Archive for the ‘Studying’ Category

Student Depression: Overshooting Your Mark

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Overshoot your mark. Bite off more than you can chew. Start at the deep end. Let it hit the fan. You’ll get further than you’ve ever gone before.

You might be utterly vexed now, straining your follicles with the massive amount of hair tugging you’re doing right about now. I understand, just let your follicles have a break for a moment.

Why would you put yourself in supposedly unwinnable situations, or set goals that are, at the moment, too lofty? What benefit is there to overshooting your mark?

Take a look: You have a literary analysis paper due in a week, so you set aside your personal project for a week, you tell your friends that you’re way too busy to hang out and those extra credit assignments you were so adamant to get down and dirty with? Locked away in that little crevice of guilt in your mind.

Now that you’ve got all this freed up time, what happens to your main assignment? Unless you’re writing a 30-page paper that applies a Derridean, Foucauldian and Barthian lens to Joyce’s “Araby” (never again), you’re not going to spend every waking moment (never, ever, again…) writing your paper. Maybe you’ll think about it for several days, start getting those awful vomiting butterflies parading around your stomach lining, fall back into your depression (but we worked so hard on curbing it! Why does this puny paper have to take over your life?) and finally get working on it two days before deadline, panicking yourself into a cold, smelly sweat. Not cool.

"My surname is Derrida, but the very fact that I have been named manifests an externality that dissociates Derrida the 'man' from Derrida the 'name,' the latter of which is an empty signifier, and I'm totally confusing the sh*t out of you right now and enjoying every second of it."

Students, including myself, fall into habitual patterns that are too familiar to comfortably escape. Hey, it’s worked before, you got your work done, so what’s the problem? If it ain’t broke… wait, no. It is broken. You’re not helping your depression by adding anxiety, stress and detrimental habitual habits to the mix. But I’ve got a solution, so don’t you fret.

All those plans you put off for the week? Put them back in your schedule and then some. See your friends, work on your own personal project (more on this in the next blog), do that extra credit, and then commit to something (or several things) with a deadline, preferably before the time your assignment is due. Agree to write an article for the school newspaper, commit to checking out that new French club (voulez-vous lire Campus Clipper avec moi ce soir?) and schedule an appointment with your guidance counselor.

Stuff you schedule, basically.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should cram as much time-wasting activities as possible. All of these week-fillers should be beneficial to your development and recovery one way or another.

So why does this method work? Let’s look back at that last-minute example. You had a huge paper due that was supposed to take a week to complete and you crammed all that work into the air-tight space of maybe eight hours over two days. That leaves at least 104 waking hours where you have the paper on your mind. Maybe not consciously, not all the time, but the thought is there, and it won’t flutter off till you’ve got it handled.

104 hours. That’s almost, like, 127 hours.

"How many hours did Franco spend worrying instead of just cutting off his arm?"

The biggest enemy in this situation is your excess thoughts. Your most practical ally is overshooting your mark and cramming your week with self-beneficial and self-developmental tasks and commitments. There comes a point where the brain doesn’t see an opportunity to worry about what you’re not doing because it needs to hone in on more immediate tasks, like cleaning your room because a friend is coming over, writing that school newspaper article because the deadline is tomorrow, or whatever other task that need immediacy.

What happens now is that you stop worrying because you stop thinking about worrying (whoa). When your mind knows that there are a plethora of tasks coming in from all directions, it slaps itself awake and starts to focus, otherwise it risks embarrassment: you don’t want your friend to look disgustedly at your semi-soiled underwear hanging lasciviously on your lamp, or your school’s newspaper editor giving you the evil eye for the next month. This time, fear of embarrassment works to your advantage (and the only time it should work to your advantage).

You get busy, you get into a flow. You have no time to worry, you just do. You start looking for productive tasks to fill up your time, and it so happens you’ve got that huge paper coming up. What better time to do it than when you’re so tuned into the present moment and riding a productivity binge?

And what seemed like overshooting the mark suddenly seems more than manageable, and leaves you with more free time than if you’d have spent 104 hours worrying and 8 hours doing.

