Category

Study

Category

summer college classes

As summer is coming to an end, I thought I would talk about my experience taking summer college classes.

Personally, I decided to start college in the summer instead of in the fall because I have already taken a gap year ‘break’ from school. I wouldn’t have taken summer classes if I were coming to college straight after school; I like to spend my summers doing something different, or enhancing my skills in a non-academic context.

However, I love the experience that I gained from this academic summer session, and if you are considering doing it too, here’s a list of pros and cons for you to consider: (Note that this is solely based on my experience!)

benefits of taking summer college classes

You can move ahead in your major or explore other courses that may be too filled up during the year.

This is particularly so if you’re in a large school and have to ‘fight’ for courses during the academic year. The population at my university is huge, so enrollment for classes is always very stressful. For summer, however, I was able to enroll in the classes that I wanted without worrying about not getting in.

If you’re an out-of-state student attending a public school, summer classes tuition will be ‘cheaper’ for you, as you’ll pay the same as someone who is in-state.

I am an out-of-country student, so tuition is definitely more expensive for me during the academic year. But my summer fees are the same as that of an in-state student, so it’s a ‘win’ for me.

There are not as many distractions.

During the summer, most extracurricular activities are on a pause, so you’ll be able to focus better on your academics. You’ll be able to start exploring campus before all the chaos of the academic year kicks in – and that’s a pretty cool and different way to transition into college.

disadvantages of taking summer college classes

Summers should be spent doing something different.

Even if you’re not doing something to build up your resume, e.g. volunteering or interning, you can still use this time to work on yourself.  Time is valuable, but so are you.

I feel that the hardest aspect of college is not studying – everyone can buckle down and study (or cram) if they are under pressure. The difficult thing is in understanding why you take the classes that you do, what you can do with your education, and what your priorities are. You can only do this if you actually take time off the system and think about it.

So, go out, explore, and discover.

It’s harder to get an internship and/or work on other side projects.

If you are hoping to get an internship at the career that you’re intending to follow, or hoping to work on any other projects, summer classes might ruin this for you. At least half of your time will be spent attending classes and studying/working for them – which is not too much, but you will be left with less energy to work on other things.

Classes are very fast-paced.

There’s only 2 months (or less) to learn all the material that you would normally learn in a semester or quarter system. This means that you have to be ready to condense a lot of knowledge and information in half the time. This should be doable as you’ll be taking no more than half the classes that you would during an academic year, e.g. a normal semester workload is 4 classes; for the summer, it’s 2 classes.

You won’t be able to move around or travel too much.

If you’re hoping to travel or go on adventures, your possibilities will be limited if you’re physically taking classes at some college. However, this won’t be that big of a deal if you’re not from the area, or if you prioritize your academics over travel.

alternatives to taking summer college classes

Spend the summer abroad.

If you do this through your college, it can allow you to do two things at once: intern/take classes and explore the new country. It’s a perfect combination, and it’s a great and enriching way to spend your summer.

Take online classes.

Though online classes are not as much fun, it will give you more flexibility to manage your routine and accomplish other things, including traveling and working/living somewhere else. I would recommend this for a class that you are not looking forward to, as you’ll be able to get it out of the way quickly in the summer.

If you attend a 4-year college, you can take 1-2 classes at a nearby community college. 

If there are classes that you need to satisfy, you don’t necessarily need to do so at your (expensive) college – you could check out which community colleges can satisfy these requirements for you. The perks of this are cheaper tuition and cheaper classes. However, you will also need to find housing near the college, which may be a nuisance if you don’t know the area really well.


Personally, I am really happy with my decision to start college in the summer. Because orientation doesn’t start until fall, I had to explore my college campus by myself (or with friends), which helped me become more college-independent. As an international student, I also love having used this time to get used to the new environment, explore the area, and plan for my upcoming semester with the campus at my reach.

-Michelle

how i use my notebooks

I… like notebooks. My collection has started to grow in the last few years (though not as much as books), and I’ve used them in many ways, mostly to record memories and thoughts that come and go. Here are a few ideas that I’ve used in the past:

morning pages

Writing 3 pages of thoughts that come to your mind. Though I’ve moved this habit onto my Hobonichi Cousin planner and don’t adhere to the 3-page rule, this is something that got me started with ‘therapeutic’ morning journaling.

