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Educational Resource Center

Tips from the Experts

New Year? New Time Management Challenge!

January 13, 2015

Welcome back! Almost! If you’re planning a fresh start this Spring (who isn’t?) and managing your time more wisely is on your list of resolutions, consider using this 24-hour time grid to help you get a grip on your schedule.


You Can’t Format Papers in Gangnam Style (Unfortunately)

October 20, 2014

Academic citation may not sound exciting, but once you get past the dry business of formatting, ethical questions of plagiarism, the origin/ownership of ideas, and common knowledge are actually fascinating topics…for another post. Formatting first!

The American Psychological Association, the modern Language Association, and the Chicago Manual of Style have each created a set of style guidelines for formatting research papers and citing sources. APA is most commonly used in the social sciences, MLA is popular in the liberal arts and humanities, and Chicago is common almost everywhere else. (There’s also Turabian, which is Chicago style modified for college students.) It’s a good idea to figure out which style you’re going to use most often in your major, and get familiar with it.

The official guidelines for each style try to cover every possible kind of source you might need to attribute–which means they are complicated, and they change. No one has all the rules memorized, and online citation-generators like EasyBib and CitationMachine produce lots of mistakes (such as when my students’ Works Cited pages claim that books we’ve read together in class have “n.p., n.d.” –no pagination, no date). Use common sense! And at least at first, plan to consult a handbook and/or a website like the excellent Purdue OWL every time you format a paper.

Lastly, don’t wait until right before the paper is due to format your citations, or you’re guaranteed to make mistakes–which can mean getting in serious trouble for plagiarism. Start your Bibliography (if using Chicago style), Works Cited (MLA) , or Reference List (APA) during the note-taking stage! With practice, you’ll get the hang of it. And once you understand how a style works, you can even figure out how to cite weird sources that have no official guidelines.

Amy Bennett-Zendzian is the Senior ESL Writing Fellow for the ERC.

Andy’s Stoplight Time Management System

October 6, 2014

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

There are two ways we misuse or misunderstand time. At some point in our lives, we all fall into one of  two categories: (A) We’re not working or involved in a ridiculous amount of projects, but find that our time vanishes into the abyss. Or, more frequently found amongst college students: (B) We think we we’re Adam Sandler in the movie Click, where time can be frozen with the press of a button on a TV remote, which in turn gives us the superpower to be a super student, worker, athlete, and activities star. Either scenario can lead down a frustrating path.

So how do we make sure we don’t prove William Penn right?

Well, the first step is to acknowledge that there isn’t a magic bullet that solves time management. Second, let’s spend some time reflecting (See ERC Time Management Self-Assessment)  and understand that time constraints are real and our capabilities are determined by our discipline, health, and sense of balance. Finally, let’s pick a tool that helps us keep track of how we’re spending our time.

We millennials are “digital natives.” We use the Internet everyday. You’re using it right now. The Internet has made many aspect of our lives easier, including time management. Some tools you might use: iCal (personal favorite), Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, and the list goes on. There are also to-do list tools available as well.

Last, but not least, prioritize the most important things in your life are and how much time you need to dedicate to them each week. Everyone’s list varies, but I’ll show you what works for me.

Below you’ll find what I’ve called the Stoplight System.

It’s a simple table, which produces effective results in managing your time constraints.

All you need to do is:

(1) Think of your top 10 priorities and rank them by importance.

(2) Guesstimate how many hours per week you need to spend in order to fully meet your standards for said priority.

(3) Color code (usually corresponds by rank) the priorities you would be least willing to give up (red) to those you’re more flexible about (green).

Here’s my table, as an example and here’s the template I use:  Stoplight System



Hours spent/week


Family & close friends- making sure I’m there whenever I’m needed. Constant contact with closest family and friends on weekly and some daily basis.



School – I should attend every class this semester and dedicate an average of 3 hours of homework per night.



Mass, Prayer, or Reflection - spend some time feeding the soul.



