How To Be An Excellent Student

How To Be An Excellent Student

This article continues the series on how to be an excellent student and life learner. Read the previous article here: Before Learning: The Role of Awe in Life and Learning and After Learning: The Role of Reflection in Gaining Wisdom.

 

In After Learning, I shared what I wish I had done as a student to grasp the subject of my courses better. Here, I’m sharing tips specifically on how to be an excellent student who is not just smarter, but wiser, knowing how to contextualize and apply the knowledge to real life situations.

 

These are not meant to replace the usual taking notes, completing assignments, and regular studying that are given activities of a student’s life. They are, instead, ways to get the most out of those other activities, be it lectures, assignments, office hours, etc. The goal is primarily to increase and deepen understanding of the subject, which secondarily, I would think, would reflect in the grades. These are also written in the context of a high school, college, or graduate course, but the principles are applicable to other learning contexts.

 

Before the Course

 

Study the syllabus. Your instructor has put together a plan on how she would guide you through a particular subject for the whole semester. This is done with no small effort. The syllabus is the highest level of perspective on everything you will learn. It tells you a lot about how the instructor thinks and what she deems as important. I used to not pay attention to this, to my own detriment, like the table of contents of a book. But in fact, this is a roadmap that, if followed, will guide your way throughout the semester. Study it; pose questions on why it is arranged this way. You can even ask the instructor the why and how she arranges her course during office hours. Let me tell you a secret: most instructors would be thrilled to be asked these questions by a genuine and true inquirer.

 

Studying the syllabus also helps you to know, before coming to lectures, what will be covered on a given day. This way, you won’t be a passive recipient of information, but an engaged, active listener. And an active listener will always absorb and retain more information.

 

Skim the textbook/reading materials. Spend a few minutes to an hour to skim the textbook and reading materials. The purpose of this is to get an initial impression on what you will learn. Read the first and last few paragraphs of each chapter to get a sense of its key ideas, flow, and arrangement of thoughts. When the course eventually gets to each section, your brain will have some memory and familiarity to the subject, and will absorb information better. Psychologically, you’ll be more at ease in facing a more familiar topic than a completely foreign one. If you’re majoring in something that requires loads of reading, skimming will help you retain more insights on the reading materials.

 

During the Course

 

Reflect each day. Ask yourself, what did I learn today? What happened in class? Sometimes we get too busy taking notes, running from one class to another, that we don’t get to absorb what is being taught. Take a few minutes to review the day. Remember, repetition deepens impression.

 

Each week, ask yourself, how does this week’s lessons connect with last week’s? Where are we now in the roadmap? How does it differ or enhance the previous topics? Refer back to the syllabus to see where you are in the context of the whole semester.

 

Converse with classmates, teaching assistants, and instructors about the subject. Ask questions that come up during your personal reflection time, listen to what they think, and synthesize your own conclusions. I may not remember what a lecture covers, but I can usually remember good conversations.

 

Go to office hours. Most instructors and TAs are just waiting for you to come and talk to them. They usually don’t see many students until an assignment is due or before exams. The truth is, they would love to have conversations with students from the beginning of the class. These are people who dedicate their lives to academia. Nothing gives them more joy and fulfillment than seeing students who love to learn. So talk to them. They’re humans, trust me. Ask them about their career, why they chose to be in academia. You may be in for surprises.

 

If you want to take it to the next level, create your own thought process map or chart in organizing the course materials. If you were to teach the course, how would you do it?

 

After the Course

 

Once the semester ends and final exams are over, don’t just discard the materials you’ve learned and dump all memory to oblivion. Spend some time contextualizing the course in the bigger framework of your life education.

 

What are the key principles you learned from the course?

 

Connect the subject with other courses or fields of study. How do they relate to each other? How do they make you a better doctor/engineer/social worker or whatever career you are pursuing? This exercise helps you understand what relevance does this subject have in the world. Write down your thoughts to summarize the course and the whole semester.

