10 Tips for College Freshmen

Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today we’re talking about 10 tips to help college students be successful in their first semester of school. I spent 6 years in school and am gearing up to teach my own classes this fall – so I think I can help you! Let’s go ahead and hop right in with 10 Tips for College Freshmen!

1. Look at the syllabus before you go to class.

The Professor will typically go over the syllabus on the first day of class, but it makes things goes much more smoothly if you’ve already glanced at it. You can have your questions ready to ask on the first day!

2. Make a friend in all of your classes within the first week.

College can be a scary experience for some people, but having a friend in the class can definitely make it less daunting. I had at least 1 person who I swapped notes with in every class that I took. You can even form small study groups!

You could even study together via Zoom or Skype so that everyone can participate in the projects or study sessions. I remember it was always difficult trying to coordinate schedules and trying to get everyone together on campus at the same time… Video chatting makes things so much easier!

Halloween Party on Campus

3. Do the readings for class and watch the supplemental videos.

Teachers assign readings for a class for a reason. Try to read the material before class, but skim it if you have too. Looking at the materials can at least give you an idea about what the lectures will be over that week.

4. Talk to your professors, Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA’s), mentors, and other people.

Talking with your professor before class, after class, or during their office hours is a great way to build a strong relationship. Your professors will be the people who know your work and can possibly write you letters of recommendation for future job/college applications. Plus they’re super smart and you’ll learn something new every time you talk to them! I spent a lot of time visiting professor’s office hours and was always given solid advice on how to be successful. Professors will also make appointments if you can’t make their office hours so don’t be afraid to ask! Just talk to them 🙂

Undergrad students, GTA’s, and Professors at the 2020 Oklahoma Phi Alpha Theta Conference

Go visit your Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA’s or TA’s) if you’re enrolled in a large class. These people are the graduate students from the whatever department your class is in. Personally, I was a GTA for the history department. Often, the GTA’s are the ones who will be grading your papers. You will want to visit with them before class, after class, or during their office hours to go over assignments or to discuss your grades. GTA’s will also make appointments if you can’t make their office hours so don’t be afraid to ask! Just talk to them 🙂

GTA’s at the Oklahoma Phi Alpha Theta Conference 2019

Make sure to talk to other mentors on campus when applicable. You can be involved in leadership classes or an Honors Programs which can lead to having more mentors on campus. Additionally, you will want to regularly meet with your academic advisor at least once a semester to ensure you are on the right track to graduate.

Finally, just talk to anyone on campus who is willing to talk back to you. I worked on campus my entire college journey and met so many cool people! I knew people all across campus and loved running into them. These connections can help you later on in life as well!

5. Make time to study, but also make time to relax.

This was one that I struggled with while in school. I worked all of the time either at my job or on my school work. It was really hard for me to relax and take a break. Looking back I can see where this hurt me, but I know how to take breaks when needed now.

But I’m not saying that you should avoid your readings or homework. Make sure to get those done before you do anything else. But don’t let the assignments consume you – reach out to your professor or GTA when you need help.

6. Try a new club, intramural sport, or activity. You never know what might happen!

College is the time to try new things and to get outside of your comfort zone! Many college and university campuses will have websites with lists of clubs and activities. Make sure to look at the wellness page to find intramural activities too!

Try anything that piques your interest! I tried tennis and water polo while I was in college – had I ever played them before? No… I had not, but I had fun learning! I also participated in a swim club, history club, geography club, Phi Alpha Theta, and the list goes on and on, but I think you get the point. There are tons of organizations that you can take part in.


Oklahoma State University Swim Club at Wichita State University

7. Ask Questions.

Ask the question in class. Odds are that most people didn’t understand and won’t ask for clarification. If you ask the professor to clarify they are usually happy too. You have to remember that your professor has been studying the topic they’re lecturing on for years and sometimes might not explain things well.

Don’t be afraid of what other people might think either. You are brave for asking the questions. You will be better off for it too because you will better understand the topic.

8. Visit the library, wellness center, student union, health services, and any other building on campus with student resources.

Make sure to check out all of the places that have student resources on campus. This includes the library, wellness center, student union, dinging halls, residential buildings, etc. Each of these buildings will have different resources.

Many college and university campuses will also have counseling services, Veterans services, student disability services, transfer student resources, and resources for non-traditional students. If you don’t know where to find the resource that you need, make sure to reach out to a professor that you trust and they will help point you in the right direction.

9. Make sure to keep your living space clean, do you laundry, and look after your nutrition.

Moving to college or university can be a huge adjustment for some people and that is very understandable. But you’ll want to make sure that you’re taking care of your health and your space. I recommend trying to set up a schedule that will help make chores a part of your regular weekly routine.

Try to make sure that you’re eating somewhat healthy and making good choices too. You’ll probably want to invest in a good water bottle – especially for the hot summer months. Drinking enough water is an important thing to do!

10. Try something outside of your comfort zone at least once a semester.

I know it’s easy to get into a habit or a routine, but I recommend trying something new and outside of your comfort zone at least once a semester if not more frequently. This can include trying new foods, trying new clubs, or activities. Just try new things!

Personally, I tried two-stepping lessons, tried inner tube water polo, and went to sporting events that I had never been to before! Every experience was different and so fun! I am so glad that I went! 🙂

Two-Stepping Night at one of the Dorms on campus!

Concluding Thoughts

Alright y’all, those are my 10 tips for college freshmen! I hope you have a fantastic semester and that this college experience is a great one for you! For more college tips and tricks check out the Student Resources page on my website!

If you ever have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask someone on your campus for help! And if you have a more general question feel free to send me a message via my contact page! I will get back to you ASAP.

Happy studying and trying new things! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

5 Fun Ways to Learn History!

Hey there friend! Today we’re going to talk about some of the fun ways to learn history that aren’t just reading a book… Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE reading a good book, but sometimes I like to switch things up a little bit! 

We are going to talk about 5 unconventional resources you can use to learn history without ever cracking open a book. Let’s get started!

1. History Lectures / Public Talks

I love listening to history lectures and public talks. The great thing about attending university and graduate school is the sheer amount of free lectures you can attend. I was able to attend many lectures on different topics and learned something new every time. 

Bonus Tip: Always take a notebook with you to public talks and lectures. You can write down the things that you learned or you can draw inspiration from the talk for your own project. 

Many universities, libraries, and public institutions have shifted most of their talks to a virtual/digital format. I LOVE this because I have been able to attend talks from across the United States! It is so refreshing to hear new ideas and scholarship from someone I wouldn’t typically have been able to see before. I hope that the virtual format is something that continues in the future! 

2. History Videos / TV Shows / Movies

I think that history videos, tv shows, and movies are instrumental tools in beginning the conversation around certain historical topics. Many people will sit down and watch tv after school or work, but many won’t pick up a book. This is why it is important for historical interpretations to be as accurate as possible. 

Many streaming services have a history category on their platform! 

3. Talking with people who lived through historical events 

I am a big fan of oral history and have written about it before on my blog. Here’s the link in case you missed it!

I love talking with people who lived through historical events. Hearing the stories from someone who lived through them adds a special touch to history that you may not necessarily get when you are just reading a book. Representing many perspectives of a lived experience is crucial in telling accurate history! 

4. History Podcasts

So, history podcasts have been around for a few years, but I have really only gotten into them within the past year and half. There are so many good shows to listen to out there right now. I have actually had the privilege of being a guest speaker on three shows! They’re linked here, if you’re interested in giving them a listen. 

Podcasts are a great way to learn about new topics without having to commit to a 300-400 page book. Most podcasts give you enough information to decide whether or not you want to do research further on a topic. For example, I listened to a great episode about vikings because I had previously done a paper on another viking settlement. I learned something new and it only took 30 minutes. 

Bonus Tip: Podcasts are an easy way to digest a lot of history in a short amount of time. I love listening to them when I workout or go for a walk. I have friends who like to listen to them when they drive to work. The point is, there is time to listen to a podcast if you want to! 

5.  Board Games / Video Games

Board games and video games are another great way to engage with historical subjects. These games often allow you to assume a historical character’s role in the game and you play through the sequence of history. It’s a fun way to interact with the material. 

Concluding Thoughts

I hope this short list of resources gives you a few new ideas of ways to make history fun and engaging! If you have other ways that you like to make history fun and engaging please leave me a comment at the end of this post! I would love to hear your thoughts! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

15 Tips for the Student Who Just Got Accepted Into Graduate School

First off, Congratulations on being accepted into the graduate program at your school! That’s an awesome achievement! These 15 tips will help you survive graduate school without going crazy! Let’s jump on in! 

Personally, I was accepted and graduated from a MA Program in History. So this article will probably lean more towards that discipline, but I think many of these tips can be applied to any MA Program. 

1. Make friends in your department. 

Having friends in your department is so, so important. They know what you’re going through and can relate. They’re also there to help if you get stuck or are confused about a concept. 

I had a friend who helped me learn how to write a good historiography paper. We would email back and forth and then meet up to work on projects together. This was a life saver for me. My grades began improving on papers after they explained the process in a different more understandable way to me. 

It is also important to have friends outside of your department! People from different disciplines offer unique perspectives and research ideas. I had friends in English, Physics, Pre-Med, Business, and more! I loved talking with all of these people about their projects! Friends are so valuable! 

It also helps to find an older, more experienced graduate student to look up to. The PhD students in my department were always so kind and willing to offer great advice. Make sure to sit and listen when these people are speaking – you don’t want to miss out on some great wisdom. 

2. Schedule regular meetings with your advisor.

It’s important to check in with your advisor to make sure that you are on the right track for your graduation plan and thesis project. They often have great advice to give and are good people to bounce ideas around with. They can be your biggest advocate in the department which can be important. The meetings with my advisor were always productive! 

3. Make sure to take care of your body, mentally and physically. 

Taking care of yourself must be a priority. This is so important for you! Personally, I liked going to the gym or taking a walk to move my body. This was so good for me to unplug mentally from my work. But you do whatever makes you feel good, mentally and physically. 

4. Schedule time off into your weeks.

This is something that I wish someone would have told me early on. Taking time away from studying, reading, or writing all of the time is so important for you as a human. So take it from me, DO NOT STUDY ALL OF THE TIME. Hang out with friends, explore the city/state that you’re in, and try new things. There are so many things that I wish I would have done differently in hindsight. 

5. Time management is crucial to success in graduate school.

One thing that is crucial to success in graduate school is time management. You will need to schedule time to do your readings, writing assignments, and discussions. You will also need to work on writing your thesis as well. Setting a schedule each semester really helped me to manage my time. Understand, that schedules can change and that is OKAY! 

6. Come up with a note-taking system that works for you. This will save your life while reading hundreds of books, literally. 

You will want to have a good note-taking system figured out by the end of your first semester of graduate school. You can try multiple styles and see what works best for you and your needs. Personally, I liked pen and paper for notes during class! Then while I was reading the books for class or taking notes for my thesis I would type them on a computer. Taking notes on a computer allows you to search the document for key words later on.

7. Start looking at secondary literature for your project as soon as possible. 

Once you identify what topic you want to study – start reading the secondary literature as soon as possible. This allows you to get a solid grounding in the topic area that you want to contribute to. You can even start writing the historiography section of your paper and refine it as you go through the program. 

8. Network, network, network! 

Networking is so, so important in the professional world. You can connect with people through conferences, personal contacts, and social media. Many professionals are now using social media platforms as a way to network with like-minded individuals around the world. Some good websites for networking include LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram! 

*Historians and history lovers should check out the networking post on my Instagram account: @the_active_historian

9. Attend and present at conferences. 

Going to conferences and presenting your work is very important. It helps you build public speaking skills and write clear, concise arguments. The professionals who chair the panels and attend sessions provide valuable feedback on your presentations. This can help you grow as a scholar! I always received great feedback at conferences! 

BONUS TIP: Conferences are great for your CV. Some conferences even have paper prizes you can win which look especially good on your CV! 

10. Build your CV.

Building your CV is an important aspect of the MA Program (especially if you intend to apply for PhD programs). A CV is like your academic resume. Future employers and PhD programs want to see what you did as a MA student to see if you would be a good fit for their position. 

Things to include on your CV: 

  • Conferences
  • Publications
  • Degrees
  • Certifications
  • Languages Spoken/Read
  • Relevant Employment Experience
  • Awards/Scholarships
  • Organizations you are a member of

Make sure to check out this article about CVs next! 

11. Get involved in graduate student organizations on campus. 

Graduate student organizations are a great campus resource for graduate students! There are many professional development opportunities and ways to network with people all around campus. I was involved in two graduate student organizations on campus and learned a lot from both opportunities. Being involved in the Graduate and Professional Student Government Association on my campus taught me many skills that I still use today!

12. Set short-term and long-term goals. Refine these goals regularly. 

Make sure to set goals for your project and professional career. This includes both short-term and long-term goals! Don’t be afraid to refine these goals as time goes on either! 

Having a clear “Why” can help you on the days that you feel down – at least this helped me!

13. Understand that criticism makes you a better scholar and is a part of the process. Failure is a part of graduate school and it is OKAY TO FAIL as long as you make sure to get back up. 

It’s important to understand that constructive criticism will make you a better scholar. Sometimes you might feel like a failure, but just know that learning, editing, and re-writing are all just a part of the process. It’s not always fun in the moment, but you will look back on it later and be thankful for the process. If you fall down, just remember to get back up or ask for help to get back up. 

14. Learn that finished is good, and that anything you write will never be perfect. 

It is important to learn early that perfection is not achievable. I have often heard that a finished paper/project is a good paper/project. In hindsight, I totally believe that this is true. I would spend days agonizing over a paper trying with all my might to make it perfect, but it would just never get there… A finished paper is a good paper! 

15. Reach out for help when you need it!

Most importantly – Please, reach out for help when you need it. It doesn’t matter what the problem is – just ask for help. Sometimes meeting up with friends to have a vent session can really help. 

Please, don’t ever try to struggle through it alone. You don’t have to. There are so many great resources for mental and physical health on college/university campuses so please utilize them! People want to help you! 

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it, Y’all! These are 15 tips to surviving graduate school. Make sure to take care of yourself and surround yourself with a loving community! Also, get ready to celebrate big time when you finish that degree or program! You deserve it! 

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

How to Make an A+ on History Exams

Hey there friend! Today we are discussing how to make an A+ on a History Exam. As a former student and Graduate Teaching Assistant I have got a few tips and tricks to help you out! Make sure that you read all the way to the end! 

First, I am going to tell you what I did as a student to prepare for exams. Second, I will tell you some of the things that I was required to grade for as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. I hope that having both of these perspectives will help you to make a great grade on your next test! 

Tips from my time as a student

  • Always take notes in class.
    • Underline the headings so that things are easier to read. 
  • Take notes during discussion groups too! 
    • The readings and points talked about in discussion groups can and will appear on exams. 
  • Take notes when you do the readings for class. 
    • This makes it easier for you to remember what each one was about! 
  • Utilize the glossary in the back of the book for definitions! 
    • Who?
    • What? 
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Why it was significant? (Historical Significance)
  • Always read the directions on the exam. Make sure that you answer all parts of the question. 

Tips from my time as a Graduate Teaching Assistant 

  • ALWAYS! ALWAYS! ALWAYS! Answer these 5 questions. 
    • Who?
    • What? 
    • When?
    • Where?
    • Why it was significant? (Historical Significance. This one is the most important and often worth the most points.)
  • Go to your GTA’s office hours to ask questions about your study guide and materials. I loved it when students brought their study guides in early and asked questions. It gave me a chance to clarify things and they often earned better grades because they fixed their study materials and filled in that gaps they were missing! 
  • Go to study sessions hosted by the GTA or other sources on campus. My first semester as a GTA we held review sessions before the exams and gave students an opportunity to ask us questions. 
  • Read the exam questions carefully and make sure that you answer all parts of the question.
  • If you don’t know the answer give it your best educated guess. Most professors/GTAs will give you at least a point or two for trying. If you leave it blank then you get zero points. The couple of points you get for guessing can sometimes make the difference between letter grades! 

Concluding Thoughts

There you have it! My best tips for passing history test. I hope this helps you with regular exams, midterm exams, and your final exam for history class.

Happy studying! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂

How to Write A Research Paper In 8 Easy Steps

So you’ve been assigned a research paper for class… When I received the prompt for my first research paper I was so lost and didn’t know what to do. I began looking for resources (kind of like how you found this article!) and was hoping for some guidance. By the end of this article you will be ready to tackle that research paper with confidence! Grab your pencil and get ready to jot down a few notes! 

8 Steps to Writing a Great Research Paper

1). Read the prompt and pick out a topic that addresses all of the key points in the directions. 

2). Do a basic google search and see if there is information on this topic already out there. You can also search in the your school library’s databases. Make a list of the sources that you want to use to write your paper. Make sure to cite the information in the correct citation style for your class. Always include a bibliography at the end of the paper. 

DO NOT PLAGIARIZE EVER! You will get caught and you will be in big trouble. Please don’t ever take someone’s ideas and try to submit them as your own. ALWAYS include citations from where you got your materials. 

3). Create a thesis statement for your paper. What will you argue in the paper? A good thesis statement will be included in the introduction and conclusion of your research paper. 

4). Create an outline for your paper. I like to separate research papers into the following categories: introduction, body paragraph 1, body paragraph 2, body paragraph 3, and conclusion. This is the most basic outline you can create. There can be more body paragraphs or additional literature reviews if needed. Always write your thesis statement at the top of your outline. Connect all supporting paragraphs back to the thesis statement. 

5). Write a rough draft of your paper. Take all of the ideas you wrote in the outline and develop them into sentences. You can move the ideas and paragraphs around to make your argument stronger. 

Make sure that each paragraph has a topic sentence. The topic sentence will help organize the paper and give it structure. 

6). After writing a rough draft of your paper you can ask your professor or TA to look at it. You can then incorporate their feedback into your paper to make it stronger and get a better grade! 

BONUS TIP: Many universities have writing centers that you can visit as well. You schedule an appointment and they help you fix grammar, style, and clarity issues. The writing center at my university was so helpful – I took several papers there. 

7). Write a final draft of your paper incorporating all of the feedback you received from the professor and writing center. Read and reread the paper before submitting it! 

8). Upload your paper to the dropbox or turn it in to your professor! 

Concluding Thoughts

I hope these research writing paper tips were helpful! Stay tuned for more helpful tips!

Happy Writing! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂 

13 Tips for Passing History Class

History class… Boring, right? WRONG! I can’t tell you how many times students would come to office hours and complain about how dry the subject was. Many of the students were freshmen and didn’t know how to engage the materials. College courses are different from high school courses and the students would become overwhelmed. As a GTA, it was my job to teach the students how to engage the materials given to them by the professor. As a GTA, I created a list of helpful tools and gave it to my students to help make college less daunting. This blog post is a summation of that list!

*Disclaimer: These are tips that I utilized and observed as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA). Check with your GTA to see how the class will work at your school! 

Kaitlyn’s Helpful Tips For Passing College Courses

1). Download and read the syllabus before going to your first class. The professor will most likely go over the syllabus, but you want to be able to ask questions when they are done. 

2). Make a friend or two in class on the first day. Swap emails or phone numbers so that way if you miss class you can get notes from them. You can also study together for exams or work on writing assignments.

3). Buy a planner, download a free calendar app, or set reminders on your phone for important assignment dates during the first week of class. You don’t want to turn things in late because you’ll either get a point deduction or the professor might not accept it at all. 

4). Use different colored folders, spirals, highlighters, and pens to keep your thoughts, notes, and classes organized. 

5). Ask your professor or GTA if they have any tips to be successful in the class (i.e. note taking strategies, library resources, study sessions, etc.). 

6). Figure out when your professor’s and your GTA’s office hours are. You will want to visit office hours as frequently as you can. You can ask questions, discuss the material, and learn more about the topic. (Bonus: Some professors even offer bonus points for bringing in early assignment drafts to office hours.) 

7). Do the readings for class! You will learn so much and some professors require class participation in discussions as a part of your grade. 

8). Engage with the materials for class. Look for other sources online that compliment the topic if you aren’t understanding it. There are hundreds of YouTube videos, podcasts, social media accounts, and online resources that make history easy to understand! 

9). Always go to lecture (unless you are sick or have extreme circumstances). Some classes have attendance grades! Don’t skip class for fun or because you think you know all of the material already.

10). Always take notes in class. It doesn’t matter if you use a spiral or a laptop. Write down what the professor is saying because not all of the information will be on the slides – if they even use slides – you will want to reference this material when studying. (Bonus: Always write down the name of a slide because those words could wind up being the vocab words on the test. 

11). When completing a writing assignment start with an outline and then write a rough draft. Have your professor or GTA give you feedback on the rough draft. Incorporate the feedback into the final drafts of your paper! 

12). History exams are typically an essay test. Make sure to answer the following questions for every ID term: 





Why is this ID term significant

Giving the significance of a term is the most important thing you can do in a history class. The professor will tell you why it is significant in the lecture so make sure to write it down! 

13). Spend time in the library. There are so many amazing free resources in university libraries! They have free computers to rent, books on every topic you can imagine, archive collections, digital databases, workshops, and more. 

Concluding Thoughts

These are my 13 tips for passing history class! Thank you for reading! Here’s another helpful article on How to Write a Research Paper!  

I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