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Catching up With Summer Quarter

First let me apologize for the lag in posts. Summer Quarter is over and like Spring there have been some challenges that took some getting used.

Before we get to academics, I just wanted to mention that I have finished my eligibility for the Commissioner Approved Training program as my additional 26 weeks have come and gone. I highly encourage anyone who had been laid-off or displaced by an employer to take full advantage of this program. You receive your weekly benefit while attending classes. That being said I also have taken out a small student loan, portions of which are either subsidized or unsubsidized. The process for applying for a student loan isn’t overly difficult and requires that each person complete Loan Counseling. All of the information one will need can be obtained at the Federal Student Aid website. *(Updated BFET was able to assist me with tuition and books. I highly recommend looking into all programs if you receive any sort of benefit no matter how small. More information on BFET can be found here. Also I have been able to amend my loan need requirements for the moment.)

Attending school during Summer quarter can be both beneficial and challenging at the same time. The pace for Summer session will be much quicker than Fall through Spring, so be prepared for that. I attended school Monday, Wednesday and Thursday which is a little erratic so be aware that the schedule will be varied and limited. Many of my peers and friends were taking only one or two classes, whereas I took four. I would highly recommend knowing what you feel you can handle. In retrospect taking four classes was a lot of work and if I hadn’t have to for CAT I definitely would have only taken 3 or less.

I also took my first online course during summer. Although it was not related to my program, it was extremely helpful as I am now taking online courses in the current Fall term. And I needed the units to be full time for CAT. Online courses are discussion intensive. Be prepared to post weekly replies to a discussion topic and also be ready to reply to your fellow students posts. at times it seems like online courses entail far more material than classroom based courses. As I am finding out is seems pretty standard so expect it. One brighter note are the videos. Most are current and enrich the course materials and discussions.

The Summer quarter also allowed me to get familiar with the schools computer labs. I hadn’t used them at all in the Spring term but found them to be invaluable during Summer. I had long breaks between classes so I used that time to study and do online assignments. I did take a computer course so it was necessary to stay atop the homework and projects. You will find that it is extremely packed during Fall term so be aware. It was a blessing as my schedule was so erratic. Class time in Summer will vary greatly from morning to afternoon so have a plan.

As you may suspect, I did very well in my four classes and maintained my 4.0 GPA. It was some work but I have come to realize especially as we are in the second week of Fall term, that any ‘A’ is a great achievement. ¬†With that I will look forward to detailing the transition into my core classes. Without spoiling anything I will just say it has been rewarding and challenging. I look forward to telling all about it.

 

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Update

As it turned out I did get a 4.0 in all my classes. Was pretty stoked when transcripts were posted back in June.

I have started Summer Quarter and it has already proven to be a challenge. I will share the trials and tribulations of getting adjusted to an extremely erratic schedule of classes.

I hope everyone is enjoying the Summer weather!

The Conclusion to Spring Semester

It has been quite the Semester! As you likely may already suspect, the Semester is complete and finals have come and gone. I am eagerly awaiting my first official transcript to be posted. Although I already know my final grades, it will still be fun to look to see it in recorded form and not just on Canvas. I did give a good effort with studying for finals and was rewarded for my diligence as expected. I did get A’s in all of my classes. Unfortunately I only accumulated a 3.975 GPA. I missed a 97% in one of my courses by .6 of a percentage and did not earn the 4.0 A. I did reach the threshold for the 4.0 A in all three of my other classes. I was pretty disappointed at first but then realized that it pretty much doesn’t get better than that. I will have to look back on how I could have done more to ensure doing what I needed to meet the necessary threshold. Sometimes perfection simply isn’t attainable. We shall see.

With the end of the Semester it does feel extremely good to have a couple of days of downtime. So this week I have slept in, taken a couple of naps and ran some errands, all guilt free. This is not to say I haven’y been been prepping for the Summer session which starts next Wednesday. All of my books and materials for Summer have been rented or purchased. I stand by being prepared and finding the best value you can for texts and materials. As an example there is one text that is selling in the $125 range for used and $104 for a rental from Edmonds CC and other places like B&N and Amazon. With some searching I found a 90 day rental for $56 from a company in Kentucky. Although I try to never spend money in ‘red’ states, the savings outweigh personal convictions in this case. LOL.

I hope that everyone finished string and earned the grades they had hoped. I look forward to seeing my new found friends in a couple of my classes this Summer. I will definitely enjoy the next few days off and also the pending Fourth of July holiday. Thanks for readings and I’ll be back with more tales of Summer and the fast paced Semester that this session will offer.

