Study Habits of a Cum Laude College Grad

Don’t let the title of this post fool you. I am not a perfect student. I do not get straight As. I have procrastinated before. I have failed tests before. I am not a perfect student. Yes, I graduated from college with honors, but I don’t credit that achievement to myself. I give all honor and glory to God because I know….

If He didn’t give me the brain to remember those facts,
if He didn’t provide me with food to nourish my body,
if He didn’t make a way out of no way for me to pay for school,
if He didn’t give me peace and keep me sane through those busy seasons,
I would not have graduated from college.

If you don’t read the rest of this post, I want you to know:

You are worth more than your grades.

I used to stress out so much over my grades in high school. Every time I failed, or even got a C, I attacked myself with so much guilt, shame and hate. That negative self-talk hurt my confidence and my motivation to do well in school. I wasn’t the only one experiencing this. Over the past four years, I have seen that unhealthy obsession with grades in so many of my peers. I hear so many students who boast about staying up all night writing papers or writing 100 flashcards for an exam. Sometimes that awards them an A, but when they fail, they are crushed emotionally and spiritually just as I was.  Seeing students like this breaks my heart because it’s so unhealthy.  

Stop beating yourself up because you don’t understand a concept or you receive a bad grade. I know you’re frustrated. You might be under a lot of pressure from your peers and parents. But in the grand scheme of things, your grades really don’t matter as much as you think. Believing in this does not mean you shouldn’t try in school or set goals for the future. It means you should put your best effort in school, and accept the result. Accept your imperfections. Maybe you suck at math. Maybe you can never remember grammar rules. That’s okay. You do not have to be perfect. You do not have to get straight A’s. You do not need exhaustive study habits--like all-nighters or five cups of coffee or skipping meals--to be successful.

Why? Because you are worth so much more than your grades. Think of it this way, you’re in school for only 18-25ish years of your entire life. Your life may be focused on school right now, but it won’t be forever. Your life is not school. You are not your grades. That F does not define you. God defines does. He crafted you with a higher purpose. He loves you as His precious child, not because of all that you do, but just as you are!

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.
— Psalms 86:15 NLT

Knowing that truth, you can live in freedom. You can succeed in school, reach your goals and not burn out, when you live in the freedom of not being controlled by your grades. Live in the freedom that your grades don’t affect your identity or your character. You are the same person when you fail and when you succeed.

Maybe I’m just giving myself a pep talk, but I hope something you read here today encourages you, whether you’re a student or not. In my four years of college and now grad school, I’ve studied for countless tests, prepared for 1,261 presentations, and written Lord knows how many papers. And knowing the truth of God’s love helped me get through it all. I also learned a few successful study habits that helped me handle my course load, stress less, manage my time and improve my grades. Today, I’d like to share my tips on studying for exams and writing papers:


Study Habits of a Cum Laude College Grad

Pray before each study session
When we connect with God, we connect with the God of peace. He will calm all your anxieties and strengthen the fibers of your brain, clearing your mind and helping you focus. Pray for your test, a good night's rest, your classmates' studying, and your professor. Pray before your test or presentation and turning in your paper. Make your classroom a home for the Holy Spirit.

Block out distractions
Stop multi-tasking and distracting your brain. If you really need to focus and complete something fast, you need to put 100% of your focus on your work. Go to a library cubicle. Put on headphones without music. Put your phone away in a backpack or purse. Still distracted? Turn off all your notifications. Still distracted? Turn the phone off, and put in another room or give it to a friend. Are Facebook and Spotify distracting on your computer? Set your browsers and word documents to full screen.

Study alone
Extroverts you have no excuse. Don't make all of your study sessions group meetings. Your friend may have all the answers, but he or she is still a distraction. Plan at least one study session alone, so you know what you know, not what your friend knows. If you study in a suite or apartment, plan to study when your roommates are gone.

Study in short bursts of time
It's time for a focused power hour of productivity. I struggle with focusing for long periods of time, so often times I set a timer on my phone. Set the timer for the minimum time you think you can focus. Try to get as much done as you can. Once the timer goes off, take a break, grab a snack, and repeat.

Take a praise break
Like prayer, praising God in the midst of struggle lifts your spirit about your circumstances. Turn on your favorite worship songs. And if you haven't already, check out Lecrae's new album. He speaks so much truth on those tracks. I'm listening to it on repeat as I type.  

