Summer Classes: Tips for Keeping Up With Compressed Courses

Stay intense and focused in order to be successful in summer courses.

Stay intense and focused in order to be successful in summer courses.

Another academic year has ended. For many students, that means it’s time to hit the beaches and enjoy the all the sun-filled fun summer has to offer.

For others, the end of spring semester means the beginning of summer classes. Summer classes are quick, fast paced, and demanding.
There are a number of reasons you may consider taking summer classes.

You could be using this time to focus in on a difficult course. You may be trying to graduate early. Or you may have fallen behind in your degree plan and need to catch up with summer classes.

Regardless of your particular reason for taking summer classes, you’ll want to follow the following tips to make sure you’re successful:

1. Make a Weekly Study Schedule And Stick to it

This is something you should be doing during any semester. But summer courses move much quickly. You cannot afford to fall behind. If you’re going to hit the library every Tuesday and Thirsday night, for example, put that on your calendar, and don’t let anything keep you from these study sessions.

Falling a week behind in the summer is equivalent to falling almost two weeks behind during the normal school year.

2. Don’t Overload Yourself.

I can’t tell you how many students I’ve seen torpedo their own success in the summer by loading up on too many classes.

I know, you’re Pre-med, you’re trying to graduate next year, you need to retake the class you failed last semester, your advisor thinks it’s a good idea for you take 15 credits…

If you end up overloading, and subsequently do worse in ALL the courses you take, wouldn’t it have been better to just take a couple and pass them with flying colors?

Now, I’m not saying you definitely cannot ace 6 classes during the summer if you really apply yourself. But be realistic with yourself. Give yourself the best possible opportunity for success and take the amount of classes that’s best for you.

3. Plan Your Fun

No summer is complete without a trip to the beach!

No summer is complete without a trip to the beach!

We all need time to decompress. That’s normal, even if you are taking summer classes. Just make sure you plan your trips and activities around your studies.

Talk to your professors if you’re going to miss class for some reason. Maybe they can allow you to take a quiz early or give you an idea of what to study while you’re gone.

The important thing is to PLAN your fun. Don’t recklessly miss class, forget homework assignments, and flake on your study groups.

4. Hang Out With Students Who Are Also Taking Summer Classes

This is a big one. Many of your friends will be taking the summer off to relax and have a good time. You can have fun with them, but you’ve got to remain focused on your studies too.

Also, you may have friends who are working. They may get off at 5pm each day. You may still need to attend class or go to the library in the evenings.

Find a group of dedicated students to hang out with. You can form a summer study group. You guys don’t necessarily all have to be in the same classes, but your study group could be more of an accountability group. Everyone encourages one another to study for a certain amount each week.

5. Get Plenty Of Rest, and Eat Energy Foods

I don’t know about you, but I have a really short attention span. Summer class lectures can be anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours! That’s a long time to stay engaged.

These lectures are packed with material and you need to be taking notes and paying attention the entire time. Professors will probably not have time to go back and review much due to the shorter semester length.

Make sure you’re resting and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables so that you’re as attentive as possible. If you’re not a morning person and you like to stay up partying in the summer, you probably shouldn’t schedule a 7:30am class.

Select your foods wisely. You do not need to be on a diet or be a nutrition expert (I certainly am not!). Just try to choose snacks that are light and healthy throughout the day. And limit your intake of pizza, which is very plenteous on college campuses during the summer.

Posted in Success in the Classroom | Tagged | Comments Off on Summer Classes: Tips for Keeping Up With Compressed Courses

Tips For Multiple Choice Tests

In college, a good number of your tests will be Multiple Choice. Some students prefer multiple tests to fill-in-the-blank because multiple choice tests are more objective, and there’s a single best answer for each question. In order to be successful on multiple choice tests, you will need keen critical reasoning skills. We will talk about effective strategies for multiple choice tests below:Taking Multiple Choice Test

Read the ENTIRE Question

This is key when you’re taking a multiple choice test. You do not want to read part of a question and choose an answer, only to find out that there was a word later in the question that changed the entire meaning. Look out for questions that contain words such as  ‘not’, ‘but’, ‘without’, ‘instead’, and ‘except’. These words can make a big difference in what the answer should be.

