Cramming 101

At some point during college you’ll be cramming for a test. It’s not the best way to study, but everyone does it eventually. If you must cram for a test, do it the right way.

Here are some tips to get you through your first cram session.

Cramming 101

1. Figure out what you need to know.

This is the most important step. Don’t try to force feed your brain information that isn’t important. If you have a hard time figuring out what your professor will test over, ask someone or go through the book. Most chapters have key facts, a summary, etc. that outlines the most important things.

2. Give yourself enough time.

Cramming works best the night before, but with a good amount of sleep. A foggy brain doesn’t recall well. Plan enough time to cram and enough time to get a decent sleep. Difficult subjects require more cram time.

3. Mood matters.

The Association for Psychological Science says that a good mood allows your brain to think more creatively. Study somewhere free from distractions and irritations, and listen to mood-boosting music.

4. Have a plan.

Before you cram, have a plan. Focus on the cramming the details that you struggle with the most. Do you mostly need to learn vocab? Do you need to learn theories? Do you need to know formulas? Devote the most time to the most important parts.

Cramming Tips


For classes where you need to regurgitate definitions, try creating a matching test at Easy Test Maker. It’s free and is easier and cheaper than flashcards. There’s also flashcard software available if you’d rather do that. Either way, this is a great way to memorize.

Multiple Choice

Most professors have two very possible, one could-be and one completely off choices on multiple choice. By the time you’re in college, you should be very familiar with this format and very good at taking them. So, study important facts, but focus on details. Anything bolded or reiterated in lecture and anything that might be related.


If your professor provides possible essay prompts, take advantage and get all the information you’ll need. Write a short, practice essay outline. Use that to study ahead of time.

If you’re not lucky enough to be given the question ahead of time, you’re in for more work. Learn the big picture and a few things to fill in the lines. Once you have that down, bullshit is your best friend. Don’t make things up, just surround your facts with fluff.

5 Ways for College Students to Make Quick Money

Let’s face it: every college student could use more money. But there are only so many hours in the day after classes, work, and extracurricular activities. Check out these 5 ways to make some seriously quick money.

  1. Sell on ebay. This requires some research, but what I do is scour Best Buy and Circuit City (and other such electronics retailers) for great sales, then buy the product and put it on ebay. Best Buy has some great sales where you can get $100 off retail value, sell it on ebay and get a $50-75 profit easily. You can also sell thrifted clothing, accessories, and memorabilia.
  2. Join websites that pay you to fill out surveys and do free trials. The ones with high payout are usually trial offers that require a credit card to join, and if you cancel within the trial, you won’t be billed. I’ve made $80 in two months with Cash Crate. You’ll also need an extra email address for all the spam you will get from the surveys.
  3. Offer your cleaning and laundry services to friends.
  4. Start a side hustle. There are a couple ways to do this; you can join websites like Fiverr or Upwork; or you can advertise your services on campus. Skills like web design, social media management, and even brand ambassadors are in big demand on Fiverr. On campus, you’ll have more success with tutoring and proofreading.
  5. Work from home doing transcription work. If you can spell accurately and type quickly then you are a perfect fit. You can apply at websites like Rev and TranscribeMe.


Tax Tips for College Students

It’s time to get ready for tax season! The first step you can take is to visit the IRS site to find out whether you need to file. Tax season brings unhappy thoughts into most minds, but when you’re a student, it can be a good thing. Most students aren’t required to pay taxes, so anything that was withheld will be refunded to you. Unless you claim exempt on your W2 form at work, taxes are withheld from your paycheck. Some people even fill it out so the IRS takes out more than they should so they can get a bigger refund.

Filing isn’t tricky either. Services like TurboTax make things so much easier. If you’ve paid interest on any student loans, you can claim some of them as a deduction. While this doesn’t help students who don’t have to pay taxes, it is helpful for those who do and for those who are out of college.

Tax Tips for College Students

Preparing your return

  • TurboTax, which is made by powerful software company, Intuit, is the leading tax preparation software. The basic edition is $20, but there’s also a free online edition for 1040EZ filers (most common, unless you’re utilizing deductions, you’ll most likely fall under this category).
  • IRS eFile – The IRS allows you to prepare and file your tax return electronically.
  • Major Tax Preparers: H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, etc. – These tax preparation companies are another alternative to filing for yourself, but if you’re a student, your return isn’t going to be complicated and these places aren’t cheap. Not a good idea for most people.


  • Mail – you mail it off, it’s free, but it can take up to six weeks for your refund
  • TurboTax e-file with direct deposit – $14.95, can get your refund in 9 days
  • IRS FreeFile – if you qualify for FreeFile (made $66,000 or less), you can file your return electronically with the IRS for free. You can set up direct deposit and get your return in 10 days.

