What’s My Grade and other things that ARE IN THE SYLLABUS!

Before accepting the staff position with Veterans Upward Bound I spent many years on the faculty side of the university academic world. In my current role as a VUB Outreach Specialist, I use that experience to talk with our VUB participants about meeting academic expectations of faculty in the classroom today. The first step in meeting expectations and ultimately achieving success can be found in the mystical document your professors provided in the first week of class. This document often holds all the answers to your academic concerns and provides a direct map to securing an A in the course. It can even help tell you what your grade will be without the professor saying a word or returning your graded assignment. What is the name of this all powerful document that will lead me to success you ask? It’s in the syllabus!

One of the best tips I give is to read your syllabus thoroughly and often. If you have not even glanced at your syllabus since the first week of class, you might be making your job as a student more difficult. Most classes have a very tight schedule and faculty can not spend an excessive amount of class time repeating information.  As an adult student, it is up to you to review and read your syllabus on a regular basis. If there is something you do not understand schedule an office visit or if allowed ask a targeted specific question during class. I could usually tell which students reviewed the syllabus by the questions they asked in class. My syllabus had a writing expectations section, and included a statement that “In this course students were expected to thoroughly answer questions, stay on topic, and meet format and assignment instructions. You will not be graded on your ability to fill paper with words, but on content and use of those words.” My most frustrating student question was “How long does it have to be?” My typical response, “It’s in your syllabus”. After about the 10th time answering this question my response may have included an eye roll. Students who took the time to read the syllabus and assignment instructions would ask things like, “Would you consider my personal experience with learning in the classroom as support for this paper or does it have to be from a published article?” Here, the student was asking for clarification to the instructions. My response to this type of question was usually, “Yes that is a great way to get the three support details for your opinion on how you learn best required for this assignment.” and it always omitted the eye roll. So read your syllabus and assignment instructions first, then ask. You may find you will get a more helpful response in return.

My 2nd tip is to have your own completed assignment checklist to review BEFORE submitting it for a grade. Most professors provide assignment instructions with lots of details, some even provide a grading rubric. As the student you can decide what type of effort you want to put into the assignment. Remember, minimal effort will result in a minimal grade. If you want the A at the end of the course, then put in A level effort and pay attention to the details. Writing assignments are a large part of your grade in the majority of college classes and you will need to be able to develop basic academic writing skills with an attention to detail mindset. To help get you started, we have a basic writing checklist, just click the link to see our version. Writing Assignment Checklist. This checklist is a very basic list of expectations for academic writing and should be used as a starting point. You may want to customize this for your assignments with the details.

One of the many additional services available to our VUB participants is academic preparation and support. Would like some help with understanding how to meet academic expectations? We can help with academic writing, ways to customize an assignment checklist for your class, breaking down your course syllabus, what the syllabus means to you as a student, or any area of how to meet academic expectations. Just call our office anytime at 405-974-3686 to schedule an appointment for one on one academic preparation services. We would be happy to help.

Chinks in the Student Armor

After years of being 10-foot-tall and bullet proof as members of the US military, many of us struggle with admitting or letting anyone else see the chinks in our metaphorical armor. This mindset continues when we transition back into civilian life as veterans. We will reply with “I’m fine” when really, we are not fine. Myself, I often fall into the thought of “there’s someone else who needs your help more than I do.” Other times I just do not want to admit I might have a limitation. As a returning non-traditional student, this mindset can lead to critical academic supports not being requested or implemented in the classroom. In particular, services available through the institution’s Student Disability Support Services office are often skipped completely by student veterans.  Read on to learn how the Disability Support Services program can help all students succeed in the classroom.

The STRIPES-VUB office recommends starting the process with Disability Support Services (DSS) shortly after receiving your notice of acceptance and several months before the start of the semester. This will allow you to have the supports needed for academic success in the classroom on day 1. The request for accommodations can be started at any time before or during the semester. A few things to note as an adult student. First the process must be initiated by you the student, no one else can do this for you. Faculty and staff are not required to apply accommodations retroactively. Any approved accommodations are implemented from the time of approval and notification forward. This is a time when it is best to be forward thinking and start before an academic crisis occurs.

Most DSS programs will require you to provide some medical documentation with your diagnosis to verify you meet criteria. The list of conditions and potential academic accommodations that can be considered is extensive and long. The impact of your conditions and prescribed treatments have on your academic functioning will be unique for you.  Bottom line, do not become and an expert and self-determine your eligibility or potential accommodations. Be upfront and honest with your DSS case manager. This is the person to share those chinks in the armor and together come up with a plan to reinforce the.  All information you share is protected and will never be released without your permission, you are in control of what and how much information is shared. The institution you attend has hired professional experts to determine if you meet criteria and accommodations that can help you succeed in the classroom. The first step is to schedule an appointment with DSS and let the experts help you.