5-minute morning journal

Instead of buying the actual 5-minute journal, I simply wrote down the prompts and answered them on each page every morning. You can either write your answers down each day, or just answer them in your head during your meditative sessions each morning.

bullet journal

Oh, I love bullet journaling. I’ve stopped for the year as I’ve switched to a planner, but the creativity that I’ve learned from this practice is just everlasting. The cool thing about this? You only need a notebook and a pen. I kind of regret spending more money than necessary on these expensive notebooks – they are very nice, but not necessary at all. So please don’t look at my bullet journal and think that you need to get yourself an expensive notebook to make your bujo look nice. It’s about what’s inside that matters, after all. (Don’t be like me).

calligraphy & ambidexterity

This is kind of a notebook for random skills and brainstorming ideas that come to mind. At the moment, I use it to practice and track my progress on calligraphy/ brush lettering, and ambidexterity (left-hand).

memories

I have just gotten into doing travel diaries. I have decided to do them like collages: printing out my favorite pictures from the trip, spreading them out on several pages of a notebook, and adding some details, stickers and writing to these memories that I want to treasure forever.

swatches

This is a silly one, but it’s currently what I’m using this notebook for. My stationery collection grew from my last trip to Taiwan (and mini-trip to Japan), and I’ve decided to swatch some of my most used stationery here. I love the design of this notebook, and I might use this as a planner/bujo next year.

to-do lists

This is mainly for those of you who don’t like keeping a planner. This kind of notebook is small and easy to carry around – perfect for making and scribbling lists. I’m definitely a planner person, so I don’t use any other notebooks to make lists.

revision notes

I’ve used this for 2-3 years at school for final exam revision notes. I literally carried this around the house and at school during those periods, and I’m surprised that it still looks as pretty as ever. I’m definitely taking this with me to college!

notebook collection

Finally, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’ve got more notebooks than I need. But, just like books, I know that I’ll get to them some day. I’ll either fill them in with my rambling thoughts, future memories, or just any story yet untold.


😉

-Michelle

stop studying & start learning

Learning should be our main focus, and studying should be a complement of it.

I think a lot of us who are still in school or have just finished school naturally use these two words interchangeably. I know I do, for the most part. Our education system is shaped in a way that we, as students, are obliged to comply with the system in order to succeed academically. And that means that whatever we ‘learn’ in class – oftentimes irregardless of whether we enjoy or find deeper meaning in that course – we have to study it at home prior to exams.

I was a good student throughout most of my school journey. I usually enjoyed most of the classes I had and, as I grew older, I also learned to see the benefits of learning classes that didn’t appeal to me as much. For instance, taking Maths Higher Level in the International Baccalaureate program allowed me to think so freaking critically about mathematical and logical problems, the type of thinking that I would never apply anywhere else. Though I have forgotten most of the formulas and math applications that I learned back then, I learned something even more important: the ability to deal with abstract, logical and mathematical problems. A skill that, when re-polished, will allow me to think broader in whatever I invest my mind into.

That is what I call learning. And though my Maths HL journey oftentimes got me on the verge of tears, I realized that I couldn’t just study for the sake of the grand final exam. I had to endure 2 years of this class, and the only way that I could get myself to not give up was if I saw Maths class for more than what it was. And so that’s what I did. I became fascinated with how my mind worked through these excruciating math problems. The way I thought, delivered and executed through these problems fascinated me, because it challenged me in a way that no other class did.

If I had just gone through Maths class solely by studying ‘maths’… that would not have been learning. That would have been plain surface studying, and I would not have survived. We cannot just ‘study’ a course for the sake of studying and hope to get out of it as much as we truly can.

During my gap year, my thirst for knowledge allowed me to learn without looking at it as ‘studying’. I read beginner books in Italian and Chinese to improve my linguistic skills through a medium that I thoroughly enjoy. I purchased a few piano books to polish my understanding of music theory, and to get me going on the most popular and easy piano songs. I finally got my first camera, and learned how to use it by reading the manual and using trial & error interchangeably. I read books of all types and genres every day, because I know that there is always something that I can learn more each day. I use reading – my main channel of self-education – to continuously challenge myself in the art of education, which is another skill that I have come to treasure greatly.

