Author Archives: jsstansel

Heading for Finals: Don’t Hit the Wall – Climb Over It!


By Texas State SLAC

Is this you – or someone you know – as finals are approaching? During exams, do you…

  • Feel like you “go blank”?
  • Become frustrated?
  • Find yourself thinking “I can’t do this” or “I’m stupid”?
  • Feel your heart racing or find it difficult to breathe?
  • Suddenly “know” the answers after turning in a test?
  • Score much lower than on homework or papers?

Many students find their anxiety level at an all time high by the end of the semester. These pressures can come from opposite directions and vary according to your performance in each of your classes. You want to do as well on your final exam as you have during the year to get the good grade you have worked hard for – or – you have to do well on your final to pull up your grade because you have struggled through your coursework during the semester. Reacting to performance pressure, anxiety, and stress can challenge even the best students . . . but you can take control of anxiety and stress by “preparing to succeed.”

Start small

If you have ever gone skiing or snowboarding on difficult terrain, the pros will tell you to at least crest the top of a hill so the view to the bottom is not as scary. Start studying here and there . . . even in small amounts. Knowing that you have begun helps you stay in control!

Practice, practice, practice

Practicing is not only a good way to retain knowledge, but helps you build your comfort level with the typical final exam performance environment. Take a practice exam or two – you will get a feel for where you need to concentrate your studies. Confidence and familiarity are great anxiety reducers!

Learn to relax

Stress can make us fearful and even lead to irrational thinking. It is very important to make quiet time for yourself to control stress. Don’t just take a break – make a break. Get some fresh air, listen to music, go for a run or a swim, eat a decent meal . . . simple steps like these can help calm your nerves and keep you balanced and positive.

Adjust your focus

Anxiety and stress build up because we are worrying about the future. Keep your focus on the present: what is it you need to do now? Get rid of distractions, control negative thinking, organize and prioritize your plan of action, and move forward. You can do it.

Preparing for Thanksgiving



The days are getting shorter as your to-do list is getting longer. You might be tempted to put classwork off till after Thanksgiving because you don’t want to be writing papers, working on projects, or studying for tests while you are around family and friends, eating turkey and sleeping it off. However, as one of the most jam-packed holidays — short, intense, condensed into too little time — Thanksgiving can become the most difficult holiday of the year.

Ways to alleviate the stress of a holiday:

  1. Don’t put off work you need to do in favor of doing other work. Prioritize.
  2. Consider discussing something other than politics at gatherings: relatives’ childhoods; your hamster, cat, snake, animal friend; others’ vacation plans; and the all-time favorite for conversation gone awry in Texas, the Dallas Cowboys. If you do venture into the topic of politics, remember the close proximity you might be to others who disagree with you.
  3. Along those lines, having to study can be a graceful excuse to leave an argument no one will win.
  4. De-stress through calling friends, playing sports, running, music, art, etc.
  5. Take your own form of transportation if you can and leave if you must.

This week and over the holiday, when you study:

  1. Put your phone away, really away, while you work.
  2. Pick times to study when you’ll be awake (at night, in the morning) and undisturbed (whenever the football game or favorite TV show isn’t on).
  3. Write a rough draft/outline for a paper/presentation; review notes about your 99 physics problems (or problems in any class).
  4. Plan and start any projects due by the end of class and read notes for upcoming tests.
  5. Visit SLAC now! We are open through Tuesday at 5 p.m. and start again the Monday after Thanksgiving. Go to edu/slac/ to see our schedule and to look up other academic services on campus.

If you follow these tips, you can be more worry-free during the holiday because either you are done with some projects or you are finishing them in manageable amounts. Get started. Once the ball is rolling, it’s easier to keep it in motion. Don’t sabotage yourself by waiting until the last minute. Start getting the work done today so that this Thanksgiving can be as restful as possible.

Test Week is Over. Now What?



