Back to School: Surviving Classes

Terrifying Classes?  Here’s some tips I survive by:

1) Attend Classes-It’s an obvious one.  You gotta be there to absorb the info.

2) Use your cellphoneNo, seriously.  Take pictures of your printed out schedule that has all the times and locations your classes are at.  This is super helpful to me during the first week of school.  Also, use your cellphone to alert you 12 minutes before class starts (just to allow yourself 2 minutes to get to class).  I like getting to class 10 minutes early so that I have lots of time to set up/find out if I’ve forgotten something and need to run back to my dorm.  I’ve never been late to a class because of this.  Not even the one time I slept in and only had 10 minutes to get ready and get to class.

3) Take notes like your life depends on it. Because your academic life really does depend on those notes.  This is also a good way to keep your brain active in class.  I recommend developing a good shorthand system of writing notes.  ie/ because = b/c, with = w/, * = important, ∴= therefore, ~ = approximately,  etc.  Just make sure YOU understand your own shorthand.  Whenever I start developing new shorthand words I write in the margins what it means.  Here’s a website that talks about note taking tips and strategies.  I strongly recommend reading this if you are a first year or find your notes hard to study from.

4) Pre-read notesIf you’re finding that you are getting lost in your lectures, try pre-reading the slides that the prof sends out.  I don’t do this for every class, but the two classes I DID do it for, I usually just took 5-10 minutes reading the slides right before class and that helped SO much.

5) Voice recorder.  This is not mandatory at all.  I have only used my voice recorder for my two toughest classes.  It turns out that the prof, who taught both classes, actually said a LOT of helpful info, but she NEVER wrote it on the board and I missed all of that helpful information because I was so busy trying to keep up with her pace.  (She wrote in shorthand that didn’t make sense to me, so I would have to translate her shorthand, and try to decipher her drawings and listen to what she was saying to write in extra information.  Basically she wrote quickly and talked even quicker, so her lectures were a bit of an overload for me.)  I was actually struggling to get a “read” on this prof because I felt so overwhelmed and I couldn’t keep up with her pace.  After recording a couple of her lectures, I realized that the few “this is important” hints she did give were ALL VERBAL.  It’s not like she literally said “this is important”, but she would put a bit of an emphasis on some words that I always missed because I was overwhelmed.

6) Make friends!  It is SO helpful to have friends in your class.  Sometimes they understand a concept you don’t or vice versa.  They can even help you study.  Plus it’s nice to have someone to sit and talk to while your waiting for the class to start.

7) Make outlines.  I think this is pretty obvious, but some people don’t write outlines or study guides.  I have written briefly about my outlines and ways to help you retain information in my Back to School: Study Tips 2 post.

8) Do the practice problems.  I’ve noticed this being particularly helpful to me in my many Chemistry classes.  It’s a good way to study for the test because sometimes similar questions show up on the exam.

9) Bullshit reading vs. actual reading.  Some profs love to assign readings.  LONG. BORING. READINGS.  Even though my Art History prof was a good lecturer, we had to read these 24-30 page articles that were soul-suckingly dry.  AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.  What I did was I somehow managed to crawl my way through the first article and wrote the requested write up, then from how she graded the write up and what information I had used from the article, I cut out unnecessary reading.  I actually ended up reading just the first page and the last paragraph of the last page for all of her assignments from there on out.  This is part of what I call “reading my profs”  I try and “read” my prof during lectures to see what’s important and in assignments to know what sort of readings are bullshit readings.

Beware, always do the FULL amount of reading the FIRST time, just to be safe.  For some assignments, you legit have to read the entire thing.

10) Figure out how you best study and which times you are most productive at.  These two things are so important to me.  Browse both my School Tips and Study Tips 2 posts, other peoples posts, EXPERIMENT WITH ALL OF THE DIFFERENT WAYS OF STUDYING THAT YOU CAN FIND.  Pick and choose which methods work best for you.

Additionally, take a moment to sit back and think about point in the day your brain is most active.  For me, my brain is most active after supper, so about 6:00 pm -12:00am.  So I really try to get as much homework and studying done as possible in that time frame. What I do is I split up my homework into “I’m really going to have to think hard on this stuff and gather resources” (high brain) and “I can do this absent minded” (low brain).  I do the high brain stuff in my 6pm – 12am period, because that is when my brain is functioning the most, therefore I will get the most done.  High brain stuff for me is studying, practice problems, assignments, take home quizzes, lab reports, and essays.  I typically do low brain stuff in between classes, during the day.  So these will be writing outlines, sometimes studying, and summarizing readings.

11) Print out the syllabus!  If you take time to read the syllabus, it’s a pretty good resource.  It provides class descriptions (use that to identify mega important topics when studying for the final), when certain deadlines are for assignments, when tests are.  Sometimes the prof includes how to be successful in their class.

