9 Creative Ways to Spend Your Winter Break

November 20th, 2018


Winter break is for recharging and relaxing after a grueling semester full of books, assignments and exams. There’s so much more to do than going home and eating a lot of holiday sweets, too. If you’re ready for an adventure, there are plenty to be had both in the U.S. and abroad; it just depends on what you want to do. You can take in cities, enjoy nature, get active, or pick up a hobby. Here are some creative ideas for a fun winter break.


  1. Visit Sweden’s Ice Hotel

Embrace the cold by visiting somewhere that makes the most of its icy climate. The ice hotel in Sweden offers both cold and warm rooms. Located in the village of Jukkasjärvi, which is north of the Arctic Circle, the hotel crafts its rooms and exhibits every year with ice from the nearby Torne River. These works of art are seasonal only, so winter is the perfect time to experience them. If Sweden is too far, consider visiting the Ice Museum in Alaska or the Hotel de Glace in Quebec.


  1. Learn to Surf

Not only is surfing one of the best exercises, but it’s also tons of fun. And places like Costa Rica, known for its world-famous surf breaks, are a joy to visit. All-inclusive surf resorts will offer lessons and accommodations in one package. While May is the ideal time to surf, winter boasts great surfing and warmer weather for an unusually enjoyable winter break.


  1. Volunteer Abroad

The few weeks between semesters can be the perfect time to have a cultural experience unlike any other by going on a volunteer trip. Various organizations offer two- to four-week volunteer opportunities in countries around the world. You can choose by country or by cause.


If you’re on a tight budget, look for volunteer opportunities closer to home. This is a good time to build your resume, test working in a field you’re considering for a profession, or simply get to know your community better.


  1. Become an Artist

Time off from all the reading and writing you do during school is a perfect opportunity to use your right brain and develop some creative skills—they’ll give you a perfect outlet for stress when you’re back in school, too. Many colleges offer intersession classes, so look at what yours has on the schedule or seek out classes at a nearby art school or academy. And don’t think of these as classes, but as workshops; they’re less about the grade than about you enjoying a new activity.


  1. Be a house sitter

Winter break is often when students spend time with their families, but if yours is too far away or you just want something different, consider getting a house sitting gig or two in a city you want to visit. These opportunities often involve pet sitting, as well, so it’s a good option if you enjoy animals. This is a great way to check out a new part of the country.


  1. Take a road trip

A road trip with friends is a fantastic bonding experience and the kind of adventure you’ll cherish after college is over and you have to settle down into a job somewhere. Check out these road trip ideas if you don’t know where you want to go. Or, use roadtrippers.com to plan the ride you’ve been dreaming about.


  1. See a country by horseback

Touring a country on a horse is an entirely different experience than seeing it by car or train. Riding holidays are available for beginners as well as more experienced riders. With destinations around the world, you’ll be able to choose what kind of country (and weather) you want to enjoy over winter break.


  1. Go on an eco-friendly vacation

Destinations around the world offer eco-friendly hotels and lodges. Check out Treebones Resort in Big Sur, California, which offers guest tents with sky domes and uses clean-burning turbines to generate electricity. If you’d like to travel abroad, Kasbah du Toubkal in Morocco, set at the foot of the highest peak in North Africa, offers lodge rooms as well as accommodations at a remote trekking lodge.


  1. Stay in a treehouse hotel

Want to feel even closer to nature? Book a stay at a treehouse hotel. You can find these both locally and internationally, so you’ll be able to create whatever kind of experience you want. If you’re an avid hiker/trekker, staying at one of these destinations puts you right in the middle of the woods so you can get a lot of exercise over your break.

The kind of winter break you have is really only limited by your imagination (and your budget). Whether you want to seriously relax or get out and see some sights, there’s a perfect vacation waiting for you.


Hilary is a freelance writer, small business owner, and a perpetual student of life. She loves to write about everything from tech to travel and health. You can follow her on Twitter @TypewriterHil


The Pros and Cons of Inquiry-Based Learning For College Success

November 19th, 2018


Typical classroom teaching consisted of a teacher standing in front of students and presenting a lecture. Students are then required to answer questions, do homework, and complete regularly scheduled exams. But what if this traditional form of learning isn’t as effective as we think? Does inquiry-based learning make more sense? In many settings, it’s the ideal solution.

 What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

 Whether you’re a student, educator, parent, or administrator, we’re all constantly on the lookout for ways to improve engagement and knowledge retention. We spend time structuring time and creating study schedules. We optimize our physical environments, so they’re conducive to learning. We do hundreds of little things to maximize education.

Within the classroom, there are numerous strategies and techniques, but one of the trends that’s growing in popularity is inquiry-based learning.

 “Inquiry-based learning is an approach to learning that emphasizes the student’s role in the learning process,” GradePower Learning explains. “Rather than the teacher telling students what they need to know, students are encouraged to explore the material, ask questions, and share ideas.”

With inquiry-based learning, also known as problem-based learning, lectures take a backseat to small-group discussions, guided learning, projects, and hands-on exploration. It’s about giving students a chance to be proactive and learn through action and responsibility.

