Let's Talk About...Financial Fitness!

Back in December (which already feels like months ago somehow) I teamed up with my friends over at Hallo to put together a series of events to help y'all Level Up Your Lifestyle in the new year. One of those events was all about financial fitness. We also had social media influencer and content creator Natalie Barbu join us to talk about her own personal journey with finances and learning about how to be financially fit.

So, without further ado, here is the abridged rundown of key terms and takeaways from our financial fitness event!

 

giphy (3)

s

  • Financial Fitness = the ability to manage your money in a way to meet your short and long term needs, can efficiently handle your expenses while living a quality life

 

  • A budget is a financial plan for a defined period of time that allows you to track revenues and expenses

 

  • Why is having a budget important?
    • You can see exactly where your money is going → hold yourself accountable!
    • Allows you to plan and prioritize finances
    • No surprises when looking at your bank balance
giphy (4)
  • Budgeting tips & tricks:
    • Consider creating a buffer in your budget to account for any emergencies
    • Remember that not every month will be the same in terms of spending (holidays, months with vacations, etc) so plan accordingly
    • Set aside time to regularly reassess your budget

 

TIP: Free resources for budgeting include Mint and Napkin Finance Money 101 course

giphy (5)

s

  • A few reasons why you should save your money include:
    • Can lead to long-term security which means less stress
    • Can help you pay for large purchases (house, car) when the time comes 
    • More financial freedom
  • Ways to get started with saving:
    • Create a savings account that is separate from your everyday bank account
    • Try the 50-30-20 rule (50% of income to necessities, 30% to discretionary items, 20% to saving)
    • Take advantage of discounts where you can, consider “A” and “B” options when making purchases

INVESTING YOUR MONEY

giphy (6)
  • Investing some of your savings can be a great way to help your income multiply
  • Common investment mistakes:
    • Mistake - putting all your eggs in one basket.
      • Solution - Consider investments with varying levels of risk, and rebalance your portfolio regularly
    • Mistake - buying and selling based on emotion
      • Solution - Before you make a move, assess the situation based on logic and planning
    • Mistake - too much turnover with stocks leads to more fees
      • Solution - Perform substantial research before diving in and investing so you can be confident in your decisions

There, you have it. The quickest of quick event takeaways! This run-through on financial fitness is just a scratch on the surface. Head here if you want to take a look at the full presentation from the workshop itself.

Finally, here are some additional resources to help you become more financially literate and fit in 2021!

How to Make Money While You're Still in College

Financial Literacy for College Students, by US News

30 Fab Student Deals

6 Study Hacks to Help You Ace Your Classes in the New Year

 

Look, it’s no secret that the way students have learned to study over the years has significantly changed since, say, our parents were in college. Being constantly surrounded by technology is one factor that has both aided and hindered our ability to learn new material, stay productive, and retain information. On a personal level, I feel like I am always reading articles online claiming to have the ~BEST~ study hacks, however, upon reading them, I feel like I am reading the same old tricks in the book that are always mentioned. So, in this short post, my goal is to highlight a mix of the tried-and-true study hacks with, hopefully, some strategies that are new to you! 

The study hacks which are so commonly mentioned across the web definitely do have merit to them - which is why they are so widely spoken about - so you may see some of those below (all classic ones that I use myself, of course)! Additionally, it’s helpful to keep in mind that while some study hacks may work great for you and your brain, and some may not - it’s all about finding that perfect balance. 

Without further ado, here is my shortlist of study hacks that will, if implemented correctly, hopefully help you to ACE (yes, ace!) your classes in the new year!

study

Study Hack #1: Take regular breaks

While this tip may seem overrated, I feel like in recent years there has been an expectation with studying that you need to be in the library for hours upon hours before your exams, head down, grinding, with absolutely no breaks whatsoever. Students often forget that even your brain needs a break sometimes! 

Taking regular breaks (which means not one break every 5 hours!) can not only boost your attention span when you are studying, but it can even help to keep you motivated, too. 

Each individual’s brain and attention span functions differently, so while maybe your friend sitting next to you may only feel like she needs to take a break every 2 hours, you may find that another time schedule works better for you. Most experts recommend taking a break at least once every 90 minutes, if not more. 

The Pomodoro Technique is one method that I personally found a lot of success in using when I was in college. Essentially, you use a timer to work in intervals, generally consisting of 25 minutes of hard and focused work followed by a 5-minute break. 

You may be thinking, 25 minutes is almost no time at all! How am I supposed to be productive in that time frame?! The great thing about the Pomodoro Technique (and other similar ones) is that it forces you to keep your head down and focus during those 25 minutes because there is an instilled sense of urgency that you want to get X task accomplished before the next break. 

This study hack is also a great option for students who tend to have trouble focusing for long periods of time, because at 25 minutes a piece, that’s about as short as it gets! If you’re like me and you constantly have the urge to check your phone, this is the time where you turn it on airplane mode, stuff it in the bottom of your backpack, and get working. Once your 5-minute break comes around, that is the time for you to check your phone (ah, so satisfying!), stretch, take a short walk, and get a snack. 

the-Pomodoro-Technique-3

Study Hack #2: Practice active reading

Again, this is one of those study hacks that, more often than not, gets extremely overlooked by students. While it certainly varies from class to class, it is no surprise that the majority of college classes involve quite a bit of reading. And unfortunately, some of that reading may not always be the most enjoyable. 

However, it’s gotta get done! And by get done, I do NOT just mean skipping to the back of your assigned chapters, reading the summaries, and typing out a few measly notes. Believe me, I have done this, and believe me, it DOES NOT help you one bit. If you want to use your time wisely and actually read to understand the information, you’ll want to start practicing active reading. 

Active reading is reading to comprehend the information. When you read actively, you are not just reading the words to yourself and letting them glaze right over you. You are critically engaging with the material in a way that helps it to stick to your brain like glue. Here are a few active reading strategies that I find to be most helpful:

  • Read out loud (if I am not around a lot of people!) 
  • Take a minute or two after each paragraph you read to summarize the information that you read, in your own words. Once you can explain what you have read in your words and not theirs, it is likely that you have a strong understanding of the information. 
  • Highlight ONLY the important pieces as you go. This one is often tough for students because they say things like “Well, isn’t it all important?!”. The answer is yes and no. While most of the information you will read is important, this strategy challenges you to read closely and pick out only the most crucial pieces of information/details featured in the text. Another tip - do not simply go through your book and highlight all of the bolded words! While they are clearly bolded for a reason, the book is making it known to you that those words are already important, so wasting your highlighter on them is simply redundant! 
  • Make predictions - this is something that you can (and should) do after each paragraph or even page of your reading. Stepping back and predicting what you think will be covered next is a great way to show yourself that you understand what you just read. Try it out! 
USED-JFY-BLOG-Active-Reading-Active-Thinking-2

Study Hack #3: Use mnemonic devices to memorize lists and processes

Mnemonic devices are an amazing study hack. There, I said it! In case you haven’t heard of the term before, mnemonic devices are word associations, acronyms, poems, or rhymes that link information you want to learn or remember with information that is already in your brain. This study hack is great for memorizing lists. 

