4 Steps to Better Listening

listening-1The world is a loud place. With constant web contact, advertising distractions, and noise just about everywhere, it’s hard to know what’s worth listening to. So how do you avoid tuning out conversation after conversation?

The answer is active listening — not just smiling and nodding, but listening closely so that you pick up the important things, remember them, and dismiss the things that aren’t as meaningful. Here are 5 steps to become a more active listener.

Step 1: Eye contact - Making eye contact with the speaker means you’ll hear everything — including what isn’t said, but gestured. By facing whoever you are listening to, you’ll naturally become more focused on what your professor or friend is saying, and be more keen to pick up nonverbal cues, which are often just as important as verbal ones, especially in the classroom.

Step 2: Welcome lulls – When studying in groups, forming questions, or even when engaging in everyday conversation, don’t think of pauses in talk as awkward. Instead, use the time to process what has just been said and how it relates to the bigger picture. This technique will allow you to form more substantial opinions and responses, and will prevent the conversation from becoming a “talking for talking’s sake” kind of dialogue.

Step 3: Don’t interrupt – It’s a lesson we’ve been told to follow since we uttered our first words, but one that can take decades to perfect. Waiting your turn to speak can become a vital part of making a good impression on professors, fellow students, and even employers. And aside from being a key factor in looking like you’re listening, the habit of not interrupting can make you less anxious to say your piece, and therefore more attentive.

Step 4: Picture words – As a student, much of the time you are listening, not actually speaking directly with someone, but rather sitting in a large classroom. During long periods of listening like this, forming mental connections between the speaker’s words with images you have in your own mind can help you remember the material. It may even help to make small graphics or images in your notes to help you quickly jot down memory devices while still keeping up with the lecture.

Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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What We Learned From The World Cup

2014-Fifa-World-Cup-final-drawThe 2014 FIFA World Cup has taught us quite a few things about soccer. To name a few, all dynasties come to an end, Lionel Messi is as great as we thought he was, and home-field advantage doesn’t always guarantee you a win.

But beyond sports, the World Cup has also taught us some valuable life lessons. And students, a population on their own four-year journey, are one group that can take away plenty of valuable ideas from the wins and losses and, of course, ties that have all led us to this Sunday’s final. Here are 4 of them:

Confidence is everything

In anything you do, confidence goes a long way to determine your success. Take the U.S. for example. The team wasn’t expected to make much noise at The Cup but, fueled by the mantra “I believe that we will win”, they were able to still advance to the knockout round. Similarly, in the classroom it is important not to spend your time stressing over what will happen if you fail, but instead do everything in your ability to succeed.

Pace yourself

Success in college is a long road. As such, it requires that you pace yourself and get all the rest you can, as well as stay planning for the future. Anticipating the bigger picture will help you have less late nights, more energy in the day, and more time to do the things that make you happy. Plus, tiring yourself out early can put more pressure on you come crunch time, as was the case in many extra-time World Cup games.

Don’t underestimate challenges

As it is often the case in World Cup play, the challenges that are perceived as the easiest end up being the hardest (see: any team that played Costa Rica). And usually it’s for that very reason: when we take challenges lightly, we allow our guard to be let down, or our efforts to even slack off a bit because we feel we can “catch up later”. This is a bad mistake. Don’t listen to those who try and tell you what’s easy and what isn’t and instead approach every challenge with respect and caution.

Celebrate

While college is all about working towards a larger goal, it is, at its core, simply a series of many smaller victories. So, as you set individual goals don’t forget to celebrate them whenever they are reached. Doing this will help you keep stress levels down and spirits high as well as serve as a motivating reminder of your progress.

What did you learn from the FIFA World Cup? Tell ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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4 July Travel Tips

pocket-guide-fireworks-cool-places-cover

Pictured: the only fireworks you want to experience when you travel.

July is the time of longer days, less classes, and more downtime. It’s also the peak of the summer travel season, which means bigger crowds, longer waits, and higher prices at almost every destination. And if you’re a student, all these things likely strike fear into your heart.

