study tips

Sleep Hygiene: Podcast Episode Live!
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We interview Erin Spencer, a registered Occupational Therapist, on sleep hygiene and building routines.

HIGHLIGHTS

Her journey to becoming an occupational therapist

How students can manage stress

Importance of sleep in healing

Tips for sleep hygiene and healthy sleep routine

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To get more help with professional development and writing, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Succeeding Professionally as an Introvert: Interview With Faris Khalifeh

We interviewed Faris Khalifeh, a Quiet Confidence Coach who coaches introverts to embrace who they are and leverage their natural strengths. The professional environment has traditionally favoured extroverts, especially for leadership roles. With everyone staying inside due to COVID-19, communications have shifted online, giving introverts an opportunity to take advantage of their unique skill sets.

%name Succeeding Professionally as an Introvert: Interview With Faris Khalifeh

Faris helps clients from different backgrounds, cultures and industries. He teaches courses at various colleges on business, leadership and personal development. Faris also founded the Vancouver Quiet Leadership Community, which recently launched an online discussion group for introverts called the Quiet Confidence Cafe.

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What exactly is a Quiet Confidence Coach?

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I coach introverts to embrace who they are and leverage their natural strengths. Seeing how being an introvert is like any other personality type, we both have our strengths and weaknesses. But for some reason, the culture and the world these days, gives more attention to or considers extroverts to be better in certain aspects like, leadership positions. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, you can perform these roles. So that’s part of the work I do with capitalizing on the key traits through one-on-one sessions with clients. I also do group coaching and corporate training about how to bridge the communication gap between introverts and extroverts at work.

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What are some strengths unique to introverts?

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Number one, we’re introspective. Introspection and reflection is important. Studies show that introspection is a catalyst to innovation, and if you think about it, most innovative stuff happened when someone was alone in a lab or in a cabin. We’re also better at expressing ourselves in writing, because introverts need time to process information. We need time to reflect before we share our opinion. Introverts are also great listeners. they are able to actively listen which builds empathy. That sense of understanding leads to deeper, more meaningful relationships. Lastly, introverts thrive with one-on-one interactions.

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How can we use these strengths to our advantage in professional or academic settings? 

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You can take your time you can articulate what you want to say you can have the first draft, you can do tweaks, etc. These days, it’s important for writing articles or blog posts. Communication in companies are now via emails or slack. Another idea for writing is, let’s say you go to a meeting, and you’re bombarded with all the simulation. You could then afterwards go back to the desk and think about what you want to say then send an email. Another tip for introverts, if they are put on the spot and they don’t have the answer, it’s okay to tell that person, let me sleep on it and get back to you. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re just asking for your needs and providing them something in return.

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Faris’ Book Recomendations

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The Introvert Entrepreneur by Beth Buelow

The introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler

The Dynamic Introvert by Leslie Taylor

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Thank you, Faris, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


Both the written, visual, audio and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Health and Academic Performance: Interview with Dr. Kevin Preston

We interviewed Dr. Kevin Preston on the connection between health and academic performance. We thought this topic would be helpful as a lot of people are struggling with being stuck inside due to COVID-19, a situation that can be taxing on mental, as well as physical health.

%name Health and Academic Performance: Interview with Dr. Kevin Preston

Dr. Kevin Preston is a Chinese Medicine Doctor who lives for creating health and vitality in others. He has been in practice for over a decade at his wellness clinic in Vernon, BC in which wellness is created through a multifaceted approach that balances the mind, body, and spirit. 

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Can you tell us about how meditation benefits one’s health, especially during COVID-19?

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Meditation often gets overlooked. Guided meditations can be really helpful. They give you a direction for the mind to follow. It’s a great place to begin until you get a little bit more practice and you add another minute, and then another and pretty soon you have a deeper focus. I do breath coaching in my practice. You can see when somebody walks in that they haven’t really breathed deeply that day or in months or maybe even years. Their whole system is so tense. You can imagine as a student if you’re not breathing deeply, because of the stress, you’re actually decreasing the amount of oxygen through your body.

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What are some lessons that students can borrow from Chinese medicine to create a more healing space?

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I spent quite a few years in school and there are times where you’re working and going to school and feels like you’re barely treading water. It’s taken all the energy you have to keep up. Those are the moments ironically, that you really need good health practices. Something that’s always been really healing for me is spending a lot of time in the outdoors. Mastering the energy in your body by practising meditation and proper breathing is something students can do cheaply or for free.

