Students blog

Explore the latest trends, tips, and experiences in college life in this blog written by fellow students.

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    Transfer student transitions: Learning to balance everything under the sun (car)

    Brandt Damman

    Thumbnail Photo: Two members of Solar Car holding a windshield above the newly constructed solar car.  From left to right: Rachel Eckert, Composites Manager & Materials Engineer; Samuel Winter, Aerospace Engineer.


    A new university, a new horizon. Since last spring, I have graduated from Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and transferred to Iowa State University (ISU) to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering. The overall transition from a two-year college to a four-year university was thankfully uneventful; however, I would soon realize the difference in how I should manage my time and work.

    Getting Involved (Again)

    After transferring, I was unable to continue my previous club activities – as most clubs at DMACC didn’t exist at ISU. I began a quest to find new clubs and hobbies.  I ran into an old colleague who mentioned a club they were in, Solar Car. I attended the following Solar Car team meeting and joined as an electrical member. My primary task was to learn how to read circuit board schematics and aid an older member with designing a battery protection system to monitor the car’s Lithium-Ion batteries. 

    In addition to being involved with Solar Car, I was interviewed and accepted for a part-time IT Technician position on-campus within the Psychology Department. As a technician, I responded to faculty requests regarding problems with their electronic equipment. On top of both positions, I continued full-time school at ISU and began to delve into my coursework, but I failed to realize the predicament I placed myself in.  Not only would I have to choose what I enjoyed most, but I would also learn valuable lessons in time management.

    Timing Trouble

    By midterms, I began to notice my work piling up unproportionally across all three tasks.  As the semester progressed, each task became more demanding with varying expectations. The increasing expectations and workload resulted in several consequences. The two most notable and foremost consequences were my declining homework quality and diminishing amount of sleep.  In an attempt to correct my time management errors, I spent more time working late at night to catch up on homework. This not only resulted in a poorer quality of work, but it also reduced my number of hours of sleep. To top it all off, the more time I committed to work, the less time I was able to spend with my family, even during holiday breaks.

    Despite my attempts to manage all three tasks, I still deviated from my intended goals and needed to cut my losses during the last few weeks of the semester. I reduced my work on Solar Car, cut back my hours at work, and submitted the homework I could produce within the hours I allotted.  This admission helped me regain some sleep and focus for final examinations.

    Keep Moving Forward

    Taking on a job while balancing coursework and car manufacturing was a worthwhile endeavor.  This circumstance brought to light how much I have yet to comprehend regarding time management, but I also learned a great deal about different engineering majors, computer management, and a wide range of topics from my classes.  With the deviation from my goals and a poor management of time and work, I learned a few valuable lessons:

    • One, when scheduling courses and extracurricular activities, ensure that the time scheduled is rarely deviated.
    • Two, schedule everything as early as permittable.
    • Finally, while work comes first, ensure there is plenty of time for rest and relaxation

    I will undoubtedly incorporate these ideas into my schedule next semester and beyond. As the future brings a spectrum of challenges, I will continue Solar Car as an Electrical Systems Manager and remain confident no matter what the future may hold. There will always be something to look forward to as the sun rises.


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    Maximizing your college experience

    Sam Brinkman

    College is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You get to explore new ideas and adventures while learning and embracing different cultures at your school. It is an eye-opening experience that goes by in an instant. This stage in life is where people discover who they truly are because they must make decisions on their own every day. It can be frightening at first and take a serious toll on your mental health if you are not prepared. It is important to experience as much as possible while still getting good grades. Despite what some may say, it is possible to do everything you imagined and more in college while still maintaining a quality GPA. It is not always easy, but with commitment you can build good habits that will last a lifetime. Here are 4 steps you can take to help maximize your college experience in and out of the classroom.

    Understand Scheduling

    It is important to understand when you will be the busiest. For me, this is typically Thursday-Sunday. This is because most of my homework assignments are due around this time, and I have little time to complete them because I want to be out with my friends. That means in order to be stress-free on the weekends, you must complete your work ahead of time. People do not realize the time they waste early in the week because they think they have time to complete their assignments later. 

