A Handy Tool for College Students to Start the Semester

I’m excited to share with you a handy tool for college students.

This was taught to me by a real live student (shout out to Harrison!). He is a sophomore in college and interned with me over the summer.
I LOVE this tool that he makes for himself, and I wanted to share it with you all — including a tweak or two that I’d make to it.

Check out the video, and then PLEASE forward it to any college students you know could benefit from this handy little one-page organizational tool.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

How to Read a 400 Page Book in under Two Hours, Part 1/4

What if I told you it was possible to read a 400-page book in under two hours?

You wouldn’t believe me, right?

This summer I had a stack of books I wanted to catch up on, but I only had limited time. So I challenged myself to skim each of the books as quickly as possible.

In this week’s video, I walk you through the first step in how to read efficiently and effectively. You don’t have to read every word in order to walk away with the main idea, after all! Enjoy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in this four-part series next week.

For more time management and study solutions for students, parents and educators, please sign up for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying Course HERE

Plan Now to Graduate College in Only Four Years

Screen-Shot-2016-07-07-at-12.02.59-PMWhy is it important to graduate in four years? What are some ways that you can choose your college smartly to ensure that you do graduate without spending needless extra money and time?

Guest expert Karina Dusenbury walks us through how to plan for college so well that you graduate in as little time as possible, and preferably no more than four years. 

She discusses:

  • what graduation rates are and how they are measured
  • what families should know about the graduation rates at the colleges they are considering
  • factors that impact students’ ability to graduate in four years
  • tips for choosing schools so that you maximize your ability to graduate in four years

To download Karina’s additional tips, go to www.maximizecollege.com/collegeprep.

Karina Dusenbury spent nearly 15 years in higher education helping students achieve their college goals. Along the way, she became all too familiar with the obstacles students encounter, which prevent them from graduating on-time and being fully prepared to enter the workplace. She founded Maximize College to help families refocus their college planning efforts so that students are more likely to get what they expect from the time and money they investment in college. Karina’s professional background includes positions in academic advising, career counseling, leadership development, and college admissions. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, a master’s degree in College Student Development from the University of Iowa, and a doctoral degree in higher education administration from North Carolina State University.

How to Like Your Teachers and Get Better Grades, too!

Do you ever feel as if your teacher hates you?

I can’t tell you how many of my clients complain of this. In fact, it’s their number one excuse for why they don’t like their teacher! However, taking the time to get to know a bit more about your teachers helps you connect in class and get better grades.

Recently, I had a wonderful conversation with a client, who is a senior in high school this year. I just had to share with you his insight and reflection on how he shifted his relationship with a teacher last school year — for the better!

If school is overwhelming and stressful for a teen you know, please check out for the Anti-Boring Approach to Successful Studying. If my clients are reliable proof, these tools may just be the “magic wand” you need to start feeling more confident and in control, at school and in life.

Tips to Wrap Up the Summer without Stress

Tips to wrap up the summer without stressThe beginning of the school year is always crazy and stressful for families.

But if you follow these tips for wrapping up the summer, you’ll save yourself some stress later on.

It’s an investment of time that’s well worth it. 

Here’s the basic checklist:

  • Update your resume
  • Get basic school supplies before stores run out
  • Finish the summer assignments
  • Make appointments to talk to people from school
  • Put all the dates from the school’s calendar into YOUR calendar
  • send thank you’s to anyone who helped you
  • Ask for recommendation letters
  • Attend orientation
  • Write goals for the year

Now listen in so that you can hear Megan and Gretchen’s commentary about each one!

Why Your Disadvantages May Be Your Biggest Asset

Why Disadvantages might be a big asset in college admissions

Would you rather be the smartest person in an average school or the middle student at the smartest school?

Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath has a wealth of wisdom about how to approach college admissions sanely.

Megan shares key insights from reading this book and turns them into an interesting list of tips for families about how to choose the right college for you. Specifically, she and Gretchen talk about:

  • the need for legitimacy and why that’s a good thing
  • research that shows why dyslexic students may be better of in some regards than neuro-typical students
  • how to support kids who encounter challenges without breaking their spirits
  • why, in the college admissions process, it isn’t always better to choose “more”

Memorizing Definitions: A Client Success Story!

Memorizing definitions accurately can be a real challenge for students. Not to mention booooring!

Here’s an “anti-boring approach” success story from a client who used what I call my “formula technique” to learn and memorize some complex definitions in a higher level class.  When I checked in with him at the end of the school year, he credited this technique for transforming his ability to be prepared for tests.

Check it out and let me know if it would work for you, too!


Would you like to learn more great tips like this? My online course The Anti-Boring Approach to Powerful Studying is filled with 30+ tools for rocking school.


3 Surprising Ways to Turn Your Math Grade Around

I know that summer is here for most students ..so math is the last thing you might want to think of. However, I couldn’t wait to share this trick!

The other day, I was talking with a client of mine who has been struggling in her math class. Trying to decide if she needed a tutor or not, we came up with some ways that might help her turn her grade around, and they worked!! Check out what we came up with:

What experiences do you have with coming up with creative solutions for turning your grades around? I’d love to hear. Also, check out this cool link that’ll give you more surprisingly awesome ways to be a great student!

What Does Ensemble Performance Feel Like?


Recently a friend sent me a survey asking me what ensemble performance feels like. She’s getting her Ph.D. and she needed some help. Ever the dutiful friend, I complied.

I’ll share the text of those emails in a second. But first —  I want to share this: I just finished performing in the second of two Wing It! Performance Ensemble concerts. I’ve been a member of Wing It for three years now and have had a love/hate relationship with performance.

Improvisational performance is hard and makes me feel vulnerable. Every Monday when it’s time to go to Wing It! practice, I feel shy and reticent. But I usually make myself go because I know it’s good for me. And I’m slowly falling in love with the community.

At this weekend’s performance, I still felt shy and reticent, but also READY! Good thing, because instead of the usual 12+ performers, we were only 8. This meant that I couldn’t just hide in the wings, waiting for other performers to initiate. I’d have to pay attention, be engaged, and start stuff!

For those of you who’ve never been to a Wing It performance, let me explain. We perform in a huge dance studio. The performers stand on the side, at attention. We watch, we wait, we listen. And when we’re inspired, we move onto the stage. We’ll dance, tell stories, or sing; we might even do all three at the same time! More simply, in the words of our fearless leader Phil Porter, “We start stuff, we mess with it, and then we end.”

The last couple nights we were performing on the theme of “Obama Year One.” Some gorgeous dances emerged, and stunning music played by Shazam, Theron, and Amar. Amidst the stories, we learned:

  • How recent terrorism rules have restricted Phil’s ability to crochet on airplanes
  • How I spontaneously learned to hoola hoop, taught by a group of Grandmas at Lake Merritt
  • How Dorothy’s Filipina grandmother was detaind by INS on a recent visit to the US

Which brings me back to Nika’s question: “How would you describe, for someone who has never experienced it, what the experience of ensemble performance is like for you personally?” Here was my answer:

In ensemble performance, I spend my time listening — but in a different way than I’m listening when I’m in solo performance (and note: I’m speaking about improvisational performance here, not choreographed/scripted performance, which I imagine provides a different experience of the ensemble).

By myself, the listening is mostly introspective. I’m listening “in” to my story, and then listening to myself as I tell it. To some extent I’m also listening to the audience and their response to my story, but that’s it.

In ensemble performance, I’m stilling listening “in” to my own impulses, but I’m ALSO listening to the group as a whole. It’s a weird balance between going inside and staying focused outside.

But it’s also important to say that the outward focus is what we, in interplay, call “easy focus”. There’s no way to have a directed focus on one thing; instead my attention is diffused and peripheral, and takes in the whole. And then I choose from moment to moment:  how do I want to respond to what’s happening?

In ensemble performance the question is no longer, “What am I creating?” but rather “What is being created here, and how can I contribute to it?

In her email, Nika also asked, “If you teach or coach other how to perform as an ensemble group, please also briefly state the 3 concepts and/or practces…that you aim to foster in performers who work with you.” Here’s are the 3 concepts/practices that I aim to foster in the Tuesday night InterPlay Performance Technique class: :
  1. Who are you as a performer? What are your personal riffs/motifs that you bring to the stage? (In order to be an excellent ensemble performer, I think it’s crucial that people understand their own individual offering… you can’t give to a group unless you know what you’re giving).
  2. Practice listening to the group body. Helping people become more and more “in tune” to the “middle thing” that is being created.
  3. Leading versus following. Know when to create something new/unique (to lead) and when to support that which has already been initiated (follow).