“In terms of student achievement, the power of their question should help drive the research, the writing, and the presentation,” Heather Wolpert-Gawron writes for Edutopia. “It should help motivate them to become experts in their self-described field. And the more often a student gets a taste of what it feels like to be an expert, in however small a concept, the more they will want that feeling later on in life.”

At the heart of inquiry-based learning is the desire to increase engagement. Whether it accomplishes this goal depends on who you ask. There are some pros and some cons – each of which must be weighed against one another.

 The Advantages of Inquiry-Based Learning

 Inquiry-based learning has been used at every level from elementary to university with varying levels of success, but it’s easy to see what the advantages are:


  • Greater Interest. Let’s begin with, perhaps, the biggest pro. When students are allowed to ask questions and guide the direction of the curriculum, they’re going to express more significant interest in the subject matter. This gets them more excited about being there and makes it more likely they’ll pay attention (and do so for longer periods of time).


  • Teaches problem-solving. At the heart of inquiry-based learning is an inquisition. And not only are students encouraged to ask questions, but they’re told to find the answers. Considering that problem-solving skills are valuable in every industry and specialty, this style of learning prepares students for the real world like few others.


  • Enhances teamwork skills. With this teaching style, students are taught to engage with one another, work in groups, and tackle problems together. This leads to greater teamwork skills – something that proves useful in most areas of life.


  • Long-term knowledge retention. Research shows that elaboration at the time of learning – such as fact sharing and conversations – enhance the retrieval of information at a later date. This indicates that inquiry-based learning leads to greater long-term knowledge retention.

 In certain classrooms, inquiry-based learning works exceptionally well. These tend to be classrooms where students have reached a certain level of maturity and have the ability to work both independently and jointly (often without instructor intervention).

 The Disadvantages of Inquiry-Based Learning

 In theory, inquiry-based learning is a perfect system that maximizes engagement and gives students a chance to extract meaning and purpose from their education. However, the problem with theoretical learning strategies is they don’t always stand the test of real-world application.

Here are some of the disadvantages associated with this learning style.


  • Poorer standardized testing performance. When too much time is dedicated to student inquiries, there’s always the risk that important “core” topics could be left out. Naturally, this hurts standardized testing performance. And in a world where standardized exams play a key role in school accreditation and funding, this can become a real problem.


  • Student embarrassment. In inquiry-based learning, students are required to speak up and participate. For the most part, this is a good thing. However, there’s also the risk of embarrassing students who may not be quick thinkers (or who suffer from learning disabilities and processing issues).


  • Teacher unpreparedness. For certain teachers, inquiry-based learning is too haphazard. It prevents them from being able to prepare properly, which hurts their ability to engage students on a meaningful level. And any time a teacher is unprepared, the classroom suffers as a result.

 Clearly, inquiry-based learning isn’t a perfect solution. As is the case with any teaching/learning style, there are challenges that must be worked through.

The question is, do the pros outweigh the cons?

 The Pursuit of Greater Engagement

 Greater engagement should always be the goal in the classroom. Some students are naturally smarter than others. Some students will perform better on exams than others. Lumping everyone into one category is impossible. Engagement, however, supersedes all of these facts and is something that we should seek to capitalize on in each individual case.

Though there is no perfect solution, inquiry-based learning does seem to maximize engagement in ways that traditional styles of learning do not. This makes it worthy of consideration in classrooms at all levels of the education system.

David Gutierrez has worked in the field of web design since 2005. Right now he started learning Java in order to get second occupation. His professional interests defined major topics of his articles. David writes about new web design software, recently discovered professional tricks and also monitors the latest updates of the web development.


Part 3: What to Do After A Promising Job Interview

November 16th, 2018

 BY Andrew Heikkila

Just like you had your pre-interview steps, you have a couple things to do afterward as well. Sending a proper thank you, following up in the appropriate fashion, and continuing the job search while you wait to hear back are all excellent post-interview practices.

Say “Thank You”

Sure, you may have already said “thanks” when you shook the recruiter’s hand and walked out the door, but you want to leave a lasting impression. Avoid text messages or other informal means of communication, such as social media messaging. Your best bet is likely an email or a snail-mailed letter, though executive director of the MBA Career Center at Northeastern University, Lynne Sarikas thinks one is definitely superior to the other, according to Joel Schwartzberg, writing for Media Bistro:

“I have employers tell me all the time what a difference a handwritten thank you note makes,” says Sarikas. “Those are the candidates they remember, and if they’re having trouble deciding between two candidates, the thank you note can tip the scale.”

In the end, it doesn’t matter if you send it digitally by email or post a handwritten note, what matters is that you send it, and that you send it sooner rather than later. When you write the note, remember to:

  • Thank them for their time and consideration
  • Restate your interest in the position as well as in working for the organization as a whole
  • Mention anything that you might have learned during the interview, and how that may have affected your view of the position or company.
  • Very briefly summarize why you think you’d make a good fit for the company.
  • Give them up to date contact information, and tell them that you’re looking forward to hearing back from them.

