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5 Ways to Support Your Student Through Academic Stress

A stressed-out student.

A stressed-out student.

As a recent university graduate, I keenly remember the dark cloud of exams looming over me. As autumn became winter outside my window, I sat at my book-covered desk with a mammoth and ever-growing to-do list and the prospect of a good night’s sleep shrinking in proportion.

It is during such times of overwhelming academic stress that teens and young adults are most in need of parental support. Following is a list of ways in which parents of students can bring them comfort and provide practical help during exams.

1. Let them vent, and provide sympathy.

Sometimes, the best antidote to academic stress is simply to talk it out. While all their friends are just as entrenched in unfinished work and upcoming exams as they are, students are naturally looking for someone with the time and willingness to listen to their complaints, to commiserate, and to encourage them—someone like you.

Never press them to confide in you, which can cause them more stress if they’d rather not talk just yet, but be a sympathetic ear and a comforting voice should they need it.

2. Direct them to resources.

Knowing where to look for help is half the battle, and sometimes the prospect of seeking that help is too much for already-overworked students. If you notice your student is struggling with a particular subject or is simply unable to deal with the workload, consider researching the school’s academic services, such as a writing center or tutoring service, and gently directing your child toward whichever is suitable.

Alternatively, there are many online resources and books available to help students organize and learn material. This is a practical way in which you can help your student successfully navigate exam stress.

3. Help them prioritize.

As exams approach, students’ heads begin to swirl with due dates, exam schedules, and all the information they have to learn for their classes. Sometimes, just getting it all out of their heads onto paper will do wonders for their stress levels.

Encourage your student to make a list of when things are due and when they should be worked on. Then, help your student determine which tasks are of the highest priority so that he or she will know what to work on first and where to devote the most effort.

4. Remind them to rest.

No one can work 24/7, yet that is what many students feel they need to do to succeed. When I was a student, staying up too late was sure to burn me out and harm the quality of the work I was doing. Students often need help putting things into perspective. Remind them that, although it doesn’t feel like it, this stressful season will pass. In the meantime, they must take care of themselves.

Finding enough time to sleep, eat well, and be active can become yet another stressor to students, and these activities are often the first to be abandoned. Instead of berating students for not taking care of themselves as well as they should, do all you can to make these things easier for them. Send a care package with some healthy snacks for them to munch on while they study, or suggest that they take a half hour each day to simply rest by reading for pleasure, going for a walk, playing a game of catch with a friend, or taking a power nap.

5. Recognize their accomplishments, however small.

A lot of the academic stress students experience is internal, stemming from their own desire to succeed. To avoid adding to that pressure, remove any that might be coming from you by reminding them how proud you are of them and that your love is not dependent upon their grades.

Don’t reserve your praise only for when they ace a big exam; remember to take time to recognize non-academic accomplishments, too, such as helping a fellow student who’s having trouble or eating a healthy meal instead of fast food.

Whatever form your support takes, the main thing is that your child knows that you care and are willing to help however you can. When it comes down to it, exams are something students have to face on their own—you can’t take tests or write papers for them. But you can help them navigate the accompanying stress, worry, and pressure of exams by showing them compassion and kindness and by giving them practical advice.

Image Source: Tim Gouw/

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

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11 Great Uses of Technology in the Classroom

Students using technology in the classroom.

Students using technology in the classroom.

Society has progressed into the digital age, and the field of education has advanced right along with it. Teachers must now reach out to a generation that is more comfortable asking questions by talking to Siri than by raising a hand in the physical classroom.

Whether you teach at a school that offers hundreds of iPads or a single dinosaur computer with dial-up (if that’s still even a thing), the following tips and tools will help you use technology in the classroom to foster learning in your tech-savvy students.

1. Bring teaching into a digital environment.

Ever wish there was “an app for that” when it came to teaching? Well, platforms such as EdmodoSchoology, and Moodle are now available to help teachers stay on top of course content, assignments, and assessments. Your students (and you) will love the ease and convenience that modern technology offers.

2. Give your students a leg up in grammar with GrammarCamp for Classrooms.

With access to a top-notch online grammar class, pesky spelling and grammar questions can finally be answered with ease! This resource allows older students to learn at home or in the classroom with interactive games and quizzes to help them retain lesson material.

3. Teach every subject, from physics to gym, using iPads.

With its internal accelerometers and balance sensors, the iPad is capable of recording the precise measurements necessary for physics experiments (e.g., with the Clinometer app). Ideal for kinesthetic learners, mobile devices can be used in gym class to assess students’ exertion and balance capabilities.

4. Liven up math, geography, and other subjects with Google Maps.

Are your students bored with English literature, math problems, or geographic measurements? No sweat! Recapture their interest with Google Maps, which has innumerable applications for education. Games such as Smarty Pins and Earth-Picker combine computer literacy with educational trivia, while My Maps lets you create your own maps and learn how to read them. With a little creativity, Google Maps is a valuable learning tool in the classroom.

5. Encourage your students to download free ebooks.

Ebooks that are in the public domain are available through Project Gutenberg, a site that offers a wide variety of classic literature for free. If you teach literature in a post-secondary school, you can provide links to electronic versions of your course texts to save your students some money (and to save paper).

