Coming into college as a first-year student, I thought I had my studying strategies down to a tee. After being in school for a few weeks, I quickly realized that was not the case. DePaul is on the quarter system, which means that professors have to teach their class in a shorter amount of time. This also means that as students, we have less time to learn and retain said information. Being the psychology student who is very interested in the mind and how it works, I deemed it only necessary to conduct some research on how to study more efficiently. I wrote down a list and began experimenting until I found some techniques that worked well for my classes and my learning habits. Here are some of my favorite studying tips!
I know this doesn’t sound like a studying tip, but I promise it is one of the most important first steps. Before you can retain information, you have to figure out how you process it best. I realized in high school that my brain responds well to visual stimuli and I can learn new concepts much easier when they’re written in fun colors and accompanied by pictures. There are several tests online that can help you determine what kind of learner you are. Once you have this figured out, use that information to your advantage and cater your note-taking and studying around it.
Consider the Pomodoro Technique
For a lot of people, myself included, time is not a luxury we can often enjoy. We’re constantly racing to learn as much information as quickly as we can to meet deadlines and finish assignments. The reason why I like to use this technique is because it puts time back in your control. In a nutshell, the Pomodoro Technique is when you set a timer for 25 minutes and concentrate on only one task for that entire time. After the timer goes off, you can take a 5-minute break and then reset it. It sounds very simple, but time after time it’s been proven very effective. I would recommend that you play around with the time intervals until you find one that suits your needs. Personally, I like to set a 45-minute timer and then take a 15-minute break!
The whole point of this strategy is to work smarter not harder. When we learn something, it isn’t stored in a single location but is instantly scattered across various regions in your brain. Spaced repetition is simple, but highly effective because it deliberately hacks the way your brain works. It forces learning to be effortful, and like muscles, the brain responds to that stimulus by strengthening the connections between nerve cells. By spacing the intervals out, you’re further exercising these connections each time. There are lots of good websites that allow you to make flashcards online and they separate the information you know best from the ones you need more practice with.
Song of the Week: Pulaski at Night- Andrew Bird :)
It’s not unknown that college can be very expensive. Tuition alone can cause people immense stress - and that doesn’t include housing, textbooks or other hidden fees. As an incoming freshman, I heard rumors about the cost of textbooks, but it wasn’t until I stepped foot in the bookstore that they were confirmed. Our school is on the quarter system which means that every 3-4 months, our professors require different books. After a year here at DePaul, I quickly learned how to avoid insane textbook costs, and I’m here to share a few of my favorite tips.
Compare Prices on Websites!
Slugbooks.com is the first place I go when I have to order a textbook. All you do is type in the title of your book or the ISBN number, and it shows you the prices on different websites. My favorite part of Slugbooks is that they show you both the option to buy and to rent, so you know that you’re getting the cheapest option.
Consider an E-book or Online Alternative!
While printed textbooks are really nice (and my personal preference), a PDF version or an e-book have proven to be way less expensive. The pros to this option are that you don’t have to wait for shipping and you’ll always have your copy on your laptop, so it’s impossible to lose.
Wait Until the First Day of Class!
*Disclaimer: This doesn’t work for everyone or every class*
There have been so many times when I’ve bought a textbook for a class and then only ended up referencing it twice. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending a lot of money on a book that you don’t really need. My advice is to wait until the first day of classes and see if the professor truly requires it before you purchase it.
Song of the Week: Winter Song- The Head and the Heart :)
With only a week left of freshman year, I’ve found myself journaling more often and filling the pages with reflective thoughts. This year has been nothing short of exciting and I find myself reminiscing about all of the experiences that I’ve had. When I came to DePaul in the fall, I had no idea what the year had in store for me. Feelings of anxiety and doubt circled my mind, but they were quickly replaced with excitement and love for all that this city has to offer. This first year has been full of a lot of changes and positive academic and personal growth. For my last blog of my first year, I wanted to share a few things that I learned along the way.
How to Develop a New Independence.
I’ve lived in a relatively small town my entire life and moving to a city as big as Chicago was definitely a big shock for me. I expected to be overwhelmed for a long time, but what I didn’t expect was how much I would benefit from the size of the city. I used to be the kind of person that would cling to friends and avoid going anywhere alone out of fear of being judged by other people. However, with the help of public transit, I began to develop an independence and new confidence that I didn’t know I could have. Running errands, walking around the city and eating alone became activities that I found myself enjoying.
The Importance of Maintaining Relationships.
