Writing an essay is nobody’s idea of a good time, and it’s pretty much impossible to avoid in college. This task can seem especially daunting for first-year students who now have to face more stringent standards than they’re used to. Thankfully, writing essays — and writing them well — gets easier with practice. Here are four tips to help you kick butt on that upcoming term paper.

Keep Your Outline Flexible

Whether you choose to draw a mind map or stick to a more linear type of outline, keeping your plan flexible is key. Leave more space on the page than you think you need for each section. Your outline will start out fairly basic and become more detailed when you research your topic. You should be able to easily add facts as you find them or cross out notes that no longer seem relevant.

Does all your supporting evidence work against your thesis instead of with it? Don’t be afraid to modify things! The planning stage is all about finding the best ideas and making sure they fit together well. When you have a strong argument from the start, the writing stage will be that much simpler.

Write the Body First

Although you can write your essay in whatever order you choose, many students prefer to write the body first. The body is the portion of the essay with all the quotations, statistics, and any other facts or arguments. It’s also the portion that undergoes the most revision. Because the introduction and conclusion are based on the body, any changes to it will force you to adapt the rest of your paper. Try writing the introduction and conclusion last to save yourself some time.

Cut Out Fluff

Be ruthless with your editing, and remove anything that doesn’t add value. Each point should relate directly to your main argument. It can be easy to lose focus and go on tangents or add anecdotes, so watch out for them. Maybe you couldn’t resist mentioning that “Hamlet” has been translated into Klingon. It’s a cool fact, but your English essay probably isn’t the best place for it.

Ideally, you should take a 24-hour study break after you’ve written the rough draft. You’ll be able to catch mistakes more easily when you read your paper with fresh eyes.

Follow the Writing Guidelines

Depending on which course you’re taking, you’ll have to follow the style guidelines. APA style and MLA style are commonly used, but certain courses may use the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). Basically, these rules tell you how to properly format quotations, citations, page numbers, and more. Check your course syllabus to find out which style guide you should use, and make sure to follow it. It would really suck to lose marks just because your margins aren’t the right size.

Incorporate these tips the next time you write an essay, and see if they help improve your grade. If you still need more help, make sure to check out your on-campus academic resources.

4 Best Free Apps for College Students

There’s an app for everything these days, including how to survive your college years. Best of all, some of the most useful Android and iOS apps won’t cost you a cent. If you’re looking for tools to help navigate campus life, you don’t need to waste valuable study time trawling through the app store. We’ve got you covered with this handy guide to the best free apps for college students.

Brainscape: Supercharge Your Studies With Flashcards

Studies show flashcards are the most effective study tool for motivated learners. They engage active recall, facilitate confidence-based repetition, and make us reflect on the information we know and what we could use more practice on. They also allow us to separate the cards containing details we recognize with those we don’t for a more focused study experience.

Brainscape has taken this approach into the digital age. This clever app lets you create your own virtual flashcards or study with premade cards about popular college subjects. Tracking and collaboration features within the app also help you make the most of your study session.

Todoist: Organize Your Daily Activities

Organizing your class schedule, assignments, and social life is challenging. Todoist simplifies the process, acting as the ultimate to-do list and calendar. Schedule appointments and deadlines, create tasks and subtasks, and share your information with friends and project partners so you’re all on the same page.

While there is a paid premium version, the free app has sufficient features for most college students. Plus, Todoist integrates with desktop and browser extension versions so you can easily switch between your smartphone, tablet, and PC.

Mint: Manage Your Money Better

Managing money is another area where many college students struggle. Fortunately, Mint helps you expertly transition to life away from the Bank of Mom and Dad. This free finance app securely links to your bank accounts and credit cards so you can see exactly how much you’re spending and on what.

Review your transaction history to help you identify areas you can cut back on. Create budgets for different types of spending to make sure you don’t overindulge on your weaknesses. Establish credit card spending limits so you’ll never charge more than you can pay back. This money app does it all.

