Preparing for Finals in Eight Steps

Yes, I get it. The absolute last thing you want to do right now is study for finals. You might be tired, maybe you didn’t have a spring break, and you just want it to be summer. But here is the deal, you made it this far, so finish strong. Start prepping for finals now.

  1. Know your finals schedule! You can’t successfully take finals if you don’t know when the test is. Mark it on your calendar right now, no excuses. Look up your finals schedule here.
  2. Get your notes together! I am guilty of taking notes on my computer for one class, by hand in another, and a mix of both for the rest of my classes. Now is time to organize all of your notes (chronological order of material covered will help a lot when you are studying).
  3. Use the printer! During virtual learning, it is easy to screenshot diagrams in a presentation and just stare at them. Print them out so you can mark them up while studying.
  4. Change your study spot! There is nothing worse than getting so used to your study spot so that you no longer can focus there. Change up your study spot, so you know when you are there that you are there to get work done.
  5. Take a break! Please do not burn yourself out. You may feel that way already, but that just means you need a break more than anyone. Go treat yourself to coffee, take a walk while it is nice, call your family or friends, read a book that is not related to coursework, or go play catch. Literally, do anything besides study… just for a bit. It will boost your mood so much, because you may need a break more than you think. Self-care is essential right now.
  6. Make a study schedule! Do you have a class that needs more studying than the others? Take this into account, but don’t devote all of your time to just one class per day. Since you also have assignments and projects due within these last few weeks, you need to be as organized as possible. Make a schedule to set aside time for your current classes and assignments, but also time to study for those looming finals.
  7. Prepare for summer! This is a great way to take a well-deserved break. Even though preparing for summer may seem like planning, it will get your mind off of school. What are you doing this summer? What to go on a trip? Plan it. Are you moving out of the dorms? Start packing. Are you getting ready for research? Prepare as much as you can and read the materials given to you.
  8. Work hard! Now that you are prepared, give it your best. Stick to that study schedule and spend quality time on material that seems harder to understand. Do not be scared to go to office hours for review, do some extra practice questions, or ask your classmates questions. Everyone is working towards finals. You are not alone, so do not make it seem like you are. Use your resources to give finals your all. Good luck, you will do great!

How to handle academic burnout

Hi there, if you’re reading this, I assume you are at that point in the semester where it feels like your academic workload is just too much. We have all been there, but how do you handle burnout as an upperclassman in high school, as a college student, or as anyone in the middle of a global pandemic? Maybe the following story and strategies will help you.

My story

I am a first-generation, and first-year college student from a very small town. Needless to say, if I wasn’t already lost coming to college, the pandemic surely set my confusion over the top. Not only was I coping from the loss of my senior year of high school, but I was also struggling with feeling like I was missing out on my first year of college. This combined with a college workload, trying to make friends, and holding a part-time job, lead me partially to burnout… not to mention the loss of spring break in the middle of the second semester.

But hey, we are all supposed to keep our heads up and move forward right? Students really don’t have time to take non-scheduled breaks, but that is exactly what I had to do. I got sick for about a month and a half in the middle of a semester with no spring break. I completely missed this time of schooling and was struggling to keep my head above the surface of my workload. How was I supposed to catch up? With looming midterms and a heavy workload on top of what I already had missed, I worked on school night and day for weeks thinking I was never going to catch up. I slowed down. I was experiencing burnout.

So how did I get back on top of things? How can you get past burnout? Consider these strategies.

Tips

Plan, plan, plan! Make yourself a schedule and stick to it. For example, say you are behind in a class by a chapter. Instead of trying to catch up ASAP, consider dividing that chapter into sections. Lots of textbooks do this already! Read a section or two extra in addition to your traditional workload per day. You won’t catch up right away, but you will not feel overwhelmed because you are getting your current work done while catching up segmentally.