Once a “test week” has passed, lots of students get caught in the same trap they did at the beginning of the semester: falling behind! Here are some tips for staying on track until your next round of exams:

  • Use your planner or a large calendar to note all of your assignments and due dates.
  • Complete your assignments and maintain organized notes.
  • Correct those questions you missed, if you get tests back, to keep from making the same mistakes on the final and having to track down correct answers when you need to be studying for other exams.
  • Speak with your professor or grader to see what things you need to change for the next test if you did not do as well as you would have liked.
  • Seek out students who did well on tests/essay exams and ask if you can study with them.
  • Go to SLAC, the Math Lab, the Writing Center, or other relevant tutorial services now—get help before the next exam or essay test (see for links to academic services).
  • Take time to de-stress by walking during and after studying, as this can help you generate new ideas and approaches.
  • Lessen your tension also by punctuating your studying with short and sometimes longer breaks.
  • Use HALT to help you remember to check to see if you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired as your physical well-being affects your attitude.

Whatever you do, do not simply shrug off a bad test or essay grade as a “fluke”—but don’t beat yourself up about it either. Remember that we learn as much or more from failure as we do from success. Use this as an opportunity to grow and learn different ways to study. Using the same approach in preparing for the next test will likely yield the same results! Likewise, if you do well on an exam or essay, pat yourself on the back and duplicate that study approach when the next test/essay approaches.

Keeping Up With Academic Goals



September is practically gone, but it’s never too late to remind yourself that schoolwork now is crucial — especially considering extracurricular activities you may have committed to this fall. Make sure to keep up with all of the reading(s) and homework for classes. The longer you put them off, the harder it is to catch up, and the more likely you will become overwhelmed the night before a test or due date. Bad grades at the beginning of a course are very hard to bring up at the end. Here are some tips to help you keep going:

  1. Use a planner and wall calendar. Put the dates of assignments and school-related work on it and the amount of time you’ll need to study/work. Put work times and medical appointments on it. Look at it at the end and beginning of each day. Really look at it.
  1. Spread the schoolwork evenly throughout the rest of the semester — especially if you have any large papers or projects. Do not wait until the last minute. If the project or paper seems overwhelming, break it into parts and set deadlines for each.
  1. Refresh your connections to contacts in class. If you get sick and have to miss class, having people to get notes from will help you catch up.
  1. Form or find groups with which to do your schoolwork. Study groups offer one of the best ways to prepare for tests, whether you are doing well in a class or not. Learning from a peer can be easier than trying to increase your understanding alone. And helping others learn is the best way to retain and understand material yourself.

Whatever your strategies, don’t let other fall obligations lull you into inaction. That way finishing on a positive note won’t seem impossible later!


Summer at Texas State

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by Texas State SLAC

Parking’s closer. Traffic’s lighter. You can turn left without a car bearing down on you or a bicyclist whizzing past. The river and its banks are less crowded. You can park at the Square! On campus, you can walk without dodging skateboards. Classrooms seem bigger: You don’t trip over backpacks as you squeeze between desks. If professors don’t mind, you can prop up your flip-flops.

Only one problem: schoolwork. Some papers are due each week (or two), there are tests on Mondays, and there’s homework every night — because you have 4 1/2 weeks to accomplish 13 to 14 weeks of work.

But intensity has pluses. You are working with focused students with broader age ranges and experiences; some will be returning professionals honing skills or redirecting careers. As a result, in-class discussions can be more interesting. Study groups can draw from the variety of students’ backgrounds, so use each other’s strengths. Also, motivated students in small classes can mean accessible, involved professors.

And campus study and recreation resources are still available: The Student Learning Assistance Center (SLAC), the Writing Center, Math Lab and many other tutoring labs are open for the summer sessions ( In addition, the Alkek Library, LBJ Student Center and Rec Center are not only open but also, hopefully, far less crowded than during the fall and spring semesters.

Summer school equals work — but it can give you a great introduction or a refreshing return to one of college’s best experiences!

Preparing for the Future


by Texas State SLAC

“The future depends on what you do today.”

