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5 Study Tips from a College Graduate

January 20th, 2011

College can be tough. Endless homework assignments, semester-long projects, and heavily weighted tests are all on your mind while you work your full-time job and try to maintain a respectable social life. While procrastination is probably the #1 GPA killer in colleges and universities today, anxiety from important tests also cause a lot of trouble.

There are many test structures used in a variety of classes in an assortment of fields of study, so one set of study guidelines that can be used for all would be hard to put together. Hopefully, at least, you can use one of my 5 study tips below to help you on your next big test.

1. Print It Out
Most tests are still done with a good ole pen and paper. If you’re going to be testing on paper, you should study on paper too. I believe that you can maximize your studying efforts by mimicking the style of the test and the surrounding environment while you study. So if you’re test outline is on-line or it’s based off of many power-point presentations, print them out and stop staring at your computer screen. What also may be of help is a way of organizing the material so you can study more efficiently. For me, I found it a pain to constantly flip from one page to another in a continuous search for what I needed to study at that moment in time. To fix this problem, I laid out all of the material, in order, on my bed so I could easily scan all of it. This helped me get the big picture of the entire test and also saved me time because I never had to search for anything. (Studying for my last exam at Rhode Island College)

Studying2. Trust Yourself
Sometimes the depth of one test is overwhelming. This is when too much time is spent studying on unnecessary material. If the test is going to cover 6 different topics and you’re already strong in 2 of them, don’t focus on them! Dedicating time to the areas in which you are weakest should be an obvious move. You may be taking a test that involves a lot of information, definitions, and understanding of multiple ideas that will need to be applied, not just repeated, come test time. This was the case in my Organizational Behavior class in the Spring of 2010. Instead of devoting time to making sure I knew how to apply definitions and concepts to different scenarios, I studied the definitions and concepts alone. I knew that if I thoroughly understood the material at hand I would be able to apply it correctly when I needed to. Had I worried about the application part, a lot of time would have been spent reading examples and I would not have had the time to get a full grasp on the basic material.

3. Turn Up The Volume
This is something that I use all the time now for test preparation. Once I have studied all of the material and believe I have an understanding of everything I need to know, I put my earphones in and turn the iPod on. Say you need to define the term marketing–whoever your professor is or whichever textbook you are using the definition is probably a little lengthy. Or say you need to list 8 styles of management and briefly describe each one. When you’re at the point of being able to do this, try it with your iPod volume on high in your ears. Try repeating the definition or list in your head; the higher the volume, the more difficult this is. It requires a lot of concentration to focus your thoughts on what you are trying to repeat in your head while disregarding the beat of the music and voice of the artist. Try this with a song that you know you love, making it more difficult to resist enjoying it. This is why before any test, you will see me with my iPod on, sharpening my knowledge. What’s the point of this? If you can remember definitions, concepts, lists, etc. while you can barely hear your thoughts, imagine how clearly you will think in a silent room while you take the test.

4. Eliminate Unnecessary Stimuli
When you’re studying…study! Get off of Facebook, stop watching Mad Men, and quit teasing your cat with a laser pointer. Get down to business, it will save you time and improve your results. Even on test day, it doesn’t hurt to review key material, and no I don’t mean last minute studying. So instead of surfing the net in the computer lab or chatting with friends in the hall…focus. I even go as far as wearing the hood of my sweatshirt so my peripherals are blocked. If my mind is taking in the visuals of only what’s in front of me, rather than all that is around, it has more room to concentrate on the test. Scientifically that statement may be completely incorrect, but it works in my reasoning.

5. Lucky Something
We’ve all heard of lucky pennies, lucky socks, and just about anything else you can think of. For my last two semesters at Rhode Island College, whenever there was a big test, I donned my black RIC hoodie with an anchorman (school mascot) and text that has just about completely faded away. Is it really lucky? Does Lady Luck help me write down the correct answer? Don’t think so! What the hoodie does is give me confidence. Having a great deal of confidence doesn’t mean you can lay off the studying and expect the same performance. However, where there is confidence, there isn’t anxiety. I’ve seen way too many people stressed out of their minds about a test and I have to believe this affects their performance (not thinking clearly, second-guessing answers, rushing through questions, etc). Grab your lucky cap and walk tall!

Different techniques work for different people, maybe one of these will help you with an upcoming test. I know that when I take my GMAT next month I’ll be wearing my black hoodie and my lucky lobster boxers.

How do you prepare for tests? Do you have any study methods that you would like to share?

Bryan Ricard Life Lessons , , ,

Never Stop Learning

May 16th, 2010

Now that the Spring semester has come to a close for 2010, I no longer have to attend classes everyday and listen to lectures, review slides from PowerPoint presentations, perform research, or do homework assignments for the next few months. While this is a pleasing fact it also leads to a problem; I won’t be learning.

In order to improve oneself and continue to succeed you must never stop learning. We’ve all heard the sayings “knowledge is power” and “never stop asking questions”; these sayings hold a lot of truth and reason to them and that’s why people keep repeating them.

Absorbing information from different domains and gaining insight into new possibilities provides oneself with opportunities. Taking advantage of opportunities is how you move forward on the path to success rather than standing comfortably in one spot. In an effort to to build on my knowledge and add value to my personal brand I have decided to attend Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University.

