Get to Know the Author
Hi! My name is Shabnam Nooristany, and I am a junior here at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) studying mass communications with a focus on public relations. I was born and raised in Arlington, Virginia, which is why I chose VCU as my college of choice – because I love the city so much! I am very passionate about writing and creativity, which is what inspired me to create a resource blog for students who need help with college admissions and tips for succeeding in school.
Since I was in high school, I've found happiness helping others. My family is originally from Afghanistan, and my passion for helping others started in high school when I created a club called “Help the Kids.” My peers and I gathered donations like clothes, utensils, pencils, books and more to create care packages to send to students in Afghanistan. Since I started college, it's been hard to balance school and maintain the club, so I took a break. However, I thought this Resource Blog would be the perfect way to help students in my community. Hopefully, I will help them on their journey to success!
Find yourself slacking off school work because of online classes? Don't stress too much, we've all been there. It's no secret that COVID-19 affected our lives tremendously, especially with classes being remote. A little organization and motivation always seems to get me back on track, so keep reading if you want to hear my tips and tricks for dealing with online classes!
Ever since COVID-19 hit and classes went online, I found that I was less motivated to learn. However, with time, I discovered how I like to study and found motivation to keep myself on track. Here are my 5 most important tips and tricks to help me stay on track:
- Set a calendar! Typically as students, we have so much going on in our lives, that we forget about due dates. That's why every semester, on the first day of classes, I make a detailed schedule for the week. I start off by opening a Google document and listing all the days in the week. I then go through all the due dates in my class syllabuses and set a schedule for when I will get assignments done. When I complete an assignment, I check it off. Not only do you get a good feeling by checking off tasks from your list, but you also get to keep track of how much work you're doing and completing over time!
- Stay connected! Make sure you are joining group-me’s for your classes and connecting with students. Joining class group chats not only reminds you to get things done, but you can also receive help from other students. Chances are, most people in your remote class are just as confused as you are, so staying connected with students is always key. Also, make sure you reach out to your professors through email for help. Participating in your Zoom meetings also keeps you focused and lets your professor know that you are listening and aware.
- Create a dedicated workspace! If your classes are remote, you need to make sure you have a safe workspace dedicated to school. I've tried doing schoolwork while lying on my bed, and frankly, nine out of 10 times I fall asleep during class. Sitting in front of a desk, on a chair, in front of a bright window helps me keep away from any distractions and makes me more aware in class. Of course, everyone is different, so make sure you have a comfortable space to do work! Going to the library, cafe, or even your living room can help make you more motivated during remote learning!
- Take breaks! Don't go hours studying without taking breaks. When I'm going to be studying for hours, I make sure to take a five-minute break every 30 minutes. These breaks consist of stretching, getting up for a walk, taking a phone break, or eating a snack. This will help you stay motivated without burning yourself out.
- Eat your breakfast! I know everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it really is. I used to skip breakfast, and I found that when I did, I would be very cranky and unmotivated for the rest of the day. Since then, I haven't missed breakfast in the past five months and I can truthfully say that eating breakfast every morning has motivated me to get work done and have a great day. Taking 15 minutes out of your morning to make a nice meal, whether it be eggs, toast, cereal, coffee, or granola bars has changed my morning routine for the better and has made me more productive overall.
Writing a college admissions essay can be very tough, especially when you have no idea where to start. Personally, I remember how hard it was to even begin writing because I didn't have anyone to help me. However, with a little help from the internet and my past experiences with writing essays, I got through it, which eventually led me to VCU! Here are my tips for writing a college admissions essay:
You first want to ask yourself why the university you are applying to is even requiring a college essay to admit students. Here's the answer: these days, there are so many students competing to get into schools. However, universities have no way of differentiating students other than their college essays. College admission essays give students the ability to write about themselves, and what qualities they have that differentiate them from others. Considering this, you want to write about something that makes you stand out and look unique among the other applicants. College admission essays are also very important if you don't have the best GPA or test scores. Take the time before writing your essay to really brainstorm something that you are most passionate about.