Mahatma Gandhi

So many times we are reminded to live in the present, but we still need to prepare for the future. And if you are reading this, you have a future. Whether you are a freshman or a senior, listen well: it’s never too early or late to have a game plan. How to prepare? In “Advice for Students: Start Planning Now for Life After College,” Dustin Max tells students not to view college as a break from real life but to start seeing it as a stage of real life. Here’s how:

  1. Network—start making connections by talking to potential employers, attending conferences, joining or creating campus groups that deal with topics that excite you, and, most important, get your name out there.
  2. Do your research—make sure that you have a profile set up with career services. Talk to them about your résumé to make sure it appeals to possible employers. If you see an unusual job title, look it up, and see if you’re interested in it. Research companies you might want to work for, and make your résumé appeal to them.
  3. Craft your online persona—censor information about yourself on the web. Don’t post anything that might make employers shy away. Employers research potential employees, so assume that what you post online will be available to employers, clients, or investors.
  4. Pay attention to work—think of your current job, summer jobs, and internships as extensions of your education—no matter where you decide you want to work. Whatever your stage in your academic career, check out Texas State’s Career Center at At work, listen to what your boss tells you, and learn as much as you can from it. Listen to coworkers because they can give good advice, and develop skills by taking on responsibilities or being innovative.
  5. Don’t forget your financial status—your ability to go to school and to survive after it depend on having money. Apply for scholarships, grants, and loans when needed. Go to Financial Aid and Scholarships for information ( C. Kellam, Suite 240, 512-245-2315,, and check with your major department every semester as scholarships they offer vary from semester to semester. Also, ask friends, employers, and contacts for leads: some organizations and churches offer scholarships. Keep in mind that scholarships can be an asset to your résumé! For on-campus jobs for all Texas State students check with department offices in person and check online at Jobs-4-Cats (also under the Career Services website). And don’t forget to see whether or not your family can help you reach your goals
  6. Polish up your writing skills—remember that, whatever your field of interest, writing skills will get you further than almost any other competency. Employers want to know that you can communicate effectively in writing, which reflects on all of your communication skills. Visit SLAC or the Writing Center to get help.

All of these points can help you end up where you want to go. Don’t settle for a job. Work toward your dream job now. It’s never too soon, and it’s never too late to start.

Spring Break Study Tips


by Texas State SLAC

Spring break is here at last. Unfortunately, work doesn’t always end when a college student’s vacation begins. Learning to keep up with academic work while enjoying your time off is an essential skill for college life and beyond!

Make a plan.

Since your brain is still in college mode, take advantage of it. Just as in the regular semester, put what you have to get done and related deadlines on a calendar and make a schedule to be sure you study some each day and more on days you aren’t actively involved in extracurricular fun. Making a plan now will prevent stress later and keep you from completely losing the rhythm of academic life.

 Tell your family, friends and roommates that you will have work to do over the break. Letting people know in advance that you must do some homework over the break will make it easier for you to get it done. This way you won’t have to deal with others’ disappointment when you can’t do everything they have planned. Also, they’re more likely to help by reminding you of your plans and giving you space and time to stick to them.

Keep up on your sleep and nutrition, and avoid ill people if possible. First, who wants to get sick during spring break? More important, you don’t want to have to make up for losing a week of classes after coming back from a week off and get that much further from your college work and world.

Use a coffee shop or city library if you need somewhere quiet. Working at home, or wherever you’re spending break, may be difficult. Coffee shops offer quiet places to eat and work, online if necessary, and city libraries are almost everywhere.

Use time waiting in airports, on long car rides or during bad weather days to study. Even intermittent studying will help your retention and processing and make returning to academic life easier. Use earplugs to block noise, or if you feel like you might need a disguise to avoid being forced to converse, wear earbuds, take an iPod and pretend it’s on when studying in a public place.

Just as important as studying regularly and using downtime to work is making backup copies of your materials. Carrying notes and computers entails the possibility that they may get lost or damaged. Make backup travel drives, e-mail work, photocopy or scan in notes, and, as always, save your work in at least two places.

Finally, if this is an appropriate time in your academic career to gain real-world experience, consider alternate spring break trips that focus on volunteer work for well-known organizations. These may include working with local entities such as Habitat for Humanity or domestic violence shelters. Some trips could involve living on and working at a camp for the disabled, a Native American reservation, a nature reserve, or going out of the country. Regardless of where you go, volunteer work can broaden your perspective and shape your goals.