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Student Speaker Series 2: Maximize your Academic Experience without Breaking the Bank

PFAU: Academic writing, editing, & coaching and the Bank of Montreal (Bedford & Bloor Branch)

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Pfau-pfau is overwhelmed by money issues.

Pfau: Academic writing, editing, & coaching experts and the Bank of Montreal (Bedford & Bloor Branch) will be collaborating in 2019 to bring students a personalized speaker series geared towards increasing financial literacy, awareness, and planning towards meeting specific academic or career goals. Each session will begin with a brief overview of academic themes/questions relevant to the semester timetable, followed by a speaker in the financial sector who will link those academic goals to financial awareness and planning.

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Pfau-pfau learns to use a credit card.

Come Join Us!

Tuesday, February 13th

6:00pm to 7:30pm

Bloor & Bedford Bank of Montreal (242 Bloor Street West)

Our first speaking event will focus on teaching the basics of understanding financial resources both on campus and within financial institutions. Lisa Pfau (CEO & Senior Coach at PFAU) will provide an overview of how to access cost-saving students services and maximize your tuition fees. Meng Sun (Financial Services Manager at BMO) will discuss the basics of banking products and services and how to decide what is best for you. She will outline the differences between Savings & Chequing Accounts, how to use a Credit Card wisely, how to obtain and utilized a Line of Credit or Personal Loan. The goal of this event is to teach students how to best us their time on campus to gain professional and academic skills without breaking their budget.


OUR SPEAKERS

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Lisa Pfau & Pfau-pfau

Lisa Pfau is an academic life coach with over 10 years experience helping students and young professionals to reach their full potential on the page, and in life. She focuses on developing not only exceptional communication and analytical skills through teaching essay writing and editing academic papers, but also coaches her clients in self-awareness, understanding professional environments, and how to create and implement realistic strategies that will help them to reach their academic and professional goals. She has a combination of strong academic skills and a kind and supportive mentoring style. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) in Political Science and History from the University of Alberta, Chinese Language & Culture Certificate from Peking University, and Master of Arts in Political Science & Asian Studies from the University of Toronto. Lisa has worked in government, academic, and entrepreneurial settings throughout Canada, the US, and China. She loves helping students to succeed and is very excited to be able to partner with BMO to make this speaker series happen.

Meng professional shot Student Speaker Series 2: Maximize your Academic Experience without Breaking the Bank
Meng Sun, Financial Services Manager at BMO

Meng Sun is an experienced Financial Services Manager at the Bank of Montreal with a Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) in Finance and Economics from the University of Toronto – Rotman School of Management. Meng is originally from China, and enjoys using her unique language and cultural experience in both China and Canada to help international students to understand the Canadian financial environment. She believes that teaching financial literacy and understanding how to choose the right products for her customers is essential to being a competent and conscientious financial manager.

Living on a Budget by Lisa Pfau & Boyan Lepoev
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This past week we were very fortunate to have Boyan Lepoev come in to chat with us about living on a student budget.

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Boyan Lepoev works as Investment Analyst at Bridgeport Asset Management, a boutique investment management firm in Toronto. Previously, he was Market Risk Manager at the Bank of Nova Scotia. Boyan holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation, a Masters in Finance degree from Queens University and a Bachelor of Commerce from Ryerson University. Most importantly, Boyan learned the hard way the importance of staying on a tight budget while paying his way through school, and is now though these lessons he is now the proud owner of a house in Toronto, as well as, enough savings to continue to travel the globe and explore culinary adventures on weekends with his girlfriend and friends.

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Boyan, after experience as an immigrant and long-time student, believes that the most important thing about living on a budget is to actually create a structure that provides guidelines for daily choices and behaviors that can minimize wasted cash, and maximize savings. Managing your money well will help you to be able to invest in supports and services that can help to enhance your student experience and career development throughout your student experience, rather than rushing to find a job penniless the day after graduation. During his talk, Boyan provided us with 7 areas where you could reduce your daily expenditures as a student.

