Even expert physicists get scared of math. Here’s how to overcome the phobia.

Last week we discussed why your aversion to math is just in your head, and gave tips on how to overcome the cynicism.

It turns out, even physicists are turned off by complex math equations (which are a huge part of their job): Behavioral scientists confirmed in a new study that even for professionals whose math skills are sharp enough to make a living off of, big numbers can still be scary:

The researchers found a significant inverse correlation between the number of equations in a given article and the likelihood that it would be referenced by other physicists in their own articles (an indicator of how well read a particular article might be).

The problem is not limited to the field of physics, either, say Fawcett and Higginson, who earlier arrived at a similar conclusion about math-heavy papers in the fields of ecology and evolutionary biology. The authors claim that in order to avoid being avoided, authors of academic papers need to cut down on the equations and try to get their ideas across in simpler language.

Conquering math doesn’t mean you have to jump at every intimidating problem on the blackboard. It’s about taking that impulsive, irrational (pun intended) fear of numbers and saying, “what the heck,” and giving it a try.

However, the study shows that maybe the onus isn’t always on the student to tackle complex math:

Ultimately, say the authors, it’s up to the scholars themselves to do better at communicating their work, even to an audience of their peers.

As the scientists behind the study note, the substance of a piece of work doesn’t determine its entire worth: it’s the presentation that also determines how people receive it.

Teachers are put in a tough position here. They have a set curriculum to follow and face strict benchmarks and guidelines to bring students with varying skill levels up to par. Making a lesson plan on the quadratic equation into something relevant to a high school student is no small task.

That’s where different styles of teaching and individualized attention come into play. For intimidating subjects such as math, physics or chemistry, homework can be a daunting task. Today’s students find themselves using their smartphones as distractions to the dry material in their textbook.

With tutoring apps like Yup, one-to-one learning becomes a fresh way to get through tough problems. World-class tutors help students see efficient ways around homework while understanding the concepts from the curricula.

Also, the chat-based interface creates a familiar mode of discussion with students who otherwise wouldn’t benefit from a stressful or intimidating classroom environment. Form and function come together to open a new world to kids with math phobia.

So if you or anyone you know has a phobia of math, just remember that it happens to the pros; sometimes you just have to see the problem in a new way. 

Many kids believe their brains just can’t process math. Here’s how you can prove them wrong.

Doubt can be a dangerous enemy… and not just for students.

Take back-to-back MVP basketball player Stephen Curry for example. He didn’t make a single three-pointer in last week’s game. He could have stopped shooting the ball so often… but then he scored 13 three-pointers the next game, breaking the NBA record.

Elon Musk spent all his investors’ money failing to launch three different rockets. He could have listened to the nagging voice in his head saying, “hey man, maybe outer space isn’t your thing.”

Then he launched his fourth rocket successfully and NASA gave him over a billion dollars.

While the odds were clearly not in favor of either of these men, and their outcomes are statistical anomalies, their stories tell a universal truth for students struggling with math class: you’re only as good as you tell yourself you are.

One UCLA professor sought to find out why we tell ourselves that our brains are only geared to think a certain way. How do we rationalize the idea that we’re somehow genetically bad at math? He came up with three strategies that can help students with self-doubting tendencies:

1. Work, work, work, work…

The first, pioneered by the Stanford social psychology professor Carol Dweck … aims to change students’ mind-sets by showing them that their intelligence can grow through deliberate work.

A cohort of sixth-grade students was taught, in eight lessons, that intelligence is malleable, not fixed, and that the brain is a muscle that grows stronger with effort. Their math grades, which had been steadily declining, rose substantially, while the grades of classmates who learned only about good study habits continued to get worse.

Basically, Rihanna hit the nail on the head: “work work work… learn learn learn.”

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Most students’ frustration comes with the feeling that no matter what they do, something blocks their success: the teacher always looks down on them, their friends will laugh at them, or they feel they just don’t belong in the class.

We can help students fight these negative impulses by making sure their homework is meaningful and manageable. That the work they put in outside of the classroom will directly translate to success during examination. Pinpoint areas of struggle and make sure they aren’t just working hard but efficiently as well.

2. Speak their language

The second uses constructive critical feedback to instill trust in minority adolescents, a demonstrably powerful way to advance their social and intellectual development.