12) When working, avoid distractions.  Pretty obvious, right?  Well, this is something that I struggle with because I use my laptop to find a lot of resources for all of my pre- and post-lab work.  I obviously use my laptop to write essays as well, so facebook, pinterest and tumblr are really tempting.  I know you can download software on your computer to block you from going to these websites for a specific time period.  Unfortunately, since I like to procrastinate, I have not tried any of these, I can’t say “This is the best one out there!” but here are some that Huffington Post talks about:

Self Control (Mac)        Focus Booster (Mac + Windows.  Uses the pomodoro technique)        Stay Focused (An extension for Google Chrome)

For assignments, I print these out and work as much as I can with my laptop shut.  Unfortunately, that will lead me to another distraction–my cellphone.  You COULD shut your cellphone off–but I don’t do that because my friends are hazards to themselves and I just naturally fell into the role of “ambulance” for my group of friends.  Also, sometimes my friends need me to boost their car, so I also help them out with that.  Honestly, what usually works for me is I just flip my cellphone so that the screen is face down.

13) Don’t pay full price for textbooks!  Do you have a class demanded that you spend $200+ on a textbook?  DON’T pay full price for that!  First and second year classes are really easy to get used textbooks for and it saves you a ton of money.  Seriously, I got a used bio text book for $100 and it was in really good condition.  That textbook would have cost me ~$400 if I had bought it new!

14) Returning students–skim over last year’s study notes.  I do this in the last week of August.  Basically, I do this just to refresh my memory, because if you give me four months of summer, I aint going to remember crap from last year.  This is important to do because profs (or at least my chem profs) expect you to remember EVERYTHING you learned.  It sounds like a stupid expectation, but uni is fast-track learning;  those profs aint got time to hold your hand and review last year with you.  This may be different for other disciplines, but all I know is that the entire Chemistry department at my uni expects me to remember everything or at least a good chunk of what I learned last year.  (I can say the ENTIRE Chem department, because my uni is small.  Believe it or not, by the end of my 1st semester in 2nd year I had had every Chem prof, lab prof and lab tech for at least one semester.)

15) Create a “safety net” for your marks.  Basically, what I mean is this: bust your butt off the entire semester (especially near the beginning of the semester, when the stuff you’re learning is relatively easy/basic concepts…they won’t feel easy at the time, BUT THEY ARE.)  This means that when you go into the final you kind of have a “safety net” and you don’t have to knock that final out of the ball park to pass the class.  Life is a lot less stressful at finals if you know that even if you don’t do well, you still have a hope at passing the class.


Back to School: Study Tips 2

I know that university can get pretty intense at times, and  if you want to be successful in uni, then you gotta put in the effort.  Unfortunately for me, I’m somewhat lazy.  If I think I can get away without reading something, you can rest assured that I definitely won’t be doing any reading.  I need to have a small bit of a social life too.  Despite those things, I still get in the B+ or A- range.  Lesson?  You can do well in uni without reading yourself to death or suffocating your social life!

Now, I am not going to sit here and say that in the following post you shall find a gold mine of awesomeness and that every single thing I list will turn you into an Academic Batman.  Although, that would be pretty cool to be Batman.  But you know, without the losing-your-parents-at-a-young-age part.  Or maybe I should say that this won’t turn you into Gandalf.  Seriously, that guy can survive anything.  Even when it looks like he won’t survive something–he somehow levels up to Gandalf the White!  Anyways!  Everyone is different, therefore some tips might work for you, some tips might not work for you.

I may not be Gandalf, but in two years of uni I’ve found out that there are six areas that have been important in my success at uni.  These six areas are:  attending class regularly, writing good notes, learning to read my Profs (mentioned in previous post), figuring out how I best study/how my brain works, mandatory reading vs. bullshit reading (what I really should be reading vs. what I don’t have to read), and how to manage my time best (so that I have time to socialize, or go on an unexpected journey).


1) Write/type out outlines-I’m not sure how people can just go through their binders and study.  I honestly get bored doing that so I re-write and compress everything in my binders into a super concentrated outline.  This forces me to deal with/think about the contents of the class.  Therefore it’s WAY easier to study and actually remember stuff.
2) Sensory Code information-basically, relate new information to things you have experienced (OR to old information you know without a doubt).  This works GREAT. ie/ I’ve related a chemical reaction to the visual of watching a Newton’s Cradle in action, and it really helped me remember what the electrons were doing/where they were going.  You could also relate stuff to dancing:

3) Don’t study for long periods of time-HALLELUJAH!  SCIENCE HAS SAID WE SHOULDN’T STUDY FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME!!  Actually, I don’t know if Science has said this, but in a time management lecture I attended, they actually said that studying for like 4 hours straight was a bad idea because you’re only likely to remember what you started studying with and what you ended your study period on.  They recommended breaking up study periods so that they only lasted approximately 1 hour.  So instead of one 4 hr study period, have four 1 hr study periods.

4) Keep outlines updated!-I prefer to update my outlines as often as I can.  What I mean is I catch up on my outlines twice in one week for my hard core classes (ie/ All my Chemistry classes) but for my easier classes (ie/ Psychology, education classes, Art History, Environment, etc) I only update them one or twice a month  (if I’m really motivated.  I told you I was lazy).  I can see that this won’t work for everyone, because it does consume a fair bit of time, however updating your outlines as much as possible will help you in the long run because you won’t be cramming as much right before midterms or finals.  Additionally, the time management lecture I attended said it helps you to remember the class material if you do SOMETHING (ie/ write outlines) with the material covered in a lecture in the 24 hours after the lecture.  I’ve tested this out, and it actually has helped me remember class content.