    Get It Done Early

    In reality, you only have about three days to complete your school work. Monday through Wednesday is where the battles are won and lost in school. You should wake up early during this time span and focus on completing assignments and reviewing material in your classes even when you are not in class. This will also help you for upcoming quizzes and tests because you will not forget old material. Keep in mind this is for an average school week; you may have to sacrifice some social time during weeks that are busier because of midterms and final exams. 

    Self-Improvement Time

    Now that you have school work out of the way, it is important to be proactive in college. So many people waste away their time playing video games and staying home when there is so much out there to experience. I would like to challenge you to improve on or learn something new during your time in college. For me, I have motivated myself to improve on my fitness and eating habits. It is truly rewarding when you consistently work for something and see the payoff by the end of the school year. Also, once you devote some time for self-improvement, it builds your confidence to go out with your friends and meet new people. 

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    Getting ahead by planning ahead

    Jesus Hernandez

    Once the semester starts everyone’s schedules become busy. Between classes, work, friends, and health, there is so much to fit into their days. Everyone has different tasks throughout their day they need to get done and planning ahead makes that much easier. My schedule changes every day and there are tasks that come up unexpectedly; however, I have found a few methods that make my day less stressful. 

    Keep Your Calendar Updated

    One method to implement as a college student to accomplish all of your daily tasks is to make sure you have everything on your calendar. Whether it be a physical calendar or the one on your phone, having everything up to date on there will remind you what needs to be accomplished that day. Putting things in when you know you need to do it will make sure you don’t overlap anything.

    Make Your Calendar Effective

    To make a more effective calendar, add the amount of time each task should take you. For example: eat breakfast from 6 to 6:30 a.m., go to the gym from 7 to 8:30 a.m., and so on. Doing this will help you stay on pace to accomplish your daily goals, make sure you do not miss anything important, and allows you to see what times you have open. Adding times will also help you avoid overloading yourself and help you prioritize everything while also taking care of yourself.

    Know Your Priorities

    Prioritizing plays a huge part when adding to your calendar. Make sure you do not leave all of the longer tasks for the end of the week because it will be too much. Do the most important tasks first and try to take advantage of gaps that open up to complete other tasks. Taking advantage of gaps allows you to have more time on the weekends and release some of that stress. Prioritizing also helps you avoid procrastinating and keeps you on track for doing your best.

    Build in Breaks

    It is important to remember to take care of your health when having a busy schedule. You shouldn’t be skipping lunch to complete a task or only sleeping one hour because of an assignment. Your calendar is important, but doing only what is on there is not healthy. Make time for yourself. When I know there will be a home football game, I will plan ahead to make sure that come game-day I am not stressing over things that could have been accomplished earlier. Having an updated calendar will allow you to avoid these kinds of problems throughout the semester. 

    Overall, as a college student it is easy to take on more than you can handle and sometimes it is OK to do a little less to make sure you are not over stressing each day. Keep your calendar and remember it is OK to say no and devote some time to yourself. Find the balance that fits for you.


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    College is a Balancing Act

    Kennedy “Dani” Corley

    I’ve always heard that hindsight is 2020, and now more than ever am I thankful that I developed a few tips along the way to make it through college in one piece – and with my degree of course. I assumed college would be fairly similar to high school in terms of the ability to juggle extra-curricular activities, class, and close relationships. Surviving freshman year felt like a breeze until it seemed like there just weren’t enough hours in the day for everything I wanted to accomplish. I always had time for watching an extra episode of my favorite Netflix show or catching a nap in between classes and still carving out time for my studies. 

    I didn’t realize how much time I was actually wasting until I began pledging a business fraternity and working 15 hours a week for my internship all while completing a 16 credit hour semester. I consistently felt overwhelmed and struggled to prioritize not only what was most important, but also time sensitive. After arriving to my apartment late one night, feeling exhausted and not having the chance to complete any of my assignments that entire week, I took some time to develop a few rules to influence myself to give precedence to things and people that were most important. 

    Rule #1: Create a Calendar and Stick to It!

    Google Calendar saved my life and my grades! This online platform allows you to visualize any events, assignments, exams or even lunch dates you have coming up while showing you the breaks you have in your schedule. At the beginning of every semester, I enter my class meeting times, fraternity events or meetings, family events, and everything in between to get a sense of where my time will be devoted every week. This online calendar also provides simple tools such as Tasks where you can enter on specific dates the assignments due, and Reminders which I use to remind me when bills are due or when to order a birthday gift. There is even an Events tool which allows you to specify the date, time, and location of any event going on. The visual aspect allowed me to see when I had time between classes or meetings to grab lunch or get some studying done. 

