A website providing an awesome intro to statistics (including probability theory, bayesian inference, regression analysis, etc.), free of charge and with very pretty visuals! Especially useful for all of you undergrad social science students :-)
TIPS AND RESOURCES ON GENERAL STUDYING
The STIC framework (Spacing, Testing, Interleaving and Categorising) provides an effective approach to studying of any kind, although it is most useful for subjects heavy in rote learning (e.g., medicine or neuroscience). I was first introduced to it by Ali Abdaal, which is why I linked to his webpage, but there are many other resources out there that explain the concept further/in a different way.When I first started studying for university, like many others, I resorted to lots of trivial summarizing, highlighting and re-reading (AKA busy work), which is a terribly ineffective approach. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I highly recommend having a look at the framework!Closely related is the (free) software Anki: It lets you create various types of flashcards that can be synchronized between devices. It also comes with customizable settings which allow you to fight your forgetting curve with just a little daily effort once you’ve set up your flashcards.
Learning How to Learn
A really cool blogpost by someone called Neel Nanda on how you can improve your own learning, also outside of the university or school context. While the STIC framework is especially helpful for subjects heavy in rote learning, Neel’s text is also great for studying STEM subjects, as he himself is a mathematician. It is a rather long read, but definitely worth it!
There are many great MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) with countless free high-school and university-level courses readily available to anyone with an internet connection. Here are the (free) providers I myself have used in the past and would personally recommend:
- MIT OpenCourseWare (mostly STEM subjects, university-level)
- edX (any subject, various levels)
- Coursera (any subject, various levels)
- KhanAcademy (brilliant for mathematics, mostly high school- and first-year university-level)
AUDIO FOR STUDYING / FOCUS
You’ve probably already heard of the very popular lo-fi playlists on YouTube, but what I personally prefer to use are “white noise generators” as they feel less distracting. Besides plain white noise, they also let you play various other sounds such as rain or wind! Here are the two best (free) ones I’ve come across so far:
Here are three of my favorite Spotify playlists I regularly use when the white noise doesn’t quite cut it:
Note: I’m a heavy iOS/macOS user, and unfortunately not all of what I listed below is available for Windows/Android.
FUN / LEISURE TIME
Astrophysics Simulator (Universe Sandbox)
Universe Sandbox was only just recently recommended to me by a friend, and it is absolutely amazing! It costs around 30 bucks, but comes with (literally) astronomical power – you can simulate pretty much any event that could technically take place in the observable universe (e.g., letting stars collide, changing the trajectory of earth, replacing our sun with a larger one, etc.). Enjoy!
Though not everyone would consider this “fun”, this trio has been an absolute gamechanger for me:
Kindle is an eReader on which you can read books and texts of all sorts.
Readwise is an app that was/is primarily web-based, though in the meantime a mobile version of it was also added. Whenever you highlight something while reading a PDF, eBook, etc., the quote is stored in a database. Depending on your own personal settings, you will then receive emails containing a few of your highlights from said database, randomly selected. You can also do daily reviews of these highlights, and most importantly, you can link your entire Kindle library.
Instapaper is just one of many ways to store texts you encounter on the web “for later reading”. You can also annotate and highlight digital texts in the app.
The three of them combined do come with quite the cost, so this is really more of a “nice to have” if you like taking notes and following up on readings in particular.
Learn to Draw (Drawabox)
Drawabox is an absolutely amazing website that aims to teach anyone the basics of drawing (for free). Though it will make you want to quit many times throughout the process, it’s a great learning resource, and I have not found anything else like it out there!
Creating 3D Animations & Simulations (Blender)
Blender is a really cool open-source software for creating 3D animations and simulations. Though I haven’t gotten beyond taking a first look, it has been recommended to me by multiple people.
Source-Code Editor (Visual Studio Code)
Visual Studio Code is a free source-code editor I personally found to be very noob-friendly and easy to use. I’m sure there are others that hate it, but if you’re on the lookout for such a software, I’d give it a try!
PRODUCTIVITY STUFF AND TRACKING TOOLS
Useful Browser Extensions
Note: I personally use Firefox, so I can’t guarantee that the extensions below are also available on Chrome/Safari/IE/etc.
- Volume Controller: Allows you to boost/decrease the volume of all web content that offers volume control – has way more range/flexibility than the in-built version of most systems
- Distraction-free YouTube: A brilliant extension that lets you hide the recommendation bar, homepage feed and other parts of YouTube. No more going down the rabbithole!
- Unpaywall: Basically a Sci-Hub “to go” – whenever you visit a webpage with a research paper embedded in it, it tells you whether and where there is a free PDF version of the document available.
Ever since I started using Notion about two years ago, it has immensely helped me with curating my “digital garden”. While it does take quite a while to get all your systems and templates set up, once you have everything running, taking notes and keeping track of projects just becomes so much easier. I have recently switched to using Obisidian for various reasons – I might write up a detailed comparison of the two of them at some point.
Research Paper Reviewing (Paperaweek)
A web app that allows you to effortlessly write and track your research paper reviews, also completely free. Credit goes to Eshed Margalit.
(Digital) To-Do Lists (Todoist)
For a long time, I struggled with finding a good to-do list app that is synchronisable between devices and systems while also cheap and easy to use. Ultimately, Todoist was the one I settled on, and it works really well for me. Anything between crazy-level-organised and “I just want to be able to quickly jot down to-dos on the run” is feasible with it.
Website and App Blocker (Cold Turkey)
After having tried various software and browser extensions to help me stay away from distractions while working or studying, the one I found to be best – by far – was Cold Turkey. Its only downside is that it can solely be installed on laptops/desktop computers and not your phone.
Password Manager (Bitwarden)
Another app that can easily be synchronized across devices – and it’s open source, very low cost, as well as simple to use.
Blue Light Reduction (F.Lux)
After having used the macOS-built-in night shift option for a couple of years, I recently discovered f.lux. It’s free and really simple – you configure your location and waking up time, and the brightness and blue light of your display will then automatically decrease/increase as the day progresses.
Easy Repositioning/Resizing of Computer Windows (Moom)
Moom costs around 10 dollars and lets you configure presets/keyboard shortcuts for certain window arrangements and resizings. While this may not sound like a big deal, it is insanely helpful if you’re working with multiple screens or just often need to have multiple tabs open side-by-side. It has certainly saved me a lot of nerves and time over the years!
Screen Time Tracker (Timing)
While the built-in screen time app is totally fine for most purposes, I like Timing for its abilities in creating your own categories (e.g. “work”, “leisure time”, etc.) and automatically receiving in-depth reports and analyses on your device usage. It does run on a subscription model, which I don’t particularly like, but I have been able to take away a lot from the benefits that come with the app.
Nutrition Tracker (Myfitnesspal)
While I mostly use(d) this app on my phone, it is also available as a browser-based tool. It’s free, and its barcode scanner is far superior compared to all others I have encountered – you can find almost any product by simply hovering your camera over its barcode. I think it is fairly obvious what you use it for: It helps with tracking nutritional values of products and your overall diet (as well as burning of calories, though I don’t think that function is particularly accurate). While I don’t use it consistently, it is definitely the app I resort to whenever needed.
PDF Editing + Merging (PDFSam Basic)
A freeware that lets you merge, split and otherwise edit PDF documents. There is a lot of other freeware out there that accomplishes the same tasks, but this one has been working well for me!
Shared Expense Tracking (Tricount)
A true lifesaver if you have shared expenses with flatmates, housemates, or any other kind of mates. Makes it really easy to track who owes who how much. Also available as a mobile app and very easy to use!
Mobile Document Scanning (Microsoft Lens)
I’d be very suprised if you hadn’t already heard of this app or one of its competitors, but just to make sure: Microsoft Lens is a mobile app that lets you scan any kind of document with your phone/tablet camera, converting what you captured into a desired format. Anything from PDF to PPT and JPEG is possible!
Cautionary note: There are probably as many different frameworks and approaches to careers as there are people in the world. I do not claim that the information below will lead you to the “one right answer”. However, these are resources I personally found helpful in the past to reflect on my values and career decisions.
Career Planning + “Making a Difference” (80000hours)
80000 hours is a really interesting non-profit project affiliated with University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute and the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. The name stems from a simple calculation: 40 years times 50 weeks times 40 hours equals 80000 hours of work within a “standard” lifespan. The project publishes a lot of articles revolving around which pressing problems around the world may make the most sense to tackle right now, and how so. If you don’t shy away from reading long texts, this is a great webpage to have a look at. However, I want to emphasize that “career planning” (if there even is such a thing) goes beyond just pure self-reflection and thinking; in my experience, gathering experiences and impressions in various places and ways is crucial, which is what the people behind 80000 hours also highlight.
Graduate School Applications (Various Resources) See also my personal resource collection on pursuing a PhD!
The process of applying to grad school (both for master’s and PhD programs) can be a confusing one, especially if you’re an international student. As I myself am still in the process of figuring it all out, I can’t give much personal advice, so instead, I’ll link other people’s resources/”tricks” I have made use of:
- Harvard’s prep resources (e.g., how to write a research statement, application checklist, etc.)
Google Drive folder with various guidelines and tips, created by people from the University of Texas:
- Excel template for keeping track of your applications
- A template for keeping track of your recommendation letters
- A template for reaching out to potential future advisors
- A document with advice for constructing a CV
- A document with advice for comparing graduate program types
- A document with a recommended timeline for the application cycle
- A document with recommendations for finding relevant research jobs and internship
- Guidelines on writing the application essay/SOP:
- If you google around a bit, you can find examples of essays of people that were admitted to top schools, such as this one by Tiffany Tseng (MIT)
- Also, checking lists of alumni on the programme websites and searching those people on LinkedIn/Twitter can give you an idea of what background some of the people that were admitted have. Sometimes messaging them also works, but be mindful of boundaries!
- I have also written a short blogpost on scholarships, which is mostly aimed at Swiss students interested in international merit-based scholarships. The general process of applying to scholarships is also covered, though.
- If you’re interested in studying in Germany, here’s a really great overview of all available scholarships.
Noteworthy Podcasts Offering Career Advice
- Deep Questions with Cal Newport is a podcast I find brilliant not only for effective time use at work, but also in terms of time use for meaningful spending of your free time. I highly recommend giving it a listen! For starters, some of his shorter “Habit Tune-Up” episodes might be best: There, he directly answers questions from the audience which always come with great concrete examples of time-management or attention issues. His frameworks of “deep work” and “deep life” can add great value if you generally enjoy structuring your days or think you might profit from such an approach.
- Range by David Epstein: Range is a book about what constitutes generalists and specialists in this day and age, picking up on what the two “types” bring to the table in the career marketplace. It includes lots of interesting stories and anecdotes and is generally a pleasant as well as insightful read.
- You Majored In What? by Katherine Brooks: You Majored in What? is a career-guide-type book including insights, advice, and career-related questions as food for thought. It also brilliantly discusses how your college major does not define your career trajectory, which may be of use to any of you with broader, multi-disciplinary career (and free-time) interests.