Senior Unease

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

     ~  William Arthur Ward

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Hello, Seniors.

Welcome to the beginning of the end.
First, there’s no need to freak out.
Not that you would.
I mean, whoever heard of a Penn student freaking out over school.
I know, I know, that was a bit of a cheap shot.  So, please, allow me to beg forgiveness.
Thank you.

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Now that we’re friends again, let me just say that you Senior Year Unease is typical.  It happens to lots of people.  It happened to me.

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The first way Senior Unease manifested itself in me was with classic Senioritis:  ditching classes.  I messed more classes im my last semester of Senior year than all my other semesters combined.  I suddenly lost the will to stay up all night to finish a paper (okay, fine, stay up all night to start and finish a paper) and make it to 8:00 class.  And besides, the weather was really nice that spring, and I caught more than a few naps under a sugar maple on the quiet side of campus.  Those naps represent my fondest memories of my Alma Mater.

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And then there was my recurring nightmare, the one where I find out at the last minute that I’m one course shy of graduation.  I got two words for you, friends:  cold sweat.

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What I’m trying to get at here is that your Senior Unease is not atypical, and is not unique to your generation of soon-to-be graduates.  Change comes whether we want it to or not, whether we are ready for it or not, and change is at the heart of Senior Unease.  What is unique – what will be unique – is how you will experience it.  In other words, you probably won’t take to sleeping on campus lawns like a vagrant, or develop night terrors.  So, bonus for you.

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On the other hand, there is no sense in deliberately courting Senior Unease.  So try to be mindful of a couple things.

  1. First, treat your job search like a class [UPENN CAREER SERVICES].  And get started early in first semester.  The longer you put it off, the larger it will loom in your head. If you need help working your job search into your schedule, we’re here to help in that regard.consulting
  2. The other thing:  Plan to have fun.  Don’t forget to enjoy your final lap.  Formals, semi-formals, Feb Club – you don’t have to do everything, but you need to allow yourself to do some things that are fun, to be with your Penn people one more time.FranklinField

So take it easy.  Change is the constant.

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

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Make the Most of Your Thanksgiving Break!

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It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving break is almost here! Whether you are staying on campus or traveling to be with friends or loved ones, Thanksgiving break is a wonderful time to relax, reflect, and recharge. While the Thanksgiving tradition is a willful, historical misrepresentation (that’s for another blog post), the holiday can still be a beautiful reminder to take a step back from our busy schedules to appreciate what we have and to show gratitude for those we love, something I personally know I should do more often.

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            While the break can be a wonderful time, it also can feel stressful for students.

When we return from Thanksgiving break there are only two short weeks of classes left before reading days and final exams begin!

It can be difficult to figure out how to balance school demands with obligations to family and friends. So that you can feel more balanced next week, we have some tips on how you can make the most out of your time off:

  1. Before you leave for break, make sure you have written down all of your remaining assignments and exams. You don’t want any surprises when you return from break! (Use one of WLRC’s semester long calendars to help you do so)
  1. Make a study schedule or calendar! Planning backwards from your major papers and exams can help stay on track. Breaking down larger assignments into smaller chunks can help them feel less daunting. WLRC has some helpful calendars for this!Picture4
  2. Look ahead. Can you spend some extra time the week before break completing any of these assignments? Getting ahead will help make your break less stressful. Knowing that a break is coming up can be great motivation to get an assignment completed.
  3. Decide what work you must do over Thanksgiving break. If possible, don’t plan on working every day. Try to spend about three to four hours a day on Friday and Saturday either studying for exams, writing rough drafts of essays, working on math problems, or reviewing notes. Make sure you have a plan for what you are going to complete during those times so that you can be as productive as possible.
  4. Whatever you do, don’t push all your work off until Sunday! That will just make you feel more stressed and will ruin all the relaxation you got over your break.Picture5
  5. Get ahead of the game! Register to attend some of the Weingarten’s study sessions to help you succeed on your final exams.
    1. Study Hacks for Reading Days” on Wednesday, 12/6, 4:00-5:00 p.m. or Thursday, 12/7, 5:00-6:00 p.m. @ the Weingarten Center
    2. Unpack and Prepare for Finals in Math & Science” – Friday, 12/8, 12:00-1:30 p.m. @ the Weingarten Center

These are some tips to help make sure you can enjoy your break without falling behind in school! If you want to work on a study schedule for the rest of the semester, stop by the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. We have walk-in hours Monday-Friday from 12pm to 3pm and on Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 4pm to 7pm (Keep in mind- we are closing for Thanksgiving on Wednesday, November 22nd at 2pm.).

However you decide to spend your Thanksgiving break, all of us at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center hope that it’s a relaxing time with friends and loved ones!

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By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Take Better Notes: The Relationship Between Time and Memory

Many students come to the Office of Learning Resources (OLR) at Weingarten (WLRC) looking for strategies and tips on how to take better notes.