    Rule #2: You’re in College to get a Degree

    This is the first step of prioritizing your time and effort into something you originally came to college to accomplish. Gaining a well-rounded education definitely includes performing well in your area of study, but also how to spend your time outside of class in various clubs or organizations. However, in order to keep your scholarships and GPA intact, always prioritize getting your work done before the deadline. Completing assignments or beginning to study for an exam a few days in advance works wonders not only for your grades but also the availability of time you gain later on. Enjoy the time spent with friends and family along with achieving those academic goals. 

    Rule #3: Self-Care is the Best Care

    Speaking from personal experience, it is so easy to forget the importance of taking care of oneself physically, emotionally and especially mentally over the duration of the semester. We as college students exchange sleep to study for exams, consume tons of coffee to stay energized, and sometimes forget to eat with all things we have going on throughout the day. The significance of breaking away from your schedule to recharge and enjoy your hobbies or your favorite Netflix series is crucial the busier you become. Always remember, you can’t produce your best work if you don’t feel like your best self. 

    Sometimes you may feel like you are drowning, but there is a way to come to the surface. Learning the art of balance will keep you on the right foot and keep you from burning out. Finding what works for you earlier rather than later will keep you focused and stress free.


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    Beating the Beginning of the Semester Scaries

    Colleen Borian

    There’s no better feeling than the relief of finals being over, the comfort of spending time with friends and family, and knowing there is no possibility you could be forgetting about an assignment for class over the break. Between celebrating traditions, being able to sleep in, and having an excuse to make yourself a guest in your own home, it’s safe to say adjusting to the “back home baller” lifestyle is one we all look forward to. 

    Once the excitement of the holidays dwindles down and the new year is rung in, the start-of-semester scaries are a real thing. It may seem hard to get ahead in school before you have any assignments, but by taking the time to do a few things to prepare will ease the stress of being thrown back into reality.

    Establish Email Inbox Ease 

    Take the time to clear out your inbox and update your email organization system. While I liked to think my color-coded, folder-filled inbox is tidy, I realized I still had emails from professors about classes I took two years ago. Deleting unnecessary emails makes searches easier and can create a less overwhelming feel. Don’t have your inbox organized? No worries – take time to create some folders, labels, or develop a system that you can start to utilize during the semester.

    Clear Up Your Computer

    Regardless of how neat and ordered your files and documents were at the beginning of last semester, it is safe to say by the end the system was a bit unorganized. Take some time to delete any old files or back them up if you may need them in the future. I like to do this, as well as create folders for my upcoming classes, so I can get right to work once class starts. This is also a great time to clean up your phone. Backup or upload your photos, then delete apps and pictures that do not serve any purpose. Not only will clearing up documents and photos prevent the dreaded “out of storage” warnings, but it can allow you to move on from the previous semester’s stress. 

    Schedule Around Your Syllabus

    As soon as you know your class schedule, you can plug that into your preferred system of organization. I use a digital calendar to track where I need to be and when, so I am planning on putting in all of my class times before the semester begins. If your professor uploads the syllabus early, take some time to jot down any assignment due dates. I do this in a physical planner, and I always feel better when I start the semester knowing where I need to be and when. 

    One of the best parts of winter break is the joy of not worrying about having to do work, but completing these small tasks can make a big difference when syllabus week ends and reality kicks in. These are perfect to do while watching a movie, hanging out with family, and even provide a great excuse to go to your favorite hometown coffee spot with friends! 


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    School, Job, Internship: Finding time for it all

    Elise Aguerrevere

    Finding time for an internship or job can seem impossible while trying to get used to a new course load of challenging classes. Whether you need a somewhat steady income to pay your bills or just some extra cash for going out on the weekends, most college students find themselves searching for a job at some point throughout their four years at school. Plus, fall and spring term internships are just as plentiful as summer internships now. Although it may seem like you could never find the time to balance these opportunities with your class schedule, employers can be understanding and will often put your academics first. It’s all about finding the right fit for you. 