For example, when I took a course on professional and personal goals as a sophomore in college, I learned about creating SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely) goals. In order to remember all 5 of these components, I created a mnemonic device for myself:

S - Sarah (Specific)

M - Made (Measurable)

A - A (Attainable)

R - Ridiculous (Relevant)

T - Taco (Timely)

For me, the crazier or sillier the mnemonic device, the more likely it is that I will remember it. For this one, I’m picturing a taco that is truly stacked with all the best and yummiest things you can think of. Guaranteed that I’ll never forget what SMART means again!

6dmW5cR

Study Hack #4: Talk through the material with a friend

You may have decided early on in your school career that you like or prefer to study solo. If that is you, I strongly urge you to follow me here and try this one out! If you have friends in your classes, or even just people you would feel comfortable with meeting up with (virtually or in person) to talk through the material, I suggest you try it. 

This study hack is great because, as I mentioned earlier, it encourages you to talk through the concepts, definitions, and general ideas out loud, a strategy that can subconsciously increase your understanding of the topic and make it easier to remember. 

The great thing about this hack is that you don’t need to only speak to someone who is also in your class. Teaching the material to someone else (who has no previous knowledge of the topic) is a great way for you to test yourself and how much you know. If you are having trouble explaining certain concepts to someone else, then that is a good indicator that you should take some time to go back to those and study them more. 

Plus, another great part about studying with friends is that they may have spent more time on a certain topic than you did, so you can use the time that you spend studying or reviewing together to go over those topics you may have missed in more detail.

case-study-exam-tips-cima

Study Hack #5: Step away from the computer!

You may not want to believe this study hack, but it’s true. There are multiple studies out there that conclude that students who take handwritten notes often perform better than students who take notes on the computer. 

While there are a few reasons why this might be the case, one likely reason is that when you sit down in a lecture hall (or even just to study) and you start typing out notes on your computer, you are much more likely to want to type out every last word that is spoken or that you see. Compare this to when you sit down to write your notes by hand; no way are you about to write down every little thing! 

Writing by hand forces you to focus more intensely on the information being presented, compartmentalize it, and actively determine what concepts are worth writing down or noted and which, for the time being, are not. This is not to say that anything you don’t write down isn’t important, but hopefully, using this technique, you can internalize the information on a deeper level and walk away from your class knowing that you covered at least most of the important info!   

note-taking-tips-highlighting

Study Hack #6: Use Quizlet to test your knowledge

This final study hack is one that I will stand by until the end of time! Quizlet is such a crucial resource, and for the most part, it can be used in nearly every college class that’s out there. When I was in school, I used Quizlet for just about everything, from memorizing quick terms to understanding full concepts and processes. 

There are a bunch of really cool features that Quizlet offers. On the most basic level, you can create flashcards for your material and go through them virtually. However, to add to this, 

Quizlet also has a learn feature, which takes you through all of your material in a methodical and effective way (using small chunks!). Sometimes you might be prompted to write a whole definition, while other times you might be asked to simply pick out the correct response out of a list. 

One of the things I love about the platform is that it tracks your progress in a very easy to see way, which can be extremely motivating! Whether you’ve used it before or not, I highly recommend this awesome (and free!) study hack to every student out there.

0_BCB7yMLUorT8C71L

So, there you have it - my list of underrated (and hopefully unique) study hacks! I hope that this list has inspired you to try out a new technique the next time you are studying for an exam or taking notes in class. If you do try one, let me know how it goes!! Happy New Year and happy studying! 

PS - if you found this post helpful, be sure to check out my post on how to successfully study from home! 

If you're looking for scholarships to apply for, take a look at these recent posts:

College Scholarships 2021 

Easy Scholarships for Apply For

10 Tips on How To Overcome The Winter Blues

The winter blues, along with Seasonal Affective Disorder, are both very real. While there are a lot of things that are great about winter, such as celebrating holidays, eating baked treats, and snow days, it is also a time of year that can be difficult to adjust to, especially since it gets dark so dang early (shoutout to daylight savings time!). If this adjustment is as hard for you as it tends to be for me, keep reading for my top 10 tips on how to overcome those winter blues! 

burpee-top-trainers

1. Exercise

While this tip may seem general, I promise that there’s a reason why it’s at the top of this list! Exercise is key to improving your mood and your energy levels because of the endorphins and dopamine that gets released as you move. This means that on those days where it just feels like getting out of bed is next to impossible, mustering up the willpower to get up and move your body is one of the best things you can do. 

In my opinion, the type of exercise you are doing is much less important than the fact that you are just moving in the first place! Some of my go-to activities for wintertime exercise are yoga (Yoga by Adriene is great!) and short workout videos, both of which can be done indoors and don’t require too much space. 

Another benefit of exercise apart from increasing your energy and mood is that it helps to boost your immune system, which in turn makes you less likely to catch a cold or get sick. The final thing I will say about exercise is that it is so important to develop a routine with it - not only does this make you more likely to actually succeed in getting it done, but creating a routine for yourself in whatever way you can also in itself help you to get out of the wintertime funk. 

2. Use a sun lamp

One of the hardest things about winter is the fact that it gets dark much earlier than any of us would like, which in turn makes it super easy to want to just crawl into bed and not move for the entirety of the season. Sun lamps are a great way to combat those hours of darkness. They essentially mimic that bright, summer sunlight in a way that can greatly improve your mood. 

Most companies that make sun lamps suggest using them at the same time each day, for approximately 30 minutes a day in order to reap the benefits as quickly as possible. There are tons of great options out there at various price points. I suggest checking out the results here on Amazon to find the one that will be the best fit for you! 

While I have yet to purchase one for myself, I have more than a few friends who swear by their sun lamps in the wintertime! 

61mp2Ng4yFL._AC_SL1500_

3. Make plans for when the weather will be nice again 

One of my personal favorite ways to get out of the winter funk is to daydream and PLAN trips and things that I can’t wait to do when the winter is over! I’m already a huge planner to begin with, and this type of planning is absolutely no different. This winter, this type of planning for me comes in the form of researching road trips or day trips to take when the weather gets nice and restaurants I want to try when it’s warm enough to sit outside.

Doing the research on its own is exciting, but actually writing down plans, penciling in potential dates, and talking about them with friends are guaranteed to increase your mood!

business-planning-background-1600x900
25f754b371ef10b4f6332315b6574a9e

4. Establish a skincare routine 

This tip for overcoming SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and the general winter blues comes in the form of self-care. I find that in the wintertime, showering at least once (but even sometimes twice per day) and doing face masks are two great forms of self-care that tend to make me feel less like a slug. Especially on days when it gets really cold out and all you want to do is get under the covers, making the effort to get into a hot shower and wash your face or do a mask will leave you feeling both clean and awake! 

This article features a bunch of options for face masks and exfoliators. However, you can certainly also find some good options by going to your local drugstore. My personal favorite face mask is this one, which is not only good for your skin but is super fun to apply - to see what I’m talking about, click here to learn more!). Keep in mind though that not all face masks might necessarily be good to apply on a daily or regular basis, so make sure you do your research and reading before buying and applying!

5. Make an uplifting playlist

During the winter, when there tends to be snow, rain, and clouds for days and weeks at a time, it can be easy to turn on the slow and sad music and get caught up in that mood. So, one conscious effort that I make to try to reverse that mood is to work on my playlists. I’ve found that making playlists with uplifting, energetic, and happy songs, and playing them at certain times of the day (when I wake up in the morning AND when I feel myself getting into that late-afternoon slump) is key to increasing my mood. 