Schedule non-negotiable homework time into your calendar
Schedule your homework time like it's an appointment you can't miss. Make this time slot non-negotiable, so no matter how busy you are you have time to study. When trying to find time to study, consider the time of the day you have the most energy. For example, I'm a night owl, so I am most efficient after 8 p.m. 

Communicate with your professor
Email your professor your questions immediately. Visit office hours for one-on-one help. Ask your professor what you did wrong on past tests or papers and Show the effort you’re putting in this class. It will make a difference in your grade at the end. 

Get help when you need it
Take advantage of your university's abundance of resources. Get a free stats tutor. Go to your TA's office hours. Edit your paper at the writing center. There's no shame in asking for help.

Studying for tests: Make a shortened terms list from notes and the textbook
This will be especially helpful during finals when you have to know everything from a whole semester. An entire textbook and notebook of notes may seem overwhelming. Consolidate everything into a list of terms typed into a word document you can print and study from separately. You're forced to review your notes, and you end up with a manageable list of terms to study from. 

No matter what grade you get, don’t forget to praise God again. He got you through another test and will get you through the next one.


To those of you still in midterms or just a stressful season of life, I pray that the ever-present and everlasting peace of God covers you today. Know that you’re not struggling alone. Other students may act like they’re on top of things, but we’re all freaking out a little inside. I’m still in midterms, too. Can I ask for you to pray for me too? Grad school is new challenge, and I’m feeling very rushed, like school and work are moving faster than I’d like, so keep me in your prayers.  

Wishing you all the best with your midterms. Stay focused, and do you best. Good luck, friends!

4 Apps You Need to Master Your Midterms

Happy October friends! Or should I say… happy midterm season!

Scary, I know. And it’s not even Halloween.

For students, October is typically when school starts to get real. Suddenly your weekly readings turn into group projects, tests, and papers. We’re officially in the thick of things. From syllabus week to prepping for your midterm exams, balancing school work can be tough. Maybe you’re struggling with your workload. Maybe you failed your first tests. Maybe you’re having trouble focusing and can’t stop procrastinating. My friend, you are not alone. We’re all struggling, and we will get through this. Think about how many grades you’ve passed to get here. That’s how far God has brought you, and He will see you through to the end. Keep you head in the game. We got this! And there’s few things that can make it easier.

Step 1: Receive daily words of affirmation and encouragement when you follow By Lady Bry on Twitter! Everyday, I will be sharing affirmations, scriptures, quotes, and other words the Lord has put on my heart. If you like what you read, feel free to share the tweet or write it down for continued good vibes all week long.

Step 2: How can you stay on top of your workload at school or work? Today, I'm sharing four apps for boosting your productivity and staying organizing. I use these apps regularly in school and at work to stay focused and get a lot done in a small amount of time. 

FOUR apps to boost your productivity

1. Limitless Google Chrome Extension

Overview: You sit down to write that 10 page paper. You swear you'll be productive. 2 hours later, you have a sentence. We all know this situation, and Limitless is here to help. This Google Chrome tab extension helps you keep track of how you're spending your time. As you go through your day, the extension tracks how much time you spend on each website and categorizes them. For example, websites Facebook go to social time, and Gmail goes to email. You can mark which websites are considered productive. At the end of the day, you can see how much time you spend on each site, and Limitless gives you a productivity score.   The app also features a customizable dashboard, attractive photography, motivating quote, your to-do list, and the weather.

How do I use Limitless? I have Limitless on my work computer, so I can consciously tell when I'm getting distracted. 

Why do I love Limitless?  Limitless makes procrastination real. This app shows me exactly how I am spending my time. For me, seeing the amount of time I spend on Facebook motivates me to stay off.

How can you use Limitless for school? This app is perfect for procrastinators. You can figure out what websites waste most of your time. Next time you study, put Limitless on, track the non-productive websites, and put them in a website-restricting app like StayFocusd and you'll have your work done in no time.
 

2. Asana

Overview: Asana is an online productivity app that allows you to organize projects, delegate tasks within each project, and log your progress one step at a time.