Even if, for some reason, you think that you’re not going to get the job, send the thank you note. If another position opens up in the future, this only increases your chances that the recruiter may reach back out to you in the future.Follow Up

After you send the thank you note, rest easy for a bit — everything is pretty much out of your hands at this point. Wait about a week before you follow up with recruiter, if you haven’t heard anything by then.

You can follow up either by email or phone, though email will likely lead to more waiting. Be polite, let them know you’re checking in on the position, and even utilize this opportunity to better your chances.


“You can use this message not just to check in, but to give the decision-maker even more info that’ll show you’re the right person for the job,” writes Adrian Granzella Larssen for The Muse. Her article on following up after an interview contains example emails and can be found here.

Be Patient, Keep Looking, and Don’t Give Up

You know how they say you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket? The same follows in this instance. Instead of waiting around on somebody else, continue to actively seek out other jobs. The more irons in the fire you have, the better the chance that you’ll get a job you want.

Lastly, while you’re waiting — and really throughout the entire job hunting phase — mind your manners and be aware of your public image, especially as portrayed through the lens of social media.

You might get rejected from the first couple of positions you apply to, but THIS IS NORMAL. Don’t get discouraged and don’t give up. Use your interviews as learning opportunities, and don’t be afraid to ask for honest feedback.

By utilizing this process and perfecting on it, you’ll secure and nail that interview, and become a proud part of the workforce in no time.


Andrew Heikkila is a Millennial (whatever that means), a writer, an artist and musician, and a small business owner. He believes in the power of change and the power of people. By combining those two elements, he believes, anything is possible. Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyO_TheHammer






Part 2: How To Maximize Effectiveness During a Job Interview

November 15th, 2018

 By Andrew Heikkila

So you’ve arrived at your interview, on time, and dressed to impress. What next?

Interview Behavior

As soon as you arrive, be mindful, and be on your best behavior. Even before the interview begins, your disposition in the waiting room might be under scrutiny.

When you are met for the interview, project confidence. Establish eye contact and smile, and give a firm (but not too firm) handshake if offered. Turn off your cell phone, and prepare for questions.

Throughout this process, you’ll want to be mindful of all your behaviors — including nonverbal communication. Nevertheless, don’t let that make you stiff. You need to be aware, but relaxed. Throughout the interview, remember:

  • Sit up straight, but don’t look uncomfortable or unnatural. Look attentive, and avoid fidgeting, twiddling thumbs, foot tapping, etc.
  • Maintain good eye contact, but try to avoid staring. Lack of eye contact can come across as unprofessional, inattentive, or a sign of disinterest.
  • Feel free to talk with your hands and gestures, but don’t overdo it.
  • Don’t let reactions or subconscious behavior betray you — excitement and disappointment are healthy to express in a managed way.
  • Lastly, no matter how successful you think the interview is going or how “chummy” the recruiters might be, don’t say things that are sexist, offensive, or simply inappropriate for the office.

Answering Questions

The object of any interview is to get to know a candidate via series of questions and answers. Read through a couple of lists of common interview questions by searching for them online, and think about how you might answer them. Don’t memorize responses word for word to avoid sounding mechanical. Instead think about why the interviewer is asking that question and what they’re trying to determine from it in relation to the position you’re applying for.

“Simply spending some time thinking through what you might say, or examples you could share in response to those common questions, should be enough to help you prepare and still sound natural in your responses,” write the experts at Ohio University. They list four standard interview questions that you’ll probably encounter, regardless of industry or position.

  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Can you give an example of a time when you encountered a difficult situation and how you handled it?
  • Describe yourself.
  • Why should we hire you?

When in the interview, try to keep your answers detailed, but concise. Don’t meander around the questions. Instead, answer directly and certainly.

Asking Questions

An interview is not a one way street. While the recruiter has been using this opportunity to determine whether you might be a good fit for the position and organization, too many people pass up on the opportunity to do the same. Asking your own questions will help you determine whether you think you’d be a good fit for the company, and will also demonstrate initiative on your part. Here are a couple of sample questions:

  • What does the average day-to-day look like? Ask about responsibilities, schedules, and expectations to better understand exactly how you’d be spending your day.
  • What direction is the company headed in? This question simultaneously gives you a feel for what a future at the company might look like, and demonstrates that you’re forward thinking.
  • What does your employee turnover look like? If employee turnover is high, there’s a reason. Employees might be dissatisfied, or could be prone to leaving for higher pay in the same position. If it’s high, ask why.
  • What are the biggest challenges the company or department are currently facing? This will give you a clear view of what you’re up against if you end up with the position.
  • What do you love most about working here? This will give you insight on the company’s culture — if the recruiter has a hard time answering, you might too later on.
  • Is there anything about my background or resume that makes you question whether I’d be a good fit? This question allows you to address any final apprehensions that the interviewer may have, and also shows that you’re serious about getting the job. It also shows that you can handle criticism and analysis.
  • What Happens Now? This is a great question to end the interview with, because you’ll hear directly from the recruiter what your next steps will be. Whether that’s waiting for a call on a follow up interview, submitting to pre-employment testing, or signing the employment papers right then and there, you won’t be in the dark.