In the event that you aren’t too into curating your own happy playlists, here is a link to one that I made a few years ago that still holds strong for me! On this tip, make sure that you identify the times in the day that you personally start to feel slumped, tired, or moody, and set alarms for yourself for those hours to make sure you get the tunes on. Bonus points if you make time for a mini dance party or singing session - those never hurt either!

ab67706f000000035af1070c80cd50dbbb4cfa19
ios13-ipad-pro-iphone-xs-facetime-hero

6. Connect with friends

This is a go-to tip for overcoming the winter blues during ANY winter season, and it only applies even MORE as we approach this upcoming one. Make a point to text, call, or facetime at least one friend or family member each day. Take the time to catch up with one another, check-in to see how one another is doing, and even just have a laugh. 

One great way that I have been staying connected with friends is by planning monthly and weekly game nights or movie sessions. Spending virtual time with friends by surrounding it around specific “events” is great because then you can actually have something to look forward to other than just catching up about your day or your week. In one of my recent posts, I highlight 5 awesome plugins to install on your browser, and one of them, Teleparty, is an awesome way to watch shows and movies “with your friends”. Highly recommend it!

7. Create a sleep routine, and stick to it 

One of the hardest things about it being dark for so many hours each day during the wintertime is that getting out of bed can get difficult, which can definitely be conducive to sleeping in. So, one of the best things you can do to avoid sleeping through the whole season is to create a specific routine for yourself. For example, maybe during the week you try to be asleep by 11pm and awake by 8:30am, and then on the weekends you allow yourself to sleep in a bit more (but not the whole day!). 

Setting this type of schedule for yourself is a helpful way to regulate the amount of time you spend in bed. Also, by spending less time in bed, you are probably spending more time doing productive things, which is always a plus!

kate-stone-matheson-uy5t-CJuIK4-unsplash-1080x675
bundled_up_2

8. Bundle up and get outside 

All right, I know depending on where you live, the winter months can get to be unbearably cold. However, I cannot stress enough the importance of getting outside, even if it’s only for 10 or 20 minutes each day. 

Bundle up and put on your layers and go for a quick walk (maybe listen to some music or put a podcast on) or even just run some errands. Not only is it good to get your body up and moving, but your body and your brain will also thank you for getting some necessary natural sunlight. Soak up that Vitamin D!! PS - even if it's cloudy out, still get outside, because sunlight is sunlight! 

9. Start a project

The winter months can be a wonderfully convenient time to get yourself knees deep in a project of any kind, mostly because it gives you something to do in those off hours when you’re not working or studying to help you keep your eyes open once it gets cold and dark out. 

You may be wondering what kind of project I am referring to for this tip. However, I purposely left it to be general because there is very much an endless number of possibilities for projects you can pursue! If you are not sure where to start, heading to Pinterest is always one of the first places I go to look for inspiration for new art projects. 

Maybe you want to make a collage from photos that you have collected throughout the past school year, or you have a wall in your room that could really use some color. One project that I just recently started is painting and personalizing skateboard decks. I made one as a collage with some personal memories I have collected, and another I am still in the process of painting right now.

mask-self-portrait-cassie-stephens

If you’re not necessarily an “artsy” type person, fear not! Like I said, personal projects come in all shapes and sizes. Some other ideas are to look into taking an online course in a subject or topic you are interested in, or start a “passion project” if you have a business idea that you have been thinking about for a while. Here is a great article on reasons why you should start a passion project (sometimes also interchangeably called “side hustles”) 

Another option if you have some free time and are looking for some remote work experience is to sign up for a free apprenticeship through Acadium. Apprenticeships are unpaid, part-time (around 10 hours per week), and generally last around 3 months, with some of the pros being you get to work closely with your assigned mentor on their business, create great connections, and even set yourself up for a full-time job once the program is over! For more info on Acadium, head to their website here

91-VkqgQ6EL._RI_

10. Make a movie list, and start checking them off! 

Last, but certainly not least, is to make a list of movies and/or TV shows that you have been wanting to watch and like I said, start crossing them off! I know that when it’s dreary and cold out, the coziest place to be is in bed or on the couch with hot chocolate or something warm and definitely some popcorn or yummy snacks. I can’t say I have many movies on my list yet for this winter, but a few of the shows that I have lined up for December are The Queen’s Gambit and Rake. 

In conclusion, these are just 10 of the many tips for overcoming the winter blues and even symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). If you’ve made it to the end of this post and you’re looking for even more related resources, be sure to check out our new Health & Wellness resources page! 

5 Awesome Plugins to Install on your Browser, ASAP

Hey everyone! Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been spending a lot of time lately just thinking about all of the things that I currently use or could be using to make my life more organized, more interactive, and overall, just better. So, over the past week, every time I use something, whether it’s technology (like a plugin, for example ;)), a specific website or resource, or a product, I have been challenging myself to take note of it so that I can share all of the resources and things that help ME with all of you! Like I’m sure goes for most of you students, I pretty much spend at least 8 hours a day sitting at my desk on my computer. Therefore, it hasn’t been difficult for me to rack up this quick list of some awesome internet plugins to install on your computer! 

How Grammarly reviews your work

Plugin 1. Grammarly

This was (I think) the first plugin that I installed on my browser, and it never lets me down! If you are someone who likes to type out long paragraphs of notes or information and then go back to editing later, Grammarly is great because it automatically underlines all of your grammar and spelling errors so you can easily go back and check. It’s also great for when you’re sending emails because you don’t have to worry about sending something off with a typo or grammatical error. Also, if you write something and you’re not sure how it sounds (maybe it’s a bit too wordy or just sounds awkward) Grammarly will suggest options for words to switch out to make it more succinct and professional. 

Grammarly has a free version and a premium version. The premium version, if you’re interested, offers features like tone adjustments, plagiarism detection, word choice, and a few other cool things. I have been using the free version for the entire time I have had the plugin and it is perfect for what I need it for.

Teleparty synced up in action!

Plugin 2. Teleparty

This plugin is awesome. It used to be called Netflix Party, but even with a new name, it still has the same awesome features! Basically, it allows you to sync up your Netflix with your friends so you can watch shows or movies together. Now, it has been updated to Teleparty, which is great because you can sync up with your friends and watch shows or movies on multiple platforms, including Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO. When you use the plugin (which by the way, can host up to 50 people in one “room”), your screens all sync up with one another so you don’t have to worry about someone ruining that intense scene or plot twist for you. Some might find this a bit distracting, but I also love that there is a chat feature on the side of my screen so I can talk with my friends about what’s going on as we’re watching.  

Teleparty has been an absolute lifesaver for my social life, in general, but especially during lockdown when it’s been difficult to meet up and spend time in person with friends. I highly recommend it! 

StayFocusd allows you to temporarily block distracting websites

Plugin 3. Stay Focusd

This next plugin is one that I cannot say I’ve used, although I have a similar program downloaded onto my computer called Self-Control which does the same job. BUT, in this article, I’m focusing on plugins, so here we are! This plugin helps you to stay focused and productive by allowing you to temporarily block or limit the amount of time that you spend on distracting websites. 

For example, the websites that tend to distract me the most when I am supposed to be sitting down and WORKING are Facebook and Reddit. So, what I would do is allow myself only 30 minutes a day combined on both of those websites. Then, once the time is up, I will be forced to focus on my work! Think of it like Screen Time on an iPhone but for your browser. 

