Today is my first day of my fourth year of university. One of my favourite parts about getting ready to head back to school is shopping for supplies. I don’t know why, but I am weirdly at peace in stationary and office supplies stores. I think it has something to do with how all the products are nicely stacked on shelves according to size and colour, appealing to my need to have everything just so.
Something that I learned about myself while shopping for school supplies is just how picky I can be. For instance, if someone hands me a pen, I write with it, regardless of the brand, ink colour, ink type, or grip configuration, but when it comes to picking out pens for my exclusive personal use, I know exactly what I want and cast aside all other pens as inferior writing utensils.
While perusing my school supplies drawer, I noticed that some of my favourites were dwindling, so I hit up a Walmart to replenish my stock, and I wanted to share the supplies that I love using.
My writing utensil of choice is a Dixon HB pencil. Yes, it must be a Dixon brand pencil. They are easy to distinguish from other pencils because the eraser islight pink, as opposed to white or dark pink both of which smudge the pencil when erasing. I do use mechanical pencils on occasion though, particularly during a multiple-choice exam where the professor uses those Scantron sheets that necessitate a completely filled-in bubble to recognize the correct answer. Each have their own pros and cons: regular pencils require sharpening and the shavings can be messy; mechanical pencils need to be refilled with graphite of a certain size. Personally, I like to stick to regular pencils as much as possible.
Last year I strayed from my classic pen choice (Pentel R.S.V.P. medium line) and gave erasable pens a try Well I fell in love. The only trouble is that they run out of ink so quickly, so I picked up the ones that come with a refill. They write really smoothly and evenly, and have that gel pen quality to the lines. However, the ink does not always dry instantly and, for a left-hander like me, this means that I may end up smearing the ink with the side of my hand. The savings on white out tape though neutralize that con, and the smears can easily be erased away.
Each year I treat myself to one splurge purchase and this year it was the Bic Marking Permanent Ultra Fine 8 pack. I love using permanent markers for labelling and all through concept maps, and these colours are just so lovely and diverse. I hope they don’t bleed through to the other side of paper too much but I am really looking forward to using these. I didn’t notice until I got home but my package contains two green pens, so I wonder if it is just a coincidence or if all packages come with two greens.
Also, I picked up a ton of highlighters because I go through them like nobody’s business. I have a strict system: yellow for words that are defined, pink for headings, blue for information, green for names, orange for processes, and purple for stats. The purple rarely gets used but the blue is always out halfway through teterm so I am planning ahead. These are also great for sectioning parts of concept maps into related topics.
All the school supply goodies:
Pilot FriXion Point 0.5mm Extra-Fine needle point Erasable Gel Ink Pens in blue and black
Bic Brite Liner Grip highlighters
Post-it Notes in Rio de Janeiro colours (3 in x 3in) and Miami colours
Post-it Notes Cube (1 7/8 in x 1 7/8 in) in pink, blue, and sea foam green
Earlier this month, I received an email from the university about my registration date for courses: June 17th at 9:30am. I already have my alarm and backup alarm set to ensure I am up in plenty of time with my schedule in hand so I can register for the courses I want to take as soon as possible before they fill up. I know I can always change them but I have a huge fear of not getting into classes.
While I have now mapped out three (soon to be four) years of courses, I wanted to write this post for anyone new to university or looking to maximize their course schedule. So, without further ado, here are my 5 tips for creating a course schedule:
1. Make a list of all the required courses and block them in first.
I am guilty of this, but sometimes I schedule in electives that I really want to take before I block in required courses I have to take for my degree. However, some required courses may only be offered at certain times or in certain terms and should be planned around before electives that could be taken anytime.
2. Leave yourself some time in between.
Typically, classes are scheduled so that there is 10 minutes to travel between them, but it is so not ideal if you have to sprint across campus to get to your next class. To avoid this, I like to note the building the class is located in so that I can plan classes close by immediately following. Personally, I like having blocks of time in between classes for readings, homework, and relaxation, but for other people it is best to have all their courses back-to-back so they can head home immediately after.
3. Work around your schedule, not your friends’.
I love being in classes with my friends as much as anybody, but at the same time, my schedule comes first. If I can be in a class with a friend that works for me, then that’s great, but I don’t want to rearrange my entire schedule so we can be in the same class.