Much like the first strategy, this is why access to 1-to-1 learning is so important to a student’s developmental capacity. Specialized teaching, with patience and positive reinforcement can only happen when an instructor has time to interact and problem-solve directly with the student.

Mobile tutoring apps like Yup are the best conduit to the kind of tailored feedback students need to solve problems. Whenever they hit a wall doing homework and can’t necessarily call their teacher at night (or can’t afford a regular tutor for just small questions), world-class tutors are available to look at the problem at the push of a button. They figure out where the student needs help and works them through the concept.

3. What really matters?

The third intervention — and in some ways, the most powerful — invites students to acknowledge their self-worth, combating the corrosive effects of racial stereotypes, by having them focus on a self-affirming value.

In a series of short written exercises, sixth graders wrote about values that were meaningful to them, like spending time with their family and friends. After this experience, white students did no better, but their black and Latino classmates improved so much that the achievement gap shrank by 40 percent.

Students face endless social media distractions. On Instagram and Facebook feeds, it’s easy to disconnect and escape from our personal values when looking at how someone else lives her life. Having your kids spend time articulating what truly matters to them can go a long way in helping them visualize success.

On their own, ‘studying’ and ‘homework’ don’t usually come to mind when students think of personally meaningful activities. They are important ways to achieve success, but it’s still work. The Yup app is an interesting tool to use in this exercise because when students can finish their homework more efficiently, they have more time to focus on fulfilling their personal goals. Sure, they’ll also do better on tests, but that only grows their confidence that much more.

Should you pull an all-nighter? Use this equation

We’ve all been there.

Somehow, through all the craziness of the quarter/semester/term, through the countless homework assignments, the tears and laughter, the events and study groups so carefully planned…

You realize you may have to stay up all night for school. As online math tutors, we’ve seen countless students log into the Yup app during a stressful all-nighter. Therefore, we’ve created a simple cost-benefit analysis formula that can help you decide whether or not to watch sunset and sunrise.

Before you decide to embark on this strange, twisted journey, plug in your own variables and see where the equation takes you:

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The Variables

t

‘t’ is the time you have until the assignment is due or the test is administered. If judgment day is happening in under 24 hours, then you might think you already have no choice but to pull one. However, there are other variables to consider here.

When you plug into the equation:

t = 1 if you have greater than 24 hours to prepare.

t = -1 when you have less than 24 hours.

W

This is the likelihood that you’ll reach your target grade by winging the whole thing. How comfortable are you with the material?

This is also a self-expectation variable. Obviously you want to turn in only your best work, but you have to consider factors such as: what other classes must you be awake for the next morning? Do you want to look like a wilted piece of spinach? Can you afford to take a lower grade and preserve your sanity?

W = 5 if you could half-study/half-watch Netflix and be fine.

W = -5 if you still have to remove the plastic wrapping from the textbook.

F

F is for Focus. To what extent will you need to use cognitive function the next day? If you deprive yourself of sleep, you risk losing key bits of memory you worked all night to fortify. Even your ability to operate a motor vehicle becomes impaired.

If you have a test to perform well on, F = 1

If it’s an assignment you can crash on and not think about the next day, F = 5

A

This variable determines whether or not you should pull the All-Nighter.

If A is 0, sorry, but you probably should work through the night.

If A is below 0, consider hitting the books hard but getting enough rest to function and perform in the morning.

Mind you, these are simply suggestions. We understand students have busy lives, but we still recommend preparing far ahead of the 24-hour window. You can cut down on the time by heading to app store and downloading Yup, so you can chat with a professional tutor whenever you need homework help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile app tutors are the missing part of the equation

Sprint just announced the launch of its 1Million Project, which will provide mobile devices (along with high speed internet connection) to one million disadvantaged high school students across the country. The program is in line with the federal government’s initiative to increase educational access to low-income households.

But will this effort effectively shorten the “homework gap” that currently hinders students without access to proper after-school help?

Millions of families currently cannot afford to keep a broadband connection at home, so introducing both the device and the data eliminates virtually all cost barriers to reaching the web.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said:

…the internet is an incredibly powerful tool for learning. But it’s a huge problem in America that we have 5 million households with children that lack internet connections. Those kids have a huge disadvantage and we are failing them.

