The Student’s Guide to a Foolproof Class Routine

student_classroom_hand_raised_college_graduateWith so many classes to attend in the span of a term, it’s not uncommon for students to see that fire and motivation they had the first few weeks dwindle as the term goes on.

Sometimes, though, all you need to regain that drive is to go back to the basics – something every student is capable of. Here is a simple but fail-safe way to get on top of your classes and stay there.

Before

  • Review last class’ notes as if there will be a pop quiz. Doing this will help you be prepared for anything that gets thrown at you in class, and minimize cram sessions in the future.
  • Prepare a response or question. Depending on the class, your teacher may ask students to respond to the material you read. If you come into class with a general idea of how you’d respond, you’ll be much more likely to do so and earn participation points.

During

  • Once in class, it’s all about staying focused. Think of your class as a important business meeting (technically, it is your job to be there) and maintain good eye contact as well as body language.
  • Keep the class objectives in the back of your mind throughout class. Many times, it’s even smart to write class objectives down each day at the top of your notes to keep you focused on a direct purpose throughout the day.
  • Get rid of distractions. Keep on your desk only the materials you need for that day. And as for your phone, don’t look at it for the few hours you’re in class and instead learn to start your replies to any messages with “sorry, I was in class.” Your friends will understand.

After

  • The twelve hours after class are important for long-term memory retention. Try and sit down for twenty minutes in this period and highlight important parts of your notes or circle parts you’re still fuzzy on to ask about next time.
  • Think big. For many students, the big picture is a good grade. For others, it’s proving something to themselves. Whatever your larger reasoning is, reinforcing your effort with the larger scheme of things can be the best motivation to do it again tomorrow.

Need more help staying on top of classes? Contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.comfor some assistance. Also, find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube.

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Getting the Most Out of Open House

2813295_origFor some students, April signifies the beginning of the end, as the spring term transitions to its home stretch. But for others, the peak of spring is just the beginning of the college experience as open house season begins to heat up along with the college selection process.

If you’re one of the latter, bear in mind these tips to help you navigate an open house to make sure you’re getting the most of your college visit.

Research ahead of time Going into an open house with no prior knowledge of the school can lead you to be overwhelmed with information. It can also lead you to be confused about the times and places of events, potentially causing you to miss out on valuable information. Do yourself a favor and spend about 45 minutes researching the school and its open house prior to your arrival.

Ask the right questions While there are no stupid questions at an open house (after all, you’re on a campus you’ve never been at before), there are definitely smart questions. Ask questions about student aid offices, traffic, and public transportation – basically things that you wouldn’t be able to easily answer yourself through the school’s website.

Sit in on a class Many open houses offer prospective students the chance to “crash,” or sit in on, a class session. Actively try to get in on this exciting opportunity. Seeing a class in action can give you a sense of what to expect from an academic standpoint and can even give you a chance to speak with a professor.

Talk to students If possible, try and chat with a current student at your open house. This will provide you your best opportunity to ask more honest questions like how students manage their time or what the school’s atmosphere is like.

Recruit the school Finally, keep the mindset throughout your open house experience that it isn’t just the school recruiting you, but you recruiting the school. Now, this doesn’t mean you can be lax and expect the school to roll out the red carpet for you, but it does mean you should stay engaged, pay attention to small details, and bring a notepad to write down your thoughts as well as any important contact information.

Need open house information? ACI can help. Find us 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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The Testing-Out Checklist

The idea of testing out of a course can be an exciting one for students – especially those eager to get on with their education as fast as possible. Proficiency exams, though, can be a dangerous proposition too. If taken under the wrong circumstances, for example, they can end up causing poor grades in classes they are prerequisites for.

ExamIf you’re considering testing out of a class, make sure you can first back up these four statements to make sure that your strategy doesn’t end up coming back to haunt you.

You’ve reached out The most important thing to do before testing out of a class is to speak to someone with knowledge of your situation. A counselor or department faculty member can offer all the insight you need on whether or not testing out of a class will truly benefit you.