4. Think about transit.
If you take the bus or other modes of transport to school, consider how long it will take you to get to school and what a realistic start time is. For instance, I try to avoid 8:30am classes because it is no fun waking up at 5am to get an early bus to campus.
5. Consider the workload.
Many course outlines from previous terms can be easily found through a quick Google search. This is especially helpful if a course is offered by multiple professors. Rate My Professors is a great way to research which professor might be best for you, and a previous course outline from their class will indicate how they like to allocate marks. I am someone who likes having my grade come from multiple sources: assignments, online quizzes, in-class participation, and exams. For others though, three exams and a final is just fine. But a mix of both types of courses makes for a manageable workload.
What are some of your tips for mapping out a course schedule???
Three weeks ago today, I wrote my last final exam of my third year of university. Since then, I was in Banff with my mother (you can read my travel diary of the trip here) and was waiting for my final grades to be up on the university website. I checked today, and they are all in, so I figured I would review the past year of university here on the blog.
For starters, I loved the courses I took this year. I was in 5 courses each term: psycholinguistics, research methods in psychology, biopsychology, an introductory philosophy course, and an elementary computer science course in the fall; an introductory sociology course, cognitive psychology, history of psychology, psychological disorders in adulthood, and a first language acquisition course in the spring. My professors were all wonderful and made me even more passionate about psychology and linguistics, if that were possible.
This year I stumbled upon a saving grace: scheduling blocks of time between classes. This year, I had gaps between course times from as short as 50 minutes to as long as 4.5 hours. Initially this was not intentional, but just how my courses lined up in the fall term. Having blocks of prime time for my brain to do readings, work on assignments, and draft papers made my terms so much easier. It made managing my time a less daunting task, and meant I could schedule social outings after classes because I had already studied earlier in the day. I am working on booking similar free blocks between my classes for next year, and I find myself hoping my courses allow for these time gaps. Ironic, isn’t it???
I also lost a very close friend this year. We had been drifting apart for awhile, but finally we stopped talking and seeing each other. This hurt because he meant a lot to me, but it was a toxic friendship. “We accept the love we think we deserve,” wrote Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it took me a long time to realize it, but I deserve better.
I did make several new friends this year though, and strengthened friendships with people in my programme. This has made planning classes for next year so much more fun because I can coordinate them with my friends and be in the same classes with them. This also means that group projects will be far less daunting since most professors let you pick your group members.
I also began thinking about grad school. I really want to go to law school, but I am also really interested in speech language pathology and audiology. I am getting excited about planning my “future,” but it is also kind of daunting. Thinking ahead to courses for the coming year is one thing, but considering what I want to do for a career is something else entirely. Part of me just wants to keep going to school and learning different things for years to come, essentially being a professional student, but the idea of having a job I love that allows me to help people is important to me.
Mind you, after watching a bunch of crime shows on TV like NCIS, Chicago PD, and Law and Order: SVU, graduate studies in Forensic Psychology are looking more and more appealing.
Finally, this year I purchased a ton of books that I wanted to read this summer. I am currently about 300 pages into The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, which I found tucked away in a little used bookstore, and I am loving it thus far. Her writing style is very unique, but I find the character details and development to be very intriguing.
Of course blogging has been on my mind a lot recently, and I have a long list of posts I want to write and publish this summer, so I will be getting started on those soon.
Yesterday was the first official day of my week-long hiatus from university, otherwise known as Reading Break, which is akin to the secondary school Spring Break. I do so love Reading Break because it offers an oh-so-delightful reprieve from the university schedule and, despite what the name implies, I do not know many people who actually read during this time. However, it is a great time to do a few little things to keep you on track at school and not end up freaking out in the last weeks. Some of you may remember my post on the 5 things I do at the start of each school term, so I wanted to follow up with a post on the 5 things I do over Reading Break.
1. Organize my notes
While some of you may still have midterms looming in the first week back to school, I was fortunate enough this term to get all mine over with before Reading Break. While this was nice in a way because now I can enjoy my week off, it also means that my notes are in a right state of disarray. I use Reading Break as a chance to sit down, sort out my notes into piles for each class, and then file them away for when I need to study them for final exams. I also like to read through them all for a quick review and to flesh out any ideas or fill in any sentences that start out like this “Two main problems with categorical perception as evidence for human specialization for language are . . . ” but have no ending. That little fact might just turn up on a test.
