Preparing for Midterms
by Kangting Ji

It has almost been a month since the new semester started. As October approaches, students will have to adjust to the heaping amount of midterm exams and papers in a couple of weeks. Exams are anxiety-provoking as always, but here are a few tips to ease the exam preparation a little bit.

Make sure your notes and handouts are complete. Every student has a different note-taking style, but generally it is hard to write down everything you want in class. Before the midterm season is here, it may be a good idea to go back to your notes and see if everything is clear enough for later review. Sometimes looking at your classmate's notes is a good way to make up the information you missed. It is also important to check and see if you have all the handouts, old homework, and quizzes in hand. This way you don't need to worry about missing something when you do the actual review.

Make reviewing a routine. Don't wait until the week before the exam to review your materials. Research shows that once someone learns new information, he may forget most of it after one week if the information is not revisited. Good news is that there is a nice remedy for that. If you set aside a small amount of time by the end of every day (no need to be more than half an hour) to look through the new knowledge you learned that day, you will find it much easier to remember it by the time you prepare for exams.

Get your questions answered. It is common that all students have questions along the way of studying. What makes a difference is how students treated these questions. Students who get their questions answered usually have a more solid understanding of the materials. It may take you a while to find the most comfortable way to do that. Some students may ask in class or in study groups; some may want to have the conversation more private (for example, during office hours). If you don't want to ask questions in person, you may try emailing your professor or TA, if that is an option.

Make a study plan. A clear, specific study plan goes a long way for exam preparation. You may start with listing all the things you need to review or practice for an exam. The list may look overwhelming, but just bear with it for a second. The next step is to prioritize the things on your list. Once you decide on which ones need to be reviewed first, go to your calendar to find times for them. One tip is to be very specific about when, where, and what you are you are going to review. A good example is: "2-3:30pm Friday, Oct 4, in Walter Library, second floor, general studying area; review Chemistry book chapter 2 and 3". Once you get the study time in your calendar, treat it like a class you have to go to.

Last but not least: Take care of yourself. October is a busy time for students, but it is also the most colorful month in the year. In the midst of all the studying, don't forget to go out, get a nice view of the leaves changing colors, and enjoy the nice fall fresh air!

Hope you all have a rewarding October!

Class Participation

The new academic year is a great time to work on those skills you're not quite comfortable with yet. For many students, one of those skills is class participation. Speaking up in class is an important part of active learning, builds confidence, and in some classes can even add a few points to your grade. Clynis Wilson Boultbee provides some tips for getting started:


  1. Say something at the first opportunity.
    Ask a question or answer a question - no matter how simple. The first time is the worst time and participating gets easier with practice. (Conversely, it often gets hard to say something the longer you wait.)

  2. Be prepared for class.
    The people who feel most comfortable speaking in class are often the ones who have done the assigned readings and have thought about the topic in advance. Before class, read, write, think and talk to others. If it helps, write your questions and ideas down on a piece of paper and refer to it in class. By using these strategies, you'll feel more confident that you understand the material and you'll therefore be more prepared to talk about it.

  3. Get to know the students in your class.
    If you have talked with fellow students in an informal setting, you will probably feel more comfortable talking in front of them in the classroom.

  4. Sit in front of the class.
    If looking out over a sea of faces makes you uncomfortable, try sitting in the front of the classroom. Then, when you speak, imagine you are simply talking to the instructor and a few students.

  5. Set small, reasonable goals for participating more.
    If frequent participation is expected in a class, start by promising yourself that you will say one thing - answer or question - in each class. Once this feels comfortable, increase the amount you expect of yourself.

  6. Start with a class in which you feel safe.
    Make your first efforts to participate in class that feels safer. Perhaps you will choose a class with fewer students, or a class being taught by an instructor who seems particularly supportive, or a class where you sit beside a good friend.

  7. Assume people are supportive.
    Before speaking, imagine that everyone in the room is rooting for you. Focus on the people who seem friendly. If there are students who are not very supportive of your efforts, ignore them.

