College Success & Survival @ UNI

Study Tips from the NY Times by alcdanielle
November 11, 2010, 11:04 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

A recent NY Times article suggested that the following tips may increase your short term memory and improve your test taking skills:

• vary the rooms you study in
• study several subjects in shorter amounts of time
• space out your studying
• test yourself

For the full article, please visit: Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits
What do you think? We would love to hear your reactions to the article or your experiences with studying.


168 Hours by alcdanielle
October 25, 2010, 12:18 pm
Filed under: Freshmen, General, UNI students | Tags: , , ,

There are 168 hours in a week. Don’t believe me? Do the math! It sounds like a lot doesn’t it? You may be surprised to find out that this gives you plenty of time to do homework, sleep, and (dare I say) have fun.

You’ve probably been told before that for every hour you are in class you should study two hours outside of class. I’m sure you laughed at the person who told you this. Well, what if I told you that you do have enough time to devote two hours to studying and still have enough time for leisure activities? You would probably laugh at me as well. The trick is to budget your time. You need to figure out where all of your time is going. Do you spend too much time on Facebook? Are you spending two hours complaining about homework instead of actually doing it?

Below you will find a handout that proves that you do have enough time to study for all your classes and still sleep at night. Give it a try. You may be surprised at how much free time you actually have. If you find out that you are over 168 hours, you may want to ask yourself if this schedule is really working for you.

168 Hours

Test-Anxiety by alcdanielle
October 22, 2010, 12:32 pm
Filed under: Freshmen, General, UNI students | Tags: , , ,

Do you get stressed before and during tests? Does it affect your performance? You are not alone.

Many students struggle with test-taking. The key to reduce stress associated with exams is preparation. There are many study strategies that may help you better prepare and reduce stress associated with test taking. Not taking the steps to reduce stress can lead to Test-Anxiety. When you don’t manage the stress you experience with taking tests, stress escalates and can manifest in physical symptoms, such as pounding heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and muscle tension. You may also find yourself unable to concentrate or remember any of the material you studied (Caine & Caine, 1991; Jacobs & Nadel, 1985; O’Keefe & Nadel, 1985; Tobias, 1985).

Below are some strategies that may help you reduce test anxiety. Please click on the Test Anxiety link. If the problem continues to persist, you may want to consult a health professional.

Test Anxiety

Joining the Discussion in Class by alcdanielle
October 15, 2010, 11:56 am
Filed under: Freshmen, General | Tags: ,

From a Former Freshman

It may not seem like the most exciting activity to take part in, but it is very important. Most professors do not have the chance to get to know you individually. However, if you join the discussion in class often, then they will be able to know you through your ideas and thoughts. This isn’t high school. Most professors won’t force you to participate and share in class. You either do or you don’t. It is all up to you.


Even though it may be tempting to sit back and let other students handle the discussion in class, you should not do this. You can only get out of a class what you put into it. If you don’t challenge yourself to participate, then who will?


I know that some of you have no problem speaking up in class, and I applaud your ability to do so. However, there are probably some of you who, like me, are shy and do not feel comfortable speaking to a whole classroom. While speaking in class may become a challenge for you, do not give up trying. I’m still trying to talk aloud in class more often. You don’t need to talk all of the time in order to participate. It can be as simple as asking your professor a question, or answering a question that your professor has proposed. You don’t have to talk extensively, just throw your ideas out there (when they are appropriate, of course). It may be tough at first, but you will eventually get comfortable with it. The important thing is to try your best. If you have done that, then you have done well.


From an Upper Classman

Our Former Freshman and Professor both make some excellent points about piping up in class—but don’t forget about the points you lose by staying silent! Check your syllabi—many professors will devote a certain percentage of your grade to “participation.” Don’t panic if this isn’t your forte, though. Participation can be a great way to demonstrate to the professor that you’re serious about the course material. If you’re proactive about speaking up in class and offering valuable insights into the material, some professors will be kind if you’re only a few points away from that A at the end of the semester.

Remember, however, this only paints you in a positive light if your participation is both relevant and respectful. Resist the temptation to talk for the sake of talking—if your comments are too far-reaching or irrelevant, both your classmates and your professor will feel like their time is being wasted. Show your dedication with comments that come from a thorough knowledge of the material, rather than wild conjecture.