Work – I need to be able to work in order to sustain myself at BU.



Extracurriculars – participating as an active member of 2 organizations on campus, promoting their values and organizing meaningful events.



Sleep - getting approximately 6-8 hours of sleep per night would be in my best interest.



Food – shooting for 3 healthy meals a day, sometimes while working, often times while merely enjoying the meal.



Exercise - shooting for a minimum of 30 min/day



Me time or Socializing – hopefully relaxing for some time on the weekends especially.



Career Investment Time – I’d like to dedicate some time each week towards researching career opportunities, fields, or updating my resume etc..


                                                                              Total Priority Hours: 156.5 /week

                                                    # Hours in a week: 168

                                                                                           Backup (“free time”)Hours:     11.5

Andy Vargas is a CCD-ERC Student Ambassador and a senior in Political Science and
International Relations.

Why Go to Hours and How to Do It Right

September 30, 2014

One of the most undervalued college resources is the availability of office hours. Whether it’s with the professor, or even the teaching assistant (TA), there is value in getting to know your professors.


First, at a relatively large institution, it is hard for your professors to get to know every single student that they teach, but if you take initiative, you increase the chance of your professor understanding you and your background, which could prove beneficial when grading your assignments and providing assistance.

What’s the point, though?

Office Hours meetings offer a chance to clear up any confusion you may have had during lectures.  Often, a professor may explain something in class that you didn’t quite grasp, yet you might have hesitated to interrupt him or her to ask for clarification. Why not use office hours to get your questions answered? That’s especially true if you’re trying to prepare for exams.

Lastly, there is power in networking. If you and your professor share similar career interests, he or she could be a great resource to connect you with more career professionals in your field.

Rashid Nelson is a CCD-ERC Student Ambassador and a senior in the School of Management (SMG).



Professors may be your greatest resource on campus. These highly intelligent, experienced, and experienced public speakers can do more than clarify the material that has left you with question marks in class. BU has some incredible alumni, but our own faculty is world renowned. We’ve got Nobel prize winners, former elected officials, and my favorite: professors who were around and heavily involved in the Cold War saga.

If you’re even slightly interested in a field, BU’s professors would be happy to expand on what that field looks like in academia or in industry. After all, successful people love talking about themselves.

But, now that you know how fantastic they are, it can understandably be a little intimidating to approach a professor and introduce yourself. Here are a couple of do’s and don’ts to introducing yourself and developing a solid relationship with your professors:

DO: Introduce yourself after the first class ends (or at least as soon as you gather the courage) - Professors tend to have more time on their hands towards the beginning of the semester, especially after class. Try stepping out of your comfort zone and approaching the professor after class and simply introduce yourself:  “Hi Professor __  I just wanted to introduce myself. My name is ___ and I’m taking this class with the hopes of ____.” Or something along those lines.

DO: Head to office hours early on - Office hours are in place so that you can come in and talk about whatever is on your mind. Those 30 seconds after class may not have been enough time and usually the professor has much more to say, and you might, too. If you start using office hours early on, you’re more likely to return, especially when you don’t understand a subject. Professors appreciate seeing genuine effort; attending office hours is an example of that.

DON’T head to office hours with nothing or lack of specificity- This is a pet peeve for many professors. The classic scenario: “Hi professor, can you tell me what Chapter 7 was all about, I’m not quite sure I understand.” A vague question can come across as careless. Come up with a specific section of the chapter you don’t understand or a problem set you’d like explained.

DON’T limit yourself to “classroom” talks- the primary reason office hours exist is to help students understand the material they find challenging or unclear. However, these professors are treasure troves of knowledge, wisdom, and experience. Ask them about their career! Ask them what it takes to succeed in the sector you’d like to work in. They’ll be happy to weigh in. Limiting yourself solely to class discussions is a disservice to yourself. Office hours are part of the academic experience. Use them!

Andy Vargas is a CCD-ERC Student Ambassador and a senior in Political Science and International Relations.