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What are your thoughts on how the current school environment interferes with students reaching optimal health?

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In that age bracket, I see this outside of the student population too, everybody’s so taxed and under a lot of strain. People take like less time off now than they used. I think that’s where a lot of anxiety comes from, and especially things like panic or foggy brain. So especially in academics, we’re asked to have our minds and our brains perform really well. I think it’s because we’re just straining our systems a lot and not necessarily supporting them enough.

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What are the first steps that someone could take on their wellness journey?

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Nutrition and hydration are the most important things. The right amount of water varies for each person. I juice and eat lots of green vegetables. Investing in nutrition upfront can prevent costs that come with future illness. Other than meditation and breathwork, Epsom or Himalayan salt foot soaks can be used for relaxation. Cold showers can help relax the nervous system too. Start with the last 30 seconds of your shower and gradually increase the time.

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Thank you, Kevin, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers!

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Book Mentioned in the Episode

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The Power of Habit by Charles Dunhigg

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Missed the episode? Listen here:

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For more advice about the application process, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Health and Academic Performance: Podcast Episode Live!
PFAU 19 final Dec 18 1 1024x205 Health and Academic Performance: Podcast Episode Live!

We discuss the connection between health and academic performance with Dr. Kevin Preston, a Chinese medicine doctor and holistic wellness expert.

HIGHLIGHTS

Benefits of meditation during COVID-19

Practical health advice for students

Lessons from Chinese medicine

How the school environment affects health

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute consultation with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Learning how to sell yourself successfully: The art of a good scholarship application

by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

PFAU 27 01 1024x205 Learning how to sell yourself successfully: The art of a good scholarship application
Scholarships are a great way to help you to achieve your academic goals.

It is easy to sell yourself short and think you aren’t smart enough, hard working enough, or overall good enough to receive a scholarship, but that is 100% not true. If you have an academic goal in mind and work hard towards it, it is highly likely that there are plenty of scholarships, grants, and bursaries out there suited to you. You just need to know what you want, be creative and resourceful looking for funds, and learn how to sell yourself well.

Figuring out what you want:

One of the hardest things about applying for scholarships, and in life, is deciding who you are and what you want. It’s unlikely that you will find a scholarship/grant/bursary that is suitable for you, if you don’t know what you are looking for in the first place. So, how do you figure this out?

The best place to start is with what they call your “signature skills“. Your signature skills are the things that you are naturally good at, that you feel accomplished, happy, and respected whenever you apply these skills. For example, even since I’ve been a young kid, I was a decent writer. I liked to imagine things, making up crazy stories, and learn new words. It was difficult at times, and my dad put my assignments through several arduous edits. I was a terrible speller and I hated reading. But, somehow, I knew I was good at and I enjoyed it, especially when I did things like write articles for the local newspaper. People would compliment me on my humor and prose. It made me feel good. Of course, at the time, I didn’t really think I could make a career out of writing, but here I am. So, what kinds of skills do you have that you have always done pretty well, even when you were a young child? What do you people often compliment you about? Those are probably your signature skills.

Knowing your signature skills, can help you to think critically about what you want in life. What do you want to study at school? What do you think would be an interesting job? For example, being the genius that I am (*cough*), I received a scholarship for Engineering in Undergrad that was larger than any of my other scholarships, but I wasn’t interested in Engineering. I was interested in Politics, so I went into an Arts degree. In the beginning I didn’t get as larger a scholarship, as I would have if I’d enrolled in Engineering. But, in the end, I received several scholarships throughout my Undergrad, Graduate, and post-Grad years because I followed my interests and skills set, and developed those skills over time. It’s highly likely that had I enrolled in Engineering I wouldn’t have done that well, and I would’ve lost my scholarship after the first year, and just be miserable, penniless, and beating myself up. Knowing what you are good at and what you enjoy, can help you to choose a path that exemplifies those skills and passions. Then, you can start to look for scholarships related to your own specific gifts and goals, and be more likely to receive them as you continue to build up your qualifications and experiences.

Finding the right scholarship/grant for you:

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, it is important to know what you are looking for in a scholarship. There are gazillions of scholarships out there, once you start looking, so don’t waste your time applying for all of them. Instead, focus on the ones that you think are best suited to your own unique skills set and long-term goals.