Pre-Employment Testing

There are different types of pre-employment testing that you might want to be prepared to take. While these aren’t the types of tests that you can necessarily study for, their outcomes could heavily affect whether or not you’re hired.

Background Check & Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Many employers require pre-employment drug testing as well as a background check on all applicants, either due to company policy, state law, or both. Sometimes hiring is contingent upon passing a drug and alcohol screen, though this has been complicated by state’s rights and the legalization of cannabis. If you’re serious about the job and want to hedge your bets, assume that the company has a zero-tolerance policy on illicit drug use. You’ll have to provide prescriptions to the testing center for reference.

The background checks that employees run will generally consist of:

  • Criminal Records
  • Credit Report
  • Driving Records
  • Education Records
  • Employment Records
  • Identity Validation
  • Personal Information
  • License
  • Military Records


Certain adverse information may disqualify you from the position. More extensive information concerning background checks can be found here.

Aptitude Tests

Tests to measure a candidate’s potential and/or ability to execute specific operations may or may not be administered. If they are, they might be given before the interview to weed out candidates that aren’t technically proficient with applicable skills. On the other hand, they may be given after, if the company is soft-skill focused.

There is no one standard for aptitude or hiring tests — they come in many varieties. However, they are all essentially geared to measure traits of employees that the specific organization deems important. For example, Kavita Verma, in an article for CosmoBC, writes about Predictive Index testing, and the parameters that PI tests evaluate. She writes that Predictive Index tests judge on the basis of:

  • Dominance: Candidates who score high here are assertive, self-confident and independent. Likewise, those who score low are more likely to be cooperative, manageable, and accommodating.
  • Extroversion: Those who display extrovertive traits are more outgoing, persuasive and socially-poised. Introverts, on the other hand, generally keep to themselves, work well alone, and are less likely to get distracted chatting at the water cooler all day.
  • Patience: This will measure how consistent and stable a candidate is, and is highly valued in customer service roles. If the candidates score low here, they are likely better suited for a high-intensity, fast-paced line of work
  • Formality: This will measure how well the candidate will conform to the rules and structure of the company. Some organizations are strong on formality, while others prefer a more loosey-goosey company culture and atmosphere.

Once the interview is officially over, you can breathe deep — but not too deep! You’re not done yet. See part 3 on November 16.


Andrew Heikkila is a Millennial (whatever that means), a writer, an artist and musician, and a small business owner. He believes in the power of change and the power of people. By combining those two elements, he believes, anything is possible. Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyO_TheHammer









On Nov 12, 2018, at 12:42 PM, Michael W Kirst <mwk@stanford.edu> wrote:


I can post these Thursday and

Part One: The College Graduate’s Guide to Securing and Nailing an Interview

November 14th, 2018


It used to be that a college degree all but assured a graduate would be able to find a job and a career after leaving university. Nowadays, things have changed. The job market has grown more competitive, and that competition is stiff.

So what can you do to stand out in a sea of prospective employees? Here are a couple of tips for before, during, and after the job interview that will help you land a job after college.

1. Before the Interview

Ben Franklin once said “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” and he’s right — the first step to any successful venture is proper planning and foresight. When it comes to securing and nailing that job interview, that means doing your research, perfecting your resume, and preparing yourself in the days, hours, and minutes before the meeting.


Even before applying to work for any organization, job seekers should be thoroughly researching the companies that are offering the positions that interest them. Visit the company website and social media, check their “About Us” page and mission statements, and even use Google News to discover any noteworthy public information concerning the organization (good or bad).

If possible, try to check resources like LinkedIn or Glassdoor to gauge employee (past and present) sentiment toward operations, management, and the organization as a whole.

Lastly, if you happen to know an employee that currently works at the company, ask them about these things as well as what their day to day looks like. For example, experts believe that telecommuting will approach or even reach 50 percent by 2020 — does your prospective employer work in one office onsite, in multiple offices around the world, or does everybody work from home?

This type of research will reveal details that will help you tailor your resume to the specific company, understand the organization from multiple levels, and help you decide whether you want to work there or not in the first place.

Resume & Cover Letter

While it might be tempting to send the same template resume and cover letter to prospective employers, tailoring them to each organization and recruiter you’re applying to is worth the extra work. The Freshdesk blog has an article titled “How to Make a Great Resume for Your First Job in Customer Support” in which they implore readers to make sure their resume and cover letter answer:

  1. Listing the reasons you want to start a career in customer support
  2. List any relevant experience and skills
  3. List instances when you’ve resolved customer issues
  4. Talk about your familiarity with the working of customer support

However, if you take “customer service” and replace it with whatever field you’re going into, you’ve got the same solid advice.

  1. Why you want to start a career in this field?
  2. List any relevant experience and skills in this field OR that would be applicable in this field.
  3. List instances when you’ve successfully executed components of or demonstrated skills related to the position you’re applying for.
  4. Talk about your familiarity with the field or industry, including current events or applicable trends.