Circle of 6: Safeguard Your Social Life

The parties and new relationships are some of the best parts of the college experience. However, meeting so many new people carries an element of risk. With Circle of 6, you can enjoy the college social scene with extra peace of mind.

Name six safety contacts and you’re good to go. If you ever feel unsafe, click once to text your contacts for help. You can also transmit your location or send an SMS asking your friends to phone you, providing a convenient excuse to leave an uncomfortable situation. Plus, the app makes it easy to reach out if you simply need a friendly ear. Helpful links and hotlines for managing mental health, relationships, and sexuality also add value.

Whether you’re hitting the books or enjoying your downtime, these great apps will help make your college experience much easier.

Studying efficiently is difficult even at the best of times. However, winter weather can especially kill productivity. Christmas celebrations mess with our regular routines, and finding our way back can be tough. But college students can’t afford extended couch sessions binging Netflix favorites. Instead, try the following tips to stay focused during the dreary winter months.

Study in a Well-Lit Area

We see less daylight during winter than summer. Even when the sun’s out, days tend to be a bit grayer and gloomier. Sunlight sends signals to your brain that wake you up. On the flip side, during the winter when sunlight appears limited, you’ll usually feel more sluggish. No wonder staying focused during the cold season is so challenging!

You can reenergize your brain by studying in well-lit spaces. Swap those late-night study sessions for daytime ones. If your dorm room doesn’t have a window, take your study sessions to a brightly lit cafe, library, or outdoors. Even some good desk lamps for your dorm will make a difference.

Maintain Healthy Habits

Studies show the average adult gains 3 pounds over the festive holidays. Healthy eating and exercise typically go out the window around Thanksgiving, and it can be hard to stop once you’ve started making bad choices. However, finding the willpower to keep healthy habits most of the time will help you focus. No one is suggesting you miss out on the pumpkin pie, but fall off the wagon completely and you’ll feel too fatigued to study.

A hearty soup can be just as comforting as fried foods and much more nourishing for your body. While winter weather isn’t inviting, going out for a run or hitting the gym fires up your brain, preparing it for focused study. Keep up your regular healthy routine to maintain the same concentration in winter as you have during warmer weather.

Sip Tea While Studying

Winter is the ideal time for indulging in a beautiful brew. Make sipping tea part of your study regime to retain focus. The tea helps your brain concentrate, stay alert, and recall facts in the short and long term. However, the more you use caffeine, the more accustomed to it the brain gets and the smaller the impact. Moderation is key.

Did you know that tea has only a small amount of caffeine? You’ll find between 25 and 48 mg in an 8-ounce cup of black tea and between 25 and 29 mg in green tea. This compares to the 95 to 165 mg found in an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee. So do drink up during the winter months!

Keep Warm the Right Way

Staying focused is impossible when you’re cold. However, staying warm the right way is crucial. Fan and bar heaters might make you feel toasty, but they can also dehydrate you and leave you feeling tired. Instead, study in a space with central heating or use what’s around you to get warm. Layer up your clothes to stay comfortably cozy. Wrap a blanket around yourself if you’re still feeling frozen.

Don’t let your focus dip when the mercury does. These tips will keep your focus strong during those difficult winter months.

After getting a much-deserved break from studying, it’s time to get back into your school routine. If you’re like many college students, you’re likely not thrilled about your upcoming assignments, exams, and other responsibilities. However, the new semester may also bring new friendships and exciting experiences. Keep that positive note in mind and follow these tips for rejoining college life.

Get Your Sleep Cycle Back on Track

Did you sleep in later than usual during the holidays? Do you now have early morning classes to deal with? Going to bed sooner isn’t as easy as staying up later, but you can definitely change your sleep routine over time. The trick is to do it gradually.

Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every two to three days. If you have trouble falling asleep, try dimming or turning off the lights — including light from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone screen — before going to bed. Also, don’t sleep in too late and try not to nap during the day. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Waking up earlier is rough at first, but it gets easier with time.