5) Love what you are learning-I know you’re thinking: WHAT? GIVEN THE AMOUNT OF HOMEWORK, STRESS AND TEARS THIS CLASS CAUSED ME, HOW COULD I POSSIBLY DO THIS??  I hear ya.  Sometimes it’s challenging because you really couldn’t give a flying crap about what you’re learning.  Especially in classes you are taking to fill out some random requirement.  This ties into #2 try and relate what you’re learning to stuff you already know.   Just try to make what you’re learning seem interesting.  This can be done by connecting what you’re learning to real life.  Also, you can find more delicious ways to study:

 Phases of the Moon with Oreos! Ohmygoodness this is clever!Finals here I come...


6) Find out how you study best– obviously this is different for everyone.  Some people like to listen to music while they study, some people like to study in groups, some people absorb information by resting their head on top of the textbook and going to sleep.  I’m really jealous of that last group of people.  I, personally, either like to pace and talk out loud to myself or sit quietly and read my outline.  When I’m studying a concept I keep on asking myself “why?” until I’ve broken the concept down into the simplest reasons for why things work the way they do.  Whatever stimulates DEEP, MEANINGFUL learning–do that.  WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T MEMORIZE STUFF.  For me, that works for short term problems, like I have a test tomorrow.  However, the day after the test I wouldn’t be able to tell you the first thing on my outline.

7) For finals, review old tests-Skimming over your midterms and quizzes is a good idea because it gives you a rough idea on what is pretty darn important.  The same questions won’t be tested, but the same concepts will be tested.  Additionally, Google “site:edu [subject] exam” and you will find exams on the same topics.  BOOYA!  Tons of practice exams right there.  There’s probably going to be a good few questions that don’t apply to what you learned, but there might also be some pretty good questions on stuff you did learn.

8) Think positively! –Terrified of the midterm/final you’re going to be walking into in ten minutes?  No, of course you’re not.  You know why?  Because you’re Gandalf.  You are awesome, and you will own this.  You’re gunna walk your self into that room, write that test, and walk out like a boss (or like Gandalf)!  And you know what? Life is going to be freaken awesome because you’re going to ace that test!  That is honestly how I think before I go into any test.  I think I learned this from my first Psychology class, and it’s actually something that athletes supposedly do before a game that they’re stress out about.  Just envision yourself doing well!  I believe that a boost in confidence is helpful, just because it doesn’t allow me to panic and forget about everything I studied.  It helps me to keep my head clear so that I can think straight.

9) Coloured pens– I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this in a previous post, but coloured pens are really worth buying.  Just write key words in a wild colour.  OR you could do what I do (in addition to writing key words in a bright colour) and basically colour code your notes.  I think I had red/pink = YOU WILL DIE IF YOU DON’T KNOW THIS.  Blue/orange = YO, THIS IS WHAT EXPLAINS THIS CRAP.  Pencil = THIS IS AN EXAMPLE AND IT’S GUNNA SAVE YOUR BACON.

10) SLEEP!-Pssh, like I need to remind fellow uni students to sleep.  That’s pretty much what we do best.  I mean seriously, I should list sleeping under my “Skills” section on my resume.

I think that is pretty much it.  If not, I’ll add more to this at a later point in time.  Anyways, these are the essentials that keep me from yelling/writing down “BECAUSE I’M CLEVER”  when I’m doing a test and the question asks me to explain a concept.


If you are interested in other links…

Resources for other people’s study tips!:

Time Management and Organization tips!:

Back to School: Plan Your Semester

BOOM! IT’S LEGIT LIKE TWO WEEKS BEFORE UNI ACTUALLY STARTS!….Well, at my uni anyways, not too sure if that varies a whole lot between different universities…ANYWAYS.  This is how you will save your own bacon in uni, because somewhere in this week before uni starts you will (or I definitely will) be going like this:

I relate to Gimli on a very personal level because he understands my short people problems.  ANYWHO. ONWARD.  Time management is an excellent skill to have in university–in life really.  Time management is the difference between having time to relax and pulling all nighters. So this is how I generally plan my uni life at the beginning of each semester.

Step 1: GET A DESK CALENDAR. These are so helpful for me.  You can also get like a personal planner or agenda, but I personally like getting Desk calendars because they’re big and colourful so I can’t possibly lose it.  You could also get dry erase calendars that stick to your wall as well.

Step 2: WRITE DOWN ALL IMPORTANT DATES.  Your uni should have a place SOMEWHERE on their webpage that tells you about all the important dates throughout the school year. (ie/ Student orientation days at the beginning of the year, payment deadlines for rez fees and tuiton, registration deadlines for classes [AKA after this date you can’t swap out classes you hate for classes you may potentially like], withdrawal deadlines [if you’re going to flunk a class, you better withdraw from it before the deadline so that it doesn’t affect your GPA], when classes begin, when classes end, and most importantly, when there’s NO SCHOOL).

Step 3: WRITE DOWN ALL ASSIGNMENT DEADLINES/MIDTERM DATES.  The great thing about uni is that when classes start, you get a schedule of when all of your midterms or quizzes will be around.  THIS INFORMATION SHALL BE IN YOUR SYLLABUS FOR EVERY CLASS.  Never ignore syllabuses–you hold onto all of them like they’re your life line.

Gives you good deadline info AND suggestions on how to survive the class.