How do you accomplish this if you’re shy, though? Well, relax for a moment. No one expects you to give an impromptu critical lecture. Help yourself out and take notes while you read. Mark passages or topics that are of particular interest to you, that challenge you, or that make an assertion you might or might not agree with. Take some time to outline your reaction to the passage in the margins. Do you agree or disagree with the author’s claims? What evidence can you pick out of the text to support your argument? If you’re diligent about taking these notes while you read, you’ll never have to stumble over words to find something to say in class again. Treat your notes as talking points, and use them to create a lively and interesting discussion with your classmates. This way, you’re not only demonstrating your academic prowess, but being an academic consumer—by participating in class, you get to tailor the discussion to an area you’re interested in and learn more about that subject or concept! I can’t think of a better way to get the most out of your education.


From a Professor


You should know that your professors see you as academic scholars. And, academic scholars are expected to share their ideas and knowledge. When you don’t participate, you are perceived by some professors as selfish or apathetic. You are selfish in the sense that you only take ideas from others without contributing your own knowledge and expertise. Everyone has knowledge and expertise in something; when you decline from sharing that with the class, you deny the entire class and professor access to your knowledge and expertise—while you benefit from what they share. This affects the entire class by making the experience less rich and diverse than it could be. So, share your ideas. Being shy is not an excuse. However, some professors may accommodate shy students by providing online discussions on Elearning discussion boards. If this is the case, be sure to use the online discussion to give voice to your ideas.

In addition to being selfish, some professors see non-participants as not caring about the course material or as unengaged and unmotivated. They assume that students who do not share in class do not care enough to take the time to read and engage with the subject matter. If you remain silent in class, you risk being seen as merely taking up space and going through the motions of the course at the very lowest level. This is not the impression that you want to create. Take the time to prepare for class by reviewing previous notes and thinking about them critically. Ask yourself how the material relates to your experiences and what you have known to be true. What could you share with the class about these experiences? What remains unclear to you? Chances are other students have also found these concepts difficult to understand. How do the notes compare and contrast with the readings? What ideas came to mind while you were reading that you could share? If you have written them down in the margins of your readings, you will have them readily available to use in class discussions.

It is also imperative to be courteous and respectful of others in class discussions. Listen closely and openly to what everyone has to say—and politely ask for clarification when you do not understand the point being made. Do not interrupt others. If an idea occurs to you while they are speaking and you are afraid you will forget it, jot it down to share later. And, while it is important to share and voice your opinions, avoid being the know-it-all that has too much to share and keeps others (including the professor) from sharing important ideas and knowledge. Let others have a chance to share their ideas.

Free online handbook for help with college reading and writing through the month of October! by alcdanielle
October 4, 2010, 12:14 pm
Filed under: Freshmen, General, UNI students | Tags: , , ,

Have you ever had trouble starting a paper? Sometimes it is hard to figure out what you should write about. What about that thesis statement? Wouldn’t it be nice to know how to formulate an effective thesis statement? Well, all of this and even strategies for more effective reading can be found in the Bedford/St. Martin’s online writer’s handbook. For the month of October, you have free unlimited access to this handbook.

This site is very helpful from the beginning. Check out the opening screen:

It is very simple to get started. You can type in a word that is giving you trouble. Don’t know what your professor means by analyze? Simply type it in and hit search. Your search results will look like the following:

You can look up “analyze” as it refers to critical thinking, a subject of a paper, or annotating a text. A handbook can enhance your understanding of the assignment. If you don’t know what to look up for your paper, then try clicking on the “See a list of search tips” to get started.

You can also use the “suggested searches” link to get started. This is what will pop up:

This can help you figure out what areas you need help in. Look at all the ways this handbook can help you. Remember how you had trouble starting your paper? You can click the “Explore ideas for a paper” link.

There are so many helpful hints and tips that can be found in a writer’s handbook. You can avoid missing easy essay points by making sure you are using the right punctuation, style manual, etc. The online version makes searching easier. You don’t have to flip to the content or index page to find what you are looking for. Simply type it in the box and explore all the site has to offer.

Use the following link to access online help:

Using your Syllabus by alcdanielle
September 28, 2010, 11:21 am
Filed under: Freshmen, General | Tags: ,

From a Former Freshman

Your syllabus is one of the most important items that you will receive in your class. The syllabus is your gateway to success. It contains the details of the class. Most professors include office hours, required textbooks, a tentative schedule of the class, the format of papers and assignments, the grading system, his or her personal policies (attendance, use of technology, etc.), and many other pieces of important information.


It is imperative to look over the syllabus daily. This may seem excessive to you now, but it will prevent you from missing an assignment or test. Professors spend a lot of time creating the syllabus, and they expect you to spend a lot of time going over it. Remember, each syllabus is a guide to your course.