6. Enhance audio learning with recording apps.

Not only can you record group discussions with a voice-recording app, but you can also use audio recordings to improve students’ ability to read aloud. Students can record their reading multiple times and listen to the audio playback. This can help students hear their levels of fluency while reading and recognize when they are speaking with expression. Though technology can have a distancing effect (e.g., paying attention to Facebook rather than the textbook), it can also help students to engage with concepts in unprecedented ways.

GrammarCamp for Classrooms7. Have fun with SMART Boards.

Kids love moving, seeing, hearing, and interacting with information in exciting ways. What better method to bring all these teaching modes together than interactive whiteboards? In addition to their uses for notetaking, brainstorming, and media presentations, you can play games with your students using SMART Boards. Download templates for games like Jeopardy!, use interactive websites such as BrainPOP, or do some research to discover other relevant whiteboard activities.

8. Roll call? Or Balloon Pop?

Given the various options for using technology in the classroom, having students shout “Here!” and raise their hands seems a bit out of date. Instead of counting those outstretched arms by hand (no pun intended), you can use an interactive whiteboard to keep track of attendance. Students can even be made responsible for their own morning check-ins by tapping virtual balloons with their names on them. This use of technology saves time and helps you keep track of your class all at once.

9. Connect students to professionals and peers with Skype.

Though students are tempted to text in class, communication applications can be channeled for educational use. Programs such as the Skype an Author Network allow you to arrange interactive Q&A sessions with authors of children’s books for free. Or, you can use Skype to interact with other classrooms, enable remote participation and collaboration, or practice speaking in another language. Make the call (okay, that was a pun) to use technology to your classroom’s advantage.

10. Promote collaborative skills using Google Docs.

The importance of collaboration in educational, professional, and business sectors cannot be taught through teacher-oriented methods of learning (e.g., “the talking head” of traditional lectures). To prepare students for the working world, use platforms such as Google Docs for group projects. One idea is to have your students write collaborative stories using different font colors to keep track of each student’s edits. This program is also handy for shared research projects.

11. Use apps to get instant feedback.

If you’re wondering how your students are responding to your use of technology in the classroom, why not have them fill out a poll to receive their feedback? Use apps and programs such as MentimeterPoll Everywhere, or Socrative to gauge students’ responses to content-related questions or teaching-related feedback in real time. For once, mobile phones in class aren’t a distraction to learning.

Remember, technology is an incredible tool that can either enhance your students’ education or detract from it. If used creatively, apps, websites, resources, and devices can prepare your students with an education that is suitable for the digital age.

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Back to School Again: Awesome Advice for Adult Learners

An adult learner and his daughter.

An adult learner and his daughter.


Let’s begin this post with enthusiastic congratulations! Seriously, going back to school is a great decision. A degree or diploma, whether it’s your first one ever or the first one in a new field, can greatly improve your job prospects and further your career.

As a mature student, you will have a lot of advantages: you have experience in the working world, you have transferable skills, and you have a goal. There are several things you can do to make the most of your education and make the transition back to school a little easier.

Re-entering the World of Academia

The transition back into the world of academia doesn’t have to be hard. A few things may have changed, but as you already know, change is a good thing—that’s why you are seeking it out for yourself.

The biggest change for someone who hasn’t been to school for a few years (or a few decades) is probably in technology. It affects the way teachers teach and the way we learn. It is very likely that your professors will use a system such as Blackboard, an online portal for posting assignments, projects, and class notes. We can’t forget about email, either. Your email account will be your best friend. This is where you will receive notice about school events and where you can correspond with your professors.

As a student, be prepared to spend a lot of time creating assignments on programs such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs. Research will no longer consist of hours spent in the library but, instead, a few clicks on Google. However, you should be vigilant in identifying the quality of your sources and citing them properly.

If you are not familiar with the programs and platforms you’re expected to use, don’t get discouraged; many teachers have experienced the same learning curve, and they are there to help.

If anything, you will find that technology has made things easier, not harder. What you will really need to prepare for is the change school will bring to your everyday life. Pursuing an education takes up a lot your time, and as such, it is important to prepare yourself and your family.

Creating Work–Life Balance

Woman sitting in adult classroom with students in background (selective focus)

Unlike some of your younger classmates, at this stage in your life you likely have many responsibilities outside of school: a spouse, kids, a job, a home, etc. Maintaining a strong work–life balance is key to success.

Be intentional with your time. Classes will inevitably stretch your already busy schedule, so make every minute count. Know that you will have to make some sacrifices, but remember that you don’t have to sacrifice everything. You can also expect your stress level to rise a bit, especially during exam season, so take care of yourself. Get your eight hours of sleep, eat well, and make time for your family and hobbies. It’s easier said than done, but being prepared and sticking to a schedule will help.

Plan your study time. Set a routine, and enforce it from day one. This will help you stay on track. If you have children, sticking to a routine will also help them know that although you need to study sometimes, you will also make time for them.

Study Tips

Making the most of the time you do get to study will help you ensure that schoolwork doesn’t overflow into your other everyday activities.

