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Cool (and Helpful) Study Gadgets

August 29, 2011

Cool (and Helpful) Study Gadgets

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Now that summer is coming to an end and the fall semester is underway, you might be wondering if there's anything you can do to make studying for your classes easier. While money can't buy everything, it can buy you a couple of cool study-related gadgets.

First off are smartpens like the Livescribe Echo. These babies let you record entire lectures and go straight to a specific portion just by tapping a word from your notes! Just think how much easier your life would be if you could actually focus on listening to the lecture the first time around instead of frantically scribbling notes to make sure you don't miss anything.

If you're like me and find music helps you concentrate while studying, consider buying a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds. How many times have you been forced to study in a crowded room and don't have access to somewhere quieter? If the answer is “Too many,” invest in a pair immediately. Even if you don't listen to music while studying, you can use the device to replay a lecture or listen to a study aid you found online.

Finally, if you've ever copied a passage from a book word-for-word into your notes and ended up with a cramped hand, the portable wand scanner is for you. Not only does this snazzy gadget prevent you from having to lug a scanner to class, it's pretty easy to use: All you do is wave it over the page you want and hook it up to your computer using a USB cable. Just like magic, everything you scanned is now on your computer! The VuPoint Solutions Magic Wand is even compatible with SD cards – ta da!

So, while the Studybot has yet to be invented to do all your studying for you, these gadgets can make studying a lot less painful.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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The Best Educational Apps

September 6, 2011

The Best Educational Apps

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all seen the iPhone commercials and heard the now-common phrase “There's an app for that.” It’s true, though: There's even an application to help you study — dozens in fact! Here are a few that can make your life as a student easier:

Grades 2. If you're like me, you spend a fair amount of time wondering what you need to score on an upcoming test in order to maintain your A. This app lets you do just that. It even lets you determine your new GPA will be based on what grades you expect to earn in your current classes.

Dictionary.com Flashcards. This app is great for English and science classes where you have to learn a wide variety of complicated terms. It even has multiple choice quizzes where you have to pick the right definition from a list of options. Plus, it's great having a dictionary in your pocket for whenever you need to look up words instead of lugging one around on top of all your other school books.

Star and Planet Finder. Astronomy buffs will love this one because it makes finding stars, planets, constellations and satellites a snap. Equipped with compass and GPS, this app lets you know whether or not you can see Orion from your current location – perfect for astronomy classes which ask you to chart the position of the constellations.

While not every college student can afford an iPhone or similar app-friendly device, all these educational apps make it a very tempting purchase indeed. And let's face it: You can't really put a price on something that makes a less-than-favorite activity less painful.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Librarians: The Ultimate Research Aid

October 3, 2011

Librarians: The Ultimate Research Aid

by Lisa Lowdermilk

I was working on a research paper recently and spent hours scouring the web for the answer to a question one of my teachers had asked. I didn't know about “Ask a Librarian” then but if I did, I would have saved myself a lot of time and frustration.

What is “Ask a Librarian” you wonder? Basically, it's a site hosted by Florida State University where a live person – a real-life librarian, in fact! – answers your questions. In today's world of automated answering services, it's great to have access to a resource like this one...plus, it's free!

You start off by typing in your name, email address, subject (they include psychology, business, music, politics and many more) and the question you want an answer to. So far, so good? Next, you must provide some background information regarding your question so that the librarian understands the context of your question and how you will use the information. For example, telling the librarian that you need to know how photosynthesis works for a specific experiment you're conducting (and explaining the experiment in detail) is more effective than just telling the librarian that you need to more about photosynthesis. You also have the option of telling the librarian which sources you've already consulted so that he/she doesn't waste his/her time and yours by returning the same results. Just make sure you don't wait until the night before your paper is due, as it typically takes three days for a librarian to get back to you through this service.

Waited until the last minute, did you? It happens to all of us now and again so in this case, ask your school librarian for help. Discussing your issue much easier in person and eliminates the back and forth (and potential misunderstandings) of email as well. Even if you’re not pressed for time, find a librarian and pick their brain – most will be more than willing to help you out!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Preventing Identity Theft in College

October 12, 2011

Preventing Identity Theft in College

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all heard the stories about people whose lives have been turned upside-down by identity theft and college students are not exempt. Part of the reason why identity theft is so rampant is that people don't take the necessary precautions. Here are a couple of tips to help keep your identity intact.