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Aleksandr Smechov, Baruch College.

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Studying with Technology

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

As a student in New York City, you’re going to be faced with many distractions. Whether it be your friends, your new favorite app, or even a free concert or show, you’re going to have to manage your fun time with your school time.

We’re fortunate that we live in a society where you can access all sorts of technology that won’t only help you procrastinate, but will help you get your work done without distractions. Below are some tech-friendly ways to stop procrastinating.

1. REMIND YOURSELF

This may seem silly, but I set myself reminders to do my work. Most smart phones have a “reminders” list, which lets you set a time and date that you want to be reminded to do a task. This helps if you’re a forgetful person, or just someone who needs to be prompted to study or write a paper.

On the other hand. . .

2. SHUT THE PHONE OFF

Personally, I can’t work when people are texting me; I am just too tempted to carry on a conversation about the upcoming season of Saturday Night Live, or whatever fun event is going on later that night. When I have to write a paperwhether it’s four or fourteen pages longthe phone goes off. If you like setting reminders on your phone but don’t want to hear any incoming calls or text messages, most phones have an “airplane mode,” which shuts off communications but will keep your phone’s other functions, like reminders, on.

3. OKAY, YOU CAN HAVE A BREAK

Every hour, give yourself 10 or 15 minutes to look at your phone, check your email, or watch a funny YouTube video. Studies show that taking breaks helps you focus more when you return to studying.

4. APPS

Okaydon’t discount your iPhone or iPad just yet. There are several free apps that can help you study. Flashcards Study Helper is exactly what it sounds like: it’s all the help of flashcards, without wasting leftover index cards. Mathemagics Lite  is a scientific calculator for on-the-go. And for the Shakespeare scholars, there’s an app that contains all of Shakespeare’s works. Even better, it’s free!

5. AND OTHER WEB-BASED TOOLS…

If you’re a Mac user, there is a scheduling app called iProcrastinate (ha!) that helps you break down tasks into smaller tasks. Additionally, many textbooks or required readings are available on half.ebay.com for cheaper prices. Check your booklist early, and order away!

Being a college student in the 21st century is hard. There may be countless distractions and ways to stop you from doing your work, but your smartphone is called a smartphone for a reason! You can train yourself to use your technology to your advantage.

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Erin O., NYU.

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College Concerns and Worries

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

As young adults, we are prone to taking a “trial and error” approach to life. We know one of the many goals associated with college is the promise of a better life. We also know getting through college is a mission itself, filled with all types of twists and turns we never see coming. Here are a couple of concerns you may or may not have experienced, and some pretty good solutions to help keep your stress leveled.

 

Finances

 

Money will always be a major issue. Unless you hit the lottery or were born into royalty, you’re probably counting every penny you spend. Everything from getting to school to the afternoon snack craving can become a problem.

As college students we tend to want to blow our money on the first things we can think of. Saving is a minimal priority. HelpSaveMyDollars.com’s creator Scott Gamm developed a theory stating fifty percent of college students have 4 or more credit cards. An even more shocking statistic is that eighty percent of students fail to pay off their credit card bill.

The key is to keep an eye on your money and always track what you are spending. I’ve written an article entitled “College Savings Doesn’t Mean College Boredom” in which I talk about having fun in New York the cheapest way possible.

 

 

Social Life

Balancing school and anything else can prove to be quite complicated. Whether it’s a job or an internship, you will find you don’t have much time for anything else. Twenty three percent of full-time undergrads, who are 24 or younger, work 20 hours or more a week. With hours like that plus the 15 hours or more you plan to spend in classes and on after class activities (labs and group projects anyone?), you won’t have much time for anything else.

Although having any kind of social life can seem like an extra burden, it’s not impossible and is more than healthy for a college student. Someone paying you a visit after you come home from work is one way that comes to mind (because you know . . . you’ll be too tired to go out and all). Someone can come meet you at your job after your shift. Meeting people at school is also a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Trust me . . . you’ll be spending A LOT of time with these people, so you might as well get to know them. You might like them.

