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7 Tried-and-True Study Tips

Studying is hard, especially when you’re just getting used to college classes or transitioning from introductory courses to higher-level studies. But it doesn’t have to be so hard that you feel like you’re not getting anywhere! Read on to learn tried and true techniques for mastering your classes while still having time to enjoy your life at Grinnell.

1. Ask for Help
One of the best ways to get ahead in your education is to take advantage of your professors’ office hours. Zach Liebman ’16 says, “Not only will going to office hours help you better understand the material and expectations of the class, but it also gives you an opportunity to build a relationship with your professor.”  
You can also take advantage of the many helpful resources that the Academic Advising Office has to offer, including tutoring, appointments at the Writing or Reading Lab, and tons of great worksheets and tips.
2. Test Yourself
When it comes to studying for a test or brushing up on an area you’ve struggled with, Evelyn Weidman ’17 suggests inventing your own problems for practice. “By making your own problems and examples, you do a whole other level of thinking than if you just review the examples from class and homework that you already have,” says Weidman. This process can help you to identify areas that you need to work on and will help eliminate the fear of “trick questions” many experience on test day.
3. Visualize Success
To deal with math problems that seem complicated, Karin Yndestad ’17 recommends using visual learning techniques. “Whenever possible, draw a picture. Visualizing the problem that you are working on often gives you unexpected insight on how best to solve it,” Yndestad says. She also suggests students write out and prove theorems from scratch without using notes, rather than just repeating from memory. “This forces you to really understand the methods behind the proof, and it also helps you commit important ideas to memory.”
4. Procrastination = Motivation?
Having trouble staying motivated when all you want to do is relax?  Try setting up a reward system to turn activities that you normally use to procrastinate into prizes for a job well done. After completing a reading or homework assignment, Carlina Arango ’16 rewards herself with a TV show on Netflix or a massage in the Wellness Lounge. “It helps you stay focused, and time goes by faster if you learn how to balance studying with a bit of relaxing in between,” says Arango.
5. Talk the Talk
Vocabulary flash cards not doing the trick? For increasing fluency in a language, Philipp Gemmel ’17 advocates practicing paraphrasing. “When learning a language, it is completely fine to not know something, but knowing how to say something you don’t know by describing it with something you do know helps a lot,” Gemmel says. Too shy to practice with other people? Try talking to yourself! Gemmel says this is a good way to build confidence through “perfectly pressure-free practice.”
6. Begin at the End
For students wracking their brains on how to begin a paper, Katy Tucker ’16 has a trick. “Try writing the first draft of your paper backwards. This strategy can help identify your strongest thesis and has the added benefit of motivating you to keep writing,” Tucker says. “I think it’s less overwhelming to feel as though you’re continually adding on evidence to your argument rather than constructing a perfectly organized paper from scratch.”
7. Sleep

It might surprise you that the study tip Grinnellians raved about isn’t even about studying.

“Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep,” says Liebman.

“Sleep is more important than studying,” Isaac Mielke ’18 says.

“Get sleep. Really,” says Amanda Hinchman-Dominguez ’17.

It may seem like a good idea to take advantage of all Grinnell life has to offer by following the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” philosophy, but if you’re tired your brain isn’t working at full capacity. Trying to function on only a few hours of sleep means it takes you longer to understand what you’re studying, finish a problem set, or write a paper. Sleep equals more efficient studying, which equals more time to enjoy life!

Zach Liebman ’16 is an economics major from Evanston, Ill. Evelyn Weidman ’17 is from Flossmoor, Ill. and is an economics major. Karin Yndestad ’17 is a mathematics major from Eagan, Minn. Carlina Arango ’16, a Spanish and anthropology double major, is from Chicago, Ill. Philipp Gemmel ’17 is a political science and biology double major from Gusenburg, Germany. Katy Tucker ’16, from Wellesley, Mass., is a psychology major. Isaac Mielke ’18 is an economics major from Falcon Heights, Minn. Amanda Hinchman-Dominguez ’17 is from Titusville, Fla. and is a computer science major.

Double the Fun

At Grinnell, students are encouraged to find ways to pursue as many of their interests as they can. This can mean participating in clubs and athletics in addition to academics, but some students want to take their interests even further by declaring a double major.

A double major may seem overwhelming, but it’s actually very common for students to merge two seemingly unrelated interests into a major that fits their aspirations.

