Wednesday, October 10, 2018

How You Can Help Families in Your Community Avoid College Loan Debt

More than forty million Americans have student loan debt. They are currently trying to pay off the $1.2 trillion dollars they owe. There is no alternative for the vast majority. Even if they declare bankruptcy, they will still be on the hook for their student loans, plus interest. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are more than $46 billion dollars available in college scholarships and grants each year. The problem is, students don’t apply, or they don’t qualify. You can help change this.

After about ten years of teaching, I learned how to help all of my foreign language students get into college. When they were confused, I helped them figure out which classes to take to stand out from other applicants. Years later, not only were all of my students going to college after graduating from high school, they were going with scholarships and grants. Many even received full-ride scholarships. I decided to figure out why some received more free money than others.

While researching the best practices of families of successful scholarship winners, I realized there was a pattern. I created a questionnaire, conducted many interviews and made sure what I had discerned was accurate. After finding what I had learned was backed by research, I started teaching these tips to hundreds of students during our lunch break. I told my sister what I was doing. Instead of being happy for me, she was a little angry. “So you mean you’re only going to help students who happen to attend your school? What about all the others?” She encouraged me to write Free College, which is available now on Amazon.

What does this have to do with you? If you are a member of your local school district, PTA, church or parent group, then it might mean a great deal. Here’s what I suggest. Read my biography on my blog, and read some of the articles. Read my bio on Amazon (link below). Read my Twitter feed, @ElizaWallace27. You’ll see who I am, and some of what I know. You’ll find I share information to help families raise their kids so they will be happy, healthy and so successful, they’ll earn lots of free money for college. I don’t believe in college debt. I don’t think college should be so expensive. But it is, so learn enough about me that you trust what I say. Then read the book reviews for Free College on Amazon and “Peek Inside” to read even more.

Next buy a copy of my book. Here’s the link, I wrote it to help students go to college without needing to take out soul crushing student loans. Read the book, and you’ll see how successful students earn massive amounts of free cash for college. The tips are for families who have preschool through high school students. Students who adopt all the strategies listed in the book, earn the most. Those who don’t put in as much effort, earn less. Such is life.

If you want to make a positive difference in your community, help everyone in your local school district, PTA, church or parent group obtain a copy of the book. Email me at, If you have a large group, we can set up a discounted bulk rate.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

College and Scholarship Readiness Part III

Last month I was invited to participate in an online chat run by Jodi Okun, author and founder of College Financial Aid. The chat, #CollegeCash, took place on Twitter. The title of the chat that night was similar to the title of this article. I expanded on my answers on my blog with two articles, College and Scholarship Readiness Parts I and II. This is the third installment. Where you see bold print below, these are the questions and answers which appeared on the chat. The rest is what I have added for this article.

Q6 @ElizaWallace27 What tips do you have when it comes to testing?  

A6 The most successful and least stressed students start studying for tests the first week classes begin. Years ago while handing back a graded chapter test to my students I overheard a boy mention the girl next to him always did well because she was smart. Loud enough for him to hear, I asked her what she did to prepare for the test. She said she made flash cards of the new information, and studied them each night. I followed up by asking if she did this the day before the test or earlier. She told us she did this since the first day we started the new chapter. So, yes, she was smart.

A6 Many practice tests for the SAT and ACT are available online for free; use them to become comfortable with their formats. Go to whatever search engine you use and type in “free SAT practice tests” and “free ACT practice tests”. Practice them beginning months before taking the test. You’ll become used to the format, and feel less anxiety.

A6 Get enough sleep the night before and eat a complete, healthy breakfast (with no added sugar) the morning of a test. Students who make sure they have 9-10 hours of sleep each night are able to process more new information, understand it and retain it better. Students who eat a complete, nutritious breakfast (without added sugar) do even better. There have been dozens of recognized studies that prove both of these facts are true.

Q7 @ElizaWallace27 How do students win scholarships?  

A7 The most successful start getting ready at a very young age. In my book, Free College, I list the four behaviors most students and parents know about already. Students take rigorous classes (Honors, AP and IB). They earn a high GPA. They receive high scores on the ACT and/or SAT, and they fulfill the A-G requirement. There are many additional strategies, which are covered in detail in my book.  