By the start of the 2017-2018 school year, one million kids will have a data-enabled smartphone, tablet or laptop in their hands. Everyone’s happy, right?

Not so fast.

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Many sociologists and education policy wonks have noted that bridging the digital divide doesn’t necessarily address the growing ‘digital inequality’ in our students.

Putting an iPhone in a student’s hand won’t empower them to study.When looking at the full context of a kid’s life circumstances, skills, support groups and intangible factors like confidence and grit, we can understand that not all beneficiaries of this program will be adequately prepared for its intended purpose.

Who’s to say a student won’t go straight to the pawn shop after receiving their phone just to buy dinner?

Only when students see the immense power education can have in changing their lives, will they foster the curiosity to use the internet for informative purposes.

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That’s where mobile tutoring apps come into play. With the daily social frustrations facing children from low-income backgrounds, academics can prove to be an even higher mountain to climb. But when you introduce a one-to-one tutoring style, the increased attention can make confidence skyrocket.

Now imagine a one-to-one tutor (from institutions like MIT and Stanford) available 24/7 on your kid’s mobile device. No car, no long-term fees. Just student and tutor, chipping away at the “impossible” homework problem in math/chemistry/physics.

Otherwise, kids are gonna get all these free phones and just look at memes all day.

 

‘Thrivers’ vs. ‘Divers’: Why high school success doesn’t guarantee A’s in college

According to a recent blog by the Washington Post, high school grades may be the best predictor we have to foresee college success… but it’s still fairly useless.

The blog focuses on a study conducted by the University of Toronto, which found that incoming college freshmen, on average, predicted they’d score a 3.6 overall GPA after their first year. Pretty solid goal to hit, especially factoring all the social and academic adjustments. The average actual GPA for the first year? A sad 2.3.

So with all the high-scoring high school kids, why were their college GPAs so low? Sure, college courses are more challenging (as they should be), but that doesn’t paint the whole picture. A bunch of smart wonks got together and conducted a personality test on the students to find more answers:

They focused on two kinds of students. The “thrivers” were those who did much better in college than their high school grades would have predicted. The “divers” were those who did much worse. Mostly, these students were neither superstars in high school nor delinquents — they all got fairly good, respectable grades. But upon arriving at college, the thrivers averaged A’s, while the divers averaged F’s.

You can read the rest of the article here.

It turns out that intelligence really isn’t a large factor in determining success. As math tutors, we chat with all different kinds of students on the Yup app. We see the same common personality traits in the ‘thrivers’ and ‘divers’ from the study in our sessions.

Here are some strong habits to make (or break) in order to thrive in school:

Conscientiousness

Most students who took a dive described themselves are being less likely to be careful or thorough in their work. In school and in the professional world, this is a huge factor that perhaps isn’t obvious in a college application but becomes very clear in the work you turn in.

You can cultivate more conscientiousness by approaching assignments and studying as though you were the on reading it. For example, if you were in the teacher’s shoes, what would you think of the quality and time you put into your essay? Professors and TA’s in college have more time and resources to dissect your submissions, and therefore you must care more about the minute details. They say it’s impossible to teach someone how to care about something; so raise studying to the same standard you hold Harambe (RIP).

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Grit

Many psychologists and education gurus talk about this trait, and it’s not what you eat with shrimp.

Grit is how you respond to adversity. Do you thrive in uncomfortable situations, socially and academically? How creative are you with problems that don’t have a conventional solution?

For example, if you run into a problem with math homework and can’t get a hold of immediate assistance, look out for alternative resources to fix the problem. Yup connects you with live tutors via mobile app fpr help with math, physics or chemistry – whenever you need it.

Organization

Some K-12 teachers have pointed out a trend of students delegating more organizational duties to their parents and more recently, their own teachers.

Once these students get to college, the professors give out the syllabus on day one and that’s the last time they’ll notify for due dates; no extensions, check-ups or reminders. Students must learn quickly how to become their own secretaries.

Find what time management skills work best for you and prioritize accordingly. Nailing down a habit of planning your work ahead doesn’t require much brainpower once you get into a rhythm, yet can make all the difference in your end results.