Answer on Your Own Before Looking at the Answer Choices

While you’re carefully reading your questions, you should be formulating an answer in your head. Do not just depend on the answer choices. There may be a distractor solution there. So, by having your own answer in your head, you will be less likely to fall for any trick answers.

Use Process of Elimination

Most students approach multiple choice questions by reading the question and immediately choosing the answer they believe is correct.

This can work, if it’s an extremely easy question for you. But, on questions that aren’t so obvious, you will want to use the process of elimination to deduce the right answer. Go one-by-one through the possible choices and eliminate those that do not make sense. If you’re left with 2 answers that COULD be right, make sure you go back and read the question again. There’s probably a keyword in there that you missed the first time. Rereading the questions will likely make the answer clear to you.

Take  Your Time

Unless you’re taking a standardized test, you will generally have more than enough time to complete the tests you’re given in college. Even if you see other students around you finishing and leaving early, make sure that you are still paying attention to every question and answer on your test.

There are no extra points for finishing early. If you do finish quickly, take a few minutes to go over your test again. Literally take the test a second time as if it was your first time seeing it. Only turn in your test when you are sure you’ve answered each question the best you can.

Skip Difficult Questions and Come Back Later

This one depends on your own personal test taking style. But we recommend that you do not spend too much time on any one question. If there’s a question that you are unable to answer, you should quickly move on to the next question.

There are two reasons this is a good strategy. First, you will be able to maintain momentum as you’re powering through questions.

Secondly, sometimes as you read through the test questions, you come across information that will help you answer a precious question.

Study, Study, Study

Preparation is key to doing well on any test. Multiple choice tests are no different. Don’t assume that just because a test is multiple choice, it will be easier than other test formats. The more comfortable you are with the material, the better you will be at handling the curveballs the test may throw at you.

Posted in Success in the Classroom | Comments Off on Tips For Multiple Choice Tests

5 Ways To Overcome Shyness When Approaching Professors for Help

QUESTION: I know I need to go to office hours and ask my professor for help. But I’m a naturally shy person, and I’m worried that approaching a professor for help will be awkward or make me look bad in some way. How can I get over these feelings and actually go to office hours and have a productive conversation with my instructor?

I have heard questions similar to these often. Many students are shy during there first year or two in college. Some of us never get over that. Shyness if often magnified when we think about approaching someone in a position of power.

However, don’t let shyness keep you from getting the help you need to make the grade.

If you are really intimidated by the prospect of walking into office hours and asking for help, here are a few ideas that may help:

1) Take a classmate with you. If you have a study partner in the class, you can both go to your professor’s office and take turns asking questions. That way you both benefit from the meeting, and you will feel more comfortable speaking up.

2) Write out a list of questions to ask in advance. While you’re in class, or while you’re studying your notes, make a bullet list of questions you need to ask your professor. When you go to office hours, you can start the conversation by reading those questions verbatim off your paper. That will get the conversation started, and you can go from there.

3) Bring examples of problems you have already worked on. This is something professors will really appreciate. Instead of showing up and asking questions blindly, you can show examples of problems you have already tried to solve. Doing this will help the professor quickly assess where your misunderstanding is. It will also make it easy for you to know what questions to ask. You both can then walk through the proper process of finding the right answer.

4) Email the Professor in advance. This is what I found to be most effective. If I had questions about an assignment or concept, I would shoot the professor a quick email that went something like this:

“Good morning Dr. Jones,

I was working through the XYZ assignment this week, and I am having problems doing XYZ. Here’s an example of how far I’ve gotten (attach a screenshot or PDF). Would you mind if I came by and talked to you about this on Thursday? I’m sure there’s probably a simple step I’m overlooking.”

As mentioned earlier, by doing this you’re giving the professor an opportunity to examine what you have already done. When they respond, they will likely ask you to meet them at a particular time. No need to be shy, because you’ve already “broken the ice” with an advance email.


There comes a time when you’ve got to just jump in and do the things that are uncomfortable. In college, if you keep your mouth shut, nobody will know you are struggling. We’ve got to speak up.