 

Professors

 

We’ve all heard it before, “I have to take Professor (place name here). He’s an easy A” or “I don’t want Professor (alchy). He’s always drunk.”

Okay . . . maybe the last one is just me, but you get the idea.

There are those out there who simply don’t care who ends up teaching them a specific course, but for many of us, there’s that one professor that just gets us. Early registration is the key to getting the professors you want, the classes you want, at the times you want to take them. Some schools even give you cash stipends for early registration, which is even more of an incentive.

Personally, I never understood math until I had this one professor. She never let me (or anyone for that matter) leave class until she was sure we understood the material. This may seem like torture but I didn’t fail a test that whole semester . . . . . So I guess it worked, at least in my case

 

Personal Problems

 

We all have lives outside of college and many times it’s hard for our personal issues to not get in the way. Students with children have to constantly worry about their kid as it will always be one of their top priorities. Students can be involved in relationships that just swallow up their time (and if this is you, you should really learn how to prioritize) among other things.

I’ve been in three different living situations ever since I started school and I’m working on a fourth and hopefully my last for a while. Going to school and not knowing if I’ll even have a home to come back to has definitely been one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with in my life. All the “stay focused” and “keep your eyes on the prize” speeches never made any sense until I reached this period in my life.

Even though life can overwhelm you at times, it is important to know why you enrolled in this first place. It’s easy to forget why we started on this journey when all the unnecessary crap is constantly thrown in our face. Whatever the issue is, it’s important to know you have the strength, the tools and the support to get through whatever you’re going through. Also, you ARE working towards a better future and that’s more than most people can say.

 

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Carlos L., Monroe College. Read my blog!!  Follow me on Twitterand Facebook :)

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Voice Recorders

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I have always wanted to get my hands on a voice recorder, like the ones writers or reporters used in old movies for interviews. They seemed so handy and special, being able to hold tiny bits of moments in your life that you could replay. My sister got one yesterday for a meeting she wanted to record.

Not the exact model, but just as attractive!

This little guy wasn’t exactly cheap. With a price tag of $790, not only can it record, it also has usb compatibility, an extra micro sd slot (for more storage), can store up to 72 hours (or until the battery wore out), crisp clear recording sound and finally my favorite: different modes. These modes alter the recording to the type of room you were in such as a big auditorium or a close up conversation. It also has voice activation. Great for black mail. Joking!…or not…

Once my sister brought it home, we both started playing with it, testing out how well the sound played back when recording from different distances. It performed very well, even when I spoke softly a few feet away. This is truly a professional device, and worth all the money it cost.

So what can it be used for? Other than personal pranks and singing, it also can be used to interviews, meetings, lectures, possibly concerts (have yet to see how well it’ll record in a crowded booming room), or even daily settings when you want to record somewhere you have been. You can also record a song you hear somewhere and then turn it into an mp3 file when you get back to your laptop.

Electronics are amazing these days and what used to be a simple on and off fuzzy recording device is now a multi-purpose recorder, music player, and spy device (for fun of course. no harming anyone please!)

Now let’s say you don’t want a recorder because your phone/camera does everything you want anyway. For the future mishaps here is a student discount to help you out.

 

Sophia, Rochester Institute of Technology

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The Internship

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

One great thing about going to school in New York is that there are a lot of opportunities to start your job search.  With millions of multinational companies calling Manhattan home, more and more of them are looking towards colleges and universities for graduates to fill entry-level positions.  The problem is, this is one of the most competitive cities in the world, so you have to make yourself known early.  How do you do so?  Through an internship.

I hope I don’t have to explain what an internship is…but I will anyway.  An internship is a way for companies to both obtain more assistance in various tasks and teach students how things work in the field.  Through an internship, students can make a lot of new connections, and it’s a great opportunity to fill their resumes.

The interns’ tasks vary depending on where they’re interning and what they’re doing there.  They can range from getting copies and coffee, to hands-on work in the field.  Most interns are part-time, since they usually have to attend school at the same time.  They can be either paid a weekly or monthly stipend, or receive college credit for their work.