Don’t ramble on. Keep your answers succinct, as your cover letter should be no longer than one page. The same goes for your resume proper.

CompTIA offers resources generally geared toward career change, but some of their advice is extremely pertinent for those transition from being a student to being an employee. For example, from their post on how to write a resume:

  • Pick the right resume style:  There are three commonly used resume styles: chronological, functional, and a combination of the two. Chronological might not work for students with a thin background, while functional de-emphasizes the jobs you’ve had and focus on your skills and abilities. Combining the two, however, shows applicable skills and work history, and will help the employer get an overall idea of who you are.
  • Highlight transferable job skills and nontraditional experience: Whether it be volunteer experience, internship experience, training, certification programs, work-study skills, educational collaboration, or something else, make sure to include anything the recruiter might deem relevant. Focus on your soft skills, as these are often universal.
  • Keep it short and sweet…: …just like this bullet point. Again, one page is optimal.
  • Include references: Anybody that you’ve interned with, worked for, or have been supervised by that can attest to your work ethic and ability should be listed as a reference. Even if it’s just a professor that noticed your upstanding ability in a class relevant to the industry you’re applying for, you should list them. Let them know you’re doing this.

Once you’ve got your resume golden and sent in, all you can do is wait until you’re contacted for an interview. When you are, that means it’s time to get preppin’.


If you’re reading this article, you’re already preparing! However, in the days leading up to the meeting you should be envisioning how the meeting will go in your head. Practice anecdotes and answers to questions (you’ll find those in the next section).

As the meeting draws near, make sure that you’re well-rested and have eaten something before you go in. Dress nice, but conservatively — anything too loud might distract from your actual character and conversation, and anything too casual might seem unprofessional.

Plan what you’re going to bring, and set these things in a place where you will not forget them. All of these things should fit into a single folder, making them easy to organize and transport:

  • Extra copies of your resume and cover letter on professional stock paper
  • A pad and pen to write with
  • A list of your references
  • Any information or supplementary material you might need for onsite applications or pre-employment testing
  • If relevant, your portfolio with professional samples

Lastly, give yourself time to get to the interview 15 minutes early. That way, if there’s any unexpected delays such as traffic or construction, you’ll still be able to show up on time.

 During the Interview: Coming Next On November 15

Andrew Heikkila is a Millennial (whatever that means), a writer, an artist and musician, and a small business owner. He believes in the power of change and the power of people. By combining those two elements, he believes, anything is possible. Follow Andy on Twitter @AndyO_TheHammer




7 Alternatives to Cars on Campus

November 13th, 2018


Being in college is a fun and liberating time for students. You are leaving home for the first time and are ready to spread your wings. One thing you might consider while you are getting ready for college is transportation. Here are 7 alternatives to cars on campus.


  1. Bike – Bicycles are an inexpensive alternative to cars on campus. They are good for the environment and provide exercise and a quick way to get to your classes. You can bike around campus and into town. Your college should have a number of bike racks located in convenient spots for you to park your bike. Usually these racks are located near the dining halls, dorms, and classrooms. The racks should be located near where campus safety officers patrol so your locked bike will be safe and sound. Also, more cities are adding bike lanes to their roads so you will have a safe commute to and around campus and town.


  1. Walk – Another even less expensive option is walking. You will build up your core while walking around campus. You will get fresh air and be able to converse with other walkers on your way to dinner or classes. You will get exercise and meet new people while walking around campus. Most colleges have things within walking distance off campus so you will not be restricted to just hanging around the college.


  1. Uber, Lyft, taxi – If you do not want to walk into town or you need to travel a further distance, you can call for an Uber, Lyft, or taxi. It may cost a little but you are not spending money on gas or car maintenance. Most of these services run into the late hours and will pick you up wherever you are located. You can consider selling you car for cash and that will provide money for other alternative transportation needs. Sell car for cash websites are easy to find on the internet and with the money you save from not having to pay insurance or maintenance you will be able to spend on food, housing, or other transportation.


  1. Bum a ride – You might be lucky and know someone who has a car and has a similar schedule as you. If you do you might be able to bum a ride with them to class or off campus. Usually if you offer to pay them a small amount for gas your friend will consider letting you hitch a ride.


  1. Skateboard – Another easy way to get around campus is on a skateboard. You will be able to weave in and out of the crowd while moving toward your destination. Skateboarding is good exercise and you can even take your board into class where you know it is safe.


  1. Public Transportation – If you need to get around college there is usually some sort of campus or public transportation available. The cost is usually minimal and you can relax while you commute around campus or into town.


  1. Moped – This is a fun way to maneuver around campus. While there are many far away parking spots for cars, there are usually small spots closer to your classes for mopeds. You can zip around campus and get to your classes on time.

Whatever method you chose as an alternative to having a car on campus, know that it is healthier for you and better for the environment. You will enjoy not having to find a parking spot before your class and being able to move around campus quickly and efficiently. You will still enjoy your independence with at a lower cost.