The first tip is simple: go to class, even when you don’t want to. Being in an environment with your professor and peers will greatly improve your understanding of the material, which is a lot better than trying to teach it to yourself the night before the test.

If you find you have a lot of distractions at home (such as kids, Netflix, or cleaning), consider moving your study space. You can book a study room at your school or use the library. If you learn better in a group, create a study group with your friends from class. This will allow you to hold each other accountable for your study habits.

Side note: Try using the Cornell Note-Taking Method to efficiently categorize all your course information.

Working with Younger Students

First, stop worrying about fitting in. College is all about being yourself, and chances are, there are going to be other mature students in your program.

Although you might encounter the stereotypical “party” student, most of your classmates will be just as dedicated to their studies as you are. Create study groups and join clubs. College is the best time to start networking, so make friends and get to know your peers—including those who are younger than you. You’re all in the same program, after all, so you must have something in common!

When it comes to group projects, seek out people in your program who have similar goals to your own. Remember that you bring a valuable perspective and skill set to the group: you have real-world experience and skills from your previous job. Don’t forget they have skills, too. Share your experiences, and you’ll all see how rewarding it is to learn from each other.


You are opening a new chapter in your life: new skills, new friends, and new experiences. If you are still nervous, contact your school—you’d be surprised how many resources they have to help you. This is an opportunity you won’t regret taking. After all, as you’ll likely hear around campus, you only live once! #YOLO

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

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Which Fictional Teacher Are You?

Teachers in literature have been portrayed as villains, heroes, confidants, and of course, mentors. These fictional teachers have helped us relate to our own experiences in the classroom, either as students or as teachers ourselves.

Who is your favorite fictional teacher? Do you have a similar teaching style, or do you use a completely different approach? Take this quiz and find out which fictional teacher you’d be!

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13 Ways Teachers Can Build Great Teacher–Student Relationships

Teacher-Student RelationshipsYou’ve seen them all: the cool young teacher who relates to students as a friend, the stern veteran teacher who won’t put up with any nonsense, and the professor who values students’ input as much as the knowledge being shared from the podium.

No matter what your teaching style or experience level, relating better to your students can open the door to new learning opportunities for everyone involved.

What do the experts say about building great teacher–student relationships? Sara Rimm-Kaufman and Lia Sandilos of the American Psychological Association discuss the social and academic benefits, concluding that fostering positive relationships with students at different age levels improves student motivation and peer relationships, helps to address behavioral problems, and can even complement other important relationships in students’ lives.

The good news is that there are many ways to develop and maintain meaningful teacher–student relationships in the classroom. Whether it’s your first time at the head of the classroom or you’ve been teaching for 20 years, there’s always something new to learn—starting with your students.

Build a foundation for great teacher–student relationships.

1. Get to know (and like) your students.

The first essential ingredient in any relationship is an introduction. Get to know not only your students’ names but also their strengths and weaknesses, their interests, and their personalities. To know your students better, share something meaningful about yourself, such as your own educational background, interests, or quirks; you could do this by writing a letter to your students or by introducing yourself on the first day.

Building trust involves sharing who you are and learning whom your students are. Furthermore, getting to know students who are difficult or shy is essential to building trust in the teacher–student relationship.

2. Work with your students, not against them.

Instead of reacting to behavioral problems with anger, treat them as an opportunity for engaging the student in the classroom. Respect your students’ opinions, and channel their energies into productive outlets, such as group discussions or creative projects. Rather than pestering or complaining about students, get to know them, and show that you can be trusted. A study examining adolescent behavior in high school classrooms showed that teachers can use relationship building to prevent discipline problems, as students act out less when they perceive their teacher to be trustworthy. Trust is one of the values that facilitates positive relations in any classroom.

3. Practice respectful classroom interaction.

One of the best ways to lay a foundation for good teacher–student relationships is to create a code of conduct: agree on how things will be done before the class starts. Not only will these rules help create an ethical classroom but they will also create a culture of respect. This involves stressing the importance of respect among your students as well as between learner and teacher. But remember, behavior starts with your own actions, which leads to our next step.

Model appropriate behavior.

4. Be aware of your tone, expression, and body language.

A blackboard.

A respectful, friendly, cooperative classroom is all well and good, but what if you can’t conceal your frustration at Pam’s texting, Cam’s interruptions, and Sam’s constant chatter? Rimm-Kaufman and Sandilos urge professors and teachers to be aware of the explicit and implicit messages they send to students through words, actions, and manner. They recommend making a video of one of your lessons to ascertain whether you are demonstrating interest in your students as individuals or whether you are too bored, angry, or sarcastic to provide real attention. Modifying your own behavior will set the tone for positive teacher–student relationships.

5. Stay calm and emotionally balanced.

Keeping your cool goes hand in hand with cultivating a respectful classroom climate, as showing undue or prolonged irritability or annoyance toward your students can seriously undermine your relationships with them. While learning to accept constructive criticism is an important part of the learning process, nobody wants to be publicly lambasted by an authority figure. Remember to see the good as well as the bad in your students.