 

 

These things don’t have to take a lot of your time; a few minutes here and there will do. And you don’t even have to do all of them. You can start implementing one thing into your daily habits, and add on later. In fact, I would argue any one item would naturally lead to the others, since this is about approaching school as a wisdom seeker. When this self-evaluation becomes a habit, it will change the way you live and learn hereafter.

 

Further reading: 

If you want to learn more on how to be an efficient learner, read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. It has a brilliant section on how to skim a book!

 

Photo credit: Freekpik

How to Save Money on Audible Membership

How to Save Money on Audible Membership

Tips and tricks on how to save money on Audible membership for new and existing users. Also see this post for more tips on how to get audiobook discounts using the Whispersync feature (explained below).

 

Audible is the Amazon audiobook subscription service. Being a member allows you to purchase and listen to over 180,000+ audiobooks, get discounts, and special sales that Amazon holds.

 

I’ve been an Audible member for about a year, and I’ve discovered a few tricks on how to save money on Audible membership. Here, I’ll share several tips on how to maximize your savings when you sign up for Audible and how to save when you already signed up for a membership.

 

But first, what does an Amazon Audible membership offer?

 

What you get from an Amazon Audible membership

 

The sticker price for an Audible Gold Membership, the membership level that Amazon advertises, is $14.95/month. This includes:

 

  1. 1 audiobook credit each month, which you can use to purchase any audiobook, no matter how long or short, expensive or cheap the original price is. In essence, this is equivalent to buying an audiobook for $14.95 each month. Since an Amazon audiobook is generally quite pricey–above $14.95–this means that you’re getting a decent value on audiobooks. If you sign up through Amazon, you get the first month free and 2 audiobook credits, i.e., 2 free audiobooks just for trying Audible. [Update 1/23/17: Currently, this is the best sign up offer available]

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

 

  1. Discounted audiobooks. As a member, if you purchase audiobooks without the credits, you will get discounts on all titles (usually 30%).

 

  1. Member-only sales. Audible holds quite a number of sales that are accessible only to members. They send emails with daily deals, many for less than $5. They also do special events like get 2 books for 1 credit, which I’ve taken advantage of many times.

 

  1. Whispersync for Voice. This is one of the neatest features of Audible, in my opinion. Many books offered by Amazon are Whispersync for Voice-ready enabled, meaning that when you have both the audiobook and Kindle ebook versions of the same title, they will be synced with each other, allowing you to pick up where you left off from the audio or ebook version. Now, why would you want to buy both versions? When you buy either an audiobook or a Kindle ebook that is Whispersync for Voice-ready, Amazon will give you an offer to buy the other version at a heavily discounted price. Sometimes, the total price for this combination, by taking advantage of the special sales or daily deals, will be lower than the original price of either the audio or ebook version. I usually prefer ebooks, since I like to go back to certain sections of the book, get quotes, etc, which would be difficult with the audio version. A few times, I’ve found out that buying the audiobook first, then taking advantage of the Whispersync offer, I get a lower total amount spent and I have both the ebook and audiobook versions in my library. For more on this and tips on how to get audiobook discounts via Whispersync, check out this article:

 

How to Take Advantage of Whispersync and Get Audiobook Discounts

 

  1. Return books at any time. If you don’t like any audiobook that you’ve purchased, you can simply return and exchange it with another book, no questions asked.

 

If you’re a big audiobook consumer, this membership package is not a bad deal overall. But for me, sometimes 1 audiobook/month is too much to keep up. An audiobook can take 10-12 hours of listening, and since I only listen to them during commutes, it can take me a while to finish. Plus, $14.95/month is not insignificant.

 

The good news is there are other offers that you can take advantage of both during sign up and after you’ve become an Audible member.

 

 

How to save money on Amazon Audible membership

 

The tips here are for 2 groups of people:

1. Those who don’t have an Audible membership yet, but would like to sign up.

2.Those who have an Audible membership already.

