Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog.

Join 6 other subscribers

4 Secrets to College Success

a graduate receiving his diploma

Follow my advice and that diploma will be yours!


College classes are hard—they demand that you read more, write more, hold more information in your head and confront more new ideas than you had to in high school—and you are probably all realizing this right about now. When I was a freshman, I had this same realization after my first round of exams and essay assignments. I knew college was going to be a step up, but I didn’t understand how high of a step it would be.

You see, high school had been pretty easy for me. I was usually one of those kids who set the curve and was salutatorian at graduation. I had set a high bar for academic success and I wanted to succeed in college too. My friends, parents and former teachers expected me to succeed as well. Failure was not an option.

Whether you were a straight-A student or not, we can all relate to the fear of failing at college, of disappointing your families, of becoming another statistic, of ruining your chance at a good career. But before you start down that slippery slope, know that there are steps you can take to avoid that dreaded fate.

As a senior who has never come close to failing a class, I am proud to present my secrets to college success.

1. Go to Class and Participate

It seems like a no-brainer, but one basic key to college success is showing up to class every day. Even if you totally understand the subject matter, go to class. It doesn’t hurt to hear the concepts repeated in the lecture or get some hands on practice with in-class activities. That being said, it isn’t enough to show up but spend the class browsing Facebook or Reddit, you have to participate as well. Really listening to your professor, taking notes and asking questions will help you get the most out of the class.

2. Do Your Homework Right Away

Let me say this straight out: being a procrastinator is NOT a badge honor. Staying up all night to finish a paper does not make you a hero— it only makes you sleep-deprived with a crappy paper to turn in the next day.  Instead, do your work early so you have enough time to create something of quality. Plus, by getting your work out of the way early, you can have all the fun you want over the weekend without worrying.

3. Study Without Distractions

We all think that we are great multi-taskers, but in reality we can only focus well on one thing at a time. So, when you are studying, make your textbooks the priority. For example, watching television and studying do not mix well. Neither, in my experience, do beds and warm blankets (Hello, nap!). If you don’t like studying by yourself, by all means study with friends but don’t let the discussion wander off-topic with roommate drama or football stats.

4. Get Help When You Need It

Maybe you want to figure everything out for yourself, but there is nothing wrong with getting help when you need it. Take advantage of the Writing Center, the Math Achievement Center and Tutoring Services,  all of which are free of charge and open to walk-ins. Tutors at the Writing Center can help you write a thesis and properly cite your sources while the tutors at the Math Achievement Center specialize in all areas of math and statistics. At Tutoring Services, you can get help with just about everything else from Anatomy/Physiology to Spanish to Organic Chemistry.

Ok, so maybe these tips are not so secret. Nevertheless, they are tried and true tactics that can help you succeed in college. I know they have certainly worked for me.

–Elizabeth Meinders

14 Things We All Experienced As Freshmen

Freshman year can be many things…dramatic, scary, exciting, but don’t forget, that nearly everyone here has been through those same experiences.

1. Having to get real serious with your parents when they refuse to leave on Move-In Day

a woman slams a door

2. Realizing you packed enough clothes for a small army and you have a closet the size of a walnut. And you look at your over-packed duffel like…

a man holds his head and the caption reads "This is too much"

3. The awkward meeting of the roommate. Need I say more?

a woman looks awkward

4. Hitting your head for the first week because you’re not used to your nose being inches from the ceiling. And it feels something like this

a girl gets punched in the face

5. Realizing that Winona doesn’t have a Buffalo Wild Wings or a Chipotle

Harry Potter looks shocked

6. Thinking that what your professor is saying sounds more like gibberish than English

a toddler looks sleepy and confused

And by the time the first exam rolled around you were like…

A woman looks confused and a caption says "What is happening?"

7. Acting like you knew where you were going when really you didn’t even know that Pasteur was a real place

a woman is lost in a crowd of people

8. Counting down the days of cafeteria food

a man makes a face after eating some food

9. Realizing that all of your money has been spent on dorm-delivered Domino’s and scantrons

a man covers his eyes in embarrassment

10. Deciding how to wear your lanyard, which probably held your student ID and a back-up copy of your class schedule

A woman taps her chin with her finger while looking thoughtful

11. Finally appreciating all those years you didn’t have to do your own laundry

a man carrying a basket of laundry glares over his shoulder

But by the end of the year you’re like…

a man quickly folds t-shirts in a laundry room

12. Flip flops in the shower–it was a new thing

A woman shows off her shoes with the caption "Metallica are very in this season"

13. Reflecting on how you’ve been doing since you started making your own decisions

a woman nods and says "My life is a day to day experiment in bad decisions"

14. But after all the drama, homesickness and tough choices, you realized how awesome WSU is going to be

a toddler waves her arms and bounces excitedly in her car seat

–Leah Dobihal

Home v. Here

For the average WSU student, coming to Winona State University wasn’t that long of a trek or much of a difference culturally. Well, for me it was the biggest change of my life. My name is Rachel and I am originally from Danbury, Connecticut.

You’re probably thinking, why is she here? What made her chose Winona? How did she even find Winona? Well, it’s pretty simple actually. My mom grew up in Goodview, a five-minute drive from campus, and actually went to Winona before moving to Connecticut. My aunt also works in the IWC. And who doesn’t want to get away from home, right?!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed some huge differences between my childhood home in Connecticut and my new home here in Winona.

For starters, Minnesotans say some pretty weird stuff. Don’t get me wrong to all of you, I say some weird stuff too but come on, freez-ees? Pop? Bubblers? I was confused for a good week trying to learn all your Midwestern lingo. Your accents aren’t that strong (though I’ve come to realize the pronunciation of certain words differs greatly from person to person) but some words just sound off to my New England ear, such as flag, bagel, roof and milk. In the video below, you can see how frustrating it is.

Let’s move on to transportation and city life. Where I am from everyone needed to have a car. Not just because they wanted one and because it was “cool” to have one but because there was no other way to get to the other side of town! You had to take the highway and bikes weren’t allowed on the highway. In a town of more than 80,000, you either have a car or you don’t go anywhere. There was literally nothing to do in my town even though we had so many people. There was only one hiking trail and nowhere to canoe or basically do anything remotely outdoors based. You guys don’t realize how good you got it here.

I also can’t believe how friendly people are here. Back home, if I said hi to everyone I passed on the street or held the door open for I would get the dirtiest looks so when I got here, I kept that same attitude. It makes me seem rude, I know, but that’s what I grew up with and that’s just how I reacted. I am working on developing my “Minnesota nice” manners.

I’m sure few of you traveled to WSU from the east coast, or as I call it New England, but I’m sure most of you have seen differences between your hometown and here. I just thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

–Rachel Adam

I Just Couldn’t Leave Without My...

bottles of nail polish

My nail polish collection was the thing I just could leave home without.

Going to college can be a scary thing. It’s all new people, a new home and new experiences. As I packed for my freshman year of college here at Winona State, I couldn’t imagine leaving anything behind. Knowing the dimensions of a res hall room, the decisions about what to bring and what to leave at home were tough.

But there was one thing I just could never leave without: my nail polish collection.

I love painting my nails a different color every few days and I have gathered quite a collection over the years. Yes, all the bottles take up space on my dresser, but I love having all of the different options. I couldn’t leave a single one behind and, silly as it may sound, painting my nails was a comforting ritual that reminded me of home which helped as I adjusted to my new life at WSU.

So…what is the one thing you couldn’t leave home without?

Post your pic on Instagram or tweet it with the hashtag #WSUmusthave, or email your picture and description of your item with the subject line “WSU Must Have” to webcomm@winona.edu and it will be added to the Facebook album on the Official WSU Facebook page.

Let’s see all the items we Warriors can’t live without. (There will be no judgement for the stuffed animal or blanket you have had since you were born :) )

–Leah Dobihal

10 Things To Do in Your First Week Of Class

WSU students study together

These students are confident and at ease–and you can be too!

Orientation Week might be over but there are still a few things you can do to be prepared for the beginning of classes. This first week can be pretty confusing as a freshman. You hear so much information all at once and it can be hard to retain it all. If you find yourself feeling a bit lost, this list can help you find your way so you can start off the year with a solid foundation. Prepare yourself with this helpful checklist.

  1. Check out the list of WSU clubs, and meet other students who share your interests. If you don’t see a club or organization and you want to start one, go for it!
  2. Go exploring! Grab some new friends and travel downtown to see what it has to offer, as well as other Winona hangouts.
  3. Organize your computer and download programs. Especially if you know you will be needing a specific program for a class, download it ASAP! Waiting to do this in class with everyone else will be a long slow process you’ll want to avoid. If you have any questions or issues with your new computer, go to Tech Support (second floor of Somsen) before classes start and get everything squared away.
  4. Order your books! Don’t know what books you will need? Search by your course to find which books your professor requires on the WSU bookstore website.
  5. Along with sending friend requests to everyone in your residence hall and classes, make sure you follow WSU on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter to stay connected and updated on everything happening at WSU! And be sure to join your fellow freshmen in the Class of 2018 Facebook group.
  6. If you haven’t figured this out already, make sure you know how to log into your email and D2L. Also, be able to log onto “Find a Course” and locate your DARS report (knowing how to use this tool will make fulfilling your major and minor class requirements a lot easier!) If you want to update you major from undecided status, do so now! If you have questions about any of this visit the Warrior Hub in Maxwell 222.
  7. While you’re reviewing your DARS, look to see who your advisor is. Your advisor can help you make sure you have all the right classes to keep you on track.
  8. Get a pass at Lake Lodge to go canoeing, kayaking and more. It costs $5 for a year-long pass. The first time you sign up you have to fill out an info card so they can get you in the database, but after that you just have to renew your pass every year and you have unlimited access!
  9. Look for a job. This is not necessary for everyone, but if you are one of those who have to work through the school year now is the time to go around applying for jobs on and off campus.
  10. Check out the awesome Integrated Wellness Complex and solidify your workout routine! Like the Group Exercise Facebook Page if you would want the inside scoop on free workout classes.  This page is also a great place to find a work out buddy!

And, finally, are you excited for the year yet? Good! You’re especially excited now that you are well prepared and have all your questions answered, right?

Just remember: Part of being a college student is becoming independent and figuring things out on your own (even if you have to make a few mistakes along the way). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and use your resources! If you have any more questions about this list or even something not mentioned, leave a comment below and we will point you in the right direction!

–Anna Butler

For Snow, or Rain, or Heat, or Gloom of Night-- Better be Prepared!

An "all the things" meme about packing

Yep…this pretty much sums up preparing to move to college.

You are standing in front of your bedroom closet, then you turn to look at your desk covered in papers and knickknacks and the walls hung with photos and posters before glancing across the floor that is strewn with random objects you had forgotten you even owned but are now sentimental to you. And as you gaze upon all your possessions, you wonder “Where do I even begin to pack for college??

Is this scene ringing any bells for you? Well, that is how I felt, at least, when I was preparing to go to college, leaving behind the bedroom I’d called my own for almost 18 years and all its memories of childhood. Whether you are struggling with nostalgia or not, moving is such a hassle (I know, I’ve done it 5 times now) and you might be tempted to bring as few boxes with you as possible. But the reality is that you had better be prepared for everything– weather-wise and otherwise.

This is especially if your parents live several hours away (as mine do) since it isn’t so easy to run home and grab your winter coat, for example, when the weather turns cold disturbingly early. That’s all well and good but, you may be thinking, where are you going to put all that potentially necessary stuff in a college residence hall room?!? The key is to maximize the amount of space you do have and keep everything organized so you can find it easily.

This is what I have learned:

  • Use flat bins to get the most out of the space under the bed. Even if you don’t decide to loft your bed (which is an excellent way to gain extra floor space) you can still store a lot of stuff under it. I used three long, flat bins to store all my spring & summer clothes during the winter and then turned it into winter storage when the weather grew warm again.
  • Put shelving units inside the closet. This is an easy way to add extra storage space. In my closet, I used several milk crates stacked on their sides in mine to store bedding, towels and other supplies.
  • Buy lots of hangers and 3-M hooks. Hanging up most of your clothes in the closet will save you space in your dresser drawers. Putting up 3-M hooks on the back of the door or elsewhere around your room is a great way to keep coats within easy reach and let towels dry after showering.
  • Use shoe boxes as drawer dividers. Re-purposing shoe boxes as drawer dividers is a cheap, eco-friendly way to stay organized. I save all my shoeboxes (my mom would say I have a problem—but hey, you never know when you might need a box!) and use them in my dresser to make it easy find socks, underwear, make-up, and jewelry.
  • Hang some bulletin boards. Bulletin boards are a great way to de-clutter desktops and display photos but they can also be used to store necklaces, thus eliminating space-consuming jewelry trees. I hang all my necklaces up a bulletin board where they are in easy reach and kept from getting tangled.

The second key piece of advice I have is don’t bring things that you don’t really need:

  • Your entire book collection. Sorry! I am an English major so I understand your pain, but those beloved books will only take up space. Bring only a few of your very favorite books though honestly, you probably won’t have time to read them. If you do have time for pleasure reading, you can simply check books out from the Winona Public Library which is only a few blocks from campus.
  • Your cd/dvd collection. This one calls for the same logic as above; you simply don’t have the space to store stacks of cds or dvds. Instead, put all your music on your computer and/or iPod and listen to songs that way. The front desks in the res halls all have a wide movie selection that you can borrow using your student ID. However, if you can’t bear to leave your movies at home, do place all the discs in binder with plastic sleeves to eliminate dozens of bulky cases.
  • A vacuum and cooking equipment. The front desks in all the residence halls have vacuums available for students to check out. They also have pots and pans so if you want to do any baking these items are available. A small frying pan and quart-sized pot for macaroni are useful but you’ll most likely eat your main meals in the cafeteria.
  • A printer. There some 90 printers across campus, including the dorms, that WSU students can use for free. So why would you bring a big bulky printer and pay for all that ink and paper??

You’ll also want to coordinate with your roommate so that you don’t end up with two mini-fridges, two microwaves, floor lamps etc. Talking to your roommate before you actually move in is always a good idea—it makes sharing close quarters so much less awkward! Living in the residence hall is a fun challenge; this is just my advice to help your experience be more fun and less challenging by being prepared for everything.

–Liz Meinders

Your Guide to Textbook-Buying Basics

The front entrance to the WSU bookstore

Newly renovated, the WSU Bookstore has all the books you need ready on their shelves.

It seems like the beginning of fall semester is still so far away, but you should start looking for your textbooks now so you’ll be prepared for the first day of class.

Here’s how to get started:

1) Find out what books you need.

Well, this is an obvious first step but knowing where to look perhaps isn’t so self-explanatory. To find the books required for your classes, go to the WSU Bookstore and select 2014 Fall Semester from the “Select A Course” drop-down menu. Then scroll through the list of departments and courses to find each of your classes, then click on them to view the list of books you need.

2) Buy your books.

New books are fresh, crisp, free of any markings and are stocked and ready for you to pick up at the WSU bookstore. However, if you aren’t hankering for that new book smell and don’t mind a little highlighting, used books are an excellent way to save some cash.

Here’s where to find some deals on used books:

  • The WSU Bookstore – The biggest advantage to the WSU bookstore is you can grab the book you need instantly. There is no depending on the vagaries of FedEx or UPS and you don’t need to double and triple check that it is correct edition because your professors have ordered the books they want you to use through the WSU Bookstore. WSU Bookstore Bonus: all bookstore profits contribute to WSU scholarships and campus improvements. Did you catch that? 100 percent of profits go right back to WSU.
  • Wazoo’s List – This is a great resource that is open exclusively to the WSU community. Fellow WSU students post their books (and many other items as well) to the Wazoo’s List Facebook group for WSU students to buy. It’s all local and gets textbooks out of the homes of people who don’t need them and into the hands of those that do.
  • The Internet – You can also buy your textbooks from online stores such as Amazon, Textbooks.com, Chegg and others. These retailers may also give you the option to rent your textbooks which can save you money and the trouble of getting rid of them at the end of the semester. But be warned—it may be more difficult to find the exact copy your professor requires and you may encounter unexpected shipping delays.

Before you buy:

  • Make sure the book is the correct version you need. You can check this by cross-referencing the copyright date on the book and your course book list.
  • Some books may include discs or online codes and some used versions may not include these extras. Check that you’re book includes them, if not ask your professor to see if those extra materials are necessary.

Happy hunting!

An Independence Day to Remember

an American flag against the sky

Happy Independence Day!

This Friday, we as a country celebrate our history of political independence and our desire to govern ourselves as we see fit. In a way, the 4th of July is a foreshadowing of your personal independence day that is swiftly approaching—that is, the day you move in at WSU.

Clearly, independence is a wonderful thing—I love my independence and couldn’t move back into my parents’ house (Sorry, Mom & Dad!)—but you should be careful not fall into these traps and temptations that arise when you are given your much anticipated freedom.

1. You Don’t Have a Curfew

In college, there is no one to say you must be home on school nights by a certain time. You can stay out until 2am if you want to, or even say to hell with sleep and pull an all-nighter. However, a good night’s sleep—and moreover, a consistent sleep schedule– is important for your health. Lack of sleep can negatively affect your attention span, memory, mood, physical performance and even lead to obesity, diabetes and higher susceptibility to infections. Campus life is busy and, of course, you don’t want to miss a minute of the fun but do yourself a favor and get some sleep so you can fully enjoy it.

2. You Can Eat Whatever, Whenever

Without parents around, you can decide to eat pizza for breakfast, get ice cream for dessert every night and never let anything green touch your plate. But it’s important to get good nutrition and limit portion sizes –especially if you are hoping to avoid the Freshman 15. Step out of the line for burgers and fries once in a while and head over to the salad bar for a healthy alternative.

3. You Don’t Have to Go to Class

College, unlike K-12 education, isn’t a government requirement and no one will come after you for skipping classes. Some professors may take role every day and factor attendance into your grade, but others won’t. While skipping a class offers short term benefits–an extra hour of sleep, an early start to the weekend, avoiding a boring lecture—in the long term, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. There is a strong correlation between going to class and achieving a high grade. If you attend class regularly, you will understand the material better, can ask questions and get to know your professor which will help you make contacts and get letters of recommendation.

4. You Don’t Have to do Homework or Study

The same logic applies here: no one will make sure your homework gets done or that you study for exams. College classes may not have homework to turn in every day but they usually have hefty reading assignments and major papers or exams that can make or break your grade. And don’t think that you’ll be able to leave it all to the last minute—procrastination only leads to late night cram sessions that leave you with a half-assed attempt, a potentially passing grade and a weakened immune system. If you don’t do the required work as it is assigned, you’ll find yourself floundering in the class, a situation that definitely isn’t worth a 12 hour Netflix marathon or a weekend of partying with your friends.

5. You Don’t Have to Clean Your Room

Now that you’re out of your parents’ house, there is no one to complain if you never make your bed, drop clothes on the floor, let the trash pile up and forget what a vacuum looks like. This is especially true if you live in a single room. While cleaning and organizing you room does require some effort, it can help you feel more focused and less stressed as well as avoid any health code violations.

6. You Can Buy Whatever, Whenever

Up until now, your parents have probably had some say in how you spend your money, but once you turn 18, legally you are on your own. Your parents can’t access your bank accounts or track all your purchases. But this is not the time to get a giant tattoo or the latest Apple gadget—you should be saving your money for basic needs, school supplies and textbooks. You are also likely receiving credit card offers in the mail and all I can say is BE CAREFUL if you decide to get a credit card. It’s a good idea to start building credit early but on the other, but woe unto you if you use a line of credit irresponsibly as it can swiftly drag you down into the Pit of Despair—I mean, Debt. The WSU Financial Aid Office offers tools and information to help you manage your money.

This list may seem like a collection of juvenile excesses and since you’re adults now, you’re obviously past all that. Well, college offers you the chance to make your own choices but don’t let that freedom lead you to making poor decisions just because you don’t have any adult supervision. Yes, you are the adult now, and with that independence comes the responsibility to live with the consequences of the choices you make.

--Liz Meinders

Graduation: A Bittersweet Realization

View of campus from Garvin Heights

It might seem as though the summer is moving too slowly, but you’ll be arriving here soon enough.

This weekend wraps up the last of the high school graduations and I just want to say congratulations to all you 2014 graduates. Graduation is an achievement to be proud of and it adds a final push to the behind the momentum building up as you eagerly look forward to registration, move-in day and your first year of college. As a Facebook group admin, I’ve been seeing posts recently about how you wish it was August already, how you can’t wait to meet new people and begin your college careers. I remember writing those posts myself three years ago; I couldn’t wait to leave Marshfield behind and start fresh.

But amidst all the excitement, I want you to think about the other thing your high school graduation marks—that this is the last summer you will have in your hometown with all your friends. This will be the last summer where everyone you know is in the same place at the same time and you are all on the same page. After you start college, you and your friends will go to different cities, your winter and spring breaks may not overlap, you’ll each get a whole new group of friends whom your high school friends won’t know and a new set of experiences they won’t relate to.

You may be thinking, “But that’s during the semester. We’ll still have our summers and it will be just like before we left.” Maybe it will be like that for you—I hope it is—but, in my experience, it isn’t so simple. Summers are filled with jobs and internships and summer classes. Before you even realize it, all your days will be accounted for and a fun weekend get-away with your BFFs keeps getting rescheduled and pushed back from June to July and then to August as mine has this summer.

So take it from someone who knows how you feel but has a little more perspective– don’t wish the days away too quickly. You may feel like you are stuck idling in neutral when you really just want to floor it but take the time to cruise around your hometown. Take in the sights, sounds, smells you’ve experienced these last 18 years because soon enough you won’t have their comforting familiarity. The same goes for your friends. Take time to see your friends, laugh and play and enjoy their company as much as you can because come fall, you won’t be seeing their faces every day in the hallways or across the lunch table. I admit it is a bittersweet realization, but an important one nonetheless, as you still have the time to make this a summer full of memories you will always remember.

–Liz Meinders

A Farewell to WSU

Sophie and a few of the friends she's met at WSU.

It’s not over ’til it’s over!

The last few days I’ve spent on campus have been strange. People have been stopping me in the halls and on the streets to say “Don’t worry, we’ll stay in touch!” or “I’m really gonna miss you when you go!” I respond in kind and tell them my plans, but all the while I’m thinking “I’m not really going anywhere, am I?” Though I know logically that they’re right, it just doesn’t feel real.

This coming Friday I’m going to become a college graduate.

I’ve loved my time here at Winona State. I’ve met incredible friends, traveled to some amazing places and somehow managed to do some learning in my free-time. It’s strange to think that I’m going to have to move on from this place that has been my home for four (incredibly busy) years. When I think of the next year I still picture myself here, sitting on the couches on 3rd floor Minne and looking down over the campus that has given me so much. I picture myself standing and waving frantically to my friends down below who either wave back or duck their heads in embarrassment (much to my delight.)  I picture myself waking up early so I can walk to campus in the fog and join some friends at Mugby for brunch. And I picture myself making stupid jokes to my professors who roll their eyes but secretly think I’m hilarious (seriously, I’m sure they totally do).

But I know that when the summer starts in a week there will be a flurry of activity, a lot of goodbyes that don’t feel quite real and then silence.  That silence, that unknown future is what frightens me the most. However, at the same time, I feel as though I’ve done everything I can to be ready for the future. I’ve started applying to jobs and I know that in a few years I’m going back to school to get my masters in library science.  I know I’m capable, and I’m confident in my ability to succeed, but I also know that before anything else it’s gonna be lonely.

So here’s my message to the people I love here, both the ones staying and my fellow graduates who are all heading in different directions; It ain’t over till it’s over. This isn’t goodbye; it’s just see you later. You’ll always be with me and yada yada every other cliché in the book.  But hey, even if the words are old the sentiment is real.

I’ll see you guys on the other side. And thanks WSU. It’s been a wild ride.

–Sophie Kaplan