Gives you good deadline info AND suggestions on how to survive the class.

Sorry if you can’t read that.  Just click on it to make it bigger.  Anyways, this is a syllabus from one of my classes last year.  WRITE ALL OF THOSE DATES DOWN FOR ALL OF YOUR CLASSES.  Usually my profs are freakishly good for following these schedules.  Trust me, do this because half way through September I forget about all the deadlines and then BOOM I see them on my calendar and I’m like “WELL SHIT.” but I’m also glad I wrote them down, because profs usually mention important things like Midterms the class before the midterm because THEY EXPECT THAT YOU’VE READ THE SYLLABUS.

The great thing about Chem is that there is no assignments…but that’s because you’re busy trying to finish your weekly lab reports.  You could look at lab reports like assignments, but I choose not to just to make myself happy that I “don’t” have assignments.  Other classes will definitely have assignment/essay/presentation deadlines posted in a similar format to the above shown schedule.

Step 4: WEEKLY PLANNING.  Now that you have all the mega things planned out, you can look at your weekly schedule.  I don’t extensively plan my weeks, typically I just do (sub)step three (talked about below) every Saturday or Sunday.

First step: Put in stuff that you will die without.  Like meals and sleeping.

Second: Stuff you cannot move around like sports practice. (If you want to have a detailed weekly plan, you could also put in classes).

Third: You should set aside time to do homework.  I find if I do a very LOOSE plan of what should be done on each day, life is way less stressful.  By LOOSE I mean I write this on(one of) my white boards:

Monday – O Chem Lab write up, EdPsy essay 1 page, I Chem outline.  

Tuesday-EdPsy 1..1.5 pages, work on EDFX presentation w/ partner, O chem outline…etc.

 You get the idea.  In first year I tried not to have more than 3 things to do each day, and it worked out well.  Second year was entirely different because I had like 5-6 things to do each day in addition to classes, and plus I procrastinated more in second year.  Anyways, I don’t put “2:30 pm–do this” because I have found that that is a fantastic way for me to procrastinate.  Mostly because I’ll get back to my dorm from a class and it’ll be 2:30 and I’ll be like “…5 minutes on pinterest won’t hurt…” BUT IT DOES HURT.  IT HURTS IN TERMS OF ME NOT GETTING SLEEP (mostly because 5 minutes turns into 2 hours). I found out last year that if I give myself a strict schedule, my mind will rebel against it.  All I need is a “AT SOME POINT TODAY, GET THIS DONE.”  However, if you personally need a set time to start doing something, you do that because that is what will benefit YOU the most.

Step 5: HALLELUJAH, I HAVE TIME TO _________.  Insert whatever you want there, be it “sleep more”, “socialize”, “go on the internet” or “shop”.  In what is left of your schedule you can put in stuff like that.  Or if you’re like me you can just leave the remaining slots blank and do whatever your heart desires at that particular time.

That’s pretty much it for scheduling.  I found a website that gives additional tips for time management (and also studying) right hereYou’re welcome.

Always remember that throughout the school year you should always check your email because profs might cancel classes or tell you other VERY important stuff via email.

Just a quick little note: This is stuff that is really helpful to me in uni.

  • Desk Calendar/some sort of planner
  • ear plugs (like I’ve said in previous posts, AT SOME POINT IN THE PORTION OF YOUR LIFE YOU SPEND IN DORMS, YOU WILL HEAR SEX NOISES.  Also useful if your roommate snores, or if your next door neighbors talk really loudly and you just want to study)
  • White boards (weekly schedules, figuring out problems, writing out essay outlines)
  • If your uni has a weird way of showing your class schedule or you don’t like the colours they use,  you can use this website. Also, you can use it to plan your weeks neatly if you don’t want to use the white board.
  • Post it notes (I used these just for colourful reminders that stuff is due.  Also, sometimes your desk calendar might get covered up, so this is also why post its are good)
  • Flags (You can use these to mark important pages, but I don’t I just use them to mark the end of quiz/midterm material)
  • Colourful markers (I’ve probably sworn by these since I’ve started this blog.  I use markers to write important words.  I don’t really use highlighters)
  • Scissors.  Seriously.  You don’t think you’ll need them, but when you DO need them, YOU REALLY REALLY NEED THEM.
  • Ruler, paper clips/binder clips, stapler.
  • Digital camera (other than the obvious use, this is most important for art students to take pictures of still life set ups so that you don’t have to re-set them up if you work on the project later).  You can do this with your cellphone, but there will be times that you will want to print it out bigger so that its easier to see and plus so you don’t have to keep waking your phone up.
  • Laptop. Duh.
  • TAKE PICTURES OF YOUR SCHEDULE WITH ALL THE SPECIFIC TIMES AND LOCATIONS WITH YOUR CELL PHONE.  This will help you get around to your classes at the beginning of the year.
  • You don’t need an alarm clock.  Just use your cell phone to wake you up, or alert you when its time to go to class (I try to arrive at class 10 minutes before it starts).
  • A printer is extremely important.  I also wish that I had bought a printer that could scan stuff with because I always need to scan IR spectras to send to my partner so that they have  a copy to hand into the prof as well.  I would also say for people who are either Art majors or minors, having a colour printer is a good idea.  I cannot even begin to count all of the stuff (ref photos, pictures of a certain artist’s work to help get in the style of that artist) I have had to print off for studio art classes.
  • USB stick mine is ~ 4GB and that is plenty of space (I’ve had it for 2 years and its still going strong!  It has a LOT of stuff on it too)
  • an open mind to new experiences and different ways of thinking.

