Spring Clean Your Academic Life


Image from UPenn Facilities website

While it might not feel like spring outside yet, it is definitely around the corner. Spring break is over, and this semester is already halfway complete. Before we become busy with spring social commitments, with enjoying the nice weather (it’s coming, I promise!), and with beginning to study for finals, this point in the semester can be a great time to do some academic spring cleaning.

Sound new to you? Often, we often only think of spring cleaning as a chore we complete with our dorms, houses, or apartments, but actually this can be a great point in the semester for taking time to reorganize your academic life. Spending a few hours clearing out old papers and organizing important files can help you feel recharged and ready to take on the rest of the semester.


Image from NewBridge Recovery

So turn on some music, open up the curtains to let some sunlight in, and get ready to get organized. Here are some suggestions for how to spring clean your academic life:

  • Take some time to go through your folders (or the paper crumpled at the bottom of your backpack).
    • Recycle the papers you don’t need anymore.
    • If papers will be useful or helpful later in the semester or in future classes, place them in a labeled folder.
  • Organize the files on your computer.
    • Make sure you have created file folders for each of your courses this semester. Sort your files accordingly. Make sure to add any downloaded files that will be useful.
    • Delete the computer files you no longer need.
    • If you are reading a lot of PDFs, make sure you are keeping them organized for easy reference when you are writing future essays. Tools like OneNote, Notability, or Zotero can be great for helping to keep PDFs organized.
  • Sort out your Inbox!
    • This task can be dreaded, but now can be a good time to take charge of your email if it’s gotten out of hand.
    • Delete unread or unneeded messages.
    • Place important emails in their applicable folders
    • Take yourself email chains that you don’t need or send them directly all an advertisement folder so they aren’t clogging up your main inbox.
  • Take stock of your books and textbooks.
    • If you’re like me and you have too many books, make sure you’ve made any returns to the library.
    • See if you can sell back any books on Amazon or another site.
    • Donate books you no longer need to on-campus donation sites or a local library.
  • Review your planner and/or schedule.
    • Make sure your spring commitments are updated.


Image from Waterford Technologies

What else do you do to recharge and reorganize during the spring? Let us know!

Remember, instructors at Weingarten are here to help with any of your academic needs! Call 215 – 573 – 9235 to make an appointment. Or, stop by Monday thru Friday from 12pm to 3pm and Tuesday and Wednesday nights from 4pm  to 7pm for walk-in appointments.

By: Kelcey Grogan, Weingarten Learning Instructor and Learning Fellow


The Problem-Solving Sandwich



When you go to do your homework (reading & problem-set)…
  1. Start with a homework problem first, not the reading.
  2. Read only if you need to. Read only what you need.
  3. Then get back to the problem and solve it.
Read-Then-Solve: A Bad Idea

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Unfortunately, many students do their homework using the read-then-solve strategy—they read the entire assigned reading, then start on the problem set.  This may make for reading more than you need and likely zoning out while you’re reading. Read-then-solve is often wasteful and boring. You may ask, “But don’t I need to understand the concepts first?” I ask in reply, “Do you read-then-solve in real life?”

The Problem-Solving Sandwich – What You Do in Real Life

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In this “real world” scenario, suppose you are writing a report on a Word document, and run into trouble with the formatting. Say it is a problem with making bulleted lists in Word. You have a problem you intend to solve. Here are two strategies you can use. Which is best?

Strategy 1: Read-Then-Solve
  1. Read an entire chapter on formatting in Microsoft Word
  2. Attempt to solve the bulleting problem
Strategy 2: Use the Problem-Solving Sandwich
  1. Attempt to solve the problem with what you know. For example, you might right-click and see if any of the options make sense.
  2. If can’t figure it out, THEN search for a solution to your specific problem. For example, you might google “how to make bullets in word for mac 2011”
  3. As soon as you have what you think you need from whatever reading you find, get back to the Word doc and solve the problem.
It’s a sandwich—see?
Benefit 1: The Problem-Solving Sandwich is More Efficient

Let’s see how the problem-solving sandwich can save you time. Compare Kim and Susana, both in a class involving problem sets, in this toy example.