Lessons I Learned on Course Schedules

August 25, 2014

Creating a schedule during Summer Orientation can be stressful. You are told to choose four to five courses that fulfill general and major requirements. At a school where there are more than 250 programs of study, it is understandable that choosing your courses will be tough.

Some questions you may want to consider before choosing classes: How many days a week do you want to take classes? (First-years, you’ll probably be in class five days a week). Do you want your classes to be late in the day? Early?

College is a lot different from high school, especially when it comes to scheduling.

Take it from someone who created possibly the worst schedule for my own daily habits. The important thing to remember is that every student is different. There are night owls and morning people; homebodies and city explorers. Your personality is an important consideration when creating a schedule.

Let’s use my personal preferences as a case study for how to create this type of schedule. I’ll outline what my freshman year schedule looked like, where I went wrong, and how I would  fix it if I could go back.

  • I am an early-to-bed, early-to-rise person and the only thing that I hate more than going to sleep  late is sleeping past 10 am. I thrive on early morning classes. That said, my freshman year schedule had nearly all of my classes starting after 12:00pm, which inevitably led me to waking up late and wasting most of my morning.
  • I like to front-load my day, scheduling all of my classes and work before 4:00 or 5:00 pm. I know that I usually get drowsy and unfocused in the late afternoon and I would prefer to complete all of my essential work before my energy fades. Unfortunately, I scheduled Chemistry lecture on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., which always resulted in unintentionally napping through class. If you know that there’s a time of day where your energy drops,  try not to schedule classes during that time.
  • I enjoy having some free time every day when I can read a book, watch TV, or just explore Boston. Spreading out my classes throughout the week has proved to be the best way for me to have some “me time” every day. During my first year, I had five one-hour lectures or discussions and one three hour lab on Thursdays. So, I was in class from 9:00am until 9:00pm. That meant I had absolutely no “me time” on Thursdays and a lot of unnecessary anxiety. In retrospect, I could have definitely scheduled my lab on Tuesday when I only had one class from 10:00am – 12:00pm.
  • Remember that this is what works best for me as a student. Since we’re all different, we all have to find our own rhythm and class time plays a big role in that. You will settle into routines, but just make sure that your routine makes you happy and allows you to be something more than just a student.

    If your schedule is not working for you in the first week, consider rearranging it! Discussion sections and labs can often be changed very easily. Also, whether you are a morning person or a night owl, it is easy to consolidate your classes into longer early morning or late afternoon blocks and cut back on breaks in between classes if you’re too likely to get distracted by the free time.

    Mike Parello is a CAS Senior and a CCD-ERC Student Ambassador.

    Building Relationships on Campus

    July 23, 2014

    After you’ve matriculated into the university, there are a number of things that are going to be on your mind. Whether it’s how to find were your classes are, or gaining the freshman 15, or even worrying about snoring in front of your roommate. No matter what your worries are, making connections with various people on campus will help you immensely.


    Who can I connect with? 


     ANYONE. You might think you can only go to your RA regarding issues with your roommate, but that’s not the case! Your RA doesn’t have to be just your RA; you can establish a friendly relationship with him or her and talk about almost anything. RA’s were in your shoes once and understand what you’re going through. Don’t forget that they are students just like you.

    Some other people you might be interested in connecting with are your professors and your academic advisor. You might think that you can only talk to professors about your classes and grades, or to your advisor about your undergraduate plans, but all of these people are great to talk to about topics regarding undergraduate research opportunities, what research they are involved in, what path you might take post-grad, or gaining connections in your professional field. Getting in touch with professors and advisors early will help you later on when you need a recommendation for grad school or a job.


    But how?


    For your RA, just knock on their door! For professors, go to office hours or make a solo appointment. Don’t worry, they don’t bite.

    Building these bridges early on will be beneficial for both your personal and professional life. It never hurts to meet new people!


    Miles Avila is a CCD-ERC Student Ambassador and a rising senior studying math and statistics.