Unpack Your Personal Belongings

If you haven’t done so already, unpack your suitcase and anything else you brought back from home. Leaving it out keeps your mind stuck in holiday mode. Do you have winter-themed decorations in your apartment or dorm room? Take those down, too. You’ll be able to study better if you focus on the present.

Get Familiar With Your New Schedule

Make sure to check your class schedule at least a few days before the new semester starts. Nobody wants to show up on Wednesday only to realize class was actually on Tuesday. It’s also a good idea to review the syllabus for each class so you’ll know what textbooks you need and when. Buying them before classes start will save you time and hassle later. You may also want to check the dates for assignments and exams so you know what sort of workload to expect.

Make Needed Changes

Now is also a great time to review your past semester. Did you have trouble handing in papers on time? Did you take on too many shifts at your part-time job? Maybe an extracurricular activity took up more time than you expected. Ask yourself if you can benefit from a different routine. Then, make whatever adjustments you need, whether that’s penciling in more study time, asking for fewer shifts, or learning how to get more organized.

Have Something to Look Forward To

If you have nothing to look forward to besides long study sessions, that makes for a grim semester. Instead, make time for something you enjoy. Schedule a night out with the friends you made last semester, join a club, or sign up for a fitness class. Take up a new hobby or restart an old one. You’ll readjust to college life more easily if you have something fun planned out.

Do you need help settling into a new semester? Try at least one of these tips and see if it helps you get back on track.

A New Year is here, and that means a new semester and exams and all that fun stuff. It’s a good idea to establish a study routine right off the bat. Establishing a study routine is important, but if you do the same thing day in and day out, you’ll soon find yourself in a rut. Once there, it’s much harder to stay focused and get results. Pull yourself out of that rut and shake things up with these unconventional study tips.

Study While Working Out

Aerobic exercise fires up the hippocampus, your brain’s learning and memory nerve center. Scheduling gym sessions around your study schedule can be beneficial, but why not work your brain and body at the same time?

German researchers found that foreign language students who studied while walking or cycling retained more. And there’s nothing suggesting it only works for languages. Try listening to an educational audiobook while you’re riding your bike or reading study notes while you’re on the treadmill. Just don’t push yourself too hard. Intense workouts can elevate stress levels and impair your memory.

Go Somewhere Different

We’re all creatures of habit. Chances are you always study in the same place. Perhaps it’s the same corner of the library or at your desk in your dorm. Over time, spending time in the same study space can become so tedious that you lose interest. When you feel your focus fading, crack open your books somewhere else. You’ll get the best results in reasonably quiet and distraction-free study spaces. Cafes, empty classrooms, and parks are all perfect places. Many co-working offices also welcome students.

If you really want to mix things up, try studying in the branches of a tree or the top of a mountain. You’ll certainly get a new perspective!

Become an Early Bird

Most college students claim they can’t function early in the morning. But have you ever really tested this theory? Rather than cramming for exams until the wee hours, switch up your study habits. Get up early and hit the books first thing. By early, we mean early. You’ll want to rise before everyone else to enjoy the calm, distraction-free stillness of the morning.

Before you shoot down the idea because you think it means missing those late-night parties, consider this. Studies show people are more productive and alert if they split their sleep up. Waking early for study, then napping before class, could actually help you function!

Set Better Goals

How much do you actually accomplish during your study sessions? If you aren’t studying productively, goal setting can help you turn things around. Good goals keep you accountable. Planning a two-hour study session might sound good in theory, but it’s useless if you spend that time rearranging pens and sending text messages. Better goals would be completing a practice math exam or writing an essay. You’ll probably study more efficiently if you know your study session won’t end until you complete your goal.

We all learn differently, so some study strategies will help you retain knowledge more effectively than others. Try these unconventional strategies, see what works best for you, and add your favorites to your regular study plan. They might just help you ace your next exam!