–          Housing:

o   Living alone is an excellent way to learn independence, but it is also needlessly expensive, especially in Toronto. A more adventurous alternative is to find a rooming house or enter into a roommate arrangement. Not only it is potentially 30-50% cheaper, but living with others is also likely to positively impact one’s social life.

–          Transportation:

o   Toronto is a very large city, but has adequate transit system (just ignore the delays). For the cost of a $3 ticket, one can traverse the city for more than 2 hours or $116.75 for a student monthly pass. Add some healthy walking or cycling and most areas in the city and the GTA are open for you to explore. Compare this with a typical $20-30 uber ride or leasing a car ($200+ in lease and another $250 insurance/month)

–          Food:

o   Toronto has an amazing food scene – foods from across the whole world are available for you to buy, typically stuffed with salt, sugar and a variety of preservatives. Cooking, on the other hand, is more economical and healthy. Whereas a typical budget meal would cost $10, home cooked food averages below $4 per serving. Moreover, knowing your way around the kitchen will make you more independent and it is attractive to the opposite sex.

–          Banking:

o   Today’s society is rapidly moving away from transacting with cash. Instead, we use mobile payments and plastic cards. While more convenient, cashless payments make it really easy to overspend, so always keep an eye on your statement. A great way to do this is with tracking apps, such as MINT.

o   Moreover, the “banking” we do is not free unlike cash – the banks are here to make money from you. Utilize the 21 day “grace free” period for credit cards, but be careful to pay the full balance by the due date or face 25% interest rate. Financing a larger purchase with a line of credit is often cheaper (6-13% interest rate), but interest accrues the moment you use the money.  Even bank accounts do not come free – “all-inclusive” accounts cost as much as $30/month while a no-frills account could be free, but charge per transaction. Find what works for you and makes the bank the least amount of money!

–          Tuition:

o   It is surprising how many people do not know about available stipends and student loans. There is also hidden money on campus or in the community, so if are studying something unique or from a particular regional or ethnic group research possible grants, bursaries, and scholarships. Research OSAP – even with the government changes, they will remain interest free while in school and you can negotiate your payment schedule with them after you graduate.

–          Books / school supplies

o   It is probably safe to assume things have not changed over the last few years and universities still profit immensely from textbook sales. While certain courses necessitate a brand new book for some special software, other courses only require a recent version. Hit the second-hand stores, your school forums or your peers. A second hand book would cost a fraction of the price. A favorite of Boyan’s is www.abebooks.com.

–          Everything else – clothes, supplies, entertainment:

o   Everyone has different needs, but there are couple rules of thumb I like to follow. Do not buy things you do not need/won’t use more than few times – try and borrow them instead. Utilize second hand virtual marketplaces such as Kijiji and Facebook to find items you need on deep discount (including small electronics which get obsolete quickly).

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Boyan meets Pfau-pfau and imparts important advice.

Boyan’s keystone piece of advice is not to spend to impress someone else; instead, spend on what will make your life easier, happier or more adventurous.

Closed for the Holidays
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We will be closed from Monday, December 24th until Thursday, January 10th. We wish you all a very restful holiday season. See you in the new year!! 🙂

4 Tips on how to Maximize your Holiday Break

It is easy to promise yourself that you will get caught up or get ahead during the holiday break, but once family come over, the parties start, and all the distractions begin it becomes almost impossible. Then, before you know it, you are back to work and even further behind that before. Here are four simple things you can do to try to make the most of your time off, while still enjoying the festivities. Check out our YouTube video 

Happy Holidays!

PFAU 21 Christmas Card Comic smaller file Happy Holidays!


Dear Friends, Colleagues, and Clients:

I thought that this year I would do something a little bit different and write you a Christmas letter about all the changes that have been happening at PFAU: Academic writing, editing, & coaching experts over 2018.

