4 Things I Wish I Knew Earlier as a College Student

#1: Network. Network. Network. 

Spend time getting to know your professors, mentors, classmates, authors of journal articles (yes, you can reach out and communicate with them!), blog authors, books, etc. I missed too many opportunities earlier on because I was so shy, and afraid to meet people, or felt like I would say something goofy. It is amazing the willingness people have to talk with you, let you know about their research, writing, or area of passion. Any chance you have to interact with others, take advantage! It could possibly save you time later in your education, but it will absolutely keep your mind open and the gears grinding.

One thing I let people know later in my PhD work was how passionate I was about the area I was researching (personal and professional experiences of downsizing managers). When I let that secret out, people began asking me how the process was going and what I was learning. This got me out of several slumps, as I was so excited to talk with others about my research.

Another way to build relationships and meet others in through social media. I have met so many awesome people via Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn and numerous other social media platforms. Those have become great friendships and support systems for me. Use hashtags (#) alongside terms that you are interested, and find groups, pages, and connections that you can begin networking. I did this with the terms #leadership, #phd, #graduate #management when I first took to social media after graduating (yet, had I realized the benefit, I would have done this search years earlier).

#2: Manage your time.

Take advantage of any waiting I used to take a book or article with me almost everywhere when I was in school. If I had to wait at an appointment, or when picking someone up to go out, or even waiting for a meeting to begin, I would pull that out and use the time to my advantage.

Another great way to manage your time is through time blocking. This provides an opportunity to determine the time that should be focused on your studies, family commitments, friends time, working out, relaxing, and so on. If you have difficult spending too much given time focused on something (say a two-hour study block), then use the Pomodoro technique where you set a timer for 15-20 minutes and focus on the task at hand during that time. When the timer goes off, you take 5-10 minutes to get up and walk away, taking a break from that. Repeat the Pomodoro technique during your time block and you will have results and not be exhausted.

Securing an accountability partner is another great way to manage your time. You can run things by that person, and they can help you to stay aligned with your goals, and provide feedback or criticism to help you get back on track when you start to fall.

#3: Dig a little deeper.

One thing I did during my earlier PhD days was to take two elective writing classes that built upon each other. I knew that would help prepare me for my upcoming coursework, as well as the amount of writing I would be tasked to complete during my dissertation milestone. I encourage you to consider signing up for an additional course, workshop, webinar, seminar, etc. that will help you build the skill set(s) you need to be successful in your studies and beyond.

Another way to dig deeper is to really take the knowledge and feedback of your professors and mentors and look at ways to integrate and improve your work. Don’t get offended when they slaughter your paper. Instead, take it as a learning opportunity and find ways to improve.

Use the mindmapping technique to expand upon your ideas. This is a great tool, especially for individuals that are visual. I learned this when I was in middle school from Sandy, a schoolteacher friend of my mom. It has served me well, as I have continued to use the technique to this day, even beyond the college classroom and into the workplace.

#4: Don’t be so hard on yourself.

I can’t stress this enough. You can be emotional – college is a giant growing pain for many. The key is to make sure you don’t stay in that emotional purgatory for too long. Reach out to your support, or (back to Tip #1), network and find support along your journey. Sometimes the most understanding of your situation are those that are in it like you. I could get support and feedback from my fellow classmates and other college students. My connections in social media that had similar experiences as mine have also been extremely supportive in helping me to get back on my feet after the emotional whirlwind that hit.

Pat yourself on the back – this is HARD stuff! Not everyone goes to college and you should realize why – it’s not easy. Give yourself a little break every occasionally.

Lastly, some people start college and shit happens. Maybe it is a personal or family event, or maybe college isn’t right for you, whether that means right now or permanently. It’s not for everyone and there are other opportunities outside of college that can be taken. Don’t stress over it or worry about whatever judgment people might pass on you if your decision is to move forward without college. Don’t live your life to please others. Do what is right for you.

 

Tracy’s Top 5 Time Management Tips for College Students

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Balancing college on top of everything else life throws at you may seem like a near impossible task, whether as a first-time student or if you are going back to school as an adult. Trust me – I was there for 16 years…and survived to talk about it today! One area that comes up time and again when I talk with college students is that of enhancing their time management skills. Here are 7 tips for college students to explore to better manage their time.