For example, I studied Chinese Politics in Undergrad long before it was cool to be interested in China. In fact, most people thought I was crazy…but now, who’s laughing?! Anyway, I knew that I wanted to go to China, and hopefully learn Chinese, so I asked my Chinese Professors for advice. She was and still is an excellent networker, and she let me know about several scholarship programs through the Chinese government, Taiwanese government, Canadian government, and even a special program with a grant for teaching English in China. This process would be a lot easier today with Google because I could do a quick search of “Chinese Language Scholarships for Canadians” and find a bunch of these links. However, it is also extremely useful to have a mentor to point you to opportunities because they can also give you advice on what the scholarship committees might be looking for. Since it was still a bit unusual for a Ukranian-Canadian from rural Alberta to want to go to China to study Chinese, and I had passionately pursued a degree in Chinese Politics and History, when I applied for all of these scholarships, I got EVERY one of them, and had to chose where I wanted to go. Knowing your own special niche and searching for specific opportunities in that area, no matter how crazy everyone else thinks you are, can really pay off because you are putting your energy into applications that are best suited for your long-term goals, and can really highlights your own unique skills set.

Fine-tuning your personal sales pitch:

Once you know what you want and you’ve found it, the last important step is knowing how to sell yourself so that the selection committee believes they are giving the scholarship to the best person. Instead of thinking about all the ways in which you are going to impress them with a long list of high grades and extra-curricular activities, try to think about the selection process from their perspective. They will be sifting through piles of applications and reading about all kinds of people with lots of accomplishments. So, how can you make yourself stand out?

Well, in my case, I used my strength in writing and added some creativity to my application. I wanted to tell a story about myself. Now, this doesn’t mean that I made up any information or embellished reality. But, it does mean that I thought about what parts of my own academic and professional life would help me to succeed in a Chinese Language program, and how I could present those qualities in a manner that was interesting and relatable to the audience. Thus, I started with a quote from a famous Chinese story, and used that story as a basis to explain why I wanted to study in China, in what ways I was prepared, and how I was going to use my new language skills to achieve my long-term goals. By using this quote and story, I was able to show indirectly that I had an in-depth knowledge of China, and a passion for its history and culture. It also helped me to stay on track and focus only on the skills that were related to the application criteria. In the end, it seemed to work. Therefore, I recommend taking a risk and being a little creative in your next scholarship application. After all, what do you have to lose? They’re the ones giving you free money!

Scholarships can be intimidating. You may feel that you aren’t smart enough or hard working enough to qualify. But, I guarantee that if you are passionate and dedicated to something, there is someone out there willing to give you money to pursue your dreams, so give it a shot! Start thinking about what you want, where you can find it, and how to tell the best story about yourself. If you need some help getting started on this journey, please reach out to us for a free 30 minute consultation and find out what PFAU can do to help you to reach your full potential on the page, and in life.

All content in this post is created by Lisa Pfau and Patricia Huang. Feel free to share it widely; however, please do not replicate any of the text or graphics without our prior permission. Doing so is violating copyright law. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights.

Healthy Relationships Start with Healthy Communication by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

Healthy and constructive communication skills are not innate. If we are fortunate, we grow up in an environment with confident parents and clear non-judgmental communication. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most of us. We usually end up learning we need to work on our communication and relationship skills later in life. So, what can you do to help yourself now?

HealthyRelationshipsComic 1024x205 Healthy Relationships Start with Healthy Communication by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang
Healthy relationships start with healthy communication.

Think before you react: It is common to want to spit back a reply or act out when we are feeling hurt, upset, or uncomfortable. However, it is in these moments of intense emotion that I find it is most useful for me to step back, take a breath, and think about what I need from the situation. Once I know what I need, it is easier for me to articulate what I want to say without blame and judgement. Count to 10! It’s not an emergency. The person will still be there to hear your response in most cases.

Learn to listen: We all love to talk, but listening takes work. It means that we need to quiet the thoughts in our mind for long enough to let someone else’s in. It also means that we need to step out of ourselves and focus on someone else. It takes time, effort, and patience to try to understand another person’s perspective, especially when it is in direct contrast to our own. But, you can’t really craft a constructive response to a situation, if you don’t understand it first. So, listen before you speak next time and see what happens.

Lead with “I” statements: The biggest issue in communication is blame, shame, and defensiveness. It is impossible to get anywhere in a conversation once you or the other person becomes defensive. Defensiveness is destructive, whilst openness is constructive. So, instead of focusing on being right and assigning blame, you could try focusing on what you are feeling, what do you need, what do you hope to get out of the conversation. Then, lead with “I” statements, instead of “you” statements. That is as simple as saying: “I really felt hurt and betrayed when you suddenly dropped out of the group assignments and didn’t do the work you’d previous agreed upon. I don’t feel comfortable letting you back into the group unless we can do things differently in the future.” That is much better than: “OMG! How dare you ask to rejoin our group! You’re so lazy and totally let us down last time. Forget it!!” Hmmm…which one do you think is going to escalate a situation?!

