Author Archives: txstateu

Preparing for Thanksgiving

by Texas State SLAC


The days are getting shorter as your to-do list is getting longer. You might be tempted to put some class work off till after Thanksgiving because you don’t want to be doing homework, writing papers, working on projects or studying for tests while you are around family and friends, eating turkey and then sleeping off the L-tryptophan! But by putting off course assignments, you could find yourself neck-deep in work — and facing lowered motivation because the semester is almost over. Plus you’ll have finals to study for. Here is a better course of action.

Today and tonight:

  1. Write a rough outline for a paper and/or presentation.
  2. Review notes about your 99 physics problems (or problems in any other class) and do related homework.
  3. Plan and start any projects and/or presentations due by the end of class.
  4. Read notes for other upcoming tests.

Tomorrow night and the next few nights:

  1. Write the first paragraph of your paper and/or prepare the first slide of your presentation.
  2. Continue working on homework due before and after Thanksgiving.
  3. Implement plans for projects and/or presentations and begin needed research.
  4. Study your notes a little more.

The next week:

  1. Go over your work to make sure it is written or presented in a professional manner.
  2. Make necessary corrections to homework and to your notes.
  3. Develop plans and projects more and research more as needed.
  4. Continue studying as needed.

During Thanksgiving, you can be worry free because either you are done with all your projects or you are finishing them in manageable amounts.

This takes planning, but you can get started now. 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 is as restful as possible.


How the “Google Maps Method” Can Help You Through Essay Tests


When you read an essay question, do you get a headache? Does your brain go blank? Try comparing taking essay tests to using Google Maps or another map search engine. Principles that achieve good map search results also work for answering essay questions.


Read the question thoroughly. Details determine the route you take in your explanation.

Search tip: Identify specifics in an essay question so you don’t waste time on false starts and explanations that are loose or dead ends.


Make an outline of relevant information to make clear connections, organized by main and subordinate ideas.

Search tip: Link relevant ideas into a navigable whole. If links or chains of reasoning are random or chaotic, your answer could miss the mark.


Visualize action words to find your line of argument:

  • ANALYZE – provide an in-depth exploration of a topic, considering components of ideas and their interrelationships
  • EXPLAIN – clarify, interpret, give reasons for differences of opinion or of results, analyze causes
  • ILLUSTRATE – justify your position or answer a question using concrete examples
  • TRACE – describe the evolution, development or progress of the subject step-by-step, sometimes using chronological order
  • COMPARE/CONTRAST – emphasize similarities and/or differences between two topics, give reasons pro and con
  • PROVE – argue the truth of a statement by giving factual evidence and logical reasoning
  • CRITICIZE – express your judgment about the merit, truth or usefulness of the views or factors mentioned in the question and support your judgment with facts and explanations
  • EVALUATE – appraise, give your viewpoint, cite limitations and advantages, include the opinion of authorities and give evidence to support your position
  • INTERPRET – translate, give examples or comment on a subject, usually including your own viewpoint
  • REVIEW – examine and respond to possible problems or obstacles in your account

Search tip: Use the essay question as your guide to choose the line of argument that allows you to make your strongest, most concise argument. Then, map your answer! 


If your professor allows, take in an outline or more than one outline of essay questions, but be SURE this is OK before you do this. If you can’t take in an outline, go in with one (or more) in your mind, and write it inside of your bluebook or on your paper first thing. This helps when you can’t remember something because of stress. It also helps you stay calm and focused during tests.

SLAC’s Freshman Survival Guide


Moving to a new city and starting at a new school can be challenging for anyone. Read these tips and tricks from experienced Bobcats to guide you through your first year @txst!

1. More dining resources are available for you to use with your Bobcat Bucks than just the local dining hall. Baker’s Crust, Boko’s Mongolian Grill, Meatball Mania, Einstein Bros and more are available for you with your Bobcat Bucks. See this map for more information.


2. Walking Through the Quad: The Risks and Rewards

In a Rush?

If you need to make a quick trip to your classes, avoid eye contact with people—especially those at booths—on the Quad. Put your headphones on and walk fast. Beware, especially, of the Fighting Stallions in front of Derrick and next to Evans. It is a known gathering spot for those wishing to speak their minds on a variety of issues.

Time to Spare?

If you have time, student involvement opportunities are offered on the Quad. Social sororities and fraternities, honor societies and political, volunteer and career organizations look for members there, and many groups raise funds for charities. Also, organizations and some local vendors will sell food or products at their booths. Plus, you almost always can find someone giving away free stuff like koozies, sunglasses, T-shirts and, sometimes, soft drinks!

3. Find all of the computer labs available for student use on campus here.  You never know when your computer might crash or your printer might die. Along those lines, save, save, save!

4. Even a little studying goes a long way! You don’t have to study for six hours a day to be successful. And studying in small, measurable increments can prevent you from being overwhelmed nearer to midterms.


5. Learn how to write e-mails to your professors. They won’t take you seriously if you begin your e-mail with “Hey, so,” or use all lowercase (or worse, uppercase) letters and forego correct punctuation.

