Category Archives: College

Best Music to Write Essays to: Focus, Think, Write

essay-writing-music

If you’re like most students, writing can be frustrating, especially if you’re tense, stressed, or facing a looming due date for an important essay. The answer to staying focused and tapping into your creative juices may be as nearby as your earbuds: music. A whole body of research suggests that listening to music while you write boost’s your brain’s capacity for spatial-temporal reasoning, which is responsible for creative thinking (and thus, writing). So what type of music improves your concentration and focus the most?

Choosing a Genre

Various studies have been undertaken over the years on music and focus, particularly when it comes to writing (and also, studying), and researchers have found that music sans lyrics is the most effective at keeping you on task and churning out meaningful words. Music with words can be distracting to some writers, causing them to pay more attention to the lyrics than they are to the creative process.

That’s not to say you can’t throw on an epic soundtrack if you’re dealing with a bugger of an essay, a little Kanye, if you’re feeling like a superstar at a particular moment in time, or even some Adele to soothe your soul while you bring your ideas to life. However, electronic music, with its ambient notes and repetitive beats, and Baroque-period classical music, with its harmonic chords, are thought by researchers to be the best at releasing the inner Stephen King or G.R.R. Martin. “Brandenburg Concerto #3” by Johann Sebastian Bach gets numerous nods from researchers when it comes to heightening concentration and productivity.

Although choosing music from these genres can be as personalized as your own specific tastes, there are lots of recommendations floating around the interwebs when it comes to the “right” songs for writing. But don’t worry, we have a writer-approved playlist to help you focus and unleash your creativity.

  • First Breath After Coma” by Explosions in the Sky. If you’ve watched “Friday Night Lights,” then you’ll recognize this tune as the theme song for the show. This instrumental has limited vocals and is interesting enough without being really intense, so you can focus on the job at hand – writing.
  • You Wish” by Nightmares on Wax. This electronic instrumental has an R&B twang and provides tranquil background noise to get your neurons pumping and the words flowing.
  • So What” by Miles Davis. This 60’s instrumental from one of jazz’s greatest will help you maintain focus without distracting you from what you’re writing about.
  • The Bridge of Khazad Dum” by Howard Shore on “The Lord of the Rings” soundtrack. You don’t have to live in the Shire to appreciate this soothing instrumental.
  • Metamorphosis II” by Philip Glass. This piano solo provides mood-lifting background noise for your late-night writing enjoyment.
  • Time” by Hans Zimmer from the “Inception” soundtrack. This peaceful instrumental will keep you focused and relaxed.
  • Shempi” by Ratatat. This vocal-free instrumental has a high-energy feel, helping you stay alert and keep your focus on pushing through the last few hundred words of your research paper.

White Noise

White noise is also worth a mention for breaking the boredom of silence that weighs down some writers. Picture it: crickets chirp, birds sing, and thunder rolls in the background while you pound out 1,000 words on the French Revolution. Words flow like milk and honey from your fingertips, and you finish up your piece with enough time left over to binge watch a few eppys of your favorite show before heading off to bed. That’s the power of white noise. Although not exactly music per se, white noise can put an end to the monotony of quietness, which can, ironically be a big distraction.

Create your own white noise mix with Noisli, a free app (also available on laptops and PCs) with an on-board mixer that lets you add nature sounds, storm sounds, coffee shop sounds, and water sounds, among others, to find the right level of background noise for your tastes.

Music is a great source of inspiration. Find the perfect tune and have fun working on your next assignment.

Skills You Need for College

skills-for-college

You have finally made it to high school graduation and college is looming large in the near future. But are you ready? You know your way around a scientific calculator, and you can write a killer research paper, but do you have the soft skills to be a successful college student? Being academically prepared and being prepared in other areas of your life are two different things altogether.

College readiness goes beyond the courses you’ve taken and the SAT and ACT exams you’ve sat for. Some of the skills that you need to be a successful college student are often not found in a classroom setting. Let’s take a look at some skills you need to ensure your successful passage from graduating senior to lowly freshman undergrad, ready to “adult.”

Time Management

Time: we only get so much of it, and what you do with it really matters. For this reason, one of the most valuable skills you need to hone prior to heading off to college is time management. (Consequently, mastering time management is a good idea, since you will need this skill in nearly every area of your life in adulthood). Learn now how to prepare a schedule that factors in time spent in class and time spent studying and preparing – really studying and preparing – for each class. Now balance that with everything else that you’ll want and need to do once you’re “out on your own”. Maybe you need to factor in time for working, and you’ll naturally want to make time for attending student activities and hanging with your friends. Creating a schedule that works for you is a skill that must be learned, even if on the fly, by all successful college students.