Prepping for Finals Week

I am probably the only student who is somewhat excited for Finals Week. Not only for the fact of getting some downtime before Summer Session starts but also to validate all of the hard work I put in over the Semester.

As I mentioned I was ahead of the homework game the past couple of weeks and that has allowed me to be able to focus on the last few remaining papers that I have due next week. Plus I’m ready to go over the study guides I have been given in my classes. I know that many student are all over the place with what final is when and what paper is due here or there. So I sat down and made a master list of finals week. I listed each day separately with the pertinent class, final day and time or paper due date. I also listed what materials I may need for the Final test such as a Scantron and No. 2 pencil, etc. This gives me a quick and easy place to look up information without having to guess or go shuffling through my notebook for some scratchy note I made in class.

One thing I am not sure I have yet mentioned that is that for most of my quizzes for a couple of my classes that had copious amounts of lecture notes was to create ‘study guides’ of my own based on the material that was on the quizzes. This has already saved me time with Finals preparation since most of that information appears on the ‘Finals study guides’ covering previous chapter information that I have already studied and know and just need to review. Although these ‘mini’ study guides do take time when studying during the semester they are certainly paying off now. A few of my fellow students even asked for copies of them. Some got a copy some did not. Plus I did extremely well on every quiz I took this semester in every class. I think are a great help to any student at any point of their learning career.

Although I am giving up a large portion of my weekend to devote to finishing strong in all my classes, I am certainly going to take a little time for myself. You should definitely do the same. Don’t let burn out ruin the upcoming week for you. I guess however if I am going to get that break I should wrap this up and get back to my papers, study guides, and reviewing.

I want to wish everyone the best of luck with all of their Finals. Take a moment to reflect on all of your hard work that you put in for the semester and finish strong.

Finishing Strong

As we near the end of the semester I wanted to share some thoughts as Edmonds is abuzz with students readying themselves for finals and registration for Summer and Fall. Yes Fall, can you believe it?

It seems I am not alone in buckling down(I’ll tell you more shortly), as for the past couple of weeks since Midterms, some of my fellow students have actually started coming to class and even taking notes. A couple of them have even reached out to me for help with passing quizzes and completing assignments. One of the friends I made from Bahrain even started taking notes and hasn’t logged into Facebook once during class. I was floored. I was surprised that in talking with some of the other students in my classes, that they too had questioned why some people are even here. I guess we all have different reasons but needless to say I am glad they at least are doing what students should do. Maybe I just shouldn’t worry so much about it.

So, since my last posting I have been focused on finishing strong. I have worked extremely hard to maintain my grades since midterms since I felt some of my percentages slipped a little. I honestly began to worry some about finals and how it would affect my overall grades for the semester. I buckled down. Hard to believe right, ha! I became almost obsessed in getting every point to raise my grades. I pretty much doubled my efforts, not only to ensure I could get high A’s but also to make sure I earned a personal sense of accomplishment of finishing strong. Probably because I just eked by the last time I went to school. Needles to say the extra effort paid off and my grades are back to where I can be more confident in doing well in the finals. Enough so that I was able to take a few days away from the books this past weekend and enjoy the weather. I really needed it.

Although some would see this as merely doing what it takes I think it did cause some burnout. Even if the results are successful it is never good when you end up really wanting to say the heck with it all. I came to the realization that I was totally breaking some of my own rules in taking time away from studying and that’s not a healthy approach to what I was hoping to accomplish. I think I just need to hold a little more confidence in myself in that the work I am putting in pays off for an entire semester. A positive is that basically one week of instruction to go I am actually ahead in all my classes now. I am now more aware of when too much studying is harmful and can see when to ease back on my rigid structure. I did give more time to relaxing this past week and that definitely has helped in setting me up for a good finals week. I think in the coming weeks I will also sit down and reflect on ways to improve on my studying habits so it doesn’t cause burnout but maintains strong academic results. I certainly want to be able to to avoid such complications during the Summer session.

Speaking of…I am all registered for Summer and Fall and have a full time schedule for each. It’s amazing to think that I am already enrolled through December. Time has definitely flown by and I can only imagine that I’ll be writing about finals very shortly. I am looking forward to Summer session and completing my prerequisite course work. Fall classes will be all core class work and that is very exciting to think about. I have no doubt that Summer and Fall should be just as fulfilling and rewarding as Spring has been.

Observations, Musings and the Joy of Learning

Probably the biggest obstacle I had to overcome in going back to school was me. I am pretty set in my ways and definitely hold some engrained perspectives that I feel would either hinder or help me. As I hadn’t attended college in more then 15 years I had this preconceived notion as to how my experience would be. Some of that has definitely come to fruition but also I remain pleasantly surprised at the environment that learning fosters.