2. Get a head start on assignments and projects
I know no one likes to think about doing more schoolwork on their time off, but it is really advantageous to even map out an outline for an essay, a draft for a research paper, or a rough idea of an in-class presentation. This week, I have been madly at work on a journal article summary that I have to present to my class in two weeks, mini assignments for my class on psychological disorders in adulthood, and a corpus analysis project that isn’t due until the last day of classes but I never know what my wireless internet will be like. For all I know, it’ll go on strike when I need it most and I’ll have to resort to typing out my summary on my old Underwood typewriter. Not knocking typewriters, but the backspace button on a keyboard is much more convenient if I make a mistake.
3. Tidy my study space
This one is similar to 1. in that my desk is a right mess once reading break comes along. There are sticky notes everywhere, snacks stashed on every shelf, and pen caps that have mysteriously vanished. Before I get back into the groove of sleep, eat, study, repeat I want to make sure my desk and bedroom are restored to a state of organization I can live with.
4. Sit down with a good book
With all of the assigned textbook readings for classes, what little spare time I have left is not often spent reading some more, even for pleasure. Thus, I have been at the same spot in Margaret Atwood’s book The Heart Goes Last, and I am dying to know how it ends (no spoilers!!!). Well, now I can actually sit down and finish it without it hurting my head and competing with all my school stuff for space in my brain.
5. Plan out some blog posts
I have been making a list of things I want to post about throughout this week, and have drafted a few of them to get my inspiration flowing. By the time school is back in session, there may be an inspiration drought, and I do not want my posts to come to a halt because all I have on my mind is which inflectional affixes children acquire first when learning language or the difference between exogenous and endogenous orienting to space.
I had my first day of the Spring 2016 university term on Monday, and I am already excited for the next 13 weeks of classes. I know that sounds weird, but when you’re a Psychology and Linguistics nerd, small things fascinate you and you can spend days analyzing an utterance like “I can’t even” without getting bored.
The first three weeks of university are usually pretty slow, with professors starting to delve into new material, course loads being shuffled, and no midterm in sight. It’s really tempting to pilfer away this time, which is exactly what I did in my first year, and I instantly regretted it when the first wave of midterms hit me. So, while this is a time to blog more, read more, and cherish the last weeks of social life, here is my list of five things I do at the start of each term to prepare:
1. Create a Master Syllabus
What is this, exactly??? Well, it is a page-long list, organized by month, of all of the important course dates for all classes over the course of the term. It provides an easy way to quickly glance at deadlines, cross off completed items (so satisfying), and identify gaps of days that can be used to catch up, or get ahead in, classwork. I also find it really helpful to put the weight of each assignment and test in brackets so I can keep track of grades.
2. Organize my planner
This one is huge for me because I find it both cathartic and necessary to map out my study time to ensure I’m using it well. Using a day planner, I keep track of everything I have to do, with separate columns for appointments, assignments, and the sliver of life leftover. This way I never forget to do something or be somewhere and, once again, I get the euphoric rush that comes with crossing something off my list (or, in some cases, scratching the name of the item in Sharpie repeatedly out of spite).
3. Buy my textbooks
I know a lot of people who purchase their textbooks over the Christmas holidays, and even a few people who purchase their textbooks in September for the winter and spring terms all at once. Me, I like to wait until the first week because I tend to change up my schedule a lot. In the event that I decide to drop a course it will be because of one of three reasons:
a) It was meant to be an elective and doesn’t look nearly as interesting as I thought it would be.
b) It is taught by a professor whose teaching style I know won’t work for me, or
c) After getting all the course outlines and creating my Master Syllabus, the workload looks like it will be too much, so I swap out a course for another, less demanding one.
Regardless of which of these reasons motivates me to change my schedule, I don’t want to deal with any of the issues that can arise when trying to return a textbook to the school bookstore. If you are reading this and you are in high school, and therefore don’t have to worry about this, I envy you.
4. Get my desk set up
Turn your desk into the ultimate study space, stocked with pens, pencils, index cards, sticky notes, and a few snacks hidden here and there. Make sure you have a water bottle close by, because staying hydrated is key for a productive study session. Also, since you will be spending a lot of time at that desk, make sure it is at the right height for you, and that you have a comfortable chair. There are few things that irritate me as much as the discomfort characteristic of studying in a hunched over position for too long, or realizing too late that I was sitting at a weird angle and now my back is sore.