But instead of letting the dog days of travelling derail your fun, anticipate the obstacles so you can better deal with them. Here are four travel tips to start with:

Get a tune-up

Before driving any kind of long-distance trip, perform a basic car tune-up or get one done professionally. Aside from making for a safer trip, having a smooth-running car makes for safer travel and can save you money by getting your car more miles to the gallon. Another road-trip measure that can save you money is to make sure your insurance is set up to allow for others to drive your car if you ever need to take a break.

Think like a local

The best way to avoid tourist traps is to avoid thinking like a tourist. Instead, get the most out of local resources by planning for trips as if you’re already there. Prepare for travel, for example, by checking your destination’s weather, anticipating driving directions, and even looking at traffic reports and be sure to check cities’ “classifieds” websites for Groupon deals or cheaper tickets to events and parks.

Bring a book

A good old fashioned book is a necessity for any summer vacation: It can make flights and car rides more bearable, laying around in the sun more enjoyable, and long wait times more productive. Having a good book on hand can also help you spend your down time unplugged from technology rather than being on a laptop or phone, which is how you likely spend much of the school year, anyway.

Make a budget

Nothing puts a damper on a vacation like having to worry over how much money you’ve spent right in the middle of it. This is exactly why making a budget can be such an important part to having a good travel experience. Predetermine how much money you want to spend during your vacation and split it up into a stipend amount for each day. Then, keep your receipts or make a mental log of how much you’ve spent each day so that you always know where you stand and there are no surprise costs when get home and check your balance.

How do you travel wisely in the summer? Tell ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

 HealthyU_Harry (1)

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The Technology Personality Guide

This month, we explored many of the great opportunities technology can offer for students — from helpful apps to career websites to money matters. But as much as we’ve said about the kinds of technology out there, it’s important to remember that how you use them play a big role in what you get out of it all.

So how do you make sure you’re doing it right? For starters, check out these common approaches students have toward technology and where each helps or hinders productivity.

The Livewire

If you find yourself hanging on every new technology-addictionphone release, or scrolling through media sites every hour or so, you may be overly lively about technology.Curb technology overuse by trying the analog versions of things you do digitally to avoid distraction. Make a hand-written list instead of one on your phone, or plan to meet up with someone instead of texting.

The Standbyer

Unlike livewires, some millennials resist technology or are indifferent to it. But whether you have a fear of technology or simply haven’t got around to making accounts and buying devices, sitting out on tech can cost you many of its benefits. The key to getting something out of tech is to explore it on your own terms, not out of pressure from others. A good place to start is by browsing app stores for things that interest you like list-makers or health tools, or watching tutorials.

pharmacy-school-rankingsThe Statistician

The more we use technology, the more we are inclined to over-analyze the constant barrage of statistics. If you find yourself reading list after list about where your major or career ranks, try cutting back on this type of reading and shift to more informative rather than categorical articles. Don’t read as gospel. If anything, don’t read so much into lists and just take what you need.

The Crosser-over

Blending technology and your “real life” can sometimes result in the balanced life we all strive for. But other times it means that too much of your personal life ends up online, and your online begins to dictate the decisions you make throughout the day. Achieve the latter by separating the two arenas and limiting your computer use to certain times of the day and seeking life advice from your personal circle rather than the web.

Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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Debunking Costly Technology Myths 

cloud_computing_1828897cFrom smartphones that can weigh things to drones that deliver your mail, technology is synonymous with rumors. Some rumors, however, can actually lead users to spend more money than they need to. And when you’re a college student, forking out extra cash is never something you want to do unnecessarily.

Here are four technology misconceptions to be aware of to make sure you’re saving as much money as possible in college.

Myth #1: You won’t learn as much with online texts The digital versions of textbooks are almost always cheaper than the hard copies. But many students still aren’t sold on them, thinking they simply aren’t the same as a real physical book. eBooks, though, let you do a lot of the same things as hard textbooks. You can highlight, insert bookmarks, add your own notations, and even perform a search on the text.

