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Finals Week: Ten tips to strategize, de-stress and succeed

Final exams are just around the corner! Finals week, especially for an international student, may be daunting and stressful at first glance. Unlike in many other countries. In US universities, you need to take a large amount of exams all in one week. Follow this guide to ensure your ultimate success:

1. Start early
You probably spend the majority of your time outside the classroom and in a library studying and reviewing what you learned in your lectures. You must manage this time wisely, particularly before finals week because you don’t want to be caught cramming the night before the exam. If you wait until the last minute to quickly study, you will not retain the information and will therefore be unprepared for the next day. Creating and following a study schedule will guarantee that you have time to thoroughly study all the content that will be on your test. Start a few weeks early and set aside time every day dedicated to studying for your exam. Studying a little every day is significantly more effective than studying all at once the day before.

2. Attend a study group or review session
Studying with other people has several benefits and proves to be superior to working alone. If your group meets regularly, you will be less likely to procrastinate or push off studying. You may also gain an improved understanding of the material: if you don’t understand a topic, someone else will and could explain it to you in a simplified way. Moreover, teaching someone else a topic that you understand to a greater degree could also sharpen your knowledge of the subject. Studying with others can give you a new perspective on the subject matter and will end the monotony of studying alone.

3. Find a quiet space
If studying with groups isn’t your style or if you need a break from your group, find a quiet place to sit, relax and review your information by yourself. Try not to study in your room, as it can be boring and distracting. University campuses are full of hushed libraries, peaceful parks and vacant classrooms. Pick a spot you like and make it yours.

4. Disconnect
Disconnecting during your study time is a great way to keep yourself focused and on track. Picking up your phone, checking out what’s new on Facebook or Instagram can distract you and steal your valuable study time. Many people choose to disable their social media accounts during finals week and enable them after their last exam to make sure that they are never distracted by them. Others simply turn off their phones when it’s time to study. Other constructive ways of unplugging are, ironically, apps! An app called Forest plants a seed that grows into a tree after a certain amount of time that you stay off other apps and kills the tree when you leave the app. You build a forest with all your trees, each tree representing the time that you focused, rather than being on your phone. Self-Control to Focus is another app that locks you out of certain distracting apps for a set time and restricts access once you’ve set it. Don’t let technology get in the way of what’s important!

5. Study for the exam format
Understanding the format of the exam is critical. If it’s multiple choice, you should study concepts, key points and word definitions. If you’ll be writing essays, you should be able to fully understand, explain and give examples on the topic.

6. Meet with your professor
Your professors want to help you succeed. You should approach them with prepared questions and the desire to receive constructive advice and information. Additionally, it will give you a chance to demonstrate your desire to learn more and prosper in their class.

7. Make your own study guide
Studying from your professor’s study guide is a great start but creating your own study guide will help you review the information and allow you to practice putting everything in your own words which will give you a stronger familiarity with the subject matter. You could make a study guide hand written, typed on a document or with flashcards. Apps such as Quizlet or Tinycards are also helpful--they use virtual flashcards and games to aid you in retaining information.

8. Take a break
Taking a break can be as advantageous as studying. Giving your brain time to rest will allow you to study more and study stronger later on. Go outside for fresh air, take a nap, go for a run, watch that new episode you’ve been dying to watch or even attend a university event! Even if you have a little amount of time, take it and do something you love so that you can be more focused when you’re working hard.

9. Fuel your brain
Having the right food in your system while studying is an important step in proper brain function. Try eating brain foods to naturally boost your brain power: fruit, salmon, eggs, walnuts, kale, broccoli, almonds, spinach and even a bit of dark chocolate. A balanced diet, rich with nutrients and antioxidants, is a balanced brain.

10. Get rest
Being well rested throughout your studies is essential to your success--especially the night before your exam. Make sure you get at least 7 hours of sleep a night leading up to the big day. Research shows that sleeping between your study and the exam can increase your retention of the material by 25%!

Once your exams are over--celebrate! Applaud all of your hard work and dedication to your studies and your eventual success.

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What international students must know before signing their off-campus leases

The process of signing a Lease on an apartment is complex - and making mistakes in this process can cost you a lot of time, money and aggravation.
Here are the things you must know before signing your new lease.