Kim uses the read-then-solve strategy:

On Monday, from 4-6pm, she completes the assigned reading. The next day she works on the problem set, also from 4-6pm. Thus, her schedule looks like this:

4:00 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
4:30 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
5:00 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE
5:30 PM read SOLVE
  read SOLVE

Remember, this is just a toy example! You will likely want to put in a 6-hour minimum; see previous blog post with that title.

Susana uses the problem-solving sandwich strategy:

She works the same days, but not the same amount of time.

  read SOLVE
4:30 PM SOLVE read
  read SOLVE
5:30 PM

As you can see, Susana stopped half an hour earlier than Kim on both days, saving herself an hour. Does this mean she has less mastery of the concepts? Will she do less well on the exam?

Who has greater command of the key ideas?

When I show this to students in my workshops, they generally think that Kim and Susana have equal control of the topic, that is,

But Susana had an hour more to have fun!

Why could she learn as much in less time? First, she only read when she couldn’t solve the problem on her own so she cut straight to the stuff relevant to her specific question with a strong motivation to get the info and get out—her brain was on the hunt.

Benefit 2: The Problem-Solving Sandwich is More Engaging

What do I mean by your brain being “on the hunt”? When you read-as-needed only, your goal is to find a specific answer to a critical question—you’re giving your brain a question mark: “?” J

But when you read-then-solve, your goal is to “get through the chapter.” You’re giving your brain a period: “.” L

Which is more fun? Ready to Try It? So if you have been using the read-then-solve strategy, try out the problem-solving sandwich strategy. If you have any ?s about how to do it, feel free to come chat with a learning instructor—we’re happy to help!

image 5

 To your better learning!

Staff Writer: Nicholas Santascoy, Learning Instructor


Tech-Tuesday – Meditation and Mindfulness Apps

Shining a spotlight on different technology services and applications that may be helpful for students, faculty, and staff here in the Penn Community!


It appears that mindfulness has become the hot new buzzword on campuses and on various blog sites across the country. This is with good reason! Practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve general health, reduce stress, improve immunity, and boost recovery. For college students, practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce overall stress, reduce depressive symptoms, enhance focus, and improve overall grades (Ackerman, 2017).


While many of us may want to incorporate mindfulness practices into our daily lives, it can be difficult to make time in our schedule to read a book on mindfulness or to attend a meditation class. Luckily, there are a few apps that make it simpler to incorporate mindfulness into our daily routines! This blog will highlight two different applications that have helped me incorporate meditation and mindfulness into my weekly routine.


  1. Headspace (www.headspace.com)

The first is app is called Headspace (www.headspace.com), and it has become quite popular. Headspace is great because it takes you through the meditation process if you are unfamiliar or new to the practice. The app has a beginner 10-day meditation guide that can be a great place to start! Each day leads you through a 10-minute meditation practice. It even incorporates tracking into the app to motivate you to stick with keeping mindfulness as a part of your daily routine.  The app is initially free to download, and then will take you through its app to purchase different meditation exercises.


   2.  Stop, Breathe, & Think (www.stopbreathethink.com)

Stop, Breathe, & Think (www.stopbreathethink.com) is another great app to help you practice meditation and mindfulness (Full disclosure – this is the app I love and use most often). The app has short guided meditations, starting at just two minutes, that help you make time to breathe and check in with yourself throughout your hectic day. The app helps you learn how to meditate. You can then choose from a variety of sessions depending on what you need each day. The sessions include titles such as: Breathe, Gain Resilience, Connect with Your Body, Be Kind, Sleep, and Chill. (I highly recommend the Falling Asleep meditation in the Sleep session. It really helps me unwind at the end of the day, and has even helped me conquer some of my insomnia). While some parts of the app are free, other sessions require you to pay; however, 10% of the revenue go towards the nonprofit Tools for Peace, which helps at-risk youth experience the benefits of mindfulness and meditation. Knowing this, you can feel good about taking care of yourself while knowing you are helping to pay the gift of mindfulness forward!

These are just two of the many apps out there to help us practice self-care. What apps do you use? Do you have any you recommend?

