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.

Outreach Continues to Texas State Flood Victims


SAN MARCOS – With nearly $10,000 collected through the Maroon & Gold Annual Fund for Flood Relief, contributions continue to help students, faculty and staff impacted by the Hays County flooding over the Memorial Day weekend.

Texas State University opened Bobcat Village Apartments to members of the university community who suffered loss or damages because of floodwaters. Texas State has housed more than 200 people who are students, faculty and staff – and their family members – in the university-owned apartment complex, said Margarita Arellano, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students. Another 35 community members have taken up residence elsewhere in the area.

“We have been providing them with monetary assistance and information to relief resources,” Arellano said. “We are still awarding assistance because people are still seeking help. People have been very appreciative.”

On June 4, volunteers, including Texas State Development Foundation Trustee Carol Huntsberger, organized free meals to families living temporarily in Bobcat Village.

Donations are still needed to help affected families, and those interested in assisting members of the Texas State community impacted by the flooding may donate at

Volunteers Organize Free Meals for Texas State Community Impacted by Floods


SAN MARCOS – Texas State University faculty, staff and students displaced by the Memorial Day weekend flooding and temporarily living in Bobcat Village Apartments received a free dinner June 4 thanks to the efforts of Texas State volunteers.

Organized by Carol Huntsberger, a member of the Texas State Development Foundation, organized the event, which began at noon and benefitted almost 200 Texas State community members, including 54 students and 37 faculty and staff with their families. Huntsberger organized food donations for approximately 150 people, and Chartwells, the food service contractor at Texas State, provided pizzas for an additional 100 people.

“The event went extremely well and people were so appreciative. It was very moving!” said Margarita Arellano, associate vice president of student affairs and dean of students. “We continued to distribute food orders for the ones who were not there after 5 p.m. People who were working could place orders to go and we then distributed them.”

Ted Ingwersen, assistant director of Housing and Residential Life, coordinated the event and ensured members of the university community affected knew about the food distribution in advance.

Anyone interested in assisting members of the Texas State community impacted by the flooding may donate at

By Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
June 8, 2015

Students: 5 Tips to Prepare for the Future


“While I take inspiration from the past, like most Americans, I live for the future.”  — Ronald Reagan

Take a coffee break and start thinking about what your next step is, Bobcats.

Take a coffee break and start thinking about what your next step is, Bobcats.

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. 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:

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Around Campus: Nontraditional Student Shares Her Experiences

By Brittnie Curtis

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that some 18 million students were enrolled in undergraduate programs during Fall 2014. Of that amount, 71 percent of them attend four-year colleges (source). Texas State University’s student enrollment for Fall 2014 was 36,739 and nontraditional students made up around 22 percent of the student body (source).

Ellen Crabaugh is a part of that 22 percent. After graduating high school, Crabaugh focused on her family and work. During that time, she was able to complete an associate degree in American Sign Language at the Los Angeles Pierce College after 10 years of hard work.

Crabaugh moved to Wimberley and took a job at Texas State University as an American Sign Language interpreter. That’s when she decided to continue her education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English.

We were able to sit down with Crabaugh and ask her a few questions.

Q.Why did you decide to study at Texas State?

A. I had been trying to get a bachelor’s degree for a long time, and I figured why not? I love the campus, and the more I worked in classrooms with professors, the more I started to think about which professors I would take. I ended up taking a lot of the professors I had worked with here.

Q. How welcoming do you think the campus is to nontraditional students?

A. I have never had a problem. All the students and professors have been great. A lot of the professors I’ve gotten to know better because we’re around the same age. The students seem to watch their language when I’m in the groups. Some will confide in me because I look like their mother. They feel safe because they don’t have to compete with me. I will say that no one’s ever been rude to me. I do get asked if I’m the teacher, but that’s about it.

Q. What are some of the challenges you face in comparison to a traditional student?

A. I think in some ways I have it easier than a traditional student because I don’t have anything to prove, I’m not looking to climb a social ladder, and I’m not being called to go party somewhere or go to the beach. I have specific responsibilities, which makes it more difficult but at the same time makes it easier. I think there’s a balancing act on both sides. Traditional students have it easier because they might not have children and house payments, but I don’t have the peer pressure they all have.

Q. How do you manage scheduling school and studying into your daily life?

A. I’m in all of my upper division English classes, so there’s usually lot of writing, and I also work 30 plus hours a week. What I’ve done is schedule my classes around my work schedule. I have classes Tuesday and Thursday and work long shifts Monday and Wednesday. So I have Tuesday afternoon to do homework that’s due on Thursday, and then I have Thursday morning to do what homework I may not have finished before I go to class again. Then I have Saturday and Sunday to do the homework that’s due Tuesday.

Q. What changes do you see after getting your bachelor’s degree?

A. Getting my college degree was mainly for my own edification. My dad, who was 40 years old when he earned his degree, instilled that in me at a young age. As a sign language interpreter, the better I know my native language the better I am at interpreting. If it leads to something else, that’s great; if not, I love what I do.

Q. Do you have any advice for people interested in getting their college degree later on in life?

A. Keep going. It’s easy to want to quit. Don’t stop until you get there. You can still do it. You’re never too old. Just keep doing it. It’s worth it, and the classes are fun. Learning is fun.


If Crabaugh keeps her current pace of two classes per semester, she’ll complete her degree in two more years.

Texas State offers lots of support for nontraditional students, including the Non-Traditional Student Organization, which offers tutoring, scholarships and fun events.

Study Tips: Food for Thought

Food for Thought:
Good Food for Studying


Does your all-night studying include all-night snacking? Do you keep your brain and body going by working your way through packages of Oreos, bags of hot Cheetos, Dr Peppers, Red Bulls, and a thick-crust pepperoni pizza . . . one chapter at a time? Do you overeat to cope with the stress of last-minute studying?

Skip the junk food aisle when you're gathering snacks for your study sessions.

Steer clear of the junk food aisle when you’re gathering snacks for your study sessions.

Filling up with junk food can actually sabotage your efforts to prepare for final exams. Foods with high sugar content (cookies, cakes, candies, pies, sodas, energy drinks, etc.) can cause your blood sugar level to spike and then crash, which can spell catastrophe for the clear thinking and mental energy required to tackle finals. Students following this “cramming menu” have also been known to fall asleep ― right through their finals. No kidding! Add those bottomless cups of caffeine to this Hell’s Kitchen menu, and you may “jitter” yourself out of a good performance no matter how long you have studied. Big meals and high fat foods make your body work hard at digesting and can make you feel tired and lazy. When your blood sugar level spikes and drops, it can also leave you with a serious headache and fuel your anxiety instead of your brainpower.

What’s a late-night cramming student to do?

  • Eat small, light meals that are high in protein, low in fat, and include whole grains.
  • Skip the 3Cs (cookies, cakes, candies).
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. If you do drink coffee or sodas, try to alternate those beverages with water.
  • Take breaks and go for a walk instead of grabbing another package of Twinkies.
  • Some nutritionists suggest eating something small about 10 minutes before a test to give you a sustained energy boost: a banana or an orange, a bowl of granola, or nuts and raisins. These foods will be digested slowly enough to give you brain power that actually keeps you going!