A7 They fulfill all Standard A – G requirements, but go over and above them, so they stand out from the crowd; example: take more foreign languages than required, and longer. There are three areas in which students can take more advanced courses to fulfill the “G” requirement. They are math, science and/or foreign languages. Pick the subject in which you excel, and take more than the required amount of courses.

A7 To win scholarships, students must apply, over and over. Don’t stop until the last year of college. Parents can apply for college scholarships for their children while they are in elementary school. Keep doing so until the child is old enough to take over. Set up a schedule, and stick to it. By high school, students should apply for a minimum of three scholarships each week.

Q8 @ElizaWallace27 Should parents (or grandparents) use retirement funds to pay for their children’s college education?

A8 No. Never. Not for any reason. Okay, maybe if you’re in the top 1% of earners in the nation. Enough said.

A8 There are many grants and scholarships for college, but none for retirement. There are billions of dollars in college grants and scholarships given away each year, but not one for retirement.

A8 Learn how to help students win scholarships and grants. I did the research for you. I handed out numerous questionnaires, conducted countless surveys and interviews, and did copious amounts of research into various subjects in order to discover the secrets of successful scholarship and grant winners. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Learn what works and follow the same road to free college.

Q9 @ElizaWallace27 Tell us more about your book “Free College How Graduates Earn The Most Scholarship Money”

A9 I researched graduates who earn lots of scholarship money and found a pattern of behaviors. The most successful scholarship winners in my study adopted all of the habits contained in my book. Students who did only some of them received less free money for college.

A9 I included a step-by-step guide to the strategies and habits of the most successful scholarship winners in Free College. I explain what students did, how they did it, and their results. I end each chapter with an action plan for each behavior and a few blank, lined pages so families may keep track of what they have accomplished. This will be helpful when applying to college and for grants and scholarships.

A9 Students of families who adopt these habits, and apply for many scholarships, should be among the highest scholarship winners. Based on what I have seen, for those who are serious about going to college without accumulating debt, like students in my study, and who continue to apply for scholarships from elementary school through high school, success in amassing more free cash for college is likely.  

Q10 @ElizaWallace27 What are three things you want to leave us with tonight?

A10 Earning more free cash for college is possible by practicing a few disciplines every day. It’s not who you are. It isn’t magic. It’s adopting the habits of effective scholarship winners.

A10 Student loan debt cannot be eliminated by bankruptcy, but it can be avoided by earning enough scholarships. Don’t let your children join the 40 million students who graduate from college with student loan debt.

A10 I don’t have the power to eliminate college tuition, but I have exposed the secrets of successful scholarship winners for families of preschool through high school students. When I went to college the cost was easily covered by taking on a part-time job. Until this is possible again, or until tuition is eliminated, you have to cover all expenses with grants, scholarships, savings or debt. I believe you can do what other families have done, and collect enough free money for college, so debt should not be needed.

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help you avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How Do We Reach Our Goals?

What Matters More Than Accumulating Riches?

Pre-Halloween Lesson Plan

The day before a holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas Break, Easter Break, even a pseudo-holiday like Halloween, is usually just this side of insane. Students don’t want to work. There’s candy everywhere. Gifts are being given. Focus is lost. Just keeping the lid on seems overwhelming; unless you have an educationally sound, kid-approved lesson that keeps them interested, occupied and engaged. Decades ago I created such a lesson. Kids loved it. I loved it. It‘s easy, academic and fun! The bonus of this lesson, it helped with student retention in foreign language classes.

The steps to follow:

1. Completely erase the entire white board. You'll want the space.

2. Number the entire board from 1 to 35. Place holiday appropriate symbols, like pumpkins, around each number.

3. Put a large assortment of dry erase pens at the front of the room. The more color variety the better.

4. After school, the day before a holiday, have each student in your most advanced class go to the board and draw a culturally appropriate picture next to a number. If your class is smaller than 35, they'll need to draw more than one. Be sure to explain to the class the night before they need to come up with three or four ideas for their drawings. Most students are eager, although the shy need some encouragement. After this has become a tradition in your classes, you'll overhear students commenting they look forward to being in the class that gets to draw the pictures. Never let an underclassman participate in putting the pictures on the board.

