The Walk of Shame

A year ago I was in Comp. I with the amazing instructor, Mrs. Lisa Haag. One thing that I really enjoyed about her class was that there were no due dates for final drafts. I’ll admit, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so I was grateful to have that freedom with time to work on my final drafts. She did, however, require that rough drafts be brought in on specific dates for peer reviews.

I will admit another thing: In every class that I take, I will be seated directly in front of the instructor’s desk in the front row. Because of this, I tend to overhear a lot of the whispered conversations between instructors and students. The most common statement I would hear sitting in Mrs. Haag’s class? “I’m still working on my paper.”

Yet another confession: Despite the fact that that I love to write, and intend to make a career out of my writing, I am slow. I will stare at a blank page for hours, spend days doing research in different topics, and have nothing written… sometimes I won’t even have an idea of what topic I want to write about (it took me 30 minutes just to come up with the idea for this blog post). Ask me to write three sentences about anything and I will stare at the paper for about 10 minutes before my pen will touch the page. This tends to go back to my perfectionism; even my roughest draft has to be as close to flawless as possible. Still, I always turn my assignments in on time.

Mrs. Haag didn’t ask for anything perfect when she asked students to bring in our papers on peer review day. She wanted our rough drafts. Still, for every paper (there were five) I would always see one person go up to her desk and tell her, “I’m still working on my paper.” I have deemed this journey to the instructor’s desk The Walk of Shame. I understand that life gets busy sometimes, occasionally some people won’t be able to get all of their work done on time. But when it comes to the education that you’re paying for, I highly recommend finding the right balance and getting all of your work done. If this balance means that you take 12 credit hours per semester instead of 18, do that! It’s better to take 12 credit hours and get all A’s and B’s than it is to take 18 credit hours and have to retake all of them.

Mostly what I am asking of everyone… don’t take The Walk of Shame. Do all of your work and turn it in on time.

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Ten Things to do This Summer (If You Haven’t Already)

10). Listen to Britney Spear’s new song, Alien, without autotune.
9). Read Haribo Sugar-Free Gummy Bear reviews on Amazon
8). Learn how to make paracord bracelets
7). Get a summer job.
6). Quit your summer job.
5). Get a boyfriend/girlfriend.
4). Give boyfriend/girlfriend Haribo Sugar-Free Gummy Bears.
3). Write a novel (or a song about gummy bears).
2). Make a list of things to do this summer.
1). Register for the fall semester.

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There is Still Hope for You!

It’s that time of the semester again.  The period of time where it becomes evident who put forth the most effort throughout the semester.  The time when some students spend hours cramming for their impending doom finals.  Depending on your course load, this is probably the most stressful week of the entire semester.

A major source of the stress, based on criticisms of other students along with personal experience, seems to come from not knowing what will be on the final.  Will it cover everything you learned over the semester?  Will it be just like any regular test you’ve taken throughout the course?  Will the final be multiple choice?  Short answer?  Essay?  How much time do you have to complete your final?  It’s a lot to worry about!

Hopefully, over the semester you have used some of the study tips I’ve given to you and found what works best for you.  If so, don’t sweat too much.  You’re likely very well prepared. 

But I know that there are a number of you out there who have yet to find a study technique that works best.  If that’s you, don’t panic!  Seriously!  If you panic you’re likely to do worse than if you simply remain calm and act confident, even if “confident” is the last word you’d use to describe how you feel (unless it’s “confident I’ll fail”).  If you remain calm, you’re more likely to focus on your studying and be able to rest well the night before the test (two very, very important things).

I have a few tips for those of you who are in that last-second panic:

1). DO NOT CRAM!  I get it, you’re running out of time to study.  You feel the need to read an entire text book in a day.  But sitting down and studying for hours will do nothing more than exhaust you (anyone else notice that you can’t spell “studying” without the word “dying?”  There’s your clue).  At this point it’s impossible to only read a little bit a day, but you can still follow the thirty minute rule (I’ve mentioned in a previous post).  Read for 30 minutes, take a ten minute break, repeat as needed.  Giving your brain a break will help you absorb more information.

2). Don’t study to the last second.  I myself have done this; you sit with your text book open in front of you and you don’t stop reading until the tests are handed out.  Even then, you’re reading until the very second your book is closed, nearly slamming your nose in between the pages.  You might think this helps, but it only exhausts your brain just before you need it most.  My Biology teacher recommends that you stop studying at least 15 minutes before a test (I promise, it works).