It’s not your weakness If you find yourself struggling with a subject, but are just good enough to pass a proficiency exam take the class. College is a time for you to master skills more than it is a time to simply get grades, or rather avoid possible bad grades. You don’t want to find yourself struggling with writing years down the road, and wishing that you had taken that English course. Save testing out for subjects that you’re comfortable with, not the other way around.

You can demonstrate proficiency It’s one thing to be able to pass a proficiency exam, but it’s a whole different ballgame to be able to demonstrate your abilities on a regular basis. If it’s a language class (one of the most commonly tested-out of courses), ask yourself if you could get by in the language’s country without using English, for example.If you can’t demonstrate the knowledge, you may as well take the class so that if you ever need to – practically or in a career – you can.

You know what’s next Sometimes the simple fact is that you are well versed in a class’s material (you took AP classes in high school or you took a similar class at a previous college, for instance) and you’re ready to move forward. If this is the case, make sure you know which class, if any, is up in the series so that you can prepare for it appropriately.

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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Six Easy Ways to Improve Sleep

sleeping-studentAlong the path to graduation, sleep is, well, a sleeper-factor between the more talked-about issues of studiousness, organization, and preparedness, to name a few. But sleep, in all reality, is one of the largest deciding factors in students’ day-to-day success; it plays a big role in your ability to stay healthy and fight off sickness, it can improve your mood, and it increases alertness and cognitive abilities as you go to class and study.

The takeaway? Ditch the late nights and look towards easy and effective ways to increase your sleep and, in turn, your performance.

F.lux

We all know that it isn’t smart to be staring at your bright computer right up until bedtime, but sometimes it does happen. Use this app to dim the brightness of your screen in the later hours so when you do close your eyes you aren’t left with an afterglow.

Diet

A healthy diet with a balanced sugar intake and more fresh fruits and veggies naturally lends itself to more restful nights. Also, limiting caffeine intake late in the day is key in making sure that when you shut your eyes, your body follows.

Chamomile

If you have a hard time dropping the late afternoon cup of coffee, chamomile tea can be a great way to give you that study drink without the restless effects. The flower has natural elements that promote relaxation as well as little to no caffeine.

Sleepyti.me 

Sleepyti.me is a tool that calculates bedtimes and wakeup times based on scientific sleep cycles. This means that when your alarm rings you aren’t in the deepest part of your sleep cycle, but rather at a point where you’re most ready to get up. 

Exercise

Exercise and sleep complement each other like peanut butter and jelly. The more you exercise, the better you’ll sleep, and the more you sleep, the more results you’ll see from your workouts.

Smarter naps

If you find yourself needing a 2-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon, your sleep schedule needs change. Naps are best done in short, 30-45 minute sessions that won’t leave you groggier than you were before.

How do you sleep better? 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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The Best and Freest Microsoft Office Alternatives

Microsoft Office has long been the standard for word processing, presentation making, and spreadsheet building. But when you’re a college student, there are many reasons why it’s not always the most practical of tools. The biggest one is that Microsoft Office doesn’t always come installed on computers, and to purchase it separately or update to the newest version is expensive.

So if you’re a student looking to break the costly marriage with Microsoft Office, check out these economical and effective alternatives to Office’s many applications.

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Apache OpenOffice – Probably the most established Microsoft Office alternative, OpenOffice allows you to do all the word-processing basics simply and freely and is available for PC and Mac.

Keynote – For Mac-users, Keynote is Apple’s free version of your basic Microsoft Word application. Use it to easily draft papers and type up small assignments in a format that professors and peers will be able to view.

Google – If you already use Gmail or Google+, you’re only a few clicks away from a word processor that lets you easily edit, collaborate, and save projects online. Be sure to explore the often-overlooked presentation-making tool and spreadsheet generator as well.