  8. Recognize that disagreement does not have to be threatening.
    If others disagree with you in class, this doesn't necessarily mean that you're wrong. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're wrong either. Quite often multiple points of view are discussed in class and each point of view has merit. Even when people express themselves very strongly, they often don't mean to intimidate you; they simply want to present their own ideas firmly. Although it may sometimes feel difficult, try to think of 'disagreements' as a healthy component of discussion and recognize that this exchange of ideas and points of view encourages learning.

  9. Notice how often people survive after giving wrong answers.
    Look around. You are probably surrounded by people who have made mistakes and lived to tell the tale. (In fact, we can learn a lot from mistakes. Think of your 'mistakes' as learning opportunities instead.)

  10. Separate yourself from your answer.
    If you do happen to give the wrong answer to a question, try not to blame yourself. Just because your answer was incorrect, does not mean you are a "bad" or "stupid" person. It just means you didn't get the right answer. It may also help your instructor to understand where you're having problems, so that he or she can help you.

  11. Ask the instructor for help.
    If you'd like to participate more but don't know how to get started, talk to your instructor. He or she may be able to help you in a variety of ways. By doing this, you've indicated your desire to participate; your instructor will probably appreciate that.

  12. Put past experiences in their place.
    If you've had difficulty participating in the past because of bad experiences (such as peer laughter in high school), reflect on the differences between your past experience and your present situation. You may realize that your fellow students are more supportive or that in other ways the situation is different. Focus on those differences when you are participating in your class.


Used with permission: Red Deer College. Alberta, Canada. Learning Assistance Center

Test-Taking Strategies for Finals

It's that time again - finals week. You've been preparing for this all semester, but some tips on how to take tests more effectively may be helpful:

Preparation
The cardinal rule is RECITE! This method is more effective than simply rereading the material. Say aloud from memory the main concepts, supporting facts, etc. that you think are important. If you can't do it from memory when studying, you won't be able to do it on the test.

Study as though for an essay test. Research indicates that this will give you higher scores whether you are taking an essay or objective (multiple-choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank, etc.) test. In other words, look at both the "forest" (main ideas, general concepts) and the "trees" (important facts, illustrations, supporting evidence) so that you can intelligently discuss the main issues.

Taking exams (in general)
Don't let tests frighten you. They are just an evaluation of your work. If you do a good job of studying, you should be able to handle a reasonable test. Do the easier questions or problems first. This approach gives you a chance to loosen up. Budget your time so that you don't spend too much time on one part of the exam at the expense of another.

Objective tests (multiple-choice, true-false, etc.)
If you have a good reason to do so, change an answer. Research indicates that more answers are changed from wrong to right than from right to wrong. Check your own record when you get a test back! Answer all items, even when there is a guessing penalty. In the long run, you come out ahead. Don't read too much into a question.

Essay exams
Be sure you know what is being asked. For example, do you know the difference between "evaluating" and "describing" something? Between "comparing" and "contrasting"?

Always try to support your general statements with specific examples, facts, illustrations, and evidence. This step can mean the difference between a good and a poor paper. Convince the reader that you know the subject.

Write neatly! Research indicates that sloppy writing can mean the difference of one whole letter grade or more.

Exam panic
Most of us feel nervous before or during a test, at least until we see that we can handle the questions. Some of us get so panicky that our performance on the test suffers. For this problem the suggestions mentioned above may help. Also, if exam panic is a problem for you there are Stress Management techniques in the Self Help materials on our website.

More information
This covers only a few of the main points on the art of taking test. Other sources giving more detailed information are available in the Self-Help section of the UCCS website.

Good luck and have a great summer!

After an intense few weeks of mid-term exams and paper, Spring Break is finally here. Spring break is a time for you to celebrate your achievements so far in the semester. It is also a time to take care of yourself so you are ready for the rest of the semester. Most of you may have made various plans to reconnect with friends and family, travel, catch up, or simply enjoy the chance to sleep in.