Stay Focusd has 600,000+ users and over 7,000 reviews on Google Chrome with an average rating of 4.5 stars. Pretty good, in my opinion! 

An example of what one of my daily Momentum pages looks like!

Plugin 4. Momentum

While I can’t say that Momentum is the most helpful plugin out there, it’s still a must-have for your browser. It replaces your “New Tab” with a gorgeous photo accompanied by a motivational quote, all of which is guaranteed to do one or more of the following: 1) daydream about where you want to travel to next, 2) feel a sense of calm, 3) get you inspired. Also what I love about it is the ability to make it personal by adding your name. When I wake up in the morning and shuffle over to my computer with literally half an eye open, usually the first thing I see is “Good morning, Ayden” which feels both personal and professional. 

Another feature of Momentum that I sometimes use is the to-do list, which is just a little popup tab on the screen that allows you to keep track of the tasks you want to get done for the day. It’s definitely good for jotting down mini reminders, but I definitely prefer to stick to my physical journal (and Google Calendar and Any.do) for more in-depth and weekly planning.

How Tab Snooze allows you to literally "snooze" your tabs

Plugin 5. Tab Snooze

The final plugin that I want to highlight is one called Tab Snooze. If you are anything like me, you probably have multiple different browsers up at any given day or time, each with their own set of tabs. Even if you aren’t like me (meaning you actually have the ability to close tabs instead of keeping them up for weeks and weeks on end), this plugin is still a great way to help you stay organized and make sure that you don’t accidentally X out of something important. 

Tab Snooze allows you to save articles, videos, and todos for later on. And when I say later on, I mean that you can specify if you want to be reminded about said article, video, or to-do later that day, tomorrow night, over the weekend, repeatedly, or you can pick your own date. Once the time or day that you have specified has come, the plugin will ~gently~ remind you that it’s back for when you need it. 

So, those are the 5 plugins that I highly recommend every student (and person in general) have downloaded onto their browser! They are a perfect mix between helping you stay productive, organized, inspired, and distracted (when you need it)! 

6 Podcasts to Get You Through This Winter

Hey everyone! I’ve been thinking the last few weeks about how crazy it is that winter seems to be right around the corner. It’s also no secret that everything going on with COVID is going to make this winter pretty different from previous ones in terms of our ability to easily socialize and do some of the things that we are normally used to doing. So, in preparation for being bundled up indoors for the next few months (woo!), I thought it would be helpful to release some resources and tips on things to help students survive this winter. First up, podcasts!  

NPR Life Kit 

Available on Spotify, NPR App, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, & Pocket Casts

I am going to be honest with you guys. I don’t listen to very many podcasts because I usually find them difficult to listen along to and I get easily distracted. HOWEVER, NPR Life Kit is one podcast that I genuinely enjoy listening to, because the content varies episode by episode, and the episodes are rarely longer than 20 minutes. The podcast covers lots of current events with episodes on the election and how to vote, dealing with the pandemic, and making the most of online college. While not every episode might be specifically of interest to you, you will be sure to find a bunch that are both interesting and helpful.

Screen-Shot-2019-09-15-at-6.11.38-AM
HIBTstacked_Color_RGB

How I Built This with Guy Raz 

Available on Spotify, NPR App, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, & Pocket Casts

If you’re the type of person who is curious about the world of business and entrepreneurship, then this podcast is for you. In each episode, Guy Raz (the host) goes into the story of a popular and well-known company, business, or organization and discusses how it got its start and the types of movements that its innovators built. What’s great about How I Built This is that you can pick and choose episodes to listen to based on the companies you are interested in. Some of the episodes I recommend are Ben & Jerry’s (episode 60 - I’m a huuuge ice cream girl so I loved this one), Wikipedia (episode 70), and Spanx (episode 1!). 

Ear Biscuits 

Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, YouTube, & Soundcloud 

If you’re into comedy podcasts, you might want to give Ear Biscuits a listen. This podcast was a submission from an Access Scholarships IG follower, so admittedly, I am not a loyal listener, but after listening to a few snippets and reading up about the podcast’s content, I can understand why it has 4.9 stars and almost 20,000 ratings on Apple Podcasts! Ear Biscuits follows hosts Rhett and Link through their weekly candid conversations, stories, and thoughts. What seems cool about this podcast is that Rhett and Link cover all topics of life and give each conversation a personal spin, so you are learning more about their personal lives and experiences as you listen. Check it out!

Ear_Biscuits_with_Rhett_and_Link
wVP2FkSv

Serial 

Available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, & Pandora 

Calling all investigators!! Serial is an AWESOME, thrilling, and intense podcast narrated by investigative journalist Sarah Koenig. Each nonfiction story spans over the course of one whole season, so in each episode, you learn more and more information about the case, the people involved, and what’s going down. There are currently three seasons (stories) and each season has approximately ten episodes in it that are, of course, meant to be listened to in order. Have a listen and prepare to be captivated and glued to your device, waiting to hear what unfolds next.

College Prep Podcast 

Available on Apple Podcasts & Google Podcasts

If you’re currently in high school and therefore likely preparing for college, this podcast is exactly what you should be listening to this winter. The podcast covers topics such as improving study skills, test prep, applying to college, and practically anything else you can think of in that realm. The episodes are extremely informative and will leave you feeling accomplished simply by having listened along. Two recent episodes that I really enjoyed were Ten Tips for Learning from a Screen and How Colleges Evaluate Applicants.

download
449743

Behind the Mind 

Available on the website, here

Behind the Mind Media Podcast is a great one that I also have featured on our new Health & Wellness page! The podcast is hosted by Kevin Meiselman, a recent graduate of Quinnipiac University and mental health advocate. In each episode, Kevin talks with someone new about his or her life, career, and mental health journey. What I find awesome about this podcast is that he talks with people across a wide range of ages, life stages, and careers, which is a great reminder that everybody, no matter who you are or where you come from, can struggle with mental illness.  

There you have it - 6 great podcasts to listen to while you bundle up under blankets with hot chocolate in hand this winter. Keep on the lookout for more blog posts with tips on making it through the chilly weather!! PS - if you have recs for podcasts that you ~love~ and think I should feature them in this post, DM me on the gram (@accessscholarships) 🙂

10 Extracurricular Activities That Will Look Great on Your College Applications

If you are getting ready to apply to college, we bet you have quite a few things on your mind right now, such as school grades, standardized test scores, and essays. However, another crucial part of the college application process that students often overlook is the importance of meaningful extracurricular activities.  

While some may argue that certain aspects of your application (hello: GPA and test scores) are more important than others depending on the level of competitiveness for the schools you are applying to, it is still crucial to ensure that you are getting involved in meaningful extracurricular activities.

Colleges want to see that you have excelled both inside and outside of the classroom and that you possess the necessary skills and strengths to bring a fresh perspective and strong contributions to the campus. Additionally, another bonus of being involved in extracurriculars is that they are also a great way to discover new passions and interests while getting more involved in your surrounding community. 

With the many dozens of possibilities out there for you to get involved in, it's normal to feel overwhelmed.

Ultimately, any extracurriculars you choose to participate in should be ones that you are prepared to commit to, as a strong level of commitment will show admissions officers that you are focused, dedicated, and set on accomplishing the goals you set for yourself. 

