Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Winter Break High Five

Do something productive this winter break.

Do something productive this winter break.

Here are FIVE tips to make your winter break a quality one….

  1. REST & RELAX. Of course, everyone needs this after your first big semester at college. Get some sleep. Lots of sleep. Then blow off some steam with friends. Party, do a movie marathon, or binge-watch that new TV drama you missed. Then sleep some more.
  1. RECHARGE. After all the aforementioned sloth and silliness (which shouldn’t last past New Year’s), get back into a groove by getting back to healthy eating, sleeping and exercise. Play some hoops, hit the slopes or the gym, eat right, and don’t abuse your body by ingesting bad stuff. Do NOT save this for the few days before you return to campus.
  1. REFLECT. How did your first semester go? What did you do well? What needs tweaking? What’s your improvement plan for both inside & outside the classroom? Anything you wish to improve with your roommate relationship? Write this stuff down! Then, THINK BIG and consider the following…
  • What’s up with my career exploration, job shadowing, internships? Do I have something ready for summer? If not, whom can I contact to get the ball rolling? Is my resume in order? What deadlines am I up against for summer internships (Guess what…Some have already passed!!)
  • What’s up with my passions? (Music, sports, history, writing code, entrepreneurial projects, etc.) By the time I graduate, will I be able to say I’ve made progress in these areas and built upon these passions?
  • What “Carpe College” experiences enriched me? What did I learn? Anything good for my resume? (Saw a play, joined a club, took a leadership position, did philanthropy, met a professor, learned about a new culture, etc)
  1. SHADOW. Visit a professional on the job for a day. Start with people you know, then secure contacts you don’t know. Do this every break for your entire college career. (Yes, even if you get an internship. Shadowing gives you breadth of experiences while interning gives you depth. You’ll need ‘em both.  And, yes, this is a repeat from the “Three Week Streak” and “Seize Your Senior Summer.”  I’m repeating because it’s so important….)
  1. GROW. Do something new outside your comfort zone. Travel. Take a yoga, art or dance class. Take on a temporary job. Volunteer. Make friends with someone from another generation. Write a letter (handwritten) to a grandparent.

These ought to be enough to provide a rich and rewarding winter break. If you’ve got more ideas…. GO FOR IT!!

The 12 Days Before Finals




OK. There may not be 12 days before your finals begin, but let’s just go with it…

On the 12th day before finals, my true love gave to me…

A Care Package!

Check in with parents & loved ones to verify that they have ordered, packed & shipped an exceptional care package of cornucopia proportions to get you through the slow slog we call FINALS WEEK (and finals prep)!

If they haven’t, then make your own!

(NOTE:  If your cafeteria let’s you take food to go, grab a piece of fruit each and every day to stock up for finals. Rely on those “Super Snacks” with high-carb/high-fiber to stay healthy, and having an extra apple, orange or banana at the ready is the smart way to go.)

You do not, however, have to go this far.

On the 11th day before finals, my true love gave to me…

The “Homestretch Email” sent to your professors to ensure you’re on the same page.  You both agree on your current grade & agree on your plan for finishing the term strong, including any advice your professor has given you.  (Oh look! Here’s a template to help you draft your own “Homestretch Email”… How convenient!)

On the 10th day before finals, my true love gave to me…

A list of all your possible study partners & study groups. (What’s a good group? The Marshmallow Challenge could offer some idea!)

Oh yeah, and the healthy fingers to push the buttons on your little electronic device, which sends the text which actually INVITES them to be in your study group!!  (And which plug the all-important study-group sessions into your calendar.)

On the 9th day before finals, my true love gave to me:

A No-Cram Plan.

“How does one eat an elephant?  One bit at a time.” – Homer Simpson

Okay, maybe Homer didn’t come up with that proverb, and he’s not the wise sage you should turn to at this crucial moment in your life.  But the idea is sound.

Make a 2-Week plan for tackling all your finals prep. This includes finishing coursework AND FITTING IN YOUR STUDYING, TOO!  You’ll need to break all your remaining work (including your finals studying prep) into little bits that you can work on every day.

(Oh, so you caught me in a logic trap because I said to do a 2-week plan and this stupid “12 Days of Finals” thing doesn’t account for the 14 days that are in two weeks?!  So, the math doesn’t add up. )

Well, the concept does.  Start early.  Build a plan that includes prepping for finals every day from NOW through exams by tackling small bits at a time. (And don’t forget to include your study partners!)

On the 8th day before finals, my true love gave to me:

Seven Places to Study.  Why seven?!  I don’t f***ing know.  Make it six or five, but find a handful of spots that are tucked away where you feel comfortable (not your dorm room – try one of these).

Evidence suggests that studying the same material in different environments helps you retain that material better.  Different locales, but one constant – the important stuff you’re studying.  It’s kind of like that song, “One of these things is not like the others….”

Oh, sorry, did I just plant that tune in your head?  I may have just defeated our whole purpose here by giving you that distraction in the midst of trying to prepare for finals.  Ugh!   OKAY, let’s try to forget it.  Shake it out of your head.  Shoot, now it’s stuck in your mind, and you can’t stop thinking of that tune!  Drat!  Well, you’ll have to replace it with a different tune.  Try “We Are the Champions” by Queen.