Jane Hurst has been working in education for over 5 years as a teacher. She loves sharing her knowledge with students, is fascinated about edtech and loves reading, a lot. Follow Jane on Twitter

The Best Tech to Improve Your Academic Research

November 12th, 2018


Digital tools have made everyone’s lives easier, and academics can benefit from a range of tools designed for learning, collaboration, or study. Many of them are free, and most support successful research, project organization, and management.

Here are a few examples of tech that could turbocharge your school research and help you to keep on top of complicated referencing or editing.

Reference Management

Learning how to appropriately reference materials in the right format can be difficult. Fortunately, there are digital tools to organize reference material and convert your citations into the right format each time you need to use them. This can save a lot of time when working with referencing and footnotes before a deadline.

Mendeley is one of the best-known tools for reference and bibliography management; it also has built-in social networking features for academics, if you choose to use them. Zotero is an open-source alternative aimed more at research alone, offering a familiar interface and optional syncing. Zotero is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux too.

Image Editing

Editing images is no longer the chore it used to be thanks to free desktop tools and cloud services. Today’s digital tools are also cheaper — and, in some cases, free.

Pixlr is a great choice for cloud image editing in a browser and so is Canva. If you’re familiar with tools like Adobe Photoshop or Pixelmator, you’ll find the basics easy to get to grips with, and you can use it on any computer for a quick sketch or image crop.

For accurate technical drawings or diagrams, Gliffy Diagram is even better. It’s essentially a cloud alternative to the ubiquitous (but expensive) Microsoft Visio. It’s not free but is available for a monthly student-friendly subscription fee.

Geo-Unlocking and Privacy

A VPN is a vital tool when you’re researching obscure or potentially sensitive subjects. When you’re connected to the internet through a VPN, you have much more control over what you can access and who can trace you as you browse.

For example, you may need to watch a geo-restricted video. With a VPN, it’s simple; just select an appropriate server location and the content will be accessible from anywhere. A VPN can also be very handy if you need to look at websites that could be considered politically or culturally sensitive in your part of the world. When you access these sites through a VPN, your traffic is encrypted to hide your real IP and location.

Make sure to do your research and choose a trustworthy VPN provider with a solid reputation and strong privacy and logging policies. There are hundreds of services out there, many of which can be unreliable. In some cases, disreputable providers can potentially share your browsing activity with third-parties, so it is imperative that you choose a trusted and reliable VPN.

Journal Search

While all over the world, you can find academic databases to suit your needs, both Google Scholar and Microsoft Academic provide valuable, searchable databases; Microsoft carries 48,000 journals, and will soon add well over 200 million papers.

Microsoft is proud of its semantic search engine on the Academic portal. It’s smart enough to understand the context of search terms, rather than simply using everything you type as a keyword. It clearly shows the author behind the work, along with their affiliated institution.

Google Scholar carries content from the world’s top journals, including Nature, The Lancet, and Science. It has a clever feature that allows you to link your Google account with article citations.

If neither of these digital tools carries what you’re looking for, you can test-drive DeepDyye free for two weeks. It pulls in results from Google Scholar, PubMed, and its own document library.


The business world has ensured that plenty of time and project management tools have cropped up in the cloud, and many of them make ideal project organization tools as well.

To visualize and organize your research, take a look at Trello, Google Keep, or Padlet. The latter is simple enough for school children, yet powerful enough to satisfy corporate teams.  All will support collaboration, too, although Trello is probably the leader in that field.

Make sure to set your Trello board’s permissions and privacy appropriately; public boards routinely appear in Google search, which might not be ideal if you’re mid-way through your research project.

Develop Your Research Skills

No digital tool will do the work for you, but a good tool can certainly make a research project faster, easier, and sometimes cheaper. Armed with some of the tools highlighted here, your next research project should score your highest grade yet.

Byline – Anton Lucanus is the Director of Neliti. During his college years, he maintained a perfect GPA, was published in a top cancer journal, and received many of his country’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarships. Anton writes for The College Puzzle as a means to guide current students to achieve personal and academic goals.



What Happens When Someone Searches Your Name? SEO And College Image

November 9th, 2018

Authority Building & SEO: Considerations for Upcoming Grads


What happens when someone searches your name? As you move towards graduation it’s a good idea to consider how you appear to potential employers or investors who look you up online.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the process of adjusting your online presence so you can show up higher in the search results when someone searches for you, your business, or something related to you or your business.

Let’s say for a moment that an employer searches for you via Google. What pops up first, is it your LinkedIn profile (you’ll want to have one of these prior to job hunting), a website you’ve made, an online portfolio of yours, a presentation you’ve created, an article you were mentioned in, or do you not show up at all?

Separately, let’s say that you want to apply for funding for a business, if potential investors search for your business entity, you should have a firm understanding of what shows up online.

Everyone needs SEO

Once upon a time, only tech or ecommerce companies really needed to worry about the internet. But in the modern world, every type of business — from the local auto repair shop to the local bakery — needs to have a web presence, and increasingly so do individuals.