I learned to learn without limiting myself to classroom learning. I took charge of my own education. I made connections between them and with my own life, which has made me realize that nothing we are ever taught at school is useless. It connects to a part of our lives, whether directly or indirectly, and opens us up to a deeper understanding of what this world is made of. Studying shouldn’t be our center of focus; learning should be. If we have that drive and clear understanding as to why we are learning that specific topic, then everything else will become more bearable.

-Michelle

what no one tells you about applying to college

It’s that time of the year again. The long-awaited moment of truth when you feel that your dreams are either heard or crushed. Mine were crushed last year when I got rejected by all the US colleges I applied to. But it opened another door to me when I grabbed my gap year by the horns and spent this extra year getting to know myself.

But the time has come again, and it feels like deja vu. Rejected. Waitlisted. Accepted. Which will it be this year? Normally, US and European colleges release their admission decisions by the end of March. It’s not a nice wait. But here’s a few things of what applying to college can be like:

1. It’s f*cking expensive.

The application fee for one college can cost up to $90. Mine were between $60 to $90. But that’s not it. T

here’s another fee to send test scores too! As an international student, I had to pay $19 for each TOEFL test sent to an institution; $12 for each ACT sent to an institution (if I sent more than one test score, I had to pay double or triple that cost), $12 for all SAT scores sent to an institution, and $17 for my IB grades to be sent to an institution.

The costs don’t stack up too high when you apply to a handful of universities; but if you’re a millennial, you know that applying to competitive colleges is no joke, and you’ll probably apply to several more just to increase your changes. I applied to several this year and, needless to say, the costs made my heart hurt.

2. Applying for financial aid is hard.

When I applied last year, I was still working on financial aid papers up to the end of February. I had to fill in the CSS Profile (or the FAFSA for US citizens) – which asks in great detail about every past, present and future income, profit and expenditure in your household; my parents spent a great deal getting the needed papers; and I had to check the financial aid requirements for each university to ensure I had completed everything. The worst thing that it was a long, tedious process not just for me, but also for my parents.

Note: My perspective is that of an international student. I believe that there are many opportunities to get aid, not just from the university, if you’re applying for college aid in your home country. This means that you can be eligible for aid and grants that are not necessarily as complicated as the main one.

3. Your dream school will not always be your dream school.

Last year, I had the mindset that I would become an Ivy League girl. Asian, top grades, several top-notch extracurriculars, I was convinced I would make the cut. I didn’t, and with a crushed ego, I re-evaluated everything I had worked hard for.

I re-applied to college this year with a renewed sense of what I was looking for in college. Even though I had the extra time to think about how I fit into college before it actually happened, I believe this can apply to anyone: your dream school shouldn’t be fixed. Things change, people change, and you will change. More importantly, whether a college is your ‘dream’ or not shouldn’t define what kind of education you receive, because you will define it.

4. Always be open-minded. 

Applying to competitive colleges is becoming more like a reality Hunger Games for many of us. The best thing that you should do is apply for a range of different colleges: reach, fit and safety colleges. And keep your eyes open for other ones that may not necessarily fit with that profile, e.g. a small college in another country. You never know what you may discover in the application research process.

Being open-minded is also key when admission decisions roll out. Whichever college you get into, it should be a celebration. And if all reject you and you find yourself in a gap year – embrace this year to invest in all the things that you set aside during school. There are no wrong or right choices, so there’s no reason why you should close yourself to a fixed path.

5. It’s a chance to get to know yourself.

Despite the amount of work required for college applications, something that has helped me get through this process is by looking at the opportunity of growth within the application. When it comes to writing essays for each of the colleges – spend all the time you need to work on it. Researching, brainstorming, thinking, drafting and writing. Repeat. I realized that writing these essays in itself have helped see who I am.

