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In Academics on
July 17, 2018

The Top Erin Condren Products Every Incoming College Student Needs

Disclosure: Erin Condren sent me a gift card to purchase some of these items. Thanks to Erin Condren for supporting The Happy Arkansan and my mission to help millennials live their happiest lives! Also, this post will include affiliate links.

The new school year is quickly approaching, and I am so excited for all the incoming freshman who are heading off to college this August.

Before August gets here, though, I wanted to touch on one of my favorite companies ever, Erin Condren! I love their products, and I think all incoming students should own products from the brand. Today on the blog, I am going to walk you through a few of the top Erin Condren products every incoming college student needs!

The Top Erin Condren Products Every Incoming College Student Needs | Are you ready for the upcoming fall semester? Check out this post featuring some of my favorite #ErinCondren products for students as well as my top planning advice for college students. #Planning #CollegeAdvice

Keep Reading, Darling

In Academics on
March 28, 2018

How To Study When You Are Short On Time

Let’s face it; we have all studied last minute before. 

It sucks when the clock is running down, but you still have a ton of pages to read, study, and digest.

Today’s article will help you study when you are short on time so you can get focused, get to work, and stop yourself from crying over your textbooks.

Related Reading: How To Study When You Feel Unmotivated; What To Do When You Feel Overwhelmed In College (Guest Post On Chase The Write Dream)

 How To Study When You Are Short On Time | Studying when you are short on time can be difficult, but it's not impossible. Click through as I share 10 things that will help you study when you need to cram or quickly intake information.

1. Start

We have all had those moments when we feel so overwhelmed with what we have to do that we just don’t. Stop that, and start studying. There is a famous quote by Nelson Mandela that states, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.” This quote rings true in so many facets, and studying is one of them. Stop procrastinating and get stuff done!

2. Get Rid Of Your Worries

You may have a lot of things on your plate, and this can clog your brain power. Instead of letting your brain get carried away, write down your worrisome thoughts on a sheet of paper. Let your brain know that you can worry about those things later, but right now you need to focus on studying for a test.

Your mind has a weird way of reminding you of random anxieties and issues. Thank your brain for bringing those up, but ultimately let your mind know that you have more important things to think about right now.

3. Focus On Important Material

To be honest, professors share a lot of irrelevant information. We have all had those professors who go on tangents like it’s their full-time job! Get to the meat and potatoes of what makes up your test based on previous exams, what your professor spent the most time on in class, study guides, etc. Chances are, some specific things will make up the bulk of the test. Focus on those important ideas first, and then branch out to study other things.

Related Reading: How To Make Sure What You Are Studying Will Be On The Test

4. Stop  Multitasking

Y’all know how I feel about multitasking, as I wrote an entire post on how multitasking is killing your productivity and positivity last December. It seems like a smart idea to focus on multiple tasks, so you get done faster, but in reality, you end up doing a subpar job at both tasks when multitasking. Instead, get hyper-focused on one task at a time until your to-do list is complete.

5. Pick A Great Study Environment

Studying in your bedroom is convenient, but often it’s not the best environment to study. The same can be said of a library, a coffee shop, etc. It all depends on the environment that you thrive in. When you only have a limited time to study, you need to pull out all the stops! Go to the environment that’s going to help you study more efficiently and effectively.

 How To Study When You Are Short On Time

6. If You Study In A Group, Study With Equally Motivated People

If you are cramming or studying a lot, you need to study with people who are also motivated to study hard. When others around you are distracted, or worse, distracting, that won’t help you prepare for your test. You need to work with people who will motivate you to be the best studier you can be. Work with people who won’t deal with you being distracting to them and vice versa. Some people are fun to study with when you have a lot of time to study, but you don’t have that time!

7. Study In A Way That’s Productive For The Test

You can’t study for a multiple-choice test in the same way that you study for an essay based exam! Each testing method requires a different level of material understanding. Go back to what your professor said about the layout of the test, and make sure you spend your time studying effectively. Don’t waste your time with ineffective study methods.

Related Reading: 12 Study Techniques For College Students

8. Breathe

Studying in a short period of time can feel overwhelming. Feelings of overwhelm can render you helpless and motionless. Instead of letting yourself get overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths and try not to cry into your textbook. Being at your wit’s end can feel awful, but I promise this feeling is only temporary. 

Breathe in, breathe out.

