Going the Distance…From Your Living Room (Guest Post)

Will Bankovich, freelance blogger for Study2U.com and full-time dad, wants to be Bill Cunningham when he “grows up”.

My three-year-old is crying, the cat just barfed on the carpet, spaghetti is bubbling over onto the stove and, in the midst of all this, I’m on the phone with a shady mechanic trying to get quotes on a new alternator so I can make it to work this week. The last thing on my mind is “Gee, I should really go back to college”. But maybe it should be.

Are you a single parent thinking about going back to school? (Photo courtesy of Kevin Cawley via Flickr)

Are you a single parent thinking about going back to school? (Photo courtesy of Kevin Cawley via Flickr)


A 2010 National Poverty Center press release reports that over 31% of families headed by single individuals were under the national poverty line. This is by far the poorest sub-group in the country, without factoring in ethnicity. Naturally, this statistic leaves out some vital factors: assistance such as food stamps, Medicare/Medicaid, employer-provided insurance and other subsidies/social services. Including, most importantly, that life with low-to-modest wages does not equal a deprived life for you and your kids. Small budgets can lead to creativity. You can be penniless and still build a life of love.

However. When you’re trying to take care of your family, higher learning equals higher earning. The statistics on this are well-known facts. Those in possession of a college degree are making more money. Fortunately, there are many, many resources out there for non-traditional students. I saw an article not too long ago focused on “the best fields of study for single parents”. Nonsense, I say! The best area of study for anyone is whichever career they want to go into. Period.

Distance learning is obviously a popular option for those with priorities at home. Online courses cover basically every area of study, are beamed right into your living room and tend to be cheaper than most standard colleges and universities. You work at your own pace and can probably make your kid a sandwich while you’re taking a test, or work full-time, squeezing classwork into your own spare moments. And forget the commute! You can earn credits in your robe and slippers.

With all the talk of student loans crushing the millennial generation, you’d think financial assistance would be a tough nut to crack. If this is your first foray into academia, Pell Grants are your new best friend (they can only be used towards a first degree). Pell Grants can be combined with other types of funds, and there are no restrictions on the number of scholarships you can apply for. If there’s any money left over the refund goes to you, to help out with other expenses.

The last thing to consider is the example you’re setting for your kids. Afraid they’ll see you pulling out your hair trying to juggle your job, a brand new course-load, being a good parent and well…life in general? Rest assured, you’re illustrating the importance of education to those kiddos. Not just school, but life-long learning and the pursuit of passions. And that’s just about the most important trait you could hope to instill.

No matter what type of student you are, The Secrets of Top Students can help you succeed.  Order your copy today!

What’s the Best Music to Help You Study? (Guest Post)

While a lot of people work best in complete silence, there are many who prefer some form of background noise or stimulation in order to concentrate.

If you’re a college or graduate student who puts in long hours of studying, listening to music that you enjoy can help pass the time and allow you to concentrate on your work without getting bored.

Depending on your personality and the way your brain functions, there’s a high probability that certain types of music will help you pay attention and improve your study sessions.

The question is: What type of music will do that?


It’s obvious that certain musical genres are just plain distracting, emotionally charged, and not designed for concentration or relaxing. But there’s also a lot of music that can help you relax, focus, and be great accompaniment to a long study session.

While everyone’s different, here’s what I recommend for studying and concentration:

1. Lite jazz — Any kind of jazz will do, but vocal artists like Ella Fitzgerald or Sammy Davis Jr. are great for relaxing and focusing on your work. If you’re looking for something a little more upbeat, jazz fusion will have more of a pop sound and syncopated rhythm.

2. Classical — Classical music of any kind is a fantastic study companion. Not only does it sharpen your brain, but it’s easy to listen to and doesn’t distract you from other thoughts. If you were hoping for something a little more interesting than the average classical recording, try something like Perpetual Motion by Bela Fleck. He does a bunch of classical numbers on that album with a banjo.

3. Varied instrumental — Hearing other words can compete for your thoughts and make it harder for you to read or think through your own words. That means that instrumental tunes of most varieties are going to be better options for your study time.

Even heavier guitar stuff from Joe Satriani or Eric Johnson can make great studying tracks. Something more subtle, like an instrumental jazz or blues record, is also great for relaxing and concentrating.

4. Funk — Again, lots of instrumental options here, and a little more upbeat. Perhaps it’s not the most calm and soothing style of music, but it is smooth and can be a relaxing sound, even when you’re trying to concentrate on something else.

Helping you Relax

Music is helpful during a study session because it can help you relax, and while some people’s minds perform better with silence, music can be used as a tool to increase the length of time you’re able to focus on something.

If you want to try the music mentioned above, here are some sites where you can stream songs without having to pay for them.

1. Grooveshark — A form of social media for music lovers, Grooveshark allows you to search for music, create playlists, save them and then listen to them whenever you want. They’ve got just about every artist on the planet to choose from.

2. Arena — It’s similar to Grooveshark, but Arena puts more emphasis on the news and community aspect of streaming music. Arena also boosts the highest payout to artists per stream. You can search for music and make playlists.

3. Pandora — Pandora is designed to help you find new music that you’re more likely to enjoy, by letting you create stations based on artists that you already like. Once you select an artist, Pandora will play music similar to that artist. It’s not as “selective” as your other two options, but it will run on its own without the need to create a playlist; just select the initial band and you’re good to go.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and online marketing professional in the Los Angeles area. When she is trying to power through a long day at work, she enjoys creating a playlist to get her through. Follow her on Twitter today!

For more tips on how to study and much more, order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!

Summer 2013 Update

A lot of my articles have been popping up on the internet recently, and I wanted to share some of them here.

1. What Motivates Top Students? Getting Into the Heads of High Achievers, HackCollege.
What I learned about academic success, from my own experience as well as from my survey of forty-five of the best students in the country.

2. Struggling to be heard: What it’s like to be a student who stutters, USA Today College.
An account of my struggle with stuttering in high school and college, how I overcame it, and what to do if you stutter or meet a person who stutters.

3. I Got the Highest GPA at an Ivy, But Not Because I’m Smarter Than Everyone Else, Your Teen for Parents.
Some surprising facts about top students and how they got that way.

My book, The Secrets of Top Students, has also received some great reviews lately. I was especially thrilled with this one from the School Library Journal: “…the book is a must-read for students in middle school and up, teachers, parents, and guidance counselors as 21st-century students learn to excel in the new educational landscape in which they find themselves.”

On a completely separate note, a funny article I wrote a few months ago, The Top 6 Reasons You Should Date a Pilot, has been Liked over 14,000 times on Facebook!