Category Archives: college

Let’s talk about STRESS


While midterms are over, assignments and research papers are piling up. Not to mention those readings you promised you would read last week that you still haven’t got to. Are you feeling stressed? Worried that you won’t fit it all in? Here are a few pointers to help you keep everything in perspective.

1) Don’t stress about being stressed.

 Seems obvious, but it is really hard to not let your stress build up and multiply. Try to resist feeling angry with yourself for not being more organized or on top of your assignments. Instead focus on what you need to accomplish and how you are going to get it done. It is really easy to let things snowball and your stress to consume you. You need to step back, take a breath and realize that being a little behind isn’t the end of the world if you can focus on how to catch up.

2) Look after yourself.

  The second things start to go haywire; we seem to forget about taking care of our bodies and minds. Suddenly, we exist solely on Red Bull and chips because we don’t have enough time to make a proper meal. Exercise? Who has time for that when you have a quiz, two papers, and five weeks worth of readings to catch up on. Sleep? Again, who has time for that? 

You need to make the time to look after your body. When you aren’t looking after your body you are creating psychical stress. In an hour, you could go for a 30 minute walk, have a 15 minute nap, and whip up a quick, yet healthy, meal. You won’t perform your best on tests or be able to process information accurately if you are neglecting your wellness.

3) Make a to-do list.

 Mark down your papers, quizzes, and assignments in your agenda and estimate how much time it will take to complete these tasks or study. Also, factor in grocery shopping, sleeping, exercising, cooking, and laundry. After you have made a list, create a weekly schedule. Leave space free for partying, 30 Rock, and the unexpected. Putting it down on paper and creating a schedule will help you to see that you can manage it all, if you use your allotted time wisely. Plus, it feels good crossing items off a to-do list!

4) Get some help.

Whether you need to talk to a counsellor, professor, or friend, if you are struggling you need to reach out and ask for help. There are many resources at the college to help with your academic success, so take advantage of these free services.

5) Breathe!

 College may seem overwhelming at times, but you are going to be okay! Doing not-so-great on an exam isn’t the end of your academic career. Learn from your mistakes and don’t beat yourself up over them. Focus on doing better next time and managing your time in a productive manner.

6) Be social.

Start a study group, meet up with your friends for a drink at the FarSide, or catch a movie. You may feel that there are not enough hours in a day to be social, but finding a happy balance with your academic and social life will make school seem like less of a chore. Plus, you need a reward after submitting that 15 page English paper! Just remember to not let your social life interfere with your academics. If you manage your time wisely, you should be able to go for wings on Wednesday and still hand in a kick-ass paper Thursday.

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Facing the Final: Tip #4 for Exam Success – Study Methods


There is no one “right” way to study. It really depends on what you’re studying for, how you learn, how much time you have, etc. Most people develop a system that works best for them, and then alter it as needed!

System 1: Hands On And/Or The Outline
Some people learn kinetically. That is, they don’t absorb simply by reading material. They need to be hands-on. Exams, especially in the Bachelor of Arts program, are rarely hands-on. In this case, these people might learn best by rewriting notes in a shortened, outline style format. Rewrite the notes with main headings and subheadings to show how topics relate to one another, and use point form to jot down important facts, vocabulary, etc. Then spend time going over the outline, learning it through and through.

System 2: The Q&A
Others prefer to answer questions to practice what they know. If old tests are available, those can be very useful tools, obviously. Some textbooks have great question sections. Some instructors give out sample questions that you might see on the exam. If none of the above apply, it’s time to do a little more work. Go through the textbook/notes and make your own questions. Then practice answering those.

This method lends itself well to studying in groups. You can trade questions and go over answers with other group members, which is always useful since others are more likely to come up with questions you wouldn’t have thought of and so don’t know the answer to ahead of time. You can also get a friend who knows nothing about the class to ask you questions from the textbook/notes, and you can answer them yourself. Excellent practice for the exam.

System 3: The Student Becomes the Teacher
Another very useful way to learn material is by teaching it to somebody. You can do this either with other classmates or with a friend who knows nothing about the class. Explain concepts to them, define vocabulary, discuss issues and opinions. Get them to interact and ask questions back or delve  if you didn’t explain something thoroughly enough. This back-and-forth is a great way to ensure you know the material inside out.

