Top Five Tips for Surviving Finals

In order to prepare both intellectually and emotionally for the most stressful part of the academic year, you will need to arm yourself with the top survival tips for final exams. Supplying your tool belt with a host of strategies for success will ultimately lead to a  successful exam week.  Read on to learn more about the top five survival tips for being more prepared and less stressed through finals.

1. Block Your Time

With a lot of material to cover when studying for finals, it is critical to plan ahead and manage your time wisely.  Research consistently indicates that last minute cramming is not an effective method of studying, therefore it is recommended that you begin scheduling study times early. Break down the material into manageable sections and allow more time to spend on the classes that will likely have the most challenging tests. It is also important to block time for study breaks to allow your brain to rest, so you can function well and retain information effectively.

2. Enlist a Team

Successful students surround themselves with positive, supportive people.  Consider who those people are among your circle of friends and classmates, as they can be a valuable resource for keeping you motivated.  Gathering in productive study groups can allow you to discuss topics that you find challenging and teaching others is a great way to learn.  MHC campus also has many support staff that provide student services such as academic coaching, writing support, peer support and counseling. Be sure to make these people part of your team, as they can be of great help.  Your instructors can also be part of your team if you include them by asking questions and communicating your challenges to them.  Enlisting a team is about making meaningful connections and being resourceful.

3. Take Care of Yourself

Despite popular belief, cramming over a book at all hours of the day and night will not guarantee that you achieve straight A’s during finals week. In order to maximize your studying potential, you need to make sure that your body is receiving the nutrients it needs to perform well. Feed your brain with well-balanced meals to avoid feeling sluggish. Rather than pulling all-nighters, also get plenty of sleep throughout final exams week to aid in memorizing the information you studied earlier. To clear the mind, move the body…. schedule in plenty of time for movement, to release endorphins through your body that can boost self-confidence and combat anxiety.

4. Eliminate Distractions

To go about your study days with focus and intention, consider what your distractions are and eliminate them. Video games, social media and TV series binging are good examples of activities that can easily interrupt study time and disrupt your studying groove. Consider negotiating with yourself by allowing time spent with these types of activities as a reward at the end of a productive study session or study day.  If you are busy checking your social media accounts, watching movies or trying to achieve the next level on your favorite video game, you will not be giving your undivided attention to the study materials and will not retain the information. Lock your phone away in a safe place where you will not be tempted and refrain from gaming and watching TV until you have finished your study sessions.

5. Remember to Breathe!

Final exams week can be one of the most stressful weeks of the school year with tremendous amounts of pressure to succeed. It is essential that you do not let the stress overwhelm you and steal your power. Before writing your exams, be sure to take a few deep calming breaths to release all of the built-up tension and put your body at ease. With the top tips for finals in your tool belt, be confident in your intelligence, stay relaxed, and try your best.

5 D’s for Combatting Overwhelm

The winter semester is nearing its end and with that many students may be experiencing a huge sense of overwhelm.  Term papers, finals and all of life’s responsibilities can lead to feelings of being smothered with too many tasks and a lack of control.  So just what can you do to manage it all? The 5 D strategy can help you identify your priorities and gain control of your tasks to relieve the stress around all that is required of you.

design desk display eyewear
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5 D Strategy:

DUMP: Do a mind dump!  Get all of your tasks and responsibilities out of your head and onto paper.  Many students think they can manage their days and to do lists without writing things down, however keeping things in your head takes up space and brain power that you could otherwise be using for other things.  Make a list of all that is expected of you from now until the end of the semester for school and outside of school. By writing down your tasks, you will no longer need to “remember” them.

DELETE: Sometimes we have tasks on our list that are not necessary and can be removed to make space for other things.  Look at your list and eliminate all the items that are not absolutely required.

DEFER:  Identify items on your list that you haven’t been able to delete, but that can be delayed or pushed to a later time.  These items are still required, so make sure you visit your priorities daily so they don’t get missed.

DELEGATE: Often times students have difficulty asking for help.  Successful students are resourceful students, so make sure you tap into the support available on campus and among your friend and family circle.  Building a network of support is critical for anyone to succeed, so remember that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.

Do: Create your days with focus and intention by blocking time to accomplish specific items on your list.  Take into consideration due dates and be realistic about how much time things will take to complete.  When your calendar says it’s time to work, eliminate distractions so you can focus.  If you find yourself feeling scattered, refer to your list of to do’s and ask yourself if what you are doing at the moment is a priority.  Don’t forget to make yourself a priority and make time to get adequate sleep, eat healthy food and spend time with family and friends.