Websites to help you out

How to Be a Productive Reader

Reading is an essential skill in college, but it’s one that most students detest. The average student spends 15 hours a week reading and studying for their classes. If you’re not a productive reader, that number is probably much higher. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your reading by following these tips.

How to Be a Productive Reader

1. Don’t tackle too much at once.

If you’re assigned a five chapter chunk for homework, work on one chapter at a time. This doesn’t make the challenge seem endless. Also, don’t procrastinate, I know it’s hard, but if you start early and have time for breaks (a few minutes to an hour to a day), then it’s much easier.

2. Read once for main points.

Skim through the reading, get all the main points, headers, bold words, everything that sticks out.

3. Take good notes.

Write down the big picture using an outline, a mind map, or other note-taking style that works for you.

4. Read once more for details.

Once you have your notes on the important ideas, go back through and see if there’s any details you missed. Dates, names, places; stuff that your professor might ask, but isn’t necessarily what you’d call “important.” This is more for history, political science, and psychology classes. When you’re getting into physics or the like, this isn’t as important.

5. Study your notes.

Now that you’ve got your great notes, don’t look at the book again. If you’ve gotten the important info out of it, you don’t need it anymore.

What are your top reading tips? How much time do you spend studying each week?

10 Money Saving Tips for College Students

College is expensive! Sometimes you have to hustle to make ends meet. These 10 tips will help you stay afloat until payday.

  1. Save up before you spend your money on new stuff. Avoid using credit cards.
  2. Join a credit union or find a bank that offers free student checking accounts.
  3. Prepare your FAFSA and apply for financial aid with your school
  4. Apply for scholarships.
  5. Don’t buy textbooks unless absolutely necessary, and if you do, be smart about it.
  6. Learn how to eat on a college student’s budget.
  7. Make a budget and track your spending with a service like Mint.
  8. Don’t get a credit card unless you can use it responsibly.
  9. Cut the cable cord and sign up for Netflix, or Hulu. If you already take advantage of Amazon Prime’s student discount, you may be able to access their library of free TV and movies. If you’re really on a budget, you can use sites like Popcorn Flix, Crackle, Tubi TV, and Snag Films.
  10. Use your school’s gym, computer lab, health clinic and other resources that your tuition pays for.

Guard Your Online Privacy

The internet, which used to bring a sense of anonymity, is now the easiest way to find out everything about you. We learned in March 2018 that Facebook has given away the private data of over 50 million users. Now that your information is out there and freely accessible to practically anyone, it may seem like there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself.

Fortunately, there are a still a few ways to improve your online privacy and keep your private data private.

Dos and Don’ts for Online Privacy

  • Don’t post personal information (phone number, address, school, job, etc.) on anything public
  • Don’t post pictures, bulletins, notes, etc. that show you doing something that is illegal or would otherwise get you kicked out of school/fraternity/clubs
  • Don’t become “friends” with someone you don’t know
  • Don’t post anything threatening someone. Besides being terrible, it can be used against you by future employers and the police
  • Don’t post inappropriate comments on public websites
  • Don’t provide your credit card information on unsecure websites
  • Do set your online profiles to private
  • Do delete any posts, pictures, or videos that you don’t want potential employers (or your grandma!) to see
  • Do protect your profiles, blogs, email, and cloud storage with strong passwords
  • Do avoid sharing private information when logged into public Wi-Fi
  • Do Ungoogle Yourself

Free Antivirus Software

If you want to go totally nuclear, you can delete yourself from the internet. This isn’t really your best option, as most employers look for some kind of online identity, and nearly all applications are done online.

Commonly confused words

The English language is very complicated and there are many sets of similar words that people have trouble with. Are you one of the many that confuse these words?

accept – to receive: “She would not accept my proposal.”
except – all but: “Everyone went except John.”

access – admittance, a way of approach: “No one had access to the room.”
excess – amount larger than needed: “He had an excess of paper.”

accent – particular way of speaking: “She had a New York accent.”
ascent – upward climb: “The mountain has a long ascent.”
assent – to agree: “The teacher assented to accepting a late assignment.”

advice – recommendation: “His advice was to study.”
advise – to make recommendations: “He advised me to study.”

affect (verb) – to influence: “Her actions will affect the rest of us.”
affect (noun) – an emotional response: “Even when his dog died, he showed little affect.”
effect – result: The effect of his good grades helped him get a scholarship.”

alter – to change: “She had to alter her plans.”
altar – platform in a church: “The priest stands at the altar.”

capital – 1) city/town that holds government seat: “Austin is the capital of Texas.”
2) supply of wealth: “You need capital to start a business.”
capitol – 1) U.S. Congress building in Washington D.C.: “You can tour the capitol.”
2) a building where a legislature meets: “You can go to Austin to see the capitol.”

conscience – sense of right or wrong: “Some people seem to have no conscience.”
conscious – aware of: “He made a conscious decision to help us.”

eminent – well known: “He is eminent in the field of psychology.”
imminent – about to happen: “The storm was imminent.”

stationary – unable to move: “I rode the stationary bike.”
stationery – paper for letter writing: “I bought new stationery.”