5. Check each picture as they finish drawing. A few may need a little help so their drawings are clear, and some can be too obscure. You may need to edit, as students can be a bit gross at time. One Thanksgiving students drew a very vivid picture of a turkey being beheaded. I erased that one. Remember, all day students are going to see these pictures. You want to understand them, so you can give hints if necessary. My favorite was The Twilight Zone Marathon. It became a tradition in my program which was passed down each year from class to class.

6. Before the first class arrives the next morning, place a stack of German (French, Spanish, Chinese)/English dictionaries on the first desk of each row. I always had enough dictionaries so students could work in groups of two. Three doesn't work. Working alone is tough.

7. Students should look up what they see on the board, and write the German (French, etc.) on their own papers. Don’t let them put two student names on one paper. This never works. Trust me on this.

8. They must write the definite article and the noun. If there's an adjective, like in a drawing of black cat, they must include the adjective with the correct ending. This allows you to preview grammar not yet taught. Students are very receptive to this, and ask for help. It’s a contest. They want to win.

 9. Buy a small bag of individually wrapped candy, stickers, etc. and give a piece to each member of the first team finished. Be sure to check the work. Sometimes they make errors, of course. Don’t be too picky. Perfection is not the goal.

 10. After the first group finishes, and as each group finishes, they'll help their classmates. You’ll find they don’t give them the answers, but give them hints instead, especially in grammar.  

11. Collect work as it’s finished and the rest at the end of the period. Grading is subjective. First year classes typically have a few students who finish by the end of the class period. Most, however, finish about half of the pictures. Second year will complete more. The majority complete about two-thirds of the pictures. Most third year students finish them all, as do AP/IB/fourth year students.

12. There are several goals in this lesson. Students learn the correct way to use the dictionary. They learn the symbols and abbreviations. It removes the mind-numbing boredom of a typical dictionary lesson, and replaces it with fun. Students learn vocabulary that’s both meaningful, and is usually more advanced than where they are in the curriculum. This they do without complaint. You're able to foreshadow grammar, so when it arrives later in the school year, you’re able to point back to what they discovered at Halloween or Thanksgiving. Finally, it keeps students focused, doing an academic lesson without arguing at a time where students are going nuts in other classes. I had four decades of happy “day before’s” while colleagues were losing their minds.

If you don't teach a foreign language class, adapt this lesson to your subject matter. Remember to keep it relaxed and fun, but academic.­­

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help you avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Back to School Night Made Easy

Back to School Night can be a complete waste of time or an effective tool to help students succeed. You choose. The first several years of my teaching career, I did exactly what administration told us all to do at Back to School Night. I repeated everything I had included in the course outline letter I sent home with students the first week of school. It included the class procedures, expectations, rules, grading system, due dates, homework, etc. Then I realized rereading it aloud was a complete waste of time and insulting to parents. They had already read, signed and returned the letter to me.

Instead, I began to use Back to School Night to help students become more successful. I wrote the night’s agenda on the board each year. The first few items were the main topics from the letter, (so any administrator who entered the room would see that they had been covered). But the rest was what I wanted the parents to do to help their children learn.

1. Eat dinner together as a family. (I explain that all studies show students do better in school and in life if they had dinner with their family at least five nights each week while growing up.)  

2. Check homework. (I remind parents that I assign homework Monday through Thursday each week. It's posted on my website each Thursday for the upcoming week. It's never oppressive or “busy work”.)

3. Turn off electronics two hours before bedtime, and be sure students sleep the recommended number of hours for their age group, 8-10 hours for teenagers. (Studies show that electronic use before bed is detrimental to sleep quality. What is learned each day is moved from short term memory to long term memory during sleep.)