As some of you already know, we moved into our own private office space at Room 34, 300 Bloor Street West in February 2018. This space allows PFAU to have multiple students and tutors working at the same time. It also provides privacy and consistency for students. Most of all, I hope it creates an overall feeling of warmth, welcome, and calm that is often lacking in our hectic lives on campus or starting up new careers.

We have also hired a couple new tutors and editors over the past year or so, including: Lief Strong (ESL Expert), Ebony Rose (Law School application process coach), Diana Sparling (technical editor), Christie Wong (Art History & Psychology tutor), and Patricia Huang (student intern). We are hoping to hire more tutors, editors, and coaches in 2019 to meet the growing subject specific tutoring and standardized exam preparation needs of our clients.  Feel free to refer any friends or colleagues to me that you think might be interested in joining our team.

I recently got over my fear of social media, and have started posting daily content on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m also active on LinkedIn, YouTube, My Google Business Page, and of course our website blog. You can find us and follow us by searching for @pfau_academicwriting or Lisa Pfau on any of these sites . My goal is to provide comprehensive tips and support to students and young professionals of the classroom. Plus, it’s kinda fun coming up with inspiring, yet funny content. Looking forward to engaging with you as part of the online community.

Finally, after a long-time in the dreaming stage, PFAU is going to offer a series of student events that are geared towards helping to resolve practical issues that many young people face, such as: financial literacy, budgeting, mental wellness, stress relief, and finding a job after graduation. There are currently four event series scheduled each month between January and May 2019. If all goes well, we hope to continue these mini-events into the following academic year. Our first event will take place on Wednesday, January 16th from 6:00pm to 7:30pm in our office space (see EventBrite for more details). So, please come out and gives us your feedback. Subscribe to our blog or add us on social media for regular updates.

Have a wonderful holiday break and I look forward to hearing from many of you in the new year!! J

Sincerely,

Lisa Pfau

Sleep-Study Balance by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 20 edited 01 Sleep Study Balance by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

 

It’s the day before your exam. You sit down to review those final 10 chapters. By lunch time, you’ve only managed to get through two. You start reviewing Chapter 5 while eating your dinner. It’s 9:00 p.m. and you’re only halfway through Chapter 7. Midnight creeps up and you still have two more chapters to go. Your exam is at 9:00am. Do you still up late and keep studying or go to bed and get at least 7 hours of sleep? Studies show that a good night’s sleep has a positive impact on your memory and recall compared to cramming in those last two chapters before your exam late at night.

 

Great, you say, but what if I go to bed early and miss important concepts that are then on the exam! Yeah, that’s a problem too. The key is to create a balance between study and sleep. Here are a three tips to help you out:

 

Start studying 1-2 weeks in advance: Of course, the most obvious and repeated advice is to start things early so that you aren’t stuck at the last minute. “Easier said than done”, said one procrastinator to another. As a rule of thumb, I would not study any new material the night before the exam, but leave that night for review only. That way if I don’t get through all of my review notes, I am confident that I have the materials somewhere locked in my brain. “Easier said than done,” said the other procrastinator to the first one. Right, so how to put this into action?

 

First, mark a reminder in your calendar at the beginner of the semester that notifies you three weeks before each exam to sit down and make a study plan. This will force you start thinking about the exam earlier than usual.

 

Second, during that week, sit down and review all the units that you need to cover before the exam. Figure out how many days you have to study. So, if you are starting two weeks in advance, realistically you 9 days to study (14 days – 1 day for review + 2 weekends where you’ll probably goof off = 9 days).

 

Third, figure out how many chapters you need to cover each day in order to finish up in 8-9 days. Make sure to account for the other exams you also need to prepare for.

 

Fourth, write these goals down in your calendar or a notebook, and make sure to start studying on the first day no matter what. Even if you don’t get far, at least you started and are beginning to building up momentum and get your brain set on studying.

 

Fifth, keep track of your progress, so that you know if you need to put in an extra day or late night. It is easier to catch up over a couple days than it is over a couple hours. Then, if the night before your exam you are focused on review, you can stick to a reasonable bedtime even if you don’t finish everything, knowing that you covered it all at least once.