    Just the thought of having to find a job is daunting to many students. Thankfully, most universities have a career center that is there to help you find job and internship listings. They can direct you to on-campus positions that fit with your class schedule. Some on-campus jobs even pay for your meal plan or housing on top of your salary. On-campus jobs are a great way to make some money and build your resume while still staying in touch with your academics as they are not allowed to schedule you to work during your classes. 

    Internships can be more tricky to balance with classes as they can often take up more time than an average part-time job. Getting creative with your schedule can help. You could try to schedule all of your classes in the mornings or only on certain days of the week so that you can better fit those internship hours into your schedule. Another option is to consider taking a class or two online. Often times online classes are not as intense as in person ones and allow you some flexibility on when you complete assignments. Now that you have a few extra hours where you do not have to be on campus for class, you can put those hours into your internship.

    It is all about finding what works best for you. Being honest and upfront with your employer about how you are doing in school is also important. They will most often prefer that you do well in your classes than overwhelm yourself at work. If you find yourself falling behind in school, speak with your boss and maybe ask if you can take an afternoon off to study for that exam you have coming up. They can be more understanding than you think. 

    At the end of the day, balancing your academics with work or an internship is all about time management. You have to find what works best for your schedule and never forget that your studies should always come first. 


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    Increase Your Productivity by Taking Things One Day at a Time

    Sarah Ambuehl

    Imagine having enough time in each of your days to complete everything you needed to accomplish. I have found with a little bit of planning, this is possible! There is always something that you can be doing as a student whether it be homework, studying, going to organization meetings on campus, laundry, or even making food for yourself. With all of these lingering obligations it can feel extremely overwhelming. Here are three ideas to help you avoid feeling too busy to function.

    Plan out your semester

    First things first, make sure to buy a planner at the beginning of the year. A planner can help you to keep track of life’s responsibilities. When beginning the semester, I always write down my class schedule for each day so I can record assignments, exams, and whatever else that was mentioned in class. Next, I will go through my syllabus and write down set dates of assignments or quizzes the professor has listed which helps to prepare for what is coming! 

    Once your planner is ready to go, make sure to utilize it. I color code each of my classes using colored pens and highlight things I need to go to such as work or events. Doing this helps me see what’s going on at a quick glance. 

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    Lessons Learned as a College Student-Athlete

    Brad Robison

    A college student’s schedule fills quickly with classes, homework, studying, and more. Not much time is left for extracurriculars, so students have to be selective when it comes to how they spend any extra time they’re left with. While most students choose to spend these small amounts of time taking on new hobbies, joining clubs, or maybe even partying, I don’t exactly have the luxury to fully embrace some of these opportunities. I decided at a young age to commit myself to athletics and after many years of hard work, I accomplished my goal of becoming a student-athlete by being fortunate enough to join my university’s NCAA water polo team. 

    As a high school student-athlete my days were long and filled with morning practice, classes, afternoon practice, plus each day’s homework and studying. I thought this would prepare me for the brutality of being a student-athlete in college, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. In college, my schedule is ever-changing with different times for morning swims and lift sessions, classes, and travelling to games almost anywhere in the state on any given day. It makes the routine I had in high school seem almost comfy. To be honest, sometimes it gets overwhelming trying to plan ahead which days to sleep in, when I have assignments, and all the little things in-between. However, it is days like these when I know that I am able to make the most out of my experiences and grow as a student, athlete, and person. I have learned a lot of lessons from athletics and want to encourage those considering the same by sharing a few.

    Time Management

    Possibly the most valuable skill as a college student, budgeting time has become second nature to me. For example, I have found that I am my most productive during the early mornings when my brain is fresh and clear and before the fatigue from afternoon practices set in. Additionally, I have learned how important it is to be productive during the small gaps in my schedule so that my work is more spread out and doesn’t need to be done in one long sitting.

    Discipline and Sacrifice

    Being disciplined is no doubt the most difficult task to exhibit while in college. With there being an endless amount of distractions each week, it is almost shocking that students are able to get anything done at all. Being a student-athlete has taught me that no matter how convenient it would be to skip class and take a nap or how tempting a party the night before a game may be, if I take a minute to contemplate my goals both academically and athletically, I am able to make the right decision and go to class or go to bed early so that I am well-rested for the next day.