Of course these are just special things out of all the regular supply lists that people post that I think are super helpful.  If you’re wondering about packing lists, I mentioned them in The Move Out Groove.

Back to School: The Move Out Groove

Greatest entrance ever -- The Emperor's New Groove (gif)


If this year is your first year for moving out, welcome to the club!!  If you’re already a veteran of moving out, then howdy there!  Here’s just some resources that I’ve collected from my few times of moving out.

  • Packing List–  Worried you’re going to forget something?  Nope, because you’re making a list like a BOSS.  Unfortunately for me, in my first year I was not a boss and decided to not make a list and just throw a bunch of my stuff in my suitcase.  BAD IDEA.  While I didn’t forget very many things, the few things I did forget were pretty darn important.  Ie/ hairbrush.  For moving out in my second year, I was still lazy and didn’t want to make a list so I found THIS:     There’s also resources like where to score discounts (I think it’s mostly for the US…but maybe there’s some places Canadians like moi can score a discount too.  I should really check that out…)
  • I believe this earned its own bullet, its from the same website as the previous link, but there’s some really good tips here on surviving first year.  IE/ NEVER LEAVE YOUR LAUNDRY IN THE WASHING MACHINES FOR A LONG TIME.  I found out last year that some people really get pissed when other people do that.  You can be like me and leave it in there for 10 minutes but don’t leave it in there for an hour.
  • Also ROLL EVERY SINGLE T SHIRT, HOODIE AND PAIR OF PANTS YOU HAVE.  This saves precious space so you can put EVEN MORE stuff in your suitcase!

You can also pack military style: 6 Strategies to Lighten Your Bug Out Bag -Posted March 31, 2014 By Creek

  • You know those fitted sheets that come from a special place in laundry hell?  SUFFER NO MORE.  Here is a video that teaches you how to conquer those demonic fitted sheets! Skip to 0:37 and you will be on your way to victory!  While this may not be useful for moving away from home, by the time you’re ready to move back, or move to a different apartment, you will want to have this handy.
  • Worried about your future roommate?-If yes, I understand.  You have to live/sleep/do whatever you do in your bedroom with some complete stranger for 8 months!  Try to go into it with an open mind–anything can happen!  Future roommate might be a nice person!  Imma steal the tips from the “Survive First Year” link I gave earlier: Compromise, communicate, aim to get along, set ground rules.  Those are the absolute essentials  for having a good relationship with your future roommate.
  • Don’t buy everything ahead of time just to lug it to college.  If you’re like me and you don’t even go to a university in the same province or state that your home is in, this is a good tip.  If you live in the same city as your uni, or live under an hour a way from uni, this is less of a big deal for you.  What I mean by this is, that there are some items that you should wait until you’re actually at your uni to buy.  These include Kleenex boxes, hand soap, cleaning supplies (if you have a sink and mirror in your room OR if you also share a connecting semi-private bathroom that is your responsibility to clean), snacks, tampons, etc.  Basically, just inexpensive stuff you can get at Walmart.  It’s a lot easier just to buy these at your uni town then lug them around in your car.
  • Maximize space-I don’t think like typical people stereotypical girls.  I’ve been told that when it comes to my room I live “Spartan” style, which apparently means I only bring to uni what I absolutely need.  Oddly enough, I was told that right after my friends and I watched the second 300 movie.  So having too much stuff hasn’t really been a problem for me.  However, for pretty much all of my friends, space has been a problem.  To sum up what I’ve learned from my friends; think vertical, not horizontal.  Basically, what I mean is, if you can stack stuff, or claim wall space to hang something on with command hangers–DO IT.  One thing I use is those hangers (I think you can find them at Bed Bath and Beyond) that hook over the top of your bedroom door.  Those are great because I just hang all my jackets on those and I can grab a jacket as I’m opening my door to run to class.

Studio 3B 6-Shelf Sweater OrganizerIvy Scarf Organizer3M Command™ 2-Pack Medium HooksCube Grid Bin

All of these were found on the Bed Bath and Beyond website.  Basically this is what my friends and I use for storage solutions.  In the residences I live in now, the beds already have drawers underneath them so there is already under bed storage.  If there isn’t where you go to uni, I definitely recommend you take full advantage of any space underneath your bed if you can.

  • Colours!-The last thing I just want to say is, if it isn’t your thing, DON’T go for neutral coloured everything.  Add a splash of colour to your storage solutions or bedding.  I don’t quite know if this is scientifically proven or anything but it should be if I’m surrounded by bright and cheery stuff, it improves my mood.  You can even bring art to decorate your dorm room.  If you create art, that’s even better because that means you can add meaningful decorations for CHEAP.  If art isn’t your thing, bring pictures that remind you of home or good times, it’s still cheap.  Your dorm room was meant to be personalized.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Heck, in first year I learned how to make origami butterflies and I put a bunch of butterflies up around my room.  It was simple, but nice.