 

Only study what you need to know: So often as students we get carried away with wanting to cover absolutely EVERYTHING. That’s not realistic. You need to study smart. There are a few things that can do to help you to identify what to study and what to leave out.

 

First, attend the review session at the end of term. The TA or Professor will often provide you with a study guide or at least drop some hints. Don’t hesitate to ask what will be covered in the exam a class or two before the end of term, if they don’t explicitly lay in out for you. You’re doing yourself and your classmates a huge favor.

 

Second, attend lectures and tutorials regularly. The Professor is usually only going to test what he/she covered in class, not the whole textbook. Reading the whole textbook may provide you with useful supplementary information, but it likely will not be necessary for doing well on the exam. Instead, focus on understanding the key concepts, definitions, and examples that the TA and Professor bring forth in tutorials and class. You can also check for bold text or sections in the textbook. These are usually important key terms/concepts. The end of chapter review pages also help you to identify key concepts/terms. Knowing what you’re heading into, can help you to get what you need done before the exam and sleep easier the night before.

 

Ask for help sooner, rather than later: If you don’t understand something, don’t wait until the day before the exam to ask for help. Ask a friend, your TA, or Professor, if there is a concept in class that you really don’t understand after going to the lecture and reading the appropriate chapter in the textbook. The Professor’s office hours are there for a reasons, so please use them. Moreover, showing that you are engaged and attempting to understand the materials helps you to build a positive relationship with the Professor and TA. This relationship will be important in the future should you require reference letters or want to discuss a grade appeal. Trying to understand a difficult concept while under exam preparation pressure is an almost impossible task, so give yourself a leg up by asking questions early.

 

Being realistic about your study plan means that you definitely will be able to head to bed early before your exam, and possibly feel more rested during the whole exam period so that your brain is fresh and ready to go on exam day.

 

**All blog content is original created by Lisa Pfau and Patricia Huang. Please respect our intellectual property rights and do not copy any of this content without our prior permission.  However, please do feel free to share widely.

 

**

 

 

Avoid Plagiarism & Maintain your Academic Integrity by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 11 comic book thick edited final 01 Avoid Plagiarism & Maintain your Academic Integrity by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

 

Recently a well-known and prize winning American poet was accused of plagiarism by her contemporaries and her reputation completely sullied. Plagiarism is a major academic offense, and a very common mistake made by 1st Year Undergraduate students. In order to avoid a failed assignment or scary encounter with your Professor, there a few things that you can do to protect your academic integrity:

 

When in doubt, cite: Although you can be penalized for citing too much (ongoing debate among Law students), that is a far better offense than citing too little or not at all. You will not be kicked out for being honest about your unoriginality. Thus, if you think that the ideas that you are using in your essay are based upon someone else’s, make sure to cite the article or book that you got them from. Citations are not just for quotations, but paraphrasing as well. Paraphrasing means taking someone else’s words or ideas and putting them into your own. It is often taught in lower grades that paraphrasing can be presented as your original thoughts, but once you get into university and college paraphrasing without a reference is a serious offense. The main idea of a book, the argument/theory in an academic article, or a discussion by your Professor in class needs to referenced. Generally any evidence you are using to prove your point needs to be cited. If you are still unsure about whether or not your are plagiarizing, Turnitin.com has an interesting quiz where you can test yourself. Your analysis of the data is where you have a chance to be creative and present some original work of your own. In other words, you take other’s information and thoughts and provide your own opinion about them. If you are really creative, maybe someone else will cite you one day!

 

Consult a Style Guide: Another thing to watch out for when referencing material in your essay is the referencing style. Different faculties and departments use different referencing guidelines. The Social Sciences, for example, tend to use APA/ASA style, while Historians prefer Chicago Style and the English department sticks to MLA. If you are confused about the difference between these different referencing guidelines, it is best to consult a style guide and confirm with your TA/Professor. You can usually find reputable style guides in your university or college bookstore, or else online with a quick Google search. Look for one’s that have been published by or reviewed by academic institutions to determine their accuracy and relevance. One of my favorites is OWL Purdue. I find it easy to follow and comprehensive. I also really like how they give you the citation format for both in-text and bibliography, as well as a real example of what the citation would look like when input into your essay.  it is a resources I suggest to all of my First-Year students.

