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How To Do Well With Half The Effort: College Edition

College can be stressful, especially when you have fifteen units AND three TV shows to keep up with. So how do you deal?!

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If you can relate, you have come to the right place

The stress is real. We get it- we've all been there. So fear not- with these ten tips on how to improve your reading and writing skills, you too will be to power through the demands of college with half the effort (AND still do well!)

1. Making Reading Bearable With Gummy Bears

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College students are no strangers to the convoluted language of PhD speak. So, when you find yourself looking for anything to do besides reading about how the goblet cells of the pseudostratified ciliated columnar epithelium secrete mucus, remember this sweet trick: studying with gummy bears.

Contrary to popular belief, this tasty technique is freshman (or sophomore, junior, or senior...) fifteen friendly. How, you ask? The trick here is to place a gummy bear after each paragraph. Little do you know, the movement of your eyes as you read is enough to burn off the calories of each gummy bear that you eat! You'll make it through your textbook in record time AND have time to celebrate with an episode (or a whole season- we don't judge) of Netflix.

2. Sparknotes

Run out of gummy bears or too comfortable to move? Then this tip is perfect for you! Sparknotes is a favorite of students everywhere, as the site's authors read Dickens and Shakespeare so you don't have to! Every imaginable novel and play is summarized and analyzed in detail. Better yet, each post is edited for correctness so you need not worry about including incorrect information in your essays.

Sparknotes is so popular that many professors prefer the site over reading novels (and honestly, who actually wants/has time to read A Tale of Two Cities anyway?!). A bonus is that many professors use the quiz and essay questions provided by this site in their classes. You're welcome.

3. Wikipedia

You will inevitably encounter a reading assignment that is so painfully boring that not even motivational gummy bears can get you through it (you could go so far to call this unBEARable). When this happens, Wikipedia is your best friend. This site contains the most accurate information written by professionals in the field. Now you may be thinking, "Um, no BuzzFeed, my high school teachers told me to avoid Wikipedia." Yeah, they probably did because they wanted you to struggle and learn the hard way. Now that you're in college, there is no need to suffer unnecessarily.

Often these articles provide plenty of detail written in plain English that people without PhDs can understand (what a concept). If this is still too much, use “Simple Wikipedia” which gives even shorter summaries using only words less than 10 letters long. Technology is truly a wonderful thing.

4. Essay Generating Sites

At some point in your school career, you've probably seen one of those sites that offers to provide you essays for a low price. You've probably also heard not to use these sites because you will get caught for plagiarism. What you haven't heard is that everyone avoids these sites because they think that every essay on the site has already been downloaded and used by another student. But just think about this....

If everyone avoids these sites (which they do), the essays on them will go unused. In short, the chances of getting caught for using an essay generator are extremely low- nobody uses them because they are worried that someone will claim the same essay as they will.

Reverse psychology is a powerful tool, my friends.

5. Teamwork

If essay generators don't have the essay topic that you need, don't worry!

In college, collaboration is everything. Most professors will recite the cliché: “Two heads are better than one", so by all means work together. To maximize your success (and that of a classmate), collaborate on all of your papers. By working together on the same essay, you will generate much better ideas, as every individual gets something different from a given assignment or reading. With two people working on the same paper, you will finish your essay in half the time (and with half the effort!). Just remember to print out the essay twice with different names on it each time.

Most professors will never know the difference, but, if by some stroke of bad luck they do, they will most likely appreciate your efforts. After all, teamwork is something that happens in the real world, so this is good practice.

6. Making a Solid First and Last Impression (then the rest can suck)

Ever wonder why professors seem to only comment on your thesis and conclusion? In writing, these are the most important parts of the essay; both summarize the main points and arguments that are made in the body of the paper. In other words, the body paragraphs are unimportant and are simply there to trick the professor into thinking that you know what you're talk about. They won't admit this, of course.

Professors are busy people- they don't have the time to read page after page of analysis examining the existentialist roots in "The Stranger" (Zzzz). Remember, professors often have to read hundreds of papers repeating the same evidence over and over. To save time, professors often read only the introductory and conclusion paragraphs; if you devote your time to making these paragraphs strong, you are sure to get an A. Heck, you could copy and paste the professor's worst reviews from RateMyProfessor into the body of your essay and they would never know the difference!

Note: Going along with our previous advice (see #5), one partner should write the introduction and the other should write the conclusion.

7. Due later = Do later

The key to writing fantastic essays (besides working with a partner) is revising and editing well. Often, professors will expect final drafts a week after the rough draft is due. Why so much time? To inspire creative genius, of course! Good things come to those who wait.

Instead of reading and rereading over your paper so many times that your mind begins to wonder to more important topics (like if our pets have names for us like we have names for them), you should take a step back from your essay. Don't even think about it until the day before it is due (or the morning before it is due if you have an evening class). Scientific studies have shown that taking long breaks inspires greater creativity and productivity; by ignoring your essay for a whole week, you will come back recharged and full of ideas for how to make it better. Your professor will be impressed and you will have countless extra hours to devote to activities that really matter (i.e. Netflix).

Note: this step is only necessary if you're sure that your teacher actually reads your essay. They probably don't.

8. Don't Let Page Minimums Get the Better of You

Page length specifications are every college student’s worst nightmare. The solution? Add lots of unnecessary spaces between words, change the margins, increase the sizes of each punctuation mark to at least size 14, and add lots of unnecessary, large words like “antediluvian,” “obstreperous” and “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” (that's an infection of the lung caused by inhaling volcanic ash, BTW).

SAT booklets are a great source of such words. Don’t worry if you don’t know what they mean- your professor probably doesn’t either (because they do this too). Bonus points for using complicated Latin phrases; you will sound intelligent and get an A for sure.

9. Let Your Personality Shine- Even in Formal Papers

"I've never met a problem that cheese couldn't solve"- A Wise Guy

Us either, Wise Guy. Who doesn’t love cheesy rom-com quotes and hilarious puns? There is no better place for these gems than in your essay. Don’t worry if they are irrelevant- your professor will appreciate your sense of humor and creativity (this is assuming that they even read your essay, of course). No matter what your high school English teacher said, cheesy hooks are the best.

10. Reflecting

The basic answer: never. Sorry Mulan.

Some professors might ask you to write "reflective essays" where you have to be all deep and sappy. These essays are all the rage these days. Remember, it is CRITICAL that you write what your teacher wants to hear, NOT what you actually think (in college, you will quickly realize that nobody cares about what you think no matter how much tuition you pay- they care that you answer the prompt). The key here is to make up stories that make you sound good and satisfy your teacher. The more glorified the story, the better your grade will be.

11. Bonus Tip

We forgot about one little thing (and you can probably relate)... finals week. Whether you're on the quarter or semester system, finals week is probably the most stressful time of the year. The solution? Netflix.

You heard us correctly- the best way to study for your finals is finding a relevant show on Netflix. Got an anatomy final tomorrow? Try watching "Bones" or "Grey's Anatomy." Psychology final? Watch "Criminal Minds." Calculus? "Numbers" is your solution.

Why stress yourself out by studying all night when you can learn in a more interesting (and fun!!) way?! Watching educational shows on Netflix will help you connect what you have been learning in class to the real world. If your final involves an essay, wow you professor by connecting your learning to the show you watched.

So next time you are debating whether you should be Keeping Up With the Kardashians or writing that ten page anthropology paper due in 3 hours, remember that you can have the best of both worlds!!

Good luck out there!

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