5. Decide how I plan to take notes in each class
To me, there are two main course styles: fact-based and idea-based. You may define these differently, but to me fact-based courses are those that involve memorization, like anatomy or history, while idea-based courses are those that involve understanding and applying concepts, like math or philosophy.
For fact-based courses, I really like using a coil-bound notebook so that all of my notes stay in one place and no stray piece of paper detailing key final exam information floats away on me. Index cards work really well for these courses, too, because you can use them to study word definitions, or to test your knowledge by summarizing a concept in its limited space.
For idea-based courses, I will either use coil-bound notebooks or loose paper on a clipboard depending on the speed at which the professor goes through the material. I don’t like leaving blank spaces in my notes that I have to fill in after class because the prof blew through an entire concept in one lecture, so for more fast-paced courses, loose leaf paper is the way to go. Highlighters and sticky notes are great for these types of courses because you can have little aside memos about things mentioned in class, or flag areas you want to study more.
I have written these five things from a university student perspective, but they also work really well for anyone in middle school or high school. A lot depends on your learning style though, so I’m curious: what do you do in your first week back at school to prepare for the term ahead???
For many people the start of school is near, or has already happened. The beginning of a new school year is often a time of excitement to see friends and break out new school clothes, but it can also be a time of stress. As of tomorrow, I will be in my third year of university, so I feel like I have done enough first days of school, both high school and university, to provide a few helpful tips. So with that, I figured I would do a post on what is in my school backpack. Give it a read if you are wondering what to pack for your first day of high school or university, or if you just want to have a good snoop.
The backpack: The backpack that I take to university with me is the Herschel classic backpack mid-volume in electric lilac. I do not think this colour is still available, but it comes in a plethora of colours and other styles, which you can browse here. What I really like about this backpack is the simple design. I don’t want a backpack with too many pockets that things could get lost in, but the front pouch gives me somewhere to put things where they will be easily accessible.
iPad Air 2: For those of you who are tech savvy or looking for an alternative to taking notes on paper, an iPad is a great tool to have. It takes over the role of a laptop, and is super light, making it a great way to keep a backpack from being too heavy to carry.
Day planner: I know some people are not fans of paper schedules and would rather use the calendar on their iPhone, but for me, having a hard copy of what I need to do is super useful. In my day planner, I write down all the readings, assignments, and tests that are upcoming, and when I am going to do them. I also colour-code things using different highlighters so I can see at a glance what types of work are upcoming. A day planner is also great to have to note doctors appointments, office hours of professors, or meetings with teachers. Even after school commitments like extra-curriculars or volunteer work can be noted so that nothing gets forgotten . Just find a system that works for you to keep everything on track and avoid the stress of last-minute panicking over a forgotten test or assignment.
Notebook: Note-taking is inevitable when it comes to school, but it is important to find a system that works for you. Maybe that means one notebook for each class, or a three-subject notebook for different days, or a binder full of loose sheets of paper. All through high school, I used the one notebook per class system, and it worked fairly well. The one problem with that though is if you start missing classes (and I say missing, not skipping). It can be hard to judge how many pages to leave blank for the missed notes, and leaving too many or not enough can be irksome. In university, I have a clipboard that I write notes on, and all my notes stay clipped to it. Then I paperclip them together at the end of each section and tuck them in the clipboard’s side pocket so I know where they are come exam time. That way, if I miss a day, it is easy to insert the missed notes. It is also easier to lend them to a classmate because I don’t need to give them my entire notebook.
*Note: For university classes, make sure to get to know at least one person in each of your classes. Many professors do not post notes made in class on any online templates, and may not post any notes online at all, so you need to find someone whose notes you can borrow if you miss a class*
Water bottle: It is really important to stay hydrated throughout the day, so toting a water bottle around will make sure you have quick and easy access to water. Drinking water will help keep you feeling alert during your classes if you’re feeling a little snoozy.
Snack: While high school classes do not allow snacks to be brought to class, university classes almost necessitate it. You create your own class schedule, and unless you are fortunate to have a 12-1 lunch block (which is very hard to get) you will most likely get hungry during your classes and not have a proper lunch block. I recommend packing something both easy and healthy. Apples and bananas are great, because they don’t need to be refrigerated. Sandwiches, or wraps are also good options. Smoothies are a quick way to get a bunch of nutrients on-the-go. Microwaveable foods like leftovers or heatable meals can be brought as well, but make sure there is a microwave close by, and that the smell of your food won’t waft through an entire lecture hall.