For those of you who plan to keep working and studying over the break, it is important find ways to recover and reenergize. Think of something that you enjoy doing--things that you do just for yourself--and do some of that over the break. It could be anything-making a good meal, reading, watching a movie, hiking, taking short trips, or a date night. Having down-time is like filling up the gas tank of a car. It may take some time, but you'll be able to reach your destination.

For those of you who plan to just "chill out" and reconnect with friends, there are also things you can do to make the break safer and more fun. When you go out and socialize try to stay with your friends, especially if you are not familiar with the surroundings. If you are in a place that makes you uncomfortable, trust your gut instinct and stay away. If you are above 21 and choose to drink, be mindful of your limits. Make sure that you have a friend to drive you home afterwards, so you can enjoy the gatherings while staying safe. For those of you who plan to travel, try to travel with people you know and trust. It is recommended that you keep your family or friends posted with your travel plan.

Hope you all have a great Spring Break!

Managing Anxiety
by Nora Durkin

Trouble sleeping, an upset stomach, having a hard time concentrating, and worrying a lot are just some of the many things that can go along with feeling anxious. When some people feel anxious, it is just a bit uncomfortable and lasts only for a little while. For others, anxiety may feel very intense and last for a longer period of time. No matter how you experience anxiety, it is important to establish healthy ways of coping. Therefore, if you're interested in different ways to deal with your anxiety, keep reading!

Take Note
The first step in managing anxiety is to recognize when it occurs. Notice what sorts of situations make you feel anxious. You could ask yourself, "When did I start feeling this way?" or "What happened just before I felt anxious?" Some people might feel anxious at the thought of an upcoming test while others might worry a lot about a presentation or feel anxious about many different things at once (e.g., relationships, finances, health). Identifying what exactly makes you anxious can help you to figure out what things you might need to address. In addition to noticing what makes you feel anxious, pay attention to how you express anxiety. Since anxiety can be experienced within our minds, within our bodies, and in our actions, think about all of the ways you might be affected. Do you feel your heart beating faster? Do you find yourself avoiding things? Do you feel irritable with others? Do you tend to focus your thoughts on the worst possible outcome?

Take Action
Once you have figured out what is causing you to feel anxious, develop a plan of action to deal with the anxiety. For example, if you are anxious about an upcoming test, make a study schedule that is realistic for you to follow. Break projects into smaller steps and reward yourself along the way. Don't avoid dealing with whatever it is that makes you feel anxious because although you may feel less anxious now, you probably will feel more anxious in the future. Student Academic Success Services has a great webpage containing lots of self-help materials to help you succeed academically.

If you find yourself feeling anxious often or that it is having a large effect on your life, you might want to take a self-assessment. It could also be that you may find it helpful to talk to a counselor so you can get additional support. University Counseling & Consulting Services (UCCS) and Boynton Mental Health Services both offer individual and group counseling.

Take Care
Perhaps most important is that you take care of yourself. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, have fun, and exercise. Re-focus your energy on the positive things in your life. Avoid caffeine, which can make anxiety worse. Take time to relax and be mindful. Regularly practicing relaxation exercises (e.g., deep breathing, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation) can help with anxiety and improve concentration. Learn more about relaxation techniques from the Mayo Clinic and CalmClinic.

Take Off
Once you have determined which techniques and lifestyle changes work best for your anxiety, incorporate them into your daily life. That way, it'll be easier to draw upon them in times of need.

Happy New Year! Welcome Back! Winter Break can be a fun and relaxing time, spent catching up with family and friends or sleeping 'til noon. Unfortunately, Winter Break can also be a rough time. Perhaps last semester was not as academically stellar as you may have hoped. Stressful life decisions abound. Are you making the right career choices??? Is it time to move on from that high school relationship because the long distance thing doesn't really work??? Perhaps you are simply not dealing well with the difficult task of returning to school after quality time with family and friends.

College is challenging. Life is more so. Sometimes we need someone to help us think through tough decisions we have to make. Sometimes we need someone to be there when we experience difficulties in our lives, be it the death of a loved one or our own failures. We at UCCS are here to help you. UCCS provides personal, career, and academic counseling to currently enrolled students. If you would like to schedule an appointment at UCCS, please follow these steps.

  • Prior to scheduling your first appointment, we ask that you come visit us in Appleby Hall, room 340, to fill out the necessary intake paperwork. Should you be unable to do so, these forms are also available on the UCCS website. Due to confidentiality we do not accept faxed or emailed paperwork.

  • Please allow 10-15 minutes to complete paperwork.

  • While we appreciate the involvement of the well-intentioned relatives who may call our office, we are only able to schedule an appointment directly with the student who is seeking counseling.

  • Once we have received your paperwork, your initial consultation will occur within the next two weeks. Please note we are unable to provide same day appointments. However, we do offer walk-in crisis counseling.

  • If you must cancel your appointment for any reason, please do so no less than 24 hours prior to your appointment by calling 612-624-3323.

  • When you arrive for your appointment, we ask that you check in at the front desk, located in Appleby Hall room 340.

** Please note that the scheduling procedures for a first appointment at the St. Paul office in 199 Coffey Hall are similar; however, there are some differences. If you are looking to be seen in our St. Paul office, please call 612-624-3323 to for clarification of the scheduling procedures.

UCCS is open from 8 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Monday through Friday with the exception of Tuesdays, when we are open until 5 P.M. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 612-624-3323, so that we can assist you with any further questions you may have.

It is not uncommon that we notice a friend "acts different" sometimes. The change may be situational and temporary, but it may also indicate there is something going on in your friend's life which gets in his/her way.

Help may be needed if you notice:


  • your friend spends a lot of time by him/herself, and prefers not to interact with others.

  • your friend either looks "down" and "flat" for a prolonged period of time, or unusually "high", "energized", or irritable.

  • your friend develops a pattern of eating a lot at one sitting, or not eating much at all. Similarly, it is also a red flag if you notice your friend sleeping through the day, or not getting much sleep at all.

  • your friend increases the use of alcohol or other drugs.

  • your friend expresses thoughts such as "I'd be better off being dead" or "not wanting to be here".

What to do:

  1. Reach out to your friend and take some time to listen. When someone is struggling, the best support you can give starts with a nice warm check-in. It may help your friend open up more if you try to attentively listen to what has been bothering him/her, without rushing to offer solutions.

  2. Encourage your friend to get professional help. If you think your friend may benefit from talking to a professor, an academic advisor, or a counselor, you can share with them the resources available on campus: www.mentalhealth.umn.edu

  3. Take what your friend told you seriously. If your friend expresses suicide thoughts or plans, do not wait for the "thought to pass". You should strongly encourage your friend to seek crisis counseling right away by calling Crisis Connection at 612-379-6363. You should also inform your CA in the residence hall, or call 911 if your friend is in imminent danger.

  4. Check in with your friend and see if things have changed. If things are not getting better, you should try to encourage your friend to get the help needed.

Watching out for a friend may take you extra time and effort. However, it usually makes someone feel more connected knowing that there is a friend thinking of them.

Talking to Professors

It's that time of the semester when you may need to talk to your professor or TA. Perhaps it's to discuss something you don't understand, or to ask about an exam, or just to let them know you need some help. It can be difficult to know how to approach them. Here are some ideas:

  1. Know what your goal is in concrete, specific terms. (Examples: a grade change, requesting help on a paper, etc.)
  2. Be as specific as possible and have examples in mind. (Example: "In your last lecture, I had trouble following the main idea when you talked about nuclear physics.")
  3. Bring relevant materials along (book, notes, test) to show you've done your homework.
  4. Foresee - and prepare for - the probable response. Put yourself in the instructor's shoes.
  5. Use "I" messages rather than labeling or making accusations. (Example: "I'm having trouble following the lectures. Do you have any suggestions?" rather than "You talk too fast." This shows a productive, problem-solving approach.)
  6. Don't talk immediately before or after class in the classroom if your issue is in-depth and complex. Leave simple questions for before/after class time.
  7. Demonstrate an attitude of wanting to learn.