This blog was based on information from the following sites:





By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, WLRC Learning Instructor

Positive Psychology – Volunteer!


Taking time to volunteer

can help improve your mental health & wellbeing!


Positive Psychology strategies and techniques have shown to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase happiness
  • Correlate with increased college achievement 

It is important to approach volunteering in college differently than how we approached community service in high school or simply for the purpose of strengthening our resumes or applications:

  • It is about taking time out of our busy lives to offer our time, skills, or experience to help an organization on Penn’s campus or within the broader Philadelphia community.

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In terms of Positive Psychology, volunteering has been shown to improve people’s emotional wellbeing. 

Here are 3 suggestions for how to get involved here at Penn:
  1. Find volunteer opportunities! Here is a link to the Netter Center on Penn’s campus which works to establish partnerships with the broader Philadelphia community: https://www.nettercenter.upenn.edu/


  1. Check out ABCS courses at Penn. “ABCS students and faculty work with West Philadelphia public schools, communities of faith, and community organizations to help solve critical campus and community problems in a variety of areas such as the environment, health, arts, and education.” https://www.nettercenter.upenn.edu/what-we-do/courses
  2. Check out Penn’s Civic House: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/civichouse/

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Have you found other ways to meaningfully engage with different organizations here on campus or within the Philadelphia community? Let us know!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor


Studying & The Super Bowl



  • Are you a diehard Eagles fan who has been waiting for a game like this since you were a kid?
  • Maybe you’re a bandwagon fan whose rooting for Philly now that you live here?
  • Or, perhaps you don’t care about football at all, but are planning to watch for the commercials and the halftime show, or maybe you just want to enjoy the snacks?

Whatever your association is with the Eagles, you won’t be able to escape talk of the game in Philadelphia this weekend. The Super Bowl can be a fun game to watch with your friends, especially since the Eagles will be representing this year!

However, the game does fall at a time in the semester when things start to get busy! Not to fear, Weingarten has some tips on how to manage and balance your time so that you can watch the big game AND stay on top of your school work!


  1. Make sure you review your schedule for next week as soon as possible. Make sure you note what assignments are due on Monday and Tuesday (not to jinx anything, but if the Eagles win, the parade will supposedly be on Tuesday). If you have any exams, essays, quizzes, or other work due at the end of the week, jot those down as well. Also note any work responsibilities or other commitments you have coming up.
  2. Use this information to create a to-do list for the weekend.
  3. From this to-do list, create a schedule for yourself for this weekend so that you can use your time efficiently before the game begins. Block out time for when you will work on each assignment. Be specific and strategic about what work you will complete when.
  4. Remember often people work best in approximately 1 hour blocks of time. Include a 5-10 minute break in this hour of work time. Also, it can be helpful to alternate assignments or subjects. For example, work for one hour on subject A, then work for one hour on subject B, then you can return to work on subject A for an hour.
  5. Perhaps you take it easy on Friday or Saturday night so that you can get some more work done on the other day and enjoy Sunday.
  6. Include some time in your schedule to learn the Eagles fight song if you haven’t already. Here’s a helpful link https://youtu.be/6SosmpnWET4 ! 
However you decide to spend your time, we hope you have a fun, SAFE, and enjoyable weekend!
And remember . . .



 By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Work-Life Balance: 4 Suggestions for Optimizing Your Personal Time!


Wow! Spring semester is here and charging forward at full speed!
(I don’t know about you, but for me the winter break flew by!)

Now, the spring semester has kicked off, Canvas sites have been published, syllabi collected, books ordered, first classes attended, preliminary assignments completed, and first projects and/or exams scheduled…


It’s time to balance the semester workload with time to relax and recharge on your own and with friends.

Maybe you have weekend plans or you’re already planning your spring break, or maybe your plans are to squeeze in watching some of your favorite shows on TV or Netflix in-between studying.


We here at Weingarten have four suggestions for how to make the most out of your personal time while on campus in order to remain as relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated in the spring semester as possible:

1. Read a book that you want to read!


Often, during the semester, the only reading students have time to do are the readings that are assigned for classes. Use your scheduled and dedicated study breaks to read a book you have been wanting to read. So many wonderful books were published this year, check out these lists for some suggestions:

2. Write a thank you note!

thank you

Stay connected and send a thank you note or an email to a professor, staff member, friend, or classmate who was a big help to you last semester. Your kind words of appreciation will mean more than you know.