4. Make sure students have a nutritious breakfast each morning. (Students eating a full, healthy breakfast have more success in school than those who drink a fruit smoothie or eat a granola or power bar for breakfast, and often earn more money in scholarships.  I also give parents ideas for how they can do this without it becoming oppressive.)

5. Give their children the book Seven Habits of Effective Teens by Sean Covey, son of Stephen Covey who wrote Seven Habits of Effective People. (The book shows teenagers how they can get what they want in life, makes them happier and easier to get along with at home and at school.)

After I started using Back to School Night to influence the behavior of parents, to get them to do what would make their children happier, healthier, better rested and ready to learn, student success increased. It also had the side benefit of making me feel like going to Back to School Night was not a complete waste of time. 

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help you avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

College and Scholarship Readiness, Part II

A few weeks ago I was invited to participate in an online chat by Jodi Okun, author, entrepreneur and founder of College Financial Aid. The chat, #CollegeCash, took place on Twitter. The title of the chat was similar to the title of this article. I decided to expand on my answers on my blog this month. Where you see bold print below, these are the questions and answers which appeared on the chat. I’ve added additional information for this article.

Q3 @ElizaWallace27 Where should parents and students look for scholarships?

A3 Start with family connections at work, church, civic clubs, fraternities, other associations and groups.  Many businesses provide scholarship opportunities for the children of their employees. Check with the human resources department to see if yours does. Also check with any union or professional association to which you belong. Churches and civic organizations often have scholarships or grants available. If yours do not, they can often provide you with alternatives through their connections in the community.

A3 Move on to civic organizations, foundations, local, state and federal grants and scholarships. Various civic organizations, foundations and clubs offer grants to needy families. They also often provide scholarships to an assortment of students. Some scholarships are quite large, apply for those. Others are fairly small, but still worth the effort. Often students overlook small scholarships, but they can be easier to win, for that very reason. There’s less competition. Be sure to look into political groups at all levels, local, state, county and federal. There are grants to be had. Last year, more than $46 billion in grant money was not awarded. Be sure your student qualifies and apply. I’ve known several worthy students who failed to apply for free money. Don’t do the same.

A3 Spread out online, use mobile apps, social media, such as @Scholarships360 and fastweb @payingforschool on Twitter, etc.
I have found several organizations and individuals on Twitter who post scholarship and grant information often. A simple search will show you who they are. In addition to searching under the word, “scholarships”, try adding qualifiers, such as “scholarships for elementary students”. Follow any site which seems to fit your needs. In addition, do a google search using keywords relating to your needs. There are other social media platforms and apps which can help. Find whatever you’re comfortable with using and stick to them. There’s no need to struggle through a site that is too complex, when there are so many others.

Q4 @ElizaWallace27 What are the most important strategies parents and students can use outside of school?  

A4 Enroll children in enrichment courses at a local college beginning in elementary, and continuing through high school. I was very surprised when I found this was the most significant strategy of successful scholarship winners. Every full-ride scholarship winner I interviewed had taken several summer enrichment courses at colleges and universities. It makes sense. Colleges want to be sure students can handle their rigor before they give out free money. Taking these courses shows a willingness to do the work. But don’t think these classes are torture. Take only the offerings which are in areas of your interest, talent or strength. This way you’ll be successful and have a good time too. Start in elementary school, and don’t stop until your senior year in high school.

A4 Find a safe place in the community for students to volunteer. Universities like to see students aren’t one dimensional. They want students to have a cause or purpose outside of themselves. There are many organizations which allow students to “give back”. Locate them through churches, clubs, the school your child attends, the Scouts, etc. Volunteering benefits children in many ways. They develop greater people skills, self-confidence and empathy. You can find organizations all over, but be sure to check them out to make sure they are safe, based on the age of your child. Like with enrichment courses, pick something that interests your child.

A4 Students should learn to play a musical instrument and take lessons through middle school. This was the second surprise in my research. Although I knew the value of studying music for children, I didn’t know there is a great deal of research that supports my belief. I’ve written several blog posts about the benefits of music lessons and where they can be found. Here’s a recent one, Click Here to read it now. I've also dedicated an entire chapter to the subject in my new book.