Usually, we are overestimating the discomfort of the situations we dread. The best way to get over being shy is to launch yourself into social situations and get used to speaking to different people.

When it comes to office hours, remember you’re in college to learn. Professors are there to teach. They’re looking forward to meeting with you and they LOVE sharing their knowledge with students.

So, pack up your notes and confidently head over to Office Hours!


If you have a question you’d like answered about College, you can email it to 

If you’re not already on our mailing list, you’re missing out! You can take care of that here:

Posted in Success in the Classroom | Comments Off on 5 Ways To Overcome Shyness When Approaching Professors for Help

4 Reasons Why You’re LOSING POINTS on Research Papers

It’s tough to crack the code to awesome grades on writing assignments. They’re somewhat subjective, and every professor has their own way of grading them. Despite these challenges, there are a couple of errors you can fix to IMMEDIATELY start seeing your grades improve. If you’ve been struggling with research papers and can’t seem to get the grades you want, read on to see how you can improve:

1. FormattingCollege Research Papers
I put this one first, because your format is the very first impression a professor gets of your paper.

If your paper looks sloppy and unorganized, then you have set yourself up for a lackluster grade right off the bat.

On the bright side, formatting is something you can easily fix. Professors often specify which type of format they want you to use. You can easily Google the particular format required for your paper (APA, MLA, etc) and mimic what you see in the examples.

Once you’ve written your paper, print it out and thumb through it.

Does this LOOK like an A+ paper to you? If you had to grade it purely on appearance, how would you grade this paper?

2. Not Answering the Question that was Asked

When I was an SAT instructor with Princeton Review, the biggest problem with the essays students wrote was that they would often neglect to actually answer the question they were asked to write about.

You can be an excellent writer with an expansive vocabulary and compelling arguments, but if you get distracted and forget to answer the question, you will lose major points.

For example, an essay prompt may ask a student to describe whether you believe high school curriculums should require students to take 2 years of a single foreign language or 1 year of 2 different foreign languages.

In this example you, should choose a side (one foreign language or two) and begin listing reasons you are an advocate of that type of curriculum.

Unfortunately, in this situation, many students would immediately start listing the benefits of learning a foreign language, and get to the end of their paper without ever stating ” I THINK HIGH SCHOOLS SHOULD REQUIRE XYZ”.

If that statement is missing from the paper, in this example, the paper will lose points, because it does not answer the question that was posed. The prompt asked the student to describe which requirement they thought was better, not to describe the benefits of foreign language study.

You will encounter similar situations throughout your college career. Be sure to always be mindful that you are answering the question that is posed to you.

3. Grammar

Misspellings, run-on sentences, and misplaced punctuation can be extremely distracting to a reader. And when that reader is your professor, these mistakes can result in a significant grade reduction.

You do not have to be an expert in English Grammar to do well on research papers. But, you do need to make sure grammar errors do not distract the reader from the overall point of your paper.

The best way to rid your paper of grammar mistakes is to read your paper aloud. Read the paper as if it is your first time seeing the document. Remember, your professor does not know what you MEANT to say. Judge the paper as if you’re a reader with no prior knowledge of the contents.

Where you encounter awkward wording or blatant errors, be sure to correct them before turning in your final draft.

4. Lack of Organization

In your introductory paragraph, you describe the goal of your paper. You’re going to prove a point, describe a problem, compare and contrast two ideas, respond to a prompt, review a piece of literature, etc…

Every paragraph that follows should be building on the goal you set in your introduction. Often, when students are completing longer writing assignments (over 5 pager), they begin to wander and start including extra, irrelevant information.

A reader should be able to read your paper from top to bottom and never lose site of the point of the paper. Each paragraph should clearly state an argument and present evidence to substantiate that argument. And all paragraphs should build upon the introductory paragraph.

We will not go too deep into the mechanics of research papers here, but a good way to make sure your paper is well-organized is to create an outline before you begin writing. An outline lays out the main points of your paper in the order you plan to present them.

Once you have completed your outline, make sure that every paragraph you right coincides with one of the subpoints in your outline.


