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The Ultimate Student Resource List

The Ultimate Student Resource List
Ultimate Student Resource List

    It’s back to school time, yet again.  In the spirit of the season, I decided to gather together the best tools, websites, and advice I know of to help make you a more effective and relaxed student this semester. Since I know you’re broke, it’s all free!

    10 Free Applications Every Student Needs

    Unless you have money coming out of your ears, you probably won’t want to shell out the cash you’ll need to get Office, Photoshop, Dreamweaver, EndNote, and so on — even with your student discount. These free apps do the job well enough, and sometimes even better than their paid or otherwise limited alternatives.

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    • OpenOffice.org: A top-quality, full-featured office productivity suite — word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, graphics editor, database, the works! Can save and open most Microsoft Office formats. If you have MS Works on your PC, ditch it and get OpenOffice.org instead. Available for most operating systems.
    • GIMP: A powerful, full-featured photo editing program, comparable to Photoshop. Available for Linux, Mac, and Windows.
    • KeyNote: Even after 2 1/2 years of being abandoned by its developer, KeyNote (not the Mac presentation software) remains the best free outlining software, with support for rich text formatting, plugins and macros, hotkeys, and a lot more. Can be run from a flash drive, too.
    • FreeMind: Great mindmapping program, useful for brainstorming, outlining projects, and keeping notes.
    • Mozy Backup: An Internet-based backup system, Mozy’s free plan allows you to store up to 2GB of files. The software runs in your system tray and automatically backs up the folders and files you’ve selected. I have it set to backup my documents folder and my email, which comes in just under 2GB. To backup photos, music, and other big files, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid version.
    • Zotero: A bibliography manager that integrates with Firefox, allowing you to automatically add webpages and, more usefully, resources from academic databases like J-Stor and AnthroSource to your bibliography. You can attach PDFs and images to your entries, as well as add your own notes. And all without leaving Firefox.
    • NVU: Mozilla’s web editor, NVU allows you to write webpages either in raw code or using the WYSIWYG interface, making webpage creation simple. UPDATE: NVU is no longer in development; the current version is called Kompozer.
    • VLC: The VideoLan Client isn’t pretty, but it will play just about any audio or video file you throw at it.
    • Pidgin: A single IM client that connects to just about every IM network: AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, MySpace, IRC, and so on. Available for Windows and Linux; Mac users can give Adium a try (I can’t vouch for it, since I haven’t used a Mac for 7 years…).

     

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    11 Online Tools Students Should Check Out

    Or 20, depending on how you count.

    • Email: Gmail
      Register for a solid, plain-jane email address from Gmail, something like FirstnameLastname@gmail.com. If your school sends important information only to your school email account, have it forwarded to your Gmail account. When you graduate, you’ll lose that school address — don’t invest too much of your social identity in an address you’ll lose someday. And while that .oOAwesomeChickOo.@goober.com email address seems like fun now, it won’t be much use he you start applying for internships, scholarships, and jobs.
    • Word Processor: Google Docs/Zoho Writer/Buzzword
      Online word processing offers solid features (minus a few bells and whistles you aren’t likely to need) with the ability to access your work from any web-connected computer. Google and Zoho lead the pack at the moment, though Buzzword’s gorgeous interface makes it a definite contender.
    • Spreadsheet: Google Docs/Zoho Sheet/EditGrid
      Again, Google and Zoho both offer strong online spreadsheets; if you’re using them for word processing, you might as well stick with them for spreadsheets. EditGrid’s emphasis on collaboration (they even have a FaceBook app) and strong feature-set make it well worth checking out.
    • Student Organizer: Notely/MyNoteIt/GradeMate
      Online organizers designed with students in mind, these services offer the ability to create, organize, and share notes, create reminders for important assignments, track grades and schedules, and generally keep on top of your student life.  Each offers a slightly different feature-set and approach to student organization; pick the one that fits you best.
    • Todo List: Toodledo/Remember the Milk
      Good, solid general-purpose task lists that allow you to sort tasks by date, priority, project, and just about any other way that strikes your fancy. Send yourself reminders by SMS, email, IM, or RSS.  Access on your computer or any web-enabled mobile device, even by voice using Jott. Integrate with GMail (Remember the Milk only), iGoogle, Google Calendar, and various other apps and services.
    • Mindmapping: Bubbl.us/Mindomo/Mind42/MindMeister
      Release your creativity and organize your thoughts using an online mindmapping tool. Collaborate with others and publish your mindmaps. Use to generate ideas for your papers and export in outline format.
    • Textbook Search: BookFinder
      Search over a hundred online bookstores for used or cheap copies of your required texts.
    • Bookmark Manager: del.icio.us
      Still the best place for storing, organizing, sharing, and discovering online resources.  Tag bookmarks with the name of each project you’re working on to create an online research reference. Tag by subject to recall possible topics for later papers.
    • Notebook: Google Notebook
      Use Google Notebook to keep track of pages, pictures, excerpts, and other material for papers and projects. Create a new notebook for each class or essay. Share resources by publishing your notebooks to the web.
    • WIki: PBWiki/WikiDot
      Another way to build and share resources like notes, collaborative papers, etc. Wikis offer incredible ease of use and are ideal for working with others.
    • Bibliography Creator: OttoBib
      Enter the ISBNs of all the books you used in a paper; OttoBib returns a perfectly formatted bibliography ready to cut and paste into your paper’s “Works Cited” page.