6. Be helpful and fair.

From simply answering questions to going the extra mile to meet your students’ academic needs, you must offer consistent, reliable support. You must also treat all students fairly, maintaining high standards for educational outcomes and acceptable behaviors. The rules apply to each student equally, so you should avoid favoritism and promote respect. All these approaches to teaching will secure your students’ trust in you as an educator, which will encourage them to seek help when the need arises.

Provide quality, one-on-one feedback.

7. Conduct personal interviews or student–teacher consultations.

Ideally, your students will see you as approachable and come to you with questions, concerns, and feedback. Sometimes students experience personal problems that may interfere with their studies. Though you are not trained to be a counselor or a social worker, you can still point your students in the direction of relevant services on campus, at your school, or in the community. Building great teacher–student relationships means caring for your students and respecting their emotional, social, physical, and mental well-being—not just their performance in the classroom.

8. Be available for office hours.

Part of a quality teacher–student relationship is being available and responsive to students’ needs. Even if you plead with students to talk with you in your office or after class, there are sometimes barriers that often prevent students from seeking help. One such barrier is scheduling. Make sure you hold regular office hours, but remain flexible enough to meet a student by appointment at a time that works for him or her. If you can’t arrange to meet at a different time, arrange to meet right after class or correspond via email. Another barrier is lack of information. Make sure students know where your office is and how they can reach you. Include this information on the syllabus, clearly marked. Though these steps might not guarantee more one-on-one interactions, they will allow students access to your individual guidance, should they need it.

9. Use comments to provide feedback.

A message on a blackboard.

You might be thinking that there’s no way you have the time to provide one-on-one feedback to your students. But even if you can’t arrange for face-to-face interaction on an individual basis, you can still provide tailored feedback through comments on students’ work. This could be in the form of written comments on reports, essays, and presentations, or it could be provided online—a medium that offers convenience and accessibility to teachers and students alike.

Build an open-communication, multi-modal learning environment.

10. Encourage open participation.

We often hear of the benefits of classroom participation, but how does this pedagogical tool affect student-teacher relationships? For one thing, it’s hard to relate to a lecturer who never allows feedback, challenging questions, or new ideas from his or her students.

Once you establish that no question is a stupid question and that true learning doesn’t arise from passivity, you can create a positive learning climate in which students aren’t afraid to contribute their ideas. Building group activities into a lesson or adding an online participation component can help your students engage with the material and discuss ideas with each other.

11. Use online learning environments.

Maybe the constant war over students’ attention—away from their smartphones and onto the curriculum—isn’t best served by confiscating said technology and using it to make long-distance calls to Europe (as one of my previous professors threatened). A better solution to redirecting students’ technology obsession is online learning platforms.

Use online forums to open new avenues of course-related dialogue for students who are too shy to speak in class. Create questions that invite students to relate the material to their own lives and spheres of knowledge. Keep an eye on these threads to make sure the conversation stays on track, and use students’ questions and salient points as teachable moments. Your responses in these online forums can show students that you value their ideas and care about their learning outcomes.

12. Provide additional resources.

In addition to online forums, using online courses or other materials can invest in students’ knowledge and show your interest in their transferrable skills. For instance, Inklyo’s GrammarCamp for Classrooms helps teach English grammar in a way that is engaging, using interactive activities and quizzes to drive points home. Giving your students access to such online resources is a great way to supplement your curriculum and help you meet your students’ needs effectively.

And finally…

13. Make teaching and learning fun!

How you teach is, perhaps, just as important as what you teach. You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian, but incorporating a bit of humor, storytelling, positivity, and enthusiasm in your subject can make all the difference in establishing a positive learning environment.

Following these guidelines will help you connect with your students to create the best environment for learning. You might have all the resources available in the world, but failing to show interest in your students or behaving in an inconsistent manner may damage your chances of building positive teacher–student relationships. Enrich students’ learning by respecting their social and emotional needs, which are just as important as their intellectual ones.

Image sources: Freeimages9/, Geralt/

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12 Essay-Writing Hacks from a Professional Editor

Essay-Writing Hacks

Essay-Writing HacksAs a professional editor, I’ve edited all kinds of documents, not the least of which are essays. I’ve seen it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Look, it’s easy to write a bad essay when it’s due in less than 24 hours (we’ve all been there), but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to write a good essay. To write a good essay, you just have to know what to look for to make weak writing stronger.

Simply looking is the number one job of a professional editor (outside of drinking coffee) because looking leads to discovering—and once you find your errors, improvement is just around the corner.

After editing over a million words, I’ve come to understand what makes a good essay and what makes a bad essay, and I have a few practical tips—essay hacks, if you will—for improving your own essay-writing skills.

1. Befriend your argument.

Make sure you know everything there is to know about your argument. That means you should understand exactly what it is you’re arguing and why. If your argument was an elevator pitch and you had to explain it to someone in just a minute or two, could you? If the answer is “No,” revisit the main point of your essay. Do more research to make sure you know the topic inside and out.

The reason you need to be prepared is that, if there’s any proof that can shoot your argument down, you not only need to shield those bullets but also to ricochet them back. Don’t just know your argument—befriend it. Find out its strengths and its weaknesses.

2. Challenge every idea.

If you have any questions about your topic, subject, or field, ask them as soon as you can. Hitting a snag later can stall progress on your essay, so if you can hit all the major weak points early on, you can avoid finding major flaws in your argument later.