Yeah, that’s the ticket!  It’s uplifting and inspiring.

You’ll hate that song forever more, but you’ll feel like a champ!

(Now, forget THAT tune until it’s study-break time.)

On the 7th day before finals, my true love gave to me:

Primal Scream!

If your campus doesn’t already do this, it’s time to start.  At the end of “Reading Week” or whatever you call the week before finals, pick a time (often Friday or Saturday night before Finals begin), gather your dorm mates, and go outside to scream.

That’s right.  Get everyone together out in the cold night air.  Have the RAs make you some hot cocoa (and maybe S’mores to make it more festive & fun), and on the count of three everyone screams at the top of their lungs for as long as they can. Then catch your breath and scream again if you need to.  Just make it cathartic and cleansing.  Release the stress, have a laugh, take a break, and then get back to work.

Yes, while all those little Who’s down in Whoville are singing angelically around the Christmas tree, you all will be screaming like … well…. college kids trying to de-stress.

On the 6th day before finals, my true love gave to me:

Lyric-less music!

What?!  That’s right.  Evidence suggests that DISTRACTIONS ARE BAD.  Wow!  We needed science to tell us that?!  And yet we still want to try to study while we’re texting our friends, checking out social media, and listening to our favorite “Macklemore Meets Gaga” playlist, so we can sing along.  Well, KNOCK IT OFF!!  Shut off all your electronic devices, find a quiet spot, and get to work.

Or, at least, make an All-Instrumental playlist.

On the 5th day before finals, my true love gave to me:

Primo Practice Tests.

Whether it’s practice tests from your professors or simple flashcards, TESTING yourself is better than simply ‘reviewing stuff’.

I also like to suggest the “Blank White Page” test.  If you can take out a blank sheet of paper, list & explain all the macro and micro concepts, and provide examples and illustrations –ALL FROM MEMORY – then you truly know your material, and you’re ready for your final exam.

(This is called a RECALL test, like an essay test.  Unlike a RECOGNITION test, such as a multiple-choice test, where you’ll know the answer when you see it, a RECALL test challenges you to draw all the information from memory.  If you can do this test, you can do any test!)

On the 4th day before finals, my true love gave to me:

Several study breaks!

This “gift” goes with the one before it.  By breaking the amount you need to tackle into smaller bits, it affords you more opportunities to take breaks, which you SHOULD do.  It keeps you fresh and focused in every way.

20-40 minute study sessions, followed by a 5-10 minute break should work great.  TED Talks are under 20 minutes for a reason!  If you need to go longer, that’s fine, but take a break each hour.  AND…. Listen to your body.  It will tell you when it’s time to get your ass up and out of that chair and to start moving around.  Listen.  Your body knows!

On the 3rd day before finals, my true love gave to me:

A Healthy Heart for a Healthy Head.

Wow, another gift related to the one that precedes it.  Remarkable! When you take a study break and walk around, you’re getting your heart going and getting your blood flowing.  This is a good thing!

In fact, evidence suggests that the first hour after exercise is a very productive and heightened time for your mind.  So, exercise daily AND during your study breaks.  Ain’t nothing wrong with cranking out a few jumping-jacks or push-ups during your study break.  Go ahead.  Drop and give me twenty right there on the library floor in front of God and everybody!  You’ll look like an idiot, and you’ll ace your tests.

That’s what we call a win-win scenario, my friend.

On the 2nd  (Penultimate) day before finals, my true love gave to me:

Rest & Review.  If you’ve planned well, if you’ve broken your elephant into little bites, if you’ve taken the aforementioned measures to make for QUALITY preparation, then you’re ready.

All you need now is REST.  Good rest.  Solid rest.  So, go to bed early with some review notes (NOT A LAPTOP OR OTHER SCREEN!), read ‘em over once while truly thinking about the concepts as you read, and then turn out the lights.  You’ll wake up refreshed, retaining material, and ready to take it on again.

(NOTE:  Penultimate is a stupid-ass vocabulary word you should have in your arsenal simply for those few times you may use it in your lifetime – Look it up!)

On the LAST day before finals, my true love gave to me:

Confidence & Clarity.

You’ve got this stuff.  You’ve taken care of your body in order to take care of your mind.  You ate right & you got some sleep. You planned well, focused on the right stuff, and you studied in a quality fashion, testing yourself and relying on your study partners to help you ‘play’ with the material.

So… you’re ready.  Be confident.  Take a deep breath, so you can relax and focus.  Then go get ‘em….

And breakfast.  OMG, I assume you’ve been eating breakfast all along, right?!  Most important f***ing meal of the day.  Get with it, will ya!  (How’s that for a Pre-Finals Pep Talk?!  Very loving & Caring….  Tough love, I guess.)


Okay, one more pep-talk! (Actually a pep-talk montage)

Oh wait!  This one’s even better! (“Let’s go get our damn trophy!”)