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Podmasters: 5 Back-To-School Podcasts That Will Help You Get To The Head Of The Class

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Podmasters is a weekly column where staff writers Andrea Alfano and Laura Rosenfeld highlight the podcasts you need in your life. Every week, they tackle a new genre, recommending everything from well-known series to little-listened-to-gems that will make you laugh, cry and learn.

This week, Laura Rosenfeld recommends five podcasts that may help you succeed in school — and in life — all year long.

I hope you had a nice Labor Day weekend because it is time to go back to school. Though some students across the country may have already headed back into the classroom a few weeks ago, we all know that Labor Day is the unofficial end to the summer. If you weren't in school mode yet, you certainly are now.

When you've spent three homework-free months staying up late to binge-watch your new favorite show on Netflix and sleeping in late due to your what-else-do-I-have-to-do-it's-summer attitude, it can be difficult to suddenly get back into the swing of things and head back to college, where you actually have to wake up before the crack of 2 p.m. and wear pants and all.

However, your transition back into school mode doesn't have to be more difficult than pulling that all-nighter to finish your postmodern lit term paper. All you need is some guidance to help you get your head in the game once again.

So, why not listen to a podcast or two to help get you ready for back-to-school time? They're like little nuggets of wisdom, entertainment and inspiration that could help you have your smartest, happiest and most successful year yet if you're in school, and even if you're not.

To Help You Study: Classical Performance Podcast

The jury is still out on whether or not music actually helps a person study or makes him or her retain information better, but if you're one of those people who happens to need a little something something on in the background to get your work done, you know that having the right tunes is essential. In my own experience, I've found that instrumental music is really the only music that's not distracting when I'm trying to read, write or study, and you can never go wrong with the classics — classical music, that is. The Classical Performance Podcast from Boston's WGBH Educational Foundation is one of the best classical music podcasts, in my opinion, because it actually features full live performances of pieces by some of the greatest classical composers ever, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel. You may have heard of those guys before. What's also cool about this podcast is that many of the episodes begin with a bit of background and context for the performance that you're about to hear, so you can even learn something while you're already learning, too.

To Get Smarter: TED Radio Hour

I love learning, so of course I'm a big fan of TED Talks, where you can find out about how your brain works and what happens when humans put that brain to work in usually less than 20 minutes. The TED Radio Hour is basically like those video TED Talks that go viral every once in a while but in a more in-depth, aural format. There are several genre-specific TED podcasts, but I like TED Radio Hour because it has the added benefit of having the production value of an NPR broadcast since NPR is a co-producer of the podcast. It also really dissects the ideas presented in TED Talks in a fascinating and refreshing way. Each episode is centered on a common theme introduced in a recent TED Talk, such as the seven deadly sins, our relationship to technology and the inter-connectedness of nature, and features insight from TED speakers and other movers and shakers from all different industries. Just like TED Talks, you're sure to learn something new from listening to the TED Radio Hour, and you can use that to impress others at your next frat party when you've run out of bar tricks.

To Help You De-stress: My Meditation Station

If you're a college student, you're expected to juggle a lot all at once in your mini-foray into independence. With classes, clubs and homecoming festivities with your friends all happening at once, college life can sometimes get overwhelming, so much so that you may be tempted to let one of these very important areas slide when the going gets tough.

Some people have found that one way to de-stress and improve focus is meditation. There are tons of guided meditation podcasts out there, but I personally like My Meditation Station because the installments are short (most of them are less than 10 minutes long), and host Stin Hansen's voice and prompts are soothing and easy to follow. She also tailors each meditation exercise depending on what someone might be looking to get out of the practice, such as relaxation, test prep or motivation. Of course, listening to meditation podcasts isn't a quick fix for all of the problems in your life. In fact, if you're really having trouble staying on top of things, you should probably seek out help elsewhere, such as talking to a friend or a medical professional. However, meditation can help calm your mind and get some perspective to realize that everything is usually not as bad as it seems.

To Take A Study Break: Doug Loves Minis

Comedian Doug Benson has a hilarious podcast called Doug Loves Movies, in which he sits down with equally hilarious people to talk about — you guessed it — movies. The only problem is that each episode is about 90 minutes long. Busy college students just don't have time for that. Thankfully, Benson was once a young adult, too, and he also records more manageable episodes for his Doug Loves Minis podcast, where he alone pontificates on cinema in usually 20 minutes or so. Right now, he is busy going through his "365 Movies" challenge, where he watches and gives his thoughts on 365 movies in 365 days. When students want a break from partying, er, studying hard, a quick, funny, light-hearted little pick-me-up like Doug Loves Minis is just what the doctor ordered.

To Stay Motivated Until Graduation: What It Takes

School can come with many ups and downs, but getting through all of the hardships and sticking it out until the end to graduate will be so worth it years after you get your diploma. Of course, when encountering challenge after challenge, it can be difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, it can be helpful to have an example to follow. Hearing how some of the most famous and successful people in history overcame obstacles to be at the top of their fields should provide the motivation you need to conquer anything.

What It Takes is a relatively new podcast, so there are only a few episodes to listen to right now, but I think it has the potential to become one of the most inspirational podcasts out there. Each episode airs a rare interview with a notable individual from the 20th century recorded by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Academy of Achievement. So far, the podcast has aired interviews with Johnny Cash, Willie Mays and Oprah Winfrey, all of whom bring a unique perspective on adversity and success. If they can't inspire you, who can?

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Photo: COD Newsroom | Flickr

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