Study Skills

Even if you have some mad study skills in high school, college-level work is another animal altogether. What was “good effort” in high school may not equally translate in college. Learn how to take notes effectively, use the library for research, and hone your study skills now – you’ll need them when you’re taking advanced classes in college.

Managing Stress

Stress management is essential for college students. Whereas before, you were in a more sheltered high school and home environment, living on campus means doing many of the things that adults have to do, all on your own. Eat well, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly to keep stress to a minimum. Find coping mechanisms, whether it’s prayer or yoga, to help you de-stress.

Managing Money

While some high school graduates have the money management thing down pat, the truth is most kids fresh out of school have no idea how to budget and handle money. Learn all you can now about making and sticking to a budget, balancing your checkbook, and living within your means. Most college students live on a shoestring budget, so learning how to get the most for your money and avoiding indulgent purchases is important.

Self-Care

You’ve so far had your parents to monitor your health for the most part. Now you’re in charge. You have to learn how to care for your physical health. Practicing good hygiene and self-care, making time for proper nutrition, and seeking medical attention when a problem arises is all on your shoulders now.

Personal Responsibility

Learning personal responsibility is key to mastering all of the above skills. Personal responsibility means being honest and having integrity, but it also means respecting the rules and following them. It is also your responsibility to avoid risky behaviors that are often enticing to young students and making smart choices now instead of making decisions that might negatively impact your otherwise bright future. In essence, you are the master of your ship, and it’s in your hands how you steer your course.

How to Write Better in College: The Tips You Should Try

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What are your plans for the upcoming semester? Wild parties? Meeting tons of new interesting people? Taking part in numerous fun extra-curriculum activities? Yep, all of this is great. But, apart from that, you’ll need to write. A lot.

College essays, research papers and case studies often constitute a significant part of your overall grade. Thus, you need all of that to be really good. No one is born a genius writer. Acquiring and perfecting this skill takes time and practice. With our tips you can definitely make it happen.

Strive for Clarity

Almost every type of college paper has rigid structure. Following it has nothing but benefits. First, you have clear understanding of the succession of the ideas you’re going to present. Second, your professor won’t have to suffer, wading through the forest of your thoughts. Third, you’ll train your mind to organize your thoughts in an efficient way, which will certainly be helpful in your future workplace. Just think of a persuasive essay, for instance. You’ll always need a thesis, supporting arguments and a killer conclusion. Isn’t it the structure of “give-me-a-raise” speech? See, following the structure is great for you. Not only in terms of college essay writing.

Develop Your Vocabulary

Academic writing assignments challenge you to demonstrate not only clarity and cohesion of thoughts, but also command of English. That’s why the use of proper and sophisticated vocabulary is absolutely essential. There are plenty of ways to enrich yours. You may subscribe to the word-of-the-day email, use thesaurus, and, most importantly, read as widely as possible. Your mind will have to build connections between different concepts and come up with more effective solutions every time you write a paper.

Read Other’s Work

Of course, you don’t have to sneak into your professor’s office to take a peek onto your fellow students’ essays. Just read them whenever you have the opportunity. Try to be as unbiased as possible. However, don’t hesitate to make a little note in your head, whenever you see a mistake or the need of improvement (telling your peer about it won’t hurt also). This approach will help you sharpen your editing skills and facilitate work on your future assignments.

Refer to the Prominent Figures

The topic you’ve been asked to write an essay or a research paper on has probably been already studied. Include the opinions of the most influential people of the field into your work. It surely has to be based on your thesis, the result of your reflections and analysis. However, mentioning the most important players of the field certainly adds credibility and authority to what you have to say.

Make sure to cite each source you use properly. Stick to the guidelines, provided by your professor. Whether it’s APA, MLA or Chicago formatting style – use it. Having followed this rule, you won’t have to worry about being accused of plagiarism or having your paper returned for corrections. It may seem complicated at the beginning. However, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Examine Every Detail

Correct spelling, punctuation and syntax cannot be underestimated. No matter how brilliant your ideas are, they may get lost in typos and grammatical mistakes you’ve made. Thus, stick to the good old revision and editing. Have a friend or a family member read your work. You may miss disappointing errors just because you’ve developed “editor’s fatigue”. That’s why having someone else read it for you certainly won’t hurt.

Writing is a demanding craft. However, every challenge it poses helps you grow and develop not just writing, but also cognitive skills. Use our tips and enjoy the ride!