 

Take detailed research notes from the start: Many students avoid putting in citations because they find it tedious, or have lost their references. They read books and articles and know the main ideas, but haven’t noted exact page numbers or even the source while doing their research. Then, when it’s time to write the paper, they remember the content, but not where they have gotten it from. At this point, citing sources seems like a big pain in the butt.

 

The best way to make citing easy is to take detailed research notes that include the authors name, date, text (if you are using the same author more than once), and page number in one notebook/document that is solely dedicated to your research essay. Every time I write down a quote or paraphrase an idea while reading a text, I write down a simple citation in brackets after each note, even if it’s from the same author and on the same page. It is unlikely that I will remember those details later when I’m writing up the paper.

 

It is also a good idea to add any materials that you are think relevant to your bibliography immediately. Many university/college libraries have software, such as RefWorks, to help you to organize your research materials and automatically generate bibliographies. Most libraries also provide free courses on how to use the library system and citation software throughout the year.  You can usually find this out by consulting your university library information desk.

 

Don’t risk your academic integrity! Cite any and all ideas that you believe not to be your own. Referencing others work gives credit where credit is due, as well as, helps you to engage in the ongoing academic conversation in a respectful and professional manner.

Exercise has a Positive Impact on Stress Relief by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 19 FINAL 01 Exercise has a Positive Impact on Stress Relief by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

We all know that feeling of relief after running around outside after a ball as a child. The sweat is dripping down our brow, we’re catching your breath, feeling light and free as if you have accomplished something. Well, you have. You have pumped your body full of endorphins and released it of cortisol and adrenaline. This process prevents you from becoming that kid who acts out in class or talks back to your parents. The whole point of recess is to let kids blow off steam. So, we know this about small children, yet once we become young adults, we seem to forget this it. It’s no wonder we’re all so stressed out!

 

Stress has been linked to heart disease, asthma, obesity, headaches, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression & anxiety, gastrointestinal issues, premature aging, and even premature death. According to Harvard, movement has a positive impact on both your physical and mental health; when you feel good, you perform well at work or in school. Stanford University has found a positive correlation between a positive attitude towards studying and academic outcomes. In other words, when your body and mind are in good shape and you feel positive about your studies you are more likely to study well than when your body and mind are riddled with stress.

 

The problem is not that we don’t know the benefits of exercise; but rather, that work, life, and school take time away from a much needed recess. Here are a few tips on how to integrate exercise into a busy lifestyle:

 

Walk Don’t Drive: The Washington Post reveals that individuals who live in neighborhoods that require them to drive are significantly more like to be obese than those who take public transit, bike, or walk. All those seemingly negligible jaunts on foot to the bus stop, running errands, or meeting a friend are start to add up. You may not realize it, but a 10 minute walk to the subway stop on each end adds up to 40 minutes of walking by the end of the day. That is A LOT more movement than getting into your car, driving to class, and walking from the parking lot to your next lecture. Walking saves your money and inches on your waist, so why not give it a try?

 

Make Exercise Social: One of the reasons that I enjoy group exercises classes or intramural sports is that I get chance to meet new people and socialize. Going to exercise becomes more focused on looking forward to seeing friends than burning calories. If you do not like classes, you can always ask a friend to become your gym, jogging, or walking buddy. By making exercise social, you are getting both the benefits of exercise, as well as connecting with people. Killing two birds with one stone.