Think about your routine. Do you go get coffee every morning? Do you workout at a certain time of the day? Let’s find some mood boosters for your routine, and don’t take this for granted, it has helped me the most! If you have a regularly scheduled part of your day that you look forward to, such as that morning coffee, evening workout, or even a nice hot shower, have you ever thought about setting it back an hour in time and working towards it as a reward? When you set back something you are looking forward to, you have time to flip around your schedule and start getting straight to work. Set mini-goals of what you want to accomplish, and when you start to feel bored, tired, or anxious, reach one more goal then take that well-deserved break you have postponed and have been looking forward to.

Find a shortcut. Time is crucial, you already know this. Shortcuts are a slippery slope, so don’t go crazy with this step. Do you spend a lot of time making your hair and/or makeup look good in the morning? Brush your hair quickly and throw on a hat or throw up your hair into a cute messy ponytail or bun. How much time do you spend on your phone or watching TV without realizing it? Save this as a reward and put away distractions. Do you study in an elaborate place far from your residence? Try something simple and closer. Do you spend a lot of time reading and watching extra material to understand concepts? Skip these for now and come back to them later when you have more time. You are in a time crunch, it is time to get a basic understanding now and a mastery understanding later.

Make a short to-do list. By all means, do not write out all of the assignments you have to do. This will overwhelm you so much. Instead, take it two or three days at a time. That way, when you cross off things you are accomplishing, it feels like you are making a larger difference in the workload you have.

Focus on your mental health. Burnout will get you down. But the feeling of being almost done with the semester and on top of your workload is exhilarating! Until then though, you can’t stay down in the dumps. Each night take some time to reward yourself by watching some Netflix or anything that brings you joy. Also, reflect on how much you accomplished.

You are dealing with a lot.

You are handling things in the best way you can.

Taking things one step at a time is better than no progress at all.

You are making strides to meet your goals.

You will get through this.

You have a plan.

You are taking time for yourself.

You are going to become a better person from this experience.

The University of Iowa’s Scholarship Portal

Scholarships are everywhere, inside and outside of all college institutions, but how many universities combine all sorts of opportunities into one place, where you can AUTOMATICALLY apply to the majority of them?

Upon your acceptance to the University of Iowa, your financial aid offer will come soon. Maybe the number you see scares you (especially for out-of-state students). Maybe you didn’t get all of the automatic scholarships you hoped for. Maybe you just have a little bit more funds to round out, or maybe your tuition is covered. No matter what kind of bill you are looking at, you are going to want to check out the University of Iowa Scholarship Portal. These scholarships will help you cover tuition, housing, books, and more.

Open only to University of Iowa students, you can’t apply within the scholarship portal before you are admitted to Iowa, but let me tell you what it’s like! Every student is able to fill out the general application. This is just a handful of questions to get to know you, your background, and the town you grew up in, but no question is extensive! The biggest requirement on your part is to list the three most meaningful activities you have been or are engaged in. With all things considered, this general application can take five to ten minutes. Why wouldn’t you want to apply to scholarships that are so easy?

However, it does not stop there! The more you are planning to be involved on campus, the more opportunities come your way. For example, once you declare your major, you know what “college” you are a part of. This decision comes with a corresponding scholarship application to the college you are in. For example, I am a part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a Microbiology major, so for me, I have a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences scholarship application. On the other hand, my friends who are Biomedical Engineering majors are a part of the College of Engineering, so they have the College of Engineering scholarship application. The same goes for other majors and the other colleges on campus. This is the application that is typically where you get to show your passion for your major or showcase what you have been doing to follow your academic goals. These scholarships are only available to undergraduate students in your “college” so the competition level is much lower. For example, even as a first-year student, I received a scholarship offer that was open to all ages of undergraduate students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Therefore, these scholarships are by all means obtainable, so take your time responding to these questions.

Like I said before, the more involved you are on campus or the more you are planning on being involved, the more opportunities apply to you. If you are in the University’s Honors Program, there is a special application open to you as well. This application is the most extensive one I have heard of. Recently it involved an essay, a letter of recommendation, and an honors-oriented resume.