Additionally, another pro of committing to any given activity is that, over time, you will develop skills (teamwork, independence, confidence, time management, etc) that are necessary to succeed once you’ve made it on campus.

If you are completely unsure of where to begin, fear not! Here, we will dive into our top 10 extracurricular activity areas that look great on college apps. Let’s get started! 

1. Sports 

Joining a sports team is a great way to develop the teamwork skills that many schools look for in strong applicants. Common sports programs at most high schools include track, basketball, hockey, volleyball, tennis, football, soccer, baseball, and softball. Dance, cycling, climbing, swimming, martial arts, fencing, and hiking are just a few of the less common sports out there for you to get involved in beyond what your school offers. Also, not all sports are team-based, which is okay too! 

2. Volunteering 

Whether it is through a club at your school or through a different organization within your community, volunteering is truly a “double-whammy” - you have the opportunity to meet and interact with new people while contributing to a cause that you care about.

Many schools offer community service clubs that are intertwined in the events of the surrounding district, which make it easy to get involved. If you are looking for something outside of school, you could even look into joining an organization such as Habitat for Humanity. If you can’t find a volunteering club that you are interested in but you know that there is a need for help in that area, consider starting it up yourself! 

3. Part-Time Jobs or Internships

A part-time job can be a beneficial way to gain real-world skills such as accountability, customer service, and how to work well under pressure. The possibilities for part-time jobs will certainly vary depending on where you live, but a few common part-time jobs for high school students include babysitting, working at a restaurant, or working at a store in your area. 

If you already have an idea of what you want to major in once you get onto campus, a great way to show your passion and commitment to that area is to try to seek out part-time employment opportunities that align with your intended field.

Take me for example.

I knew that I wanted to go into marketing and business when I applied for college. 

So, if I was smarter in my high school days, I would have looked into seeing if any local businesses or organizations needed help with their marketing efforts. Not only would this have been solid exposure to my desired field early on, but it would have shown admissions officers that I was the real deal. 

(For anyone wondering, I worked at a flower shop when I was in high school. Not exactly screaming "BUSINESS!" there!)

4. Performing/Arts   

Ignite your creative side by joining an arts-related club! Activities within performing/arts can include anything from drama to slam poetry to photography and film to dance.

Even if your school does not have a theater department, it is still possible that there are other clubs or schools around your community that have one, and can allow you to get more involved. 

5. Student Government/Student Council

Student government is one of the most popular ways to not only get more involved in your school but to also gain some great leadership and teamwork experience.

Say you are hoping to study finance or a related field in college; in that case, running for a treasurer position where you can manage the school’s budget and keep track of expenses would be a great way to gain some experience and responsibility working in your area of interest before stepping on campus. 

6. Social Activism 

If you are passionate about seeking change within a certain issue in our society, whether that issue is animal rights, breast cancer awareness, or helping the environment, then joining a social activist club might be a great choice for you.

A few of the many popular activism-based clubs that have a presence around the globe include Amnesty International, Human Rights Campaign, and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions).

In addition to joining clubs that align with your activist interests, you can also consider taking the initiative within your community to start something new. Maybe you organize a peaceful protest in your area to argue against an unfair law, or you host a county-wide fundraiser to raise money for a charity that is close to your heart. 

7. Music 

Maybe you love to sing, play the guitar, or just get together with friends and talk about music.

Whatever it may be, there are many different ways to turn an interest in music into a dedicated extracurricular activity. You can join your school (or your community) chorus group, orchestra, or jazz band; other possibilities range from forming a band with some classmates or friends or even making up your own club to educate your fellow peers on the ins and outs of your favorite genre. 

Even if it's not in a group setting (like being in a band), remember that the time you spend towards learning or practicing an instrument is still an extracurricular activity!

8. Media/Technology

There are many options for you to get involved in both in and out of school if you enjoy an activity such as writing, graphic design, website-making, photography, or working with TV/radio.

You could join the school newspaper to gain experience interviewing fellow students and faculty and writing about important or relevant topics.

Consider getting involved in your school or local radio station, or working part-time for a local business in need of help with expanding their online presence if you are more passionate about the digital/technology side of the spectrum.

9. Debate and Political Interest 

Clubs within this area are a great way to gain crucial experience with interpersonal communication and leadership while also learning more about a wide variety of topics.

Model UN, DECA, Debate Club, and Mock Trial are a few of the clubs that schools commonly offer, although there are many more options to explore!

10. Academic Competition  

Academic Competition is a very broad area of interest, but some specific examples of clubs you can get involved in are science fairs, math leagues, spelling bees, or even robotics competitions.

The range of opportunities might vary depending on what your school and local community offer. However, any club within this realm is sure to teach you more of what you are interested in, challenge your creativity, and put your competitive skills to the test! 

In Conclusion...

If you haven’t seen anything jump out at you from this list, remember that there are still options out there! A smart place to continue your search is on your school’s website, where there is likely a list of all of the clubs that your school offers for students to sign up for.

If you're passionate about something but your school doesn’t have a club that focuses on it, consider starting it up yourself! Ultimately, regardless of what you choose to pursue, it is crucial to do it well, give it everything you’ve got, and of course, have fun!

Finding Employment During COVID Times

Lessons Learned From Being an Unemployed Recent Grad in the Middle of a Global Pandemic

When I began my senior year of college, I would say I was 75% excited and 25% stressed. “Why stressed?” you may ask. I was stressed because I knew that it meant the hunt for my first post-college job was quickly approaching. From talking to older friends and from the palpable competitiveness of the other students in my class in the UW-Madison School of Business, I deduced that securing a job as early on in the year as possible was the key to both a sense of security and enjoying senior year. So, in my natural type-A manner, I decided to start (and successfully complete!) my job search ASAP!

The leaves fell off the trees that lined campus, the lake had well frozen over, and I returned to Madison in January after winter break — jobless. While I was definitely disheartened with my situation, I didn’t let it get to me too much because I knew that most of my peers wouldn’t lock down a job offer until some point during the spring semester.

Fast forward to the middle of March: I was frantically scrolling through LinkedIn every minute of the day, researching companies and potential job opportunities, preparing for interviews, and hoping that I’d luck out with at least one of the hundreds of applications I submitted. Then, practically overnight, the pandemic and the immediacy of sequestering indoors hit. Thousands of companies that were just hiring yesterday quickly took down all open roles. Opportunities basically vanished into thin air, leaving me with only one thing: the understanding that the search for employment would be the most difficult challenge I’d ever faced and something so novel that I had no direction on how to navigate it.

My career was reduced to a shot in the dark.

Screen Shot 2020-09-28 at 7.32.22 PM

During the first few months of lockdown, as the world was beginning to adjust to the “new normal,” I had my head down, spending more time than ever applying for jobs (even as they became incredibly scarce), polishing my resume until it gleamed, and figuring out how to make myself more marketable to potential employers. Those months, while they seemingly went by slowly at first, began to blur together into one uninspiring mess.

All of a sudden, the calendar read “May 9th.” I found myself sitting in my living room, outfitted in cap and gown, watching my commencement from the couch where I was sprawled out with a bottle of champagne to keep me company. This was a far cry from what I had envisioned all these years: head held high, strutting across the stage with my gown billowing behind me, accepting the diploma I had paid for in not only tuition dollars, but also in innumerable all-nighters, languorous study sessions at the library, a sky-high stack of essays, an avalanche of assignments, and many, many moments of self-doubt and near-defeat.

All things considered, it was still an exciting day full of celebration (although I regretted not being able to jump around in Camp Randall). However, that pang of worry from the back of my mind eventually emerged, taunting me: “Hey Ayden, guess what? You just graduated from college, and you’re still unemployed!”

I was one of those people. Great.

Screen Shot 2020-09-28 at 7.32.30 PM

Shortly after graduating, I was still losing sleep over being unemployed until, low and behold, the clouds gave way, the angels began to sing, and heaven sent a startup opportunity right to my doorstep.

I was offered the chance to design a website that would, after several hours of brainstorming and iterations, become Access Scholarships, a scholarship discovery site which provides all students (think: high school, college, grad school, etc.) the opportunity to easily search and apply for scholarships to help them finance their studies.

Other cool features of the website include a blog (run by yours truly), a student deals + discounts page, and links to resources, apps, and tips to help students optimize both their success and happiness during their academic careers.

After the successful launch of Access Scholarships, I came on full-time to not only manage the site but also to build out the brand. One of the coolest things about working for a startup, as I have come to learn, is that your opinion truly matters. Every blog post, every email campaign, and every decision is made with my input considered. I can propose ideas and run with new initiatives with relatively no filter or red tape, a sort of flexibility I doubt I’d have at a big, established firm or a ubiquitous corporation.

A few months ago, if you had asked me how I felt about being unemployed, I would have started breathing into my handy, (always at arm’s length) brown paper bag to quell the anxiety. I thought I had missed the boat.

Not having a cushy, corporate job lined up post-graduation meant I was doing something wrong. Now, I realize the error in adopting such a narrow-minded approach.

I now feel not only content and re-energized with my current situation, but also incredibly grateful to do impactful work that I also find enjoyable, especially during a time when job opportunities are few and far between!

I’ve made peace with the fact that there is absolutely nothing wrong with graduating from college without a job offer in hand, both under normal circumstances and especially during a global pandemic. There is no “right” path to success and everyone has their own time zone. Attempting to religiously follow someone else’s path or forcing yourself to adjust to someone else’s time zone is a recipe for disaster.

Everyone is unique, so it naturally follows that their career trajectory would be, too.

Screen Shot 2020-09-28 at 7.32.38 PM

For those of you who are still in college or knee-deep in the job hunt and finding yourself in the frazzled headspace I was in just a few months ago, here is some advice.

Set aside some time to check in with yourself.

Answer the following questions:

  • What type of work do I think (or know) I will enjoy doing?
  • What types of opportunities excite me?
  • Is there a particular cause that I am passionate about?
  • What do I want to become really good at?
  • Do my interests lie within working for a specific company, a certain industry, or a type of role?

*Pro-tip: Once you’ve answered some of the questions above, check out this article on how to optimize your job applications to ensure that every application you submit does justice to your candidacy!

Wrapping Up

In hindsight, if I could change one thing about the way that I searched for jobs in college, it would be the ability to access a user-friendly application to help me not only apply for jobs but also to learn more about the companies I was applying to and have candid conversations with the people who worked there.

Enter the room, Hallo!

Screen Shot 2020-09-28 at 7.32.47 PM

Hallo is a career services platform that has granted students with all of those things that I was wishing for, and more. The service is centered around providing students with the opportunity to easily connect with potential employers through virtual (and free!) career events. Students can speak with and learn from companies across a wide range of industries, finding answers to those difficult career questions I posed above and making headway towards the job opportunity that is right for them. The remote nature of the platform is a blockbuster feature, especially during COVID times as in-person career fairs and networking events are indefinitely on-hold.

Hallo arms students with all of the resources they need to progress in their career journeys and thrive!

If you’re a student, and you ever find yourself in my shoes, recite this mantra:

“There is not ONE path. There is not even the RIGHT path. There is only YOUR path.”

Everything I Wish I Knew When I Started College, by a 2020 Grad

If you’re a recent graduate like me, it is more likely than not that you have spent the last few months reminiscing about all things college-related: friends, freedom, and finals (ok, maybe not that one…). Other than daydreaming about how the end of my senior year might have turned out, I have also found myself thinking a lot about the students who are about to begin their college careers. Despite the fact that these students are entering college during arguably one of the most hectic shitstorms that our world has ever experienced, they still deserve to get the most out of their college years for all of the awesomeness that they are. With that, I have compiled my list of Everything I Wish I Knew When I Started College, aiming to help the Class of 2024 (and maybe even Classes of 2023, 2022, and 2021) squeeze every last ounce of magic juice out of what college has to offer.

Meet and form relationships with your professors, (yes, even if it means reaching out over Zoom).

The one thing I regret in terms of professor relationships is becoming friendly with my professors but never truly taking it a step further. I know that forming these relationships may feel like an awkward thing to do, but taking the time and effort to form close relationships with professors who are knowledgeable and cool pays off. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you need to go out of your way to become best buds with every professor you have. If you are interested in a certain topic or area of study, reaching out to the person who is supposed to know it best is a great place to start. Not only do most professors love it when their students put in the extra effort to form a relationship, but having these relationships will also bode you well if you are ever in need of career advice, mentorship, or a letter of recommendation. You’d be surprised at how helpful this allyship can be in the long-run!

Even if your classes are over Zoom this semester, you can still do this! A good (and not awkward) course of action is to email your professor and suggest “meeting” after the next lecture. This way, you will already be on Zoom and you can introduce yourself after the other students have left the class.

You can still be successful without having your entire week, semester, or the next four years planned out.

When it comes to anything school-related, I am Type A: every task, plan, reminder, and deadline gets written down in my planner, color-coded, and only gets checked off once it’s complete. While working this way certainly has its perks, the downside to this type of mindset is that when something doesn’t go quite as planned (meeting runs late, workout takes longer than usual, etc), it can feel like the world is imminently coming to an end (okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic). If this sounds like you, too, here’s my advice:

  • Be open and willing to adapt and change things up every once in a while. While it’s good to have some sort of idea about the classes you want to take next semester, or what day you need to start studying for that exam in order to get an A, if you try to over-plan, chances are you will end up in panic-mode, which takes you nowhere but backward.
  • So much of the next few months is up in the air due to COVID, which means that most of the world has been forced to embrace this feeling of rolling with the punches. Use this to your advantage, because if anything, crazy COVID times should encourage you to take a step back, relax, and try not to worry about everything going exactly as you wanted or intended it to.

Prioritize your health, both physical and mental.

I wish I took care of myself earlier in my college career. I feel like most people immensely overlooked this before COVID, but it deserves recognition.

When I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I remember feeling like I always had to go out when my friends were going out and because there was so much going on with studying and things to get involved in, I definitely overexerted myself at times and disregarded the importance of self-care. Whether you are going into your first year, your last year, or either of the two years in between, take this time to do a little bit of introspection. Identify your stressors and what calms you down. Find a type of physical activity that you enjoy, and make a point to plan (yes, you should plan this) some time in your week to unwind, unplug, and generally just chill out.

