Wednesday, September 28, 2011

How I Keep My Sanity in School Pt. 1

School, school, school. It is a crazy time when I just go about crazy (have I used this adjective enough?). I am running from here to there, to this meeting to that. And then some how fitting homework and a very slim social life in between all of that school and work sandwich. Though, I am working on my career later in life so I guess work does come before fun.

I think that the biggest challenges that come with the daunting task of college is the tests. In college it is different from the fluffy "busy work" that was generated constantly in high school. College classes can sometimes only consist of three grades or less. For anyone that is not the hottest test taker in the world this constitutes a yelp of fright. These grades follow you for the rest of your life and that is kind of scary when you think about it.

Okay so I might not be ace test taker but I have gotten better, and I have a few tips that have made me a much better one that I didn't grasp in high school. Because high school you can skim over stuff and be good about 95% of the time.

Ashley's Test Survival Tips:
  1. Ask questions! First day of class before I even enter the room I try and get my hands on the syllabus, I read through it and then when I walk into class I ask questions and clarify as much as possible. Big things to know before you take the test, What are the test dates? Is the final comprehensive? How do the tests graded? The format of a test? What would the professor recommend studying? How much time needs to be put towards studying? Are study guides provided? All of those questions are going to give you the information you need to succeed in the class, you might not get them in before the end of that first class, but ask them long before the daunting day comes upon you! Then that way you will be much better prepared and know what to expect that day of the test!
  2. Do the study guide, early. The study guide if the professor provides one is one of the most powerful tools for a test. The earlier you get it and the earlier you actually DO IT, the better your chances for understanding all the information on the test. If you just do it quickly the night before, this is not going to help but hinder you. Now math might be the one exception to the rule, because you could be told to study one thing and then the test format look completely different, so that just more or less depends on if your math professor is being extra nice. With English the rubric can be your study guide, know that rubric inside and out when you write your papers and see if you can see yourself fitting into the guidelines the professor would like to have. A person can easily loose a point for not following the instructions correctly.
  3. Office hours are your friend. Whenever I am working on something and I run across a concept or subject that completely baffles me I need to get some clarification from the horse's mouth. Professors have scheduled office hours to benefit you, not so they can play solitaire for an hour. Use these hours people! I have been able to do better on tests because I actually understand what I am studying or making sure I am doing something correctly and your teachers are people too and like to socialize and talk about all different kinds of subjects.
  4. Homework exists for a reason. Professors and I have something in common, we both hate it when someone asks out loud, "Why do we have to do this homework if we are not going to turn it in?" Well homework puts to understanding of what you know into some type of assignment, if you don't do your homework you are not preparing yourself for class and ultimately asking to fail on the tests.
  5. Re-reading is a refresher. Depending on if you highlight, take notes, or just read the book going over what you have done once is going to ensure more information is retained. Ideally you want to be actively reading so not just highlighting information down but writing down important concepts and any questions you might have. Reading over what you have or just the chapter can be helpful if you do it the night before a test, this can be one of your final study moments making sure you keep all the information you need in you head.
  6. Learn how you learn. By understanding yourself and what kind of learner you are really helps your success on a test. I tend to lean more towards visual learning than audio learning. So seeing something helps me remember things much better than just hearing it once or twice, I have to see it for it to stick in my brain. Everyone is different, and even different classes can be different. Some of my classes I have a study partner that tests me on certain subjects, flashcards sometimes work better in others. It depends on the structure of the test and what the subject matter is. By learning about yourself only benefits your grades.
  7. It's okay to be nerdy. I would rather be the nerd that got the A on the test and a scholarship to the four year school of my choice than the person that flunked out of community college because I didn't want to put a little work in my education. Believe me working hard now is going to pay off a million times more a few years to even months down the road. I know it is hard for some people but by participating in class and letting your ideas be known, you can really go far in life. I also tend to sit in the first rows but mainly to ensure I stay awake and do not past out when I spent a late night studying.
  8. Have a study schedule. Studying just five minutes before an exam is never going to give you a passing grade. Setting a schedule and laying out all the things that need to be known for a test and done is going to give you time to get ready for a test. Simply reviewing over notes the night before will do wonders before you go to sleep. Knowing also that if you study better at certain times during the day is helpful. I tend to study and retain more information during the morning. Sometimes I will wake up several hours before school like 5 am to study for a test because I can never stay up late and study for something and remember. Everyone is different, but having a late night cram session or staying up all night to write a paper is only going to reflect that in your workmanship. Just like learning to play an instrument you have to give fine tests skills time and the more you study over a longer amount of time, the less you are remembering and the more you are knowing.
  9. Color code! I am a stickler for colors, I love them and have an entire bag full of highlighters and different colored pens for my notes. But this is a helpful thing for remembering things. I dedicate certain colors for certain things I want to remember and when I look over my study guide, books, or notes I can recall the exactly what we were talking about in class. These color coders can help refresh my memory if the test is a few months or weeks later than we I first looked over something.
  10. Don't forget the cherry on top. Remember eat, sleep, and rest before a test. Take a few deep breathes and don't panic. I feel like I am writing something out of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. All these little things will help with the day of the test. After the test and you get out early, treat yourself. All that hard work paid off. And when you get that test back with a big shiny A on it, go play a round of laser tag or hang out with your friends. You totally deserve it and then next week you will begin it all over again!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Nerds Unite

I like to learn things. I think this is a good thing I am going to the community college. I can learn things there. Though my guilty pleasure is learning nerdy things. And Rocketboom does this.