A4 Stick to all of these over time. Colleges like to see consistency. 
Be sure when children start taking enrichment courses, volunteering or taking music lessons that they stick to what they select. It does not look good to see children being erratic. A consistent history looks far better. Be sure to keep a log of their activities and college letters of recommendation from those in charge. These will come in handy later when applying for college, grants or scholarships. You will find a place to keep all of this information handy in my new book, available on Amazon Free College. I’ve included lined pages after each chapter and at the end of the book for this purpose.

Q5 @ElizaWallace27 When is the right time to visit a college?

A5 Families can visit colleges informally while taking family vacations or attending concerts, festivals and other public events.  When planning Spring Break or Summer Vacation travel, keep in mind that college towns are everywhere. There are several along the Southern California coast as an example, Pepperdine, UCLA, Loyola Marymount, to name a few. You don’t need to go far from home, but if you intend to do so, do a little research and perhaps take in a play or concert at a college near your relatives or wherever you decide to go.

A5 Students should be enrolled in enrichment courses on college campuses each summer. I discussed taking enrichment courses earlier, but remember, when winning scholarships is the goal, enrichment courses taken at colleges and universities are the most suitable. Although a course at a YMCA or youth organization might be quite rigorous, university personnel have a natural preference for courses taught at universities. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

A5 Start making formal visits to tour colleges by ninth grade. Some people think the junior year of high school is optimal for visiting colleges. I believe this just adds stress. Start earlier, when the senior year is still in the distance. By the time it arrives, students are comfortable with the process. I can’t tell you how many freaked out kids come back from college visits in their junior year. It can be overwhelming. It’s wise to begin taking informal tours when a child isn’t even thinking about college, and build up to formal visits later. Don’t wait for the senior year to take the formal tours, however. To do so may cause confusion. I once had a senior come back depressed from visiting MIT, Yale and Harvard. They all offered a full-ride scholarship. Instead of being happy, the student was anxious. This was caused by waiting so late. (Good news, this student graduated from MIT with honors and now is very successful in the software industry.)

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help you avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

College and Scholarship Readiness, Part I

Recently I was invited to participate in an online chat by Jodi Okun, author, entrepreneur and founder of College Financial Aid. The chat, #CollegeCash, took place last week on Twitter. The title of the chat was the same as this article. I decided to expand on my answers this month on my blog. Where you see bold print below, these are the questions and answers which appeared on the chat. I’ve added the rest of the information since.

Q1 @ElizaWallace27 What should parents be doing right now when it comes to preparing their kids for college?

A1 While children are little, read to them and with them, give books as gifts, visit bookstores and libraries. Many studies have shown that children, who have received a great deal of attention and have been spoken to constantly during their first three years of life, do far better in school. Furthermore, making books and songs part of their preschool lives gives them the foundation they need to be successful in kindergarten and beyond.

A1 For elementary aged children, enroll them in music lessons. Find lessons nearby and encourage them to continue with these lessons through middle school. Several recent medical studies have found greater development in the left hemisphere of the brains of children who have learned how to play a musical instrument and who have had lessons while growing up. This gives them an advantage in math, science and foreign language classes. I discovered that students who had studied music earned far more scholarship money for college.

A1 Find a sport each child likes and could continue for life, swimming, tennis, track, etc. Encourage them to participate through high school. In addition to the physical and psychological benefits of playing a sport, children also learn teamwork when doing so. Learning and enjoying a lifetime sport or activity means children will have something physical to do in order to stay fit, reduce stress and remain healthy throughout their lives. Medical research shows there are many benefits of staying active, including delaying or preventing dementia. This is a gift parents can give their lives that will continue to assist them forever.

Q2 @ElizaWallace27 Is there a financial aid to-do list for elementary, middle and high school students?

A2 Parents of elementary students should find scholarships and apply for all which are available to the age group of their children. Many parents and students believe college scholarships are only available to high school seniors. This is far from the case. I have seen many scholarships online which are available to students of all ages. Several were aimed at elementary school students. Although these children are too young to fill out the forms alone, parents can do this for them. Start collecting scholarships as soon as possible, so there will be enough money later on to pay for college, without needing to take out student loans.