How do I use Asana? In Asana, you can break a long-term project into manageable steps and delegate tasks to each team member with deadlines overtime. For example, I use Asana at work to manage projects on my team; My supervisor assigns tasks with detailed instructions and set deadlines. I track my deadlines in the calendar layout, where I can see my tasks due today and prepare for those coming in the future. (iPhone app also available)

Why do I love Asana? Asana allows me to space out all of my tasks and view them at a month's glance. I can easily move tasks when deadlines get moved or my schedule changes. 

How can you use Asana for school? Asana would be perfect for a semester-long group project, so you can keep track of tasks and each group member’s progress.

Imagine your workload is Thanksgiving dinner. Asana allows you to approach each project one dish at a time.

3. Google Photos

What is Google Photos? A photo storage app accessible via iPhone, Android, and computer

How do I use Google Photos?  Running out of storage on my phone because of too many photos drives me crazy. When I filled the iCloud storage on my phone earlier this year, I couldn’t back up anything for months. Any photos I deleted were deleted permanently.

Ever since I downloaded Google Photos, I don’t worry about running out of storage. I use this app to backup photos on my iPhone instead of iCloud. Google photos syncs with your phone, so as soon as you take a photo on your phone it shows up in the Google Photos app and the Photo app on your phone.

Why do I love Google Photos? Though this may not qualify as a productivity app, Google Photos makes my life so much easier so I can focus on the work at hand. Google Drive gives you more GB storage than iCloud and Dropbox, so you don't have to worry about your photos taking away space for your documents. You can delete photos from your phone without losing them in Google Photos. The app also allows you to create shareable albums by inputting email addresses. It's perfect for sharing photos with your family to show how well you're doing in college!

How can you use Google Photos for school? If you’re taking any photography class, raw files can take up a lot of space on a flash drive or your computer. Backup your photos from your memory card to Google Photos for maximum storage space. 

4. Trello

Overview: An online productivity website that allows you to organize your projects into boards.

How do I use Trello? By far my favorite app of the list, I use Trello for By Lady Bry to track tasks and plan long-term projects. Trello is organized into a board with list boxes with cards. Similar to Asana, you can create multiple labeled to do lists, each item being a card. Within each card, you can create a checklists. Among the customizable features, you can color code boards and assign cards to team members. The right side menu allows you to change the background, add stickers and power-ups and track all the changes that have been made on the board. Currently, I’m working on transitioning my content calendar into Trello as per Erin Henry’s recent video.

Why do I love Trello? As a visual learner, I like Trello better than Asana because it’s organized into boxes. Trello is also compatible with more apps than Asana, including Evernote and Google Drive. Trello's capabilities expand with more upgrades or “power-ups” than I can count, such as viewing tasks in a calendar and repeating cards over multiple deadlines.

How can you use Trello for school? Organize your homework into cards on separate boards for each of your classes. For long-term projects, make each phase a column and each task a card. Assign each team member a card, and set deadlines for progress. 


Banner Photo by Andyone on Unsplash.

Do you have any other midterm hacks and favorite apps for school? Share in the comments below! Good luck my friends, and happy studying! 

Life Update & What's New on By Lady Bry

Hello friends, it’s been a while. I took a break from this blog last month for a number of reasons. From saying goodbye to summer to adjusting to grad school, September was overwhelming. Today, I want to explain why I stopped blogging, update you on my life, and give you a sneak peek into the exciting things coming to By Lady Bry this month.

GRAD SCHOOL

In September, I started graduate school at American University’s School of Communications. After graduating in May with my BA in Public Relations (also at AU), I’m continuing on to pursue my Master’s degree in Strategic Communication. By next spring, I’ll be 23 with two degrees!

It took a lot prayer and nudging on God’s part to get me to grad school. The application was the easy. Once I got in, I had to convince myself that, even though other recent grads were starting their first jobs, grad school is worth it. I honestly wasn’t interested. I didn’t know why I applied. I was so eager to get into the workforce.  I thought grad school would put me behind everyone else. But for some reason, God was bent on me going here. After over a year of questioning, praying and considering my options, He opened all the right doors. Now I’m here about a month into grad school, and ….