Back to School: Heading From High School to University

Just what I mentioned I would write about in my “High Schoolers” post.  This is just stuff I wish somebody would have either told me or wrote on a piece of paper, attached the paper to a frying pan and then hit me over the head with the frying pan.

  • If you were like me, then High School sucked…but it gets so much better!

The good thing is that University generally rocks (minus the homework).  The reason why HS sucked so much is because I went to a small school and I was just desperate to have a “group” and the only people willing to let me be apart of their group was a small handful of people that I shared next to nothing in common with.  The great thing about Uni is that all those silly HS cliques have been annihilated because not everyone in those cliques go to the same Uni.  Another great thing that I discovered in my first year of Uni is that weird people are the best people ever.  Weird people are SO much more interesting than normal people.  Once, I tried to talk to normal girls because in my second year, my roommate was a somewhat “normal” person (this was at the beginning of the year when I didn’t know that she was one of those demonic creatures who have crawled straight out of satan’s ass) and her friend, but all they talked about was boys, hair, nails, tans and shaving their legs.  Needless to say, I died of boredom.  Maybe that’s interesting to some people, but to me it’s just…boring.

So the great thing about Uni is you meet a lot of people who have the same interests as you, and if there was just one thing I could say to my younger self, it would be just to embrace my own weirdness.  With that being said, embrace other people’s weirdness.  Nothing feels better than doing stupid stuff and then turning to your friends and going:

Another great thing about Uni is because you are no longer at a small school, if your “friends” are being assholes to you, then you can just kick them to the curb and leave them in the dust.  Surround yourself with people who make you happy, because honestly, you don’t need the extra stress that comes with dealing with friends who are assholes.  The course load will be a good amount of stress alone.  One quote that I think has applied to the whole friends deal is a quote from Dr. Seuss:  Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.  On the friends front of my life, I typically live by that quote.  It is a great piece of advice.

  • You can happily be an introvert, but not a hermit.

Being an introvert myself, I know that when heading off to Uni for the first time, it can be very tempting to turn your dorm room into a fortress which you never leave.  As cool as it would be to have your own personal fortress, I recommend you don’t attempt that.  I believe part of a somewhat healthy lifestyle is having at least a little bit of a social life.  You don’t need to be a social butterfly, but I wouldn’t recommend turning into a hermit or a transporter (a person who you NEVER see except for in class or in their room.  Sometimes you don’t even realize they exist because they have mastered the art of transporting so well that you never see them AT ALL).  Honestly, those transporter people amaze me.  I knew one transporter in first year, however I never got the chance to ask her how she transported from her room to the class we both had.

Long story short, get to know your roommate!  Get to know your dorm neighbors!  When you’re doing some light work, leave your dorm room open for people to pop in and say “Hi”.  Say “Hi” to the random person who sits beside you in class.  Get to know your friend’s friends!  Take full advantage of the fun days your Uni hosts at the beginning of the year!  I’ve met all of my friends due to these methods.  At first it is pretty hard, but you never know, maybe your first conversation will go like this:

and that person will be a keeper.

I honestly aspire to start a conversation by going like this:  I don’t care what the person replies.  This just needs to happen.

  • Freshman 15 

When I went to Uni I was terrified of the seemingly inevitable “Freshman 15”  I thought that it was a fact of life that EVERYONE gains 15 lbs.  Not everyone does.  Yes, when it’s finals time, you can pig out and eat your feelings, because its finals, and everyone on campus will understand.  However, just don’t pig out all the time.  If you go to a uni with a cafeteria or are making your own food, a good rule of thumb is to get 3 different colours on your plate.  Interestingly enough, some people miraculously LOSE weight in their first year.

  • Profs

In my academic life, half the battle is learning to read the prof (the other half of the battle is making BULLET PROOF outlines/study guides).  By “read” I mean learning to pick up on verbal or nonverbal ques on what is SUPER important.  Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get a prof that says “THIS IS IMPORTANT GUYS” but that doesn’t happen too often (at least with my profs), so I recommend learning how to read your profs.  I can’t really give any tips here because every prof has different signals.  The good thing is that every prof has to write a syllabus for their class.  Here, they have to provide a description of what will be covered in the class AND they have to state the course objectives.  I would recommend that you use the syllabus and the quizzes to help you understand what the prof will expect you to understand.  Especially for the final.  I’ve heard of other bloggers being all like “go ask the prof what he/she expect you to know!”  Normally, I am a full supporter of asking your prof–EXCEPT THIS TIME.  This is the ONLY thing that I will NOT advise you on asking your prof: do not ask your prof what you are expected to know for a test.  They will probably say “from the beginning of the semester to Class A” or they will say something along the lines of “everything”.  The (Science) profs that I have are all incredibly independent people (or at least they seem like they are incredibly independent) and when it comes to test time and what you should be studying, they are very much “I-expect-you-to-know-what-to-study-because-you’ve-been-present-at-class” type people.  Use your notes, quizzes, and old midterms that the prof may have provided to help you study.

Additionally, if there are multiple profs teaching the same class, go to  and see how people rate all the different profs and avoid needless suffering.  Also, beware classes which have the prof field filled out as “Not yet assigned”.  In my experience, these are sessional profs  AKA not permanent profs.  SOMETIMES these profs are pretty new and from my own experience I’ve found that new profs are SOMETIMES the worst profs (voice of experience).  However, there’s always the chance that the prof’s contract just needed to be renewed or something and the university didn’t want to put anything until the prof’s contract was renewed (also voice of experience).  In this case, the prof might not be that bad.  Not all sessional profs are horrible, I have had 1 good sessional prof that actually kept me very interested in Art History, which is quite an accomplishment.