3). Finally, rest.  One of the last things that you should ever do is stay up until the crack of dawn studying for a final.  Some people are able to pull it off, but it’s quite likely that you are not one of them.  Go to bed at a decent time the night before your final, keeping in mind what time you have to wake up (if you have to wake up at 7 A.M. don’t go to bed at 1 A.M.).  I recommend trying to get at least eight hours of sleep if you can, and eating a big (healthy) breakfast before taking your test.

Hopefully this helps you get through this dreaded finals season.  If all else fails, just remember… Summer is just around the corner!  Good luck everyone!

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Answering a Question Left in a Comment: Placement Exam

In a previous post I made in regards to Algebra, someone in the comments section asked what my thoughts on studying for the placement exam was.  Instead of answering in the comment, I thought I would just make a post about my opinion of it.

I vividly remember taking my placement exam, and the to-do list my parents made leading up to actually taking the test (keep in mind, I was 14 at the time).  I had taken the practice tests available online at home (available here) so that I could identify my deficiencies, I also tried to re-learn some of the information which I had forgotten.  Although my reading/writing skills were great; it had been a year since I had even looked at Algebra, and it wasn’t something that I particularly enjoyed.

As I said in a previous post, I am not a genius.  On the Compass test offered at the college, my scores were 99% in Composition, 94% in Reading, and I can’t remember what I got in Math, but I was placed in Math 030.  I knew that math, more specifically, Algebra, was one of my weaker points.  Some people have a knack for it, others don’t, and it just wasn’t something that was of interest to me… I want to be a writer, not a mathematician! 

I studied a little before taking the placement exam, and I definitely recommend that everyone study before taking the test.  My main reasoning for this statement is that I knew how to do math, but sometimes if we don’t use the information for a period of time (particularly for adult students), our brains aren’t quite as quick to recall the information.  If someone does not study, even just to refresh, they may find themselves in a lower-level course in which they already know the information, and may find themselves bored with the material. 

With that being said, I would not recommend holding off on enrolling with the thought of teaching yourself how to do complex equations.  Self-learning takes a lot of discipline!  I could see how it would be easy for someone to tell themselves that they will sign up for college after they learn how to do XYZ, and then they never get around to it… Carpe Diem!  Brush up on the subject(s) you feel as though you are lacking, go take that test, and get enrolled!  If you find yourself having troubles with the materials after classes start, ask the teacher for assistance (or use the tutors).  St. Louis Community College has given each student every opportunity to succeed in their educational endeavors, it is just up to us (the students) to ask for help when it is needed. 

One bit of advice I would give for taking the placement tests, take your time.  This advice was given to me before I went in, and you will do better if you take it to heart.  It was explained to me that in a traditional school setting, kids are typically “rewarded” for finishing their tests early; perhaps they get to go out to recess or work on other homework if they get done early.  As in many schools, there are several teachers at STLCC who will allow you leave class upon finishing an exam.  If we can get ourselves out of this “I get to leave as soon as I finish” mentality, we do better on tests.  Put simply, take the test at your own pace.  I take every moment available to take tests.  I suggest you read and re-read questions to ensure you understand what is being asked.  Also, double-check your answers before handing the test in! 

The Compass placement test did not have a time limit, and I definitely worked things out at my own pace.  Now, actually taking classes, instead of rushing to get through the tests so that I can get out early (as I know many students do), I stay for whatever length of time I need, sometimes the entire class period.  There have been many times I catch errors just by reviewing my original answers. 

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Play Hard, Stay Focused, and Have Fun

I recently attended a conference targeted for club officers, since I am the President of the Creative Writing Club at Wildwood.  What we learned during this Club Officer Leadership Training, more commonly referred to as “COLT,” involved a lot of self-searching. 

When I first heard about COLT, I was expecting to hear about the best ways to carry out meetings, how to promote the club, and so forth.  What I wasn’t expecting was the mentality that the club is only as strong as its leaders; if the leaders are flakes, the club will likely fall flat unless someone else takes over.  While COLT is for club officers, I felt as though a lot of what was covered would be great for the entire STLCC student body.  Even non-students could benefit from the information covered at COLT.

One of the first few things that we did during COLT was go over a little mantra: Play hard, stay focused, and have fun.  These were our rules during COLT, but they’re good rules for students to follow as well.

Play Hard:  Imagine if your favorite team didn’t give it their all during a really important game.  Most likely, they would lose.  Be your own favorite team; put everything you have into whatever you’re doing.  Whether you’re doing homework, or playing dodge ball after everyone got hit in the head with a soccer ball, put everything you have into the present.  

