Top 5 Productivity Hacks For College Students

Image courtesy of Dennis Hamilton via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The new academic year is fast approaching and like all good students, you’ll be thinking of how to get the most out of your time and studies.

Whilst there is no substitute for hard work, there are always a few life hacks that can help you along the way.

Here are five hacks that can be invaluable during university:

 

  1. Airplane mode

This function on smartphones gives you the opportunity for some much needed peace and quiet when you need it most. When you’re studying, it’s best to keep the many distractions that being permenantly connected can bring at bay. Also, turning notifications off is a good idea.

 

  1. Hide your phone

One stage further than airplane mode is to leave your phone off and out of sight. It can distract you from what you’re doing even if it’s just turned on. A good motto is: out of sight, out of mind.

 

  1. Schedules

We’re creatures of habit, so planning your time is a good way of building good habits. By having a schedule (including your free time, gym, breaks etc), you’ll be much better at keeping on top of all your duties and make the most of your time. Try to find when you work best and then figure that into your schedule.

 

  1. Wear headphones

The key to this one is to drown out outside noise, not share the tinny sound of your music with the rest of the library. It’s a good habit to have them on to cover your ears and keep you focussed on the job in hand. You don’t have to listen to music, but if you do – maybe something quiet and calming is best!

 

  1. Buddy up!

A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes – so having a study mate or group can help alleviate the stress of study. It can also help keep you to your commitments to have friends remind you! Working together is fun too, so find a fellow traveller and buddy up!

 

Improve Your Reading Comprehension (Part 1)

Image courtesy of Matthias Uhlig via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

Let’s face it, among all the language skills, reading is perhaps what most people least enjoy, especially if it happens to be an academic text. The reason for this can vary – a wandering mind, narrow vocabulary, or just impatience.

 

However, there are situations where this skill is a must; an exam perhaps being the best example. Almost all popular language tests have a reading component. IELTS, for instance, has a reading module designed to test a wide range of reading skills.

 

So, how do you improve your comprehension if you are not the reading kind? Here are some ways:

 

  1. Use speed reading

Speed reading is the technique of reading a text quickly with the aim of understanding its overall idea. In a reading comprehension test, this skill is priceless, as test takers find themselves in a race against the clock to answer all the questions. When dealing with long passages, the reader often focuses on content words – i.e. words that carry the message, such as nouns, main verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. This way, they save time, allowing them to better focus understanding and answering those questions.

 

  1. Learn to deduce meaning

One thing that slows readers down is unfamiliar vocabulary. Each time they come across a word they don’t recognise, it hinders their reading speed, thereby affecting comprehension too. One way to overcome this problem is to develop the ability to deduce meaning. In other words, form an ability to guess the meaning of a word you don’t know by looking at words surrounding it. Let’s put this technique to test with the help of an example:

 

We drove past hyacinth fields in full bloom, the air filled with their sweet, lingering fragrance.

 

If you don’t recognise the word ‘hyacinth’, focus on words surrounding it – fields, in full bloom, sweet, lingering, and fragrance. From the context, it is clear that hyacinth is something that grows in fields, develops over time, and has a pleasant smell that is long-lasting. If your guess at this point is that it’s a flower, then you are dead right!

 

So, the next time you come across an unfamiliar word, try to deduce its meaning; then look it up in a dictionary to confirm you guessed right.

 

GLOSSARY

 

let’s face it
Form : phrase
Meaning : used to indicate what you are about to say is unpleasant but true
Example : Let’s face it, we both know you shouldn’t be marrying a guy like Jake.

 

wandering
Form : adjective
Meaning : moving aimless from one place to another
Example : Sally fares poorly in studies because of her wandering mind.

 

comprehension
Form : noun
Meaning : an individual’s ability to understand things
Example : Miguel had no comprehension of how difficult it was to raise a child.

 

a race against the clock
Form : phrase
Meaning : a situation when someone has to do something quickly, as they only have a limited amount of time
Example : Rescuing people during floods is always a race against the clock.

 

hinder
Form : verb
Meaning : to make it difficult for someone or something to make progress
Example : A leg injury hindered Roger from playing his best tennis.

 

View From Campus: Adjusting to Life at a U.S. University

Susquehanna University, USA

 

This month, James Goonan, Director of International Admissions at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, USA shares his thoughts on the often overlooked topic of academic adjustment to life on a U.S. college campus for international students.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

  • selective
  • residential
  • national
  • liberal arts

 

For what is your institution best known overseas?

Susquehanna University ranks No. 15 among the top 30 most affordable colleges with the best study abroad programs in the nation, according to Great Value Colleges (GVC).  And, we are ranked #1 in PA and #9 nationally for getting a job after graduation.