How to Write a Narrative Essay

narrative-essay

The word “essay” elicits two very different kinds of reaction from college students. Some are thrilled by the prospect of getting to create a unique piece of writing. Others become apprehensive about failing to tell an engaging story and getting their grammar wrong. Writing any form of essay requires a certain amount of skill, but it is the determination that gets you across the line. When it comes to crafting a narrative essay, students are required to be descriptive and have an open mind full of appealing ideas.

As the name clearly suggests, the narrative essay is one where you have to tell a story instead of convincing the readers to agree with a point of view. Your task is to present your perspective on a personal experience and allow the readers to emotionally invest themselves in a story. Even though you are not required to create an argument, you still have to give your essay a purpose or a position. This means that the writing must have a clear thesis and a string of well organized ideas that form a meaningful narrative.


Create an Outline

The first step to writing a narrative essay is to build an outline that will enable you to organize your thoughts and funnel them into a concise story. You will have limited time and words in which to describe your tale, hence it is best to know in advance where you are going with your story.

When outlining your essay, be sure to come up with the main idea before focusing on any of the details. Build your story around this central idea by creating paragraphs that support your thesis in different ways. The purpose of each paragraph is to lead the reader back to the main theme of your story. For example, if you are writing a narrative essay on “An Embarrassing Experience”, you should use the first paragraph to introduce the event that caused you embarrassment and then describe the various reasons why the experience was embarrassing in the paragraphs that follow.

At the very end of your essay, you should write a concluding paragraph where you sum up your narrative and leave the reader with your final thoughts. It is very important for the conclusion to give the readers a sense of closure or resolution.

Be Selective with Your Vocabulary

To make your narrative essay stand out, you need to make your description as vivid as possible. In order to do this effectively, you must use the right words, terms and phrases. Keep the principles of organization (spatial order, chronological order and climactic order) in mind when describing individual events. The use of descriptive words and appropriate synonyms is absolutely essential to make your work attractive and impressive. Instead of giving the readers a bland and detailed account of a particular event, you should present a gripping narrative that grabs and retains the attention of the readers.

Leave out details that do not add to the excitement of the story. Avoid the use of words that sound too formal or academic. Using pretentious words that confuse the readers defeats the purpose of a narrative essay.

Revise and Improve Your Narrative

In writing, there is always room for improvement. Do not just proofread your essay. Look for ways in which you can sharpen the details, use stronger verbs and rearrange the phrases. Furthermore, do not change your story when revising because it creates plot holes and makes your writing look choppy.

Once you are done writing, read out loud to make sure that your sentence construction is smooth and fluid. You can ask a friend or a tutor to read your narrative and offer suggestions. Do not hand over the essay to your professor unless you are confident that it is your best effort.

What Professors Expect from Your Writing: Prepare for the Requirements

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You may not think of yourself as a writer, and you might be convinced you’re never the best writer in the class. News flash: you don’t have to be. The job description for “student writer” is pretty basic, once you distill it down to some key goals—and once you’re focused on just what a professor wants out of your writing.

Here are the basic tricks of the trade for successfully getting through the written work that most every academic degree requires.

Compliance

Let’s be clear: professors devise assignments around certain protocols and they do so for specific reasons. That makes it your job to follow the assignment instructions to the last, minute detail. Who knows why your professor restricts you to 1,007 words, or requires a bigger font than you normally type with. He or she demands green ink on lavender paper? Do it. Whatever is requested of you as a student writer, do it.

Read carefully – and understand thoroughly—what the assignment parameters are. Then, make sure your submission matches exactly what the professor asked for in terms of content, word count, formatting, and deadlines.

Knowing Your Reader

This is an easy one, since it’s usually singular situation: the only eyes likely to grace your essay are those of the professor, or maybe a peer or two along the way of the writing and revising process. In most cases, then, you’re faced with the “initiated audience,” where you share your writing with people who know the subject at hand. No need to start from ground zero or explain away too many basic points. Assume your reader is up to speed and write accordingly. That will result in a more streamlined approach, where your prose can get to the point and really dig into the meat of the chosen matter. Your professor will appreciate your awareness of his or her expertise, and revel in an advanced discussion.

Clarity

Think clearly, write clearly. The end result? You guessed it: clarity. I guarantee that this tops the list of what your professor wants in an essay or research paper.