A2 Help middle school aged children apply for a few scholarships each month. Spend a little time to set up an account on Twitter and/or Facebook, so you can search for college scholarships or grants for your child. Create a routine for doing so. Pick a specific day each week to look for them, and a specific day each month to fill out the forms. Help your child until he/she is old enough to do this on their own.

A2 High school freshmen and sophomores should apply for a one or two each week; while juniors and seniors should apply for a minimum of three each week, and continue until they’ve graduated from college. It is far easier to follow a schedule than to look for scholarships in a haphazard manner. Create a routine so you don’t have to “decide” to do the work. Deciding is the hardest part. Find scholarships by following groups who post them daily on Twitter or Facebook. Then apply for several at one time. Once a day of the week to do the work is selected, the work is fairly simple. I suggest setting aside two hours each weekend to apply for scholarships.  

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help you avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

How You Can Help Your Child Learn More to Earn More Scholarships

Many studies have been completed which prove music lessons are beneficial to learning. They build connections in the brain which are needed to understand and retain information. Studying music is especially helpful for math, science and the learning of languages.

My own study wasn’t about music. It was about how to earn more scholarship money for college. What I found, however, was that taking music lessons at a young age is a powerful indicator of future success in earning scholarships. You can read details about this in Chapter 3 of my book, Free College available on Amazon.

Since states have drained money from education in the last three or four decades in the U.S., how can you make sure your child reaps the benefits provided by studying music? Check out the community college in your community. If you’re not on their mailing list, call and ask to be added, so you can receive their quarterly mailings. They provide many classes for all age groups, including music lessons for children. They are low in cost, but high in quality.

In addition to classes at local colleges, many city parks and recreation departments provide lessons. They too send out mailings, but information is also available online. Their courses cover all age groups and many subjects, including music lessons. It doesn't matter which instrument a child learns. They all provide the same mental benefit, but pick one that is being taught locally, and your child likes.

Finally, if all else fails, visit your local music store and ask if they give lessons. Most of them do. These lessons are more expensive, but students will receive more personal attention. My daughter saw Itzhak Perlman play the violin on television when she was three. She harassed me for six months before I relented and called a local music shop to ask how old a child must be in order to take violin lessons. The owner explained eleven was a good age to start. I asked, “What about three and highly motivated?” Luckily, their violin teacher also taught Kindergarten, and agreed to teach her.

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help you avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Google Images

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

“Many Hands Make Light Work” John Heywood

As most parents of college prep students know, doing well in high school is critical if students wish to earn lots of scholarship money for college. It also entails a great deal of effort. While researching successful scholarship winners for my book, Free College, I discovered these students have a strategy for lightening the load. They use study groups and/or study buddies. In Chapter 8 of Free College, you can read the stories of several of these students.

While on Twitter, I look for people who have expertise in the topics included in my book, so I may share what they know with families of future college students. One such person is Melodieann Whiteley, retired US navy cryptologist, network marketer and author of Getting To Yes. She has a great deal of experience in working with groups. Because of her knowledge and familiarity with teamwork, I asked her to share some of her insights in a guest post for my blog, Although what she has written is aimed at college students, every word applies to high school students as well.

Do You Want to Succeed in College?  Create a Study Group

According to those who have been there before, the key to success in law or business school is getting in with the right study group.  These partners not only give you buddies to study with, they keep you accountable and on-task.  If you let yourself down, you let down the whole group.

I would actually take that a bit further.  I believe that a study group is invaluable no matter your field of study.  Finding accountability partners can be key to a successful college experience.  A good study group can support your efforts, help you brainstorm problems, and keep you on schedule.  The right study group can mean the difference between passing and failing.

How is this possible?  I was a college student once upon a time.  And though it has been quite a few years, I remember what it was like.  I doubt that the mentality of the average college student has changed drastically in that time.  I remember…

I remember needing to prepare for an upcoming exam.  But there was a party happening that night.  Or something interesting on television.  Or maybe I just got caught up chatting with friends in the lounge.  And before you knew it, study time had come and gone.  And I was left pulling the well-known “all-nighter” to ensure that I passed the exam.  I may have had fun doing all these things, but I paid for it with lack of sleep, increased stress and most likely a lower grade than if I had been well-prepared.