Challenge anything that causes questions to sprout and play the devil’s advocate for your own argument. If you’ve identified these weaknesses before, now is the time to investigate further and begin to clarify anything that might still be fuzzy.

3. Select your sources carefully.

When selecting your sources, be picky. Don’t resort to using online sources just because they’re easily accessible. Try to use all kinds of different sources, but only if they’re current. Don’t pick a dusty old book from the library just to have a print source in your references list.

Choose current and relevant sources from trustworthy or notable scholars in the field. If your proof is questionable, your whole argument will fall apart, so choose your sources like you would an all-star team if you want to knock your essay out of the park.

4. Start writing early.

This is important: make sure you start writing early. Don’t put your essay off until the last minute. Do you know what’s waiting for you at the last minute? Regret and sadness.

Kickstart yourself now so you don’t kick yourself later. If you need to set an early deadline for yourself or split the essay writing into manageable chunks, do it. Just make sure you start early so you have time to solve any problems you run into later.

5. Organize for clarity.

The structure of your essay is every bit as important as the argument itself. If you have a flimsy structure, there’s no firm foundation to build the essay on; if there’s no firm foundation, your essay could collapse at any moment.

Focus on structuring your essay before you start writing. How will you arrange your argument and provide evidence in a cohesive and logical way? It’s better to answer that question earlier rather than later. Use transitions to ensure your argument flows logically from one point to the next.

6. Watch your tense and voice.

First, use the active voice when you write your essay (unless otherwise instructed). Second, avoid personal pronouns to maintain objectivity if need be (e.g., in scientific and other formal writing).

Third, you should write in the literary present, meaning that all actions performed in the text should be explained in the present tense rather than the past.

Finally, avoid using clichés. Since you want to present original thoughts, overused phrases need to be cut.

7. Explain everything clearly.

Any time you make a point, explain it clearly—even if you think it’s obvious. Your argument will be obvious to you (since you’ve befriended it), but it’s brand new to the reader. Your argument is meeting your reader for the first time, and like any new friends, they need introducing. If you fail to introduce them properly, things will get very confusing and awkward.

8. Be succinct.

Sentences should be straightforward, communicating one point at a time; cut all unnecessary words. You’ll also want to eliminate any repetition. It’s easy to say the same things over and over again in an essay, but doing so won’t strengthen your argument.

Cut unnecessary phrases and anything wordy or redundant, including phrases that don’t add information, such as “it should be pointed out that” or “due to the fact that.” Similarly, don’t ramble on about the same topic or go off on a tangent in the middle of your essay.

9. Avoid academese at all costs.

Try to keep things simple. While you shouldn’t talk down to your audience or explain every technical term, you should always be concise. Most importantly, don’t ever use words or phrases that you think will make you sound smarter.

It’s always best to be straightforward, so use the right vocabulary to say exactly what you want to say. It’s embarrassing if you try to use a fancy word only to find it doesn’t mean what you thought it meant.

10. Be aware of your word count.

Don’t go over your word count. Most markers will stop marking at the last word within the word count, so it’s crucial that you stay within it if you want to do well.

However, you also don’t want to stay severely lower than the word count provided. While you shouldn’t pad the essay by adding information that isn’t necessary to your argument or relevant to the topic at hand, you should get as close to the word count as possible by thoroughly exploring your topic and elaborating on your argument.

11. Carefully cite everything.

Unless you want to face a failing grade, academic probation, or even expulsion, you need to cite all of your sources. There are many types of plagiarism, but as long as you take good notes during your research and credit your sources, it’s easy to avoid plagiarism.

Your academic integrity is at stake here, so ensure that you are overly cautious in recording the necessary material. Be vigilant in confirming that you’ve documented everything fully and correctly.

12. Revise extensively.

Every good essay has been revised at least once, which means you, too, should tighten your writing. Comb through and ensure that everything is clear, consistent, and flows well. Once you’re happy with the content of your essay, you can sweat the small stuff, like grammar and spelling errors.

Even brilliant essays receive lower grades if simple mistakes are left in the document, so consider getting a second opinion and having an expert look over your writing for both form and content. At the very least, run a spell and grammar check. You’ll be so happy you did.


Essay writing doesn’t have to be hard. Anyone can write a good essay with the proper tools. These essay hacks are part of your toolkit, which you can use to improve your essay writing. Go from good to great by considering these tips and implementing them when writing your next essay.

If you would prefer a step-by-step guide for essay writing and want to improve your skills once and for all, you might want to think about taking a course to organize and write good essays every time.

How to Write an Essay in Five Easy Steps

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How to Master the Cornell Note-Taking System

Cornell Note-Taking Method

Cornell Note-Taking SystemThink ahead a few months: exam season has started, and you’re thankful that you’ve attended class faithfully and taken clear, well-organized notes—or so you thought.

The incoherent jumble of words and phrases stares up at you from the page like so much tangled spaghetti, defying you to remember exactly what the professor meant or how these ideas connect. How can you study effectively when faced with such a note-taking disaster?

The solution is easy: learn the Cornell Note-Taking System and start using it before exams start.