 

 

 

 

New York high schooler uses tutoring app to crush exams

School can be daunting: juggling extracurricular activities, exams, strategizing the perfect time to text your crush… it’s amazing sleep gets factored in at all. We want to tell your stories. We occasionally feature students who have run into academic roadblocks and used the Yup app to connect with a tutor for math, chemistry and/or physics.

This week, we interviewed a high school student who connected with one of our mobile tutors to prepare for New York’s especially rigorous testing system.

Meet:

img_1973Gianna, 10th grade, New York

Favorite subject: Chemistry or English

Least favorite: Geometry

Extracurriculars: Soccer, acting, softball and/or baseball, and dancing.

Favorite app: Yup of course!

What kind of student would you describe yourself as?

I’m the type of student to try to do my work fast but also correct. Hoping to have a 95 average I try to study hard for quizzes and tests.

What’s the hardest part about high school?

The honors classes I’m in, and regents.

[Note: In New York State, Regents Examinations are statewide standardized examinations in core high school subjects required for a Regents Diploma to graduate. Most students, with some limited exceptions, are required to take the Regents Examinations. To graduate, students are required to have earned appropriate credits in a number of specific subjects by passing year-long or half-year courses, after which they must pass Regents examinations in some of the subject areas.]

What do you wish you’d have known freshman year?

I really should have known not to slack off.

What excites you about going to college?

College would be a life turning experience and make my dreams come true! I’m pursuing a career an acting, media and/or the film industry.

Any study tips? Life tips?

I really suggest using flashcards and asking your friends or family to help study! And don’t be afraid to make new friends in high school!

How’d you find Yup?

I found out about Yup on an ad and I was interested in getting better grades in a fun way!

Describe your experience with our tutoring. What was your previous tutoring experiences if any? Was the app easy to use? What was your tutor like? How did you work through the problem? How long did the whole thing take? Care to share an image of the problem(s) you worked on?

Previous tutoring experiences weren’t that easy. They didn’t make that much sense but since I used the app it was easy… the tutors were very nice and made the problems very easy. It depends on how long and difficult a problem is for them to work through it.

Usually it takes them 6-10 minutes depending on also the subject. In general Yup is a great app for new incoming freshman to get new subjects since middle to high school is a new jump. But I feel like it’s useful for any other grade!

What can Yup do better?

Yup is already a perfect app for my math needs, but I would love to see the tutors cover more subjects!

What is the future of education/technology?

The future of education and technology is gonna be enormous compared to what we have today! I’m excited to see what other ways we’ll find out innovative and fun ways to learn.

The NFL lineman who cracks helmets and math problems

Ever come home from an exhausting day of classes and extracurricular activities and practices and wonder how in the world you’re going to finish homework without passing out on your textbook?

Baltimore Ravens’ John Urschel was the guy who asked for more math and more football practice.

Let’s rewind: before he entered the league as a 2014 fifth-round draft pick, and even before he became captain of the Penn State Nittany Lions squad… Urschel was just a high school student-athlete shopping around for prospective colleges.

Stanford? Maybe. Princeton? Possibly.

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His size, skills and strong math chops got him recruited to both these fine institutions, where he could have played football competitively while earning an elite education. When he chose to attend Penn State, people thought he was crazy. He told Wall Street Journal:

“… my principal told me I was a fool for picking Penn State…because he said I’m never going to play pro football, but I ended up getting the best of both worlds.”

Though he occasionally dabbled in statistics talk via online articles, he mainly focused on protecting Ryan Mallett and Matt Schaub in the pocket. This year, he dipped back into the math world, enrolling in a math program at MIT.  He is currently the only NFL player who is also enrolled in a Ph.D. program.

(Note: none of the online tutors at Yup have ever been, nor probably ever will be, professional football players.)

Athletics and math-letics isn’t new to Urschel, however. At Penn State, he juggled a physically-demanding D-1 football regimen with an equally-demanding role as an undergraduate teacher and tutor. It wouldn’t have been uncommon for him to have a copy of the playbook or Chaos: An Introduction to Dynamical Systems in hand.  

In a time when football seems to cause more brain injuries than brain conditioning, Urschel shows that there is no single image of a math guru; we don’t have to fit into a jock/nerd stereotype to excel in either category. In fact, we want to help as many students as possible break out of the mentality that they can’t understand a subject or a problem because of they “way they are”.