 

What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

We are undergraduate only. Our top majors are Business (AACSB Accredited), Susquehanna has one of only two undergraduate liberal arts colleges in North America that have been accepted into the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Recognition program. The Publishing & Editing Major is one of the best in the US and ranks #9.

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

Saudi Arabia, China, Macao, Japan, Brazil.

 

How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

IELTS is used to evaluate English language proficiency for applicants from countries where English is not the native language.  The normal entry requirement is 6.0 for degree programs.  IELTS is also used for placement in our English Language Learners program.

 

What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the academic environment at U.S. colleges?

Cultural differences.  Our customs are different; school system is different, language is different, and students are expected to be more independent than they might be at home.

 

How much time should students be studying for each class they have?

We recommend that students plan to study 2 to 3 hours for every hour in the classroom.

 

How is the classroom style of professors so different in the U.S. from what most students have experienced back home?

Students on our campus are expected to be engaged and independent learners.  In addition, they are expected to participate in class, question their professors, and take responsibility for their own academic progress.  This atmosphere can be much different than their home countries, where instruction can be more lecture based there and students usually do not question their professors.

 

 

How can international students best prepare to avoid potential problems with adapting to their new academic environment on campus?

We recommend that entering international students participate in a pre-departure orientation in their home country.  These are provided by their local EducationUSA offices.  And, once on campus, the university offers a mandatory Orientation for new International Students.  The most important topics of concern and covered during the orientation.

 

 

The Key to Study Success? Don’t Set Goals, Create Habits

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We’re always told that it’s good to dream big. That we should have our goals planned out: write a hit novel, become a surgeon, run a successful business.

 

But as we embark on making those dreams a reality at university and beyond, we can come unstuck. Most people have experienced those difficulties to some extent. The progress to achieving our goals is slow-moving. There are still a lot of blank pages that we’re trying to fill.

 

So, what’s the key to achieving the goals we set ourselves and realising our dreams?

 

Some Psychologists suggest that instead of setting goals, we should create habits.

 

They argue that a goal is too far off in the distance for it to have a significant effect on our daily lives.

A goal doesn’t help you get the thing done. In fact, until you reach the goal you exist in a sort of state of failure, e.g.  ‘I haven’t written a novel yet.’

 

Instead, we should create a habit that fits with the sort of person we are, or want to be.

 

For example, writing that thesis is a daunting prospect, with many thousands of words to compile.  But if you create a habit: ‘I’m the sort of person who writes for an hour every morning,’ the thesis takes care of itself.

 

In both cases (goal or habit), the end result is often the same (these completed). But crucially, our happiness, and therefore our ability to produce our best work, is far greater when we employ habits.

We’re creatures of habit after all.

What to Expect in a Decent Dictionary (Part 2)

Image courtesy of Chris Dlugosz via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The first part looked at some information that is typically found in most dictionaries – meaning(s), part of speech, pronunciation, verb forms, and miscellaneous grammar points.

 

Here’s some more information you are likely to come across:

 

  1. Synonyms and antonyms

A synonym is a word that has the same meaning, or nearly the same, as another word. An antonym, on the other hand, is a word that means the opposite of another word.

Example:

honest

Synonyms – truthful, sincere, trustworthy, straightforward, reliable

Antonym – dishonest, corrupt, deceitful, insincere, untrustworthy, unreliable

 

  1. Collocations

The word collocation refers to a word combination that happens naturally in a language. Learning such typical combinations is important because it broadens the scope for expressing ideas clearly.

Example:

food

Verb collocations – consume / eat / have / cook / make / prepare food

Adjective collocations – fast / junk / takeaway / fresh / organic / canned food

 

  1. Example sentences

Example sentences are perhaps the best way to learn how to use a word or phrase accurately in a sentence. They show us the way various grammatical features work together to form a sentence. Some dictionaries print fixed expressions or phrases in bold to help users learn faster.

Example:

The change in policy will do serious harm to our business.

Though I’m not particularly fond of my mother-in-law, I don’t wish her any harm.

I know our neighbour’s dog looks ferocious, but he means no harm.

 

  1. Register

The term register means the degree of formality associated with a word. At times, dictionaries also highlight words that are old-fashioned or offensive.

Example:

ascertain (formal) = to find out

ripping (old-fashioned) = wonderful

gaffer (informal) = an individual who is in charge of a group of people

dude (slang) = a man

bird (sometimes offensive) = a way of referring to a young woman

 

  1. Spelling

A lot of words have alternative spellings, depending on the version used – British English (BrE) or North American English (NAmE).

Example:

theatre (BrE) / theater (NAmE)

doughnut / donut (NAmE)

colour (BrE) / color (NAmE)

 

So, the next time you use a dictionary, gather different types of information that can help you better your English.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

miscellaneous
Form : adjective
Meaning : consisting of different kinds of things
Example : Tom has a box of miscellaneous items from his childhood.