 

Do Something that you Like:

Instead of getting into the latest fad, why not just choose an exercise that you enjoy? Something as simple as taking the dog for a walk each evening gets you moving and those endorphins pumping. Or, maybe you like playing a sport, like badminton? You can find lots of intramural options and drop-in classes at  your local campus  (U of T, York, or Ryerson), or free games at local community centres. Oxford Research demonstrated that enjoyment of an activity is a major motivating factor in starting and continuing physical activity. It’s a lot more fun to do something because you like it than because ‘it’s supposed to be good for you’?!

 

Invest in a Locker:  The biggest improvement I made to my workout protocol was to invest in a locker at the gym that I attend.  The locker totally eliminates the excuse that you forgot your gym clothes or shoes or water bottle or whatever. It also makes going to the gym that much more convenient. I don’t have to carry everything along with me, and at the end of the session, I can leave all the heavy gear like shoes and shampoo in my locker so I can truly relax after the work out.

 

Cultivate a Positive Body Image:  Going to the gym because you want to lose weight is a valuable goal; however, it can make you focus more on appearance that the overall physical and mental benefits of exercise. Olmsted and MacFarlane seem to suggest that high sensitivity to body appearance doesn’t correlate to high instances of exercise, but actually has the opposite effect. A focus on appearance can result in frustration once you hit a roadblock and are not getting the results that you hoped for. I find that I’m more likely to exercise when I focus on the fun, stress relief, and benefits to how my body feels; rather than, how it looks. I can’t escape aging, but I can make it a lot more pleasant by keeping active and making time for wellness.

 

Even though your regular gym session may be the first thing to go out the window as things get busy and finals approach, it is probably the last thing you should give up. A short session is better than no session. It will clear your head, improve your mood, and help you to manage the stress of finals.

 

**All blog content is original created by Lisa Pfau and Patricia Huang. Please respect our intellectual property rights and do not copy any of this content without our prior permission.  However, please do feel free to share widely.

Friendships can Help or Hinder your Academic Experience by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 8 comic book final edited Friendships can Help or Hinder your Academic Experience by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

During high school and Undergrad, I had some pretty solid, nerdy, helpful friends, who coincidentally I still keep in touch with today. However, things were different in Grad School. It’s like I skipped all those moments in Jr. High and High School when you figure out the difference between a good friend and a bad friend, and had them in my mid-twenties instead. I think it was because nerdiness was finally cool, and that meant I actually wanted to get in with that in-crowd, or so I thought.

 

The first close friend I made in Grad School was a highly intelligent and ambitious young woman, who also turned out to be extremely emotionally draining. Like the friend in panel #2 of the comic strip, she would get upset if I had something else to do and couldn’t hang out with her. I spent a lot of my Grad School experience feeling guilty and walking on eggshells as a result, and to make matters worse we were in the same program, so it was hard to ease my way out once I realized that the friendship wasn’t serving me. The whole experience took a lot out of me emotionally, making it hard to put the energy needed into my essays and readings, and subsequently hurting my grades.

 

I also learned a lesson about colleagues copying your work, like in panel #4 – Yes! That still happens in Grad School. My classmates and I shared office where we’d often discuss our readings before class. One day when the Professor called on my classmate she repeated almost verbatim what I had said during our informal office discussion, leaving me tongue tied once it came time for me to contribute. That experience taught me to be more careful with who I choose to share my thoughts and ideas with. Grad School can be a bit cut-throat for some folks.

 

Now, not all my friendships were toxic.  I came out of the two year experience with some wonderful friendships that endure to this day; however, it certainly did teach me how important the relationships we form are to our overall well-being and success. Incidentally, Associate Professor Janice McCabe, Dartmouth College, found a correlation between the characteristics of friendships and academic performance in her recent study of Undergrads, whereby 100% of students who reported their friends as providing academic motivation and support graduated while only 50% of students who reported that their friends distracted them from their studies managed to graduate within a six year period. As Professor McCabe concludes, friendships can have both academic and social benefits.