At first, as with most of my classes, people were a little ‘stand-offish’ as we all got acclimated to one another. But as the weeks went on people began to open up more. Hopefully early on I was able to set an example by volunteering to answer questions and cite examples. I have noticed that people certainly seem to be at this point either interested in passing their classes or suddenly realizing they may not. It is quite curious either way. Anyways, I have already made strong relationships with people who are in my same career tract and look forward to seeing them in future classes.

One thing I think most have noticed is that I am quite serious and quite direct. I think that I have established myself as a leader and as someone willing to help. Even though I may gripe about people not taking school seriously, I do enjoy helping out with any information I can provide. Although I do put in the time with my classes, I do enjoy coming off as well prepared and smart. It can be a fun time to give fellow students the wrong information as a prank and then let them know I was kidding. I do hopefully also make a point on preparation. Good times!

One of the best surprises has been my interactions with international students. I have met students from all over the world. Russia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bahrain, Ukraine, China, Senegal and Egypt. As I am not always open to other cultures I have been extremely grateful in getting the opportunity to learn more about different world views and understanding cultures which are distinctly non-American. For example, a classmate from Bahrain is undecided in finding a major. I mentioned nursing and he scoffed as males in his country do not engage in that profession. He could be a dentist or a doctor. We often forget that places outside of the United States still may not accept things we see as common place. I certainly have been mindful in expressing my beliefs and when asking questions about someone’s culture. However I have yet to encounter anyone who is not willing to answer my questions or open up about their culture. I have also enjoyed getting to know the stories of the many young mothers who are obtaining their first career and conversing with young students just staring out with their education. Everyone has a unique story and that is enhancing my college experience.

One gratifying experience began during the second week of school when one of my fellow students approached me and asked if I would be willing to be a note taker for her and aid the Services for Student with Disabilities. I was given a form to fill out and given a brief orientation once I had agreed to do it. As compensation you can either receive priority registration or a small stipend of $50. As I already am eligible for priority registration I chose the $50. Every little bit helps, right? Also it was something that I could help a fellow student with and do so in the future.

So far I can say that there is very little I am disappointed with. One thing is how little some students seem to have vested in their education. They do not read, take notes or seem to remember when there is a quiz or assignment due. I am always willing to study with anyone and help as I am able but this group of under achievers simply seems to not care. Maybe with time these youthful learners will understand that getting it right the first time is very important. I certainly would never preach to them or suggest they get their acts together but it does bother me. Maybe it’s just the paternal instincts in me that wants them all to succeed.

So far with some planning, studying and engaging my fellow students, returning to school has been a very satisfying experience. I look forward to sharing more about my experiences and registering for the Summer term.

Time Management and Organization

I want to reiterate that my situation is unique as yours will be. These are some actions that I have found that fit into my life and have served me in making me a more diligent and successful student. Also keep in mind that not all of us will have as much time to focus on school because of overriding obligations such as family or work.

So let’s fast forward a little bit. As I am nearing the end of my sixth week of school, I wanted to share more about the things that I do to make it through the school week. As we know time management and organization are two vital components of being successful upon returning to school. I am going to detail more about time management and organization skills I use to stay on top of school. Likely you will find as I have that managing school allows for less stress in your non-school life. But I will talk more about that down the road.

Although we all know that time management is hugely important, I invest a lot in staying organized. It’s mind boggling to me at times just how unorganized my fellow students seem to be. I personally believe that self organization with school is fundamental number one. If you are forgetful and have poor organization skills you may want to ensure you enroll with a manageable course load or seek help through the many resources available for returning adult learners. If you are changing careers and spent the last several years in the Corporate World you will probably do well. Again everyone’s organization skills will be different but they ultimately do benefit one beyond school.

I talked before about how I use four different colored folders for each of my classes and one could go even farther and label them front and side for easier identification. I also keep each subject separate from the other. I don’t stack all my things in a pile. I keep everything where I can see them. I also pack my pack back at night with the right notebooks and books for the next days classes. Saves time in the morning that I can use for relaxing, breakfast or catching the news, traffic and weather. When I get home each day I unload my pack of any unneeded materials and replace it with materials I need for that days homework if that’s on my plan for the day.