 

scope (for something)
Form : noun
Meaning : the opportunity to do something
Example : Sally’s new job offers plenty of scope for international travel.

 

offensive
Form : adjective
Meaning : rude or unpleasant
Example : Students who use offensive language in the classroom will be punished.

 

alternative
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something that can be used instead of something else
Example : Swimming is a good alternative to running when recovering from an injury

 

 

Summer Travelling on a Student Budget

Image courtesy of Jack Snell via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The Long Hot Summer

The one sure thing about university is that you get holidays – lots of them! And summer is the biggest and the best time to set off on some adventures. But they can burn a hole in your pocket too, so here are some tips to keep you on the road…

 

Make the most of them – plan your trip

Planning your budget for your holiday is of course the most important way to keep costs down. Contingency money and travel insurance(!) are also must-haves. You never know when you’re going to need it and you’ll be glad that you have it when you do. If you travel a lot, think about getting annual cover, as the costs tend to be less.

Planning can also steer you clear of the dreaded ‘tourist traps’ that will quickly see your bank balance go south! Main tourist spots will attract a hike in prices, so be sure you know as best you can before you go what you should expect to pay for food, hotels etc.

It’s a long summer, so working and saving before going anywhere is always a good option for students. It gives you the time to save your pennies and plan your trip before setting out.

 

Work whilst you’re away

Finding a job whilst you’re travelling can give you a great chance to get to know the people and culture of a place you’re visiting. Best of all, you’ll make friends for life.

It can also give you a base and the money to explore the country from. Your new friends can give you the inside information on the best places to go and how to avoid the tourist traps that will drain your bank account.

Having experience of working in different countries always looks impressive on a CV too.

 

Use your Social Media

As well as the must-have travel guides in book form, there is a lot you can now research online to find the best deals and most exciting places to go. Social media is also a good way to check what’s going on in certain places and potentially find a job for when you arrive. As ever – be cautious on the internet and never give over your details. Only use it for extra research, as things may be very different when you get there!

Once you’re there, social media can help plug you in to what’s going on in town, and find the best places to explore

 

Festivals and Camps

Festivals and camps that only exist in the summer will often be looking for employees, so can be a great way of having a cheap holiday. Camps like Camp America will pay for your room and board, and you’ll have extra money to spend as you see fit.

Again, this type of work will look great on your CV and you’ll have made great friends whilst enjoying yourself – that can’t be bad!

 

Failing all of that, you can start saving now and travel the world next year!

Why IELTS Is Your Ticket To The World

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English is spoken at a useful level by a quarter of the world population. That’s over one and a half billion people.

It’s the world’s language of exchange, communication and business – to just a name a few areas. So, to speak English is to open yourself up to a world of opportunities.

If you’re planning to live, work or study using English you will often need to prove your ability to use it.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is the world’s most popular English language test. More than 10,000 organisations in 140 countries accept IELTS, including schools, universities, employers, immigration authorities and professional bodies

More than 2.9 million IELTS tests around the world are taken each year.

Taking IELTS opens doors. It can help you live, study and work around the world, including USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

IELTS assesses all of your English skills — reading, writing, listening and speaking, and is designed to reflect how you will use English at study, at work, and at play, in your new life abroad.

Employers and universities want you to be able to use English in the real world, so IELTS is what you will need to prove it.

IELTS is the most widely accepted English language test that uses a one-on-one speaking test to assess your English communication skills. This means that you are assessed by having a real-life conversation with a real person. This is the most effective and natural way of testing your English conversation skills.

Whatever your plans in the world, IELTS will help you achieve them.

The View From Campus: 10 US Student Visa Tips

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Everyone has heard a story (or two) of a friend, or friend of a friend, who has been denied a student visa to study in the U.S., right? Well, the truth is, that over the last five years, the global average of students being approved for a U.S. student visa (F-1) has been over 80 percent.

The good news is with the right preparation, honest answers, and appropriate documentation you can give yourself an excellent chance of being granted a student visa.

 

Here are the ten steps you will need to take:
10. Got your I-20? Make sure you have received the I-20 & admission letter from the college/university you plan to attend. You may have been accepted and received I-20s from more than one school. We recommend that you make a decision as to which institution you will attend before starting the visa process.

9. Check your passport:
• Make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months after your initial planned entry into the U.S.
• Is your name spelled the same (and in the same order) as is listed on your passport? It has to be!

8. Pay your SEVIS fee. Students can pay this fee online. You will need an e-receipt for next steps in the process.

7. Complete the Visa Application Form online DS-160 (non-immigrant visa application). You will need most of the following items to complete this form:
• Passport
• SEVIS ID (from your I-20 form)
• Address of the college you will attend (usually on the I-20)
• Travel itinerary to the U.S. if you have made arrangements already
• Admission letter from the college you will attend
• Proof of funding – bank statements, scholarship award letters, etc.
• Dates of your last five visits to the United States (if any)

6. Plan ahead! You can schedule your visa appointment up to 120 days in advance of the start date listed on your I-20 (when your new school requires you to be on campus).