But a study group can help prevent procrastination.  Because most groups meet a specific time, there is a commitment in place.  An appointment to meet.  And if you are late, or skip the group altogether, the other group members should hold you accountable.  So while I may have wanted to really go to that party, knowing I would have to face my fellow group members and explain was enough to make me reconsider.

I remember my Philosophy class.  I was a science major.  Philosophy?  Why did I need that?  Because I was attending a Catholic college that felt all students should take at least one philosophy class.  And so there I was reading Kant, Plato and Descartes and being thoroughly bored and confused. 

Thankfully, one of the members of my study group loved philosophy!  And he was more than willing to share with the rest.  So instead of spending time reading and rereading something that held no interest for me other than the fact that it was required and I wanted to pass, I was able to learn quickly simply by having my friend explain what I did not understand.  

So a study group helped me learn something faster and more thoroughly than if I had tried to learn it on my own.

I would like to say that it also instilled in me a love for – or at least an interest in – philosophy…but I’d be lying.

Which brings me to the next way a study group can be beneficial.

While I am still not an avid reader of Aristotle or David Hume, the time spent in my study group did help me see many things from a new point of view.  While philosophy as a whole was not of interest to me, many of the subjects that came up for discussion during class were.  And I had a very strong opinion on them based on my small town experience.  But discussing these subjects with others with very different backgrounds and experiences often made me see things from a new perspective.  As we would discuss the material from class, all of these different viewpoints became part of the discussion.  And I was forced to think about and sometimes defend my position.  When you are asked to give actual reasons, backed up with facts, for a particular position, you tend to study the topic much more thoroughly.

And so a study group can help you develop your critical thinking skills, increase your verbal communication skills, and cause you to make a more in-depth study of the subject.

There are many more reasons that study groups are beneficial.  You can learn new skills.  Fill in gaps in your learning.  Hone your people skills.  That is if you find the right group.  Not all groups are created equal.  It’s important to make sure you fill the group with the right people.

Here’s what to look for in your own study group:
A variety of skills and experiences:  The best groups have members with varied skills, backgrounds, and interest.  That way they can all advise each other and provide different perspectives on the same topics.  If everyone has exactly the same backgrounds, you may have a lot in common, but you won’t be able to brainstorm as effectively. 

Similar commitment level.  The most important element may very well be a common level of commitment to your goals, whatever they may be.  If one member is a little lax and the others are all gung ho, the mismatch will soon drive everyone crazy and may cause bad feelings. 

Regular meeting times. Make a regular weekly or even daily appointment and keep it! Nothing will submarine a group faster than no-shows or constantly changing meeting times.

Structured meetings.  No I don’t mean scripted down to the last minute with an agenda.  But at least having a time limit on off-topic discussions or how long each member can talk will ensure no one hogs the whole time – or never shares his or her questions and ideas at all.

Resource sharing.  One of the most valuable roles in a study group is the sharing of recommendations and referrals.  Are you especially close to the Congressman back home who is looking for summer clerks?  Is your mom, the lawyer, interested having an intern?  Your study group friends may be looking for exactly that! 

One final thing to keep in mind is that study groups, like friendships, are created differently.  Some will last a semester or two.  Some may last only a few weeks or months.  I belong to a virtual mastermind that is comprised of several friends from my old college study groups.  (Yes, even my philosophy-loving friend!)  We kept in touch over the years and with the advent of social media and technology, now meet via Zoom every week to discuss our businesses!  Be ready to let your group go if it’s no longer meeting your needs.  It will be hard, but if it’s not helping you further your goals, it may be time to study by yourself.

If you have Pre-K through High School students in your family, you'll want my new book, Free College, on Amazon (Click Here to Buy). It can help you avoid taking out dangerous college loans.

You are reading from the blog:

Photo Credit: Melodieann Whitely