As the new semester approaches, it’s tempting to kick back and relax. If you can’t rest now without deadlines looming, when can you? However, some smart preparation now can help you get organized for your return to school.

Chat With Your Adviser

Your adviser is a valuable resource as the new semester approaches. He or she can confirm whether the electives you’re interested in are a good fit for your schedule and goals and also tell what you can expect from different courses. Your adviser can also confirm dates for registration, drop dates, and other important dates to help you stay organized.

It’s much easier to see your adviser before the semester begins, as most students are busy enjoying their vacation. Once school returns, you’ll find appointment spaces fill quickly. Don’t risk missing out; arrange an appointment with your adviser now to learn everything you need to organize your school schedule.

Buy a Planner and Start Using It

A planner is a great way to keep organized. Go old school here. Physically writing things down helps you commit them to memory much better than typing does. Find a planner you really love and you’ll be more likely to use it.

There’s no time like the present to start using your planner. Fill in as much as you can before the semester starts, like your class schedule, due dates, and any upcoming appointments. The earlier you start using your planner, the more likely it is the habit will stick.

Get Your Textbooks

A new semester typically means new textbooks. If you wait until the semester begins, you’ll probably pay too much. Get a jump on your competition and you could find great deals on used textbooks. You’ll also have time to look through them before the semester begins. Having an idea of the coursework ahead will help you approach your semester with confidence. Campus Books is a great resource for you to use to find the lowest prices on new, used and rental books. Try to get the book assignments from your professor before classes start, so you can buy them early and typically get a lower price.


Take Stock of School Supplies

Look over your school supplies and buy anything you’ll need, such as blank workbooks and stationery. Don’t forget the sticky notes and highlighters! You might be able to repurpose some stuff from last semester, but you’ll probably have some gaps. Filling them now will make sure you have everything you need once you’re back in the classroom.

Clean Up Your Dorm

When you’re hard at work, clutter tends to build up. Your semester break is the perfect time to clean your space, so you can start the new term fresh. Clearing away the clutter will help you operate more efficiently, as you’ll know where everything is. You’ll also feel less stressed and fatigued in your newly cleaned, organized space. The last thing you need starting a new semester is another thing stressing you out! Clean up your dorm and you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel and work when school returns.

Recharging your batteries over the break is important, but don’t forget to prepare for the coming semester. The effort you put in before the semester can help you be organized when you return to school.

Exam season can test the nerves of even the coolest, calmest students. Stress levels soar, anxiety is common, and most students feel perpetually exhausted. So how can you handle this emotional time of year? Try these super exam time strategies!

Make a Plan

Getting through exam season with good grades and minimal stress rarely happens by accident. Creating a clear plan increases your chance of success. The more specific your plan, the better. Knowing what you’re doing helps you feel more in control.

Mark out your exam schedule first. Double-check dates and times. Discuss any conflicts with your professors as soon as possible. Use your exam schedule to plan your study regime. Allow extra time for your weakest subjects.

Stick With Healthy Habits

Healthy habits are easily broken during exam season. Late-night cram sessions seem to make more sense than sleeping. And how would you get through them without junk food, sodas, and sugary snacks? You reason you’ll take better care of yourself once exam season’s over, but by then it will be too late.

Your brain can’t function well without good food and sleep. Eating regular meals packed with vitamins and minerals improves memory, alertness, and focus. Your brain can’t form or maintain the pathways it needs to learn and make memories when it’s deprived of sleep. Sleep-deprived people also can’t concentrate or respond as quickly as well-rested people. Sleep seven to nine hours each night for the best results.

Proper hydration is also important for staving off headaches and staying alert. Coffee is every student’s secret exam weapon, but it’s dehydrating, like other caffeinated beverages. Alternating your cups of Joe with water keeps you hydrated.

Take Time Out

You’ve probably heard from parents and teachers that studying should be your top priority during exam season. While studying certainly matters, it shouldn’t occupy your every waking moment. If you become too obsessed with studying, your stress level could impair your memory.