So, where do you find an internship?  Where DON’T you find an internship?  As I said before, several companies in New York are looking for new blood, so be sure to check out sites like LinkedIn, Craigslist, and Monster for listings.  One of the best is internships.com, which is catered specifically to this.  Most schools also have their own online employment sites.  For instance, NYU has the Wasserman Center website.

If you really know what you want to do after graduation, take a look at specific organizations that cater to your interests.  Study politics?  Look at the UN or State Government sites.  Want to write for television?  Look at major networks like NBC and CBS, both based in New York!  Aspire to be a doctor?  Look at some of the hospitals and medical practices here.  There’s a bunch of opportunities here.  You just have to look!

One of these buildings could be your office!

So, why should you care about internships?  Because when companies look for new hires, they usually look in their own company first.  For full-time positions in places like the City Government or NBC, there are usually thousands upon thousands of applications from people that just need a job.  Companies usually look at their own interns first because they’re familiar with them.  They know how capable their own interns are.

Now just remember; it will be hard work.  Most internships are unpaid, and if you have to take public transportation, you’ll find yourself in financial trouble pretty quick.  You’ll also find yourself overwhelmed and confused on what to do more often than not.  Just remember that you just have to get through this, and then you’re one step closer to your dream job!

Then you can celebrate with a pizza and a free milkshake!

 

Sergio Lopez, Polytechnic Institute of NYU, Graduate Student ’12

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Have You Checked Out our New Book Yet?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The Campus Clipper’s recent publication, the NYC Student Guide, is a must-have for any college student. Whether you’re interested in applying for an internship, scoring cheap Broadway tickets, or finding the best places to eat in the city, the NYC Student Guide can help you! The Guide is filled with over 30 articles, each written by a different student author. Some article titles include: “On Roommates,” “On Studying,” “On Relationships,” and many more. Each article includes beautiful hand-drawn illustrations, also created by students. Finally, the book is light and handy–much lighter than those textbooks you lug around all over campus– so you can carry it with you everywhere. Also unlike a textbook, the Guide is both informative and entertaining to read. The uniquely informal style of our student authors will draw you in. Reading our book is like listening to the advice of a good college friend.

But there are hundreds of college guidebooks out there, you may be saying. What makes this one so different? First and foremost, our guidebook is written by current students, not some stogy man or woman who graduated in 1979. Although he or she must have done extensive research to compile the book, they are not drawing from personal experience. Our authors are more relevant, because they are experiencing college life at the exact same time you are. (Who knows, maybe you’ve crossed paths on campus!)

Finally, (although our guidebook is useful to students studying across the country) it includes many articles that are specific to New York City. Learn where the best thrift shops are located. Find out how to use the local job-searching site, Jatched.com. Discover new bars and nightly hot spots. Every year, thousands upon thousands of high school graduates, from across the country  travel to NYC to study. The myriad opportunities of this city beckon them. Maybe you are one of these students. I was. And if you come armed with the NYC Student Guide, you are sure to make the most of your time here!

Order your copy of the NYC Student Guide Here! 

Written by Megan Soyars, Campus Clipper Blogger

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How To Get Through Projects (and other stuff) Relatively Stress-Free

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Right now, most of you are probably going through midterms.  This is the first indication in the semester that things have gotten serious.  Whether it’s an exam, a project, or a giant paper, your midterm will most likely make up a huge chunk of your grade.

Now, you probably have that project or paper on your mind right now.  Believe me, it can seem like there’s some huge monster behind you, looking down and getting ready to eat you.  But it doesn’t have to be like that.  All you gotta do is these few things:

1. Start Early

I know, I kind of sound like a broken record at this point, but it really is a good idea.  I’m not saying you should try to finish your

project the first week it’s given.  That would be impossible (or at least

inadvisable).  Just start a few things, like what you’re project or paper is going to be about, or how it’s all gonna be organized.  By starting early, you sort of motivate yourself to get things done sooner.  I guess you can say you’re putting your foot through the door.

Figuratively, or course! Please don't actually try to kick through a door!