Install anti-spyware software on your computer. Spyware is just what it sounds like: software designed to spy on the personal information you provide through your computer. Hackers can then obtain everything from your credit card number to your password on Facebook while you're connected to the Internet. If you have anti-spyware installed on your computer, though, you'll never have to worry about spyware in the first place.

Keep your personal information private. Keeping your credit card and social security numbers under wraps is a given but identity thieves can find out lots about you through the information you post on Facebook, your blog and other online forums. Avoid posting your address and birthdate where anyone can find it. Also, never give your personal information to someone who contacts you claiming to be from your credit card agency. Think about it: If this person really was from your credit card agency, he or she would already have your personal information on file and have no reason to ask for it.

Shred sensitive documents when you've finished reading them.Dumpster divers” rummage for a number of things in those big metal bins...including documents containing personal information. Don't make their job any easier: Shred all your mail and any other papers containing personal information before anyone else can get a hold of them.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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A Minor Decision

How to Select a Minor Field of Study

June 3, 2011

A Minor Decision

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you've finally chosen your major and are wondering if you should choose a minor as well. Generally, most minors require between 12 and 30 credits to complete (that’s about four to 10 extra classes). Obviously your major is much more important than your minor, as declaring a minor is not a necessary step to graduation, but pairing your major with a related minor may just give you the edge you need in today's competitive job market.

For example, if you're majoring in English like I am, getting your minor in journalism is a great way to show future employers you're serious about writing. Since many students take whichever electives they feel like, declaring a minor proves to your prospective employer that you are a focused and disciplined individual, two of the most important qualities an employee can possess.

On the other hand, your minor doesn't have to be related to your major at all. Maybe you've always had an interest in graphic design but you've decided to major in something completely unrelated, like biochemical engineering. While your employer may not need someone with graphic design skills, at least you are able to further your study in two subjects you are interested in.

If you can't figure out what to minor in, or have already used up all your elective credits, don't worry! While a minor can be a nice addition to your resume, it doesn't provide a clear overview of your skills like a major does.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Utilizing Your College’s Resources Effectively

June 14, 2011

Utilizing Your College’s Resources Effectively

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Do you ever feel frustrated or overwhelmed with the amount of homework you have? Is it impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel? There are all kinds of resources at your college which can help!

If you're having trouble writing an essay or just want someone to look over your work, the writing lab is there for you. Writing lab tutors are trained to help you with everything from grammar and punctuation to strengthening your argument. They can even help you get started if you feel like you're having a case of the dreaded writer's block.

As the name suggests, math lab tutors can help you with all levels of math. I've even heard of students coming in to learn how to use their graphing calculators. Even as an online student, I have access to the writing lab, math lab and all kinds of services designed to give me feedback from the comforts of my own home.

So many students are reluctant to ask for help because they are worried it will make them seem unintelligent. Don't worry: Asking questions shows that you are conscientious, determined and hard-working. Teachers appreciate students who are curious enough about the material to ask questions.

Even though going to the writing lab or math lab requires you to spend time on your coursework outside of class, you’ll generally be able to schedule one-on-one appointments with tutors to ensure you get the help you need. In my experience, hardly anyone ever came to math lab or writing lab, giving me plenty of opportunities to ask all the questions I wanted.

The best part about these resources is that they're free! You're already paying for college, so why not take advantage of something that won't dip into your savings for a change?

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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How to Get Your Dream Job

June 22, 2011

How to Get Your Dream Job

by Lisa Lowdermilk

What is your dream job? Do you want to win the war against cancer as an oncologist? Or would you rather spend your time in the classroom teaching students who will eventually become the backbone of our society?

Regardless of what your answer is, it's crucial that you ask yourself a couple of questions. Where do you want to work? Would you rather work in an office setting or out in the field? Do you want to work with people or would you rather work alone? The answers to these questions not only will help make your dream job more real to you, they can also help you if you are undecided about what field you'd like to major in. The key here is to be as specific as possible: You can't make your dreams a reality if you don't know what your dreams are yet!

