Some people have no trouble staying focused when it comes to school, but others have difficulty doing the same thing over and over without becoming bored or easily distracted. Staying on track can be harder than it looks and grades can suffer as a result.

There are some easy ways to stay focused and engaged in class, whether you're in high-school or college, and it's important to know how to keep yourself on task even when you feel it's impossible. Here are some of the best tips on how to do just that.

Get Involved

Make it a point to get involved in your classes. If you've been a passive learner — wherein you sit back and listen rather than participate — it will benefit you to change things up a little and get engaged. Don’t just focus, participate! Get active in class discussions, group projects, and debates and be sure to ask questions to keep your brain firing on all cylinders.

Play Brain Games

Keep your mind sharp by doing puzzles and word games designed to make you think. You can download these games on your phone and try them out whenever you have a few spare minutes — waiting at the doctor's office, for instance — and work on your ability to think in new ways. Crossword puzzles and Sudoku are like exercise for the brain.

Use All of Your Resources

Many college courses have supplemental learning resources — videos, message boards, extra reading, etc. — that go unused by a lot of students who don't want to take the time. They may be optional, but these resources can help you get the most out of the course, so set aside extra time during study hour to at least check them out.

Train Your Brain

It may sound silly, but training your brain to pay attention to more than one thing at once can help you narrow your focus. If you play an instrument, try playing it while you sing. Put two things together and see how well you multitask. It may sound counter-intuitive but multitasking in new ways (different from being scattered or distracted) can actually sharpen your focus. If you find it difficult at first, don't worry; many people do. Just keep trying until it becomes easier. You can do more than you think!

Get Active

Get moving! The mind and the body are integrated so treating one well benefits the other. Join a sports team, start jogging, or get up a little earlier than normal and go for a brisk walk. Daily exercise floods the brain with oxygen-rich blood and can boost mood and energy levels, so help yourself feel good by getting in a workout.

Consider Hiring a Tutor

If you find you're having trouble in a specific class, don't let it undermine your confidence. No one is great at everything. Consider hiring a tutor to help boost your grades — and your self-esteem. Tutors don’t just help with subject matter, they can actually help with study skills so that you can become a better learner.

Guest post by Lawrence Mager, ReadyBrain.net.


A laptop is a college student’s best friend. It lets you stay in touch with friends and family, get your homework done on time, and enjoy an occasional funny cat video. But how can you keep your laptop and all the data on it safe?

Use a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) enables you to use a remote server when you connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks, such as those within the campus library or at your favorite coffee shop. That remote server will encrypt your data and make it next to impossible for hackers on your Wi-Fi network to get access to your data.

You can take advantage of several free and paid VPNs. Some of the best VPNs include:

  • Hotspot Shield
  • KeepSold VPN Unlimited
  • PureVPN

Beware of Shoulder Surfing

When you want to get away from your noisy roommate, you might head to the campus library, but it isn’t just the Wi-Fi network at the library that poses a risk. The person who casually walks behind you when you’re entering your password for your banking website could be trying to glean your info. This practice is known as shoulder surfing.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of shoulder surfing is to be aware of your surroundings. If you notice anyone around you who is paying more attention than they should, move to another table or avoid using websites that require you to enter private information.

Use Strong Passwords

All of your passwords should be difficult to guess. A strong password:

  • Uses both uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Contains numbers and special characters
  • Isn’t anything obvious like the name of your pet or your significant other
  • Has at least 12 characters

Strong passwords are sometimes difficult to remember, but you should resist the temptation to use the same password for everything. You can keep a list of your passwords in a secure location; you might use a password app or create a hard copy and keep it in a safe place.

Frequently change your passwords for sites that contain sensitive information, like your banking and credit-card sites.

Guard Against Theft

According to one estimate, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds.

To keep your laptop safe, register it with campus security. Many colleges will give you a sticker to put on your computer that will act as a theft deterrent. It will also help bring your laptop home if an honest person comes across it.