2. Don’t cut corners

If time is of the essence, you might be tempted to make a few mistakes and not fix them.  You might think, “Eh, I can let that slide.  The teacher won’t notice!”  You wanna know what happens when you do cut corners?  THIS!

"Maybe the boss won't notice."

It’s NEVER a good idea to let mistakes just sit there.  This is gonna be a huge part of your grade, so you don’t want to risk failing the whole thing just because of one stupid mistake.  Plus, remember this; when applying for jobs or grad schools, your professors might serve as good reference.  Do you really think he or she will give you a good recommendation if you are seen doing the bare minimum?

3. Don’t stress it

This may sound like a contradiction to the earlier “don’t cut corners” lecture, but this last bit is really important.  Some of you will just put your project off until the last minute and not even think about it until you think you really need to, but there’s also some of you who will stress about it day in and day out.  Let me just tell you, relax.

Being like this is never helpful

There’s an old story about Napoleon.  He was running late for an opera, and he told his wife, “Dress me slowly, for I am in a hurry”.  Do you know why he said that?  Because he knew that when you rush things in a panic, you will eventually make mistakes.  The moral is to take time to do things right, but it can also apply to stress in midterm projects.

You will feel overwhelmed, there’s no way around it.  You’re going to have a lot of work to do in what looks like very little time.  At this point  you’ll want to panic; you’ll scream and cry and want to kill someone.  But before you do any of that, take a step back, breathe in, breathe out, and relax.

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not saying that you shouldn’t work.  I’m just saying that you need to take time to relax.  Stress is never helpful, and if you’re stressed doing this project, you’re not going to have a good outcome.  What’s worse, stress can have several adverse effects on your health.  You don’t want to suffer a heart attack over one big project, do you?  I thought not.

Approach one problem at a time.  Don’t overwhelm yourself with everything at once.  Make sure you don’t rush into things, otherwise your grade (and your health) will suffer.  But most importantly; relax once in a while.  Lie down for a bit.  Drink a nice cup of coffee.  Listen to some smooth jazz.  If you can think of anything else that helps you relax, do it!

You probably won't win a Nobel Prize, but at least you'll get a good grade!

Let me make this clear; I am NOT a teacher.  I am not a guidance counselor, or an academic adviser, or any school official.  I am a student just like you.  I’ve been through all the stuff you’re going through, and I now know what to do when faced with a project like a midterm.  Will these three steps get you an A?  Maybe, maybe not.  I can’t be 100% certain.  However, I can be sure that if you follow these three steps, you’ll do a lot better than if you never read this post!

And hey, once you finish your project, maybe you can go and enjoy a Goodburger!

Sergio Lopez, Polytechnic Institute of NYU, Graduate Student ’12

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Midterms: I’ll Sleep When I Die

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

In high school I was a pretty huge fan of the ABC Family situational comedy “Greek,” which discussed the trials and tribulations of college “Greek Life.” I couldn’t wait to go to a state college (didn’t happen), join a sorority (didn’t happen), and pull all-nighters cramming for exams. I yearned to be just like the show’s female lead, Casey Cartwright, studying my evenings away in pink track suits, my hair looking elegantly disheveled.Inaccurate depiction of college life.

 

When I arrived at college, (ironically, mine does not participate in the Greek system whatsoever), these hopes and dreams were scattered to the Bronxian wind. And as the honeymoon phase of my freshman year began to dwindle, I was introduced to the most evil of all evils, straight from the fiery chasm of Mount Doom: the Midterm. It wasn’t what I expected. It wasn’t all coffee breaks and pants that say “Juicy” on the butt. It was hell.

Midterms are not fun or cute. They are a sadistic tradition required by most universities to remind students that real torture exists. They are the reason my roommates and I find ourselves awake at 4am surrounded by papers and empty coffee cups, quivering with nerves and caffeine. I’ll never forget my freshman year when Organic Chemistry had me lying face down on the floor, at my wits end and in a frenzied panic.