A little stress is an effective motivator, but keep it in check. When you feel overwhelmed, take time out to regain some balance. Do something that calms you down, such as practicing yoga, coloring, or reading a novel. As little as 30 minutes of “me time” makes a massive difference.

Talk About It

Bottling your emotions can trigger depression, anxiety, and social isolation. Reduce the risks by talking about exam time and your emotions with trusted family and friends.

Friends can be good sounding boards as they’re in the same boat. As you discuss your shared experiences, you’ll feel less alone. You might even be able to share some study tips. A little venting is fine, but watch out for conversations that fuel your stress. If chatting makes you feel more worried about your preparation about the exams ahead, it’s not productive.

Older siblings who’ve graduated from college, student counselors, teachers, and understanding parents may also help support you through your exams. Open up and you might be surprised who’s there for you.

Getting through exam season might seem impossible, but don’t lose hope. These proven strategies should help you survive this trying time relatively unscathed!

It’s your last year of college, and you have a full-blown case of senioritis. Your coursework is the last thing on your mind. All you can think about is what’s next. But before you graduate, you need to finish your classes, get some work experience, and spend quality time with friends. Find out how to combat senioritis and pass your final year of college with flying colors.

Organize Your Life

As a college senior, you’ve already been juggling a zillion activities and balancing a packed schedule for three years. You’re probably ready for a break.

As tempting as it might be to let a few things go during your senior year, don’t give in. Instead, come up with a game plan that will make you feel less stressed and more organized. Think about setting one big goal for each month. Plan to finish grad school applications or meet with your school’s career services team — one step at a time.

Know What Motivates You

Tapping into your motivation during your senior year of college isn’t always easy. What you have to realize, however, is that getting and staying motivated only gets harder as you add more to your plate.

That’s why it’s so important to find out what motivates you now so you can keep pushing yourself when you really need to. Maybe you love surprising yourself with how much you can accomplish. Perhaps you get a kick out of making your family proud. Either way, find out what works for you now and use it to motivate you this year and beyond.

Conquer Your Fears

Everyone has fears. Even if you’re proud of what you’ve accomplished in college, doubts in the back of your mind could prevent you from doing your best this year or in the future.

To move past your fears, assess what they are and face them. Maybe you have imposter syndrome or are nervous about committing to your first year-long job. Talk with your adviser, your friends, and those you trust and get to the bottom of the problem so you can move forward.

Keep Building Your Network

Senioritis has a way of making you feel like you’ve already done enough. When it comes to growing your network, however, there’s always more to do.

Throughout your senior year, make time to connect with professors over coffee. Get to know your adviser better. Join a new professional group at school and attend all the events. Being extra social might seem exhausting, but the connections you make will be worth it.

Make Time for Self-Care

Even when you’re organized and motivated, surviving your senior year can be tough. Avoid being too hard on yourself, even if you don’t get straight A’s or you’re still on the waitlist for your dream grad school program.

To skip feeling overstressed, make time for self-care. Do what makes you feel good. Let yourself take a nap in the middle of the day, hit the gym every afternoon with no exceptions, or treat yourself to your favorite meal once a week.

Staying sane during your final year of college is as easy as following these five easy steps. Keep senioritis at bay, and you’ll finish your college career ready to conquer what’s to come.

Senior year is here. Before you know it, you’ll be slipping on your cap and gown, accepting your diploma, and celebrating four amazing years with your BFFs. Not sure if you’re ready for life after college? You still have lots of time to make this the best year yet. Set yourself up for success by doing these four essential things during your senior year of college.

Take a Class That Expands Your Horizons

During the first few years of college, your class schedule is usually packed with courses you need for your major. But when you’re a senior, you probably have at least a couple of spare time slots. Why fill them with snooze-worthy classes?

Instead, enroll in a course that takes you out of your comfort zone. Learn the basics of coding, or try performing arts on for size. You might not land on a new career path, but you’ll definitely learn something new and have a more well-rounded perspective.