ALSO FIND OUT WHAT IS YOUR PROF’S AREA OF EXPERTISE.  This will come in handy if they let you write an essay on contents covered in the class.  If this situation comes up, AVOID YOUR PROF’S SPECIALIZATION AT ALL COSTS.  Just because that has the potential to go bad very fast.  I accidentally did this in the before-mentioned Art History class.  However, the prof was nice enough to reassure me that she would not mark me harder than everyone else just because I wrote about her specialization.  But she did warn me that other profs do mark harder if you write on their specialization.  It sounds unfair, but that’s life.

Last but not least, if you are having problems with the course content, talk to your prof!  I have found that to be incredibly helpful.  Yes, the task may sound daunting, and yes, sometimes it’s scary, but from my experience, profs are happy to help you if you are willing to put in effort.  Don’t understand why you got a crappy grade on a paper?  Talk to your prof!  Can’t read your prof’s hand writing? Talk to them!  Having trouble understanding a question or a general concept?  TALK TO YOUR PROF.  Honestly, if you don’t understand something, this is the best thing you can do for yourself.  I’ve gone to a prof to ask her to write in different coloured markers because she was only writing in black dry erase markers, and that made some of her diagrams hard to read, and she actually complied (it took her a while to get used to using a bunch of different colours, but she eventually got the hang of it).  Just remember for talking to your prof about grades, their handwriting or anything be polite/understanding and patiently explain your side of the coin so the prof can understand.  Don’t burn any bridges because you may have to deal with that same prof later on.

  • Stress

Realizing finals begin in the following week:

End of Finals:

Stress is an obvious part of university–an obvious part of life, really.  The difference between the unsuccessful and successful student is (I think) how well they can cope with stress (and also their time management skills).  Work hard, but also take time to chill out.  Especially around high stress times like Midterm wave 1, Midterm wave 2 and Finals.  At my university, they put on Wellness Weeks where they have lots of activities like pumpkin smashing, free yoga classes, free booster juice/cookies/candies, or they bring in animals like guide dogs/dogs trained to be calm that you can pet.  I recommend taking full advantage of these things.  You could also watch part of a sports game and support your school’s team.  OR you can hang out with your friends, play games with them, drink tea, etc.  OR if you really don’t want to talk to people, I recommend watching cute animal videos.  It sounds dumb but it really helps me to just watch cats do either stupid or adorable things.  For some reason this video ALWAYS makes me happy no matter how stressed I am:

Figure out some sort of healthy coping mechanism.  Drinking a day or two before a final is not a good coping mechanism.  Trust me, it will backfire.  I did this once and I was still drunk the next day and studying went horribly because I couldn’t remember anything.  On the plus side, I didn’t wake up with a hangover.

To everyone who is going into their first year of university, CONGRATULATIONS!  University can be an absolute blast (minus the homework).  I hope your first year of uni is just as great as mine was.  Just be open to weird people (or whatever type of people float your boat) and new experiences and everything will be just fine.  Balancing a social life, healthy life style, and all the homework can be challenging, but you can do it!

To everyone returning to Uni–well you know what it’s like.  One last tip for this group specifically is that if you are REALLY motivated, I would recommend that you spend a couple days before classes start and just skim over stuff that you learned from last year, because profs WILL expect you to remember EVERYTHING from last year.

High Schoolers

Well!  Its around the time of year when I think High Schoolers are getting out after getting done their finals, and although I have long since finished High School (well, okay I’ve only been out of High School for two years but whatever, just…ssshhh….)  Anyways, I’m just posting this as something I wish somebody would have told me before I jumped into my getaway vehicle and floored it away from my high school.

Short Story: If you are proceeding to University and you are majoring in a field that requires formulas–KEEP YOUR FORMULA SHEET FROM HIGH SCHOOL (HS).

Long Story: Honestly, I know I wanted to burn everything as soon as I got out of HS.  Every piece of paper, every binder, every notebook, every pencil, eraser, textbooks (NO, DO NOT DO THAT) that I had obtained from my grade 12 year.  However, let me tell ya, if you have outlines or formula sheets I would keep those because the pace of Uni is a lot faster than HS and I always found that it was easier for me to re-learn stuff or to jog my memory with outlines or thing that I had written.  However, if you’re going to major in artsy stuff like English, Philosophy, Psychology, etc.  Then you have a green light to BURN EVERYTHING MWAHAHAHA.  Okay, if your English teacher gave you good tips for writing theses keep those.  Otherwise, have yourself a nice campfire.  I say this because for me, it is pretty easy to get through those classes because the one English class I did take, I BSed my way through it, and honestly, I think English classes are supposed to teach you BS skills analytical skills.  (ie/ Why did this character have blue curtains in her apartment?  

I’m all like “Because she likes the colour blue?  Because it goes with the rest of the apartment?  I don’t know you didn’t tell me if she was an interior designer at heart or not!”  



