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William is an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Department of Business Administration and Tourism and Hospitality Management. He is fascinated by research around how individuals construct and create their social realities, intrigued with the powers of creativity and innovation, and an avid proponent of outstanding service experiences. When not teaching, writing, or researching, he tries to spend time with his family and occasionally paint. He is currently completing his PhD in Management at Saint Mary’s University.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

6 Things To Do When Exams Are Done


For university students, nearing the end of your exam period in April evokes the same feelings as an eight year old on Christmas Eve. Visions of sugar plums and a semester full of course notes dance through the air.

Euphoria that this day has once again finally, magically arrived!
Go celebrate! Enjoy yourself - you've earned it.You are justified to let loose after your exams, embracing the feeling that all of your work has finally come to an end. For many, this means four months without textbooks, assignments or classes.

Yet, this time is a perfect period for preparation. Yup. It’s a wise idea to tie up a few loose ends before you leave your school for the summer and lay the ground for success next year.

Think about it – at this moment, you are keenly focused on your educational path, immersed in both the details of your program of study and the processes of your school. This is the ideal moment to put some plans into place for the coming semester so that you do not come back in the fall cold and ill-prepared.
To help, here’s a quick to-do list, tasks that you should consider before you being your summer adventures:
  • Check your academic progress
It will likely be a few weeks before you receive your final grades from the winter semester; however, you should have a fair idea of how you’ve performed based on feedback throughout the semester. Are you reaching your goals from a GPA perspective? Are your overall study skills improving? Review the last year both from a numbers (grades) and process (learning outcomes and habits) perspective. List out your key successes and areas to improve next year.
  • Review your degree course check list
Most degree programs have a very specific list of required courses to be completed in order to earn the degree. Some of these courses are offered quite regularly while others are available only on an irregular basis, requiring some deft planning skills. Completing an undergraduate degree with a single major is fairly straight forward, but many students miss out on the opportunity to double major or earn both a major and a minor because they start planning too late in the process. Whatever your goal, why not get the greatest value out of your time at school?
  • Pick your courses now
Ninety nine percent of all schools have released their course schedule for the 2011/12 academic year. Many have already opened up course registration! Take this time to pick out at least some of your courses for the upcoming year and either sign up now or, if your school has yet to open registration, make a clear note of the first possible dates to register. It’s always better to be the first person signed up for the courses you want than to be scrambling in August to get into courses you have little interest in.
  • Seek the assistance of an advisor
The best part of this time of year is that everyone is still on campus and easily accessible. Faculty are marking exams and submitting grades; the registrar's office is bustling and financial services has few line ups. It is an excellent opportunity to take in a couple of meetings, get questions answered, and sort out issues.
  • Review available bursaries and scholarships for the coming year
If you have a reasonably strong academic record, you must (repeat – MUST) take a moment to review all of the available bursaries and scholarships at your school. There is all sorts of money available in a variety of forms to all sorts of people. Are you an athlete? There’s money for that. Have you volunteered a significant amount of time? There’s a bursary to celebrate your work. Perhaps you or your parents have belonged to the Eastern Sisterhood of the Pine Tree Quilters? I bet there’s a scholarship of $500 just waiting for you to apply for. The critical issue here is that many scholarships and bursaries go unused every year simply because no one applies; if you think you are somewhat qualified, get your application in.
  • Make decisions on living arrangements for the fall
Arrange for residence or sign that lease before you leave for the summer break. Line up people that you are interested in living with. Nothing starts the fall semester off better than meeting up with your chosen roommates in an apartment/house of your preference. Leave the desperate, last minute room hunting for those that didn’t prepare.
Congratulations on making it to the end of another term!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

5 Simple Tips to Help Prepare for Exams


April is always an interesting time of year.

As I look out my window, the sun has climbed over the horizon to brighten another beautiful spring day. Birds are singing as they gather around the feeders for their first meal of the day. The first tiny buds are developing on the trees; signs of life are everywhere.

Unfortunately, many students won’t have the pleasure of enjoying this sight today. Heads are still on pillows after long nights of studying. It is, after all, exam season.

As a student myself for 14 years of post-secondary education, having taken far more than my fair share of exams, I’ve learned a few tricks and tips. Mostly, planning is key!
  1. Understand the exam you will be writing. Will it be multiple choice or short answers? Calculations or essay questions? This will fundamentally change how you will need to prepare for you test. Some question styles allow you to be familiar with concepts while others require that you have clear, concise definitions and examples ready.
  2. Review the course outline and notes from your first class. During the first class, your instructor discussed the goals and desired outcomes of the course. Most exams are written to test against desired skill sets and outcomes; you can easily forget the ‘purpose’ of the course after 13 busy weeks of course work. Start at the beginning.
  3. Understand your course and instructor. Subject matter is important, of course. However, the person crafting the exam will have certain styles and preferences that you can pick up on. Note that if it’s a large, common exam for many instructors teaching the same course, you should to try to gather this information ahead of time.
  4. Take care of your body and mind. Granted that during exam periods, a lot of studying will take place. It is during this time that you must pay special attention to your diet and sleep habits. Caffeine-fuelled all-nighters might seem like a bright idea, but you can hardly do this for a whole exam period. Sleep and nutrition keep you calmer and help you focus. Plus, you’ll avoid the energy spikes and crashes that inevitably come with CWC (cramming with coffee).
  5. Schedule everything. Yes, everything in your exam period should be scheduled, including study time, eating, and sleeping. A schedule will boost your confidence that you have sufficient space to prepare for your exams. This is not the time to take on those extra work shifts or catch up on visits with family and friends; they can all wait until you are finished your exams. Stay focused.
Finally, relax a bit. Exams are meant to test your knowledge on subject material and allow you to demonstrate new skills. Faculty (for the most part) write exams as a way to examine your knowledge, not to trick you.

Remember that everyone is invested in your success!