In recent years I’ve gotten better at midterms. Maybe they’ve become less scary with age, but I’ve definitely developed a system that I find to be fool-proof:

1. Organize: I’m not a very neat and tidy-type of a gal, but come testing season I go into overhaul. The day before my real studying starts I clean EVERYTHING. The kitchen, the bathroom, laundry; all of it. It makes for a cleaner space and clearer mind. Plus, I can’t procrastinate with cleaning or laundry– it’s all done. Get all of your papers and notes and post-its together and sort them by date. Even if you’re not planning on studying until tomorrow, it makes a big difference to have your notes and books sorted and ready to go when the true work begins.

 2. Avoid the Library: I find that, particularly in the midst of exam season, the library becomes much too tense and crowded for effective study. A lot of people thrive in this kind of environment, and good for them! But for my purposes I find it much easier to settle down in some type of cafe or coffee house. Instead of the halogen lights and silence of the library, most cafes offer soft lighting and quiet, easy listening tunes. Plus, if you’re studying with a group your quiet discussions will more likely be well-received outside the library.

 

3. Don’t Procrastinate: I find it extremely difficult to focus when my roommates don’t have work to do, often to the point that I might blow off studying to re-watch an episode of The Vampire Diaries. This is possibly the WORST hurdle in the marathon of test-prep. My usual tactic is to simply remove myself from the equation. When I have an exam to prepare for, I visualize the studying as a mountain standing in front of anything else I want to do– unless I climb over it, there’s nowhere else to go. I head straight to my study space and dive into my work. As with many things in life, studying gets a whole lot easier once you start. Take it from the laziest lay-around gal of them all: commit to your work and get it done.

4. Sleep!: If you’ve followed my first three steps there should be no reason not to get plenty of sleep. I personally believe that at some hour of the evening, maybe around 2am, the brain sort of stops holding information. If you feel like you’ve studied hard all day, hit the sack early and rest your mind and body– then wake up early and look at your notes with fresh eyes. This is definitely the hardest piece of advice to follow– all-nighters are so typical of college it just feels right, right? Just remember, getting a good amount of sleep makes all the difference.

And when you’re feeling the need for a coffee break, the Campus Clipper has you covered. Pop into Bourbon Coffee on 14th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues for a boost at 15% off! What would midterms be without caffeine?

 

Olivia, Fordham University 2012

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Impending Doom

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Well, I’ve finally reached my senior year. It seems like only yesterday I was a meek 18 year-old freshman, fresh off the plane from Georgia, feeling equally thrilled and nervous. Looking back on it I can say I had an incredible three years; the idyllic college experience. I tossed frisbees on campus, pulled all-nighters during finals week, studied abroad in New Zealand, and attended one Fordham football game (naturally, we lost). And now the end is nigh and the tension in my four-girl apartment is palpable. Senior year has introduced me to a stress I’ve never experienced before, a stress that follows me wherever I go. Our bubble  is about to shatter and we are constantly reminded that we are about to enter “The Real World.”

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This idea of “The Real World” has always confused me. Have these first twenty-one years of my life been pure preparation? Will graduation thrust me into some hellish alternative universe? The country’s current economic status is not a comfort to the soon-to-be grown-up. The recession has sent college students into a frenzy. What was once friendly competition has become a tooth-and-nail battle for class rankings. We find that every conversation ends up being about the LSAT or GRE. Our parents, grandparents, teachers, aunts, uncles, cousins — I bet even our pets if they could talk! — are constantly reminding us how difficult it is to find a job these days, how hard we’ll have to work, how much we’ll have to excel. We enter the job market low on hope but high on extra-curriculars; our resumes packed with random clubs and activities we hope will set us apart. It’s truly daunting. So daunting that some of us simply decide it would be best to stay in school as long as we can, increasing our debt but also our shots at success. This idea isn’t unique. Our chances of snagging our dream careers are slim to nonexistent, so applying to grad school seems to be the best way to remain reputably unemployed and fully insured. But if we assume we’re avoiding competition by opting to stay in school, we find ourselves sorely mistaken. We’re now grappling for spots in classrooms across the nation. We’re studying flashcards and Princeton Review test-prep books until our eyes are bloodshot and we’re agonizing over points lost in practice tests and which computer program is best for logic prep.