While the jury is still out on whether handwritten or typed notes are better, what we do know is that what matters more than how you take notes is what you do after with your notes.

Even if you are a student who is prepared for class and takes incredibly detailed notes, within 1 day of class, our minds forget nearly 75% of what we learned:

  • See the graph below for a visual representation of Time vs. Memory:

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  • If we don’t return to our notes until the week before the exam, we have already forgotten much of what we have learned. Instead of actually studying, we are stuck relearning the material.
  • The good news is that there is a simple solution to make sure you retain much of what you have learned during class:

Actively review your notes within 24-36 hours of class!

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  • By taking the time to review notes for just 30 minutes within 24-36 hours of class, you can reinforce what you learned and prevent this memory loss.
  • Make sure you are actively reviewing your notes (don’t just re-read or skim your notes, it’s too easy to just glaze over what you originally wrote).

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Here are some tips for how to actively review your notes:

  • Create an active recall study sheet:
    • On a blank sheet of paper, spend 5 minutes writing down everything you can from class and your readings. Then go back to your notes to fill in the gaps)
  • Annotate your notes in a different colored pen
  • Synthesize your notes into a study guide or summary
  • Use the Cornell method
  • Create a Concept Map
  • In a vocabulary-heavy class, create flashcards or a Quizlet

The hardest part of this strategy is actually fitting this review time into your schedule!

  • I recommend making this a habit by scheduling time to review your notes from the last class before you start your reading for the next class or before you begin your related homework.
  • Making this a routine will go a long way in improving your learning, strengthening your memory, and increasing your grades.

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By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Secret Study Spots: Houston Hall – Reading Room

Houston Hall

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Location:

  • 3417 Spruce Street

Building Hours:

  • Monday – Friday- 6:30 AM – 1:00 AM
  • Saturday – Sunday- 7:00 AM – 1:00 AM

Houston Hall may not be a secret spot on campus, but it can sometimes be overlooked as a convenient study spot. It’s centrally located, and it has food and snack options in the basement (always good to have close-by when you need a study break!). As the first college union building in the country, Houston Hall has a grand feel about it, taking you back to some of your favorite scenes from Harry Potter.

 

Today, we are going to review the HH106 Reading Room on the first floor, just off the lobby, but there are plenty of other spots to study in Houston Hall. Let us know if you have a favorite!

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         The HH Reading Room is comfortable and spacious. It’s a perfect spot for you to do some reading or homework during your shorter 1-2 hour breaks on campus in between classes. If you are trying to do some reading, I would recommend bringing headphones to help you focus. While it is not noisy, people are passing through.

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Our Review:

Noise level:

  • Moderate

Perks:

  • The big chairs are comfortable so that you can relax while you are reading and studying, but not too comfortable so that you fall asleep.
  • There are tables for group work.
  • The high ceilings, woodwork, and fireplaces really give you that grand, Ivy League feel, which can perhaps be an inspiring environment for you to work in.
  • There are a lot of food options downstairs for when you need a break!
  • It’s conveniently located in the center off campus, just off Spruce Street.
  • The building opens early and stays open late!

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  • Be sure to check out different spots on campus to find what works best for you.
  • Remember, different study spots may be better for different subject areas and disciplines.

Let us know if you have any suggestions for where to study on campus!

Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

6-Hours per Week for Solving Problem Sets

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Take-Away:

For better grades and more intellectual growth, consider spending at least 6 hours across a week cracking your brain on your p-sets before the TA explains it all at recitation.

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The 6-Hour Minimum

  • Unfortunately, many students give up to soon on their problem sets before getting the answers at recitation.
  • By putting in sufficient hours trying to solve problems, you will be engaged in active learning of the concepts the professor has identified as key to the course.
  • For most students, 1-2 hours a week of this kind of active learning won’t cut it. Even 4-5 probably won’t.
  • 6 hours is a minimum that is also likely to fit with the other demands on your time.

So try 6 hours a week, in 60-90 minute chunks.

  • For example:
Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Relax! 11-12:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 7-9:30PM: 10-11:00AM:
  Problem-solving Problem-Solving   Problem-Solving Problem-Solving Recitation

Why a Minimum of 6 Hours?

  • Some learning instructors recommend at least 6 hours a week to their students because, for many students, this represents an increase in time that substantially improves conceptual grasp of key course ideas.
  • The idea of improving your learning by spending more time on problems is consistent with a robust literature on expertise.1 The superiority of some performers over others is a predictable result of more hours on deliberate practice.1 This is true in athletic, musical, and intellectual pursuits. 1
  • Deliberate practice is working hard on difficult skills that are central to your area of mastery. 1
  • What fits the definition of deliberate practice better—working problems, or listening to answers?

What’s the point of working for 6 hours on problems I’m not solving?

  • The point is that you are still learning when working on the problem, even when you are not solving it!2

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But the TA will explain it clearly. Why not wait?