    Why Sleep Matters

    June 30, 2014

    Ever wonder how much sleep you should be getting and how it may affect your life? Sleep is a crucial part of our existence.

    Short sleep intervals for example, are linked to decreased attention span, ability to recall information, obesity, and increased risk of medical and psychiatric conditions.

    While the amount of sleep required to feel good may vary individually, research suggests that adults need “seven to eight hours” of sleep each night (National Sleep Foundation). Equally important is continuing a consistent sleep routine; even on the weekends. Other healthy sleep behavior tips:

    • Relax before bedtime
    • Avoid naps
    • Exercise daily
    • Keep your bedroom dark
    • Set the thermostat a little cooler so you don’t overheat overnight
    • Get a comfortable mattress
    • Avoid heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes several hours before bedtime


    National Sleep Foundation: http://sleepfoundation.org/

    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/


    Ready? Set? Goal! (No, not the soccer kind)

    June 25, 2014

    Ever wonder where the time went? If you’ve ever found yourself lamenting what you could have done with a few hours that somehow slipped away, this post is for you.

    Managing your time is not rocket science; it just requires a little thought and some simple goal-setting. Here are some tips you can apply right now, even when your most serious goal might be catching some rays (hopefully while you check some summer reads off your list).

    1. Let no day be a complete surprise: Have a plan that includes waking up at a reasonable hour, time for physical activity, and getting “stuff” done, even if “stuff” is running errands. This fall, “stuff” will also include homework, remember.

    2. Set S.M.A.R.T goals:

    Specific: Have a daily to-do list. Be specific! Don’t just think you want to “make the most of the day.” Write specific tasks down and aim to check them off your list by day’s end.

    Measurable: Let’s say you’ve decided to hit the gym. Don’t go in there thinking you’re going to “kill it.” Think of the kind of workout you want to achieve and come up with a program you can quantify when you’re done.

    Achievable:  If your goal is to add a minor to your degree, don’t just randomly register for classes that sound good. Meet with an academic advisor to figure out if a minor even fits into the time you have left here. Have a plan in place for when you’ll take certain classes and check your progress each semester.

    Realistic: You’re not going to become a marine biologist on sheer will, much less if you just can’t stand science classes. Take a candid look at your long-term goals as they relate to your personality, priorities and current available resources. You may find you can still use your natural strengths to do related work in your chosen field.

    Time-Bound: Goals should have a shelf-life; otherwise we wouldn’t get anything done. Having a series of mini-goals is helpful for this very reason.Give yourself a realistic amount of time to reach a goal and move on to the next step.  Many mini-goals (once realized) eventually equate to an achievable bucket list.

    You’re in College Now. Three Ways to Ease Into Your New Collegiate Self

    June 18, 2014

    Greetings, new Terriers! We know Orientation is already jam packed, but the ERC invites you to visit us on the 6th floor of the Center for Student Services at 100 Bay State Road. Stop by and say hello before you head back home! We are your academic support center, so get to know us early.

    We’re looking forward to meeting you! In the meantime, here are some tips for making the most of the summer before your FIRST YEAR OF COLLEGE!

    1. Get into a healthy sleep schedule now. Come up with a reasonable bedtime and “wake up” time. A steady sleep schedule will make all the difference in college.

    2. Do you have a regular exercise routine? Regular physical activity reduces stress, fosters better sleep quality and can even help you keep the Freshmen 15 at bay.

    3. Are you drinking enough water? Get into the habit now and consider cutting back on caffeine. Venti lattes won’t get you through all your first-year courses as well as good ol’ water will. If you are a caffeine fiend, we dare you not to have any at least 8 hours before bedtime. It could keep you up!

    The ERC @buOrientation #WelcomeTerriers

    June 13, 2014

    Hello, new Terriers! We’re so excited to welcome you to the BU Family! Check out the ERC blog for new posts every Monday! #StudySmarter

    Career Development Cycle