3. Plan your spring semester strategically!


Take an afternoon to lay out important dates on your calendar and planner for the spring semester.

4. Form an exercise habit!


With each new semester, it’s the perfect time to start building a new habit! Do you have plans this semester to walk each day or to go to the gym or to do yoga or to meditate each week? Do these plans fall to the wayside when the semester get busy? Exercising regularly is one of the best things we can do for our mind and body, but it can be easy to push these commitments to the side when the semester gets busy.

It takes three weeks to form a new habit and make it stick! 
No matter what your plans are, we hope you optimize your personal time while maintaining your work-life balance!

By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Instructor

Starting Spring Semester Off Strong!


Welcome back to Philadelphia for the 2018 Spring Semester! We here at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center hope you had a relaxing and rejuvenating break. We also hope you remembered to bring back some warm clothes! It’s been a fairly chilly winter here so far – make sure you stay bundled up for your walks to class, work, and extra-curricular activities. With this weather, some of you may be even more encouraged to stay inside and get a jump start on your class work!

walnut walk

Whether this weather makes you want to head to the library or curl up under a blanket watching Netflix, the learning instructors at Weingarten have five steps to help make this semester the most successful and manageable one yet:

Step 1 – Reflect:

Before you dive into your new coursework, spend some time reflecting on last semester. You can simply mentally reflect, or devote some time to writing your answers down in a notebook or journal. Here are a few questions to guide your thinking:

  • How did you manage your time last semester?
  • How did you prepare for your exams and quizzes?
  • How did you approach long term projects or papers?
  • What worked for you? What didn’t work for you?
  • What would you like to be different this semester?


Step 2 – Set Goals:

Based on your reflections, set 1-3 small goals for yourself this semester. These goals should be manageable (you can achieve them in one semester), measurable (you will know when you achieved them), and reflective of what is most important for you and your studies. Write these goals down on a piece of paper and post them on your bulletin board, or place them in the first page of your planner. Put them somewhere you will see them often to remind yourself of what you are working towards.

goal setting

Step 3 – Make a Plan:

Spend some time in the beginning of the semester writing down all due dates for your exams, quizzes, papers and projects in your calendars and planners. Doing this now will save you time and prevent future headaches later. Remember time management has three components:

  1. Long term (semester) planning
  2. Weekly planner
  3. Daily To-Do Lists/Tasks & Daily Schedule

Make sure your time management plan includes all three of these components.

time to plan

Step 4 – Identify Resources You Can Use for Help:

Before you are crammed with work and crunched for time, spend an afternoon locating different resources on campuses that are here to support you. Make an appointment with a librarian so that you finally understand how to conduct research properly (it’s more than just entering search terms in Google!). Attend office hours with your professors or TAs before they become swamped with students. Make an appointment with us here at the Weingarten Resources Center. Schedule the doctor’s appointment that you have been meaning to go to. Seek out these resources now! Don’t wait until later in the semester. Here are some resources that can be useful for students:

  • The Tutoring Center
  • Weingarten Learning Resources Center
  • Marks Family Writing Center
  • Resource Librarians
  • Professor and TA Office Hours
  • CAPs, Health Center, Women’s Center
  • Campus and Community Houses (La Casa Latina, Makuu, Greenfield Intercultural Center, LGBT Center, etc.)
  • Your college major Advisors

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Step 5 – Attend a Session at the Weingarten Learning Resources Center:

To learn more about these ideas and other strategies, attend a session at the Weingarten Learning Resources Centers so that you work smarter not harder this semester!

fresh start

Whatever you need, Weingarten is here to support your academic growth! Remember we have walk-in hours every weekday from 12PM to 3PM and on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 4PM to 7PM in the Weingarten Learning Resources Center. You can also always call 215-573-9235 and schedule an appointment.

Have a great, happy, and successful spring semester!


By Staff Writer: Kelcey Grogan, Learning Fellow & Learning Instructor