“I’d like to be known as a football player by football people, a mathematician by math people,” Urschel said. “Anyone else? I want to be known for both.”

When you see Urschel playing on Sunday nights, just know that there are more calculations floating around in his head than most humans could fathom on a weekend.

Oh, the places you shouldn’t go: 5 mistakes freshmen can avoid

Welcome to the big leagues, kid. As you walk the halls of the jungle that is high school, know that nap time’s over. You’ve got calculus to master! Proms to attend! Clubs to join and sports to play. With these landmarks come moments of crippling embarrassment, eye-opening lessons, and rare but incredible victories along the way. Oh, the places you’ll go. 

Four years down the road, you’ll look back and laugh at how monumental such insignificant moments seemed. But you’re living in a present reality that includes heckling in hallways and unjamming rusty lockers. You need help. Usually, we’re just here as tutors on your smartphone app helping you through math and science problems. But for the freshmen, we have an even higher calling.

We can help you foresee and maybe even cushion the blow some of the inevitable “freshman mistakes” that have earned you the most vulnerable spot on the high school totem pole.

All those who wander are probably lost

Whether it’s figuring out the temperature on a new shower faucet or navigating the hallways, one must always have a game plan when venturing into unchartered territory. If your strategy is to simply “wing it” between classes, think again.

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If you’re late to class, you risk getting off on the wrong foot with your math teacher. Worse yet, think of the one type of student most likely to be purposefully late on the first week of school: seniors. You’re lucky if you walk by a benevolent one; but just remember that they know the ins and outs of the building, so there’s no hiding.

Everybody love everybody

Herd mentality is a grim reality of life, which becomes pretty apparent when hordes of students shuffle to class at the sound of a bell. Therefore, you will realize that cliques do exist, and that people don’t always believe in embracing differences in others.

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Don’t automatically assume that social cliques are as cliché as in the movies – if you assume that everyone fits into a category of jock, nerd, or freak, then you’re missing out on a lot of potential connections. The most interesting kids I knew in high school didn’t care about what group you were in or project some stereotype onto others.

Respect the bus hierarchy

Unless you have the luxury of riding to school with a pal or older sibling, you must endure the plight of unlicensed minors across the nation: the school bus.

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Navigating the artificially-constructed seating chart of the bus can be confusing, but in a nutshell: seniority rules, from front to back. That means sitting on top of an overheating rear engine and cramping your awkward legs over the back wheel hump underneath.

You have four whole years!

We’re not here to sugar coat anything; freshman year really can suck at times. General education courses have the tendency to cause premature gray hairs. However, you should still try to cherish the freedom of being the new guy/girl. It’s important to learn what you can, while you can – before college applications and challenging courses take over your schedule.

Not making many friends? You have plenty of time to reach out. Your crush chose another someone? Freshmen go through relationships like juniors go through college apps: lots of crying, then on to the next one. You have time, so trust the process more and your hormones less! But on the other hand…

…You only have four years…

Before you know it, you’ll walk across a stage, shake your principal’s clammy hand, and walk off into the unknown sunset with a diploma. You’ll think back on these times now and wonder what could have been.

So don’t waste time. If you’re suffering in class, get help now. Scared to talk to the cutie in calculus? You’ll be scared tomorrow too, so might as well pony up today. So often, college freshmen talk about how miserable they were in high school compared to college. If you bring some of the same open-mindedness that college kids do now, your experience will be much more enjoyable.

Good luck, class of 2020!

Managing your child’s budget: Movie theater hacks, Money-saving apps, and more

Every day across the country, a student runs out of monthly mobile data. With a part-time job and/or full-time school on the schedule, the young adult must make a crucial decision: purchase more data or be able to afford more fro-yo this weekend?

These financial decisions seem insignificant to parents (who shoulder essential family expenses). But student activity on weekends can be boiled down to just a few predictable expenses, i.e. shopping, going to the movies, driving around with friends. Yes, just driving. The rising cost of these relatively cheap pastimes make life difficult for students who aren’t able to directly outsource these costs to their parents’ credit card.