Attending IMU

This certification program consists of 16 on-line classes, taught by very reputable professors, that educate students on inbound marketing. After going through the one hour courses you have the opportunity to take the exam, if you receive a 75% or better you are inbound marketing certified.

This will be the first of my goals to be accomplished over the course of this summer. I intend on being certified by Sunday June 6th. And yes, you can hold me to it.

Bryan Ricard Life Lessons , , , ,

Be self-reliant and your success is assured

May 11th, 2010

Since the beginning of 2009 my life has changed tremendously. This is when I finally took the step towards my career path by investing a lot of time and effort into my courses as well taking advantage of numerous opportunities like the American Marketing Association and internships. Everything that I have experienced and all that I have accomplished from that time until now have really shaped me into the person I am today.

Today, my very productive, confidence-boosting, “I can’t be stopped” 17 month time frame has come to an abrupt halt as CVS declined me for a summer internship in their Media Department. It goes without saying that interning full-time with a Fortune 18 company yields numerous opportunities for experience and networking, as well as a tremendous resume addition. I’ll admit I am disappointed; I’m missing out on a great opportunity. Sure I was one of over 500 applicants, narrowed down to 50 or so who got interviewed, sure they sent a nice rejection e-mail me with words like “impressed, outstanding, diligence, you should be proud! and competition was fierce!”, and sure at the very least I gained interview experience as I had three of them back-to-back-to-back…but I wasn’t selected.

It’s like coming in second in the big race and getting the silver medal. There are times you’d rather be fourth or fifth because you weren’t that close to the prize. Losing closely sometimes hurts more than losing by a lot. Anyone who knows my attitude toward competition in any form knows I don’t want the consolation prize; I play to win.

The confidence I exude on a regular basis is now against its first real test. I have no problem displaying confidence even if it’s not all there on the inside because that’s how you should present yourself in any situation. However, it’s easy to act like this when everything is pretty much going your way. It’s easy to quote cute little sayings to your friends in an effort to boost their self-esteem and confidence when you are experiencing smooth-sailing yourself. Is it just as easy to stand by my words when I finally stumble? It’s time for me to walk the walk after a real big rejection.

To all my friends who I ever said “don’t worry about it” to after they received a bad grade or didn’t get a job, and to everyone who I told to “keep trying” or said “so what, do it again” when they failed in some way, and to anyone who has heard me say “no big deal, move on”, when it really was a big deal – this is your proof that I too, don’t always succeed.

Will that stop me? Nope.

Bryan Ricard Life Lessons , , , , ,

Take Your Own Path

May 8th, 2010

It’s that time of year again, when students everywhere don their caps, gowns, and tassels at a ceremony that transitions them from college life to the real world. This past Wednesday was the cap and gown convocation at Rhode Island College and I witnessed many proud seniors walking around in delight as they were one step closer to receiving their degrees. While I congratulate everyone on their accomplishment I did feel slightly left out as I am not graduating this May with everyone else.

Note: If you want to skip the story and go straight to the point, ignore the following three paragraphs.

After graduating High School in 2005, I had every intention of continuing on to the next level of education, just not right away. Like many young adults, I had no clear idea on what I wanted to do with my life. I threw around the idea of graphic design at Gibbs College, but that was quickly dismissed. I already felt the urge to go into management, or some form of general business, but I was not ready to attend college; so I didn’t. All I knew was that I wanted my ideas to be part of something bigger than me. I took a year off from school altogether and continued to work while many people said I would lose any motivation to go to college; these folks underestimated me.

Ultimately, I applied to one college the following year, Rhode Island College, and was accepted. I decided to get a B.S. in Management (which later turned into Operations Management), and essentially, what did I accomplish by waiting? I could have attended RIC immediately after High School and at least got some of my general education classes out of the way; this is a concept I don’t think I quite understood at the time. I ended up going to the same college I more than likely would have attended had I applied a year prior, and striving for the same degree at that. Had I been on the same educational path as most of my High School peers, I would have graduated in May of 2008, so why am I bringing this up now?

It didn’t really bother me that I would be “a year behind” my high school class. However, it’s more than that. I decided to add a second major, Marketing, and this added another semester to my college career. While it’s only one extra semester, it may not have been extra had I added the Marketing major sooner and packed my earlier semesters tighter. I could go the other way with this one though, I have had multiple 5 and 6-class semesters, on top of summer classes, that have allowed me to only need one extra semester.

My point is this…it’s natural to question your decisions in life. It’s very easy for me to say “Damn, I could have been done with college a year ago!” While that may have been nice, how do I know my life would have been any better up to this point? I don’t. Thinking about the “what if’s” and “shoulda coulda woulda’s” doesn’t get you anywhere and is just a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong, thinking about the future in these terms can be fun and great for setting goals, but don’t waste your time regretting anything.

You are you, and you are where you are for a reason. Had I not taken the path I am on now, I may not have had all the opportunities and success I have seen thus far. I don’t know what I’d be doing right now had I graduated in 2008, but I also don’t care. The decisions that led me here were already made and I cannot change that, so why bother thinking about it?

Invest your time, thoughts and efforts into what you can control; and that excludes the past.

Bryan Ricard Life Lessons , , ,