9. Take Smart Breaks

You can’t spend every waking minute studying! It’s okay to take a few small, smart breaks when you are working towards your goals. Here are a few examples of breaks you can take:

  • Do Nothing For 2 Minutes: I love this website from Calm. It’s a picture of a calming ocean, ocean wave sounds, and a timer. You can’t touch your mouse or keyboard for two blissful minutes. When you need to take a quick break, it’s a great option.
  • Guided meditation: Meditations come in all shapes and sizes. There are a ton of five-minute meditations that are perfect for your quick breaks!
  • Cook dinner: You need to keep food in your system during this time away, so you might as well take a break to cook dinner.
  • Read a chapter of a book: A little for fun reading will take your mind off of studying for a bit. Keep it simple and read or listen to a chapter of a book on audiobook.
  • Get a quick workout in: A quick 30-minute workout will help you stay energized and happy during the rest of your study session. Do a quick in-home workout on your break!

10. Get Some Sleep

Many people skip sleep when they are studying in a short period of time, but going to sleep helps solidify information in your brain. When you sleep, your mind begins to make connections, and it stores content in your long-term memory. Many people cram, go straight to the test, throw it up, and forget what they learned. Taking some time to sleep on the material will help you recall it long after the test day is through!


Studying when you are short on time can be a daunting process. I hope that these ten tips have helped you so that you can study effectively even when you don’t have that much time. Preferably, you will study earlier, so you don’t have to cram or study quickly, but I understand that is not always possible. I have studied last-minute for my fair share of tests, and I would never judge that! These tips will equip you with the tools necessary to crush your tests, no matter how much time you have to study!

In Academics on
February 16, 2018

How To Vet Your Academic Sources

Vetting your academic sources is essential. Your academic research depends on you picking sound articles and books to critique and draw upon. If you choose the wrong sources, you run the risk of your entire article being distrusted and thrown out. Using structurally sound articles is even more critical when you are writing for an audience that’s wider than your classroom like at a conference or in a small journal. You want to make sure that your research reflects the time and energy you spent writing your paper.

Today we are going to look at seven things you can look at when you are vetting your academic sources.

As a note: Use your best judgment. Whenever I looked for sources in college and graduate school, I never had to look super hard. Some of these you should look at by default, but you may not have to go so deep. If something doesn’t seem quite right, go through more of these steps until you are satisfied that you are using a good source.

How To Vet Your Academic Sources | How reputable are the sources you use for your academic research papers? If you are struggling to answer that question this post will help you vet the sources you are using so you use the best ones every time.

Keep Reading, Darling

In Academics on
February 9, 2018

How To Skim A Fiction Book For A College Course

I have talked at length on this blog about the act of skimming. When I was in graduate school I began to realize that I needed to get much better at reading because I thought that I was the only one who couldn’t read fast enough. What I soon realized was that my classmates weren’t reading either, they were skimming. When I realized this I had to get better at it and then I felt the need to share that with y’all in my posts Reading With Purpose: Article Skimming 101 and How To Effectively Skim An Academic Book.

This week I wanted to focus on fiction and even nonfiction regular books. These books are way different to skim than an academic book so I wanted to cover that today.

 How To Skim A Fiction Book For A College Course | Skimming is an important skill to have in college, but how do you skim a fiction book? Today on the blog I am sharing my best tips for skimming fiction books so that you can read all the books that your heart desires in college.

Get An Audiobook If You Have The Time

Skimming is helpful, but there is nothing better than reading the actual book itself. If you have the time I would encourage you to check out a site like Audible to see if they have an audio version of the book you are looking for. Depending on the length of the book that you are trying to read, an audiobook isn’t very long and if you are listening intently during the listening process, it will be just as effective as reading the actual book.

I do love skimming, otherwise I wouldn’t have written so many posts about it, but I do think that you should read or listen to the book if you can!

How To Skim A Fiction Book

Now that we have talked about audiobooks, it’s time to chat about what you came here for–skimming fiction books! 

1. Start With Your Purpose

When I am getting ready to skim any book or article, the first thing I think about is my purpose. This may seem cheesy, but it is massively important to begin with your purpose. Why are you doing this? Why do you need to read or skim this book?

Certain tasks will require different levels of skimming.

For example, if you are skimming the book to write a paper on the book, your skimming doesn’t have to be as thorough. It’s nice to give the book a quick skim, but you will always have the book to look back on during the paper writing process.