 

 

How to maximize savings when you sign up for Audible

 

If you have never been an Audible member and would like to try/sign up, there are multiple offers you can take advantage of. It’s essentially equivalent to getting a discount on the Audible membership.

 

Option 1. Sign up via Amazon. Their offer is a one-month free membership, so the $14.95 charge only starts on the second month. Additionally, they also give you 2 credits upon sign up, which means that you get 2 free audiobooks just by trying Audible for a month. (Note: some links only offer 1 free credit).

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

 

Option 2. Sign up via shopping portals. The better deal is to sign up via shopping portals or discount websites such as Groupon or Swagbucks.

 

2a. Swagbucks is a shopping portal where you can get points for doing online shopping. These points can then be converted into merchant gift cards. (Read an overview of Swagbucks from this awesome blog.) Swagbucks currently has an Audible offer for $2 for 2 months, after which the regular membership price will be charged to you. This means that your total spending for 2 months = $2, instead of $14.95 via Amazon. [1/4/2017 Update] Offer currently unavailable.

 

2b. Groupon currently has an offer for $1.95/mo for 3 months. [1/4/2017 Update] Current offer is 2 months free. Click here to view it or search for Groupon Audible coupons in your search engine.

 

Note: These offers may change over time, but most times there is always a valid offer somewhere. So be sure to browse around first before signing up for Audible.

 

 

How to save when you already signed up for Audible

 

Once you are a member, you can’t take advantage of the sign up offers anymore. But it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with a $14.95/mo. Of course, you can always cancel the membership, but these tips are for those who would like to keep subscribing to Audible and enjoy all those membership benefits mentioned above.

 

The good news is that there are options to reduce your membership price. Note that Amazon may offer different things to different members, so you may not see the options below in the same order. But if you see other offers than listed here, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll add them to the list.

 

Option 1. Pause membership. Maybe you need time to catch up on the audiobooks in your library, or you want to suspend the charges to your credit card. Audible allows you to hold your membership for up to 90 days. During this time, you’ll still have your existing unused credits, but you won’t get any new ones. You’ll still have access to the other benefits (e.g., discounts, etc.), though. They will resume charging your credit card after the 90 days period. The caveat is that this option is only available to you once, so once you’ve used it, it’s not available anymore (i.e., you can’t suspend your membership forever).

[reader’s comment: someone found that this option is available once every 12 months. So maybe it’s not just once forever after all. Ask the customer rep!]

Option 2. Reduced rate offer. When you are a member, you can also get an additional offer of $7.95/mo for 3 months. To get this, do the following steps. Go to My Account, click Cancel my Membership. When they ask the reason for cancellation, choose “The membership fee was too expensive for me”. Once you click Continue, Audible will bring you to an offer page that lets you continue your membership for a reduced rate of $7.95/mo for 3 months. Once you accept, this deal will show up in the Membership Plan Description section of My Account.

 

Option 3. AudibleListener Light Membership – Annual. If you’ve noticed above, the only advertised membership level is the Gold Membership at $14.95/mo. But it turns out that Amazon has other levels of membership that you won’t find, unless you ask a customer service representative or Audible offers them to you.

 

After exhausting options 1 and 2, I still felt that the membership fee and 1 audiobook per month was too much to keep up. So I took the steps to cancel the membership again, as described in Option 2. This time though, Audible gave me an AudibleListener Light Membership offer at $9.95/year. This is much cheaper than the Gold membership, but it doesn’t include the 1 credit/mo. However, I still have access to the email deals, which for me, are worth more than $9.95/year. Some of these email deals have huge discounts. This is the current membership level I have since it fits my need the best. Note, however, that you also won’t have the 30% discount that you would normally have with the Gold membership.

 

Note: I’d recommend exercising any of these options at the end of your membership month (i.e., just before they charge you for the following month), to prevent you from losing value for the month that you already paid for. In my experience, whenever you accept a new offer, they charged my credit card and restarted the new membership plan right away.

 

 

If you still want to cancel your Audible membership

 

Make sure to redeem all of your unused credits before canceling, since they will disappear once you cancel. The rest of your library will always be available to you.