 

So, what kinds of things can you look out when choosing the right friends for you? I don’t know exactly what you look for in a friend, but I can tell you my top three qualities:

 

OPEN HEART, OPEN MIND: I can be a stubborn person, but overall I’m open to new ideas, creative processes, and the next adventure.  I find it really draining to be around individuals who are set on one particular viewpoint or way of doing things. It’s interesting at first if it’s something I haven’t heard of before, but after a while it gets stale. This trait is not only important because it makes that person more fun, but also because it makes conflict resolution smoother too. I find people who are more open are also more apt to admit when they made a mistake, attempt to understand a different perspective, and work towards a consensus. Thus, for me, I find I get the most out of friendships with other people who enjoy growth, change, challenges, and exploration.

 

CLEAR COMMUNICATION: Even though I teach communication all day and spend a lot of time analyzing texts and data in my work with students, I don’t particularly like to do that in my friendships. That’s way too much effort!  I prefer people who can communicate their thoughts, feelings, and needs clearly and directly. I hate it when people expect you to mind read, which people often equate with intimacy when actually I think it’s just a sign of under-developed EQ. Think of an infant, they have fairly simple needs – eat, sleep, diaper change, attention, etc. – and even parents who spend a lot of time with their little baby have a hard time knowing exactly what they want. Why? Because they can’t use words to express themselves. In an adult friendship, I don’t want to have to guess when something is wrong or what someone wants. I want to be able to have an open discussion and work towards a solution. Life is stressful enough as a student or young professional; I want friends that I can chill with and know that what is being said is what is meant.

 

TAKES RESPONSIBILITY: Being the oldest child of three, I’m naturally responsible (regardless of what my younger brothers might say!). As a kid, that meant getting chores done before my parents got home, and bossing my brothers around to ensure they did their fair share too. As an adult, that means taking responsibility for my actions and their impact on others, as well as, being true to my word. If you’re responsible and end up hanging out with someone who is not, it can get tiring pretty darn fast because you’ll soon find yourself doing all the work on the school project, around the house, or even in resolving conflict. Therefore, whenever I’m making a new friend, I pay close attention to how well we resolve conflicts as the friendship progresses. If I find myself apologizing and putting in more effort to repair situations after a misunderstanding than the other party frequently, that’s a red flag for me, especially if it only seems to get worse after I bring up set imbalance. Being able to be fully responsible for one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions in the world, without blaming yourself for other’s mistakes, is probably the most important trait I look for in a friend as I think it is very closely linked to self-worth and self-confidence. People can learn better communication skills or slowly dip their toe into new experiences, but if you don’t like who you are, no amount of encouragement and positive vibes from my side can repair that.  You gotta do the work and heal yourself.

 

That’s my three cents on friendship. I hope that all of you find some solid friends who will have your back throughout your academic careers. No one can succeed on their own, which is why I’m extremely grateful for the people in my life who have been a positive influence and support in my own journey.

 

**All content in this post is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang. Please do not replicate any of this content without prior consent. You may share this post and other similar posts widely while making sure to give the authors credit, however.

Beat Exam Anxiety by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 4 comic book final LARGE 01 Beat Exam Anxiety by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

 

When I was in high school, and the early part of my Undergraduate studies, I suffered from terrible exam anxiety. Before my first Grade 12 Provincial Exam in Alberta, Canada, I remember throwing up my Cheerios in the bathroom sink. My anxiety stemmed from having tanked my Social Studies Provincial Exam in Grade 11, which I had opted to take a year early to give me a leg up on my other Grade 12 exams. FAIL! My poor grade was a huge disappointment since I had consistently had the highest grade in the school in Social Studies since Grade 9 until that point. I was also competing to become Valedictorian, and since Social Studies was not only my favorite subject, but also a required course and Provincial Exam scores accounted for 50% of our final grades in all required courses that one bad exam significantly impacted my overall GPA. So, by the time Provincial Exams rolled around in Grade 12, I was sick to my stomach.

As a result, I decided to rewrite my Grade 12 Social Studies exam in the hopes of overcoming my fear of writing essays on exams. Yes, the person who currently teaches others how to write academic essays used to find the process painfully difficult. In the end, Terry Smart (yes, that’s his real name!) beat me out for Valedictorian because my rewrite score was not eligible. Fortunately, these experiences taught me a few tricks that helped me to overcome my exam anxiety during my Undergraduate studies.

 

Create a Study Schedule: I was a terrible procrastinator until about Grade 12. Any assignment or exam, I would put a lot of effort into, but probably just a few days before it was due. I learned by retaking my Social Studies exam that I needed to start studying weeks, sometimes months in advance, in order to really digest all of the material. Studying in advance also helped with time management by encouraging me to breakdown all of the exam material into sections, assign a date and time for each section, and ensure I left a few days grace period to review everything. I generally recommend that for any mid-term or final exams students allot themselves a minimum of two weeks to prepare, if not more.

 

Find a Study Buddy: When I was in Undergrad, I made a few close friends in my major, Political Science. If we missed a class, we’d take notes for each other to ensure no one missed an important concept, assignment, or deadline. We’d also study for exams together, which meant comparing notes, discussing concepts, prepping potential essay questions, and even summarizing readings. Working together helped us to understand the material from the perspective of both student and teacher. It also made exam prep a lot less overwhelming because we were in it together.

 

Visualize Positive Outcomes: A TD Bank survey of 500 small business owners in 2016 uncovered that entrepreneurs who visualize success are more confident than those who do not; and, those who create a visual reminder (ie. Vision board) are twice as confident as those who do not. In fact, 82% of business owners who used a vision board from the beginning reported having accomplished more than half of the goals outlined on the board. Now, building a business is the ultimate test, so why not apply these same principles to your academic goals and studying? You can start by switching your storyline of blank faces, sweaty palms, and D- into a big fat A smiling up at your from your exam paper. How will that grade make you feel? What will you behave like and feel like while writing an exam with such a positive result? Put an intention out there and have that positive possible outcome motivate your studies.  Just like the Little Engine that Could, keep telling yourself – “I think I can! I think I can!  I think I can!” – and you’ll ace that exam in no time.

 

Think of it as a Game Show: I used to love trivia as a kid. One of my favorite shows was Jeopardy. Thus, instead of thinking of an exam as a pass or fail experience, I would think of my grade as a score in a game show. Each question I got correct, I was amassing points towards the ultimate prize of an A+. This way, even if I didn’t get 100% on the test, I still didn’t completely lose out. I still went home with some sort of consolation prize: B+. Thinking of exams in this way helped to take the pressure off of being better than my classmates or impressing the Professor; and instead, I created a competition with myself, where each correct answer and new tidbit of information was a step towards success. Somehow this made studying fun!

 

Take a few Deep Breaths & Calm your Mind: Even after doing all of these things, come exam day, as soon as the Professor put the exam paper in my hand, my mind would go completely blank. It turns out that this black out is a natural response to stress designed to help our primitive selves to escape a dangerous situation by putting all of our resources into our physical fight or flights responses so that we can run away from a tiger or something. At the same time, this fight or flight response reduces stimulation of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that allows us to have abstract thoughts. It is usually abstract thoughts that we need to answer those pesky exam questions. I was not aware of the connection between stress and the prefrontal cortex at the time, but I did notice that if I focused my attention away from the exam to my breathing for a few minutes, my mind would clear and all of the answers to the questions would slowly resurface. Therefore, I developed a practice of spending the first 5 minutes of an exam taking deep breaths and clearing my mind of worries, and then, I would flip to the longer essay questions and jot down some random thoughts related to the questions before focusing on the more intense and specific multiple choice and short answer questions. Essentially, I was meditating for 5 minutes at the start of every exam, a practice that has now been largely linked to the strengthening of the prefrontal cortex and calming of the amygdala.

 

So, before you FREAK OUT about your next exam, try some of these simple suggestions. Writing exams is stressful.  There is no avoiding that, unfortunately. However, with the right strategies, attitude, and supports, you can definitely make exams a lot less painful than they have been in the past, and maybe even a little fun!

 

 

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