All in all, teaching and performing the InterPlay forms has been an intense and rewarding experience for me. Big hugs to all my fellow performers this weekend, and to all my Tuesday night students. What a journey we’re on together…listening, laughing, creating. It takes courage to be so vulnerable in public, and I salute us all.

InterPlay Performance Technique…as taught by the Red Dance Pants

reddancepantsI had so much fun teaching my first InterPlay Performance Technique class — totally solo!!

For the last two and a half years I’ve been Elizabeth Mendana‘s teaching sidekick. But then she decided to move away.

So, I took a deep breath… and a gulp…. and decided, “Yeeeeehaaaaaa! I can do this!!!” (And promptly bought fancy red dance pants for the occasion).

Last night I was totally prepared to teach a small, intimate class to a few Tuesday night regulars. But at 6pm on the dot, two gals bounded in to the room. InterPlay newbies! “Oh, no!” I thought. “What will I teach?! Can I gracefully cater to the entire range of experience in this room?”

As more folks streamed in (what a surprise, this close to the New Year!), I took another gulp…and made a crucial decision: I will not hold back just because there are new folks in the room.

Phil and Cynthia are always telling us to “trust the forms.” I’m gonna trust that InterPlay Performance Technique will hold us all in its warm, playful, artful embrace.

Lo and behold — it did! The new folks blended right in (in fact, an outsider wouldn’t have been able to tell who was whom), and the experienced InterPlayers seemed satisfied, too.

We got our silly groove on with following and leading; practiced side-by-side solo dances; and finally created gorgeous ensemble movement with 3-sentence stories.  We sure were making F-ing great art!).

I’m so grateful to this improvisational art form that allows a broad range of experience to play alongside each other (and allows me to improvise as a teacher, too).

P.S. A disclaimer: my new red dance pants are not nearly as cool as the ones pictured here. But I needed a picture for this blog post. And these are pretty hot, aren’t they!? Maybe they’ll be my next pair.

Wanna Make F-ing Great Improvisational Art?!


For the past two-and-a-half years I’ve been blessed to teach InterPlay with dancer extraordinaire Elizabeth Mendana. Tonight Elizabeth taught her last Tuesday night class (sniff!) and soon I’ll be leading it alone (holy cow!).

For those of you new to the blog, InterPlay is an uncommon, artful global social movement. It incorporates storytelling, movement, and vocal expression with an emphasis on community and play.

So often InterPlay is taught as a personal development tool, but it is also an improvisational performance technique. Four months ago we added a performance emphasis to the Tuesday night class.   Tonight after class, Elizabeth and I went out for dinner and reflection. In the course of our conversation, I asked how InterPlay has made her a better performer.

Eyes shining, she answered that InterPlay has:

  1. Given her access to the full spectrum of expression, especially the fullness of her voice (not an area that usually gets much of a workout for a modern dancer)
  2. Awakened her passion for (and skill with) infusing story into choreography
  3. Helped her embrace silliness on stage, and
  4. Through its affirming community, validated her as a professional artist.

Whew. Talk about gifts…!

And then there’s InterPlay’s uncanny ability to build ensemble. It’s no easy feat to make beautiful art on the spot…but to do it with others, with little-to-no rehearsal as a company…is amazing! And yet the InterPlay company Wing It! (of which Elizabeth and I are members) consistently creates amazing knock-your-socks-off-they’re-so-powerful performances with casts of (gulp!) 15 or more. As an ensemble we’ve learned to listen to each other with a depth, generosity and artfulness that astounds me.

The more Elizabeth and I talked, the more jazzed I got about sharing the InterPlay Performance Technique with other artists! It’s time to be intentional about sharing this hidden gem of a technique with other performers who want to broaden their range.

So get ready, Oakland, California! On Tuesday nights from 6-7:30pm starting January 5th, 2010 we’re gonna bust out some of the meanest, coolest, deepest improv you’ve seen. With an emphasis on storytelling, movement, vocal expression, and ensemble, it’ll be…

Subversive. Surprising. Silly. Sacred. Sexy. Sneaky.

Come make F-ing* good art with us! (And if you can’t join us in person, rest assured: you’ll be able to read all about it — maybe even see some of it — on my blog).

We’ll miss Elizabeth for sure, but we’re in for quite a ride in 2010. I hope you’ll join us.

*A note about the swear word: Tonight at class Elizabeth had us dancing side-by-side solos. At the end of performing for each other, someone explained, “This is F-ing good art!” And so it was. And so it is. Can’t wait to share.