Tag Archives: student life

A Theory of Procrastination

Two months ago, I was looking for participants for my psychology research. It took me six weeks to convince 50 people (students) to fill out my questionnaire. Not a great success, if you ask me.

A new semester started. I sent out new invitations. BOOM. Five new participants in two hours. Three more  in another hour. And again. Wow. What was going on?

Believe it or not, I think that the most important part of data collection is timing. I think that since students like to procre– procrastinate during the semester (especially if they have some homework due!), they are many times more likely to participate in studies (and fill out questionnaires).

So what?

Quite honestly, I am not sure. On one hand, it might be interesting to look at volunteering and participation at studies during the holidays vs. during the semester (I would LOVE to write a paper about that), on the other hand… yeah, you guessed it. Homework. Essays. Compulsory readings. Sometimes I wish *I* didn´t procrastinate…

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Posted by on 30 September, 2012 in Education


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Team Assignments – When Two Plus Two is Really Four

Dear teachers, tutors, and professors. I am sorry, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Similarly, there is no such thing as “magical synergy during team projects”. Just – no. Trust me.

Team assignments are the second worst invention one sometimes involuntarily encounters (beaten only by Hannah Montana games – no, really). The idea that “if you put students together, it will make it easier for them to come up with amazing ideas and enable them to do more than each person individually” is unrealistic at best. It would work only under very specific conditions, namely that:

a) all students are equally motivated to do the assignment (i.e. you don´t have one hard-working student and three slackers)

b) all students are equally skilled (i.e. you don´t have three students with an average of D and one with an average of A+) and

c) the group actually works as a team (i.e. you don´t have four control-freaks who prefer to do everything on their own and then be accountable for their own mistakes)

Unfortunately, these conditions rarely hold in real life. So, in contrast to what many teachers believe, 2+2 is not “5” (yes, I am counting the extra magical synergy/creativity/what-have-you), but can be equal to 1, or 2 – if you are lucky (depends on how many ambitious students that particular group has).

However, there IS a way out for all those unhappy high-flyers who always did the team assignments on their own because “they had a terrible team”: It is called “division of labour”. Let me give you three simple steps how NOT to do a whole project alone:

1. Find a (reasonably) good team. Find either smart people, or at least the hard-working ones. Avoid party-goers, irresponsible guys and demotivated do-nothings.

2. Divide (and rule). Split work evenly, try to give everybody a part he or she feels comfortable with (i.e. do not force someone who hates maths to calculate monopoly profits or do not force a shy IT-guy to prepare a presentation). Make sure you control if people do what they were assigned in a timely manner, so that you don´t have to redo something in a rush just because somebody forgot.

3. Meet before the deadline, put everything together, all people check that all parts are of good quality. If you are all happy, submit it; otherwise correct it together.

There. Done. You might not get the mystical “creativity boost” in this way, but at least you won´t have to carry the world (project) all on your shoulders. Good luck!

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Posted by on 23 September, 2012 in Education


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Getting a Research Internship

There are certainly days when nothing goes as planned: your alarm clock goes on strike (weird, mine says “made in China” but acts as if it was made in France), you’ve burned your breakfast – so far things are going great… Anyway. If you want to get to Grad school, I have a bit of heads-up advice: There are things that actually work!

Since almost all Graduate schools require at least some research experience, this is something you should probably be aiming at while doing your Bsc./MA. Here’ s a short list of tips how to get a research internship – read on!

1. Make sure you know what you want to do. If the answer is “economics”, for example, this is not good enough. Is it micro, macro, finance, behavioral, labour, econometrics…?

2. Find a professor (at your university) with similar research interests. Take his/her class (if possible), approach him/her and ask about the possibility of an internship.

3. If you are asked for an interview, prepare your transcript (just in case) and your CV (at least in your head) – and of course your grad school plans.

4. This professor can become your “secret ally” – he or she probably knows which school would be nice for you, you get get a good recommendation letter if your internships turns out well… don’ t underestimate these benefits.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask about what exactly is expected from you, ask when you don’t understand, ask about your possible wage. There are important questions – remember, it’s always better to ask than to omit something because “it didn’t occur to you”.

So, that’s about it. Simple, eh? Happy job hunting! 🙂

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Posted by on 3 September, 2012 in Education


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Summer Has Come and Passed

… the innocent holidays can never last/Wake me up when September December ends (…) Here comes the rain semester again… /Green Day/


It felt like a few seconds – exhausting packing, tearful goodbyes, a short flight, a yellow train and here I am, back in school again. Or actually, still at my desk, there are a couple of hours of my summer left. The sun goes down and the sky turns navy blue. My favourite shade of blue. I look out of the window, the street is empty. Tonight it is just me, my faithful dog laptop and my – huge – bed.