What is your writing prompt? This will heavily guide your skimming process because instead of focusing on everything under the sun, you can guide your skimming to match your writing prompt.

On the other hand, if you are skimming the book for an in-class discussion or a test, you will have to have a drastically different grasp on the subject. You can flip through your book a bit during an in-class discussion, but professors seem to catch on if you are avoiding eye contact and looking into the book pretending to find the answer they are looking for. On a test, you won’t have access to the book at all.

Think about your purpose when you begin to skim read the book.

2. Read Through The Synopsis & Table Of Contents

The first reading that you should do is to look through the simplistic parts of the book–the table of contents and synopsis. Get a feel for the lay of the land of the book. This shouldn’t take too much time to do and it will help you get a feel for what to expect from the book. Take a few minutes to get familiar with the book and then move on to the next step.

 How To Effectively Skim A Fiction Book

 How To Effectively Skim A Fiction Book

3. Seek A Little Outside Help

When it comes to books you want to read a few outside synopses or watch a couple of spoiler YouTube reviews. You don’t want this to be your last stop, though, which is what sets my method apart from just using SparkNotes.

Check out a couple or reviews of your book to get those main points. Once you have that under your belt you can start skimming. 

Kindle X-Ray & Popular Highlights

The Kindle and the Kindle app allow you to have access to two important features that help with skimming: X-Ray and Popular Highlights. I am going to show you how you can use both of these features to help you skim.

X-Ray essentially creates an index of sorts for you that helps you figure out where you need to focus your attention most. It does this by showcasing all the words or phrases in a book that are referenced the most. For example, here is an X-Ray from Mindy Kaling’s book “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)”

 Mindy Kaling X-Ray

With this information I can skim the story and now a little more about what to expect from my reading. I can skim easier once I know these main concepts and people that will need to be seen in my talks about the book. For example, it would probably be hard to review or write about this book without at least a bit of talk about Mindy Kaling’s time on The Office.

When a reader loves a quote in a book on Kindle, they highlight the passage from that book so they can return to it later. On many books, Amazon collects those popular highlights across books and you can see what other Kindle users are loving too. Here is an example of this technology with “Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell (one of my favorite books, and my favorite Rainbow Rowell book.)

 Rainbow Rowell Popular Highlights

Popular Highlights is just looking through what other people find interesting or funny, but it can lead you to some great discoveries in the book.

4. Skim Through Some Of The Most Important Chapters

Based on what you have learned through the table of contents and by seeking some outside help, skim through some of the most important chapters that you have found in the book.

  • Read the introduction and closing paragraphs of those chapters.
  • Look at any pictures (if there are any.)
  • Skim through any of the italicized or bolded text.
  • Try to learn as much about the characters in the book as you can.
  • Be able to understand and locate some of the main scenes, locations, and moods of the book.

 How To Effectively Skim A Fiction Book

 How To Effectively Skim A Fiction Book

5. Take Notes On The Process

When it comes to skimming a fiction book, I think that taking notes is key. Write down notes on all the major plot points so that you bring up things in your own words while you are discussing the book or writing the paper.

For important points, get down page numbers and get down quotes from the book as well. You may need some important quotes to back up your arguments so getting particular quotes and page numbers down is key.

Type out or handwrite your notes and study those before your next class or before you sit down to write your paper so they are fresh in your memory!

Take Down A Few Examples Of The Most Important Concepts

For example, if murder plays a huge role in your book–don’t just get down an example of one murder, take note of a few different instances of that in the book. If something plays a huge role in the book you may have to share a few examples of that, or prove that you know of a few examples of that.

You would never have to know every single example, because not even the most diligent student would be able to pick out every single example, but chances are you will have to know more than one of those examples.

Sharing multiple examples in your notes will help you stay ahead of the curve. Why is your professor making you read this book? What is the theme of the book in their opinion? That may give you some clues on things to look for multiple times in that book. You may be looking for the times the main character defied authority, or the times the author used alliteration, or even the times the main character’s mom went to jail, whatever those concepts are–take note!


There you have it folks, my guide to skimming fiction books. Skimming can help you out a ton in college classes when you have a huge amount of work to do. I hope that this guide has helped you figure out how to skim for your college courses. Don’t forget to check out my other blog posts about skimming in case you need to skim academic books or articles Reading With Purpose: Article Skimming 101 and How To Effectively Skim An Academic Book.