That’s because, more than ever, people are starting their decision making processes online, from looking up what businesses exist (restaurants, car dealers, furniture stores) to narrowing down a pool of candidates for a role or position. More than two-thirds of Americans have a smartphone, and an even higher percentage of Americans have other kinds of internet-capable devices, such as desktop computers, laptop computers, or tablets.

The rise of mobile searches plays a big part in making SEO more important to small businesses, since mobile devices are less tab-friendly, users rely more heavily on the information they find in their initial search results, and only tend to check (click into) the first handful of results. From personal experience, I can also tell you the number of people who meet each other in a business setting a do a quick Google search is on the rise. How we appear online is rapidly becoming our prevailing reputation.

How SEO works

Let’s take Google for example, they want to surface the information and answers that their users are looking for with every search, however “for a typical query, there are thousands, even millions, of webpages with potentially relevant information.”
“So to help rank the best pages first, [Google] writes algorithms to evaluate how useful these webpages are.” These algorithms take into account things like how recently the content was updated, how many times words relevant or associated with the search appear in the content of the page, how many other sites that are relevant to the topic link to the page, and more.
The tricky thing about SEO is that nobody knows for sure exactly how the search engine algorithms actually work, except the folks who work on the search engines themselves, and that the algorithms are constantly changing as Google works to improve results. There are  however many companies that can help you approximate how your content, or content about you is viewed by Google (ex: AHREFs, MOZ, etc).

Local SEO vs. International SEO
One of the things the Google algorithms can do is prioritize results close to a searcher. To check this out for yourself try searching “doctors office” or “restaurant” and take a look at the results. This can be useful because location-specific long-tailed keywords (or search terms) are usually easier to rank for with a few good SEO choices, because with a smaller market (specific location) you have less competition. However, in larger markets things can skew the other direction – for example ranking for local results in New York, Toronto, or Mexico City can sometimes be more challenging because of the number of businesses competing for attention in those population-dense areas.

With that knowledge in mind, we begin to see how targeting a non-local market can be a challenge. There are all sorts of small items that need to be changed to effectively reach a non-local market from image alt text to the differences in spelling and popular search terms from state to state and from country to country. According to experts on SEO in Brisbane at Bambrick Media in Australia: international SEO is its own struggle, from having to change URL structures  (ccTLD domains, geo-targeting, etc), to specifying hreflangs and linking to local content.

Just Get Started

My advice to you is not to try to do everything at once, just get started. Whether it’s setting up your LinkedIn Profile, uploading a presentation associated with your name, or beginning to create a blog where you write about the field your interested in. If you’re interested in becoming an entrepreneur start thinking about picking up a domain name for your business, and look into setting up some initial content. Something you might not know is that domain age can even help you out when it comes to SEO. So try to get started, and work to make sure you’re getting something new out there online about you or your venture(s) on a regular basis. Future you will appreciate it.

Anthony Masterton is a young entrepreneur trying to break through in the tech world. When he’s not working on growing his young startup, he writes about everything from tech advancements to his own experiences as a young CEO. A self-starter, he likes to help others learn from his own successes and failures, as it’s always most impactful to learn from experience.

Why Healthy Fear of Failure Makes You More Likely to Succeed?

November 8th, 2018


The literature on business and entrepreneurship often deals with questions such as how to overcome the fear of failure. However, it is not stressed enough that the fear can actually be turned into a motivator for success.

I’m not talking about the unhealthy fear of failure that paralyzes, I’m talking about a dose of uncertainty that will keep you cautious and push you to do better. If you want to know how you can turn that fear to your advantage, keep reading and find out.


Creating Awareness

In most cases, people who don’t think about failure or don’t even see it as a possibility get completely demotivated when things don’t work out the way they panned and eventually they give up.

One of the common characteristics of those who failed was that they all once thought the failure to be impossible.

This is where the healthy fear of failure steps in and helps you out. This feeling shows that you are aware of the possibility that your business plan can go in a different direction than you hoped it will.

Being aware of the possibility of failure will help you to cope with all the obstacles and follow your ultimate goal.


Getting Creative

Believe it or not, but the fear that we might fail is more likely to stir the creativity pot.

That feeling of necessity can lead to some quality ideas.

David Ogilvy, a British advertising executive known for his emphasis on creative copy and campaign themes and a founder of the agency of Ogilvy & Mather once wrote: “The copywriter lives with fear. Will he have a big idea before Tuesday morning? Will the client buy it? Will it sell the product? I never sit down to write an advertisement without thinking this time I am going to fail.”

This definitely hasn’t made him stop. It made him push harder and do better.

Keep in mind that we are talking about a healthy dose of fear because if the insecurity is unbearable it will definitely make you unfit to go forward.


Better Preparation

Those who fear that they will not succeed will often dedicate more time and patience to prepare before they venture on a business risk.

Source: Pexels

Some people tend to think that after graduation their learning days are over. But they never really are if you want to excel. You can always learn a new language or enroll in a new course or a program in order to attain new skills and work on the existing ones.