By the end of my senior year, even though I was doing school from home because of COVID, I made a point to set aside at least thirty minutes a day for running, limited my screen time, and made time each evening to read, which is a great alternative to scrolling through Instagram until you PTFO (no surprise there). It might take you months or even years to find the perfect balance of things that work for you, but getting started early and prioritizing yourself will pay off with everything you do in the long run.

Take the time to understand your tuition bill, and apply to scholarships!

While this is not great of me to admit, I went through the majority of my college career without ever looking into the details of my tuition bill to see what my parents and I were actually paying for. Given the fact that the cost of higher education in America is EXTREMELY expensive, this is something that I wish I spent more time educating myself about because I’m sure it would have even opened my eyes to taking advantage of some of the many resources that were available to me as a UW student (that I was paying for without even realizing it — (talking about you @TheSerf #iykyk)

For the past several months since graduating from college, I have helped to create a scholarship resource platform called Access Scholarships (shameless plug, check it out!!), where high school, college, and grad school students can easily find and apply to scholarships to help them cover future or current educational expenses. During my time spent developing this idea and seeing it all the way through, I have come to realize just how much I overlooked the importance of utilizing this type of resource and taking the time to apply for scholarships to help me fund my own education. So, my advice for you is to set aside some time to researching and applying for scholarships. Your bank account will certainly thank you for it!

Don’t feel like you need to join a club, organization, etc, just because the people around you are doing it.

While it’s definitely fun to be involved in things on campus with your friends, don’t feel like you need to do exactly what your friends are doing, because if it’s something that you aren’t truly interested in, then the time spent being involved there will mean less time spent being involved in something you actually care about.

This piece of advice also stems from another piece of advice, which is to not forget the importance of being yourself. Friends you will make throughout your time in college may or may not have the same interests as you. If they do, that is great! If they don’t, that’s okay too, because at the end of the day, taking the time to join that a student org or club sports team that you’re passionate about can be a great time to branch out (make new friends) and learn more about yourself.

Lastly, set aside time to step outside of your college “bubble”.

Having gone to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I had the opportunity to live right in the center of a fairly active city. This was great because not only did I have on-campus events and activities that I could take part in, but there were so many citywide events going on all year round to take advantage of. Looking back, I regret not immersing myself in the city more during the first two years of my college experience. Even if you are not on campus right now, eventually, you will be, so don’t forget this!

If you’ve made it this far, congrats, and I hope you might be able to implement some of my advice into your own college experience!

Everything You Need to Successfully SFH (Study from Home)!

The situation

I don’t know about you, but last spring (which happened to be my last semester in college) when COVID-19 came around and left us all stuck at home, I was in big trouble. No longer being able to learn in the classroom and study in the library or at a coffeeshop left me, and I am sure thousands of other students, feeling uninspired, unfocused, and far less motivated to learn and succeed. I found that I had to radically change the way that I learned, studied, and lived at home in order to successfully adapt to the changing circumstances. 

Revamping my workspace

So, one of the first things I did, in order to put myself on the path to success, was to revamp my work station. Depending on the type of worker you are (if you like a constant change of scenery, ignore me!), you might find it more or less difficult to work from various spots around your house or apartment. Since attending classes from home, I found that it was incredibly distracting for me to keep moving from one room in the house to another. 

To combat this, I made it my goal to set up a more permanent and designated study/work area for myself. I found a desk that a family member was no longer using and hopped on the opportunity to move it straight into my room. If you have a desk area that you can use, that is great, but if not, no worries, because luckily, kitchen and dining room tables can get the job done just as well. 

Time to organize

Now that I had my desk set up, I decided the next step was to organize it in a way so that my study materials, resources, notebooks, and folders were all visible and easily sortable in their own little areas. Doing this helped to ensure that no assignments, ideas, or notes would get lost, neglected, or forgotten under random folders and sheets of paper. You might find that organizing your desk or work area by ~thing~ like what I did (folders in one area, assignments in another, to-do list somewhere else) is easiest, or you may decide that organizing your area by subject keeps things tidier. Try experimenting with both to see what works best for you! 

While I like to ~spice things up~ every once in a while, I am the type of person who loves having a routine, so when it came to creating my ideal workspace, my thought process was no different. Early on in my study from home days, after I had my desk organized and my routine down to a science, I came up with a list of everything featured in my study area that has helped me to be successful. So, without further ado, here are my SFH (study from home) essentials + tips

Study area

Like I mentioned, finding a space that you can call yours is important when it comes to SFH. While it doesn’t have to be a desk specifically (it can be any table), I have found that I prefer sitting at a desk as opposed to my kitchen table (being in the kitchen = major excessive snacking). A few tips that I have in terms of your study area are: 

  • Refrain from working in your bed or on your couch. As comfortable as it sounds, it is a surefire way to getting minimal work done because, at some point, it is likely that you will fall asleep. Not what we’re aiming for here! 
  • Try to find a chair or working position that will help, not hurt, your posture. This is so important, and another reason why you should ditch your couch for those long study hauls. Sitting in spaces or using chairs with minimal support will eventually (if it hasn’t already) lead to uncomfortable pain in your back and neck. Some recommendations for ditching the discomfort are to place a pillow behind your back while sitting in your chair, make sure your feet touch the ground in whatever position you are sitting in, take regular breaks to get up and walk around, and to alternate between sitting and standing while you work if possible. 
  • Don’t overestimate the importance of natural light. Unless you are the type of person who gets super distracted by whatever is out the window, I recommend trying to set up your work station near some natural light. Not only will this reduce your eye strain as you work, but it will likely make you less drowsy (hence more productive) too!

Technology

In terms of tech, I personally always keep my laptop set up on my desk and I have my charger easily accessible in case I need to plug in. I will usually keep my cell phone behind my computer so that it is out of view. This is a good start to warding away those temptations if you have a tendency to get distracted by your phone easily (don't we all these days?). However, if you find that your willpower is lacking, I suggest either putting your phone in a different room altogether or downloading an app such as Forest that will help you stay on task. 

Pro-tip: Check out our Resources page for more recommendations on our favorite apps and software you can download (for your phone and your computer) that will help you stay focused!  

Aside from my computer, another piece of technology that I have grown to greatly appreciate is my noise-canceling headphones. I originally bought these from Amazon to use in the library (I am very sensitive to certain noises) but they have also proven helpful since I have been at home because they keep out all of the distractions, yelling, and various noises that come from around my house. If you are like me and are highly sensitive to noise (or just easily distracted by sounds), a pair of these might be a good investment! 

Planner/Desk Calendar

While not everyone may feel the need to have a planner or desk calendar, I have found both of these to be super important additions to my SFH setup. I like my planner because I can look at what I have to get done on a particular day, and my virtual calendar is good because it gives me a better view of the more long-term assignments and tasks I have coming up. 

Of course, there are definitely apps and other downloadable resources that you can use for tracking your assignments and plans (I use Any.do and Google Calendar), but I think there is something nice about having everything written out in front of you so I tend to utilize both digital and non-digital options. 

Notebooks, Flash Cards, Etc

If you are in a lot of classes that require you to remember terms, keeping a stack of flashcards in your work area is probably a good idea! I prefer to use Quizlet for learning terms and definitions because there are multiple options for testing yourself, but if you need to have your terms written down then keeping some flashcards or even just a notebook on hand is probably helpful. 

