If you’re one of the many lucky students to be beginning your new endeavor, you have probably heard many times over how different college education is from high school. Well, in case you need to hear it one more time – it’s very different. To save from an in-at-the-deep-end feeling, follow our tips to help you through your first semester at college.
Check the syllabus
Being prepared gives you more of a head start than you might think. Jumping into a whole new branch of education, a new experience, and new topics can be overwhelming, and it can be comforting to feel a little bit prepared and organized. Not only that, but you are giving your brain a good head start; showing up to class knowing what you will be learning allows you to get in the right head space.
Get ahead with reading
While you are still in a state of excitement over your shiny new books, read them! You may not remember everything you read, but you are slowly opening your mind to this new information. Make small notes on post-its and add them in here and there.
There is currently a lot of hype about the benefits of visual thinking and learning, with instructions piled up for students in the run-up to the new term. But have you ever applied it to your own life? Are you a master of connecting ideas for school, while your personal life is a complete mess?
Here are four very real and very important ways visual thinking can make a difference to your life.
Just because you work with facts and figures during your work day, doesn’t mean you can’t be creative in your own time. Maybe you’re a budding author or poet; maybe you enjoy sketching or designing – did you know that visual thinking can be invaluable for creating and honing your skills?
For most people, creativity strikes at odd times. But if you block out a time and set your visual thinking skills to work, you will soon find your innovation spring to life. Ideas that you always had in your head are now in front of you, and your brain is then better able to connect them, progress them, and even cut out ones that don’t work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your brain is an endless pit for producing, retaining, and connecting ideas. It really isn’t, and Mr. Inspiration only strikes when he wants to.
One of the biggest jolts you will experience as you make your way from a high school to a college education and beyond is how you are expected to think. While thousands of teenagers are currently spending their last summer at home, counting down the hours until they can leave the nest and make it on their own, few realize the work involved at college and then in the big world. No longer spoon-fed information and sources, you and you alone will be expected to collect and analyze information from your lectures, study them, evaluate them, then create links and form ideas from this. This is called critical thinking.
So how do you think like this?
Question things – everything! Don’t just accept what you are told as truth, and don’t be satiated with basic information. If you read or hear something, ask why. How was this information found? Who found it? Is it a fact? Are they biased? What does it prove? You will find yourself starting to think outside the box.
Tools for using this technique: Pick up a few tabloid newspapers and go through them. Tabloid papers are renowned for half-truths and fake sources, so it is a good way of putting your skills to work. Read a story and looks for parts you could question. Phrases like “Sources reveal”, “It seems that,” or “Rumor has it” are classic holes in storytelling.
What sources? Are they reliable? How does it seem, and to who? Where are these rumors coming from and is there any truth to them? After you have read the story, write down as many solid facts as you can glean, as well as your questions. What conclusions have you drawn?
The term ‘exam stress’ seems a glib and understated phrase to use for the pressures students everywhere are facing as they deal with exams. For generations so far removed from what today’s students go through, it simply doesn’t encompass the real troubles students can experience at this time. From that little knot in the stomach, to sleepless nights and real depression, exams can sometimes seriously affect the mental health of students.
Here’s how to put your worries aside and embrace the exam period as best you can.
The last thing you want to do when the sun is shining, and the weather is glorious, is hunker down and bury yourself in some study books. Surveys among students often show that motivation to get started is one of the biggest problems. It can quickly lead to anxiety and stress; that cloud of dread follows you around, getting bigger and bigger the longer you put off studying.
Chances are, a lot of your friends and classmates will be in the same boat. Creating study groups is a great way to motivate each other, and also a great way of studying. If somebody struggles with one thing, another may have a good solution.
How to study
Maybe studying with others doesn’t work for you, or maybe it just turns into a social gathering with little work getting done. Figure out what works best for you. Not everyone is academically minded, and more hours doesn’t always mean more studying.
If you are in the northern hemisphere, the sun has reappeared, flowers are blooming, and everywhere everyone is taking advantage of the beautiful weather. Everyone, of course, except for students across the world who are in the midst of dreaded exam season. Exams are an unpleasant but necessary part of the education system and are something that is unfortunately not suited to every learner. However, there are some tips and habits you can adopt to become a more successful exam sitter.
Organize your study space
It is said that a tidy desk is a tidy mind. For some of us this is true, while others thrive on organized chaos. Whatever your optimum space it, have it ready before you begin studying. If that means a clear area with minimal distractions, have a thorough clean up; if it means having all your little gadgets and essential tools spread out just how you like them, make sure you know where everything is.
You should also decide where you will be studying. Is there plenty of light? Is it quiet? Or do you prefer light music? Is it comfortable? It is usually best to separate your work space from your resting area – where you watch TV, listen to music, have lunch – so your mind gets used to knowing that when you are there, you need focus.
Use visual aids
When most of your studies involve note-taking and written forms of information, it can be a refreshing and much-needed change to create visual aids to help you. Be as creative as you can; create drawings, mind maps, diagrams, flow charts, whatever works for you. Use many different colors and surround your room with your creations. You can even try hanging some posters in the bathroom, so you can passively absorb information while you’re brushing your teeth and getting ready for the day.