A professor shouldn’t have to work too hard to understand a writer’s basic idea or argument, then to follow the series of ideas that explain or support it. The best way to really nail down your most coherent position or argument is to start with an idea and then throw questions at it: start with the ever-important “Why?” and work your way down to “So what?” Once you yourself have dealt with this vital interrogation, then it’s likely the prose will stand up to closer scrutiny from the prof. Remember, too, that it’s the writer’s job to work out a logical sequence of ideas ahead of putting pencil to paper (or fingers to keyboard), then to constantly circle back to that main theme, keeping the entire essay anchored in the central, formative points.

Consistency

Everyone’s writing style is different, because a person’s writing method and the outcomes are aligned at least somewhat with his or her outlook on life, social conditioning, and personality quirks.

That said, an academic essay is not necessarily the place to revel in deeply personal insights. Tone down colloquialisms and biased rhetoric that can take a reader off course. And know that in your capacity as a student writer, you must strive to develop a consistency of style that speaks to who you are as well as to how you respond to and adapt to various assignments. A professor will enjoy editing and grading your written submissions when he or she senses your voice and your perspectives in play in the prose.

4 Steps to a Winning Admission Essay

A college admissions essay is perhaps one of the most important documents a person will ever write. Believe it. Admissions committees (typically made up of the very professors with whom you want to work) will absolutely read your submission—and then happily use your words for or against you in the selection process.

Any university professor will tell you that a search committee relies on the admissions essay for the insights it provides in helping to measure the “fit” of an applicant to a particular program. A smart search committee member evaluates the attributes of both candidate and school to estimate whether or not an applicant will succeed at the institution.

So with that in mind, how do you develop just the right tone and message for the essay? Consider what follows as a guide toward putting your best essay forward. Your academic success might depend on it.

Do Your Homework

Feed into the ego of the admissions committee members by noting their accomplishments, which obviously shape the reasons you want/need to study at that particular place. Make it clear that “thanks to Dr. Y’s recent published study on X,” there is no better place on the planet for you to come do your work and subsequently make your own brilliant contributions to the field—all filtered through their genius, of course. Are you getting me here? Don’t pander, and don’t wallow. But by all means, speak directly to and about the target school, acknowledging that behind every desirable academic program are instructors, researchers, and administrators making it shine.

Get Personal

Think of the admissions essay as a portrait of you (minus the fake smile and perfect hair) that reveals something about your personal truth. Heavy, I know, but a candidate must relate particulars about just why they want to attend a designated school—and you can do so by setting up some amount of a personal history. Are you the first of your family to go to college or pursue a graduate degree? Maybe your childhood was fraught with varying levels of pain related to financial realities, health problems, or other “issues” you’ve managed to overcome? Say so. Build your case—but don’t go crazy on this front. No need to pull the sympathy card, but if there lurks in your past a legitimate “shadow” which somehow fueled your desire to get into this school, then tell that story.

Build Up Your Story

Now, don’t simply accumulate a list of bullet points; instead, write prose that sequences from one idea to the next via logical transitions and vivid, descriptive wording. Try to offer the admissions committee readers a narrative flow, so that they come away with a sense of where you’ve been, where you are now, and where you plan to go. In other words, structure the essay on a sort of past-present-future platform, and always anchor your “plot” in how this school—how this program—is the only logical jumping-off point for your next phase.

Pay Attention to Details

Have two or three people (who have a grasp of the language) read your essay before you submit! It’s imperative to get feedback on content, readability, and even “mechanics” (errors in punctuation are more distracting than you might think). It’s critical that you pad the writing-editing-revising-submitting sequence with the time necessary to do all of the above.

As you craft the essay, always remember that a school cares about who it accepts; after all, a student’s academic trajectory should result in his or her entry into the professional arena, where that now former student will make a distinguished mark in the field. That mark will soon enough reflect positively back onto the school, the program, and yes—on the professors themselves, which bring us full circle: know your audience.

There it is. The road to a truly outstanding admission essay is not that long. The truth is, it does require diligence, creativity and perseverance. However, destination is worth it.

How To Organize Your College Essay Properly

how to organize college essay
College freshman may get a rude awakening when they hand in their first college paper. What would have earned them high marks in high school is simply not acceptable anymore. High school papers, namely the five-paragraph essay, were your training wheels for more in-depth writing. Instead of looking at facts and pointing out general themes and concepts, college writing asks you to take a deeper look into logic, reasoning, context and analysis and structure your college essay well.

Ok, fine. But how do you accomplish that exactly? What does it look like? Here are some basic guidelines for how to organize your college essays:

Introduction

Your introduction should accomplish several things:

  • Introduce the topic you will be writing about.
  • Make the reader care about the topic.
  • Give them important information about the topic.
  • Convey your position on the topic in your thesis statement.