6. Make friends in your classes and get their phone numbers. You will have questions at 2 a.m., and so will they.

7. Join an organization! It’s the fastest way to make friends, and a good excuse to get out of your room.

8. Make sure you have another room besides your residence hall room to hang out in. Too much time together can make even good roommates irritable and prone to fighting.

9. Learn where you can and can’t park to avoid parking tickets. Maps for parking are available here.

10. If you can, get an on-campus job. That way getting to work doesn’t involve driving, you’ll be earning some spending money while still having time to study, and you’ll meet more college students just like you.

11. Join the Honors College! It offers not only free coffee and a warm and inviting lounge, but also, most important, interesting people and fantastic classes. Check to see if you meet the minimum requirements here and enjoy awesome classes in place of other classes! For example, honors students can take classes like “America in the 1970s” in their freshman year in place of a history credit.

12. Get familiar with and make use of the recreation center, on-campus tutoring centers, counseling and health centers, and other services you are already paying for through your student service fees.

13. Sign up for alerts about emergency situations, cancelations and more with the Texas State Alert System. Find out more at here.

14. In need of some sleep? Head to Boko’s Living Room. Just be sure to get pillows and blankets from the clean bin!

Keep these tips in mind and your first year will be a breeze! Eat ’em up Cats!

Written with the help of writing tutors Aly, Katy, Jon, Marilyse, Abby and Rachel at the Student Learning Assistance Center (SLAC).

Bobcats Show Extraordinary Volunteer Effort Following Flood

IMG_3057The devastating Memorial Day weekend floods impacted hundreds of people in Central Texas, causing tragic loss of life and millions of dollars in property damage. Some of our faculty, staff and students were among those who sustained loss.

Because Bobcats take care of their own, hundreds within the university community gave their time, energy and money to help fellow Bobcats in distress.

Not all volunteers officially reported their service, but among those who were counted were 110 faculty, staff and student volunteers. Collectively, they worked 1,600 hours during the relief effort. These volunteers represented 43 units within the university community and worked for 25 different organizing agencies.

Many volunteers immediately mobilized into action following the flooding, handing out food and assembling and distributing clean-up kits.

“Texas State University hosted numerous search and rescue professionals from Texas Task Force 2 and TEXSAR at Jowers (Center) during the flood. Several of them told me that they had never seen such an outpouring of community support in any other disaster,” San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero said.

In the days and weeks that followed, additional Bobcat volunteers cleaned homes, cleared debris, cooked or delivered meals, collected or distributed clothing and other goods, moved furniture and other items to storage locations, or even helped with legal issues or counseling services.

And our extended Bobcat family, which includes alumni and other supporters, donated roughly $10,000 to help those impacted by the floods. Coupled with some existing emergency funds, the university distributed more than $27,000 to assist flood-affected Bobcats. The university also provided emergency housing for more than 200 faculty, staff, and students — and their families — at Bobcat Village.


Here are other examples of how the Bobcat community helped during the effort:

  • Days after the flood, displaced families living at Bobcat Village were treated to a dinner organized by Carol Huntsberger, a member of the Texas State Development Foundation. She organized food donations for approximately 150 people, and Chartwells, the food service contractor at Texas State, provided pizzas for an additional 100 people.
  • Student-athletes, coaches and staff from the Department of Athletics teamed up with H-E-B to distribute hot meals the Monday following the Memorial Day weekend floods from the Bobcat Stadium parking lot. With the aid of the H-E-B Mobile Kitchen, breakfast, lunch and dinner were served to those displaced by the flooding and first responders. Additionally, student-athletes assembled and helped distribute more than 3,000 disaster relief cleanup kits to residents returning to their homes.
  • The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment held recovery workshops in June at various locations in Blanco and Wimberley for property owners.

Time: Friend or Foe?

It’s Time to Make Time Your Friend

by Texas State SLAC

clockIt’s 1:30 a.m: you’re at your desk, a huge can of Monster precariously perched on the shortest stack of books and articles, with 456 words or 19 more algebra problems to go. Our advice? Go to bed, whether that’s a mattress, bunk, or futon, and sleep. At this point, you are falling victim to the commonly held idea that you “work better under pressure.” In the summer, what this really means is only that you are working under pressure because you no longer have an option to do otherwise. Working too close to deadlines also means not having a chance to problem solve if something goes wrong or you have last minute trouble with a concept. Besides, even if you do perform best late at night during the long semesters, summer classes are held every day: days when you used to be sleeping after pulling an all-nighter.

The fact is that summer school is unrelenting. Use the self-discipline you dredge up to take care of your body, to make yourself read or study earlier in the day, to start preparing for midterms and finals, to email or talk with your professor about tests and papers―including the invisible professors in your online courses. Do it now. Check TRACS and Bobcat Mail each day and sometimes several times a day. In summer school, falling behind in sleep, your studies, or your communications is even more destructive than during fall or spring. It’s time to make time your friend.

Succeed in College: Read to Understand

Love it or hate it, you have to get familiar with academic reading in college. Most exams include questions about texts professors assign but never address in class. So learn to read to understand. The more active your reading, the more chances for increasing understanding. Since most college texts provide surveys filled with definitions, data, and theories, use a structured reading method involving forethought, performance, and review and reflection.