Becoming a better doctor

Micah Iticovici ’16 working at a table with books, papersMicah Iticovici ’16, a biological chemistry/economics double major, arrived on campus intending to be a philosophy major. However, he soon discovered an interest in biochemistry and the medical profession.

Then, during his Introduction to Economics course, he began to see an overlap between how economists study decision-making and how medical professionals and their patients interact.

“Patients are really not great decision-makers,” Iticovici says. “They make a lot of really small decisions without looking at the overall impacts of those choices.”

Using the principles he learned in economics, Iticovici has pursued independent research to try to gain a better understanding of how and why patients make decisions that aren’t in their best interests. By delving into behavioral economics with a medical spin, he hopes to be able to advise and relate to his future patients more effectively.

Combining economics with a medicine-oriented biochemistry major may be unexpected, but it has many practical applications. But a down-to-earth major like economics can add a lot to a major that is less logic-oriented as well.

The economics of art

Alex Neckopulos ’17 is a studio art/economics double major who was interested in art from a young age. Her talent was encouraged until high school, where she got very different feedback from her teachers. They viewed artistic pursuits as less valuable than math and sciences, and her interest in art faded.

Neckopulos regained her passion for art when she came to Grinnell, but she discovered that the analytical side she developed in high school was still calling. At first, the notion of combining her interests in art and economics seemed unrealistic. “Honestly I had no idea how they would work together! It felt like I was trying to stick a circle in a square hole,” Neckopulos says.

After taking a job as an assistant in the Faulconer Gallery, however, Neckopulos discovered that her knowledge of economic models and principles came in handy. “Working in a gallery, you have the art that you’re passionate about, but it’s also a business, and you have to know how to get people in the door and really manage your funds,” Neckopulos says.

She hopes to obtain an internship at a larger, public gallery in the future to see what it’s like to pursue those interests on a grander scale. “My advice to anyone who has multiple interests would be to seek out that job that you think might combine them, because there’s nothing more eye-opening than applying what you learn to real life,” says Neckopulos.

Look for the overlap

“Double majors are really doable,” Iticovici adds. “You can combine anything and there will be some kind of overlap, as long as you’re willing to look for it. And that makes everything you learn more fulfilling and interesting.”

For Grinnell students, the ability to delve deeply into more than one subject helps to transform their varied interests into new, more fulfilling career paths. So if you’re having trouble deciding what you want to do, fear not! You just might be able to do it all.

Asking for Help

Joyce Stern ’91“One of the most important things for Grinnell students is to get past the idea that adults are completely independent,” says Joyce Stern ’91, dean for student success and academic advising. “Adults are constantly consulting each other when they run into a challenge.”

While this advice might seem counterintuitive, it might be the first step in making more out of your time in college. When you arrive at Grinnell, a whole new world of independence is opened up to you. Suddenly, you have almost complete freedom in your social life, extracurriculars, and even your academics. You get to choose what clubs to join, which classes to take, when to study, and who you want to go to dinner with each night.

For many students, seeking help during high school means you’re doing badly or falling behind. But at Grinnell, using all the resources at your fingertips is part of what it takes to succeed! By choosing to come to Grinnell, you choose to ramp up your game. You could go someplace easy. You could shoot for the easy A, but instead you choose to challenge yourself. You’re smart, hard-working, motivated, and you’re very successful.

As a smart, successful student, you’re looking to make the most out of your investments. That includes making use of all the resources designed to support you when you take risks, save you time and energy, or get you back on track quickly when, inevitably, real life comes up and kicks you in the pants, which you know it will do at some point in your college years!

“We expect that all Grinnell students can handle this place,” Stern says. “You’re admitted with great credentials, but there are still things that get in students’ way.” Things such as difficulty adapting to professors’ standards, social anxiety, the death of a loved one, or struggles with time management can all have a big effect on your college experience.

The Academic Advising office can connect you with resources all around campus, from tutoring and counseling services to project planning worksheets and appointments at the Reading, Writing, or Math Labs. The staff at Academic Advising is there for you, to make sure that you get whatever you need to advance in your academics and build the life you want for yourself.

So when should you seek support? According Stern, there’s no such thing as “too early,” and there’s also no “too late.”