  1. Use waiting to your advantageThink about how much time you spend waiting, whether it is in line at the bank, pharmacy, store or waiting on the phone for a customer service representative. Those are just a few examples, but it is amazing how much time you spend waiting – typically an hour or more each day. Take your textbook, books, journal articles, notebooks, highlighter, pen, etc. with you in your purse, car, or bag. When you find those moments that you need to wait for someone or something, use it to your advantage and dive into that school work. My favorite was taking journal articles, a highlighter, and pen, as these were typically easier reads and not difficult to break up into different periods of waiting I had throughout the day.
  2. Try out the Pomodoro techniqueIf you have not heard of the Pomodoro technique by now, I am a bit surprised, and know that you will likely LOVE this! My husband told me not long ago that it’s amazing how much house cleaning he could complete within 15 minutes. The Pomodoro aligns with this, in that you set a timer for a short period of time (maybe 20-30 minutes) and keep focused on a task. Once the timer dings, you set it to take a break (maybe 5-7 minutes), and then re-cycle through the process as many times as you need. A friend of mine completed 6 Pomodoro sessions in one day and was enthusiastic at her ability to make such progress.
  3. Create time blocksA physical or electronic calendar can be used to create blocks of time in which a specific focus is identified. For example, I blocked out 4 hours on a Thursday morning to work on a specific work action item. You can utilize time blocking for standard items (e.g., studying for Biology class, going to the gym, watching Game of Thrones), or you can use time blocking for
    ad-hoc type needs, such as the example I provided. Creating and sticking to time blocks allow you to design and execute your schedule with focus in mind.
  4. Secure an accountability partner or groupTo ensure you are staying aligned with your goals and using your time wisely, an accountability partner or group can support you, keep you honest, help you back up when you struggle, and cheer you on as you reach your goals. Consider a trial period for accountability with someone and see if it proves beneficial for you. I have goals and meet with a group once a week and provide an update and get feedback when I get stuck, which has been helpful to keeping me on track and is providing me with valuable support and encouragement along the way.
  5. Take a break!While it may feel like you are making real progress by going full steam ahead 24×7, it will lead to burn out and is dangerous. Don’t do it! Make sure to give yourself permission to take a break. It may be a small break, such as getting up and moving to another place in the house, walking with a friend or your pup, or, watching your favorite movie or television show; or a larger break, like volunteering for a day or taking a well-deserved vacation. Don’t let yourself get carried away with this “break” time though, as you still have work to do. It is a matter of finding the right balance, where you are making progress, yet also taking time for yourself.

Which of these tips have you already used? What was the outcome?

 

Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on May 11, 2016

My Class Ring

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“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
– Booker T. Washington

In high school, my parents gave me to option to have either a letter jacket or a class ring. At that time, and being a member of the band, it was a much cooler option to go with the jacket. I had a school letter to put on it and was able to fit in with so many other band and classmates at football games. It was more about fitting in for me during those years.

Fast forward to around 2008… I was in Chicago attending a required residency for my PhD program. There was a Jostens class ring table set up for a few days of the event, allowing learners to take advantage of purchasing their cap and gown, graduation invitations, class rings, and more. I was still a couple years out from graduation, but for some reason I was yearning for a class ring. My thought was that I would start wearing it once it was delivered to keep up the motivation to finish my program. I splurged and bought a beautiful ring, with the maroon colored stone for my university’s color, the letters PhD on one side and 2010 on the other side, and a little diamond chip on either side too. When it was delivered, I was ecstatic and began wearing it proudly.

What happened from there? You guessed it – life happened. While the ring was a piece of motivation to me, it wasn’t enough to get me to the graduation stage in 2010. That year came and went and I remained at the dissertation writing table making progress – slowly, but surely. Numerous classmates that had the vision of graduating in or around 2010 posted comments and pictures of their diplomas. The dissertation process took much longer than I had planned, which I should have suspected with my sensitive topic, trying to continue working full-time, and anything else life threw at me during those challenging years. Regardless, I continued wearing that ring.

Fast forward to the fall of 2013…I had completed my program requirements and officially graduated with my PhD on January 31, 2013 and walked the graduation stage in Long Beach, California that spring (with that same class ring still on my finger). That fall, I was going through some items and found my paperwork and the ring box from Jostens that I had received so many years earlier. I went to the Jostens website and was trying to find out if there was an affordable and easy way to get the graduation year changed on my ring, since it was now official. I printed out the form and filled it out – I believe the price was less than $30 to get the year changed on the ring. The completed form remained on my desk for a couple months, and for some reason I did not mail it in. One day, I looked at the completed form and then looked at my ring. I shredded the form and decided to keep the ring exactly as it was.

The reminder of continuing to strive towards my goal, despite being years off about when it would happen reminded me how I achieved so much more in my journey towards that diploma. The growth a person goes through during life experiences, good and bad, is simply amazing. Every time I look down at my class ring now, I’m reminded of that.

 

 

Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on May 2, 2016

Almost Kicked Out of College

Believe it or not, I almost got kicked out of college.

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After enrolling at a small, private college after high school and taking classes for a quarter, I realized I was not interested in computer science (my initial major), and was not a fan of the small college atmosphere at that time. So what did I do? I made a massive change and transferred to a large, public, well-known university in town. This was only the beginning of the numerous changes I made during my undergraduate years.