It is specifically important to look at your syllabus carefully after the first day of class. Some of you may find out that you are already behind. Some professors assume that you have read the first chapter of your textbook before you arrive on the first day. One area of confusion that is common among freshmen is how to read the tentative schedule. In most cases, the reading assignment listed for a particular day is due on the day it is listed. For example, the reading assignment for August 27th (shown below) should be read before you go to class on Friday. As you can see from the example below, if a student did not read the first chapter before the first day of class, she would already be behind on her reading:



It is also helpful to underline anything that you believe will be important to remember. You should also circle, or indicate in some way, how to get in contact with your professor. Unless it is already indicated on the syllabus, you may want to ask your professors how they prefer to be contacted and make a note of it on your syllabus. You should also highlight important dates and assignments on the tentative schedule. This would include, but not limited to: test dates, assignment due dates, the final exam, etc.


It may be advantageous to record your scores on the syllabus. If you do this, then you will be able to figure out your grade and see where you are in the class during midterms or whenever you see fit. Your professor will most likely appreciate not having to look up your grade for you.

If you take nothing else from this blog, then at least remember that your syllabus is IMPORTANT! Keep it with you for the entirety of the semester, and refer to it when you have questions.


From an Upper Classman

As someone who’s experienced the panic of “We have a test TODAY?!” before, I’d advise you all to take my advice and record assignment and test dates from your syllabus into your planner immediately. Don’t have a planner? Get one. Now. Yesterday. Having and reviewing your planner regularly is absolutely essential to academic success. It’s easy to let assignments, papers, and due dates get on top of you if you don’t record them in one convenient, easily accessible place. So if you haven’t already, gather up all your course syllabi tonight, and record every reading assignment, test, paper, quiz, and assignment due date into your academic planner. Then, use it, and review it every day!

This doesn’t mean you’re finished with your syllabi, however. Keep them around and review them before you start working on each major assignment or paper. Instructors will almost always give you tips, hints, and specifications for how they want you to complete each assignment in the syllabus, and it’s easy to overlook these and miss easy points if you don’t review. Have 1.5″ margins and your instructor wants 1″? You’ve missed points already, and your instructor hasn’t even read your work yet. Most instructors are flexible and willing to work with you—but only if they can see that you’ve made an effort. Neglecting to follow simple assignment guidelines will probably not ingratiate you when you want to ask for a do-over or extension later in the semester.

The best advice I can offer you as you go through college is to take responsibility for your own education. And that means looking to your syllabus as your guide through college academics—those hallowed pages hold everything you’ll need to know before you tackle that paper, project or presentation.


From a Professor

Our former freshman offers some excellent advice. You should refer to your syllabus daily. It is your map and contract for the semester. Professors are expecting that you know what is on the syllabus and that you refer to it often. In addition to underlining and highlighting important information, I would suggest that you write notes to yourself—especially if the professor has added details or clarified parts of the syllabus in class.

The syllabus is absolutely essential for doing well in class. It gives you insights into how you will be assessed and what types of assignments, tests and quizzes you may face. It also provides hints as to what may appear on tests. For example, if your syllabus provides themes that will be covered over the course of the semester, you may encounter an essay question asking you to synthesize and discuss these themes. Thus, you may want to listen for those themes in lectures and pay particular attention to and note those themes in readings. Creating a chart where you record your notes for these themes from class notes and reading notes might be especially helpful in preparing you for such an essay topic on an exam or assignment.

I also agree with our former freshman’s advice about keeping a record of all of your class scores. Your professor expects you to keep track of your own grade by using the information provided for you on the syllabus. Asking your professor to look up your grade will most likely result in the following response: “Look at your scores and refer to the syllabus.” Professors do not like to be asked to provide grades for students; it is the students’ responsibility to keep track of their own progress. You are now considered an adult and will be treated as such; this means you are accountable for monitoring your own progress and abiding by the course policies and procedures explained in the syllabus. This also makes it essential to keep all of your assignments and tests; if there is a discrepancy in your grade, you will need to produce hard copies of the scores as evidence. Your syllabus will also be your contract for discussing your grade and performance.

Coffee Chats by alcdanielle
September 28, 2010, 11:15 am
Filed under: General, UNI students

To all UNI students and faculty: Come one, come all to the Academic Learning Center’s improved Coffee Chats! Our discussions are now topic specific to help you with more individual needs! Below is the schedule of the times, days, and topics offered:

Coffee Chats

Please Click on the Image for the Full Size

Please join us for a mind stimulating discussion over a cup of coffee, hot cocoa, or tea. One cup only costs 50 cents! Help us be green; bring your own mug!