Begin by figuring out what you want to write about. Read various admissions essay questions and start brainstorming different ideas for each one, even if the topic is something you don't want to write about. From this, pick which topic you feel most passionate about, and go from there. Write about something that's very important to you. It can be a life lesson, an unforgettable experience, or something that you're passionate about. Have a strong hook for your essay to really grab your reader's attention; spend a good amount of time writing it. Your thesis is also very important, so make sure your thesis statement is strong, relevant and eye-catching.
Next, you want to begin outlining your topic and writing several drafts. You can't rush college admission essays, so set aside a few weeks because you want to keep editing and drafting before you arrive at your final essay. Make sure to get several opinions and have several editors for your essay. Whether it's your favorite teacher, counselor, friend, family member, or mentors. Personally, I wasn't very outgoing in high school and had a lot of trouble asking for help, so I asked my siblings and best friends to review and edit my essays. When editing your own essay, there are lots of online resources that you can use for spell check and grammar. I used Grammarly.com, and it changed my essay dramatically. Another tip is to use a thesaurus. There are many online varieties that can make your essay go from a 5 to a 10, just from your word choice. After you write a few drafts, keep editing and revising. Get plenty of people to read your essay and revise it, and keep editing from their critiques. After you're done writing, look back on the most important requirements for the essay. Make sure your essay is meeting the required word count, is relevant to the topic question, double check your grammar, and most importantly, make sure you are confident in your writing.
Now get to writing your essay! Remember to stay authentic to yourself, and make sure you are confident in your writing. Take pride in your writing and don't stress yourself out. This is a great opportunity to self-reflect and note all the accomplishments you have made in your life. Good luck!
Many students find themselves lost at sea at the mere thought of college for many different reasons. It can be finances, grades/test scores, family problems, or maybe you're just not ready. If you find yourself in this situation, don't worry. There are several different pathways to getting to a four-year college. Whether it's community college, getting a job, taking a gap year, or joining the military, there are several options open to you.
Today, I'm going to be discussing community college. Community college is a great way to begin earning college credits before transferring to a four-year institution. Studying at a community college for two years before transferring to a four-year institution can save money, allow you to live closer to home, and attain an associate's degree.
- Worried about spending thousands of dollars at a university? University tuition is soaring, and if you don't want to be thousands of dollars in debt, taking classes at a community college is an affordable route. You don't have to worry about room and board, and the average cost per credit is significantly lower than a four-year institution. However, when taking classes at a community college, make sure you're taking classes that your future four-year institution will accept. Keep in mind which universities you're thinking of applying to beforehand, so you know which credits they will accept from your community college. If you need help figuring out which credits will transfer, contact your advisor or check online. Doing research in this area will save you lots of time and money before you transfer to a four-year institution.
- If you found yourself struggling with academics in high school, community college is a great place to start and work on your academic skills. Community colleges are more lenient than universities when accepting students, and most community colleges offer open admission policies that allow students who underperformed in high school to succeed. Many students also find it easier to learn in small classes where there's more one-on-one attention. Smaller class sizes at community colleges also give you easier access to professors during class if you need more assistance.
- Have a busy schedule? If you're working or have other barriers that keep you from going to class, community colleges offer flexible schedules. Classes are offered during the day, night, and even weekends. You can take classes at your own pace and on your own schedule.
- Most community colleges offer transfer programs for students. These programs are a great way to ease into a four-year university environment. Transfer programs are designed to accommodate your schedule while also guaranteeing admission to specific schools – if you meet their requirements. Some community colleges even offer special grants/scholarships when transferring, once you meet specific requirements.
If you decided to take the community college route, do lots of research beforehand. Attend the new student orientations and info sessions that your school offers! Work closely with your adviser in case you encounter problems applying. Take full advantage of the resources available to you!
I did not know about “dual enrollment” when I was in high school. Last year, my roommate informed me that she was graduating a year early from college. I asked how that was possible, and she explained to me that by taking college credit classes in high school, she received both high school and college credits at the same time. Like me, many high school students don't know that their high school offers courses that universities accept for credit. The benefit to you is that you can graduate early, save money, and get to gain early experience in your field of choice.