Also be sure to lock up your laptop. You can buy a cable lock for your laptop that will enable you to attach it to your table in the coffee shop when you have to step away to use the bathroom. Also, don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s alright to leave your laptop unattended in your car. If a thief even suspects that your car has valuable electronics in it, you could find yourself short one computer.

Keeping your data (and property) safe will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration. Use the above tips to protect your information from thieves.


According to the “dress well, test well” mantra, dressing up on exam day will help you perform better on your test. It might sound like wishful thinking, but recent studies show that there might be some truth to the idea. Here are a few reasons why dressing well might give you an advantage.

Clothing May Affect Confidence

While confidence alone isn’t enough to get you a good grade, you definitely won’t perform as well if you’re too nervous to think straight. You probably already know this from personal experience, but let’s take a look at the scientific study that backs this idea up.

While conducting a study on clothing and confidence, professor Karen Pine found that students wearing “Superman” shirts gave themselves a higher rating for likeability and physical strength compared to students wearing regular clothes. Pine also had women take a math test while wearing either a swimsuit or a sweater. The women wearing swimsuits performed worse than the other group.

These results suggest that what you wear is connected with confidence and test scores. While neither study proves that your outfit will get you a better test result, the outcome is certainly compelling.

Color Influences Mood

It’s not news that color can affect your mood. Businesses have used this knowledge to their advantage for years. Fast food restaurants use bright red and yellow decor to stimulate appetite, and hospitals are more likely to have soft blue or green walls to create a calm atmosphere. The question is: How can you use color psychology to your advantage?

Try using color to improve your energy. If you pulled an all-nighter, you may find that wearing orange helps to perk you up. If you’re feeling nervous, shades of blue may calm you down. Of course, not everyone reacts to colors the same way. For one person, red may feel energizing. For another, it could induce feelings of agitation or anger. The key is to wear colors that work for you.

Your Wardrobe Can Affect Cognition

There’s a relatively new term — enclothed cognition — which states that what we wear influences how we think. Maybe you’ve noticed that when you wear gym clothes, you’re more likely to work out because it puts you into the right frame of mind. Current research looks at other types of clothing to see if there’s a similar effect.

Professor Adam D. Galinsky conducted an experiment to see if lab coats influence attention span. He found that the participants who wore a white doctor’s coat showed better attention than participants wearing regular clothes or white painter’s coats. According to Galinksy, it’s the symbolism of clothing that really matters. Doctors are careful and serious, so when people put on a doctor’s coat, they try to fit that role.

Does this mean that dressing well can help you concentrate better during your exams? Maybe. So far, it looks like the clothes you wear affect your mood, confidence, and the way that you think. The next time you take a test, wear something comfortable and flattering and see if it makes a difference.


Many college students find themselves overwhelmed by the quantity of assigned reading. Even those who took rigorous courses in high school, such as advanced placement classes, might struggle to keep up with the required material their professors assign. Fortunately, there are ways you can become a better reader in order to maximize the time you spend reading and to improve your comprehension and enhance your ability to retain information.

Choose the Right Setting

Even though you might think you’re getting ahead by squeezing in a few pages here and there, it isn’t effective if your brain isn’t picking up the information you read. Visual distractions, loud or continuous noises, intrusive lighting, and the presence of other people can all reduce your ability to read textbooks quickly and remember what you read. If you find yourself rereading the same paragraph or page, the chances are high that something in your environment is distracting you. Find a quiet, comfortable place to read so that you can consume the content efficiently.

Read With an Engaged Mind

Even if you find the right environment, you might still read without grasping the information. Your mind could wander if the content seems boring. To engage your mind and improve comprehension, go beyond simply reading the material. Underline key points, mentally answer thought questions in the text, or jot down an outline of the content as you go to keep your brain alert.

Enhance Your Reading Rate

With practice, you can learn to use speed reading techniques while studying. For an easy start, try using a pen or your finger to guide your eye through the content. Because your eyes want to follow the movement, they read the content quicker than they would without the guide of the pen.

Skimming is another speed reading technique. Because it results in lower comprehension, it’s best to skim only when you’re assigned content the professor already covered in class. Skimming the material instead of skipping it altogether will help cement your retention of the information, because you’re essentially reviewing content you’ve already learned during the lecture.

Maximize Your Time

One strategy for making the best use of your time is to join with other students to split up the assigned reading. Within a small group of committed students, you can provide each other with thorough summaries, reducing the amount of actual text you have to read. This system works only if every student does his or her reading and creates a meaningful overview for others to digest.

Learn how to determine which assigned readings are important. Some professors lecture on major points from the text. When you’re short on time, you can skip sections that the professor thoroughly discussed in a lecture.

Another way to maximize your time is to listen to books while you exercise or drive. If you’re assigned a novel, you might be able to get the audiobook, depending on the title.

Whatever you’re reading, make notes on concepts that you don’t understand. There’s nothing productive about reading information that makes no sense. Your professors, their teaching assistants, or the members of your study group can answer your questions to help you understand what you’ve read.


You want your college years to be memorable and enjoyable, not just a time when you studied, panicked, and partied. There’s more to college and one way to make the most of the college experience is to join a student organization. Here are some of the perks you can expect:

Fun and Friendship

Familiarize yourself with the student organizations that operate on your campus, and join one that speaks to your interests and goals. Everyone else in the organization is likely to have a similar outlook, so it will be easy for you to strike up quality friendships that will last well beyond graduation day. You’ll also have fun as you learn the ins and outs of how to plan meaningful events.

Experience, Employability, and Networking

It’s never too early to think about your resume. Joining a student organization can provide you with valuable experience, even if the organization isn’t closely related to your intended career. You’ll still learn important skills, such as how to be a team player, how to plan events, and to raise funds and awareness.

Participation in a student organization can signal to employers that you’re passionate and willing to go the extra mile for causes close to your heart. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out for a leadership position in the organization. Learning how to lead will serve you well throughout your professional career.

Don’t underestimate the power of the connections you make when you join a student organization. You’ll meet people school and in the community who will be willing to help you when the time comes to apply for jobs.

Time Management and Improved Grades

Yes, joining a student organization will make you busier, but it may also help boost your GPA. An article from Boston University Today quoted one student who said, “The busier I am, the more focused I become. Working really makes you more structured; you have a lot of things to do in a short amount of time, so it’s important to keep up with it all.”

If you’re skeptical about whether you can juggle your studies and participation in a student organization, talk to your peers who are already participating. They might have some tips and advice on how to avoid burnout and make the most out of every minute in your schedule.

Besides helping you focus and manage your time, joining a student organization can provide you with some study buddies who will motivate you to dominate your next exam.

Self-Discovery

Whenever you put yourself in a new situation, you’ll learn about your likes and dislikes, your natural talents, and the things you need to work on. Joining a student organization will reveal layers of yourself that you may have only glimpsed before.

Signing up for a student organization might be just what you need to take your college experience to the next level. Why not give it a try?


Staying healthy is challenging for many college students. You want to eat properly and get enough exercise, but how do you find the time? Here are four healthy habits that are speedy and sure to help you stave off getting sick.

Drink Enough Water

This is the easiest and cheapest health tip that we can give you. Your body is made up of about 60% water and it uses water to regulate its temperature, keep your skin healthy, and eliminate waste (yay for sweating and peeing, which are your body’s awesome built-in detox mechanisms). When you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to contract a urinary tract infection or become constipated. Drink water with each meal, and carry a water bottle with you to class.

To save money, ditch the plastic water bottle and get yourself a reusable one. If your tap water isn’t the greatest, invest in a filter to improve the water quality. You can flavor your water with lemon slices or other fruits to keep things interesting. Juice is another option, but keep in mind that many juices are loaded with sugar and calories. Doctors recommend that you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. You don’t have to go that far, just try to up your intake and be mindful that your body needs water more than just when you feel thirsty.

Stretch Away Your Stress

When you’re in college, stress is pretty much a given. Unfortunately, chronic stress can cause headaches, irritability, insomnia, high blood pressure, and even shortness of breath and full-blown panic attacks. Yoga is excellent for reducing stress and for increasing your energy levels. Check to see if your school offers yoga classes; many colleges now offer them for free or for an affordable price. Also, there are many free online routines that you can follow at home.

If yoga isn’t your thing, other options include tai-chi or walking. Try one of these exercises for 15 minutes once or twice a day and see if you notice a difference. We bet that you will and that it will be for the better.

Keep Those Germs Away

Okay, we won’t blame you if you’re rolling your eyes right now. Of course you already know to practice basic hygiene, the importance of washing your hands, and that it’s best to avoid your sneezing roommate. But you might be surprised to learn where germs like to hide.
NSF International tested the homes of off-campus college students for common germs such as molds and bacteria. The three most germ-infested items were the dish sponge, the shower drain, and the kitchen sink drain. The grossest part? All three items had E. coli. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Other germy items included the coffee pot, the shower head, and the kitchen faucet handle. Unless getting sick is your idea of a fun time, make sure to clean these areas regularly. There are lots of green cleaners now that will kill bacteria while being environmentally friendly.

Healthy People Eat Breakfast

When you’re always on the go and pressed for time, good eating habits can fall by the wayside. However, there’s no excuse for skipping breakfast. No matter how busy you are, you need to eat something when you wake up. Skipping breakfast increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes, and it usually makes you gain weight because you find yourself hungry soon after and eating all the wrong things to compensate. Your memory and attention can also suffer, which isn’t what you want for your morning class.

As long as you’re not drinking alcohol or scarfing down junk food, practically anything will do for breakfast. If waking up early isn’t an option, stash a banana or a muffin in your bag the night before so you can eat on the go. Have time for something hot or a trip to the dining hall? Go for something like eggs and turkey sausage — plenty of good fats and lean protein there. If you’re in a hurry, make it a low-fat yogurt for a shot of protein.

Remember that the last thing you want is to get sick and be unable to attend classes or to complete assignments. Try following the tips above in order to help stay healthy throughout the semester. They are preventative steps and good habits that will pay off throughout the term and beyond.


As you progress through college, you may start to think about the value of the degree you’ve chosen, the job you want to have after college, and all of the other experiences and skills you want to build for your future job. That’s where a minor comes in.

Depending upon your school and chosen major, a minor may be something that’s easy to tack on and will still allow you to graduate on time. For others, it may add on a semester of work. Some colleges even require students to choose a minor when declaring a major. There are many benefits to going the extra step, such as following your passion, enhancing your major, increasing your chances for employment, amplifying your expertise, and exploring something new.

Follow Your Passion

This is the reason many people get minors that have nothing to do with their majors. If your minor is about following your passion, you might try singing, dancing, theater, a foreign language, yoga, ceramics, or anything else that you want to learn more about. These are unlikely to lead to a job, but they’re enjoyable and they make you more well rounded.

Enhance Your Major

A minor can also act as an enhancer for your major. If you’re interested in becoming a journalist who focuses on environmental issues, consider pairing your journalism major with a minor in environmental studies. Doing so gives you an extra set of skills to add to your knowledge base.

Increase Your Chances

The job market is very competitive, so anything you can add to make yourself stand out will give you a leg up when applying for jobs. A minor can also help you to narrow your focus and find the exact jobs that you want after graduation.

Amplify Your Expertise

A minor can complement your major, making you more of an expert in your field. It helps you to focus in on landing a specific job, but it can also broaden your knowledge horizons.

Explore Something New

This falls in line with following your passions. Your minor doesn’t have to be something that will benefit your career; it can be just something that you find interesting or have always been intrigued to learn more about.

A minor can be a big asset for having the right set of skills and expertise to get hired for the right job, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Depending on your school and financial situation, a minor can add on a semester’s worth of classes and a large financial burden. That just might not be worth it for some students. If you want to pair it with your major, don’t forget to look for online courses or community college courses that might save you money. Even if you’re not getting a minor, you can still take a few classes or even just one in a new subject that you find interesting or would benefit your major.

For whatever reason you choose, make sure that you’ve thought about the burdens and rewards of adding a minor to your degree plan. As long as you know why you’re giving yourself extra work and financial requirements, it can be a wonderful asset.


New Year’s resolutions give everyone an opportunity for a fresh start — including college students. The thought of bettering yourself sounds exciting, but the hard truth is that only 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them.

The key is to set realistic goals that will prevent you from falling into a vicious cycle of failed resolutions. Let’s take a look at four practical resolutions you can make in order to avoid feeling like a failure two weeks into the new year.

Stop Being a Perfectionist

You want to earn straight A’s across the board — we get it — but you shouldn’t miss out on your college experience in pursuit of perfection. Learn to find a balance between school responsibilities and making time for yourself. Don’t skip out on birthdays and important social events for a grade; your relationships matter, too. Of course, you should study, turn your work in on time, and strive to do your best, but you don’t need to do those at the expense of having a life. We’re not saying to slack but don’t let the pursuit of the perfect become the enemy of achieving the good.

Limit Social Media Use

Have you paid close attention to how much time you spend on social media? If not, you may be surprised at how much time you actually waste scrolling through your feeds. Seeing what your best friends are up to online is a great way to stay connected, but it’s not good if your academics start to suffer. Try setting an attainable goal of using social media a predetermined number of minutes per day. For instance, “I will use Facebook and Instagram only 30 minutes each day during my lunch break.”

A simple New Year’s resolution to limit social media use will free up more of your time and improve your overall productivity at school, not to mention easing your mental and emotional stress that comes from sifting through current events, fake news, and constant info overload.

Start a Study Group

Speaking of social media . . . can you imagine what it must have been like for students who were in Mark Zuckerberg’s study groups at Harvard? The point is, you never know who you can connect with and learn from if you try. Some of the greatest leaders today met their colleagues and current business partners in college. If leading a study group seems like too much responsibility, consider meeting once a week with a small group of two to three students.

Having accountability partners is an excellent way to stay motivated throughout the year, and you just might make a new friend or two or start the next big thing.

Make Self-Care a Priority

Prioritizing self-care is where most college students who make New Year’s resolutions fail, but you don’t have to follow the crowd. Instead of setting a hard-to-reach goal like losing the Freshman 15 in only one month, start with smaller attainable goals. For instance, getting an extra half-hour of sleep each night is a goal that could help improve your focus, energy levels, and health over time. If you stumble and fall off the wagon, it’s never too late to get back on and get back into the things that help you keep care.

If you give yourself credit for achieving realistic resolutions, you’ll continue to smash your goals for years to come. Which New Year’s resolutions will you make and keep this year?


Returning home for the holidays after a semester at college can be a bittersweet experience. These feelings are intensified if it’s your first time returning home after months away at school. You might feel like everything and everyone in your home environment has changed. And you’re not wrong; but relax, it’s okay!

If you’re feeling less than excited about a pending return home or have found the transition harder than expected, know that this is completely normal and that a little perspective and patience can help you adjust back to family life, whether it’s for a quick weekend or winter break or for an entire summer.

Deferring Views on Independence

You have been away from home for weeks, maybe even months. You have developed your own routine, have had to manage your own money, have been cleaning your dorm and stocking it with essentials, and have made decisions on how to manage your time. Meanwhile, your parents may still see you as the teenager who needs guidance and supervision to make good choices.

If your parents are used to instituting a curfew, they may expect everything to revert back to usual when you return home. Don’t press them more than is necessary but do have an honest conversation and point out your accomplishments over the past semester to help them understand your perspective.

Showing Respect Goes Both Ways

During your time at school, you might have come to appreciate how much your parents do for you and how much you still depend on them, while they have become accustomed to limited demands from you and may not relish suddenly washing an extra batch of clothes and making a home-cooked meal every night.

Show your parents that you truly have matured by helping out around the house rather than expecting them to revert back to their previous roles. This goes for your bedroom too. If mom and dad converted your old bedroom into a study and now have you sleeping in the loft, try to see it as their way of coping with your absence rather than asking them to change things “back to normal.”