 

 

Conclusions

 

In short, these are the tips on how to save money on Audible Membership

1. Take advantage of sign up offers

– Sign up via Amazon (first month free + 2 free audiobooks)

– Sign up via shopping portals such as Groupon, Swagbucks, etc. for reduced rates (recommended)

2. Reduce your monthly membership fee

– Pause membership for up to 90 days (only available once)

– Get the $7.95/mo for 3 months offer by going through the steps to cancel membership

– Get AudibleListener Light Membership – Annual at $9.95/year by going through the steps to cancel membership.

 

 

If you’ve found out more options than listed here, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll include them in this post. I’ll also update this post when I find more tricks on how to save with Audible in the future.

 

Want ideas on which audiobooks to start listening to? Check out my favorite books from 2015 and 2016!

 

Happy listening!

 

Other tips on audiobooks and Audible:

How to Take Advantage of Whispersync and Get Audiobook Discounts

 

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com is licensed by CC BY 3.0

Product links on this post are affiliate links, which means I get credits if you sign up through them. Would appreciate it if you do!

How To Get Ahead Over the Holidays

How To Get Ahead Over the Holidays

The year is dwindling down and the office gets emptier each day. But if you’ve run out of vacation either because you don’t have enough and/or have wisely taken up all of them so you’re not left with unused paid vacation, you may be stuck in an office building during what everyone says is the best time of the year. While this can be categorized as sucky, it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can use this time to get ahead while everyone else is relaxing at home. It’s very quiet, there’s no one to bother you, there will be no meetings, and it can be very useful to do things that otherwise wouldn’t be done during normal workdays. These are 6 ways on how to get ahead over the holidays and get a head start for 2016.

 

  1. Take Time to Learn

 

During the year, it can be hard to learn something new amidst the constant task lists associated with your work. While you have this quiet time, take time to gain new knowledge and skills related to your work. Read a book, or take an online training course. Do something educational that increases your skillset and thus your value to your organization.

 

  1. Explore Creative Ideas

 

Creativity needs freedom and space to bear fruit. If you have new ideas that you want to implement in your work, but have been finding no time to develop it, this is the time to build, refine, and test the idea.

 

While you’re at it, jot down all of your “crazy” ideas. Have a personal session where all ideas can fly, as if the world has no constraint. Who knows, maybe some of them can be a breakthrough in your 2016 work life.

 

  1. Plan Out 2016

 

You have goals for 2016 (if not, use this time to create goals for the next year). Chart out a timeline on these goals will be accomplished for the next year. What milestones should be done by what date. Have a game plan on how you want to attack these milestones, so come January, while everyone is still waking up from their holiday slumber, you can hit the ground running, knowing exactly what you need to do.

 

  1. Clean Up Your Desk and Office

 

I love purging out clutter. It always makes me feel light and free afterward. I don’t know how often you clean your desk and office (or ever?), but at least do it now while no one will be interrupting you. Throw out old and unnecessary files, dust all of those folders, and store non-immediate materials. Organize the cabinet. Make it easier to find documents and increase efficiency in your own workflow. Get some compressed air dusters and clean your keyboard. Clean the yucky gunk on those keyboard keys too (you know it’s there). Wipe the monitor. Go all out and do it all! A clean and neat working environment is not only good for your mind, but also good for your body.

 

  1. Clean Up Your Inbox

 

The same housecleaning applies to your email inbox and digital files. Finish up loose ends from 2015 and reduce that inbox size. Organize your digital folders and archives, and back them up.

 

  1. Take Time to Reflect

 

Finally and most importantly, while nobody’s watching, take time to be brutally honest with yourself and evaluate the past year. What went well and what went horribly wrong? Glean lessons learned from the past year and write them down, then commit yourself to apply those lessons in 2016.

 

With these 6 steps, you’ll be ready to jump-start the New Year with good momentum. Have a productive holiday season!

 

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla.