Since I’m finishing up my fourth year as an English undergraduate student, I thought I’d share some things that I’ve learned throughout my program to help you save money, be efficient, and just stay on top of things! While this list is inspired by my own experiences as an English major, I’m sure many of the tips will be relevant to other disciplines as well.
1. Reach Out to Get a Head Start
For the vast majority of my classes, I didn’t get my reading list until about two weeks before class started, and I didn’t get the reading schedule (to tell me what books I would need to read first) until the first day of class.
If you’re a slow-ish reader like myself, you understand the struggle of reading several novels per week. A great and simple way to solve this problem is by simply emailing your professor before the semester begins. Politely and professionally ask them if it’s possible for them to tell you which books you’re going to need to read first. Some professors may have rules against giving out this information before the term starts, while others might not even have their class schedule fully mapped out, but many professors will be more than happy to tell you what you need to read first so that you can get a head start on your readings.
It never hurts to ask!
2. Read Faster with Audiobooks
If you’re taking a class where you need to read classic books, chances are you’ll be able to find free audiobooks on YouTube or Spotify – LibriVox, specifically, offers the public free audiobooks of classic works of literature.
Listening to audiobooks on 1.5 times the original speed while following along in a physical book is a great way to quickly get through a book you need to finish while still absorbing the information. I stress following along with a physical book because just listening to the audiobook alone may cause your mind to wander – which is no good when it comes to analyzing the book later on.
Just know that if you listen to the LibriVox audiobook recordings, you’ll be saying: “This is a LibriVox recording. All LibriVox recordings are in the public domain” in your sleep.
3. Save Some $$$ with Gutenberg
If you’re looking for free and reliable versions of classic literature, always check gutenberg.org for a host of free ebooks in different formats (HTML, EPUB, Kindle, PDF, etc.).
This is a great way to save some $$$ on books!
4. Avoid the Printers with FoxIt
It can be great when professors scan documents or book chapter for us to access online rater than actually having to buy those books. The only problem is that when something is scanned, it shows up online as an image so that you can’t actually highlight or copy any of the text. You get the same problem with online texts – you often can’t leave sticky notes, comments, or highlight anything, which is problematic for English Majors who will need to take notes while reading.
A great way to get around this is to use the FoxIt app. This app lets you upload online documents and scanned images and lets you easily mark up the sheet with comments, highlighting, and a drawing option. It’s basically the digital equivalent of writing in physical books and leaving sticky note tabs.
Now instead of having to print off those online documents so that you can mark them up with notes, you can save printer ink and money by just using Foxit on your tablet or smartphone.
5. Mark Every Quotation Discussed in Class
For many of my final English exams, there would be a passage recognition section. This means there would be a list of quotations that were discussed in class and for each one I would have to a) identify the book, b) identify the author, and c) discuss it’s significance.
The easiest way to ace this section on the exam is to keep track of every quotation talked about in class. If your professor mentions a specific section of the book, mark it down with sticky notes. That way when you need to study for the exam you will have a list of quotations, of which a few will definitely be on the exam.
6. Focus Keeper
Keeping focused while writing long essays was one of my biggest struggles. The best, and really the only, way that helps me deal with this issue is to use the Focus Keeper app on my phone.
It’s essentially just a timer that you can set for writing and for breaks. I always set my focus/writing time to 20 minutes and the break time to five minutes. That means that I would have to work for 20 minutes and then a bell would ding and I’d have a five minute break – but every fourth break was a 20 minute break.
It’s a great time management app!
I hope this helps!
Let me know if you have any more tips, in the comments!