Be open to feedback? Personal growth is a process. There is no finish line in that process until you cross over to the other side (ie. death). Communication is a part of personal growth, so don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake or could do better. Instead, stay open to how your communication style impacts others. Can you do something different in the future? Maybe? Maybe not? But, at least you opened your ears and took the feedback as constructive, instead of closing yourself off from some potentially valuable information.

Remember that communication is a skill, not a in-born trait. It takes practice and lots of blunders, so don’t get discouraged. And remember, if you need some advice on how to improve you communication skills at school or work, you can book a free 30 minute consultation with one of our coaches. You can also check out our upcoming talk with qualifying psychotherapist, Jill Gillbert, on Tuesday, February 26th at 6:00pm. Check out the blog post and EventBrite for more details.

All content in this post is created by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang. Please feel free to share widely, but also please do remember to give us credit. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights.

Should I stay or should I go? Tips on adding/dropping courses by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

It happens to even the most planned and studios of students. There comes a point in our academic career when we are faced with potentially having to adjust our course schedule by adding or dropping a course part way through the semester.

AddDropComic 1024x205 Should I stay or should I go? Tips on adding/dropping courses by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang

I was usually pretty good with planning out my schedule in advance and choosing the right courses by reading course descriptions, familiarizing myself with course requirements, keeping up-to-date necessary credits for graduation, and asking friends for opinions about Profs and courses. However, in second year, I registered for a French course in order to meet my language requirement, and found that I had no idea what the Prof was saying. I was terrified that I would fail. After careful consideration and discussion with my friend and the Prof, I decided to stay in French 100, but transferred to another instructor where the where requirements were slightly lower and I had a friend in the course to help me with problem areas. I didn’t do wonderfully, but I passed and got the language credit out of the way. This decision allowed me to focus on more important courses in the final two years of my degree. Therefore, when trying to figure out the best way to amend your academic schedule consider both your long-term and short-term goals.

I would say the most important aspect of planning your course schedule throughout your degree is knowing which courses you need to take and grades you need to achieve in order to graduate. It is common for most Bachelor’s degrees to have the requirement that you take a course in all disciplines in order to create an overall well-rounded degree, even if have a specific major and minor. You also will be required to take a certain number of courses in your major and minor in order to receive accreditation for them on your diploma.

For example, as an Arts student, I was still required to take a certain number of credits in Math and Science in order to graduate. I also had to take courses in languages, English, and Fine Arts, even though those were not my major or nor minor in order to receive a Bachelor of Arts. This requirements can sometime wreck havoc on your GPA if are not interested in them, or wired to do well at them. For example, university level Math was a bit daunting for me. The good thing about these courses is that you have more flexibility in how and when you complete them. I tend to recommend doing them earlier on in your degree with your grades are less important to getting into Grad School or professional programs. Doing them early also allows you to drop one, if you feel it is a struggle and taking energy away from more important course; and then, making it up in the summer or taking a different course in order to receive the same credit.

When it comes to courses related to the major and minors, deciding to add or drop can be more complex as many of these courses require prerequisites and many not be offered every semester. Thus, you need to think long-term about how you will ensure you complete not only one course, but subsequent courses in time for graduation. In some cases, it may be better to bit the bullet and power through a prerequisite earlier on in your degree in order to create more freedom in your third and fourth year. However, you also need to keep in mind that the grades in courses related to your major and minor are more significant than optional courses. Therefore, if you truly think you may fail a key course, and have time to take it next year, dropping it and replacing it with another course you had originally intended to take next year might be a good option.

Of course, there are other elements to consider beyond career requirements, such as personal life, budget, academic skills, and social supports. However, knowing your degree requirements and being clear about your long-term and short-term goals is a great place to start. Once you know what you want to do, make sure you check add/drop deadlines and penalties so that you can make the most informed and best decision for you.

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What do you think? Should Pfau-pfau drop ECON 101? She is currently an Education major, with a focus on Psychology and Philosophy. What advice would you give her?

**All content in this blog post is created by Lisa Pfau & Patricia Huang. You are very welcome to share any of this content (written and images) as long as appropriate credit is given to the authors and creators. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property rights. 🙂

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 

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.

 

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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.

 

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