Refresh, refresh, refresh. No one is on-line – of course not. Just my semester starts _this_ early. Loneliness. So this is how it tastes. I have almost forgotten. A fake smile and a suppressed sigh.

My natural phlegmatism wins. “No news is good news.” I finish my tea and turn the light off. And the computer…


Anyway. How does a new semester make you feel? Are you still free – or are you also being “jailed” tomorrow? Is there something special that awaits you at your school/uni? Feel free to share, your views are welcome 🙂

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Posted by on 26 August, 2012 in Random


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Sexism and Football: Yo Girl, You Can´t Play

It was a sunny Friday evening and me and a couple of my friends went to play football. Since a lot of “friends of friends” came as well, we were quite a diverse group – and that´s where the problem emerged.

Side-note and a warning: I am not a feminist. But I won´t remain silent if a bigot is making someone´s life miserable. So here we go:

We had a newcomer (“a friend of friend of friend”) this time. Let´s call him Mike. We divided ourselves into teams and started to play. And guess who became patronizing girls to “stay rather in the back” and “not to bother trying to score”! He even went as far as to tell the girls that they should not be allowed to participate in penalty shootouts – well, because “girls aren´t good at it”.

While the other girl on my team started to cry and simply walked back to the building to have a shower, I was boiling with anger: How dare he assume someone´s inferiority or lack of skill or practice? How dare he be so insensitive? How dare he judge us on the basis of our gender? …

A (male, by the way) friend of mine caught the glimpse of my anger and rushed to rescue: “Well, Mike – I think you shouldn´t play because of what you said.” Needless to say, Mike´s smile froze. His sexism didn´t win him approval, rather, he became the odd one out.

I had my way – and missed. A girl´s pride that came before a fall? …I don´t think so. Sure, we lost – but that was because not a single person from our team managed to score, including me – and four boys. But the important lesson and take-away message is… that we didn´t care. We play football together because we want to have fun – not to win at the cost of offending a friend just because she happens to have the ability to breastfeed and give birth one day.

Final side-note: I would not have volunteered for the penalty shootout had Mike not been so arrogant – I am well aware that some of my friends are simply better than me (and am always ready to admit that).

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Posted by on 15 July, 2012 in Random


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On-line Courses: The 21st Century Approach?

As you might have noticed, on-line courses are becoming increasingly popular all around the globe. Many renowned universities are making tons of course materials available for the public (see MIT, for example) or are offering paid courses with a tutor, where you get a certificate upon completion (see Cambridge).

Undeniably, such opportunities are amazing. They are there, up for grabs, if only you have enough time (or money) – and motivation – to exploit them. Suddenly you can learn about Shakespeare, linear algebra, Medieval music or just about anything else at any time you please. At home in your comfy bed, in a park on a bench during a sunny day, on train when going to your grandma, you name it.

Additionally, the possibility of interacting with your fellow classmates who can literally be anywhere in the universe (well, provided they have Internet connection on Venus) is simply thrilling. This is what “multiculturalism” really means!

However, there may be drawbacks to this virtual learning environment. Perhaps “just” Skyping with your professor does not help as much as a face-to-face conversation, maybe some ideas get lost in the virtual classroom, mayhap people do not (or cannot?) focus as much. Who knows?

Well, dear Readers, you are lucky today. I have decided to follow an on-line Psychology course in the coming two months, so you may look forward to first-hand reports on how do these things really work (or do not work).

It´s going to be…wait for it! 

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Posted by on 20 May, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls…

… It tolls for thee.

Midterms are over, grades are published. The binding study advice hangs like a sword of Damocles over a number of frustrated freshmen for whom resit exams seem like the only chance of “survival”. Panic spreads to the library (and to infinity and beyond). Suddenly it seems that all those parties, clubbing and procrastination were not such a terrific idea

Time and again, human irrationality and a general inability of people to plan amaze me. (Actually, “flabbergast” would be a better word.) How can humans possibly such grossly underestimate the ramifications of their actions? Why do young, smart and talented university students fall prey to temptations that represent a road to perdition?

It seems to me that this is just a manifestation of a larger, underlying problem: The inability of high schools to teach young people truly useful skills. Sure, high school students may know the exact dates of all wars in the past few centuries, but they have no clue how to deal with real-life situations.

They are unable to accept responsibility for a joint project, cannot defend their opinions, cannot give a presentation on more complex topics, cannot look up information (from a reliable source; and no, Wiki does not count)… and then come to the university unprepared. It is your bet what the result may be.

Thus, I am posing a question: What actually are the skills high school students should master? Is it really the chemical process of photosynthesis, or logical thinking and planning? I would go for the latter.

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Posted by on 7 April, 2012 in Education


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