You can accomplish these with a few different introduction styles:

  • Offer a compelling example.
  • Quote statistics.
  • Use a knock-out quotation.
  • Tell a relevant anecdote.
  • Pose an intriguing question.

Tips on getting your introduction right:

  • Try writing it last. Sometimes, the introduction is the hardest part to write. After you’ve written your supporting paragraphs, you may have an easier time finding the right way to introduce them
  • Don’t be too broad. The “Since the dawn of time humanity has…” introduction should be eliminated. Give some of the above examples a try. Overly broad introductions are a waste of words. Get to the point.

Thesis statement

Your thesis statement defines your take on the subject you’re writing about. It guides the rest of the paper’s arguments. Ask yourself the following questions about your thesis statement:

  • Is it polemical? Can someone argue for or against this statement? If not, it’s weak and needs to be reworked.
  • Does it answer the question or prompt proposed by the professor?
  • Is it contained in a sentence or does it sprawl? A thesis statement is one sentence long and usually comes at the end of the introduction paragraph. Don’t use the introduction paragraph to write a long sprawling thesis statement. Instead, make it concise, specific and packs a punch.

Body paragraphs

This is where your essay will differ from high school writing the most. Body paragraphs will be developed in order to support your thesis statement, just like in a five-paragraph essay. However, the type of research and analysis you will use will be different. In the five paragraph essay, it was okay to write a paper on MacBeth by providing plot point summaries. But in a college paper, you can skip the summary.

You’re not proving to the professor that you read MacBeth. You’re proving that you did research and have developed an interesting and original analysis of it. Same goes with high school history papers where you basically listed events in your supporting paragraphs to prove your thesis statement. That’s no longer acceptable. Instead, you’ll be analyzing why and how certain events occurred, not affirming that they occurred.

Good body paragraphs should contain the following:

  • Well-researched evidence. Use credible sources from experts in the subject. Don’t quote dubious sources or statistics. Forget Wikipedia or someone’s personal blog (unless it’s a professor’s blog). Look for academic publications from known authorities on the subject.
  • In-depth analysis. This is where you start to develop critical thinking skills. Go beyond “who,what,where,when” and start to answer “why and how.” Consider historical context. If you’re writing about an artist, what was the political era in which his work was produced? What were his influences? How did he come to develop his particular style? Why was it important then and why should we care about it now?
  • Contain counter-arguments. It’s not enough to support your thesis statement. That alone doesn’t make for a strong essay. If you wrote a great thesis statement, that means there should be a strong counter-argument to be considered. Your research should reflect not only why you chose the side you chose, but the scope of your choices. What does the opposition think? Why do they feel that way? What is the basis of their argument? Your essay will be all the more convincing if you show the reader that you’ve considered all sides of the subject, and chose the position presented in your thesis statement.

Conclusion

In high school, your conclusions were a summary of the main points in your essay. College essays require a more elaborate conclusion that goes beyond summary and shows reflection, analysis and synthesis of the ideas presented. Here are some ideas for how to conclude a college paper:

  • If you introduced your essay with an anecdote or example, revisit it at the end to close the circle. How have your arguments shed new light on this story?
  • If you didn’t use a quote in your introduction, consider using one at the end. Especially if it seems to capture the essence of your arguments.
  • Suggest ideas for next steps in this area or further research needed in order to make advances and solve problems.
  • Indicate why this issue is relevant and why people today should care about it.

Edit

After you’ve written your first draft using the guidelines from above, it’s a great practice to do a reverse outline. A reverse outline provides a thorough review of your essay draft by checking for flow and helping you spot gaps in your logic as well as spelling and grammar mistakes.
After you’ve written your draft:

  • Read and take notes on your draft. Does it make sense? Is there a better example you could have used? Have you stayed close to your thesis statement or did you start to stray?
  • Number your paragraphs. Sometimes you may find that reordering your paragraphs will help the essay flow better. Numbering them will make it easier for you to reorganize it later.
  • Make your outline. Dissect your draft by using it to make a basic outline. What are the main points of each section? Then take a look at your outline and analyze which areas need to be reworked for coherence and flow.

10 Must-Read Books for Fall 2015

must-read books fall 2015

Nothing like fall book releases to make you want to run out and buy the latest novels, curl up in an armchair with a cup of tea and settle down as the chill begins to set in.