“We love to work with students who are simply trying to find a better approach to their studies. Students can and should approach us before the first sign of difficulty,” says Stern.

But even if you wait until you’re already having trouble, Academic Advising can still help.

“We know that people are only able to use good information when they are ready to do so, and even if we can’t help a student salvage a class or the semester, our work together could make the next semester go much better,” Stern says.

Seeking help isn’t a sign that you’re “not making it,” it’s a sign that you’re willing to challenge yourself and give yourself the best possible chance to succeed. So if you’re curious about finding new ways to study, if you’re struggling with a class, or if you’re simply curious about what’s available to you, Academic Advising is here for you!

For more information or to schedule an appointment, check out the Academic Advising website.

Balanced Performance

Ever wonder about handling the rigors of both academics and athletics at Grinnell?

Fully one third of Grinnell’s student body participates in varsity athletics. And while many Grinnell students achieve big things in sports (search Jack Taylor 138), all Grinnell student athletes find their own way to combine passion for athletics with academic priorities.

Anushka Joshi ’18 holds tennis racket with book, balls balanced on topAnushka Joshi ’18 came to campus two weeks before classes to prepare for the fall tennis season. “Coach (Andy Hamilton ’85) sends us a workout schedule for summer, so he expects us to be in top form with our tennis as well as our fitness,” Joshi says. “The first two weeks we played five hours a day.”  

Joshi is among six to eight players on the squad of 20 who traveled most weekends and played every Saturday until fall break in October. This year, having built a 9-1 record in a tie for second place after fall conference play, the team will also have a short spring season before going to the 2016 NCAA automatic qualifier tournament.  

Joshi says sports at The British School in her native Nepal were not nearly as intense as they are at Grinnell. She handled her first year here fairly easily. But with 200-level courses this year, she questioned if she could pull it off all season.

“The first weekend, six of us played for six hours straight,” Joshi says. “I was thinking ‘can I do this every week?’ I had so much studying to do on Sunday. But, I mean, I couldn’t quit. We have seniors on our team doing biochem and they’re managing, so I thought to myself ‘I can do this, too.’”

Joshi says getting a head start on her reading and doing homework as soon as it is assigned are strategies for a workable balance.

“It’s a handful, but it’s fun,” Joshi says, “Definitely you have to focus on academics, because it is academics first at Grinnell.”

Joel Baumann ’18 says athletics and academics fit together well at Grinnell because “coaches here respect academics. They’re very clear on emphasizing that you are always a student first.”

Baumann runs cross country and specializes in the 800 meters during indoor and outdoor track seasons. Training is “pretty much continuous” with a two or three week break between each season. “For all intents and purposes, it’s year-long running,” he says.

This fall Baumann is combining a rigorous cross country regimen with macro economics, a 200-level poli sci course, French, and environmental studies. “We have an open curriculum and a wide variety of courses to choose from, so I’m able to schedule my day in a way that makes sense for me,” Baumann says.

On a typical day Baumann goes to class the entire morning, then works afternoons in the Admission office as overnight host coordinator for prospective male students. He takes an hour to relax or study before a two-hour practice that starts at 4:15 p.m. Following dinner with the team, his evenings are dedicated to homework for the next day.

Baumann says daily discipline “allows your body and your mind to adjust to doing certain things at certain times throughout the day.

“I enjoy being in athletics because it forces you to plan your day and develop good time management skills,” Baumann says. “You have to be really strict with your regimen.”

Anushka Joshi ’18 is from Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Nepal. She is considering computer science and economics as possible majors, and hopes to study abroad next year. Joel Baumann ’18, a native of Grinnell, intends to pursue a double major in political science and economics.

Caucus 2016: Fifty Years after Selma

The Rosenfield Program is bringing experts from across the political spectrum and from different professions to speak at a series of free public events leading up to the 2016 Iowa caucuses.

"Iowa is a politically impactful state and the Iowa caucuses are an important part of America's political landscape," said Sarah Purcell, professor of history and director of the Rosenfield Program. "Whether you participate in the caucuses as a voter or an observer, it's important to go beyond the headlines and engage in the issues. We want to give people the tools they need to participate in politics in an educated and civil manner."

Judith Brown-DianisLawyer and activist Judith Browne-Dianis will present the first event, a lecture about voting rights, at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, in ARH Auditorium, Room 302.