The next organization and time management technique I use is keeping a current “Day Planner”. No, I didn’t go out an buy one I simply use a notebook I got with my school supplies. For each day I note the date and class, then add check boxes with tasks I need to complete for the coming days or even weeks. When I complete a task I check the box and cross it from the list. When I am still working on something but the day has passed, I leave the box unchecked and cross it off from the list and move it to the current day where I can see that it still requires completion. This I find allows me to keep everything in front me. My motto with my professional work was always, “Everything in front of me, nothing behind me.” So I use that mantra with school. You may find that you want to buy a preset Day Planner with calendar pages so that you can also add other important dates you know of ahead of time. I prefer writing each each date in so I in fact have to know what day it is. I add tasks as they are presented in class and when I have easy access to the syllabus. It’s not always easy to look up the syllabus if its in a folder or online, but this way I’m not having to. Speaking of the syllabus, it should be a priority for everyone.

Each instructor provides a syllabus at the start of the quarter. I am surprised that so many of my fellow classmates act like they never got one or do not know where to find one. If you are a new adult learner and have never attended college or come from a more ‘Blue Collar’ profession which kept you in the field, you definitely need to familiarize yourself with Canvas and a computer. Many of the retraining careers require computer fundamentals and most classes require interaction with Canvas. Plus all of your grades, assignments and discussion threads will be found there. I cannot stress enough how you need to be prepared for this. As an adult learner if you are not well versed in these types of skills I implore you to seek help. EdCC has many Computer Services and FAQ Tutorials for assistance with this. As I came from the Tech Industry this wasn’t a huge challenge for me once I got my log in information after enrolling. In fact the integration of technology into education is a refreshing and welcome change for me.

In order to do well in school you are obviously going to have to study and find the time for reading and completing assignments. If at all possible set up consistent blocks of time for your homework. You will have lots of it. Look at your schedule and start formulating an idea of prioritizing available time for studying. Before School started I knew that I would be treating school like a fill time job. So in addition to going to classes during the early part of the day, I would basically have weekday afternoons and evenings, all day Friday and parts of the weekend, if necessary, as blocks of time to study. I would also have two hours of free time at school, two days a week, before one of my classes and be able to utilize that time if needed. I have been extremely diligent and stick to my blocks of time for studying. For example, Monday afternoon allows me to work on school work for Tuesday’s classes. Additionally Tuesday afternoon allows time for Wednesdays class and so forth. I can work on anything during those times but mostly stick to what I have written down in my Day Planner tasks lists. Some days I’ll need to focus on one class exclusively, or work on assignments for two different classes, regardless I know I have the block of time to do so. Just having these blocks of time to study allows me complete flexibility in choosing what I need to work on.

Even though I do study a lot, I do try and set a time goal within each block, whether its the full block of time or only a portion of hours within that block. I adjust according to how much work I need to get done. I find however that by staying on top of my workload I rarely have any surprises. I also think once you get into a set pattern you find a rhythm and it becomes easier to manage and know your studying time. You will know how much time you need to devote to each class based on the workload. I find that by knowing I am going to have a set time I can focus more closely on the task at hand and get done what I need to in that block of time. Also as we all know life happens. Setting a set time time allows you to focus on other things when you need to. For example, my spouse arrives home usually about 4:30 pm each day. So I usually study and do school work in that block of time up to about 4 pm. I can then focus solely on the interaction with my family and not have it interfere with my studies. I usually then return to studying for that evening but again setting a time so I can also give my mind a rest for the night.

Friday is a day I use to get the majority of any school work done. I usually try and start about normal class time which can be anywhere from 7:30 am to 10:00 am. I may even start later but never fail to set a time goal. I’ve studied anywhere from 8-9 hours to being able to take the Friday off after being caught up. You will just have to map your own study blocks based on your schedule and situation. But if you do take the time and stick to your plan I have no doubt that you will also be as successful as I have been.¬†This also helps with forming a routine for the entire duration of your attendance at school. If you have Friday off as most students do this may be the perfect time for you to get in the majority of your studies.

I do usually take Thursday afternoons and evenings off from studying, as being diligent at school all week does earn me a mental break for an afternoon and evening. This weekly break from studying goes a long way in keeping me focused and on top of my studies overall.

I also definitely use time blocks on the weekends, because its the weekend and who doesn’t like to enjoy them? Even during school. I am usually up early and use that time so I am free in the afternoon or evening as need be. We all know that we have many obligations on the weekends but it is still possible to find time to study and not lose any time that you can likely benefit from overall.

That being said, be flexible when life issues arise. Sometimes you may not feel like studying or prefer to do something that comes up. This is okay. I find that if I am preoccupied with some thing else while studying there is almost no point in doing so. And remember it’s okay to put your family time in front of studying and may just provide a nice break and allow you to focus more later on. But if you have taken the time to set up study blocks and stick to that plan, you will likely find anyways that you can easily incorporate school into your already busy daily life and succeed in both.