This fall has a wonderful mix of established and new authors offering forth their literary efforts to readers across the continent. Their books will take you around the world, spanning continents and, in some cases, centuries. Some wild adventures, somber mourning, political spoofs and love lost and found again will bring you into fall.

Here are 10 picks for you to look forward to:

1. Purity.

Jonathan Franzen’s much anticipated latest novel is a departure from his past works which focused on the American family. This one traces the journey of a political activist from East Germany and his American intern who follows him to Bolivia where they operate a media and government-watch organization.

2. The Japanese Lover.

Isabel Allende’s story that spans the globe from Poland to San Francisco, during WWII, this story tells the tale of political refugee Alma Belasco and her unlikely romance with the son of a Japanese gardener in her aunt and uncle’s house in San Francisco. Ichimei, the gardener’s son, is sent away to a Japanese internment camp and they are never reunited but remain in each other’s thoughts over the course of their lives. Then Alma begins to receive gifts in her nursing home that are suspected to be from Ichimei. A story that interweaves politics, fate and passion.

3. Death by Water.

Nobel Literature laureate Kenzaburo Oe’s new novel is a captivating mixture of Japanese folklore, memoir and meta-fiction. The plot features a celebrated writer whose father had drowned and who’s grieving process included writing a book about it. The book’s first sentence sets up the story beautifully: “The year I went off to university in Tokyo, something fateful happened when I returned home to Shikoku for one in the last in a series of traditional Buddhist services for my father.”

4. The Heart Goes Last.

It is as surreal as any of Margaret Atwood’s previous novels with the plot centering on a social experiment which allows couple Charmaine and Stan to live in a luxurious suburban home in exchange for agreeing to live in a prison cell every two months. While they’re serving their time in prison, another couple lives in their home. Eventually, the connection between the couples leads to feelings of sexual attraction, guilt and paranoia.

5. Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.

It is author Salman Rushdie’s modern take on Arabian Nights. With figures such as Henry James, Mel Brooks, Mickey Mouse and Aristotle, it’s an eclectic, comical and thoroughly entertaining tale. Weaving the forces of good and evil throughout the ages from 12th century Arabia to modern day New York, Rushdie travels through time and space to bring us this magical twist on a classic story. The first line he delivers sets you up for the ride: “Very little is known, though much has been written, about the true nature of the jinn, the creatures made of smokeless fire.”

6. M Train.

Patti Smith’s follow-up memoir to her celebrated Just Kids, M Train traces the singer’s artistic path through narratives that span 18 subway stations across New York City. In this new memoir, Smith takes us to the cafes where she used to drink black coffee and muses about her thoughts on other artists such as Frida Kahlo, Jean Genet and Sylvia Plath. She recounts the tragic 1994 death of her husband Fred Smith and its long-standing effect on her.

7. Fates and Furies.

Lauren Groff’s third novel is about the twenty year marriage of Lotto and Matthilde. Already garnering raves by Publisher’s Weekly and one of the most popular books on display at BookExpo America, Groff’s novel about marriage, co-habitation, betrayal and heartache follows the arc of a long-term marriage. A comment on the beauty and hope of loving someone, as well as the tragic disappointments that sometimes come along with it.

8. The Story of My Teeth.

National Book Foundation winner “Five Under 35”, Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli spins a mighty elaborate story of unparalleled traveling auctioneer Gustavo “Highway” Sanchez Sanchez. Set in Mexico City and following Sanchez Sanchez through more adventures than you could count, as well as racking up unusual talents such as imitating Janis Joplin and standing an egg upright on a table, the book gets its name from the fact that he’s planning to replace his teeth. That and the fact that he happens to be in possession of a pair of dentures he swears belonged to Marilyn Monroe. Fun, wacky and defined by Granta as “delightfully unclassifiable”, reading this novel is an adventure in itself.

9. Numero Zero.

Celebrated Italian writer Umberto Eco offers a fascinating conspiracy theory about Italy’s famous dictator Benito Mussolini. Moving back and forth from 1945 to 1992, the plot revolves around the idea that Mussolini’s death may have been faked. The book features a love story between a ghost writer and a celebrity gossip writer who find a dead body in an alley in Milan. Theories begin to spin including the murder of Pope John Paul I, the Italian secret service and the CIA. The timing is right as 1992 marks the beginning of the truly tragi-comic era in Italian politics.