Stay Focused:  It is really easy to let your mind wander: I wonder what’s happening on Facebook?  Should I call up my friend?  I wonder what that hot dog was made of…
This rule builds up from Play Hard.  If you don’t stay focused, you can’t give it your all.  Keep your mind in the present, and work to be open-minded to new ideas because, in college, you are going to come across a lot of new ideas.

Have Fun:  It may seem a little ridiculous to say “go study, but have fun!”  Honestly, very few people actually like the studying part of learning.  If you do enjoy studying, then, good for you!  But, many of us… not so much.  So, how can we “have fun” and still study and get our homework done?  Previously, I offered some study tips, one of those tips involved setting goals and rewarding yourself upon reaching those goals.
Additionally, there may be instances where you can learn the information, or complete homework, and have fun at the same time.  If you’re a YouTube addict like myself, you may find some videos that are entertaining to watch, but teach you whatever you are trying to learn.


These three rules were not the only items covered at COLT, however, you likely have midterms to study for.  I’ll be back with more tips and tricks that were learned during COLT.  So, get to work, and remember: Play hard, stay focused, and have fun.

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Three Study Tips to Help Your “C” Turn Into An “A”

How are your classes going? Are you getting good grades?

I know for many of you the excitement of starting classes may have worn off by this point. It may have worn off the moment you realized that there is actually work involved.

It can be difficult to keep the energy levels high and stay motivated to do your work. I am shocked by how often I hear people say “I got a 76% on that test” and they get congratulated as if it was a 96%. Perhaps you are one of those people? A letter “C” grade is enough to get you by, you will still pass your classes and you will still graduate… but I must ask, are you getting anything out of it?

Sure, you get a piece of paper that says that you completed the required courses, which is great! You can go out and get a job with that. But beyond the paper, what have you gained? Did you learn anything cramming for that first test of the semester? I find it quite safe to assume not.

“But it’s so hard to get an ‘A.’” That is actually not at all true. You have an “A” from day one, everyone does. What can be difficult is maintaining your “A.” While there is no “one size fits all” method to keep you motivated through all of your work, I am willing to share a few tips that have worked for me.

1. Reward yourself. I have found that when I have something more to shoot for than simply a letter grade, I can get my work done faster and more efficiently. These rewards can be anything from allowing yourself to watch a funny cat video to buying that book you’ve had your eyes on forever.

2. Don’t cram. Speaking from personal experience as well as words that have been repeated to me (and likely you as well) many times. My Biology teacher (shout out to Mr. Cradick) offered his class an excellent study format to follow to keep our minds fresh so that we can absorb the maximum amount of information. Only spend 30 minutes at a time studying. If you need to study for longer, take a ten minute break every 30 minutes. Your brain is a muscle, and when you use any muscle for too long it breaks down. But when you take a break you have a chance to refresh your mind and learn even more.

3. Multi-Read. Another tip that my Biology teacher shared with his class (a method that I have used since I was homeschooled) was to read the book three times. The first time you aren’t really reading more than simply glancing over the headers and pictures (it shouldn’t take you more than five minutes per chapter). Then you sit and read through the text, but do not take notes. This step is simply for comprehension, and you may need to repeat this step if you are reading complicated text. Finally, read through the chapter and take notes (note that I do not say “highlight,” though you can if that is what works for you). Try to make each point as brief but detailed as you can (remember, your notes are supposed to help future study sessions move quicker, not be a rewrite of the text book).

Good luck!

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Welcome Back!

Christmas has passed. The new year is here, and with it comes a new semester, the first classes start tomorrow (Monday, January 13). Do you have your sticky notes ready?

I highly recommend to everyone that you start looking through your text books. If you don’t have them yet, what are you waiting for!? Go to the bookstore and get them! I also suggest reading and taking notes on the first chapter of each of your books, this will ensure that you are well prepared for your first day.

If you haven’t already, check Blackboard to see if your instructors have your course syllabus up yet. If they do, then you can get a head start on planning out the semester so that you can have all of your homework and studying done in advance (and you can take well-deserved breaks in between and after assignments).

Also, check your schedules to make sure that you know the correct start day for each of your classes. You may have a class that starts later in the semester.

Jump into this semester with confidence. Aim to make this your best semester yet, because with some effort, it can be. Good luck everyone!

For those of you whom have not registered for classes, or have decided you want to take another one, registration has been extended until Tuesday, January 14.

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