It is a three minute video that talks about daily happenings either on the internet or in the world that gives some interesting facts and perspectives. Like the last few videos were about how the universe might end in another 10 billion years and easter eggs hidden in pirated videos games to stop piracy.

I subscribe to Rocketboom on my video podcasts which I all love dearly. I can just download something and watch it later without having to visit a website. Rocketboom's iTunes Podcast link and website link if you like nerdy things.

Now in iTunes on video podcasts there is not also artwork to accompany the newer episodes. So I also enjoy making podcast covers in Adobe CS4. After about an hour I ended up coming with a cover I really enjoyed.

Click image to enlarge. Textures courtesy of vikyvampirs90 @ deviantart.
Fonts courtesy of
So anyone else ever heard of Rocketboom? Is my podcast cover worthy of it's awesomeness? Discuss.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tax Free Nightmare

I work at Best Buy. This means I work in retail. This means that anyone that could tell you about retail around certain times of year there is great deals to be had. Usually back to school and Black Friday are among some of the biggest shopping days of the year. So for anyone that works in retail would read the previous sentence as days you have to work under any condition for long hours.

Now don't get me wrong, I like Black Friday. I never even left the house until I began working at Best Buy a little over two years ago. It is not really fun getting up at 4:30 AM when you can't shop and get any of the deals. But the people are really understanding, generally; and we have it pretty controlled at the Wentzville Best Buy. No one dies over toaster deals in our store, this is a good thing in my opinion.

My retail frustrations of this weekend.
Image Courtesy of graur razvan ionut @ Free Digital Photos.

Though I think the one exception to these "fun" days is tax free weekend. First of all, it is an entire weekend. Every year I have to take a weekend out of my life to work 8 and 1/2 to 10 hour days to help customers. Well that equates to a bigger pay check so not such a bad deal. Though I miss out on all those really awesome back to school clothing that I could really afford to buy. Then the other downside is the customers. Now 95% of people understand it is busy and there is a certain procedure to do things, but that 5% can easily bring anyone down. Why don't we have those computers? Possibly because they were very popular and the manufacture couldn't afford to make more in time. What else can I get for free? Tax free and all our additional sales and deals that we offer, and that still isn't a great deal for some people. Why does it take so long? To make sure we get you everything you need without becoming Circuit City in the process.

I can totally understand everyone's frustrations, though everyone gets like that sometimes. I can't just give people at my work free things. No one wants to not get paid for something that they work hard at or know a lot about. Stores try to help you save money, and very rarely rip customers off (and if they do they don't stay in business long). And generally with a computer out of stock that you wanted you could have possibly come earlier to get it or find something that is really similar, and computers are more and more like each other all the time.

From the other side the "biggest shopping day's of the year" become a dread to many in retail. Though all we ask is for the same respect that everyone else gets treated with and a little compassion for situations. Karma is something that keeps on giving, good or bad. Whatever side you are on, the customer or the sales person, just remember to give off those good karma vibes.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Drowsy Chaperone: Two Thumbs Up

I am not the theater nerd in my family. That wonderful title goes to my middle sister, Lydia, who is in high school and is part of the International Thespian Society. (When she first told my dad this he thought she said something else entirely). So by not being the theater nerd I for one have never been to a showing of any kind at the Donald D. Shook Fine Arts Building on campus. I only venture into that building to see the latest art show or when I wanted to cut through to warm up during the bitter cold winter months.

This all changed on Tuesday when my sister said to me that The Drowsy Chaperone was playing at my school and she heard it was good. Now I trust my sister with her opinion. If she says a movie or book sucks I will not read it. If she gives it a positive review, 95% of the time I will listen to her. After all, she is my younger sister and I have to be stubborn sometimes. So on a whim we went to the theater. I was able to get my free ticket, yes I said free, ladies and gentlemen if you are a student at SCC you get a free ticket to showings. You can't beat that if you are ever at school one evening and your car happens to break down and someone won't be able to pick you up for about two hours.

We sat down in the freezing cold theater, the one absolute downside of the entire experience. Some of those classrooms get cold that I have been wise enough to bring a jacket on occasion. I was not prepared for that theater, take one of the coldest classrooms and turn it down about another 20 degrees and you are now in a meat locker otherwise know as the Center Stage Theater!

I won't ruin the premise of the play for you because it was so funny. I watch a lot of "comedy" in movies and television and this didn't even come close to it. Above and beyond my expectations. I was laughing and then I was crying because I was laughing so hard. The tag line is, "a musical within a comedy," but you sort of peer into this guy's life who is a very pronounced musical theater nerd and he comments on the musical that plays out before your eyes. The musical sort of pokes fun at the generic musical, which if you go to the theater or have ever been a part of it, you would definitely appreciate. There is a lot of humor that isn't tailored to just musical fanatics as well. I have seen a few plays here and there so I got some of the jokes, but the overall premise was hilarious. I was laughing so hard in some parts I can't even remember what was so funny about it now!

Image of curtain from LunaNYXstock.

There have been very few times where I have wanted to go see a play twice, in fact it has only happened once before in which my sister Lydia was assistant stage manager in her high school play, Is He Dead?, but I feel that on Sunday I might just go see it one more time for kicks. It might take some more convincing to go see the dramas but I am hooked for SCC's musicals and comedies. I will definitely be visiting again in the future.