    Living a Balanced Lifestyle

    Living a balanced life is, in my opinion, one of the keys for making the most of the opportunities given to you and is different for every person based on their personality and goals. For me, being a student-athlete provides great balance to my life as it compels me to eat healthy, exercise consistently, and allows for time to spend engaging with my peers.

    Friendship and Teamwork

    Perhaps the most cliché thing an athlete would say is how much they value the friendships they’ve been able to make through their sport. And although it’s common to hear, it’s also true. Being a member of a team instantly makes you a part of this giant new family that shares all the experiences, both high and low, that you go through, resulting in unbreakable bonds that endure throughout college.

    Although the extra baggage of being a student athlete does interfere with some of the more typical college activities, the benefits taken away have far outweighed all of the other opportunities I may have missed out on as a college student. Using these skills, I am able to make the most of every opportunity before me and be the most productive, healthy, and happy version of myself. If you are considering participating in a sport in college, whether it is for your school’s team, club team, or even intramurals, I highly encourage to do so because there are benefits that come from being part of athletics.


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    Student-Approved Secrets to Managing Your Time Effectively

    Alana Castle

    Close your eyes and picture this: it’s the night before your Chemistry midterm and you have yet to study. You know that you are unprepared for the exam, but you have been too busy cramming to finish a 10 page paper for your Global Studies class to review the material. When you finally submit your paper, minutes before the deadline, you are exhausted and fall asleep on top of your Chemistry textbook. A week later, you get your grades back and find out that you received a D on your midterm and a C on your paper. 

    If you are like most college students, this scenario likely feels all too familiar. And, if you’re me, it reminds you of the time this actually happened to you during your first semester of freshman year. Regardless as to whether you’ve been there once or twice in your college career or find yourself in this position regularly, there are ways that you can escape the black hole of ineffective time management. So sit down, grab a coffee or a snack, and allot yourself 10 minutes to read this blog because I am going to share with you some secrets that I have learned that can help you make the most of your time!

    Schedule, schedule, schedule! 

    The reason time management becomes an issue for most college students is because having the freedom to make your own schedule often results in no schedule at all. I have learned that planning out my days is vital to my success as a student. By giving everything in your schedule—no matter how small—a deadline, you’re actually freeing up time for other things. I have found that sitting down each evening and writing out my obligations and assignments for the next day has helped me manage my time effectively. Whether you use an agenda, online calendar, or the reminder feature on your phone, creating a game-plan for your day will keep you motivated and on track. Nothing motivates me more than waking up knowing exactly where I need to start.

    Hold yourself accountable!

    Planning out what you need to do each day doesn’t always mean that all of your responsibilities will be accomplished. The secret to scheduling is learning to hold yourself accountable to your plan. Also, keep in mind that this does not mean that you cannot be flexible, but it does mean that, if you said you were going to study between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., you actually sit down and do it. Maximize your productivity in those two hours you allotted yourself by minimizing your distractions. Put electronic devices down or away and find an environment that fits your specific needs. If that means finding somewhere quiet in order to focus, or sitting outside because the fresh air boosts your mood, do exactly that!

    Find time for what is most important—YOU!

    The aspect of scheduling and accountability that seems to scare most college students is the misconception that there will be no time left for yourself. The beauty of a schedule is that you are able to arrange time for what is most important—your physical and mental well-being! I know that it can be all too easy to devote every waking moment you have to school and work. But studying all the time often leaves you feeling unmotivated, unhappy, and burnt out. When you create your agenda, think about what brings you joy. For me, that is time to go for a run, practice yoga, grab dinner with friends, or visit one of my favorite art museums. Doing this may seem counter-intuitive, but by giving yourself a break, you are setting yourself up for success. You will be able to tackle things more effectively if you are physically rested and mentally rejuvenated!

    I can thankfully inform you that, although I may not be able to retake that freshman year Chemistry midterm or rewrite the Global Studies paper, my academic performance has since improved immensely by learning how to manage my time effectively. The next time you feel swamped, take some time to implement these student-approved secrets into your daily life. Just 10 minutes a night can help you to make the most of your time and take back the control of your personal, professional, and academic success!