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Forget "The Hunger Games" - Try These Study Games!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

So, you've been studying for three hours straight for your chemistry exam and you haven’t even cracked your calculus, history and geography books yet. Besides envisioning that much sought-after 4.0 GPA, how do you stay motivated? You play study games, of course!

While study games aren't quite as addicting as the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft varieties, they're still much more engaging than reading over your study guide for the hundredth time. Websites like Quizlet – aka "the world's largest flash cards and study games website" – are perfect for helping you memorize vocabulary whether you're studying biology or business and another option, Quia, offers Hangman, Battleship, scavenger hunts and more. If you're looking for resources to help you prepare for standardized tests like the SAT, ACT or GRE, on the other hand, sites like Grockit have got you covered...but access to these games, study plans, written and video study aids can cost $29.99 a month.

In addition to being more fun than your average study session, study games increase your chances of remembering the material for your test. Research has shown that if you try to encode information in as many ways as possible (e.g., via sight and sound), you're more likely to remember that information. And because many study games make use of both visual and auditory features, your odds of doing well on your test increase. If you can't find a game to help you study, consider visiting your textbook's website: Many publishers offer animations, study guides and quizzes.

Regardless of how you study, remember to encode the information in as many ways as possible, take breaks and reward yourself when you're done. Let the games begin!

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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Majoring in an "Endangered" Field? You Still Have Options!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all read those articles that tell you what NOT to major in but what do you do if you're already majoring in one of the fields mentioned? Do you continue along the path you’ve chosen or start working toward a new goal that will cost more time and money to complete?

This is the dilemma facing architecture majors and the New York Times recently posted an article discussing how architecture majors are facing the highest unemployment rate in the nation (13.9%). Unsurprisingly, the housing market collapse has a lot to do with this and until our economy starts improving, the housing market (and the unemployment rate for those commissioned to design those houses) will likely stay where it's at.

But before all you architecture majors despair, remember that we will always need buildings. There may not be as great of a demand as there used to be but there are still plenty of job opportunities available, especially if you're willing to work in another country. From China to London and plenty of countries in between, there are lots of great options for up-and-coming architects abroad. China alone has dozens of positions available and some of them don't even require you to know Mandarin. Of course, if you've always wanted to learn Mandarin (or any other foreign language for that matter), what better way to do so than to live and work abroad? Of course, living abroad isn't for everyone and there are still employment options in the U.S. And the median salary for an architect is $55,248, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Whether you're an architecture major or a student trying to find a summer job, securing employment can be a daunting task. But as clichéd as it sounds, you will eventually find something if you keep looking. You may need to relocate in order to find what you're looking for but your hard work toward that college degree will pay off in the end.

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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To Charge or Not to Charge?

September 13, 2011

To Charge or Not to Charge?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

“Just charge it.”

I'm willing to bet that you’ve been in a store and heard that phrase. Even if you haven't, you’ve probably been bombarded with letters asking you if you'd like to lower your interest rates, encountered representatives hawking credit cards (and complimentary t-shirts!) on the quad or heard of people who have racked up thousands of dollars in debt from recklessly swiping their plastic.

While handling a credit card involves a lot of responsibility, the good news is that it comes with plenty of perks as well. Citibank, for example, offers a Visa card just for college students and has a system of reward points to boot. Depending on your GPA, you can earn anywhere from 250 to 2,000 ThankYou Points just for doing well in your classes. You also get points for making your payments on time, which is a great incentive not to skip payments or only pay the minimum and accrue unnecessary interest penalties. You even earn five times as many points at restaurants, bookstores and more. So, while textbooks aren't exactly cheap, just remember that you're being partially reimbursed every time you use your credit card to buy them.

In a larger sense, using a credit card responsibly also helps students to establishing a good credit score. The higher this number is, the better your chances are of being accepted for a loan on your dream car or house. Lenders will see that you are not a liability and will be more likely to provide you with the funds needed to reach your goals.

If you're still not sold on getting a credit card, that's okay. There's plenty of time to establish credit after college. For those of you considering a credit card, though, just remember to spend responsibly and make your payments as promptly 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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Sleep 101

September 19, 2011

Sleep 101

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Insomnia is the bane of so many college students' existences. In a world filled with late nights and early classes, catching enough Zzz’s can be difficult...but it doesn't have to be. So breathe deep, avoid caffeine and try these other tips to make falling asleep easier:

Don't use electronic devices before bedtime. This tip is by far the most difficult one for me to follow. I love playing video games before bed and while I don't pay for it every time, I know I've had plenty of sleepless nights because I’ve been too revved up from trying to beat one high score or another. In addition to increasing your heart rate, using electronic devices before bedtime inhibits melatonin production, which makes it more difficult to get to sleep.

Turn your brain off. Again, following this tip is easier said than done but it's arguably the most important. As much as I love reading thrillers before bedtime, I regret it when it comes time to turn the lights off. (*creak*...Was that a burglar I just heard?) And it's not just thriller novels that will make sleeping difficult: Mentally running through lists of assignments, worrying about exams and thinking about the argument you just had with your best friend are equally detrimental to catching 40 (or more) winks.

Head to bed around the same time every night. This tip may be difficult if you have roommates who throw parties until 4 a.m. but try your hardest to go to sleep on a schedule. It takes time for your body to adapt to a new schedule so don't make matters more difficult by going to bed at 8 p.m. one night and 3 a.m. the next unless it really can't be avoided. (And if you do have roommates who throw parties all night long, the best solution is to voice your concerns and come to some sort of compromise.)

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

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

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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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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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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What’s Your Professor's GPA?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

When I'm getting ready to start a new semester, one of my first thoughts is “What should I expect from my teachers?” Are they going to be nitpicky or are they going to grade most of my assignments on effort?

Obviously, most teachers are somewhere in between these extremes. Regardless, sites like RateMyProfessors.com and ProfessorPerformance.com can be helpful in determining what your teachers will be like. RateMyProfessors.com, for example, lets students rank teachers in several categories, including easiness, clarity and helpfulness. Unsurprisingly, teachers who are more lenient when it comes to grading tend to rank higher than those who dock you for forgetting to dot your i’s and cross your t's. After all, most students prefer classes where they get an A without much effort to ones where they barely scrape by with a C.

That's why it's crucial to take everything you read on professor rating sites with a grain of salt. Remember, these reviews are just other students' opinions. At the same time, though, I do think students should be allowed to express their opinions if (and only if) their comments are informative and provide constructive criticism rather than outright flaming. It's not surprising that many professors are against these sites – some students criticize irrelevant details, such as the way their professor dressed – but fortunately, off-topic or hurtful comments are few and far between and the majority of ratings on RateMyProfessors.com are positive. As such, these sites can be a valuable tool for prospective students if used in the way they were intended: to provide an informed opinion.

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

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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