8 Ways to Improve Your Memory

College students have about a million things going on at any given time. When you’re that busy, it’s easy to forget things. Unfortunately, what’s forgotten is usually important and course-related. If you’re looking to improve your memory and your academic success, keep on reading.

8 Ways to Improve Your Memory

1. Be flexible.

Experiment with what helps you remember, whether it’s a mnemonic device or color coding your notes. Studies show that chewing gum, listening to classical music, or burning candles all have a positive impact on memory. Find what works for you.

2. Overlearn.

Practice and reorganize what you intend to remember in as many ways as possible. Use it while speaking and writing, even act it out. The more time you spend, the more it’s ingrained.

3. Imitate.

Schedule study time to reflect the time of day when you’ll be using the material.

  •       Make study time the same as test time.
  •       Create a similar environment.
  •       Study without music if the room will be quiet.
  •       Study at a desk instead of on your bed.

4. Rephrase and explain.

Try role-playing. Take the view of the teacher and explain the material to someone else, your dog, or a stuffed animal. Teaching the material requires a higher level of comprehension and an ability to highlight the most important facts.

5. Eliminate accidental and unrelated associations.

A study situation where a phone rings constantly produces breaks in the association process. If you’re singing along to Eric Clapton throughout your study session, you will relate the material to Eric Clapton. This is only helpful if your topic is indeed Eric Clapton.

6. Eliminate previous mistakes.

Take note of any previous mistakes you’ve made while studying and make a conscious effort to avoid them.

7. Decide on order of importance.

Some things are more important than others. Decide on the big picture and organize everything else around that.

8. Become emotionally involved.

This doesn’t always work with schoolwork, especially if you don’t care about a particular subject. But notice how you remember things you care about. If you can somehow relate the topic to something you care about, you’ll remember it better.

Bonus Tip:

Put your phone away! There is a strong correlation between cell phones and lower test scores. Splitting your attention between your material and your phone is going to lower your recollection and increase your study time.

How to create a successful outline

Few people know how to create a successful outline, and that amazes me.

The first step is to understand the material you’re reading. If you’re simply taking chunks of the chapter, you’re not going to get anywhere. There are two different outlines: research outlines and chapter outlines. I’ll cover both here.

Research outline

Every good research paper should start with a great outline. A great outline serves as the skeleton for your entire paper.

Once you’ve figured out your topic and the general direction of your paper, creating an outline is straightforward. You must thoroughly understand your thesis before completing the outline. If you’re confused or stuck on a thesis, don’t worry about it until the end. Start with the information.

Once you’ve gathered your research, you generally know the idea of what you want to talk about first. If you’re completely lost, choose the idea that would be a great opener – something that’s controversial, interesting or your audience would agree with. To choose what’s next in line, ask yourself, “After idea A, what is an easy transition?” If you’re going from dogs to VCRs, there’s probably not going to be an easy connection. Transitions between different sections can be made very simple if you choose topics that seem to flow well together. Also remember that nothing is set in stone. If later you realize you should have put topic B where topic F is, change it.

Because this article is so long, I’m going to cut it off here and allow you to view the rest of entry if you choose to do so. (more…)

Don’t you dare…in a formal paper

Here’s a list my favorite teacher gave me back in high school. It’s compiled of things that should never be in a formal composition.

Don’t you dare…

  • Use a contraction (don’t, couldn’t, etc.)
  • Use “things” or “stuff”…be specific
  • Use “nice” or “some” – too vague, over used
  • Use “a lot” or worse – “alot”
  • Use “bunch”
  • Use slang
  • Use “this, that, those, these” as pronouns, only use them as adjective before a noun or pronoun
  • Put a comma before “because”
  • Use “different than” – correct usage is “different from”
  • Use “irregardless”- it’s a not real word, use regardless
  • Use “off of”
  • Use “plus” instead of “and”
  • Write in passive voice when your sentence works in active voice.
  • End a sentence with a preposition (to in, at, etc.)

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