Her talk, "Fifty Years after Selma: Voting Rights Under Attack," will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by describing its role in the Iowa caucuses and the presidential selection process.

Co-director of the Advancement Project and former managing attorney of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., Dianis has extensive background in civil rights litigation and advocacy in the areas of voting, education, housing and employment.

The Advancement Project is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization focused on dismantling structural racism by changing public policies.

The president's office is co-sponsoring the lecture.

Caucus 2016

The Rosenfield Program is holding four additional caucus-related events during the fall semester:

How to Reduce Political Polarization without Compromise
4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19
Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101
A workshop with Phil Neisser and Jacob Hess, co-authors of You're Not as Crazy as I Thought (But You're Still Wrong): Conversations between a Die-Hard Liberal and a Devoted Conservative.
Neisser, professor of political theory at State University of New York at Potsdam and a leftist; and Hess, research director at Utah Youth Village, a nonprofit for abused children, and a conservative; will conduct a workshop about how liberals and conservatives can have more civil and productive conversations.
Co-sponsors: Peace and Conflict Studies Program and Ombuds
Using Dialogue as Civic Engagement, On and Off Campus,
4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20
Rosenfield Center, Room 101
A lecture by political opposites and co-authors Neisser and Hess.
Co-sponsors: Peace and Conflict Studies Program and Ombuds
What Are the Iowa Caucuses?
6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1
ARH Auditorium, Room 302
An introduction to the history and politics of the Iowa caucuses presented by Purcell and Barbara Trish, professor and chair of political science.
Journalists Talk About the Iowa Caucuses
5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7
Rosenfield Center, Room 101
A panel discussion with Pulitzer Prize-winner David Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Jen Jacobs, Des Moines Register chief political reporter; and Kathie Obradovich, Des Moines Register political columnist.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Accommodation requests may be made to event sponsors or Conference Operations and Events.

Students Win Awards in National Statistics Competition

USPROCTwo groups of Grinnell College students won awards at this year’s Undergraduate Statistics Project Competition (USPROC) sponsored by the American Statistical Association and the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education. USPROC is an annual national competition among undergraduate students in the United States.

Alex Schmiechen ’17 and Zina Ibrahim ’17 won first place in the subcategory “First Course in Statistics.” Their project, titled Upvote or Downvote: What Makes Yik Yak Posts Popular?, was completed as part of the course Applied Statistics (MAT 209).

Their study examined Yik Yak, the anonymous social medial platform that is widely used on college campuses, in which users can indicate their liking for a post by “upvoting” or “downvoting” it. Schmiechen and Ibrahim’s study aimed to “determine potential indicators of popularity” and counted the upvotes of posts based on categories such as amount of humor, academic level, love life relevance, and whether or not it was a question.

Clark Fancher ’15, Josh Vernazza ’15, and Zack Davis ’16 won second place in the subcategory “Intermediate-level Applied Statistics Course.” Their project was titled An Examination of Age of First Drink and Effects of Church Attendance by Gender, and was carried out in the course Statistical Modeling (MAT 310).

They initially came up with this topic due to its relevance on college campuses. “Since underage alcohol consumption is so rampant throughout college campuses, we thought a study examining the age of first drink consumption would be interesting,” Davis said. They used survival analysis to model drinking patterns in Iowa youth. They also found that male church-goers have their first drink later than their female counterparts, which was different from conclusions reached in previous literature.

The results of both studies are significant in part because they pertain to current issues. Schmiechen and Ibrahim’s study highlights that further analysis could “lead to further insight into popular culture” and also be “a tool to examine a student body’s mental health”. Fancher, Vernazza, and Davis’ study addresses the benefits of decreasing underage drinking, and discusses the efficacy of after-school church programs delaying the age of first drink consumption.

Both projects were from courses taught by Professor Shonda Kuiper of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. These achievements highlight the College’s advancement in statistics education. “Students of Grinnell College are doing innovative research projects related to current events in their lives, while also utilizing advanced multivariate statistical modeling techniques,” Kuiper said.

In addition to a monetary award, both groups were invited to give a plenary talk on October 2, 2015, for the First Annual Electronic Undergraduate Statistics Research Conference.

Why Choose Grinnell in Washington?

