By: Ole Krarup
We've all been there: No matter your program and no matter how smart you are, you are going to need help at some point - it's a fact of life. Maybe there is a tricky concept you can't seem to nail down or maybe you need inspiration for a crucial essay. Apart from your professors, TA's and fellow students, there are lots of helpful people on the internet who are happy to help you out for free. Here are some of the sites that I routinely use:
Yes, yes, I know I am stating the obvious here. But seriously, whenever you start a new course, do yourself a favor and search for "[Title of my course] Tutorial/Lecture series/Guide".More often than not, you can find a dozen videos explaining the major concepts in plain English. It can be an invaluable supplement to your professor's course material.
Prerecorded videos are all well and good for central concepts, but what if you have a more specific question? Maybe you want to calculate the length of toilet paper on a roll. Maybe you are wondering if lions can be considered evil or what North American teenagers did in the 17th century. Maybe you just want to know why you are getting an error message when running the piece of code you wrote.
StackExchange and Quora allow you to ask any question and lets other users answer it. The award you reputation points for asking a good question and you award them with points for helping you out. Whatever you are curious about, you are bound to receive a couple of thorough answers that give you different ways to think about the question. In any case, simply attempting to explain what you struggle to understand can be incredibly helpful.
"Unknown unknowns" are tricky to deal with. Even if you devour every lecture note your professor gives you, there can still be a bunch of interesting topics related to your field of study that you have never heard of.
I can highly recommend looking for Facebook groups or subreddits related to whatever you are currently studying. Enthusiasts from all over the world are constantly sharing their passion for archeology, finance, astronomy, and many other subjects. They are likely to be discussing both the latest developments and obscure but novel facts. If you need to decide on a topic for an independent essay or project, such pages can give you much-needed inspiration. Also, members are usually happy to answer your questions.
Remember: A big part of your university education is "learning how to learn". Knowing where to start looking for help and new information is perhaps the most central skill, so don't hesitate to practice it!