things right.

Note taking: Don’t copy verbatim

Taking notes doesn’t help if they make no sense to you, my biggest mistake was I would never put things in my own words. I would just copy things down verbatim from my textbook. When I went back to review them later they never made any sense. They also had no sense of organization, it was a jumbled mess and I couldn’t find anything.

Note taking: Do put things in your own words and organize them

Putting notes in your own words helps two ways. One, it makes sure that you understand the concept and you’re not just a parrot. Two, it will make way more sense when you’re reviewing later if it’s in plain English and not academic jargon.

Having a organization system for your notes means that you’ll be able to find the information you need when you need it so you don’t waste valuable study time finding what you need. The tactic I have now is hand write a sloppy copy version of my notes and then organize everything in OneNote. I’m also considering doing a neater version of the handwritten in case I don’t feel like staring at a computer screen anymore. Also repeatedly rewriting information helps me retain it better.

Reading: Don’t cram it in all at once

Reading textbooks and academic journals is the hardest part about studying for me, and I’ve been a bookworm my whole life. I even read history books for fun! But I swear textbook people phrase things in the most complicated way possible just to sound smart. More often than not while reading I found myself zoning out and not actually taking in any of the information. I had no idea what was important and what wasn’t 

Reading: Do read the intro and summary first

The introduction and summary in a chapter, or the abstract if it’s a scholarly article, will tell you the main points that you need to focus on and what they want you to get out of the reading. I have also recently found that breaking up the reading into smaller, more manageable chunks improves my focus. If I can’t process what I’m reading I put it away for 5-10 minutes and do something else.

Studying: Don’t cram and don’t be vague

Multiple studies have shown that studying for hours at a time reduces how effective it is and how much information you actually retain. Cramming a semesters worth of information in twelve hours for a test is not likely to get you an A. I used to do this so often, I would literally spend all day working on an assignment only to realize what I was writing made no sense. I’ve also found that when it comes to setting goals for how much you want to accomplish in a study session being vague is a recipe for failure. In undergrad I would write things in my day planner like “reading” or “discussion posts.” Not helpful when you have four chapters to read.

Studying: Do study in small chunks over time and be specific

You see it all over tumblr. Take a break every 20-30 minutes of studying, it helps you be more effective. Since I’ve started doing this I have to tell you it works. My writing is more clear and I can retain more effectively. Personally I read in between phone calls at work so I usually get 3-5 minutes of studying and then 5-10 minutes of getting yelled at by people that hate insurance. Having clear guidelines for what I want to accomplish in a study session or on that day has also helped reduce the amount of pressure I put on myself and allow to be more realistic. Instead of just “reading” I’ve started doing, “Read part one of chapter 2.” 


I am no help here. I can’t and probably never will be able to highlight effectively. What I’ve started doing instead is putting post-it notes in my books to mark important pages or to document questions that I have while reading. I think this is because I can’t bring myself to deface a book, even for academic reasons.

My Psychology Study Routine

This is just what I did for all of my undergraduate psychology courses, and I found that this worked the best for me!

1. Read the textbook before class & make notecards!
Psychology has a lot of vocabulary words and concepts, so I found it the most helpful to make notecards as I was reading the course material to help reinforce this information early on.

2. Take thorough class notes!
Most of my professors posted their notes online prior to class, so I would print them out and bring them with me to class. I would try and read over them while I was waiting for class to start. This way, I could take notes on what the professor was saying (often times supplemental material) instead of just following along with the powerpoint.

3. Reread notes and revise notecards!
A few days after class (I tried to do this every weekend), I would reread my notes and add any additional information to the notecards I had made from the textbook.

4. Study from the notecards!
Instead of just rereading my notes over and over again before the exam, I would go through my notecards once or twice a day starting a week before the exam. This is much more active learning than just passively reading your notes!

5. Study guide!
Most of my professors provided a study guide for the exam. Mainly for this, I would make sure I had all of the necessary information from the study guide in my notecards. If the exam was an essay exam, I would bullet point all of the information for each question one day, and each day after use the study guide like a practice exam and try and answer all of the questions from memory. I found that my answers got better and better each day, and were nearly perfect by the day of the exam!

Let me know what you do/did for your psychology courses! I’ll be following and reblogging people who do!

anonymous asked:

Is there any extensive list of undergraduate schools with the best premedical programs? If not, are there any existing statistics on average MCAT score and number of applicants matriculated by undergraduate school?

You just need to pick a major and program that adequately prepares you for the MCAT.

You should check out these articles and statistics:

And here’s a related question: What does the MCAT test on? Medical aspects or..?? -Anonymous

The MCAT is a 4 1/2 hour exam you have to take to get into medical school.

The MCAT consists of four sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

The Princeton Review has pretty awesome breakdown of the test here. You should also take a look at the test prep resources on the left hand side on that link.

Here are some other good MCAT resources:

One of the most important things I’ve learned from being in school most of my life is the important of drinking water.

Want to start being healthy? Drink more water.

Want to counteract stress? Drink more water.

Want to improve your skin? Drink more water.

Want to improve your mood? Drink more water.

It really does help.

max-moved  asked:

hi! so long story short: i'm a history student in my 1st year. i have adhd and my 1st semester didnt go over that great. i was wondering if you had the time to give me advice or at least point me in the right direction? i want my winter semester to be solid start to finish and i feel like im in the dark still. cheers + thanks a ton in advance !

Okay, so I think I share your problem here which is probably a short attention span and a bit of a scattered brain. I find it difficult to concentrate on a single subject for more than about thirty minutes unless I’m really engaged in it.

Don’t feel bad about taking frequent breaks and allowing yourself a bit of distraction. You won’t succeed in studying well if you are denying yourself constantly. 