10. Man Tiger & Beauty is a Wound.

They are written by Eka Kurniawan and translated by Labodalih Sembiring and Annie Tucker respectively. Eka Kurniawan has broken onto the literary stage with stories that evoke the oral traditions of his home village in Indonesia. Man Tiger is the story of Margio, a young man who is also half white tiger. Beauty is a Wound is about a prostitute who rises from the dead as set forth in the first line; “One afternoon on a weekend in March, Dewi Ayu rose from her grave after being dead for twenty-one years.” Both books have earned enormous critical acclaim for their originality and scope of human suffering and spirit.

Get Back to Studying Routine (Checklist for College Students)

studying routine for college students

out of your hair and get yourself into back-to-college mode again.
It’s that time again. The long days of summer are coming to an end and the fall semester is upon us. Some students have a difficult time leaving the liberty of their summer days behind and getting serious about studying again. It’s perfectly natural, but it’s also time for you to shake the sand

If you need some help regaining your focus after the long break, here are some tips for you on how to develop a studying routine:

Make a schedule

The best way to start getting into a routine is to make a schedule of all of your activities. Whether you write out your schedule by hand and tape it to your wall or use a time management app like rememberthemilk, writing down your commitments helps you remember to keep them. Include things like class schedules, extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, job schedules and important events. By making a schedule, you’re also mapping out where there might be conflicts, so you can anticipate them and come up with a solution.

Choose your study environment

Part of establishing a routine is finding the place where you’ll study. Some people do great work in public places like cafes or on a park bench. Other people need utter silence and prefer to study in an isolated corner of the library or in their room. Figure out where you work best and carve that space out as yours. If you’re tempted to lie down and take a nap if you study in your room, pack up your books and head to the library. Wherever you choose, try to stick to that place. It’s a way to trigger your brain into work mode when you sit down at your favorite study spot.

in study groups

If there’s a study group for a course you’re struggling in, sign up for it. Exchanging ideas with your peers can help answer questions and clear doubts you have about the material. It can also help you prioritize studying for this course, which is exactly what you should be doing if you find yourself falling behind.

Set goals

Set your goals for the semester. Not only academic goals, though they should definitely be included on the list, but goals for other activities you participate in. Don’t make your list too long. Prioritize and focus. What’s really important to you? Maybe you want to earn a 3.5 this semester. What kind of grades would you need in order to achieve that? Maybe you want to make the Varsity Women’s Rowing Team or be elected class president. What steps do you need to take in order to make that happen? Pick 2-3 goals and write them down somewhere you’ll see them often. Goal-setting gives you direction and purpose in your activities and helps you maintain your focus.

Prioritize

Don’t let yourself become overloaded with activities. A full course load, a part-time job, captain of the basketball team, lead in the play, volunteering for a local tutoring program, etc. It’s not always possible to do everything you want to do and when you try doing too many things, you end up short-changing yourself. Choose the most important activities to you and eliminate the rest. If you find yourself with enough free time, then you can start adding more activities to your schedule.

Limit social media

Social media is the most popular way to procrastinate and the easiest way to waste precious studying time. If you find yourself grabbing your cell phone and checking your messages every time you try to read your Advanced Economics textbook, it’s time to get your social media habits under control. Consider leaving your cell phone in your room while you go to the library to study so you’re not tempted to look at it. Or, if you need to have your phone with you, at least turn off the sound notifications so you won’t check it every time it beeps. Limit the amount of time you allow yourself to check it every day and stick to it. Turn your cell phone off at night and get a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Get enough sleep

Though many college students adopt the adage “You can sleep when you’re dead” throughout their college years, sleep deprivation and brain functioning don’t go together. In fact, the average adult needs 8-10 hours of sleep in order to achieve optimum brain activity. Lack of focus, tiredness, crankiness are all symptoms of not getting enough sleep. For more information on sleep and how it effects you, read this article. Remember that the point of college is to study and earn a degree. Take it seriously so you can show up to your classes and give your academic life the attention it deserves.

Eat well

College students are notorious for their poor eating habits. For many students who live on campus, this is their first time away from home and their first experience having to control their diets. Excess caffeine, junk food and alcohol are epidemics on college campuses. The brain is an organ, like any other organ in the body, it functions best when it’s being fed a healthy diet. Tuna, salmon, walnuts, and blueberries are all considered foods that contribute to healthy brain activity. For a list of healthy food choices, click here. Constant hangovers, sugar highs and upset stomachs can have negative effects on your academic life. Eating a balanced diet can give you the energy you need to complete your workload.

Have fun

Don’t forget to have fun. Working too hard can become counter-productive. If you have a tendency to be a workaholic, it’s best you start learning this lesson early before you begin your professional career. Take breaks when you need to. And make sure you spend time with your friends and the rest of the campus community. Giving your brain some time to relax will allow you to return to your studying with new energy.