Honestly, I will never be able to get that much meaning out of literature.  However, if that is what you are good at, I admire your skills at being able to read something and understand all the layers that are in the literature.  Your analytical skills will definitely be tested in Uni, so it is a good skill to have.

I was going to talk about other HS to Uni transition stuff, but it is more applicable for the end of August/right before Uni starts, so I will post that at the appropriate time.  Until then, I shall be doing this:

Carry on and have a good summer!

School Supplies

Well, this time around I am doing my usual end-of-the-school-year-organization in my room different.  I got the (hopefully) brilliant idea to actually do things backwards this year and see how it goes.  By “things” I mean that while everything is still fresh in my brain, I am now making a school list of what I need for next year right now.  My main motivations behind this is:

A) I’m bored.

B) I really don’t want to have to dig everything out of their boxes in August and go through everything when I start getting stuff together to go back to school.

I figured I should document this because like I mentioned in a previous post, every year I typically forget how I handled stuff last year, so I end up trying new things every year to come up with a efficient school system.  The only problem I have so far with this new approach is that my room now looks like a tornado has gone through it.

My list of what I have and the binder/notebook/duotang plan for my subjects next year

My list of what I have and the binder/notebook/duotang plan for my subjects next year

While that may be hard to read occasionally, I think its still possible to read that.  However, I’m just going to mention a few things that aren’t blatantly on there.

1) The Crapbook-the most important book for all of my Inorganic Chemistry lab pre-labs and write ups.  I used my Crapbook to pretty much write anything I thought should be included in a lab write up.  This was very important for me because I change my mind a lot and because of that, my lab reports used to generally include a LOT of scratched out words…AKA it was very messy. So the Crapbook was a good way of…somewhat helping me to figure out what I wanted to talk about in a lab report (then again, I would change my mind about exactly what I wanted to say, so it was still messy, but not AS messy as my first couple of lab reports).

ie/ page from the Crapbook



Always cite sources as you come across them.  I created a crap ton of bookmark folders on my laptop according to what experiment I was doing and renamed everything I bookmarked to be like “Footnote 1, Footnote 2…etc. This saves you so much time when you’re writing up a References list.

2) Duotangs– If you’re like me and love to travel light  because you’re running around campus in order to get to your classes, duotangs are GREAT.  Just throw a bunch of loose leaf in your duotang and off you go!  (they’re also great if you’re like me and forget to charge your laptop for classes).  However, if your prof is awesome enough to send you the powerpoint version of their notes, I highly recommend this thing:

It has a sleeve for pre-printed out notes, and a spot to put a pad of paper to write even MORE notes!

It has a sleeve for pre-printed out notes, and a spot to put a pad of paper to write even MORE notes! I got this at Staples.

I used this because even though my I chem prof sent out the notes, there was like two extra pages of notes to every slide that she had.  (I know that I mention I chem a lot, and yes, that class did cause me to screw around with my learning style A LOT).  I think this duotang/notepad thing is my #1 love of this year’s school supply.

3) Good binders (and pens)– I really loved the duotang thing, but I think good binders are my #3 love of this year’s school supplies. (#2 love is good pens/markers.  Personally, I recommend Staples Optiflow pens.  My box says that they are “needle point liquid ink rollerball pens”.  All I know is that I barely have to apply any pressure when I write.  However, never use these for lab write ups if you use a special lab notebook that has a carbon copy paper like system.  Always use ye ol’ faithful ball point pens because the Optiflow pens don’t allow the paper to make a good transfer of carbon or whatever the paper is using.

Back to binders.  If you get good binders, you will save money.  In high school I had bought some of those fabric binders for my “heavy duty” subjects like Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math and History.  I think I was either in grade 10 or 11 and I still have those same binders, so they’ve lasted me 4-5 years.  However, if you want to go for a bit of a lighter binder, I also recommend these binders:

Rubber reinforced corners and edges.  From Staples.  By the way, I have no loyalty to Staples, I just go where the good products take me, whether that be Staples or Walmart.

Rubber reinforced corners and edges. From Staples. By the way, I have no loyalty to Staples, I just go where the good products take me, whether that be Staples or Walmart.

I’ve had these binders for a little under a year and they haven’t busted what-so-ever, so I’m pretty happy with them.

4) Coloured markers– I mentioned these in a previous post.  THESE ARE LIFE SAVERS FOR ME.  Throughout the school year, I only really used like 3-4 markers in my notes and outlines, and they pretty much lasted me the entire school year.  These were included in my #2 love of this year’s school supply.  Unfortunately, like the Optiflow pens, these are kind of expensive for markers…I think these were $16…or somewhere in that neighborhood.

Staedtler "triplus fineliner" 0.3mm

Staedtler “triplus fineliner” 0.3mm These are awesome because they come in mostly bright colours and the case turns into a stand!

I think that is all I really need wanted to say.  As you can probably tell, shopping for school supplies is my favorite August activity, and I sort of get picky about certain things (ie/ pens.  NOTHING compares to those Optiflow pens. I tried one once and I have almost never gone back to ballpoint pens.  I only go back because of my weird carbon-copy-like lab notebooks.  Actually, if you are someone who chews on their pens and you’re in Biology or Chemistry, I HIGHLY recommend either separating your lab pens from normal pens by either keeping them in different places or buying two different kinds of pens.  Ingesting nasty chemicals is obviously bad.)