While I was living at home, I would do everything I could to spend as much time as I could with friends and family. Having a strong community is something that I’ve always valued and leaving for college has only strengthened those relationships. Because I’m living out of state, I’ve put more effort into communicating with the people that have added value to my life. My favorite method is writing letters to friends and family because it feels more personal than a phone call.
Asking for Help is Okay.
Being fairly introverted, I’ve always been terrified to ask other people questions or help when I needed it. Attending college and being given a bigger workload, I learned that asking for help is inevitable. After getting over the initial fear of approaching professors, I ended up really benefiting from their help. All of the professors I’ve had are extremely friendly and want to see you succeed. Not to mention they’re crucial for networking and also some pretty interesting people to get to know.
I couldn’t be happier with my first-year experience. I was introduced to some of the best people I’ve ever met and have done things I didn’t know I was capable of. Thank you, DePaul for a great start to my college career, I’ll happily see you in the fall! :)
Song of the Week: Hunger- Florence and the Machine
It’s here! It’s here! The trees are beginning to grow leaves, the grass is finally green again, and the sunshine reminds your skin of a warmth you haven’t felt in a long time. Springtime in the city is well underway, and you couldn’t be happier about it. The only downside? All of your friends that go to schools on the semester system are already enjoying their summer vacation while you have one more month until finals. But worry not, for I’ve thought up a few ways to make the most of the few weeks while staying on top of your work.
As it warms up, consider a change of scenery and do your homework outside. DePaul’s quad is absolutely gorgeous and one of my favorite places to be. The trees are just far enough apart to set up a hammock and do some reading for class. If that’s not really your thing, there are some tables with solar-powered charging stations for your laptop. There truly is no excuse not to be outside, and hopefully, it will help you feel like you’re not missing out on spring weather.
Plan Out Your Week!
Being the queen of procrastination, I admit that this is something I’m still trying to get better at. However, mapping out your week and dedicating time to completing assignments will greatly help reduce your stress levels. Prioritize what you can get done and what you can hold off on to give you more control over your time.
Make Time For You!
Even though school should be your main concern, don’t neglect your needs and the things that bring you joy. It’s easy to feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to dedicate to yourself, but these things are very important for your well-being. Laugh with some friends, have a picnic on the beach, or enjoy some ice cream from Jeni’s (10/10 would recommend). Just remember to devote some time to yourself, everything else can wait.
Summer vacation is right around the corner so stay persistent, make time to relax, and get ready to CRUSH the rest of spring quarter! :)
Song of the Week: Next Year- Two Door Cinema Club
It’s about that time of the term where we have to stop everything that we’re doing and pick out courses for the next quarter. I can’t believe that there’s only one quarter left until I’m done with my first year of college. This time last year, I was still debating between schools. I remember that DePaul required incoming students to choose between Discover Chicago and Explore Chicago before even selecting classes for the fall term. Both courses are aimed to help first-year students get acclimated to a new environment and immersed into the Chicago lifestyle.
The First Year Program offers a wide variety of options when it comes to these courses. This year, the options I had ranged anywhere from “Death in the City” to “Chicago’s Public Art & Murals”. There is a course for everyone, the only thing is that they fill up fast so it’s wise to sign up as soon as you can. I remember feeling confused about what Discover and Explore Chicago were and their main differences. To ease some of those worries, I’m here to give you an in-depth rundown of these classes.
Discover Chicago starts with an Immersion Week, that takes place a week before the beginning of fall quarter. During this week, you and your class will learn about different places around the city as well as take trips that pertain to the course. This is also the time when you get familiar with using the CTA and public transit. Students who take this class get to move in a week earlier because of the Immersion Week. After the first week, the class will meet once a week for 3 hours for 7 weeks during fall quarter.
Explore Chicago starts right at the beginning of fall term and it works like every other one of your classes. Students who take Explore are in that course for the full 10-week quarter and meet twice a week for 4 hours. Because this class starts at the beginning of the quarter, Explore students move in at the same time that all of the other students do which is the weekend before the start of the term.
Discover Chicago was the route I ended up choosing because I got to move in a week before everyone else and wanted a bit more time to get used to the city. The class I took was “Psychology of Chicago’s Parks” and it was one of my favorites. I met some of my best friends there and we explored a lot of hidden gems that I would never know about had I not taken this class. Regardless of which option you choose, I guarantee that you will come out knowing a lot more about the city than you did before.
Song of the Week: Build It Better- Aron Wright