Friday, October 19, 2012

5-Minute Plan

Now that midterms and assignment deadlines are in full swing, it's definitely hard not to fall behind your readings and school work. Procrastination is a tough habit to break and students are among the most vulnerable groups. The reason for this is that the rewards for students are further along the future and that there are no supervisors overlooking your progression and productivity. Let's face it, everyone procrastinates. Procrastination can reflect poor work and bad grade. It can also take a toll on the students' mental health and well being. Also, high level of stress from procrastination can definitely prevent you from finishing that to-do list you intend on doing successfully. So, how to break out of this habit? That may be the ultimate question.. well, at least in regards to this blog post.

Personally, I find the hardest thing to do when tackling heavy loaded and time-consuming school work is starting. Being able to start a task even with weeks of planning can be really tough, especially when you're not in the right mindset. The best step for this is commiting to work on the task for atleast 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, you can do something else if you want to but make sure you make yourself come back and do the task for another 5 minutes. No matter how unpleasant the task is or whatever excuse you have for not doing it, you can talk yourself into doing something for 5 minutes. Then, eventually you would progress. After working on this for the first 5 minutes, the next couple of minutes will be so much easier! Getting some work done gives you that exhilarating feeling of completion and may be that kick you need to get you started. 

Sitting down, cleaning your desk, organizing your notes and books can actually help you put yourself in the right mindset to start on your task. I also find that thinking about the disadvantages of putting the task on hold can be that booster you need to start. You may not want to do the task because it may be boring, hard, or the fear of failure. However, if you procrastinated before, you would have realised that there is more pain in procrastinating than in not doing your tasks (i.e. bad grade for a paper or a midterm). So, make yourself do the task and stick to a schedule.

Remember to not overwhelm yourself. Thinking about all the things you need to do may be the reason for you procrastinating in the first place. So take one step at a time. Focus on one task for now or break it down into smaller tasks. After completion of one, move on to the next. You'll be done that exhaustive to-do list in no time!

Rewarding for completing a task can definitely help! It gives me that flow I need of moving forward. I would give myself a little treat like chocolate (I love pastries!) or even dinner with friends after completing one task. Positive reinforcement is a great way to reinforce a good study habit.. and eventually, procrastination will be a thing in the past! 

All the information from this blog post can be found on this tipsheet. So good luck and now give yourself that much needed 5 minutes to start working on your first task! :) 

Until next time,

Monday, October 15, 2012

We're Getting Personal!

Getting a Little Personal

Hello UTSC!

Continuing from my last post, those of you thinking about grad school should start sharpening up your writing skills. Most applications will ask you for a personal statement, or letter of intent. This is your chance to eloquently prove to the administration that you deserve acceptance into their program.

“Oh hey…a personal what-now?? There’s more??”

Ohhh yeah there is! Your personal statement is an opportunity for you to go beyond the generic application form and stand out from the other candidates. It could be the deciding factor on whether you’re chosen above someone else.

“Wait, so...what do I dooooo????????

There’s a few simple steps!

1. Research your program of interest:
Know what the school is looking for. You cannot use 1 application for all of your schools. They must be unique! Research the institution and department to understand their vision, goals, and what they look for in their students. For thesis programs, include information about professors you may want to research with.

2. Know your strengths:
Talk about your strengths and how they fit in with the program. To begin, take a look at your resume, ask friends and family, and even discuss it with a professor or TA.

3. Brainstorm:
Reflect on what your life experiences. Don’t start editing your thoughts; just write down everything that comes to you. Some questions to consider include:
-       What made you want to continue your studies?
-       What plan do you have once you’re done with your studies?
-       What unique experiences can you bring to this area of study?
-       Why does this program appeal to you?

4. Write your first draft:
Write your first draft, and be real – don’t try to fill your statement with fluffy words you think the selection committee wants to hear. Be confident, focus on specific experiences, and take a break after you write your first draft.

5. Edit:
After a break, re-read your statement and think about these questions:
-       Did you answer the application questions?
-       Does it reflect you?
-       Is it a cliché?
-       Have you chosen the right experiences to highlight?

If you still feel lost, bring your personal statement draft to the AA&CC and schedule an appointment for a personal statement review. Come by early! Appointments are going fast.

Best wishes with your grad school dreams!


Friday, October 5, 2012

Midterm Madness

Happy October folks! I hope everyone had a good and productive week. Thanksgiving is just around the corner.. that means midterms (and/or assignment deadlines) are fast approaching. I hope everyone is settled into their classes and on top of their readings and homeworks. However, if you are not and still on that summer vacation boat.. don't sweat it. You have a week or so to prepare, as well as a long weekend to catch up on your readings.

We are halfway through the semester, but this also means that midterm madness is about to be on full effect. Like others, I'm not the biggest fan of this time of the year, because unlike finals, everyone still has classes and assignments on top of all that studying. If you are having a difficult time surviving.. no worries, here are few tips that can help you survive and hopefully pass your midterms and assignments with flying colours:

Prepare yourself. I know having 7-8 hours of sleep is almost nearly impossible to achieve when you're a university student but make sure to get that couple of hours of sleep before tackling a long to-do-list. Caffeine may not be the best over-all and only strategy to keep yourself going for the day (or even for the night). Staying hydrated, taking 10-15 naps in between your classes are only some of the ways you can fight off that sluggish feeling.You can check this article out from webmd.

Have a little nest for studying. I am one of the many students who can't study at home. There are just too many distractions! (i.e. my bed, tv, and even my puppy). If you are like me, then the library and study rooms in school are the best place for you to study for those dreaded midterms. Give yourself a couple of hours before and/or after your classes, to stay in school to finish a chapter or two. Turning off your phone and your computer can help as well. Also, either study alone or have a group study.. but whichever works best for you in absorbing all the materials, the better.

Keep a to-do-list nearby. Having a to-do-list is definitely a helpful reminder during midterms. While constantly having questions like "Is this due today? Or next week? What else I need to do?" keep circulating in my head as I try to finish reading a chapter, so, having a to-do-list in front of me helps me concentrate and fight off that anxiety. The feeling of checking off tasks in your to-do-list may also be the booster you need to get through that list. Plus, it feels amazing to see a complete to-do-list during this stressful time!

Note-taking. Note-taking can be time consuming, especially during these stressful times. Highlighting and writing small notes on the book or journal articles can be an alternative to note-taking. Or if you don't want to write on your books, I find what really helpful is taking small notes on post-its and sticking them to the pages on the book. Writing short summary on post-its or index cards can help you memorize important terms and definitions.

Break. Yes, it may not be part of your to-do-list but this may be one of the important ones. Having a 10 to 15 minute-break during an hour or two intervals keeps you going. It helps you refresh your mind and makes you concentrate better.

Study skills counsellors are here to help. You can book an appointment to help you improve your study habits and grades. You can do so, through your intranet, found under the calendar (on the left tab).

Good luck!!