Created by Dr. Walter Pauk from Cornell University, this note-taking system is both an efficient way to record information and an effective way to absorb it. Aside from saving you the time and angst spent cramming, Cornell notes can actually improve the quality of your learning experience, helping you make connections and get more out of each lesson.

With this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn the five Rs of the Cornell note-taking system, and you’ll never end up with the nightmarish problem of not understanding your own notes.

Before You Begin

The Cornell Note-Taking System organizes ideas spatially, so it’s great for visual learners. The idea is to give yourself space for copying down information (class notes), for identifying key points (study cues), and for summing up the main ideas of the lesson (summary). Remember to also record the course name, the class topic, and the date of the lesson to keep your notes orderly.

Before class, use a marker or a different color of ink to divide the page into two main columns, with a bit of space at the top and a larger section at the bottom. Notice that the thick lines make a lopsided “I” shape.

Cornell Note Template

You might want to prepare several pages in advance, or you can use a template (you can find them online or use Microsoft Word to create a digital version). Lefties can switch the cue column to the right-hand side to make things easier. The idea is to make the process as easy as possible.

Step 1: Record

This is where the fun begins. Fill the largest section with your class notes, recording relevant terminology, names, dates, formulas, statistics, and other information. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Write neatly (or at least legibly).
  • Leave a space between each line in case you need to add more information later.
  • Use shorthand, such as the ampersand (&) instead of “and,” or acronyms instead of full terms, but make sure you know what they mean.
  • Don’t use complete sentences.

If you learn better by doodling/drawing or if you make connections through tactile learning (such as something you saw, smelled, or felt during an experiment), feel free to write these down. This will help you study later.

Step 2: Reduce

Class is over, but hold it! Effective note-taking continues outside of class. It might seem like a drag, but taking a few minutes to go over your notes (and clear up any illegible handwriting) while the information is still fresh in your mind will spare you hours of pulling out your hair while cramming for an exam.

After class, take a few moments to summarize the key points inside the left-hand column (study cues), and make sure they line up with the corresponding information. One way to reduce the lecture is to put it in your own words, looking for meaning and the relationships between ideas.

When study time comes, you can find information quickly by scanning the cue column, and you’ll already have a firm grasp on what you’ll need to know for the test.

Step 3: Recite

For the oral learners out there who remember best by hearing, take a few moments to verbalize the key points in the study cues. Without looking at the detailed notes from the class, see if you can remember what you learned by looking at the cues. You can always “cheat” a little to check if you got the right answer (it’s not the real test yet!).

Spoken information—especially if it’s in your own words—can help you understand the material in a way that simply memorizing something can’t.

Step 4: Reflect/Summarize

Ask yourself: How would I explain the lesson to someone who’s never learned it before? Not only do teaching and learning go hand in hand, but reflecting on what you’ve learned is the best way to retain information.

When you write your summary section, don’t think of it as a mere repetition. Treat it as a chance to engage with the material, including your thoughts, your questions, your interpretation, and your own personal reflections. You can even relate the material to the textbook or other study materials, to your previous experiences, or to knowledge from other courses; the more connections you can make, the better.

Step 5: Review

This step can actually be done throughout the semester as a way to aid comprehension and alleviate the pressure of studying for exams. Believe it or not, taking the time to review your notes for 10 minutes each week can spare you the 10 hours of fruitless studying where you’re straining to remember what was once fresh in your mind.


They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If that’s true, then a systematic approach to college or university note-taking is worth the effort. Don’t make your studies any more stressful than they need to be: become a master of Cornell notes instead.

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Where Do Canadians Study? [Infographic]

Where Do Canadians Study?

September is quickly approaching, and that means students around the world are preparing to go back to school. But where, exactly, are they going? This infographic explains where undergraduate and graduate students attend university in Canada and how many adventure-seekers travel abroad to receive their education.

Are you attending college or university this fall? How to Write an Essay, an online course by Inklyo, will help you prepare for another year of learning.

Where Do Canadians Study?

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20 English Idioms with Surprising Origins

English Idioms

Raining Cats and Dogs: English Idioms with Surprising Origins

Idioms are figures of speech that become fixed in a language. Usually, an idiom is figurative in modern contexts but once had a literal meaning. These literal meanings, or idiom origins, can help a learner of English to understand where a phrase originated.

Ever wondered what it means to “turn a blind eye” or “pull out all the stops”? Wonder no more!

Because the English language is full of idioms, we wanted to compile a list of English idioms and their origins to help make better sense of how these idioms work in modern contexts.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. Straight from the horse’s mouth

Meaning: getting information directly from the most reliable source

Origin: This one is said to come from the 1900s, when buyers could determine a horse’s age by examining its teeth. It’s also why you shouldn’t “look a gift horse in the mouth,” as inspecting a gift is considered bad etiquette.

2. Let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: to mistakenly reveal a secret

Origin: Up to and including in the 1700s, a common street fraud included replacing valuable pigs with less valuable cats and selling them in bags. When a cat was let out of a bag, the jig was up.

3. Butter someone up

Meaning: to praise or flatter someone, usually to gain a favor

Origin: A customary religious act in ancient India included throwing butter balls at the statues of gods to seek good fortune and their favor.