Vary your work environment. A lot of people like to find one place that works for them and stick to it but, as you can see from my photos, I like to study in a whole bunch of different places from cafes to the train to the library. It feeds my need for novelty and change and helps me concentrate better.

Break up your work into small chunks, perhaps 20 minutes or 500 words or 20 pages. I can’t stress this enough, sitting down to write 2,500 words or read an entire book stresses me out but if I feel I can achieve something then I’m much more likely to finish doing it. 

Find a time management system and stick to it. Again because I can be quite scattered I am always up for trying new apps, new websites, new methods but I have found this semester that just using Todoist, Evernote and Google Calendar to manage my time has really kept me on track. 

Enjoy your time, reflect and measure it. University will go by in a flash, especially if you spend it feeling stressed. Keep a diary, write a blog, do something so you can measure out the time you’re spending. Studying, for me at least, is so much better than any job I’ve ever had and this period is pretty unique in terms of the freedom you have to pursue your interests without being tied down to supporting yourself financially. Appreciate it!

Tip Tuesday | Mind Maps

One of the hardest things about starting a postgraduate degree is just that - starting. Even if you have a good idea of what your topic is, it can be difficult to decide what to do first because you’re faced with so many questions.

  • What gap is my research filling? 
  • Who are my sources? 
  • Who are the leading academics in my field? 
  • What topic should I start with? 
  • Should I decide on a chapter or thesis structure now, or after I’ve done more reading? 
  • What methodologies should I use? 

All of these questions are part of the early academic journey, but they can also be overwhelming. One of the best things to do when starting out is to make a mind map. Because their format is flexible they can grow with you on your early academic journey. 

This was the first mindmap I made in March this year, just a few weeks after the start of my candidature, when I wasn’t sure how to start wrtiting my research rationale.

Not very pretty, I know, but it is possible to track my lines of thought. Broad topics have emerged, as well as sources and methodologies.

Now compare my first mind map with the updated version, made one month later in April.

These are A3 pages, by the way.

Using my first mind map as a blue print, I built on the primary aspects of my project. I’ve actually added extensively to it since then, but even in this early version I could see clearly where I had gaps in my knowledge, where I was breaking now ground, and what methodologies I would employ. I could even begin to construct a broad outline of my thesis. Using my mind map, I was also able to think of of my research questions, which I use to direct my reading and thesis focus.

So, if you’re just starting out in your Masters, PhD, or even writing an essay and you’re struggling to untangle your thoughts, think about drawing a mind map to tease out those mental knots.

Cranquis Mail: The MCAT keeps defeating me

(name withheld) asked:

Hello Dr C
I really enjoy your blog. I am hoping to someday be a doctor but getting in has proven quite challenging. I did very well in school, have hospital/ER experience, volunteer at retirement home playing music and did independent biochemistry research. However, I feel I have been defeated by the MCATs. I have taken them twice now and the best I can do is a pathetic 26. I have no idea how to study for them. I tried notes and note cards. I took a class and I did practice questions, but being a full time worker at the hospital has made studying hard. Do you have any advice? How can I get all that information to stick? I am great at problem solving and diagnostics ( or at least the rudimentary diagnostics we did in physiology) but its the shear volium of information I am finding so defeating. Sorry to assault you with this wall of Text. Thanks for taking the time

Greetings, Gargling Gluestick (your CranquisNym™) –

First off, my standard disclaimer re: MCAT-related advice: It has now been… 18 (18?!) years since I took the MCAT. Plus, my preparation for the MCAT was rather, um, atypical.  So please realize, I am in no way an expert on anything MCAT related. Seriously, you’d be better off asking Kim Kardashian for her tips on memorizing the Krebs Cycle Cycle.

But for lots of tips on how to study, you should wade through (more information for you to absorb, sorry) my #study tips tag. Or here, this particular post summarizes a lot of my usual “studying under a deluge of info” advice.

Now, in case you wanted some feedback on your efforts so far: 

Keep reading

3 tips for undergraduates wanting to do their thesis project in a research lab
  • do not wait until your senior year to find a lab to join. things in science are slowww–one experiment can take a week or more to run–so learning the skills necessary to carry out your own project may take a few weeks to a few months. and then add on top of that at least a semester needed to write/revise your thesis… i mean it’s doable! but not ideal at all. not only will you be stressed, but the grad student or technician supervising you will also be stressed as they have their own things to do. joining a lab junior year or before is ideal. 
  • i know scheduling is already a mess but do try to have 2-hour-or-more-blocks of time each day to be in lab (and unless approved by your PI, it has to be during the time frame when someone is also there to supervise you.. so usually between 8 am and 6 pm weekdays). most experiments are continuous, and 1 hour here and there won’t get much data
  • get as much done during the summers as possible. your PI may even pay you as a student worker if you inquire. 

i’m making this post because i just got an undergrad this summer who wants to write her honors thesis on a project in our lab. but she’s a double-majoring senior and i’m looking at her schedule and feeling reaaally stressed bc i can’t think of a project that would fit her schedule and time frame. and this semester is going to be particularly busy for me so i’m not going to have much time to help her as much as i’d like. thankfully she came in part time during june and july to learn the basics but it’s still going to be a tight race. 

also writing this because i myself screwed up my senior year during college and had like 3 months to write my entire thesis and slept every other night for a few weeks and it was absolute hell so yeah. don’t do what i did. 


i used a essay timer planner at undergrad : its a website

you put in how many words you have to write, when the essay is due, and what pace you want to work at (like loads towards the start and slower towards the end etc)

but i had it bookmarked on my old laptop and cannot find it anywhere now

does anyone know what is called??