5. Schedule your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy/consulate nearest you. You will also need to pay the visa application fee (approximately $160, price varies slightly per country).

4. Attend a Visa Session at an EducationUSA Advising Center in your country. At these sessions they will make it clear what they are expecting from successful student visa applicants, and the kind of questions they will ask.

3. Enjoy the experience. A couple years ago our friends at the U.S. Embassy in London put together a great video to help ease your fears, Mission: Possible – Get Your U.S. Student Visa.

2. Talk to your friends. Are any of your former classmates studying in the U.S. now? Ask their advice about their interview experiences and ask for their recommendations.

1. Breathe, relax, and be honest. You have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources to get to this visa interview. Try not to be too nervous. You are almost there.

 

Good luck to you as you take this important next step!

 

A Quick Guide to Prepositions of Place

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A preposition of place shows the location of someone or something. Three of the most commonly used ones in this category are at, on and in.

 

When to use at

Use at when referring to the specific position where someone or something is located.

 

Used to refer to Example
addresses at 39 Lake Road | at 221B Baker Street
a specific location at the bus stop | at the railway station | at the airport
a meeting point We decided to meet at the club. | Let’s meet at the mall.
a place of study She’s studying at Glasgow University.
someone’s shop or house I’m at the grocer’s. | I’m at the dentist’s. | I’m at Katie’s.
group activities at a conference | at a party | at a rock concert | at a wedding
a large place when we consider it to be a point in a journey Our plane stopped at Dubai for refuelling before landing in Zurich.

 

 

When to use on

Use on to indicate someone or something is located on a surface.

 

Used to refer to Example
travel via public transport on a bus | on a train | on the metro | on a plane | on a ship
travel using horses or two-wheelers on a cycle | on a motorbike | on a scooter | on a horse
pages in a book on the first page | on page 23
the number of the floor on the ground floor | on the eight floor
position by a lake, sea, road, street, etc. London is on the Thames. | They used to live on Orchard Street.
something that is in contact with a surface on the wall | on the table | on the floor | on the ceiling

 

When to use in

Use in to show that someone or something is in an enclosed space.

 

Used to refer to Example
large areas in Paris | in France | in Europe | in the desert | in the woods
three-dimensional space in the office | in a supermarket | in a flat | in a house
cars, small private aircrafts, boats, etc. in a car | in a taxi | in a boat | in a helicopter

 

Remember, you cannot do without prepositions of place if you wish to use English accurately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get Ahead? Volunteer!

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The world of work is competitive – that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In many professions or careers there will be many other people applying for the same position as you.

For recent graduates, the odds are against you in one crucial aspect: experience. You’re not likely to have as much as others going for the same job – you haven’t had much of an opportunity to gain experience. But one simple way to overcome that is to offer your time and volunteer.

 

Experience

Qualifications are only one part of what employers will look at when judging how suitable you are for a job. They want to see examples of you working as part of a team, problem solving and showing what you can do. With the time spent in a volunteering role, you will be able to say you’ve had hands-on experience.

It’s also more likely that you will get greater responsibility straight away as a volunteer than you would in a paid role, by assisting the management of a project for example. You can then start filling up that CV with useful skills and experience you wouldn’t otherwise have.

 

Initiative

Volunteering your time in an industry you want to work in shows you have initiative and passion. A prospective employer will appreciate that fact.

Those contacts that you make can often be crucial to you finding a job. You’ll have an advantage over other people by being known to your employer. This is by far the best way to impress and get your foot in the door.

It might also be that not much is being done on what you’re really passionate about.  Perhaps you’re keen to reduce food waste in your area and nothing is being done to tackle it. Real initiative is to do something about it yourself and get all the supermarkets in your area to sign up to a pledge to give left-over food to homeless shelters. You don’t necessarily need to be working for someone else to gain experience, in fact you’ll learn more with a project of your own – the possibilities are endless.

 

Discovery

When you volunteer you can try a variety of work. One week you’ll be asked to work on social media, the next you could be travelling out of the office meeting people and representing the organisation.

Look around for a project that interests you and see what existing charities or organisations are involved with it. Even if your volunteer placement doesn’t match your dream job exactly, you can still benefit from the skills you learn as many will be transferrable. You’re bound to discover something new in what you do, so that can only be worthwhile.

 

Many of our IELTS Awards winners have volunteered in and around university and have gone on to great things!

Besides the obvious benefit of feeling a warm glow from helping others, volunteering can offer concrete experience and chances to develop. Now, over to you!

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