“Man, I Wish I Knew This When I Started!”








    Here are some academic tricks I’ve learned at Portland State. I hope these hints help you become a stellar Viking scholar:   

Calendar Your Studies. Enter ALL assignment and exam deadlines into your calendar or organizer. Planning ahead saves cramming later!

Don’t be a perfectionist.  I don’t advocate skipping readings, but when an exam is upon you, there may be more benefit in reviewing your notes, lecture slides, and other class materials than in every precious word in the readings.

Be succinct on essay tests and class presentations.  Being long-winded won’t help your grade, but your grade will drop with unfinished essay exams.  An instructor will cut you off in class if you go over time on presentations.

Demand rigor in your education:  Ask everyone who the best professors are. Can’t hear student comments in class?  Ask the professor to repeat them. If your professor is doing something wrong or inaccurate with grading, points, or on the syllabus, approach them about the matter.  You will usually get satisfaction.

You have a right not to be distracted in class by your classmates’ smart phone and Facebook fetishes.  Complain to your prof after class or during office hours; they will respond.  And don’t BE that in-class surfing addict. It’s distracting and rude to fellow students. Go in the hallway.

For now, avoid online PSU classes like STDs.  Nonverbal communication is 66 percent of all communication, and online classes remove almost all live teacher-student contact and student-to-student contact. Plus, PSU charges you an extra $160 in “online learning fees” for the privilege. Learn more in my Vanguard story “Clicking for Classes” here.

Need a quiet study spot?  The Quiet Study Lounge on the 4th floor of Smith features the soft, rustling leaves of Park Blocks trees, cushy furniture, and seriously quiet students.  Another seriously quiet spot is the 7th floor mini-library in the Urban Center Building.

Concerned about negotiating this university?  Consider taking the well-run College Success courses (UNST 199 and UNST 399).

Local hangout hint:  25-cent coffee all the time at Big Town Hero, 1923 SW 6th Ave., between College and Hall.

         Also, check out my Vanguard article on the “Top 20 Big Words You Need In College” for more help!

Breakfast of Champions

“I’ll have the $2 breakfast. I’d like my eggs over hard, hash browns extra crispy and no toast. Thanks!”

As the server walks away, I pour a little cream into my coffee, give it a stir, and take a sip. It’s good. I wrap my hands around the tacky flower print mug and look around the room. Other students are eating breakfast. Books and papers are spread out on their tables, the light from the circular fireplace in the center of the room providing a warm glow. Regulars are at the bar joking with the wait staff and each other. A slim man in a jean jacket walks in and is greeted with cheers; “Wow, you look so different without all that hair!” I overhear someone order a screwdriver as 90’s rocks pours out of the speakers overhead.

I dig into my black leather messenger bag and haul out my physics textbook. I notice that another student from my class is across the room doing the same. We exchange a nod. A dive bar might seem like an unlikely place to prepare for an exam, but I love it here. The food is cheap, the service is slow enough so I don’t feel rushed to leave and I can drink all the coffee I can handle.

A young woman at the table in front of me puts aside her book as the server sets down her plate. I notice the book is an anatomy and physiology textbook. At the bar, two middle-aged men dressed in greasy overalls complain about not getting paid their overtime. It occurs to me that the variety of people occupying the Cheerful Tortoise this morning is a direct result of PSU being an urban campus. My classmate gets up to pay his bill. He high-fives our server, who knows him by name. I realize that he’s a regular, too.

My food arrives. I pour hot sauce over the entire plate and dig in.