4. Pulling someone’s leg

Meaning: teasing someone, usually by lying in a joking manner

Origin: Although pulling someone’s leg is all in good fun nowadays, it originally described the way in which thieves tripped their victims to rob them.

5. Wolf in sheep’s clothing

Meaning: someone who is pretending to be something they are not, usually to the detriment of others

Origin: This one’s attributed to the Bible (Matthew 7:15). The Bible also gave us “rise and shine” (Isaiah 60:1), “seeing eye to eye” (Isaiah 62:8), and a “broken heart” (Psalm 69:20).

6. Hands downHands Down

Meaning: without a lot of effort; by far

Origin: Winning “hands down” once referred to 19th-century horseracing, when a jockey could remove his hands from the reins and still win the race because he was so far ahead.

7. Riding shotgun

Meaning: riding in the front seat of a vehicle next to the driver

Origin: In the Wild West, the person who sat next to the driver was often equipped with a shotgun to kill any robbers that might happen upon the coach.

8. Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: pursuing a misguided course of action

Origin: Likely referring to hunting, this saying explains when a dog would literally bark at the bottom of the wrong tree after the prey in question moved to the next branch.

9. Flying off the handleFlying Off the Handle

Meaning: suddenly becoming enraged

Origin: This one is said to come from poorly made axes of the 1800s that would literally detach from the handle. Yikes!

10. Cost an arm and a leg

Meaning: extremely expensive

Origin: The story goes that this phrase originated from 18th-century paintings, as famous people like George Washington would have their portraits done without certain limbs showing. Having limbs showing is said to have cost more.

11. Sleep tight

Meaning: used to tell someone to sleep well

Origin: One possible origin of this phrase dates back to when mattresses were supported by ropes; sleeping tight meant sleeping with the ropes pulled tight, which would provide a well-sprung bed.

12. Bite the bullet

Meaning: to perform a painful task or endure an unpleasant situation

Origin: In the 1800s, patients would literally bite on a bullet to cope with the pain of having surgery before anesthesia was common.

13. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Meaning: look for avoidable errors so you don’t remove something good with the bad

Origin: This idiom allegedly comes from a time when the household bathed in the same water; first, the lord would bathe, then the men, the lady, the women, the children, and the babies last. The bath water is said to have been so dirty that there was a risk of throwing the baby out with the water once everyone was done bathing!

14. Jump the sharkJump the Shark

Meaning: the moment when a form of entertainment reaches a decline in quality by including gimmicks to maintain interest.

Origin: In the show Happy Days, the character Fonzie literally jumps over a shark while water skiing; afterward, radio personality Jon Hein popularized the phrase “jump the shark” to describe the decline of the show.

15. Minding your Ps and Qs

Meaning: being on your best behavior

Origin: There are many origin stories for this one, but perhaps the one that is most fun is that bartenders would keep track of the pints and quarts consumed by their patrons with the letters “P” and “Q.”

16. Turn a blind eye

Meaning: to consciously ignore unwanted information

Origin: The phrase “to turn a blind eye” is said to originate with Admiral Horatio Nelson, who allegedly looked through his telescope using his blind eye to avoid signals from his superior telling him to withdraw from battle.

17. Armed to the teeth

Meaning: to be extremely well equipped

Origin: The idea behind being “armed to the teeth” is that the weapon wielder would carry the maximum number of weapons, so many that he or she would be forced to carry some between his or her teeth.

18. Get one’s goatGet One's Goat

Meaning: to irritate or annoy someone

Origin: This one also comes from horseracing. Jockeys placed goats in the stables with their horses as this was said to relax the horses. However, competitors would remove the goats of their rivals to spook their competitors’ horses, hoping they would consequently lose the race.

19. Pull out all the stops

Meaning: to do everything you can to make something successful

Origin: Alluding to the piano-like instrument the organ, this phrase refers to when the stops are pulled out to turn on all the sounds in an organ, allowing the organ to play all the sounds at once and, therefore, be as loud as possible.

20. Dish fit for the gods

Meaning: a very scrumptious or delectable meal

Origin: We can thank Shakespeare for this expression (found in Julius Caesar), but we can also thank him for “foaming at the mouth” (Julius Caesar), “hot blooded” (The Merry Wives of Windsor), “in stitches” (Twelfth Night), “green-eyed monster” (Othello), “wearing your heart on your sleeve” (Othello), and “one fell swoop” (Macbeth).


Did any of these idiom origins surprise you? Do you know of any other English idioms with surprising origin stories? Alternatively, do you know of any other idioms in other languages that you think are interesting or funny? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter!

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What to Do after Graduation

What to Do After Graduation

What to do after graduation The final notes of Pomp and Circumstance fade into the background. The last graduate cap hits the ground with an anticlimactic thud. The final whoops and hollers diminish as you shuffle from the auditorium and into the Real World.

After the celebrations and the partying (oh, the partying), you’re left with a hollow question ringing in your mind: “Now what?” This question is the bane of all recent graduates as relatives, friends, and possibly coworkers sound off all around, echoing back the same question as if it hasn’t already been running through your mind ceaselessly.