I love grad school! Even though I’m at the same school, so much is new. My undergrad degree solely focused on public relations, specifically campaigning. My master’s has much more versatility and can be applied to multiple fields. I’m in a whole new class of students. (Yay new friends!) I love how AU attracts students from all over the world, and in the grad program, there’s students at all levels of their careers. I’m in class with entrepreneurs, individuals switching fields, current working professionals, and recent grads like me. This diversity of perspectives makes my class incredibly engaging. My professors, also from a variety of backgrounds, are invested in my success. Plus, I still get the perks of being an AU student, like a subsidized metro pass, an unlimited fitness class pass, and on-campus job fairs.

I finally have peace about my decision to go to grad school. I can feel the confirmation that I have stepped into God’s will, and He really wants me to be here. I’m so grateful to have another year of school to better equip myself and really hone my skills.

And I have no idea what I’m doing next year, so don’t ask. If I took anything away from my job search earlier this year, I learned that God is in control when you’re not. There is no need to waste time and energy worrying. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. His plan is in place, and God has your next destination. He might just make you wait for it. It’s in these times of waiting on the Lord that he equips and grows us in new ways.

TRANSITION & ACCEPTING MY NEW NORMAL

One thing you should know about me: I hate change. Let me repeat that. I hate change! Transition sucks. Moving on from summer, I miss having days off to relax without homework. I miss being able to go on trips for the weekend. I miss having two days off every week to work on this blog. Transitioning from undergrad, I miss being on campus all the time. I miss having a meal plan because on-campus food is so expensive. I miss hosting bible studies as a small group leader in campus ministry.

My grad program only lasts a year. I’m afraid of how fast it’s going to fly by. I want to savor every moment, because after this, I’m done with school forever. Now, I’m working on accepting my new normal: full-time grad school, working part-time, attending a church bible study, and writing this blog. While maintaining a social and devotional life, might I add.

As you can see, I have been juggling a very busy schedule, so much so that I lost this blog in September. I couldn’t figure out how to fit in my schedule. I was overwhelmed by the sudden change. As I come to terms with my new normal, I’m ready to welcome this blog back into my life and get back to writing. I have so many ideas of amazing content for you, especially for students. The fresh start of back to school is over, and now we’re in the thick of it. So I’ll be sharing wellness tips for school throughout the month of October. From study habits to taking breaks to midterms, I’ve got you covered.

Stay tuned for my next blog post coming Friday, October 5!

NEW on By Lady Bry this October

Love By Lady Bry and want MORE? I’m super excited to announce that By Lady Bry is expanding to Twitter and Instagram!

Coming THIS FRIDAY, Oct 6: By Lady Bry joins Twitter: @byladybry
Follow me on Twitter for daily words of encouragement. That’s right. Everyday. In such a crowded media space today, I want to cut through the bad news and spread positivity through the word of God. Start your day with an inspirational word of wisdom, scripture, daily mantra or affirmation right at the top of your feed.

Coming Friday, Oct 13: By Lady Bry joins Instagram @byladybry
Follow me on Instagram for weekly wellness tips. Learn how to pursue wellness in college, at work, in your spiritual life, and beyond. For more long-form content, read the full blog posts on By Lady Bry website (the link to my latest post will be in the bio).


What are you most excited for this school year? What are you nervous about? I'll go first in the comments below!

The Introvert’s Guide to Your First Semester of College

Who’s ready for back to school!? This post starts the By Lady Bry Back-to-School series! From now to the end of September, I’m sharing tips on pursuing wellness in college from self care to study habits to productivity tips. Stay tuned for new posts every Friday!

 

“Why are you so quiet?”
"Why are you even here, if you aren't going to talk to people?"
"You need to find a hobby or something, so you can meet people!"
“Have you met someone yet? You should go out more.”
“You haven’t talked that much. What do you think?”
“You need to break out of your shell.”
“Why are you so serious all the time?”

This is my list of things introverts are sick and tired of hearing. (Here’s a few more if you’re interested) If you’re anything like me, I grew up being called quiet and shy, and I hated it. I always felt pressured to be more social and outgoing. I thought something was wrong with me. You could say I was a "closeted introvert." Fast forward to my freshman year of college, someone asked me, whether I was an introvert or extrovert, and I flat out denied the truth. Within a few months, I finally put a name to my personality and accepted who I am: I am Bryana, and I am an introvert.