System 4: Memorize
Some people really have a photographic memory, or close enough to it, that they can go through their notes, memorizing them in entirety. This doesn’t ensure you understand the concepts – but if your notes are detailed enough and this is how you remember best . . . then go for it!

System 5: Cram It!
Well, we all know that cramming is not the best method of studying, the brain does not retain the information effectively, etc, etc. But let’s face it. If you have six exams in five days, there may not be adequate time for you to prepare at your leisure. When worst comes to worst, you may just have to cram. In this case, make as little work for yourself as possible. Go through the notes/textbook first. Cross everything out that you already know just from showing up in class and being a reasonably intelligent individual. You may surprise yourself with how much you already know and how much help a really quick review can be. Things you somewhat understand and could likely figure out on the test you can skim over. Concepts that are trickier or more in-depth you can then spend most of your time focusing on.

However, if time is REALLY an issue, and you’re really overtired, and your brain is packed too full to even do this, then cram the easy stuff. Focus on the fact that you’ll get the easy questions at least, and for the tougher ones, you’ll just have to use what’s left of your brain power!

The important thing is to study. It doesn’t matter how – take some time to think about what methods work best for you and for the particular class and for your particular situation and type of exam.

And . . . . GOOD LUCK!

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Facing the Final: Tip #3 For Exam Success – Set a Schedule


Tip #3: Set a Revision Schedule
Go ahead. Be a geek and create a study schedule. It’s a bit of work to set one up, but it’s worth it for sure.

Planning Your Schedule
If you have a number of exams coming up, especially if they are scheduled fairly close together, it can be hard to figure out what to revise and when. Since you can’t always just study for one exam, write the exam, and then move on to the next, you might need to be juggling a lot of material in your head all at once, and a schedule can help you keep that clear.

Start by looking at your exams. There may be some that you can’t really study for (ie, an essay exam for English with a topic you will find out on the date). There may be some that are not cumulative, and so you will not have as much material to study for them. There may be some that you can count on as being fairly simple and straightforward; others will be complicated and require a lot of studying.

Once you have filled in the dates of your exams on a blank calendar page, look back to today’s date. Then begin to set your schedule. How many hours do you have each day to study? Which exams are most important? Which ones do you need more time to study for? Fill in a schedule with blocks of time for different subjects. Some people can’t study for more than one subject on one day; but it is possible, especially if you give yourself a break in between or choose to study one topic in the morning and one in the evening, for example.

Once you’ve filled out a revision schedule that makes sense, considering all the factors, you’re good to go! You can make it as pretty as you want with colour-coding and highlighters, or set one up on an Excel spreadsheet or use an Iphone application for it – it doesn’t matter as long as you have a schedule.

Keep To The Schedule
There will be days that you don’t follow your schedule exactly, sure. Who can predict what’s going to happen? But do your best to stick to the schedule once you have it down on paper. One reason we procrastinate is that we don’t even know where to start. This schedule takes that issue away. You know what you need to work on and when you can work on it. You’ll get a lot more accomplished by sticking to your plan. Cross off or check off each day when you finish it. Satisfying!

Be Realistic
You don’t want your schedule to assume that you suddenly have superhuman powers of concentration. Be realistic. If there is a day where you have classes and then work late, it may not be possible to study all three of your exam subjects that day, even if you schedule yourself to stay up till 3 a.m. Make sure you include time to eat and sleep, as well as other breaks. If your schedule is do-able, you’ll be more likely to stick to it than if you overestimate your own abilities.

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Facing the Final: Tip #2 for Exam Success – The Power of Positive Thinking


Continuing on in the blog series on tips for exam success with another tip today. This one is all about the mental preparation you need going in.

Tip #2: The Power of Positive Thinking
It may sound cheesy, but having a positive attitude can change the way you approach an exam, help to relax you during an exam, and give you less anxiety after the exam. Let’s discuss further!

Pre-Exam Attitude
It’s not like you need to jump for joy because of the fact that you’ve got a final coming up. However, think about the way you respond mentally or physically whenever you think of the upcoming exam. You might feel anxiety, dread, despair, exhaustion, grumpiness. Every time you mention the exam, you probably are either complaining or stressing about it and even your tone of voice will reflect that. You might involuntarily clench your fists or frown when you talk about it, think about it, or hear others mention it.

What if you tried to go from negative thoughts and reactions to slightly more neutral ones? Try thinking to yourself “Everyone has to write exams. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s not like I didn’t expect this when I signed up for university. Exam week is going to be a lot of work and pressure, but at the end of the day, these are just exams, not death sentences. In a couple of weeks, it’ll all be over.”  You can even try joking about your exams a bit to lighten the dark mood surrounding the very thought of them. Try breathing deeply and calmly instead of getting tense and anxious physically.

It’s even possible to try to think positively about the exam, though this may be a bit extreme for many! You could think to yourself “I’ve worked hard in this class. This exam is a chance for me to show everything I’ve learned. In fact, it’s going to be a good feeling to prove that I’ve learned a lot.”

In any case, changing your attitude even slightly towards exams from a completely negative one to a more philosophical, humorous or even positive one might help alleviate some tension, which in turn may help you to stay calm and focused when studying, and keep you from procrastinating too much.

During The Test
During the exam itself, you can keep on maintaining your positive attitude just by reshaping thoughts you have. Instead of “I don’t know a single one of these questions! This is insane!” you can think to yourself “OK, this is looking tricky. But I know at least something about the subject. I’m going to give the easy questions my best shot first.”

If your mind begins to really panic, and you start “downward spiraling” in your thoughts, you may find yourself thinking things like “I’m going to fail this exam! Then I’ll fail this class and fail out of university and be a complete failure for the rest of my life!” Definitely try to keep your mind from wandering down this path. Give yourself messages like “I’m OK to pass this exam, at least. If the worst comes to worst and I fail, I may still pass the class. Whether I pass or fail the course, I can always retake the class if I absolutely need to and improve my mark the second time around. It’s going to be OK!” 

Post-Exam
After the exam, you might fall into the trap of second-guessing yourself, comparing answers with everyone else who wrote the test, and getting butterflies in your stomach whenever you picture yourself getting the results. Again, try to change to a more neutral attitude. “It’s all over now. I can’t change it anyway so I may as well be glad that it’s done.”

Exam Anxiety
Some people have or develop a real condition called exam anxiety. In this case, no matter how positive you try to make your attitude, the thought of exams may be incredibly overwhelming and fear-inducing to the point that it’s really going to affect your performance. You can link to this post on exam anxiety for more information on symptoms, treatment, and where to go for help.

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5th Annual Student Perspectives Conference


It’s that time of year again . . . RDC students presenting their work during the Student Perspectives Conference. This year, there are 50 student presenters. Sessions include research in psychology involving the brain, romantic relationships, birth order, bullying, pscyhological disorders, and treatment programs; research in philosophy involving computer-consciousness, realism, and the definition of science; research in history including British political fring parties, early Canadian and native history; research in sociology involving gender stereotypes and the media, religious subjugation, and applied learning experiences; and English presentations on science-fiction, poetry, Shakespeare, and original creative writing projects as well as many more.

Visit www.rdc.ab.ca/humss for complete schedule and details.

Everyone is welcome to attend the free conference sessions! It’s a great opportunity for presenters to share their best work, and for audience members to experience the diversity of research and work that goes on in the Bachelor of Arts program at RDC.

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Scholarship Season!


Hello everyone! It’s a busy time of year . . . so why not tack one more “to do” onto your crammed list?

This one is worth it though . . . it could bag you some free money for school! It’s scholarship season at Red Deer College!

If you are a continuing student (ie, you’re a Red Deer College student already and coming back next year) then your deadline to apply for scholarships is MARCH 1/09.

If you are a new student (planning to enter a program in Fall 2009) then your deadline to apply for scholarships is MARCH 31/09.

Visit RDC Funding and Awards for your online application – you apply once, and the system matches you to whatever scholarships you are eligible for!

(Good news, even if you haven’t pulled off the best marks ever, not all scholarships are based on grades. There are a number of them based on factors besides your grades. So be sure to apply no matter what!)