    15 Websites for Students (Aside from Lifehack)

    These sites are in the same vein as lifehack.org, but focus exclusively on student life and the needs of academics.

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    1. Study Hacks: The first stop in academic productivity, written by author Cal Newport (How to be a Straight-A Student).
    2. Academic Productivity: Three cognitive scientists share their insights into how productive researchers work.
    3. HackCollege: Cynical (in a fun way) and unabashedly anti-authoritarian, this site promises to teach students how to hack “the old” — professors and administrators.
    4. Mindful Ink: Review of tools and techniques for better studying.
    5. The University Blog: Study tips and higher education news and commentary from a avid student turned university administrator.
    6. That College Kid: Great tips and blogs from a on-the-ball college student.
    7. Gearfire: Billing itself as “Tips for Academic Success”, Gearfire offers a daily dose of practical advice, software reviews, and pointers to the latest online services for students.
    8. Instructify: Written by educators at the University of North Carolina, the intended audience is actually K-12 teachers — but most of the advice and tools they share apply to college students as well.
    9. Protoscholar: With the longest front-page I’ve ever seen, Protoscholar offers tips and advice in the GTD vein.
    10. The Student’s Blog: Backed by a student loan company, of all things, the Students’ Blog is packed full of great tips and advice for students.
    11. Scott H Young: Scott writes for lifehack.org, so you know what he’s about already. A college student himself, Scott’s advice comes from deep experience and reflection.
    12. Academic Lifehacker: Advice for students with an emphasis on time management and academic efficiency.
    13. Academhack: Focuses on the use of technology by students and academics, with news, reviews, and howtos.
    14. Efficient Academic: More tips, advice, and pointers to new technology from a working academic, with an emphasis on the sciences.
    15. Getting Things Done in Academia: Dr. Mike Kaspari offers the kind of advice about working habits, creativity, and ideas that most grad students are expected to know but are never taught.

    30 Pieces of Advice for Students from Lifehack.org

    Lifehack.org authors have published dozens of pieces with advice for students.  Here’s a good sampling:

    1. 11+ Ways to Make this Your Best Semester Yet
    2. Taking Notes that Work
    3. 10 Steps Toward Better Research
    4. Use a Wiki for Better Note-Taking
    5. : How to Read Like a Scholar
    6. How NOT to Plagiarize
    7. Beware of thesaurus
    8. Twenty uses for a Post-it Note
    9. Writing by hand
    10. Slow down and read
    11. How to Talk to Professors
    12. How to unstuff a sentence
    13. N’allez pas trop vite
    14. 10 Steps Toward Better Writing
    15. If you’d like help, ask
    16. Getting details right
    17. Homework-eating dogs, and how to avoid them
    18. 117 Creative Ways for Students to Pay for College
    19. 88 Tips for Succeeding in College
    20. From a freshman: Five tips for success in college
    21. 5 Things to Bring to College
    22. How to Write Research Papers that Rock
    23. How to Improve Your Spelling Skills
    24. How to Read a Painting
    25. 10 Steps Toward Better Writing
    26. Improve Your Writing with these Editing Tips
    27. Study Tip: Why Aiming for A is Better Than A+
    28. Learn Tough Stuff Faster
    29. How do I take notes on big books
    30. The New World of Today’s Student

     

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    7 Online Research Resources

    To help you get started with all your research projects:

    • WikiPedia/Citizendium: While neither online nor offline encyclopedias are suitable as references in college-level papers, they are great for looking up unfamiliar topics in a flash and for getting a good overview of your topic when starting a new research project. WikiPedia is well-established as the “go to” resource on the web; Citizendium is an upstart using hand-picked expert authors.
    • Library of Congress: Literally Congress’s library, the LOC’s website offers a wealth of primary sources, including historical documents and photos, artworks, letters, manuscripts, and more. Expecially good are their online exhibitions of art and artifacts around specific themes, people, and events, like the Civil War or Colonial America.
    • Google Books: A great way to locate books for research papers and other projects. Use “Advanced Book Search” and select “Full View” to limit your search to titles whose entire contents are available online. You can even download PDF facsimiles of some titles!
    • LitSum: Online study guides and book summaries
    • Artcyclopedia: One-stop shopping for information on virtually any artist, movement, national tradition, or anything else art-related.
    • Intute/InfoMine: Curated guides to scholarly resources available on the Internet.
    • Bartleby: A full reference library at your fingertips, with dictionaries, encyclopedias, poetry collections, and full versions of classic novels, philosophy, religious texts, science writings, and more.

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    Last Updated on July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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