Make Friends and Form Connections

As a senior, you already have a solid squad. You grab dinner with your BFFs after class, go out with them every weekend, and offer laughs and support around the clock. But having an amazing crew doesn’t mean you should stop putting yourself out there.
During your senior year, get strategic. Make friends with that super-ambitious girl at the top of your class or that guy who landed an internship at your dream company. Form deeper connections with professors. Start building out your network now, and you’ll have great connections to draw on later.

Rack Up Some Work Experience

In your last year of college, getting decent grades and squeezing in time with your crew might seem like all you can handle. Adding a job to the mix can sound like way too much. Without work experience, though, you might not truly know what you want to do after you graduate. Think of your college job as a key step in creating a life plan that makes you happy and your parents proud. Not sure where to start? Talk with friends, professors, or even your college’s career services office to learn about internships or entry-level gigs that offer essential work experience.

Rethink Your Online Life

When you’re living your best life in college, it’s easy to focus on having fun. Over the course of three years, your social media profiles might look like one long party. While there’s nothing wrong with having a great time, remember that the content you post online could influence your future employers’ hiring decisions. After all, they want to make sure you’re a capable person who’s an asset to their team.

Even if you hate the idea of censoring yourself, do a basic audit of your online life. Put your best foot forward with photos and content that make you look like a rock star to the general public. Save the rest for family, friends, and everyone else that makes the cut behind your privacy settings.

Your senior year is arguably the most important in your college career. Do it justice by adding these four essential tasks to your to-do list.

Meal plans are expensive, so many students have no choice but to handle grocery shopping and cooking on their own. But don’t fret. It’s possible to survive without a meal plan — even if it will be your first time purchasing food on your own and cooking it.

Get Some Basic Cooking Supplies

To master cooking on your own, you need some basic supplies. Pick up some pots and pans, a can opener, a cutting board, knives, measuring cups and spoons, a mixing bowl, a slotted spoon and spatula, and flatware. If your dorm or apartment doesn’t have a microwave and toaster, bring those appliances.

Extras like a blender or juicer aren’t essential, but they can help you add some healthy variety to your diet. Plus, smoothies are easy to grab in the morning if you’re in a rush. Invest in some plastic food storage containers as well. This will help you store seconds and eliminate the need to wrap extras in foil or zip-close bags.

Keep in mind that if you have a small room or will be hand-washing dishes, it may be easier to only get enough bowls, plates, pots, and pans for one day of cooking. This will reduce clutter and force you to clean up after each meal rather than letting dishes pile up.

Invest in a Good Coffee Maker

If you like coffee, a good coffee maker is essential. Coffee from cafes is expensive, and preparing your own brew at home is easy and a fraction of the cost. Plus, your coffee maker can also brew loose leaf tea.

Conquer the Grocery Store

Create a list of the groceries you need, and head to the store early in the morning or late at night to beat the crowds. Consider making trips to the store once per week and only picking up what you need for that week. This will eliminate clutter, and it will reduce the likelihood of food being wasted before you can eat it.

Master Spices and Veggies

If you’re on a budget, spices and veggies can take your meals to the next level. For example, you can prepare ramen noodles with some spices and squash, mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes. Mix in some crunched-up tortilla chips and add a dollop of sour cream to turn soup or ramen from plain to impressive.

Prepare Your Meals for the Week

If you have the time, preparing future meals and freezing them can make cooking for yourself much easier. For example, instead of preparing a single helping of chicken and pasta, you can prepare enough for a few days and freeze the extras in plastic containers. You’ll just need to grab the container from the fridge and microwave it.

This strategy is also good for smoothies. Prepare a large batch and store it in a pitcher. For breakfast a few days out of the week, you’ll just need to pour a glass and pick out some fruit or a pastry to complete your meal.

Surviving without a meal plan may seem like a challenge, but it’s a great opportunity to exercise your independence and save some money. Follow these tips, and you’ll grow to love preparing your own meals every week.