This is Urban Dictionary’s definition for finals week:

A state of HELL in which the whole school is either cramming or having a panic attack. The worst week of a college or university student’s life. Finals week involves pulling an all-nighter to reverse the months of slacking that have killed their grades. Finals week involves a lot of stress and very little sleep, the college or university student will be on edge the entire time, thus it is not a good time to screw with them by playing practical jokes or something you might find funny.”

Sounds bad, right?

As an international student in a foreign country, the last thing you need during this “state of hell” time, is to deal with your off-campus landlord because there is a misunderstanding over your lease’s termination clause. But if you sign a contract without understanding it first, that’s exactly where you're headed.

In order to help you avoid this, Legally gathered some of the important clauses you’ll need to look out for when signing onto your dream school’s off-campus lease:

1. Termination/break clause
A break clause is a term in a lease which enables either the landlord or the tenant, or both, to end the lease early. For various reasons, this clause is activated frequently, so you should make sure you’re protected.
The way you are expected to serve the notice of termination is important. Sometimes it is expected that you’ll serve it through multiple methods, so make sure you check the names and addresses of the individuals you should serve the notice to. Also, make sure that you know the required notice period and that it allows you enough time to respond if you’re on the receiving end. Additionally, make sure that the clause guarantees you a refund for the rent that you paid for the period after the termination date.

2. Term of tenancy
In your home country they may be the same, but in the US there is usually a difference between a rental agreement and a fixed-term lease. You need to ensure that you sign the type that best suits you. Leases typically last a year and provide you with security while rental agreements usually run from month to month and self-renew unless terminated by the landlord or the tenant, which allows you more flexibility.

3. Repairs and maintenance
Your contract should clearly state who is responsible for repairs and maintenance in your apartment. There may be a division of the responsibility for different types of maintenance, for example, that you, the tenant, are responsible for electrical devices and damage that you may cause. Nonetheless, it should be very clear that any damage which is caused by reasonable use is fixed by the landlord. Make sure you know how you're expected to alert about defects and repair requests, and what the landlord's timeframe for compliance is.

4. Deposits and fees
This part of the contract is often a serious bone of contention between landlords and tenants and causes frequent friction over the use and return of security deposits. In order to avoid unnecessary hassle and confusion, your agreement should be clear on:
  • The amount of the security deposit and that it’s in compliance with the relevant state laws; some states legislated a maximum amount of deposit which could be collected by the landlord. In Massachusetts for example, A landlord may request a security deposit of no more than one month’s rent.
  • How long after you move out of the apartment will your deposit be returned to you, how it will be returned, and what are the terms in which deductions will be made from the deposit before it will be returned to you. It can be really difficult to deal with getting your deposit back after you return to your home town.
  • What the circumstances are which will allow the landlord to use the deposit and whether it will be possible for you to use it as last month’s rent in the case that the landlord has no claims towards you.
  • If there are any legal, non-returnable fees, such as cleaning or pets?
  • Where the security deposit will be held by the landlord, and more importantly: whether an interest on the security deposit will be paid to you as a tenant.         
5. Subleasing
Summer vacation is just around the corner and you’re not going to be in the apartment for few weeks because you’re returning home for a visit. You might wonder: why not feed my student loan with a some sublet income? But alas, right after you return from your time off, you receive a phone call from your landlord saying that in the lease you signed it is specified that any income from subleasing should be shared with him.
If you think that you’ll likely sublease the apartment, try to make this clause work in your favor.

6. Use of premises  
This clause restricts the number of people living in the apartment at any given time based on the initial group of tenants. Meaning that if you were three roommates when you entered the apartment, the lease is restricted to only you three.
Why should this bother you? Let’s say that your brother comes to town for two weeks and you would like him to stay with you, or you just met someone awesome and you want him or her to move in with you for a while before you move out to get your own place – when this clause is in effect, you can’t.  
7. Surrender of premises
Let us take you back to your finals week, you are stuck in the library trying to make up for the ridiculous amount of slacking you've done over the course of the semester, when you receive an email from your landlord with the subject: “Move out cleaning instructions,” which specifies that you are responsible for hiring, coordinating, and paying for a professional cleaning of all the carpets prior to the lease’s end. Sucks, right? To avoid this, read this clause carefully.