Being a college student is demanding and overwhelming at times. Don’t panic or let anxiety steal your thunder.  Remember that “CALM IS A SUPERPOWER” and implementing the 5 D strategy to weather the challenging times will allow you to be in control.

If you need help with student success strategies, I am available for appointments and drop-in service in the library.

 

 

Tips for Making the Most of Reading Week

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Have you considered any plans for reading week? Many students are looking forward to a much-needed break, but may not have considered how they will spend their time.  In order to make the most of the break, consider setting some goals based on how you want to feel when you return for the second half of the semester. If you want to come back feeling relaxed, productive, confident and fulfilled, consider these tips:

  1. Get Clarity – Leading up to the break, you likely had a lot on your plate, and there is likely more for you to do upon your return.   Do a mind dump and write everything down that is on your mind. Get clear on what you have accomplished leading up to the break and what is expected of you after the break. Review your course outlines to see what you have already covered and what is yet to come in each class.   This will help you gain a sense of control after a busy few weeks and will allow you to prepare for the second half of the semester.
  2. Rejuvenate –  Although reading week is a prime opportunity to get caught up on your course work, successful students take time out to rest their bodies and minds.  Catch up on sleep, plan healthy meals, spend time with family and friends, be active and get some “me” time.  Allowing the time for self-care over the break will lead to a clear mind and healthy body and will help you relax and be productive.
  3. Summer Job Search – If you are planning to attain summer work, consider updating your resume and applying for potential jobs.  Employers are already looking for students to fill summer positions, and this will allow you to get a head start on being a successful candidate without the pressures of school.
  4. Block Your Time – Reading week will give you the chance to have some free time and catch up, however the disrupted schedule can lead to distraction.  Be mindful of blocking time for what you want to accomplish and go about your days with intention.  Without blocking your time, you may get caught in distraction and before you know it the week will be over.  Plan catch up time during your most productive part of the day and “me” time for other parts of the day so you can end your week feeling relaxed, productive, confident and fulfilled.

Big Picture Problem Solving

Many students find problem-solving in their math and science-based courses very difficult and can end up feeling deflated or frustrated with the challenge.  I often hear students say, “The test was NOTHING like the homework!” or “The problems on the test were not the same as the problems we worked on in class!”  If this sounds like you, here are some questions to ponder…

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What is your approach to solving problems? Do you jump right into the first problem assigned? Do you have a consistent process, system or strategy for solving problems, or are you approaching problems with random, unfocused methods? Do you attempt to see the BIG PICTURE before starting to solve? Seeing the BIG PICTURE can be the difference between a good grade and a poor grade. In order to do well, it is important to review and be aware of your approach to solving problems. The following BIG PICTURE APPROACH to problem solving is a valuable tool that can improve your problem-solving skills and  results:

Part 1: Seeing the BIG PICTURE

CONCEPT – the first question to ask is, “what is the concept?”

A concept is a main idea. When you have a problem, it is important to be familiar with the concept that is associated with the problem. If you don’t know the concept for your problem, then review your lecture notes or textbook to better understand the concept.

S.A.M. – the next question is, “what is the S.A.M?”

  • Set-up
  • Algorithm
  • Method

Every concept has a specific S.A.M. or steps to follow for solving problems. If you don’t know the S.A.M. for your problem, return to examples in your textbook or lecture notes to gain an understanding of the process for doing the calculations and problem solving operations.

VARIATION – now that you have identified the Concept and S.A.M., ask yourself, “what is the variation?” and how does it AFFECT the S.A.M.?”

When you have a group of problems – review all of the problems in the group. They may share the same concept, but are the problems different or the same? The “difference” is the variation.

Does the variation affect the S.A.M.? How do you need to modify the S.A.M. for different problems?

Be resourceful and find other examples of different problems.  If you still need help, see your instructor or chat with peers to gain an understanding of the variation.

Now that you understand the Concept, S.A.M. and Variation, you can see the BIG PICTURE and are ready to begin solving problems.

Part 2: Solving the Problem

COME UP WITH A PLAN – Using the S.A.M. from Part 1 of the Big Picture
Approach to Problem Solving, make a plan for solving your specific problem.
Before making a plan, check that you have a clear understanding of the problem. What is the problem asking? Do you understand all the words in the statement of the problem? Can you restate the problem in your own words? Is there missing information that, if known, would allow you to solve the problem? Still don’t understand the problem? Then return to the steps in Part 1 of the Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving.