Using accurate colors and layouts of information stimulate different areas of the brain, and can enhance your memorization of the main ideas and formulae. The benefits of visual learning are multiple, and you can read more about it here.
It’s the age of technology, and successful people are the new rock stars. If there’s one thing we can learn from them, it’s the little habits and techniques peppered throughout their day that keep them on top.
Have a strong morning routine
Whether you jump out of bed on a morning ready to start the day with smile, or crawl bleary-eyed towards to kitchen seeking out caffeine and hating everything, a morning routine can really make a difference to your day and your life. True, some people are better able to rise early, and some people are more suited to accomplishing more in the early hours, but there are ways that you can gradually build up an effective and efficient pre-work day routine.
Don’t expect to start on day one with a packed morning schedule, but gradually introduce activities and earlier wake up times. Activities like yoga are effective for setting a tone for your day, calming your mind, and waking up the body. Maybe you want to get important but menial tasks out of the way, like a batch check or emails, setting up meetings, or planning out goals for the month. Barack Obama famously makes time for a family breakfast, exercises, and reads the newspaper every day before starting his work day at 9am.
Have ‘off’ time
Being successful and accomplishing important tasks doesn’t mean working round the clock. Along with carefully organizing your time, make sure you schedule in some time for yourself. If you think that the likes of Bill Gates and Richard Branson are slaves to their careers, you would be wrong. Most people can only focus well for around 20 minutes, often less, and re-charging your batteries is paramount to thinking clearly and efficiently. Mark Zuckerberg shocked many people when he announced he was taking two months’ paternity leave. Spending time with your new family really isn’t that surprising, and successful people need time off just like everybody else.
Virtual reality is a concept that seems a million miles away from being a part of our everyday life. For starters, what will it cost, and will that cost be reasonable for the average person? Underling steps have been taken in the world of gaming, but the predictions for the uses of virtual reality are far-reaching, with a scope of education, tourism, and physical or mental disorders.
With the arrival of introductory virtual reality such as Google Cardboard and Oculus, we are starting to see just how addictive and in-depth this new technology could be. But how can it benefit you in your everyday life?
Furthering your imagination
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you fall, and you are jolted awake by the sensation? This is called a hypnic jerk, and it happens because the brain thinks it is real, despite it being merely a visual sensation. The same devices are in play when you engage in virtual reality experiences. Pair that with surround sound and smell, and you can be forgiven for thinking what you’re experiencing is 100% real.
Virtual reality explores places your imagination cannot. As VR companies are developing technologies that engage more of the senses, entering into a VR world will become more and more real to the person in it. Watching nature documentaries will turn into being in nature; roaming amongst wild animals, inhaling the aroma of nearby plants and hearing sounds of life from every angle. What you will take away from these experiences will be so much greater as your mind was tricked into thinking you were really present. Your memory of the events will increase, as well as your empathy, understanding, and certainly heart rate!
Many scientists argue that using avatars in a virtual world can aid in cases of low self-esteem and even certain personality traits. If you spend time using an avatar that you have chosen to be attractive, you may act with more confidence in the VR world. If you choose an avatar that is younger than yourself, you may find yourself acting in a more youthful and energetic manner. These traits can be carried on in your normal life, and some scientists believe that this technology can extend to the treatment of depression.
With a wealth of information at our fingertips, it can be difficult to know how to sift through everything. Yes, we have everything we need to learn, but the question is how do we learn it? Revision and studying can often be hindered as much as helped by technology; it can be distracting and can make it more difficult for our memories to work to their full capacity. However, technology is continually developing to aid study and revision, and we have compiled a list of the top 5 apps that will help you master your Masters (and other studies).
1. Dragon Dictation
Although this app can be used for anything from updating a Facebook status, to shooting off a quick email, Dragon Dictation can be extremely useful for studying. Using fast speech-to-text software, this app will type while you talk. Maybe you had a quick thought you want to jot down, or after hours of studying, your wrists need a break. You can use it however you want, whenever you want, and you will save bags of time.
A huge upside of speaking your notes is not only speed but memory retention. A lot of studies show that by reading or saying something aloud, you are creating a ‘distinctive memory.’ This means that you are digesting the information twice; once as you read it, and a second time as you say it aloud, making it more concrete as a memory. The drawback of Dragon Dictation is that it is only available on iOS devices.
We live in an age where we have access to more information than ever before. This, however, comes with its own problems, as our ability to remember, organize, and connect these masses of information is dwindling. Visual thinking is not a new process, but with today’s hectic lifestyle it is certainly becoming clear how efficient it can be. You may not be a visual learner or artist, but you certainly don’t need to be either to reap the benefits of visual thinking.
Generating and linking ideas
Visual thinking can help you discover links between your ideas, and even generate new ones with ease and speed. When there is too much information inside your head, it can be incredibly difficult to focus on just one at a time. Being able to map out and see your ideas in front of you means you can see each piece of information separately and together at the same time like you can on an actual map. You can then begin to bridge the gaps and connect ideas, as well as generate new ones with ease and speed.