Now what? Maybe the options feel too numerous; perhaps the world is too big but feels too small. However, the possibilities for which direction you should now take are endless. After so many years of school and for the first time ever, you finally get to decide what it is you want to do on your own.

No pressure, right? So, what is it you want to do? How can you possibly decide when there are so many different criteria to consider? By looking at your options and goals and carefully considering the decisions that need to be made in advance, the choice about what to do after graduation can be a happy one.

Option 1: Go Back to School

What? But I just emphasized how free you finally are! You were stuck in school for so many years, and you just finished! Why on earth would you ever want to go back?

Going back to school is a good option if you’ve already been struggling in the job market. If you’ve found that no positions are available in your field or that you don’t have enough schooling to land your target job, then you should consider packing your backpack again. Chances are you should give another career path a try or get more schooling (like your Ph.D.).

However, you should consider your financial situation. You probably have a ton of student debt to pay off as it is, so considering your financial situation is important before you sharpen your pencils again. If you can’t afford to go back to school, it’s probably a good idea to work outside your field or even in a job you feel overqualified for so you can earn some extra cash. You could also look into getting help through loans or scholarships.

Option 2: Enter the Workforce

You don’t want to go back to school. You’ve been there and done that so you could get the job you’ve always wanted. Let’s look at another possibility.

Entering the workforce is a good option if you’re looking to take the next step in your career. To work in your field, you probably went to school to take the appropriate program and earn the necessary qualifications. Now that you have them, you can finally get to work! Plus, you’ll be making that hard-earned money, which means you’ll be able to support yourself and work toward other goals.

However, you should consider your qualifications. Are you qualified enough to work in your field, or is more schooling necessary? You might not want to go back to school, but sometimes there’s no other choice. You should also consider your mental state. Are you totally worn down from school? If you’re burnt out and need a break, you probably won’t last long in the professional world, so it’s important to consider how you’re feeling before you dive into the next big thing.

Option 3: See the WorldNew York

You don’t have classes to work around anymore. You don’t have a job yet that you need to schedule time off from. You’re free—so free, you can travel the world!

Seeing the world is a good option if you’re looking to make the most of your freedom while you still have it. Because you have nobody to answer to but yourself now that you’ve graduated, you might want to travel somewhere you’ve never been, visit family or friends in another place, or revisit a spot you love. Now’s your chance to book that flight!

However, you should consider your financial situation once again. Do you have the extra money to go gallivanting around the world? Look at cheap destinations, find flight deals, and ask about staying with people you know. If you don’t have the money, you can work a temporary job before taking off for your vacation.

Option 4: Move Back Home

Maybe you’re tired. You just want to relax now that you’re finally done and take a mental break from study notes, teaching assistants, and exam questions. A familiar face is just what you need.

Moving back home is a good option if you’re looking to turn your brain off for a while and build some much-needed stamina. If you’re able to take a break and have a staycation, you’ll be able to breathe for a while and figure out exactly what direction you’ll take after your break. You can also save money by living at home.

However, you should consider your goals. Once you’ve put on the brakes, it’s easy to stay parked and not move again. Have an exit strategy for when you’re ready to leave. You’ll want to give yourself a time frame, and your parents will likely want you to have one, too. When do you want to be out on your own? You’ll have to have a game plan once you get there. Why exactly did you go to school? What’s next? Answering these questions will ensure that you stay motivated after your break.

Option 5: Help Someone Else

You didn’t pursue higher education to party in another country or to laze around at home! You went to school so you could better yourself. With a little work, you could help to better the world, too.

Volunteering is a good option if you want to give back. You can volunteer locally to give back to your community or volunteer abroad to better the world one step at a time. Helping other people is rewarding, and it’s always a good idea to volunteer if you can. You’ll also be able to add to any qualifications you need for job hunting with the appropriate volunteer work, so say hello to an improved resume.

However, you should consider your financial situation. While it’s nice to volunteer, it’s not always possible if you’re broke. You might want to consider working part-time while you volunteer so you can support yourself. If all else fails, living at home might help you to pursue your goal of volunteering, so say thank you to your accommodators and continue improving the lives of those around you!

Option 6: Pursue a Dream

You’ve got an idea in the back of your mind, a dream you’ve had for a long time but have never had the time to pursue. There’s nothing stopping you now!

Pursuing a dream is a good option if you want to cross a goal off your list. Now’s the perfect time for you to chase that dream you’ve always had. Whether you’ve always wanted to write a novel, be in a movie, get in shape, learn how to sword fight, or bowl a perfect 300, now is your chance! You have the time and the freedom to follow that dream of yours, and you’ll love yourself for using that time and freedom so wisely.

However, you should consider your financial situation. If you can’t afford to buy sword-fighting equipment or spend all your time at the bowling alley, your dream may have to wait until you can advance your professional career. The good news is that you can always pursue a dream after work hours, so don’t give up just yet!


Deciding what to do after graduation is a lot of pressure, but it should be exciting. After all, you’ve worked so hard to get to this point, and you’ve finally done it. Now that the celebrating’s over, it’s time to remember why you did it.

Image source: Juan Ramos/, Steve Richey/ 

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