During the forethought phase, gather and prepare materials, and form a context for what you read before you read it. This adds pathways to prior knowledge and builds retention:

  • Spend 5-10 minutes on the chapter title, topic outlines, headings, charts, diagrams, and illustrations to create familiarity with content.
  • Read the chapter summary twice; then think of what you already know about the topic.
  • Ask what question the chapter is answering.
  • Ascertain how much energy to put into reading based on earlier study and knowledge.
  • Use the Internet if necessary to create another framework in which to put what you read.

Use the performance phase to actively read:

  • Focus attention by following the text with your index finger, a pen or pencil, and a note card with colored edges to keep you on the correct line.
  • Divide the chapter into parts; then use a timer and short breaks to question yourself about the material.
  • Read and then mark or highlight primary points and write notes in the margin.
  • Explain to yourself (aloud) what you understand; hearing yourself increases retention.
  • Use headings to formulate questions in the margins and to prep for exams; ask what the primary ideas are in each section.
  • Reread confusing sections and get help from learning centers and classmates if you need.

Give yourself a reflection phase to review and understand:

  • Review the day of your first read-through to increase retention, then each day until the exam.
  • Use chapter review cards, mapping, study guides, and test preps to organize thoughts.
  • Explain aloud what you’ve understood to others; teaching leads to understanding.
  • Continue building a context from what you know, and connect the text to your class notes. Write the text’s page numbers besides corresponding in-class notes.

Other types of college texts require different reading strategies. Problem-centered texts require that you read and work problems; selected readings that you use introductions and notes from class lectures; literature that you read after gaining a context for the work from prior knowledge or the Internet; research articles that you read abstracts before starting; and reference works that you preview structure, use tabs to mark key points, and note other textual facets.

Also, watch for two stumbling blocks. These are an inadequate college-level vocabulary and poor concentration. Electronic or paper vocabulary cards can help tackle the former, as can learning Greek and Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Build your concentration by reading your way through a chapter in smaller increments with more rigid demands on your environment and time.

Remember that your primary goal for reading is to understand, not simply memorize. You are building a structure upon which your future depends, so make it sturdy.

Adapted from Sellers, D., Dochen, C., & Hodges, R. (2014). Academic Transformation:

            The road to college success (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson.

5 Tips for Sun Safety

_MG_4602_1Summertime is here, and with summertime come long days of fun in the sun. There is good evidence that just a few minutes outside and in the sunshine can reap multiple health benefits – including increased physical activity, absorption of Vitamin D and improvement in mood.

But time in the sun can quickly become a lot less fun – even dangerous – if you don’t take steps to protect your skin and provide for your overall health before going outside. Here are a few tips to keep your skin safe this summer:

  1. Wear Sunscreen

If there’s only one thing you do to protect your skin, it should be to wear sunscreen every day. It takes only a few minutes for ultraviolet rays from the sun to harm unprotected skin, and is well known that overexposure to ultraviolet light can lead to sunburn, skin aging and skin cancer. Make a habit of applying a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to exposed areas every morning, whether you plan on spending time outside that day or not. Some wavelengths of UV light can even penetrate window glass!

  1. Wear Protective Clothing

Also, when you do spend time outside, wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants to further protect your skin from the sun’s rays and heat. There are also many great options of sun protective clothing on the market, including several kinds of apparel with fabric with an elevated ultraviolet protective factor (UPF). These items will offer you extra protection for long days outside.

  1. Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses!

bob-van-aubel-ray-bansBecause your eyes can sustain sun damage as well, wear sunglasses labeled with 100% UV protection. Finish off your look with a wide-brimmed or floppy hat to not only protect your face and neck, but your scalp underneath your hair as well. And don’t forget your lips – pick up a lip balm with at least SPF 15 and apply it regularly throughout the day.

  1. Review Your Medications

Remember to review your medications and skin care products. Some medications and face creams (such as those with retinol) increase your skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays. A quick review of your medications with your primary care physician or dermatologist to figure out if anything you are taking will make you more sensitive to the sun is a great idea.

  1. Drink Plenty of Water

Another healthy habit is to stay hydrated throughout the day, more so if you will be spending the day outside. Dehydration is common among older adults and can be potentially life threatening. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Remember that alcohol and caffeinated and carbonated beverages can have a diuretic effect on the body and make dehydration worse.

Moreover, staying hydrated is the best thing you can do to avoid heatstroke, a medical emergency that can arise suddenly and is often fatal if not properly and promptly treated. When you’re dehydrated, your body might not be able to produce sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, causing an increase in temperature to unsafe levels. Symptoms may include confusion, disorientation, excessive tiredness, headache, lethargy, nausea and a rapid pulse. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Heatstroke can also be avoided by staying indoors during the hottest parts of the day. Use this time of the day to catch up with friends or family or take an outing to somewhere with air conditioning, such as the movies, a museum or the mall. If you are going to be outside during this time, take frequent “shade breaks.”

Here’s to a great, sun-smart summer!

Ammar Ahmed, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist at the University Physicians Group, which is part of the Seton Family of Doctors.