To the incoming college freshmen and fellow introverts, I’m going to be real with you. (Let's keep it 💯 ) Your first semester is a socially exhausting experience.  From meeting new people to going to parties, finding classes, and juggling group projects, there is an overwhelming amount of pressure to be social. Extroverts make it look easy. Freshmen, I know how you feel. I know what it feels like to sit in your room on a Friday night and watch everyone else go out to parties. I know what it feels like to eat alone in the dining hall. I know what if feels like to sit awkwardly silent in a new classroom with everyone else talking. It feels like crap, but from one introvert to another, I want you to remember:

Nothing is wrong with you. It is okay to be yourself.

College is the time to discover and accept who you really are, as I did. Now, I love who I am and fully embrace being an introvert.  As an one who survived college as an introvert, I’m sharing my best advice tips for surviving your first semester:

Being an Introvert in College

Your First Week

Make friends at your own pace.
Don’t be intimidated by the extroverts who have a ton of friends the first week. Meeting in groups can be overwhelming, so take your time getting to know people one by one. You don’t have to go out to big events to meet people. Start with your peers in your dorm or classes.

Don’t be afraid to say you need alone time.
Be open, honest and shameless about who you are. If they don’t like it, you can find better friends. A real friend will understand.

In Class

Be aware of your participation grade.
As an introvert in the class, I prefer to listen and soak in information visually watching a lecture rather than engage in a class discussion, but as a public relations major, I had no choice. Being an introvert is not a good enough excuse to not talk in class. Professors don’t care. I once had a professor who had a seating chart and counted every single time we talked in class to make our participation grade. (#tbh I did not do well in the class)

That being said, know what percentage of your grade is participation, how and how often your professor wants you to participate. Try your best to meet the minimum requirement.

Visit your professor’s office hours
Important for any college student, going to office hours shows your professors how invested you are in the class. You have the opportunity to get to know your professor and form a relationship that could award you opportunities in the years to come. For introverts, office hours allows you ask questions one-on-one instead of in class where you may not feel comfortable. If you don’t talk a lot in class, visiting your professor shows you are still invested.

In the Dorms & On Campus

Socialize at your own pace.
You don’t have to go to every party or event. You’re not missing out on as much as you think. There’s no point in forcing yourself to go to something if you’re not going to enjoy the event. As an INFJ, I like socializing in moderation. For example, if you invite me to an event on a Friday night, I’ll gladly join you, but don’t ask me to go out the next night. I’m straight up honest with my friends: “Yes, I want to go the movies alone.” “Yes, I want to go grocery shopping alone.” There’s no shame in taking a break or doing something on your own.  

It’s okay to eat alone.
I hated the dining hall my first semester because I thought I could only go there with a group of friends. That was until I realized that, unlike high school, there’s no shame in eating alone at college. Nobody will look at you like you’re sad or weird or lonely. There’s not loser table. Eat wherever you like. 


In other words, you do you boo! Be your beautiful introverted self, and don't let anyone try to change you. To the college freshmen starting this week and in the coming weeks, I wish you all the best. You are going to do amazing. Get ready for some of the best four years of your life.


Thanks for reading! Be sure to share with your fellow freshmen and introverts! Stay tuned for next week's post on A+ study habits.

 
 

6 Secrets to Networking Success

Happy first day of spring also known as the season of job and internship searching! When I first moved to Washington, DC, so many people told me that the key to getting a job here depends on who you know. Fast forward four years, I now understand the importance of networking from meeting people at receptions, job fairs, my church, and many more events. I've learned so much about my field, career advancement and companies I'd want to join. I've learned almost all I know from my university's career center, but speaking from experience, there's so many tricks I wish someone had told me when I started. Check out my six secrets to successful networking: 

Photography by Samuel Zeller


My Networking Prep Checklist

  1. Find out who's attending and research their background on LinkedIn
  2. Print and bring updated business cards with your LinkedIn profile name and/or online portfolio
  3. Prepare and practice your elevator speech and questions
  4. As soon as someone is free, walk right up to them and introduce yourself
  5. If things get awkward, comment on the food.
  6. Follow up within 24 hours via email or LinkedIn

At first, networking can be really scary, but over time, the connections made can be incredible sources of advice and ways to find new opportunities. Well equipped with these tools in your hand, you will have networking success! 

What are your networking success stories? Share in the comments below!