Additionally, from my experience last semester taking classes and studying from home, it became a lot easier to neglect taking physical, written notes because professors sent out all of the material after lectures for us to study from. Despite this, I highly recommend having a notebook where you can write out your notes as your class is going on or afterward. This will help to ensure that you are actually internalizing the material as opposed to simply memorizing it! 

Pencil holder

 I suggest finding a pencil holder to hold your pens, pencils, highlighters, etc in order to reduce the clutter of having pens and other writing utensils scattered all over your desk or work area. For me, this is a homemade ceramic mug, but for you, it could be anything from a solo cup to a legitimate pencil holder. Feel free to makeshift this however you like! 

Accessories 

Last but certainly not least, we’re at the fun part! I honestly think that one of my favorite parts about studying from home was actually taking the time to personalize my study spot with personal items and some ~flair~. Here are some of the extras (but still essentials in my opinion) that I have set up in my space:

    • Photos - I love getting photos printed and posting them up or framing them around my study area! It’s a great way to personalize your space because it is relatively inexpensive and will do a great job of allowing you to reminisce back on normal times and good memories. 
    • Plants - I used to have a very cool plant on my desk that I got from Trader Joes for less than $5. Although I haven’t gotten around to it yet since I moved home, I will definitely be purchasing another one for my new space because having some greenery is nice and refreshing! If this is something you’re into, I would check out either Etsy or Amazon for cost-effective options. 
    • Mantras - There is no doubt that adjusting to working and studying from home hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been quite the opposite, and I know I’m not alone when I say that studying from home has brought on some new anxieties and worries. So, to help myself combat this anxiety, I have a post-it note taped to the window (directly in front of me) with my mantras and reminders to help keep me sane. While you will likely find your own that work best for you, I will share what’s on my post-it note to give you some inspiration! 

At the end of the day…

It's important to remember is that your study spot needs to be set up and designed with your needs in mind! To sum it all up, here are the key takeaways from what I discussed:

  1. Ditch the couch - your back and neck will thank you for it.
  2. Keep distractions away! 
  3. Organization is key, especially if you are working in a small area.
  4. Have your mantras and reminders in clear view to keep you on task.
  5. Personalize your space to make you happy! 

With that, I will leave it to you. Happy studying!!

My study space! ~Ayden

Sustainable Brands That Are Perfect for Back to School

It’s no secret that climate change is a legitimate and serious issue plaguing the world as we speak. It’s also no secret that consumerism is on the rise, with people across the globe continuing to purchase products to help them live and enjoy their everyday lives. While saving the environment won’t come from simply purchasing eco-friendly and sustainable products, it certainly is a start to getting on the right track. So, to help you contribute to protecting our environment, here are some great brands to shop this back to school season that are the perfect combination of trendy, comfy, and sustainable.  

Clothing 

Nothing says hello to a new school year like some new clothes, especially loungewear, given the fact that most of us are pretty much stuck at home. Here are some great brands you can get comfy with while you bounce from one Zoom class to another.

Alternative Apparel 

Alternative Apparel is great for the basics such as t-shirts, cozy sweatshirts, and sweatpants. They have lines for both men and women, making it a one-stop-shop for anyone in your fam! Their clothing is made from materials such as heavyweight recycled cotton, 100% recycled polyester, and other organic ingredients that are “a better choice for your skin and for the environment”. PLUS: get 20% off your first purchase when you shop online! 

Pact 

Pact is another brand that boasts its sustainable trends. Not only is everything they sell made with organic cotton, but their products are also fair trade, meaning the company’s business practices support putting an end to injustices such as poverty in third world countries and environmental degradation. Pact sells everything from leggings to bedding, all at an affordable price, so you will be sure to find something that fits your wants. PLUS: Free shipping on orders over $50, and your first order is 20% off.

Shoes 

Even if you’re attending classes from home, a new pair of shoes will go a long way in terms of making you feel like you are fully put together and ready to tackle your day. Plus, having a comfortable pair of sneaks or slip-ons on your feet is key for when you take your breaks to get outside, walk around your house, or stretch your legs! 

Allbirds

With the motto “Made from nature, for nature”, Allbirds is proud to sell shoes that emit almost half as much CO2e as the average shoe, and they are even on their way to reducing their carbon footprint to ZERO. That’s right, zero! Allbirds have definitely been on the rise in terms of popularity recently, which makes sense considering they truly have a shoe for everyone. While they are situated at a higher price point, these shoes will quickly become your go-to for lounging around the house, strolling outside, and even exercising. 

Toms

Toms is a great company to purchase from for the full package: not only are they sustainable, but they pride themselves in giving back to the community. They are the original One for One company, having given almost 100 million shoes to people in need. Toms is best-known for its Earthwise collection of slip-ons and sneakers, which are all made with recycled and recyclable materials. What’s great about Toms is that once you’ve worn out your current pair, you can take them to one of the Toms’ reclaim centers to be recycled into another product, ensuring the loop goes on! Check them out their Earthwise collection here.

School Supplies 

Rocketbook notebook 

If you’re tired of wasting hundreds and hundreds of pages of paper on class notes and study guides, the Rocketbook notebook is for you. It’s an “infinitely reusable” notebook that comes in 8 different colors and easily connects to all of your devices through the Cloud so you can sync your notes to your other devices with just a few taps. What’s great about this type of notebook is that it still allows you to write out your notes (it’s been proven that your brain absorbs information better when it’s written rather than typed) but then you can easily access them on your device later on. 

Kitchen & Drinkware

Reusable storage bags 

These reusable storage bags by Rezip are the perfect Ziploc bag alternative. They come in a pack of three (one 8 oz, 16 oz, and 32 oz), and are ideal for storing snacks, sandwiches, and more. According to their website, one rezip bag replaces up to 300 regular Ziploc plastic bags! 

S’well

These bottles have been big for a while, and there’s a reason why. Not only are they reusable (contributing to people using less single-use plastic bottles), but they “bring style, innovation, and joy to sustainable living”. S’well offers bottles in dozens of colors, sizes, and patterns. PLUS, students get 20% off!

U Konserve Stainless Steel Straws  

For all those times you’ve popped out for an iced coffee or made a smoothie at home only to settle for a single-use plastic straw - those times are over with U Konserve’s stainless steel straws. Plus, they come in a 2 pack, so you can keep one for yourself and gift one to a friend (or keep them both for yourself...don’t worry, we’re with you 😉 ) 

Masks 

For Days 

For Days is a zero-waste brand with the mission of ensuring that every single one of its products is 100% recyclable. They have several options for masks, all of which come in multi-packs so you don’t have to worry about forgetting yours in the washer or dryer. They also have a program called SWAP, where everything you send back gets recycled. Get 10% off your first order when you sign up with your email! 

Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn masks are made using sustainable deadstock fabric and are both reusable and washable, which helps to avoid excess fabric from going into landfills. While their masks are on the expensive side, they are certainly a smart investment in comparison to purchasing single-use masks, and as a bonus, they are super cute! 

Phone Cases

A Good Company

As their website states, these phone cases are fully compostable without compromising on design. They are made out of linseed plants and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and also feature a customizable option. 

Pela Eco-Friendly Phone Cases 

Similar to the products on A Good Company, the phone cases offered by Pela are eco-friendly (100% compostable). In addition to offering the classic phone case, Pela also sells wallet cases and clear cases, both totally free of plastic.