These are only a few of the clauses you should look out for when signing a new lease. Unfortunately, we can’t go over every potential problematic clause, but remember that the lease should protect the basic rights you have:
  • The right to have a safe and habitable space
  • The right to privacy and reasonable notice of entry
  • The right not to be discriminated against
  • The right not to be charged for unreasonable rent prices, security deposits, or fees
  • It’s illegal to add a clause that negates a state or federal law.

Legally is a platform which allows individuals to upload their lease (or any other legal document), and receive a contract review, done by real lawyers, in under 48 hours. Visit Legally’s website on Contact Legally by email ( or Facebook (

How to navigate American university websites when applying to study abroad

As a prospective international student, if you have started your online search for universities, you may have spent hours lost on various American university websites. You might find it hard to understand all the subtle connotations and wording.  A virtual tour guide could be beneficial in finding the best information and to assist you in interpreting the complex websites. To help you start, here are our best tips to help you explore your future university website.

Where do I start?
Fortunately, the majority of the American university websites are built similarly: First, an entrance to the university’s main campus, its vision, values and a personal word from the dean/president of the university. You will also have the chance to view a great deal of information, which can help you get a better grasp on the atmosphere of the campus. Then you should search for the specific schools and colleges within the university that you are interested in applying to: Business School (finance, accounting, tax, marketing, management), Law School, School of Engineering (may be in conjunction with the School of Arts and Sciences), School of Computer Sciences, School of Communication (journalism, writing, public relations).
In the United States, universities are well-known for their esteemed research departments, which therefore have a strong impact on their ranking. You will surely see this on the first page and though it may be interesting, it won’t help you to get the information you need for your application.  

The location of the page for prospective international students all depends on each university’s specific website. In most cases it can be found upon entrance to the website or in the student or admissions sections. We strongly advise you to start getting in touch with the university when starting your application online. The office for international students can help you with scholarships and the immigration process required to study in the United States. In fact, the school you are applying to will ask to work with them during and after your application process.

Should I apply directly to the school or to the general admission center?
This is a significant question when exploring the websites. Usually you will have to apply to the school of your choice: School of Law, Engineering, Business, etc. Each School has its own programs, dean, faculty, process of admissions and campus. You will have to choose a field of study within the school at the beginning of your admission process. Each school has several programs for graduate students and although this may be confusing, it is crucial for you to read all the provided information. Be sure you choose wisely to which program you want to apply. Our different Admissions predictors can be of great help to you. If you have any questions or concerns you should get in touch with administration faculty. Everything should be clear before you start your online application process for graduate programs in the United States in order to avoid any mistakes.

Some keywords you need to know:
Application, registration, admission or enrollment?
Don’t worry- all of these words have the same meaning! In one university you may find an enrollment office and in other a board of admissions or even a registration office. They will be your first contact when working on your online application.
Each university has their own online application system where you can submit all the required documents, letters of recommendations, GMAT score and more.

Undergraduate or graduate?
As an international students, you will need to navigate to the undergraduate (Bachelor’s) or graduate program (Master’s or PhD level) section of the site - these programs require a bachelor degree first. Undergraduate programs are for younger students who are just out of high school. When selecting a graduate program you can find the full description on the website and all the requirements before starting the application. Before applying to a Law School, you must check if your bachelor degree can be accepted in order to apply to a Master of Law (or LLM). The LLM degree is an advanced law certification that has global credibility. International students can usually apply for it and pass the bar exam in America if they intend to work there.

How can I get to know faculty & staff members?
If you’re curious and want to know who your professors will be, take a look at the faculty section of the website. There you will find their contact information and their publications. They are generally not the ones you should contact for your admission, unless you are applying to a graduate program that requires an academic supervisor when applying. Staff and administration members are your point of contact. Many universities have an excellent application service help desk with admissions/enrollment counselors who can help guide you through the numerous steps.  

Useful pages you shouldn’t miss!
Campus life:
This page will become your favorite when you’re admitted! All of the useful information about daily life on campus can be found here: food, housing, sports, students clubs, etc. It is also a great way to get information about the student life and ambience on campus, which can help you determine if this university is right for you.
A daily calendar of university events and a full school year calendar with every important deadline you do not want to miss, all in one place.
Financial aid:
This page may be found in the admissions sections or in its own section, depending on each website. It is a great source of information to assist you in figuring out if specific funds are available for international students, and for you spevifically.

Need more help with getting accepted, planning your studies, and the steps following graduation?