Even U of C Collab students are eligible to apply for scholarships – your deadline is also March 1. Visit http://www.rdc.ab.ca/uofc_collab_degree to find info on how to do this online.

The folks who work in RDC Funding and Awards are great. They offer free workshops to help you apply for scholarships; you can visit them anytime on campus, or you can email them at financialaid@rdc.ab.ca for more information.

Scholarships don’t stop there. You can also find information about all sorts of other scholarships that are external (ie, not just through RDC). The following websites are some good ones to have a look at:

www.finaid.com

www.aucc.ca

www.studentawards.com

www.scholarshipscanada.com

www.alis.gov.ab.ca

www.millenniumscholarships.ca

www.youthpath.ca

www.leonardfind.org

When all is said and done, scholarships are well worth the investment of time it takes to apply for them – remember this is money that will help you pay for school but that you never have to pay back!

If you’re looking for money that you do have to pay back, well, student loans are out there. RDC Funding and Awards will help you get the right amount of a student loan for you! In mid May to mid June the student loan forms for next year come out. Student Funding really encourages you to go to one of their free loan workshops offered at that time so they can help you get the all-important first application ready to go.

For example, if you apply online, you are always going to get the basic amount allotted to you by student loans. If you have extra costs (for example, you live out of town so your transportation costs are higher) the online application will not pick that up – it’ll just give you the basic amount for transportation. You can appeal the loan, but any funding received after an appeal comes in the form of more loan money to pay back, whereas the paper application will capture these extra funds and you will get the actual amount you need first time around – and very likely some grant money (ie, non-repayable) will be part of the total amount. Student Funding and Awards can help make sure you fill the form out the way you need to.

Student Funding and Awards is also the place to go if you have further questions about budgeting, loans, scholarships/bursaries, lines of credit, etc. If you need a tuition deferral (ie, your loan money hasn’t come in yet and tuition is due!) they are also the people to talk to.

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School Could Be Your Answer to the Recession


recession

Well, we’ve all pretty much been depressed out of our minds by the recession – the job layoffs, the decimated pensions and investments, the oilfield almost audibly creaking to a halt here in Alberta.

Not much can be said in favour of a recession, that’s for sure. But could there be a silver lining on this big black cloud hovering over us?

There could be, of course. It may come in the form of a wake-up call. When things are going well, we tend to just go with the flow, obviously, since we end up benefiting from it! It may have been easier than anything to find a well-paying job and get by with whatever education you had back in the “good old days” of – well, the last few years, basically. Maybe it wasn’t your dream job. But if it paid enough to make ends meet with some left over for good times, why worry about it?

If you find yourself either out of a job due to lay-offs, or losing pay due to lower commissions, or having hours cut back each week, or being told there’s no chance for a bonus, promotion, or raise in the foreseeable future . . . maybe this is a chance to stop the daily grind and really think about what you want out of life. That’s a luxury we don’t always have time for.

Getting the career you really want often requires training. It may require a certificate or diploma. Maybe a degree. Maybe you have a degree and want to go on with graduate work. Maybe you want an entirely different career and need an entirely different degree! Well, if the work force isn’t your friend lately, school can be.

Recessions are temporary (thankfully) – they typically only last 2 or 3 years. Pretty much the same amount of time it takes for you to go to school and get some education. While others are struggling in the job market, you can be focusing on learning and retraining yourself for a better career.  And assuming the recession begins to turn around after a few years, you might be graduating with your new credentials just when the job market is starting to pick back up again. Even if it’s not – you’re that much more valuable now, with that much more of a chance to stand out among your competition.

Sure, you aren’t going to be making any money. But a recession isn’t a time that you’d be cleaning up anyway, out in the job market. And remember that your education will last forever. Highschool graduates tend to top out around $31,000/year. Postgraduates can make over $75,000/year. That income change may well be worth the few years of living off of scholarships, bursaries and loans, because your education will continue to pay off over the rest of your life.

Even if income isn’t a major motivator for you, it is good to have a chance to prepare yourself for the career you really want if your current job isn’t really where you planned to end up. Call it the pursuit of happiness.

We all have to ride out the recession, no matter how unpleasant it is. You just might have a chance to ride it out while working towards a better future for yourself and your family.

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