Prezi – Bring excitement to your presentation for free with this unique,

online-based presentation tool that has skyrocketed in popularity over the years. Though there is a slight learning curve, Prezi once mastered will allow you to ditch the slide-based presentation for a more compelling motion-based one.

280 Slides – When simplicity is key for your presentation, 280 Slides allows you to do everything you’ve grown accustomed to with PowerPoint (it can even save your presentation in PowerPoint 2007 format).

OneNote-MX-logo

OneNote – Originally a part of Microsoft Office, OneNote has just recently this week been made free for PC and Mac users as a standalone application. The student-aimed tool offers a powerful way to take notes and stay organized. For laptop note-takers, once you use this app, you’ll never go back to taking notes using in basic word-processing applications.

Need help finding more cheap student solutions? We’re here to help! Contact 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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The Group Project Personality Guide

imgresNo matter what your major or concentration is, group projects will play a role in your college education at some point or another. And when that time comes, you’ll likely find that the biggest challenge of completing the project isn’t the assignment itself, but the coordination needed to combine the group’s different personalities into one productive team.

Here are 4 of the most common personalities found in project groups – knowing their strengths and weaknesses can be useful in developing a winning dynamic.

The leader Leaders are usually the first ones to rally a team together. They’ll propose an objective quickly during the group’s first meeting and may even start handing out tasks to other members. If a leader becomes too independent, however, and starts to run away with the project, it can be helpful to prompt the group to give feedback as well as their own ideas so everyone can be more involved.

The communicator The communicator may have a big voice in conversations, and may even get the group sidetracked every now and then, but they’re oftentimes the glue of the team. Let communicators do what they do best by giving them social tasks like managing email contacts, setting up shared documents, or reviewing others’ content.

The listener The listener may seem like they don’t have much to contribute at meetings, but often times they’re the ones with the best notes, the most knowledge of each team member, and ultimately the best ideas. Make it a point to encourage listeners to voice their opinions; they’ll be glad you did. 

The absentee Without proper stimulation this group member may eventually seem to fall a half-step or more behind the rest of the group. Usually, this happens when a student has too big a workload to attend meetings or take on important tasks. It’s best to work with this type of teammate by assigning them several small tasks that can be moved around their schedule, and asking for updates every so often.

Did we miss your personality? Tell us what you are 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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5 Ways to Refresh Your Spring Session

keep-calm-and-spring-forward-2This spring term, the clock doesn’t need to be the only thing jumping forward. You too can get a jumpstart on the season by making small changes to the habits you’ve formed during the school year so far.

Here are five ways you can tweak your routine to spark bigger changes in school, at work, and at home this spring.

Switch up your routine If you find yourself slowing down in some parts of your day, or simply “going through the motions” of certain tasks, it may be time to switch things up. Try studying at different times or places, picking up different work shifts, or doing chores at times you usually don’t to keep your mind stimulated.

Eat fresh Food can do a lot more than you think. If you want to drink less caffeine this term, for example, there are mood foods that can have energy-inspiring effects on the brain similar to those that coffee does. If you plan on going to the gym more, protein-rich foods can help keep soreness at bay.

Spring clean Time-tested and still going strong, spring-cleaning is a great way to usher in the new season. And it’s effective, too. Decluttering and reorganizing can make you more productive, lead you to donate old things to charity, or even unearth some textbooks to sell back. What’s not to like?

Revise your lists The spring marks the quarter-mark of the year, which is a natural and appropriate time to check back with your New Year’s resolutions and to-do lists. Revisit and reassess any list that you made for yourself over the past 4 months and don’t be afraid to edit them or make new ones.

Take a break from something Of all the seasons, winter causes the most changes to our routines. Some take up Netflix to keep sane while the weather is ugly outside, for example, and others sleep in due to the cold. Look at what’s shifted from last term to now and match it by dropping certain tendencies to make way for new opportunities.

How are you refreshing your spring routine? Tell us on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or onfacebookGoogle+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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