John Mayer, a freelance writer for Stanford University says that before he engaged in professional writing or even showed his work to anyone, he read numerous blogs, works of other authors, reviews of top wrters, etc. He was afraid that his work would be rejected so he wanted to make sure that he learned as much as he can about his trait. John claims that the fear helped him to always give his best.

The fear can motivate you to perfect your skills and at the same time working on your skills will help you to minimize the fear.

Learning from Others

One of the things that makes successful people who they are is their willingness to always learn more.

Source: Unsplash

Take advantage of all available resources and inquire about actions which drove people in your field of business to failure.

If you fear not to end up like them, use them as an example of what NOT to do. The realization of potential failure can humble us and helps us to do better.

Some of the resources you can use are:

  • Blogs
  • Stories about successful companies (most of them confronted failure at some point)
  • Articles
  • Reviews on services in your field of business
  • Asking people in your field of business about their journey

Pay attention to the steps which people claim that led them in the wrong direction. The reviews from people on the services you are planning to offer will show you where experts in your field make mistakes so that you can avoid them.

To summarize, read, inquiry, learn, and implement.



Identifying and Confronting the Fear

Confronting your fear can help you to realize your weaknesses. The fear of failure usually comes from the subconsciousness which is telling us that we are not good enough. Even though you should be confident and focus on your strengths, use this fear to identify what you are struggling with.

A research conducted by Harward Business Review writers which consisted of interviewing 65 entrepreneurs in the UK and Canada, identified seven sources of fear:

  1. financial security
  2. ability to fund the venture
  3. personal ability/self-esteem
  4. the potential of the idea
  5. threats to social esteem
  6. the venture’s ability to execute
  7. opportunity costs


The research also found that worries concerning opportunity costs, personal financial security, or the ability to obtain funding for the venture are all positively associated with an entrepreneur’s persistence in pursuing their goals.

James Hayton and Gabriella Cacciotti from the Harward Business Review explain that if entrepreneurs contemplated the choice they had made in pursuing their venture, and how this necessitated missing out on other opportunities, whether in their professional or personal lives, they were more motivated to carry on with the venture.

That is the reason behind realizing what your fear is and embracing it.

Not to mention that by identifying what intimidates you and what you find to be your weak spots, you will be able to work on those issues.

Some Final Thoughts

To conclude, the fear of failure can make us strive for more and not get stuck in the comfort zone. It can help you to be aware of your weaknesses and to be cautious about the actions you make and the steps you take.

You should never let the fear stop you from taking risks but you should let it be your guide and help you to become the best version of yourself.

 Daniela McVicker is graduated from Durham University and has an MA in Psychological Science. Besides doing her work as an editor at Grabmyessay, Daniela has been applying her knowledge of psychology in order to help ambitious students to find their place in the world of business by sharing her experience with a broader audience.

Things graduates need to know before starting a business venture

November 6th, 2018


Starting your own business while at a college or immediately after graduation is likely to be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot succeed – and even if you fail, you will acquire valuable experience that will come in handy later on. Nevertheless, plunging into the world of business head first without any preparation is not a very good idea – in this article, we will cover some of the most important things you should know and understand before you try it out.

1.    You don’t necessarily need a unique product

Many first-time entrepreneurs labor under the delusion that in order to achieve success a newly-founded business has to bring something entirely new to the market. However, if this were true, we would hardly see any new businesses appear at all. In reality, the opposite is often true – truly original new businesses often fail while those that come after them and take their mistakes into account prosper. Learning from the mistakes of others is much more efficient than learning from your own errors.

2.    You need a formal business plan

A formally prepared business plan is much more than, well, a formality. It gives validity to your business idea and demonstrates that it is implementable. You may believe that you know what you are doing, but until you have a detailed business plan that takes all potential contingencies into account, you are woefully unprepared. Considering your lack of expertise in this field, it may be a good idea to hire professional business plan writers to help you out the first time around.

3.    The best time to start out is most likely the middle of your second year

By that time you will get used to the college routine, learn how to deal with your studying duties more efficiently and, what is probably the most important, will be a more independent and responsible adult than before. It is also the period when you generally have more time than either before or after – having founded a business at that moment means that it is going to be well-established by the time you near the end of your education and again have less time. Counter-intuitively, having a host of additional responsibilities associated with running a business is likely to take a positive effect on your studies – when you have to juggle so many things it is easier to see your life in perspective and make better decisions about the relative value of things.

4.    You will have to put your own money into your business

You may believe that you have a billion-dollar idea that every investor should gobble up happily if he is at least partially sane. In reality, every second would-be entrepreneur believes something similar about the idea he has, and there is little to no chance of attracting the attention of somebody ready to pay for your attempt to study from your mistakes. Until you put a fair amount of your own money and effort into an enterprise, you are never going to be taken seriously. Before you start looking for investors, you absolutely have to try and implement your idea with what you have at hand. How successful you are at that will define whether you attract money or not.

Starting a business while at college is difficult, and no amount of tips and advice is going to change that. However, any challenge is more manageable when you know what you are up against – and we hope that what you’ve read in this article will help you make the right decision.

Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Follow her @melissaaburns or contact at burns.melissaa@gmail.com