Our schools aren’t exactly making life easier, either. Data shows that in 31 states, local government spending on schools fell even after the recession ended from 2008-2014. Adjusted for inflation, students are still getting duped out of funding.

While counties divert money away from schools, families have had to scrape harder to find alternative methods of tutoring, and in some cases, having the students find jobs to make ends meet.

However, students are evolving when it comes to making money and having fun. In the age of information and technological innovation, parents are also finding new ways to save money and track their youngsters’ spending habits. We might be a bunch of online math tutors, but that doesn’t mean we can’t show you a few more budget hacks we’ve picked up as poor millennials:

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Olympic Student-Athletes: Life After Rio

In regards to all olympic sports, we can take a guess on the average athlete’s preparation regimen: thousands of hours of practice, laser-like focus on diet, lighting glass cups on fire and suctioning your shoulder (OK, maybe that’s just Michael Phelps). Don’t forget missing out on social life and carrying the pressure of representing your country.

Imagine shouldering that kind of responsibility, plus making a 9 AM lecture.

This year, the NCAA sent 168 student-athletes to Rio to compete in 15 sports and represent various countries. We’re featuring student-olympians in pursuit of STEM degrees to show how they manage their busy lifestyles with mathematical precision. Much like their coursework, their productivity is down to a science.

After reading the amazing stories below, we hope you feel encouraged to add more efficiency to your studying habits this semester. Try a mobile tutoring app like Yup, so you can understand your math/physics/chemistry homework and free up time to get active like an olympian.

Sovijja Pou, Brown University

Sport: Swimming

Major: Biology/applied math concentration, liberal medical education program

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Representing Cambodia, Sovijja is dedicated to maintaining a healthy balance between school and swimming. According to his feature in the student newspaper, Sovijja still spends 20 hours a week in the pool during the academic year.

“At Brown, I’m not known as just ‘the swimmer’ or just ‘the student,’ ” Pou says. “I can have an intellectual conversation with anyone here — or I can choose not to. When I was younger, I would get wrapped up in overthinking things. When I got to Brown … the openness here made me feel a lot less stressed than I was before. This has improved my mental health, improved my grades and improved my swimming by just allowing me to let go and let things happen.”

Weinreich says that Pou’s work in the lab is defined by a quiet but confident and persistent work ethic: “He’s really unburdened by an ego. He feels there is a lot to learn and is keen to ask questions. He is prepared to work hard, and he just wants to get better.”

Pou swam the 100m freestyle to kick off the 2016 events.

Virginia Thrasher, West Virginia University

Sport: Shooting

Major: Engineering

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Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Jeremy Lee

The 19-year-old from Virginia blew the competition away at the first finals in Rio: the women’s 10-meter air rifle. Her gold medal would be the first of many for the USA. What does a teen do after out-shooting her older competitors? According to USA Today:

She’ll go back to West Virginia, where she will be a sophomore. “I get home 20 hours before the first class. So I’ll be in physics at 8:30 a.m.”

Hold on… from Brazil to West Virginia with a gold medal and you still find time to calculate the acceleration of mass? Respect, Ginny.

Simone Manuel, Stanford University

Sport: Swimming

Major: Undecided, considering communications or science, tech, and society

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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – AUGUST 11: Simone Manuel of the United States celebrates after winning gold in the Women’s 100m Freestyle Final on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

The 20-year-old made history by securing a gold medal in the women’s 100-meter freestyle, becoming the first African American to win an individual swimming event in the olympics. She has shattered other records while at Stanford and is feared by her competition.

To compete at the highest level, she opted to take time off her freshman year:

“I wanted to put 100 percent of my effort into Olympic trials and not separating my, I guess, uh, … man, being out of school has, like, fried my brain,” said the 19-year-old, with a laugh. “I didn’t want to separate my priorities.”

But she still encourages her teammates who remained in class:

“I definitely don’t feel guilty,” said Manuel, with another laugh, who is in full support of her teammates at Stanford. “I’m giving them all the encouragement that they need. Asking them, ‘How are finals?’ But that was another reason why I decided to redshirt and take the last quarter off academically. It’s stressful preparing for finals and trying to swim fast at this meet and at trials and move out of your dorm.”

Manuel will return as a sophomore in Stanford this fall, with more time to devote to academics in the off-season.