The most important thing is to make sure you talk to them. Most professors are very willing to work with you. But they can't help if you don't let them know there's a problem.

Learning Styles & Study Strategies

It's about that point in the semester when midterms start to kick in and stress increases. At times like this, it's especially important to make sure that you're using your personal learning style to maximize your study effectiveness.

You probably already know whether you're a "morning person", "afternoon person", or "night person", and have figured out that a night person just can't study very effectively early in the day (and vice versa). So step one is to make sure you're working during the time of day you're most alert. But there are other ways that you may naturally learn more easily others. For example, reading is not necessarily the best way for you to study. Many people learn better by hearing the information, or discussing it with others, seeing it in pictures or charts, or with hands-on experience. While you can learn in any of these ways, your brain will naturally absorb information more easily in some formats than others.

We have a Learning Styles Table that outlines the different styles and some study strategies to use based on your style. You can also find more information at North Carolina State's page on learning styles.

Good luck with your studies!

Some Quick Study Habits, Strategies, Tips

Welcome, students, to the 2012-2013 academic year! This is a great time to get a jump start on your academic success. Dr. Scott Slattery, director of Student Academic Success Services, suggests the following strategies:

  1. Sit close to the instructor on the first day of class (... keep doing it if you dare)

  2. Use the Cornell system for Notetaking
  3. Practice the "5-and-5" approach of previewing & reviewing notes each class:
    • Preview: 5 minutes before class to write down questions of curiosity for the upcoming lecture
    • Review: 5 minutes after class to write a summary of the class (in your own words)
    • Bonus: On the last page of notes for each lecture, rate the class/lecture on a scale of 1-10 on 2 items:
    • "How confident am I about today's material (how well do I know it)?"
    • 1 = "I have no clue what that was all about."
    • 5 = "Most of what was presented made sense to me but I definitely need to review more."
    • 10 = "Great class - I understand this stuff really well."
    • "How important was today's lecture material?"
    • 1 = "Not too important - not likely to be on the test."
    • 5 = "Some good material - may appear on a test but not likely to be a major focus."
    • 10 = "Very important material - come back to review this or clarify with professor or TA."
  4. Use Note Cards (not just as Flash Cards)
    • Practice carrying note cards around with you to jot down reminders, curiosities or observations you make in class or around campus - use these to guide questions with professors or others in your study group.
    • Use note cards to help organize your thoughts for papers and essays - have a card (or more) for each paper/project and use it to jot down ideas or thoughts related to these. Ask friends if they have thoughts about topics you will be writing about and have the cards ready for jotting down reminders or notes.
  5. Choose the right study environment
    • Find places that are for studying ... and nothing but studying (Note: places where you socialize or sleep are good for socializing and sleeping but not for studying).
    • Studying in new, interesting places has been shown to improve focus & memory of course information and material. Mix it up - explore campus for different places to study - try new buildings, different campuses, etc.
    • Know what time of day works best for you to study (are you a morning person?, night owl?, prefer the afternoon? ... go with what works best for you and save optimal time for your most challenging study needs and assignments).
  6. Stay physically prepared
    • Sleep (get enough)
    • Eat (a well balanced diet - monitor caffeine, sugar, etc.)
    • Exercise (keep your body active & alert)
  7. Use the "2-8 / 8-2" principle to your advantage
    • The "2-8 / 8-2" principle states that "time" tends to expand & contract based on how we use it. Thus, if someone has 2 hours of work and 8 hours to complete it (2-8), they will take all 8 hours to complete the work; by contrast, if someone has 8 hours of work and 2 hours to complete it (8-2), they will get the work done in 2 hours.
    • So, how does this work? It is based on human nature and the effect DEADLINES have in helping us to be focused in completing tasks. Thus, in both cases, the common link is that the work gets done at the deadline. In the 2-8 situation, time gets wasted because the deadline is too far away - we don't "have" to complete the task now (there's plenty of time) so we become involved in distractions; in the 8-2 situation, we become very efficient because the deadline forces us to identify priorities and make decisions on what we absolutely need to do (and what we can ignore or let go).
    • Lessons from this include:
    • Make Deadlines your friend ... if you have a lot (or too much) free time, create some deadlines in your schedule. You don't need to wait for professors or others to create them for you - make your own. For example, schedule exercise, meetings with friends or professors, or other commitments in the middle of a large block of open time. This will help you to complete readings, assignments, homework or other school tasks by creating a deadline for completion before you move on to your scheduled event or activity.
    • Define your priorities - priorities are based on your values (what's important to you). Each day clarify what people, activities, tasks or work are most important to you and be sure to make time for these. This means that you may need to set limits on other, less-important time demands that can become distractions (for example, email, checking Facebook, etc.).
  8. Use your Professors
    • Go talk to them - take a deep breath and see if you can get comfortable with this. Professors want to see you succeed and will generally be open and welcoming to your questions. In professional life, such visits are called "consultation" - it is an important skill. Don't wait until you graduate to begin practicing consultation, start now and visit your professors.
    • When you do your visit, consider the following guidelines about HOW you ask your questions:
    • AVOID "show-me" questions [professors can always "show" you how to solve a problem or what to notice in a reading; however, this is unlikely to be very helpful to you in deepening your understanding, helping you to remember material or to apply it on exams. Do the following instead ...
    • PURSUE "how do you THINK through this question or problem?" [ asking professors how they "think" through questions or problems gives you insight in how information and knowledge is being APPLIED. Learning how to apply information increases memory of concepts and flexibility in answering questions on exams.
    • Get a feel for what's important to professors when constructing exams
    • Do they "Cover the material presented"?
    • Do they test for "Important concepts and issues"?
  9. Use Study Groups
    • When you get together in a study group, consider discussing some of the following:
    • Work at understanding what the professor is looking for. Notice how each person may pick up on different clues or ideas; make note of these and be better prepared.
    • What do you see that other students don't?
    • What do they see that you are missing?
    • Other notes on study groups:
    • Have rules / guidelines for the group such as no social time or distractions while you meet [if you commit to a study group, make that time a priority - turn off phones, etc. - there will be plenty of time after the group to catch up with the world].
    • Choose a convenient, comfortable space (and consider moving it around every once in a while to keep things fresh and interesting).
    • Stay focused - set a deadline for the group (1 hour, 1 ½ hours, etc.) and stick to this time frame.
  10. Prepare & present a lecture yourself
    • For papers or exams, pretend that you are the professor for your course and that you are going to give a lecture on the material (for the exam or paper). Get a friend or two to attend your "lecture" and teach what you are studying. [Tip: This is a great exercise to use in a study group!]
    • You will learn what you know (and what you don't know)
    • The general strategy is: Read it - Speak it - Write it
  11. Be Curious! ... Get Answers
    • When you find yourself saying "I don't get it ... no big deal - it won't be on the test"... get an answer anyway (from the professor/TA, a friend, classmate, etc.) - chances are, it will be on the exam.
    • When you get questions wrong on exams ... don't put the exam away. Find out why you got it wrong and what was expected by the professor for getting a correct answer. Don't delay - schedule a meeting with your TA or professor the week following the exam to get answers while the material is still fresh on your mind.
  12. Avoid the 'Reward First, Work Second' trap
    • When completing work, you can either:
    • Work first, then get a break/reward or
    • Take a break first, then get to work.
    • Now, in general, both approaches work (there is no "right" or "wrong" way to approach things). However, the first approach works much better than the second. If possible, strive to complete your work before taking a break or rewarding yourself with TV, internet time, texting, or other distractions.
  13. Use Dead Time
    • "Dead Time" refers to time spent in situations where you are effectively "stuck" (and have very limited options for going anywhere else). Commuting time on the bus and waiting in a laundromat doing laundry are common examples.
    • If you are "stuck" ... do something productive such as reviewing notes, jotting down ideas for a paper on your note cards, or previewing chapters in a book you will be reading later. Avoid simply letting the time pass by listening to music, checking email or texting someone.

Have a wonderful, successful year!