When I compare the essays I wrote the first time I applied, to the essays I wrote for this year, I have become such a different person. My writing style and interests have changed to suit the passions that make me glow the most. Additionally, researching about a university’s programs has helped me see what the colleges really have to offer, and what courses I would probably be interested in.

All in all, it’s easy to see the admission process as a stressful and tedious task. Sending your profile and writing essays for other people to judge on your ‘worth’ is not exactly a fun game. But you can turn it around and make it your time to learn more about yourself too.

-Michelle

create your ideal study space

If you don’t want to read the whole post, you can watch the video below!!

I’m lucky to have my own study space in my room where I can do all my creative work, writing and some studying. The thing that is great (or not so great) about my study space is that the WiFi of my house doesn’t reach this part of my room, so I mostly stick to non-Internet work, which is a great way to prevent myself from being distracted from my phone/laptop.

This also allows me to be creative with my desk area, which will – hopefully – inspire my work as well. Even though my desk does seem too cluttered/colorful/whatever, I’m so used to it being like this that it doesn’t really affect me at all. The good overall atmosphere of my desk area is good enough for my taste.

So, below I have compiled several tips on creating your ideal study space, as well as the most suitable study environment, so that you can create the ideal desk area for you:

On your study space…

Choose a place. Ideally, it should be somewhere where you can study and work uninterrupted for periods at a time.

Allow natural light to come in. My desk is directly below a source of natural light, which makes it perfect to work from the morning till mid-afternoon.

Invest in good lighting. This is so crucial for so many reasons. The main one is, obviously, so you can work effectively at night. The second one is that if you work under poor lightning, it will strain your eyes faster. As someone who is (very) nearsighted, I highly advocate investing in good lighting.

Have a trash bin near. This is very important if you really want to keep your desk area clean. I keep mine right below my desk, so it’s always there when I want to throw/recycle paper, random trash, and even dust. Anything that resembles that of a trash can will work.

Keep your desk as clean as possible. Mine is usually 85% clear, except for a few stationery storage pots and cases. If you can, store everything in your drawers and/or on your shelves.

Use your drawers and storage tools wisely. I love these Muji acrylic storage tools and displaying all my favorite stationery and notebooks. I got these recently when I visited my family in Taiwan, and, as you can see… I went a little crazy. Anyhow, I love how these can help you use your space more efficiently as well as give a clean feel to your desk.

I have the rest of my stationery and other materials in the table drawers. These include my journals and other materials that I want to have within my reach, but not displayed on my desk at all times.

Inspire yourself. Look for inspiration around you and online by observing how others organize their study spaces and why. Then surround yourself with inspiration: whether it’s organizing the bookshelf near your study space so it looks more study-friendly, hanging or pasting inspiring photos up on your wall, etc.

Your study space doesn’t need to be fixed. You may have ‘the one’ study space at home, but remember that it’s always a good idea to switch up your environment every once in a while. Personally, I find that studying at libraries and coffee shops – places where you visibly surround yourself with people who are working – forces me to get down to my work more. This is because I’m a very self-conscious person, but I know that this slight discomfort will wear away gradually. And hey – it works.

On your study environment…

Choose soothing, instrumental music. I’ve grown used to working with any kind of (pleasing) music, but the best ones will always be the classical and/or instrumental ones, as they provide a less distracting background noise. If you must listen to lyrical music, however, then choose ones in a language that you don’t understand that well (so you don’t subconsciously follow the music more than what you’re working on).

Have a glass of water on your desk. It is easy for me to fall so deep into my work that I forget to eat, and the best way to remind myself that I’m human is by putting my necessities in front of me. A glass or bottle of water is the #1 essential on my desk.

Put healthy snacks around you! Chances are, if you’re very busy, your mind will be more focused on your work than on what you’re eating. So just like having water on your desk, make sure you have some snacks available near you. Some ideas include: nuts, fruits (already washed and cut), dried fruit, dark chocolate, etc. Make sure to store all unhealthy snacks away, to prevent yourself from grabbing them from impulse.

Lastly, the important thing is that you organize your desk in a way that accommodates your needs and likes the best way. What works for me may not work for you. Having a “study space” is such a simple thing, as it changes all the time, but it’s a fun and easy way to get creative.

-Michelle