  • No doubt difficult concepts make more sense as or after they are explained. However, the instructor’s question will not be, “Do you understand these ideas as they are explained?”
  • The question will be, “When I give you a new and more complex problem than you’ve seen so far, can you solve it? Under time pressure?”
  • Can you confidently answer, “yes!”?
  • If you want to be more confident that you can answer “yes” to that question, try putting in six hours across a week on your p-sets before recitation. See if the conceptual learning you attain gives you reason for greater confidence.

But what if I don’t have 6 hours?

  • Then spend as many hours as you can before seeking help.  And maybe consult with a Learning Instructor to explore your use of time.

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References:

  1. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363.
  2. Richland, L. E., Kornell, N., & Kao, L. S. (2009). The pretesting effect: Do unsuccessful retrieval attempts enhance learning? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 15(3), 243–257. http://doi.org/10.1037/a0016496

By WLRC Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor

Pondering Priorities

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“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

    ~  Andy Warhol

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I spend a lot of my time here at your learning center working with students who are in a steel cage death match with time management.  And you don’t need to be a learning specialist to see the reason is clear.  

Graduate, professional and undergraduates here at Dear Penn, from our 12 graduate and professional schools to our four undergraduate colleges, across divisions and departments and other seemingly arbitrary lines of demarcation, will all, at some point, come face to face with the grim, irreducible non-expanding 168 hour week.  

Granted, your humble blogger returns to the 168 hour week like any monomaniac returns to his obsession.  (That’s my problem, not yours.)  But the 168 hour mark does give us a necessary point of perspective when it comes to deciding what gets done, in what order, and when.

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Even if you’re already good at “getting it all done” there is something to be said for taking a closer look at your priorities, not just for the sake of some calendar-based time allotment but to answer a bigger picture question:  What am I doing, anyway?

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It happens to all of us, sooner or later.  We get grooved into academic and/or career tracks.  We find ourselves devoting time to pursuits from which we derive less and less pleasure.

We get bored.

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We also get confused.  We confuse priorities andresponsibilities.  We confound our own priorities with the expectations of others.  We fill our time with busy-ness for no other reason than busy is the coin of our 21st century realm.  

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We get to this spot of confusion legitimately.  Our responsibilities shape our priorities, just as the expectations of others prioritize for us, even if only in the short term.  And in today’s labor market, if you’re not really busy you better at least look busy or you may suddenly have many, many free hours to ponder all sorts of things.

All I’m suggesting is take a couple of those hours and spend them thinking through your priorities.  Ask where they came from.  And decide if something needs to change.  You owe it to yourself.  

Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Instructor

Scheduling Self-Care

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            Now that we are entering our mid-semester period here at the University of Pennsylvania, it is easy for us as students to start feeling busy and pressed for time. Sometimes the first thing we cut out in our schedules is the time we make for ourselves. In reality, as our schedules get busier and our workloads get heavier, it is more important than ever to keep time in your schedule for yourself!

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It might sound ridiculous to schedule your ‘relaxation’ time, but if we don’t make it a priority and set aside time for self-care, on our busy days it won’t happen. Making self-care part of your everyday routine will make you a better, happier, and healthier student, friend, and person.

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            Self-care can be defined as “any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health” (Michael, 2016). For each of us, these activities can vary. However, because we spend so much time in front of computer and electronic screens as part of our workloads, I recommend taking a break from the screens when scheduling your self-care time (This means binge-watching a show on Netflix doesn’t really count as self-care). Here are some suggestions for ways you might want to self-care:

  • Head outdoors! Some fresh air and sunshine can do wonders for yourself. Go for a walk around campus and appreciate the foliage on campus as we head from summer to fall. Or head down Spruce Street to the South Street Bridge and walk on the trail along the Susquehanna River.
  • Participate in some physical activity. Whether you like to go for a run, head to the gym, or take an exercise class, getting your blood pumping and your body moving is good for your physical, mental, and emotional heath.

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  • Find some quiet time! Campus and college life can be busy. We can feel like we are constantly surrounded by people and that we always need to be ready to go, appearing like we have it all together. Find a quiet space to journal, meditate, do yoga, or reflect on your week. The peace can do wonders for your health, even if it is just for 15 minutes.

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  • Do something creative! Whether you enjoy crafts, music, or coloring, doing something creative helps us use our whole brain. Even if your definition of art is filling in an adult coloring book, make time during your week for it!
  • Get enough sleep! Make sure you are getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Do this in addition to your 30 minutes of self-care during the day. All the studying in the world won’t help you reach your potential if you’re not getting enough sleep. Athletes know this. It is time students remember it too!

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  • How do you take care of yourself? Comment with your suggestions! We will discuss more about self-care topics as the semester goes on.

Remember to make time for yourself every day during this semester. Doing so will make you a better student in the long-run. Scheduling self-care isn’t being lazy or saying you’re not tough enough to handle your work load. What it shows is that you care about yourself and well-being. It will make you a better student and person in the long run!

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Reference:

https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2016/08/10/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/

Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor