Why I Save My Course Materials

Finals week is fast approaching, and spring break will be here before we know it! Many students are already thinking about reselling their textbooks and can’t wait to toss their notes. However, I’d argue that there are benefits to keeping class materials.

Old assignments can be useful in future classes

Keeping graded essays from previous courses has been helpful to me in the past, because they can help me ascertain what instructors look for in good papers. Of course, all professors are different, with their own pet peeves and preferences. However, if one instructor makes a constructive remark, chances are that advice can be applied to future assignments with future instructors. For example, in an English composition course I took in community college, the instructor gave us a handout with a list of mistakes English instructors are tired of seeing, ranging from grammatical errors to flaws in logic. This has been an incredibly helpful list to have around as I’ve continued my academic journey. Past research papers have also become a resource — if I didn’t use a source in a previous paper, I can use it in a future paper on the same topic, or use that source as a starting point for future research. 

Keeping old materials can help you get your money’s worth 

Let’s face it: college is expensive, and human brains are flawed when it comes to retaining information long-term. The notes you scrawl in Statistics and the study guide you fashion for French have value in both time and money. Saving materials from a past class is a way of preserving what you’ve learned, especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve taken the class. 

Let’s say you took time off between Class 101 and Class 102. If you kept your course materials, you’d have easy access to what you learned in 101 to refresh your memory before taking 102. Also, you wouldn’t have to pay to take the course again or spend hours combing through Google trying to cobble together a free crash course. Even when you don’t take a hiatus from your education, you forget a lot over school breaks, and having materials around to review before going back can be helpful! Not to mention, the resale value for books is far less than the original price, so if your text has valuable information or you’ll want to read it again, it might be worth it to just keep it. 

Looking over old work can be enjoyable 

It’s validating to look back at my writing from years ago and see how I’ve improved. Depending on the course, re-reading old handouts and texts can also be fun! For example, I’ve kept books from my literature classes I particularly enjoy. A textbook from my Interpersonal Communications class at my last college sits on my shelf, because it holds information on skills and situations that will help me throughout my life — not just within the quarter I took that class. 

How do you select what class materials to keep?

Quality over quantity: it’s important to pare down your notes, books, and assignments to what’s relevant. Here are some tips when deciding what to keep:

  • Is the information novel, or basic? Is this information you could find from a cursory Google search?
  • Is this course relevant to your major? Did you learn things that would apply to future classes?
  • Is this a difficult topic for you, and would it help you to review the concepts before taking the next course in the sequence?
  • Do you enjoy the subject? Were the readings interesting, and if you enjoyed the texts, would it make financial sense to keep them instead of selling them?
  • If it’s an assignment, is the instructor’s feedback constructive? Did you learn something valuable?
  • Do you have the physical or digital space to store old materials?

At the end of every term, I ask myself these questions while I comb through my class materials to help me narrow down what to save. This method has helped me determine what’s useful to toss or sell, and what’s useful to keep around. 

I have a small archive of class materials from previous courses that I keep in binders, and I thumb through everything periodically. Some people might raise an eyebrow at this collection, but this works for me, and a similar system might help you during your time in college.

I AM A CREATURE OF HABIT

By: Sharon Nellist

This is it. Ten more days until… FINALS WEEK. I am usually of mixed emotions during this 10258891_10101685513754293_6293913161816303566_otime: glad that the workload will be placed on a brief hold, and sentimental over the ending of classes that I truly enjoyed.

I had the privilege of taking a course in which the grade is solely up to me. It is a beautiful array of assignments catered to different learning styles that I can a-la-carte my way to a guaranteed ‘A’. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh yes, you guessed it, I never cease to amaze myself with my proficient ability to procrastinate. You would think that I would have this worked out now that I am in my senior year. Honestly, I had good intentions at the beginning to use this grading process to do away with procrastination, so I wouldn’t be stressed with a heavy workload at the end of the term. But alas, here I am, and I have roughly 20 pages of writing to do just for this class. And every time I do it well, it gets harder to change habits. “I also work best under pressure.”

The question is, is procrastination a bad thing?

vkuEJZCLets take a psychological perspective; hence, the course with this grading system is Abnormal Psychology.

Is procrastination DISTRESSFUL? Most of the term is distress free with this method as I absorb information like a sea sponge. It is only distressful the last few weeks of the term when I basically live in my own caffeinated-induced bubble.

Is there DEVIANCE? Probably not out of the ordinary. We are all human. I am sure that a copious amount of students at Portland State procrastinate too –  you know, since the library is open 24 hours from March 7-17.

Is it DYSFUNCTIONAL? It can be, if I fail to eat, sleep and hydrate. And, it may not be, if I manage to maintain grades above the GPA that I intend to graduate with.

What is your opinion on procrastination?

Give Thanks for Thanksgiving

Kellie Doherty By Kellie Doherty

This week is Thanksgiving. A time for laughter and cheer, for friends and family, for great food and even better company. A lovely little holiday leading up to The Big One.

But honestly? It’s some pretty terrible timing. Next week is Dead Week here on campus and finals are literally just around the corner. (T-minus 14 days, in fact.) And I know I’m not the only one freaking out about the projects due. It’s stressful. Just thinking about it makes my shoulders tighten, and my stomach curl into a knot.

So, is this the best time to stop working on (or thinking about) those hugely important final projects? Probably not. My suggestion, though? Make the most of the holiday as you possibly can anyway.

Try to parcel the homework assignments out so you can spend time with the family (or friends or whomever you’re spending the holiday with). Take Thanksgiving dinnertime off, or better yet, take all of Thanksgiving Day off. If you’re traveling—like me!—try to do some assignments on the journey. (I know I’ll be writing a paper on my plane ride to the East Coast.)

Make some time for your loved ones. Heck, make some time for yourself.

You deserve the time off before the final push to finals week. Treat yourself, and your friends and family, to some quality time together this Thanksgiving. Trust me, your spirit will thank you later.

STUMPED in Stumptown…

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By: Sharon Nellist

Can you imagine going into your senior year and doubt the major that you have so painstakingly been working toward the last few years? Well, I certainly can. HELP!

My most recent thoughts: I am certain of the type of job I am looking for…. But will my current major get me there? Will my major hurt my chances of getting this job? Is it worth switching majors at this point? How much longer will it take? Ahh! I have to study more for that last final exam…

My mind is full.

Thankfully! I have the summer to figure this out.

And I know that I am not the only one…

Nearly 80% of new students heading for college are undeclared. About 50% of college students that have declared a major change their major, even two or three times!

Also, Portland State has great resources to help through this “traumatic” time…

What can I do with a degree in….?
Career Workshops, Classes & Events
Exploring PSU Majors Fair

What did or would you do in this situation?

Wish me luck!

Slow ride, Take it easy

By: Sharon Nellist

I admire and sympathize at the same time with those who take more than the recommended full-time classes and are involved in every other school organization and club in hopes to save a bit of money and graduate sooner than expected. Because I once was that student – and it is certainly not for everyone.

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Perhaps it is that I am a returning full-time student, in my late twenties, married, making a car payment, working several outside jobs in order to pay rent, and I’m not opposed to starting a family while trying to have the most quintessential young college experience.

What I have realized is that it is possible for everyone to have this experience, even me, but you need to know how to balance these things and maintain your sanity.

  • For me I know I need 12 credit hours, no more or less, for optimal learning
  • That suggests that I have 24 hours total of study time
  • I save money by bringing food instead of eating at delicious food carts – allows for some creativity, or lack thereof
  • My job as a nanny gives me the flexibility around my school schedule, as it is my priority
  • I budget using a spreadsheet, they are not just for old people – I can cut back on my student loans this year!
  • I am part of PSU Crew (campus rowing team), yes at 5:30 a.m. every morning, and I work for the student blog – minimal commitment allows me to focus on my involvement
  • And then, there is a whole day allotted for spending time with my husband or friends – we frequent the Saturday Market on campus

My degree may take an extra term or two to complete, but I most likely will not have a mental breakdown, my personal life will be unharmed, and I will succeed well enough to go on to Grad school and still have my perfect college experience.

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Three Tips for Staying Organized

Brooke HornBy Brooke Horn

As a graduate student, I’ve learned the hard way that time management and organization can be your best friends when used properly — and your bitterest enemies when not. The modern student isn’t JUST a student anymore: most of us juggle jobs, internships, volunteering, creative projects, and relationships too. As the term really gets underway, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. On the bright side, there are a lot of useful tools and tricks out there to help you stay on top of things. Here are a few that have really made a difference for me:

  1. Trello. This is my go-to app whenever I work on a collaborative project. You can create virtual assignment cards, which are organized within themed boards. You can also assign tasks, add due dates, create checklists, upload files, and color-code to your heart’s content.
  2. Wunderlist. This app is your standard to-do list on steroids. Similar to Trello, you can share task lists with others as well as set up due dates and reminders. I use this app for my personal lists because of its simplicity. I keep one for homework assignments, one for events I want to go to, and one for groceries.
  3. Labeling in Gmail. Seriously, this is a game-changer if you receive a high volume of mail. I use labels such as “reply,” “education,” and “finances.” You can even create sub-labels, assign colors, and adjust your settings so that your mail is automatically labeled and sorted.

What tools and tricks help you stay organized?

A relentless secret at PSU . . .

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There is a secret held by many a Portland State student, closely guarded, but not really secret; not shameful, but not boasted of. We keep it from others, and ourselves as well.

It is the grinding, relentless poverty of the college student. Students push poverty out of their minds, taking loan after loan each term without dwelling on the ramifications, trying to hang on until graduation, concentrating on academics.

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Our university community may not fully realize how deeply many students live in the quiet perseverance of being broke and being a student. And the weird ways that poverty can manifest.

A busy student I know led a prestigious student group last year while racking up $1800 in parking fines and impoundment fees on her car. She gave up on recovering the car, and eventually purchased a different vehicle. Some students can’t afford their textbooks. I’ve visited ASPSU’s food pantry myself several times this term and in past terms.

The wolves just catch up with you. You feed the ones that must be fed, and try to ignore the howling of the others as you bear down your latest term paper. Eventually, the checkbook gets empty, the next pittance of income too far away.

That is when I have been grateful for the existence of several things:  ASPSU’s food pantry in Smith. The endless help of the Financial Aid office. Emergency loans from the Bursar’s Office. A little help from my friends in my personal life.

I would not have made it through without them.

A Note to Mr. To-Do

To my dearest Mr. To-Do,

I realize the importance of our relationship at the moment–and often times, you’ve saved me from some pretty unfortunate situations. What would I have done without you if you hadn’t have been there to remind me that I had that French literature worksheet to analyze or that I needed to go to my professor’s office hours or to pick up toilet paper?

To-Do

You’ve had my back the past five weeks, and I do appreciate it.

But I guess what I’m trying to say is that maybe you’ve been perhaps a little too helpful as of late. I’ve begun to feel guilty: you seem to grow a little larger every passing week, and yet there is nothing I can do to slow your pace. Monday morning approaches, and I realize that I haven’t done nearly enough to satisfy your needs. It’s just been a little hard with all of these midterms and everything. Can we just have a moment and slow down? Would you mind taking a few things off? Can’t we deal with some of these issues a few weeks later?

…no? Okay. I understand. At least it’s nice to know that I can always look to you to keep me on track (kind of). I guess I’ll try harder.

Best,

Katie

AKA Stressed-Senior-With-Too-Much-To-Handle

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

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    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!

You Are Not Alone

For the longest time, I felt that no one could ever really understand my troubles. We all have issues, concerns, and problems, but I felt I was on my own. I am the first one in my family to attend a university, and this tends to be a bit overwhelming and exciting for most students. Yet, over time I kept feeling frustrated, lost, and even sad. I simply didn’t know what was going on with me. This kept happening for a while and it got worse.

It wasn’t until I had several panic attacks that my family and I knew something was wrong. Our family doctor knew what was going on. He diagnosed me with Anxiety Disorder. I was a bit relieved to know what I had yet; my symptoms persisted even after getting on medication. Time passed by and I started to feel better.

However, I just had a recent panic attack. It has been over a year since I had one. I realized that I needed to take care of myself better by getting professional help and by reaching out to everyone I know. I was relying on my medication too much, and hadn’t developed a support system. This is critical for a well-rounded and healthy recovery and growth. I advise everyone to reach out for support from everyone they know and to go to SHAC or any medical center to get professional help. You are not alone, there is help out there.