Posted in Success in the Classroom | Tagged , , | Comments Off on 4 Reasons Why You’re LOSING POINTS on Research Papers

Difference Between Research Paper and a Book Report

Every college student will write AT LEAST one research paper during their college career. Some students enter college with very litter experience writing research papers. You may have been more familiar with book reports prior to college, but, it is extremely important that you do not confuse book reports and research papers in college. Research papers require a different set of skills than book reports require. And if your experience is anything like mine in college, rarely will you ever be asked to read a book and simply write a report on it.Hurry

Book reports were popular in middle/high school, because they required you to analyze volumes of material and condense the main points into a concise report.

In college, you will be asked to RESEARCH more often than you will be asked to simply REPORT. And if you turn in a book report-style paper when you have been asked to write a research paper, your grade could really suffer.

Unless you are in English Comp. 101, your professor may not take the time to explain the differences between research papers and book reports. They will likely simply expect you to already know how to produce a college-level research paper.

So below, I’m going to explain a couple key difference between research papers and book reports:

Research Papers ANALYZE, Book Reports SUMMARIZE

When you were writing book reports, you were not really giving any type of opinion on what happened in the book. You were simply reporting the events or ideas contained in the book. You may have had to explore the symbolisms used by an author or try to decide what the author’s intentions were for certain characters, but you were still primarily focused on giving an account of the contents of the book. You were summarizing.

Research Papers require you to examine one or more sources and draw conclusions based on your analysis. For example, when your professor asks for a 1,000 word research paper on the Fall of the Roman Empire, he/she is not asking for a timeline of events. You are being asked to go a step further. Based on what you know about the events that lead up to the Fall of the Roman Empire, what would you say were the main reasons for that Fall? What factors caused the Empire to become weak and vulnerable. Why did the Empire fall at that exact moment and not decades before or after?

In a book report, the goal is to state the facts of a story. In a research paper, the goal is to use the facts to build a case for an explanation or argument. That is ANALYSIS.

Research Papers Require Multiple Sources

A book report is usually just focused on one book. There may be times where you need to compare two books or write a report on a series of books. However, usually, you can complete a book report by simply reading that book and writing your report.

Research papers will typically require you to use multiple sources. Because you are ANALYZING rather than REPORTING in a research paper, you are trying to draw a conclusion about a particular subject matter. In order to really get a full picture of the topic you are writing about, you will need to look at multiple sources.

(Click here to view the Elephant and the Blind Men analogy to get a better understanding of the need for multiple sources.)

In addition to giving you a full picture of your subject, using multiple sources adds credibility to your research. Unless you have obtained your PhD (I certainly haven’t!), in the academic world, you are not seen as an authority in your subject matter. But, you can use the ideas of those who have obtained their PhD to bolster the arguments you are making in your research paper (assuming you use proper citation techniques).

In book reports, you do not need to site outside sources, because you are only concerned with the book you are reporting on.

Research Papers Require Your Unique Perspective, Book Reports Simply Present Data

The final difference I will discuss here is that research papers offer the writer an opportunity to add a unique perspective to their topic while book reports do not offer that opportunity.

When you conduct research, analyze sources, and draw conclusions, you are making your own contribution to the understanding of the topic you are writing about. Every research paper is not “groundbreaking”, but the way you reason and analyze is unique to you. Your professor is looking for signs that you are thinking critically and presenting reasonable arguments when writing research papers. Depending on how YOU view the data you discover during your research, you may reach different conclusions about the same issue than your classmate. That is the beauty of research.

In a book report, the facts are the facts. If the main character lived in a blue house, then you must report that the main character lived in a blue house.


I hope this article made clear the differences between research papers and book reports. When you are assigned a research paper, make sure you are doing more than simply reporting facts. Be sure to draw conclusions, analyze sources, and make reasoned arguments.

Good luck on all your college writing endeavors. And if you have any questions feel free to email me at and I’ll make sure I get back to you.

Until Next Time,

Stay Curious, Stay Motivated.


Posted in Research Papers | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Difference Between Research Paper and a Book Report