Navigating the Friendship Maze

The life-of-the-party bestie who enrolled at a different school may have turned into a serious student overnight, or perhaps he or she stayed in your hometown to pursue a technical career and still has the live-in-the-moment mentality you whittled down through competing deadlines and pressure to perform at college.

When you return home, it’s natural to expect you can step right back into the friendships you left behind or maintained through virtual communication, but both of you will have changed. Moreover, just as you have made new connections at college, your closest hometown friends may have forged new relationships as well.

You can still have a great time together, but it’s important to recognize that what you want and need out of your friendship may have shifted significantly.

Reaching Out for Support While Home

Whether support comes in the form of an impartial family friend, older sibling, former school counselor, or current college advisor, plan to return home armed with one or two potential contacts in case things get out of control or you find yourself growing depressed.

Keep in mind that the sudden transition from high school student to independent young adult can be hard on you, your family, and friends, but with patience and empathy for one another, you can enjoy the journey.


From deadlines to a busy social life to working a part-time (or even full-time) job, college has many built-in stressors that cause students anxiety. In addition to the stress of having many responsibilities and commitments, college students often experience tremendous change in unfamiliar environments. They may live in a new place each year with new people, have classes in new parts of campus, and study under different professors — all of which can feel frightening or destabilizing.

For you as a student, as the pressure builds, you may begin to experience some mental-health issues, such as anxiety. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways you can cope. And with finals right around the corner, now is the perfect time to educate yourself about managing anxiety at college.

How Anxiety Impacts People

Anxiety disorders create a number of symptoms that, when combined, can create feelings of overwhelm, worry, insecurity, and sadness. If you feel irritable much of the time, feel fearful, experience your muscles tense and ache, get tired easily, experience restlessness, have trouble concentrating, and dread certain activities, you may be dealing with anxiety. In addition, anxiety can cause you to worry excessively and prevent you from getting enough sleep. If you’re experiencing several of these symptoms, consult a trained counselor or a medical professional; they can help.

Managing Anxiety

There are several ways you can reduce your anxiety. For starters, it’s important to have a strong, reliable support system. Enlist your parents, a sibling, a roommate, sorority sister or frat brother, or close friend to be on call when you need a dose of positivity or you need to vent your frustrations. You may also want to take advantage of on-campus counseling so that talk therapy and other treatment options can help you deal with your anxiousness.

It’s also important to take care of your body. Though college life doesn’t lend itself to a regular sleep schedule, getting adequate rest is one way to alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety. Don’t overlook the importance of eating three healthy meals each day. Because exercise helps reduce stress, you need to find time to walk, jog, or bike each week (preferably in the sun so you get some helpful Vitamin-D). Want to give yourself a boost of power and energy? Participate in an on-campus Zumba or aerobics class. When you take good care of your body, your mental health follows suit.

The physical elements of getting active can help relieve anxiety but there’s a social benefit as well. When you participate with people who share your interests, it’s easier to stay active, motivated, positive, and accountable. Check out clubs devoted to causes, hobbies, and the arts to find a group that’s right for you so you can meet your people and support one another. Sometimes just being around other people is enough to take the edge off when you feel anxious.

Don’t Self-Medicate

One of the best reasons to see a counselor is to get an understanding of your anxiety and its causes and some guidance on how to address the issues, whether through therapy or medication. What you don’t want to do is self-medicate. Alcohol may chase away your anxiety for a couple of hours at a party, but it’s actually a depressant. That means you can end up feeling more sad and anxious after consuming alcohol.

If you’re anxious about studying for a big test, avoid energy drinks, tons of coffee or other caffeine, and any performance-enhancing substances. Though they might give you a brief burst of energy, they’ll leave you feeling down when the buzz dissipates. In fact, caffeine contributes to irritability and restlessness, two symptoms of anxiety disorders.

To keep yourself on the right track, engage with your support system, get help from a counselor, and avoid substances that heighten anxiety symptoms. And breathe consciously to settle your heart rate and your blood pressure. You’ll be surprised how just the simple acts of taking time to stop, to look around at your surroundings, and to inhale and exhale fully can bring the chill.