What are your techniques to solve problems? Successful problem solvers use a variety of techniques when they attempt to solve a problem. Here are some recommended strategies:

 Make a list of the known and unknown information. Can you express the unknowns in terms of the knowns?
 Make a list of information that is needed
 Draw a diagram
 Make a table
 Work backwards
 Try to solve a similar but simpler problem
 Research the problem to determine whether there are known techniques for solving problems of its kind
 Try to determine whether some pattern exists
 Write an equation
 Guess at a solution and then check it

Need help coming up with a plan? Then STOP here BEFORE continuing. Explain the problem to someone who may help (other classmates, tutors or professors). Ask them how they would solve it.

USE YOUR PLAN TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM
If you can see the Big Picture and have come up with a good plan, then this should be the easiest step in the Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving.
 Work carefully
 Don’t skip steps
 Write clearly

If you have trouble solving the problem, then go back and make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. No mistakes? Then maybe you need to come up with a new plan. Don’t worry, this is part of the learning process. It may help to take a break and come back later with a clear mind. Remember “20-minute rule”– do not stay “stuck” on a problem more than 20 minutes. Skip it and get help later!

THINK ABOUT YOUR ANSWER – Does your answer make sense? Does it fit with the Big Picture? This is the most rewarding and important step. Getting the right answer proves that you have mastered the learning, and it is the learning that matters most.

 Check that your answer is correct. Does it fit with your expectations? If your answer is not correct, then step back through each step. Where is the error?
 How would the answer change if the problem changed? (See VARIATION in Part 1)
 Marvel at your accomplishment. Enjoy the rewards of your hard work.
CONGRATULATIONS! You are now trained in the Big Picture Approach to Problem Solving.

Engaging in learning processes and strategies can lead to student success!  If you need help with this or any other learning strategies please visit me!!

 

Justine McKennie

To book an appointment call 403-529-3819.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Academic Coaching?

 

What is Academic Coaching?

Academic coaching is a personalized, one-on-one meeting with an academic strategist who can help you be proactive about your success as a student and can enhance your learning experience.  There are many components required for student success and with support from the academic strategist, you can discover what areas you may need to develop and what strengths you already have that can facilitate your learning and overall success.  Working with the academic strategist at MHC you can develop “executive function skills”  such as time management, goal setting, organization, test preparation, note-taking, communication, how to be resourceful and more.

Who is academic coaching for?

All students can benefit from academic coaching. It is a free student support service offered to all MHC students. Coaching techniques are often effective for a wide range of students, such as first-year students who are transitioning from high school to college, student-athletes striving to balance school and sports, those who struggle academically, individuals diagnosed with learning disabilities, and high achieving students with extraordinary goals. Meeting with the academic strategist is useful:

How do I make an appointment?

To book an appointment with the academic strategist call 403-529-3819.

Drop-in service is also available in the Vera Bracken Library at the Student Success Centre:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday

11:30 – 1:00 PM

What should I bring to my appointment?

The sessions are free! Just bring any questions or concerns you may have. It is also helpful to bring your agenda/planner, class schedule, work schedule, class syllabi, class notes, and study materials.

My goal as an academic strategist is…

My goal as an academic strategist at MHC is to provide academic coaching that will empower students to manage their work and themselves so they will be successful at MHC and beyond. My wish for students is for them to have a positive learning experience by tapping into their strengths and helping them identify what habits they are engaged in on a daily basis that work for them and where do they need to make some adjustments.

Preparing for College

Starting college can be an exciting and overwhelming time for students.  Here are some tips to consider when preparing for the semester ahead:

  1. Time Management – Get organized with your class schedule and plan to create a study schedule that works for you.  Be aware of what distractions may be time vampires — such as social media — and eliminate them so you can make room for more valuable ways to spend your time. For help with time management, see the Academic Strategist … me!
  2. Be Resourceful – Resourceful students are successful students. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness, so be open to reaching out for help.  You will most certainly face challenges, and knowing where to get help when you need it is key to managing those challenges effectively.  Find out what services are available on campus, and consider introducing yourself to MHC support staff early on.  Here is a link to the services available: https://www.mhc.ab.ca/Services
  3. Attend Orientations – There is a lot of valuable information given at student orientations.  Be sure to attend those that apply to you and take detailed notes so you can refer to them later. This can be a good opportunity to meet instructors and fellow students, and can help you get connected.
  4. Self-Care – Starting classes can be overwhelming, so looking after yourself should be a priority. Consistent, healthy habits create consistent positive results. Proper sleep, exercise, time with friends, music, and time in nature are all examples of self-care practices. Identify what activities and habits work for you and be sure to add them to your schedule.