Umbrella: This is only a must-have if, like me, you live in a place where it rains all the time, and is not necessarily easy to predict. It is always best to be prepared for a deluge, and a little collapsible umbrella is an easy way to go.
Pencil case: This one may seem obvious, but there are many things you might need, and it’s good to have a checklist of things to include. Plus it’s an opportunity to show off some personal style with a classy black pencil case, or a home-made one, or, in my case, a cosmetic bag-turned-pencil-case. I used a cosmetic bag one year because I’d lost my pencil case the year before, and I’ve done it ever since. They are really easy to clean, and have plenty of space. Plus most of us have one lying around from that free gift with purchase we got that time.
Pencil case contents:
Pencils (remember to pack extra graphite if using mechanical pencils)
Pens (check that they have enough ink-most exams require blue or black ink)
Eraser (we all make mistakes sometimes)
White out tape or liquid white out (sometimes we make mistakes in pen, too)
Highlighters (good for noting important things to study in notes)
Sharpie ultra fine point permanent marker (useful for labelling things)
Ruler (many classes will require the drawing of diagrams on tests or in labs, and they will necessitate the use of a ruler for straight lines)
Calculator (there’s always a math class lurking in the schedule)
Sticky notes (not essential but I love making notes and putting them directly on textbook pages so I can read the text and my notes at the same time without going between textbook and notebook)
Lip balm: Particularly in autumn and winter as the air gets dry, a lip balm is good to have tucked away to avoid dry or cracked lips. I really like using Fresh’s sugar lip balm because it is super hydrating, it smells delicious, and it comes clear or in a variety of tints if you want to hydrate your lips and have a bit of lip colour too.
Hand cream: Once again, very good to have as the air gets dry, because your skin will dry out too. Your hands will be exposed and be busy writing and carrying books and holding up umbrellas, and they will need some TLC during the colder months.
Hand sanitizer: This is a really big one, because the start of school also marks the start of cold and flu season. With hundreds or even thousands of students back together, germs abound and it is important to always have clean hands before eating, after sneezing or coughing, or after touching something in the public domain that may have been touched by a sick person, like a door handle. It is always best to wash your hands regularly, but hand sanitizer is a quick, on-the-go way to help reduce the spread of germs and keep you from getting sick.
Tissues: If all the hand washing and hand sanitizing doesn’t do the trick and you get a cold or the flu, you will be grateful you have a few tissues tucked in the bottom of your backpack. Some cough lozenges also wouldn’t hurt.
Laptop/iPad/cell phone charger: This is one thing I usually forget to pack, and immediately regret when I turn on my laptop or iPad and find I only have 20% battery left. The phone charger is important, but less so than a charger for your laptop or iPad. You don’t want your device dying in the middle of you typing up an important essay or doing an online homework assignment.
*Note: To be safe, always plug in your laptop or iPad before starting to draft or edit an essay, or start an online homework assignment. This will help you avoid any panic if your device runs out of battery partway through, and will ensure no progress is lost*
USB memory stick: This one is HUGE, regardless of what level of schooling you are in. I know so many people who have lost entire essays because their computer crashed and they didn’t back up their files. Always keep a USB memory stick with the drafts of any major essays, papers, or projects on it. If you don’t have one, I strongly recommend you get one, and I would say don’t start your first day of university without one. It’s good to get in the habit of backing things up early so that you won’t lose any hard work.
*Note: I cannot emphasize this enough: BACK UP YOUR FILES!!!*
Student card: I am not sure how relevant this one is for high school students, since I only ever needed mine to prove what grade I was in when attending a school dance but in university, it is imperative that you have your student card with your student number on it when you when you go to write exams. They may not let you in the exam room or let you hand in your exam without this card, so it is best to always keep it on your person. Also, many student cards are a bus pass, and a reloadable food card to purchase food with if living on campus.
Change purse: You never know when you might need some bus money or a few dollars to buy a snack, so having some change on you is always a smart idea. Of course, you can tuck a few bills in there too since you won’t want to carry around a ton of change and be jingling across campus.
And that’s everything that’s in my school backpack!!! I hope this has been helpful for some of you starting up school again, either your first year or your last. Let me know in the comments below what your must-haves are for your school bag or backpack!!!
Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you have a lovely day 😃😃