Most high schools offer college credit classes during a student's junior and senior year. Dual enrollment classes are typically taught by college professors on campus or online. The cost for dual enrollment classes ranges from $0 to $400; however, scholarships may be available to cover some or all of these costs. Dual enrollment classes in high school also give you early practice at getting used to the faster pace of college classes. If you're planning to get ahead in college by taking dual enrollment classes, make sure the university you plan to attend will accept the credits. It varies from one university to another. Dual enrollment classes also appear on your college transcript. Taking dual enrollment classes allows you to explore different courses offered by colleges, giving you get a feel of which major you ultimately want to pursue.
You can also take Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes in high school that count toward college credit. AP classes are often taught at a higher level. You have to pass the class and standardized exams to receive the credit. Depending on the high school you attend, some also offer IB classes. The IB program offers rigorous classes to students all over the world to better prepare them for the more rigorous college level classes. IB classes come in 2 levels: higher level (HL) and standard level (SL).
According to Northern Virginia Community College, studies show that students who acquire college credits in high school are more likely to graduate and continue their education beyond high school.
I always feel burnt out by the end of the semester and start slacking off. If you are like me, check out these tips and tricks to keep your motivation up to get through those finals, projects, and assignments to stay on track!
Tip #1: Don't skip classes
Thinking about skipping a class? DON’T, it's not worth it! My first and most important tip is to go to class. It's easy to lose track of your classes and stop attending because the semester is almost over. During my freshman year of college, all my classes were in-person. It became easy to start missing class. I started making it a habit and skipped classes consistently. My grades were falling, and I was not on track. With the new COVID-19 fully online semester starting, I promised myself that I was not going to skip any more classes and stuck to my plan. Once I did this, my grades sky-rocketed. One missed class leads to additional classes missed, which generally leads to an on-going cycle of skipping class. Going to class will fuel your brain with important information and help you finish off strong.
Tip #2: Make a schedule or routine
When I didn't have a weekly schedule, I always forgot deadlines, appointments, etc. I was never on track, and with a million things going on in my head, I couldn't keep up. Making a schedule has helped me reach all of my goals. Every Sunday, I create a weekly schedule in a Google Doc for each day. My weekly schedule consists of going to the gym, homework due dates, class times, work times, ect. Doing this keeps you on track, and crossing off tasks motivates you to do better and keep grinding! If you have trouble making a schude, check out this website link that helped me: https://asana.com/resources/daily-schedule-template.
Tip #3: Use your campus resources
Take advantage of the many campus resources VCU has to offer. From career services to advocacy services, VCU offers many free resources for students to excel in their personal and professional life. I pay for these services - so you bet I am going to use them! I will go to the tutoring offices my class offers. During my freshman year at VCU, I was struggling with my math class, and I didn't realize all the tutoring services VCU had to offer until my professor told me. If you have any questions, make sure to contact your professors or specific offices linked to your class. VCU staff are always there to help, don't be hesitant when asking for help! Click these links for more information on VCU and the School of Education resources/events:
Tip #4: Have a comfortable work space
Making sure you have a specific and comfortable workspace is key to getting work done. This could be the library, your favorite couch, outside, etc. I get all of my work done on my desk in my room. Making sure my space is clean with some snacks always helps me stay on task and productive! When I was doing homework on my bed, I found myself getting lazy, playing on my phone, and being generally unproductive. There are various places to do your homework, including: outside at Monroe Park, the library, a friend's house, a coffee shop, etc. When you work in a space where you feel awake, alert and comfortable, chances are you will get more work done and stay productive.
Tip #5: Reward yourself
Make sure you reward yourself so you don't get burnt out. This can be by hanging out with friends, going outside, eating your favorite food, etc. I love taking walks in Carytown and treating myself to a nice dinner, or taking a scenic walk on Belle Isle! Richmond has so many places to roam around when you have free time. The VMFA is an amazing place to go if you are into art, or take a stroll around the VCU campus if you need a small break. Hard work deserves a special treat so don't forget to make sure you are still making time for yourself!
The VCU School of Education offers a Calendar of Events for every month of the year on our website here.
The VCU School of Education currently offers 54 scholarships to students of all levels. Some are merit- and need-based, and others are based on where you want to teach after graduation. Learn more about what scholarships we have to offer here.
Caimdyn Stewart, M.Ed.
Senior Academic Advisor, Student Services Center