No matter how many applications are available to you, you are not required to do any of them. They are purely there as a resource for you. The more time you dedicate to them and the more applications you fill out, generally the better your results get. If you don’t want to work alone on filling out any part of the scholarship application, there are plenty of resources to turn to once on campus. One resource is the Pomerantz Center. You can get help writing your resume by looking at this guide for help, or even schedule a one-on-one appointment session to get feedback on how to improve or maybe even start your resume. Another resource is the campus writing center, where you can make individual appointments to get writing advice, submit documents for review, or even register for weekly writing one-on-one advice sessions.

One final thing to talk about regarding the University of Iowa scholarship portal is that there are scholarships posted that are not affiliated with the university’s undergraduate programs. These are called external scholarships or external opportunities. Most are related to the university in some way, shape, or form though. For example, one that was posted for the 2020-2021 academic year was from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, but for undergraduate students. It took into consideration a general application, but also a few additional materials.

Needless to say, the scholarship portal is a good start to your scholarship search because of how diverse it is. There are tremendous amounts of opportunities specialized and available to you because many scholarships award multiple winners, many are specified greatly to limit the competition, and many scholarships just require a little bit of effort. The University of Iowa’s scholarship portal has this and more. Good luck with your scholarship search!

Volunteering Highlight for Pre-Medicine Students

For Pre-Medicine students, having a well rounded resume is essential. Have you ever thought about volunteering by doing something that will get you medical experience outside of the hospital? UIowa Mobile Clinic does just this.

The mission of UIowa Mobile Clinic is to provide health screening and services to under-served populations within the Iowa City area. During each free visit, a patient will have the opportunity to undergo blood glucose testing for a diabetes screening, blood pressure and vitals screening, cholesterol screenings, health education, and physician services. Some clinics even offer flu shots, HIV & Hepatitis C testing, dental services, social work, and physical therapy evaluations. All clinics are in a non-hospital setting, and as the name “Mobile Clinic” describes, everything we do is mobile. We unload materials from a car at the beginning of the day, and load the car back up at the end.

So what can you, as a University of Iowa undergraduate student, do without medical school experience? The answer is more than you think. With proper training (which is not time consuming at all) you can become an EMR (Electronic Medical Record) Expert, an interpreter (for languages of Spanish, Arabic, and/or French), a scribe, an HIV/HCV screener, a patient educator, or a patient advocate. You could even run the labs or vitals station!

The great thing about Mobile Clinic is that you can volunteer in any position you are trained for and as much as you want. Of course you can only volunteer at the times and locations clinics are offered, but there are so many options to choose from. My best advice is train early. At the beginning of the semester, there is always a big rush of people who hear about Mobile Clinic for the first time and this causes a flood of people finishing training quickly and filling up all the volunteer slots.

In my experience with Mobile Clinic, I became trained on all the positions I could, but I have only worked (so far) as a scribe and as the volunteer who runs the lab station. I fell in love with these positions so much that I really wanted to focus on just these jobs rather than bouncing around from place to place. Being a scribe is so far my favorite position. I get to stay with current medical students and physicians, take notes for them, and still get to visit patients personally. In addition to this, I sometimes even get to practice my Spanish. I am by no means ready to be an interpreter, but a little practice never hurts.

As a first year college student getting hands on clinical experience such as this, I feel privileged not only to volunteer doing something I love but also to be helping others in the process. Where else are you able to go to college and do these kinds of things as a freshman undergraduate student outside of a hospital and at your own time?

If you are interested in learning more about mobile clinic’s mission, services, or volunteering program, learn more about the Iowa Mobile Clinic.

 

 

Self Care During Finals

Finals are stressful, but a lot of stress can be alleviated with self care. Are you taking care of yourself during this time?

Here are some things to keep in mind with finals approaching:

  • Take a break
      • You deserve it. You have made it through an entire semester during a pandemic. Don’t stress out studying now.
      • Watch some TV, go out to eat, hang out with some friends, or something else just get your mind off of school for awhile.
  • Treat yourself
      • Yes you need a break, but make your breaks beneficial for your health, too.
      • Take a long shower, use a face mask, or eat some junk food. The point is to do something nice for yourself that you don’t get to do often. Use this as a motivator during this stressful time.
  • Study
      • Of course you can’t prepare for finals without studying, but study with purpose.
      • Put your phone and any other distractions away.
      • Study for short periods of time with plenty of breaks, because the last thing you want to do is try and cram in information just to forget it by tomorrow.
      • Change up your scenery. Study somewhere where you feel comfortable, but try and get out this week to a spot where you know when you are there, you are there to study.
  • Sleep
      • Do not stay up late studying. You are going to want to be well rested for all of those tests you are preparing for.
      • Losing sleep means losing information. It will take longer to focus the more tired you become, so pick up the books when you are more well rested tomorrow, because they will still be there.
  • Stay healthy
      • If you go out in public to study, keep your mask on and wash your hands often.
      • Don’t forget to eat your meals and drink lots of water. I find myself lost in my studies and missing meal times, don’t let this happen to you during finals because you need all of the energy you can get.
      • Keep up your basic hygiene. Save time for the daily things: shower, brush your teeth, and comb your hair. The more you make this week normal, the easier it will seem.
      • Take off some steam at the gym. Even if it is just a short workout, it will get you up and moving out of your study spot for a while.
  • Take it one day at a time
      • I get that you are stressed and have a lot to do, but take a second to make a list of things that have to be done, and divide it into a daily agenda. This will help you stay task oriented.
      • Have confidence in yourself.
      • Stay positive, you just have a little bit of the semester left to go. Go Hawks!

Advice for a First Generation College Student

How do you stay afloat, updated, and on track? Going to college is a challenge on its own, but to go to college and have no family member to rely on for college experience questions makes it even harder.

I am a first generation college student, and sometimes I feel like I blend in to the crowd, but many times I feel like I am out of the loop. I’m not going to lie, trying to figure out how college works on your own is hard. There are going to be times of shock where you learn something that everyone else just seems to know. But hey, you have to start somewhere.

My advice to you is to get involved and meet with as many advisors and professors as you can.

Getting involved in student organizations, Greek life, or even volunteering will give you a sense of community. Just like Greek life, many student organizations assign newcomers a “big” or a “parent”, which is like a student mentor for the organization itself, but these are also people you will grow close with and be able to ask a variety of questions to.

However, you are not limited to just asking questions to this mentor figure. Joining any community or group on campus of any sort will provide you someone to talk to. Just find someone you bond with. Don’t be afraid to be outgoing, and if needed, start the conversation yourself. “Hi, I’m new here,” is not a bad thing to say, and in fact that’s how I got pointed towards some of the best and most knowledgeable people I have met. It seems like everyone will excitedly talk about themselves and their college experiences, so learn from this. Even if they are a freshman, maybe they know a fun fact about the university, a neat program offered, or a cool study spot that you don’t know about. Take knowledge from anyone.

The University of Iowa offers a Living Learning Community for first generation college students. This means you will live on a residence hall floor with people just like you. You will learn together about the college experience. To learn more about the First Generation LLC, click here.

Also sponsored by the University of Iowa is the Iowa Edge program. This is an orientation to campus and college life.

As for meeting with advisors, this is crucial for first-year college students. Academic advisors will keep you on track to graduate and provide you with various opportunities that you may have never known to exist. This can range from first generation college student support groups, scholarships, or even simply something your advisor believes you may find interesting. Your academic advisor will be your greatest asset to guiding your college experiences. Of course, schedule however many meetings you are required to have, but schedule a few more. Really get to know your advisor so they can help you in the best way they see fit. After all, they are the one person on campus who seems up to date and knowledgeable on everything.

As for other advisors, this can range from professors to program mentors. Really, anyone can be an advising figure, you just have to meet with them regularly and ask them to share their knowledge. I have found going to professor office hours and just having a conversation with them has provided me a lot of knowledge about the university that I would have not otherwise gained, so don’t be afraid just to talk. It doesn’t have to be a formal advisor-advisee format.

Overall, my advice to you as a first generation college student is to be outgoing and meet with as many people as you can. You learn through experience, so don’t let an opportunity pass you by.

If you would like to learn more about being a first generation student at the University of Iowa, click here.

For resources to look into, click here.