How to Write an Outstanding Resume If I’m a College Graduate

how to write a resume tips for college graduates

Recent college graduates entering the workforce tend to hit a wall when it comes to writing their resume. What should I include? How to write a resume if I have no work experience? The good news is that, with few exceptions, the rest of your peers are all in the same boat: no experience, but hungry for opportunity.

According to a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) there are 1,855,000 new college graduates from the class of 2015. In other words, you are far from alone. Employers are aware of the fact that you just finished college. They don’t expect you to show a resume flush with professional experiences. So, in that sense, you’re off the hook.

But that doesn’t mean that you still won’t be able to write an impressive resume. Without any tweaking, lying or exaggeration, you’ll be able to present your best self to future employers by following a few tips.

Don’t be afraid to include summer jobs

If you worked part or full-time during your college years, even if it was flipping burgers in your home town during the summer, make sure to include it. Even if the job you held is totally unrelated to the field you’re planning to enter, the fact that you have job experience counts for something. You learned to be accountable, you learned to take orders from superiors and work with others.

If you were given extra responsibilities such as making bank deposits, opening or closing the establishment, or training new employees, include it on your resume. Employers want to know who you are and what qualities you possess. Don’t try to be the “ideal” candidate. Tell them what your real experiences have been and let them judge if you’re a fit for them.

List internships or relevant jobs instead of coursework

If you happen to have had the good fortune and determination to land an internship and paid position in your field of interest, include them. In this case, you’re better off focusing your resume on these experiences than on coursework during college.

List coursework if you haven’t had professional experience

yet So, you haven’t had internships or paid positions in your area of study. That’s not uncommon. But you did take four years of international business courses and interviewed well-known business leaders for your final research paper. Or you’re an art major and took an art restoration course in Italy last summer. Anything that shows your preparation to enter into this field, even if you haven’t had practical experience yet, is valuable.

List extracurricular activities

Especially if these were areas you excelled in and if they show leadership. If you attended a few meetings of the Environmental Club, don’t list it. List activities in which you had full and significant participation. Captain of the varsity rowing team, class president, editor of the college newspaper, peer interviewer for college applicants… You get the picture.

Don’t embellish or lie

The worst way to start out your post-graduation career is by lying. Exaggerating skills or flat-out making things up on your resume will only get you into trouble. No matter how badly you want a certain position, bragging about expertise you don’t possess will give you more problems than you can handle. You likely won’t be able to perform the job you were hired to do, and by the time employers realize this, you will have done a lot of damage to your reputation. Your time would have been better spent acquiring the skills you need than trying to fake it.

Pay attention to language

A resume isn’t just a list of skills nor is it an expository essay. At its best, it’s a carefully crafted summary of your most relevant experiences. Short pronoun-free and fluff-free sentences that use action verbs make winning resumes.

Don’t write this: “I spent last summer waking up at 5 am to take the train to the city, since punctuality is my specialty. I was given access to client portfolios and was asked for my contribution in how to increase their capital. I performed various administrative duties and participated in important executive meetings. All in all, I performed to the satisfaction of my superiors.”

Instead, try this: “Acquired practical knowledge of executive office culture. Projected investment capital possibilities for firm’s clients, some of them multi-billion dollar ones. Brainstormed with industry leaders on ideas to increase capital by 100% within the next two business quarters.”

The first one is too long and full of non-essential information. Showing up on time for work, for example, is a given, and doesn’t earn you bragging rights. The second simmers down your internship into a sumptuous description of relevant experiences and details.

The GPA rules

If your GPA is over 3.0, you’re encouraged to include it. If it’s lower, leave it off. If your GPA for coursework in your major is higher than your overall GPA, list your GPA for your major. Especially if you’re applying to positions that relate to your major.

List honors and awards

If you made the dean’s list, were granted a prestigious scholarship or earned any other awards from your college, make sure to list it.

Don’t include references

A list of references is basically the same as fluff. Don’t include it. Use your resume to highlight important information about yourself that employers want to know. If you do a good job with that, then you can give them your list of references in person when you land an interview.

Develop a professional social media life

You’re leaving college and entering the working world. Your online life will need to reflect this. If you don’t already have one, create a LinkedIn profile with a professional headshot and include relevant information that isn’t on your resume. Consider creating a professional website or blog to showcase your expertise in your area. If you already have one, include a link to it on your resume. Don’t include links to your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts. Learn to separate the professional from the personal.