It seems there is nothing we can do to find a way to relax. The stress is truly inescapable.

But underneath all the tension, I find myself oddly excited to face the challenges that lay ahead of me. After all, it’s my life. We’re young right now, and lucky that the only people we have to worry about are ourselves. We apply, and apply, and if we don’t succeed, apply again.

At least I know I’m still able to get discounts on delicious food while I still have my student ID. I can put my savings in my survival jar.

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Adriana’s Pizzeria in Gramercy Park has a bunch of great deals for scrimping students, like the “Dorm Special,” which offers a large pie, 6 garlic knots, 6 buffalo wings, 6 mozzarella sticks, and a 2 liter bottle of soda for only $23.95. Did someone say girls’ night?!

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Olivia, Fordham University 2012

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Everything I Learned in Life, I Learned From Gaming

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

If you don't stand in fire in game, why would you do it in real life?

After all the years of schooling, careful parenting, and going to (and dozing off in) church, it turns out that all of my life lessons ended up coming from video games. Aside from the usual “don’t stand in fire” and “turtles are jerks,” there have been more than a few jarring epiphanies leading to advice that helped me immensely in academics, work, and social life. Feeling skeptical?

1. If I want something done and done right, I have to do it myself.

I learned this while raiding in World of Warcraft (read: playing with 10-25 people at the same time to solve intricate battles). Sure, I had to trust my team and work as a cohesive group from week to week, but when it came to killing a rogue monster or fearing it away, I learned not to wait for someone else to do it while the leader yelled that we were going to die.

This advice has worked for me in real life, too. At a job, all of the employees work together toward a common goal, whether it’s customer service, meeting a deadline, or building something. But if it’s a choice between focusing on my job and letting something important in the office not get done, and taking a few minutes out of my time to ensure the continued smooth operation of the workplace, I tend to choose to take initiative for the good of the team as long as I’m not neglecting my own duties.

2. If I don’t work towards fulfilling dreams and life goals, I will eventually go crazy.

The original The Sims games were great, but when The Sims 2 introduced the aspirations system, it became a work of microcosmic genius. Fulfilling minor wants like kissing a significant other or gaining skills improved one’s mood, which in turn gave the extra boost required to do jobs well. What really spoke to me was the “Lifetime Want,” a life goal that, once achieved, would put a character in a perpetual good mood state for the rest of its virtual life.

And when a Sim went through day after day not fulfilling any of its desires, the poor thing would actually get depressed, sob randomly, and eventually have to see a shrink. It’s like the Sim is me! I could spend the rest of my life getting by with achieving minor wants, or I could set a (realistic) life goal and work towards a more lasting happiness. Oh the choices in the life a Sim… er… human.

Another thing I learned from The Sims was that ordering Chinese takeout and pizza is expensive and fattening, but that was a little less poignant. Be like a Sim and cook with your own groceries, and use the Campus Clipper coupon for Associated Supermarkets at the end of my post.

3. Some things are more important at certain times than other things.

Despite the confusing wording, this was a pretty harsh lesson for me. I used to sit at my computer playing games for so many hours a week, it was like a full-time job. Honestly, I still play a lot; it’s the hobby that I enjoy. But during the last couple years at my first university, video games were trumping every priority I previously had, including class, homework, and hanging out with the friends I used to see every week. It wasn’t until I dropped out of school and had to get a full-time job to support myself that I finally cut down on my gaming, because I didn’t have the money for it.

Above everything, the big lesson here was to manage my time. Now, I’m back in school, working part-time, and still playing video games a good deal, because I know that at certain points in the week/semester, assignments and exams will have priority, and at other times when I have a little room to slack off, I can hang out in my virtual world without guilt.

These “life lessons” may seem silly if one has already learned them from other, more traditional sources like parents and social interaction, but they are essentially the same, no matter what the source. It is a skill for people to be able to glean information from a variety of experiences and use it to grow. Whether someone is a gamer freak or a mountain climber, the world is waiting to be studied and learned from.

-Avia Dell’Oste.

Cross-posted to my blog RP Your Life!

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