Let's say you've completed a few semesters and have decided you want to become a radiologist. You can tell by the coursework that you will enjoy the field but you don't really know what the actual job will be like. Visit your local hospital and talk with some of the people who work in the radiology department. Ask if you can shadow them to see what they do on a daily basis. Not only will you gain valuable learning experience, you will also feel like your college experience is actually preparing you for a job.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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Your Passion Has a Place in College

July 12, 2011

Your Passion Has a Place in College

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever started an essay or research project and found you absolutely hate the topic you chose? I know I have so that’s why when I started college, I vowed I would choose personally relevant topics whenever possible to make my college assignments more enjoyable.

In my logic and rhetoric class, for example, I had to choose an issue I could argue about from multiple perspectives. Because I'm a passionate video gamer, I ended up choosing to debate the pros and cons of gameplay. We've all heard about the effects of gameplay on violent behavior, weight gain and myriad other social problems; while it's true some of these concerns aren't entirely unwarranted, I wanted to show how the media and other sources play a large role in exaggerating the negative effects.

My point here is that because I am passionate about video games, I can argue much more persuasively than I would if I was writing about a topic which I have no interest in. While my topic may not be meaningful to everyone in my class, I am confident my classmates will at least appreciate the combination of factual information and personal insight I bring to the table on the subject. After all, a persuasive essay isn’t really a persuasive essay if the author doesn’t believe his or her own words.

Of course, choosing a topic you like isn't always possible – if you hate learning about history in general, odds are you won't find many topics to your liking – so in these situations, just be thankful you don't have to marry the topic you settle for. You're sure to find plenty of topics personally relevant to you later on in your college career.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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The Benefits of Digital Textbooks

July 1, 2011

The Benefits of Digital Textbooks

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Does your back ache from carrying heavy textbooks from class to class? Do you hate paying extra money for priority shipping to ensure you get your textbooks in time for the new semester? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, you may be interested to know many websites now offer textbooks digitally.

Sites like Chegg.com, Textbooks.com and Cengagebrain.com offer dozens of e-books to accommodate your e-reading needs. You don't need to go out and buy an e-reading device such as Amazon's Kindle or Sony's Reader (you can read e-books right on your computer screen) and you never have to worry about losing your e-books because if your computer or e-reader is misplaced or stolen, all you need to do is download the e-text again.

Even with all these benefits, I know some of you may still be reluctant to go digital because you think you won't be able to highlight pages or navigate a digital text easily. Well, put those fears to rest: Many e-books allow you to highlight specific words or phrases, make notes in the margins and even search the entire e-book for a specific word or phrase.

Finally, you can rent e-books just like you can rent traditional books. Normally when you rent textbooks, you have to worry about water damage, torn pages and shipping your books back on time but not so with e-books! When your rental period is up, the e-text simply expires with no fines for damages or shipping incurred. If after using all these features, you decide you still prefer having your text on paper after all, you can print out whichever pages you specify.

So consider going digital, if only just for one class. I guarantee you (and your back and your wallet) won't regret it!

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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How Do YOU Study?

July 29, 2011

How Do YOU Study?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Have you ever thought about how to make studying less painful or have you just resigned yourself to pulling all-nighters? If you're like me, the idea of all-nighters makes you cringe – how can you expect to ace your test when you're exhausted, let alone absorb pages of complicated course material?

I've had friends, though, who claim that being under pressure motivates them to study like nothing else. If you've honestly found that pulling all-nighters is more effective than studying during the day, then more power to you; for the rest of us, here are some strange but effective study habits to consider next time you have an exam approaching.

Do you have a specific study spot or can you study anywhere? If you're the former, try to pay attention to what characteristics you need in order to be successful. Does soaking up the sun's rays kick your brain into gear like a plant undergoing photosynthesis or does the sunshine just make you daydream? Do you need to constantly change the location of where you study to keep yourself motivated? I have a friend who never studies in the same place for more than an hour because her attention span starts waning.

It seems everyone has an opinion about background noise while studying. Another friend of mine claims she cannot study unless the news is on the background, as it bores her to tears. The news is so boring to her, in fact, that she claims it actually forces her to focus on her course material! Apparently, if she doesn't have the news on, she'll constantly think about other things like what she wants for dinner, what she wants to do on the weekend, etc.

Regardless of whether you can't sit still for more than an hour or need some white noise to get your brain in sync with your textbooks, one thing's for sure: You can't get through college without studying so you might as well make it as tolerable as possible.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.

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