The transfers between universities during my undergraduate years are not totally clear to me now, but I know that I attended 4 academic institutions over 8 years, all while working 32-40 hours a week (worked a variety of evening, weekend, and day shifts throughout that time). At one point, I was taking classes at the large, public university I mentioned above (I was there, left, and went back later for a stint), and although I was having a great time personally, my grades were reflecting the lack of focus on my studies.

After a quarter or two went by, I received a warning letter from the university stating that my GPA was 1 point something and that, if I did not pick up my grades in the coming quarter, I would be asked to leave the school. I was mortified, and hit hard by that.

It was definitely a wake-up call.

With that letter, I switched to a community college where I was able to maintain a balance between work, classes, studying, and life.

Once my GPA was under control, I identified what I wanted to major in and researched universities where I would be able to complete my bachelor’s degree without jeopardizing my ability to maintain my GPA. There was a local university where I could earn my Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in literary studies. The only caveat was that I would need to take 1-2 courses during the day. Thankfully, when I got to that point in the program, my manager allowed me to take a day course and make up the time by working later.

A little over 2 years, I completed my degree requirements and graduated with a GPA just under 3.5. My GPA continued to climb during my Masters of Business Administration program, and hit the roof when I completed the course requirements for my PhD program (achieved a 4.00 cumulative GPA and graduated with honors)! Without the kick in the butt I felt from that warning letter, I may have continued on the same path I was and not taken notice that I needed to straighten up and get focused.

Have you ever had a kick in the butt moment that caused you to get back on track?

Please share in the comments below.

 

Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on April 20, 2016

Visual Learning Saved My Dissertation

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In 2013, Forbes referenced the Social Science Research Network’s finding that 65% of the population consists of visual learners.1 This is reassuring to me, as both a professor and a visual learner myself. In this post, I’ll share two ways in which the use of visual learning techniques decreased my frustration and increased output.

Pin the Research Article on the Venn Diagram

When I worked on the first chapter of my dissertation, I developed a Venn diagram to reflect my area of focus. This provided insight into the three large bodies of literature, as well as where they intersect.

The visual above was extremely useful to me in developing the foundation for my dissertation research, and served as the springboard necessary to launch me into writing Chapter 2, the literature review. I drew the diagram on large poster board and hung it above my desk. As I went through several articles in my reference library (EndNote) and additional articles in the school’s on-line library resources, I wrote a brief note, author, and year on a small post-it note and put it in the area of the diagram it most closely related, as well in an area on the board based on its relevance (e.g., closer to the intersection, middle, or on the outer rim of the circle).

This exercise made for a much simpler process in developing the framework and fill in the details and support within the literature review.

Post-It® Note Wallpaper

In addition to using the Venn Diagram, I also found the use of extra-large matrices beneficial (see below). After I collected all of the data from my research participants, there were pages and pages of transcriptions. Thinking about next steps – analysis and synthesis, was overwhelming to say the least.

Both my living room and kitchen had one wall each wallpapered with paper (using huge poster size rolls). I then created rows and columns with marker and sheets of paper and labeled them. As I identified a theme, it was written as a column header, whereas the rows were already pre-determined by the stage of the process I was researching. Using different colored regular sized Post-it® notes for each research participant, I went through the transcripts word by word, and noted specific responses. I would adhere the Post-it® to the wall matrix once I completed each transcript.

At the end of that exercise, I was able to see what themes emerged, which of those themes was most significant, what theme appeared in what stage of the process, etc.

From there, it was a much smoother process to begin the framework for the analysis and synthesize of data collected from research participants, and compare and contrast it against the literature I had found through the exercise I mentioned earlier.

Summary

Without the use of these visual learning techniques, I believe my frustration level through the dissertation process would have been much higher than it was. If there are concepts that become too difficult to grasp through reading, I encourage you to consider how you can visualize the information in order to develop a better understanding.

How have you benefited from the use of visual learning techniques?

Please share what you did and how it was helpful in the comments below.

Published on LinkedIn Publisher by Tracy Shroyer on April 13, 2105

Episode 95 Beyond The Stone Wall with Dr. Tracy Shroyer

So excited to share an awesome interview that Gail Foley​ from One Awesome Community​ provided me with the opportunity to do this week! I had a great time talking with Gail and hope that you enjoy this podcast interview and also subscribe to get Gail’s podcasts sent via email to you daily! She is so energetic & puts a smile on my face every morning on my way to work.

Episode 95 Beyond The Stone Wall with Dr. Tracy Shroyer.

 

 

A BIG Announcement is here!!!

Introducing…

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A few quick questions for you…

  • Are you interested in topics such as leadership development, organization and management, strategy, culture, and various other business topics?
  • Would you like to be in a group that reads and discusses these types of topics? 
  • Do you also have trouble committing to in-person events or specific days to meet on these types of events?

 

If you said YES to any of the above questions, then you should

JOIN “Beyond the Book” – a Virtual Book Club! 

Check out additional details regarding membership here.