Myth #2: Refurbished technology is inferior Buying refurbished technology sounds a bit daunting. But contrary to popular belief, refurbished items are not used, broken, or with less battery or memory. Usually, they were just used as display units, or don’t have the regular packaging, or were sent back to factories and fixed. With a manufacturer’s warranty, they’re covered like normal shelf products anyway.

Myth #3: You need to pay for a tutor There are certain classes where a tutor is simply a necessity. Oftentimes, however, many of your questions can be answered by online tutorials, including Youtube videos, recordings of lectures, and even academic forums. So before hiring a tutor, see if you can find free online resources to help you out.

Myth #4: Cloud computing is expensive Saving work onto an internet-based storage server can be extremely convenient for on-the-move students. And unlike what many believe, you don’t need to install a pricey box at your house to do so. Services like Dropbox and Google Drive offer more than enough storage to hold a few years of schoolwork for no cost at all.

Need help saving money on tech? Ask ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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6 Websites for Career Soul-Searching

296382-52414-58Technology can do more than just help you pass your classes, it can also help you answer career questions — and we’re not just talking about the “where can I find a job” one, either. Beyond job postings, the internet also offers plenty of resources for deciding what it is you even want to do for a career. After all, if it’s something you’ll be doing from 9am to 5pm for 5 days a week, it better be something you like.

From personality quizzes to field statistics, check out these websites that can help open your eyes to new career possibilities.

Princeton Review - Ever wonder what kind of background most Ecologists have? Well, the popular college company, Princeton Review, also dishes out helpful career information like job profiles. Use them to gain insight on the jobs you’re most interested in.

Rasmussen - Rasmussen’s Career Aptitude Test is a career test that allows users to input their skills on a spectrum, not simply with yes or no questions. By taking the test, you’ll come out of it with a better understanding of the jobs your personality fits best with.

Career One Stop - This career site gives users a lay of the land by filtering jobs based on your education, and allows you to view careers based on a variety of filtering options from fastest-growing to those nearest to you.

Wall Street Journal Careers - The Wall Street Journal’s Careers site offers up the most up to date and relevant articles on careers. Covering everything from the different personalities found at certain jobs, to those that seem to be on the rise, this site is a good one to visit daily.

US News Rankings - Rankings are never a be-all end-all way to plan your life. US News’ job rankings, however, do offer one place to see which kind of jobs are up-and-coming, salary information, and why certain fields may be more in demand. Do take the rankings with a few grains of salt, but don’t hesitate to brainstorm using the information they have to offer.

MyPlan - MyPlan helps you plan your path from the first day of college to the first day on the job. Check out information on majors and see which kind of jobs they may lead to by using the site’s four areas of planning.

Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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eTools For Easy A’s: 6 Essential Apps

On today’s campuses, 86% of students now own a laptop, and 62% own a smartphone. One stat that hasn’t changed, though, is that 100% of students still want to get straight A’s. And guess what? Technology, when used right, can help you do just that.

www.usnewsMake the most out of your technology with these six free apps that can help you – iPhone user or Android – achieve your academic goals.

Google Drive: Still the industry standard for simple and effective document sharing, Google Drive allows students to compile work and collaborate with other students on projects.

Evernote: Also an enduring student app, Evernote allows students to keep track of notes throughout the term and access and share them from any device. Even if you didn’t take your notes on a laptop, using Evernote makes it easy to digitally organize with its photo tool, which lets students take pictures of notes and classroom whiteboards.

Studious: With great technology comes great responsibility, and with the Android app Studious, you can achieve the discipline to have long stretches of attentiveness. Enter in your study schedule and class schedule and the app will silence your phone for those periods, and automatically turn it back on when you’re time is up.

myHomework: if you’re one of those students who needs to set reminders to even use their planner, myHomework is for you. The app ditches the old-school write and cross-out method for a calendar view that organizes assignments based on color-coded priority.

EasyBib: Most students are already familiar with the bibliography-building website, EasyBib. It’s app, however, takes full advantage of technology by allowing researchers working with books to simply take pictures of barcodes to cite and organize sources.

ExamTime: A powerful tool for studying, ExamTime allows students to set their studying goals and reach them, too. Let the app help you map out thoughts, organize notes, and get your studying done your own way.

Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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