  • Live, learn, work and explore in the center of U.S. politics and domestic policy. 
  • Experience Washington D.C. as an extension of your classroom with a Grinnell learning community – living and learning together with other Grinnell College students, faculty and alumni.

Scholars' Convo: Contesting Muhammad

Kecia AliKecia Ali, a renowned scholar on Islamic law, gender and religion, will deliver a Scholar's Convocation at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 29, in Joe Rosenfield '25 Center, Room 101.

Her talk, titled "Contesting Muhammad: Contemporary Controversies in Historical Perspective," will focus on modern debates about the Prophet Muhammad and his legacy.

Ali, the College's 2015-16 Gates Lecturer in Religious Studies, will give her Gates lecture the night before. She will present "Tradition, Traditions, Traditioning: Writing on Women and Islam," at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, in Faulconer Galler, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts. Ali will be speaking about the challenges of writing on gender, women, and Islam in a way that does justice to the diversity of perspectives in and cultural settings of Muslim communities.

Both events are free and open to the public.

"Professor Ali will provide the kind of background we need to analyze and understand some of the recent controversies surrounding the Prophet Muhammad," said Caleb Elfenbein, assistant professor in the departments of history and religious studies.

"She will discuss the history of representations of Muhammad in the West as well as in Muslim communities and how those histories, especially the way they interact, affects contemporary events," Elfenbein added. "Her talk will be especially informative regarding Muhammad's relationship with his wives."

Ali's research focuses on Islamic law, women and gender, ethics, and biography. She is the author of six books including her most recent publication, The Lives of Muhammad, about modern Muslim and non-Muslim biographies of Islam’s prophet, which will inform her lecture. She is also the author of Sexual Ethics in Islam, which provides a feminist reading of Islamic scriptural, legal, and ethical traditions as they relate to human gender and sexuality.

A professor of Islam at Boston University, Ali has held research and teaching fellowships at Brandeis University and Harvard Divinity School. She is an active member of the American Academy of Religion and currently serves as president of the Society for the Study of Muslim Ethics.

The Scholars' Convocation series was established in the late 1970s in response to Grinnell College's move to an individually advised curriculum. The College, aiming to create a common educational experience shared by the entire Grinnell College community, started the Scholars' Convocation series to offer an accessible intellectual encounter that transcends disciplinary boundaries.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Rosenfield Center has accessible parking in the lot to the east. Room 101 is equipped with an induction hearing loop system. Faulconer Gallery is wheelchair accessible, with accessible parking available at the south entrance to the Bucksbaum Center. You can request accommodations from Conference Operations and Events.

Pro Arte String Quartet in Concert with Eugene Gaub on Piano

Pro Arte Quartet, with Eugene Gaub on piano, will performing Mozart’s String Quartet in E-flat Major, Anton von Webern’s Langsamer Satz, and Antonín Dvořák’s Quintet for Piano and Strings No.2 in A Major in a concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, in Sebring-Lewis Hall, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts.

The Pro Arte Quartet (PAQ) is one of the world’s most distinguished string quartets. Founded by conservatory students in Brussels in 1912, it became one of the most celebrated ensembles in Europe in the first half of the 20th century and was named Court Quartet to the Queen of Belgium. Its world reputation blossomed in 1919 when the quartet began the first of many tours that enticed notable composers such as Milhaud, Honegger, Martin, and Casella to write new works for the ensemble. In addition, Bartók dedicated his fourth quartet to the PAQ (1927), and in 1936 PAQ premiered Barber’s Op. 11 quartet, with the now-famous “Adagio for Strings” as its slow movement.

The concert is sponsored by the Department of Music as part of the Noyce Master Class series. Artists in the series teach master classes for Grinnell students, as well as perform on campus.

Ancient Theatre, Contemporary Bollywood

Professor Dhananjay Singh, of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, will present "Ancient Indian Theatre Traditions and their Representation in Contemporary Bollywood" at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14, in Lawson Lecture Hall, Bucksbaum Center for the Arts, Room 152.

In a free, public talk, Singh will present the Indian perspective on the relationship between art and reality, and will emphasize the various exchanges between the two in theatre.

Drawing upon the pre-modern (non-modern) philosophy and aesthetics in India, Singh will argue that the relationship between art and reality is that of coexistence, without subordination of either to the other.

Singh is an International Visiting Fellow, and his visit is sponsored by the Center for International Studies.