The American with Disabilities Act requires that institutions provide effective accommodations so all individuals have access. These accommodations are determined on a case by case basis and individualized for your needs. You will meet with a DSS staff member to discuss how your condition impacts your cognitive functioning capabilities. The results of the discussion will determine what accommodations you need as a student to level the academic playing field. At the conclusion of the interview, you will be provided a document noting the approved accommodations for your success. For example, migraines, a common veteran diagnosis, often impacts cognitive functioning capabilities in a variety of ways. Individual approved accommodations for migraines could be extended test time, use of light blocking glasses, paper only exams, increased excused absences, etc. The impact of hearing loss on your auditory processing may require an accommodation for reserved classroom seating, use of recording devices, being provided written lectures, etc.Keep in mind, it is common for two students with the same diagnosis receive very different accommodation letters.

Similar to the requirement that the student must initiate a request for accommodations, it is your decision and responsibility to notify your professors that you have accommodations as a student. This process varies some at each campus; some use an online notification system and others require the student to provide a printed copy of the DSS accommodation letter to each professor. Talk with your DSS office to make sure you understand the process. Once you have notified the professor and provided the documentation, professors are required to meet the request from that point moving forward. You should be in the drivers seat of your academic career, go a step further and schedule an office visit with each of your professors. They may have additional support ideas to help get you to the end of class with success. As mentioned earlier, this is not a retroactive event. If half way into the semester you realize you really did need that extended test time, the professor is not required to allow you to retake tests that occurred before the letter was provided. Most professors are very accommodating and want their students to succeed.Taking a few minutes to talk with your professors early on and on a regular basis can go a long way to creating student confidence. Occasionally, there is a conflict in receiving your accommodations in the classroom. If this occurs notify your DSS office immediately. The earlier the conflict is resolved, the faster a solution can be found and you can return to focusing on learning the material.

Lastly, your talks with the DSS office should be an ongoing part of your student life. As you become a more experienced student you will likely discover additional accommodation needs. After all, sometimes you don’t know; what you don’t know until you are in the classroom. My best advice when it comes to your student accommodation needs; do not wait! Do not wait to make the first appointment, provide the accommodation notice to your professors, or notify DSS when a agreed accommodation is not effective. You are ultimately responsible for your success and accessing all available student supports. DSS academic accommodations are one area that you can utilize to help reinforce one of the chinks in your student armor. If you would like assistance requesting or learning more about DSS services at your institution from STRIPES-VUB program, please contact us at 405-974-3686 or email STRIPES-VUB@uco.edu. We would be happy to help guide you through the process.

Mental Fitness

What is mental fitness and how important is it to success in college? Mental fitness is multidimensional including our emotional, psychological, and social well-being (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (2019). Meaning all three play a role in the stability of a person’s mental fitness like a three-legged stool. If one leg is shorter or lacking in some way the stool is not considered stable. Our mental fitness plays a role in everything we do down to the smallest details. It also affects larger aspects of college life like coping with stress, functioning in a campus society, and our decision patterns (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019). Now that we have a general understanding of what mental fitness is and how it can affect us as college students; the better questions are what exercises can I do for my mental fitness?  How many set’s and how many repetitions are needed to reach maximum gain? Do I have to do cardio and legs for mental fitness?

The answers to the questions above are different to each person. As you can see our buddy up top needs to stop skipping leg day. A person’s mental fitness is multidimensional in aspect to the roles internal and external factors play and how they contribute collectively. The average student veteran can be hit by a barrage of different past and present stress related factors on any given day. Don’t be discouraged there are personal trainers that specialize in helping you tailor a workout plan that’s right for you. At the bottom of this page are some resources to find the right trainer for you.

Sleep Your Way to Better Grades

Students who get good sleep may have cracked the secret to better grades and some time on the Dean’s list, according to a study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Sleep is a needed to help us stay alert for threats to our well-being as well as a chance for our bodies to heal after each day. Students want to work hard to stay current in their classes and keep up with the work from a full schedule. That requires a balancing act that goes heavy on activity and usually sleep is sacrificed. The point is that we need good, quality sleep not massive amounts of it.

Researchers at MIT have found that a regular consistent sleep schedule contributed noticeably to not only better grades but lower anxiety levels in class. Quality rest helped with retention of material read before class and understanding of discussions during class. The researchers also found that students who tend to stay up late and go to bed around 2 a.m. tended to perform poorly on tests no matter how much sleep they got. Quality sleep was also connected to how well student scored on quizzes, midterms, and final exams.

When you go to bed matters. If you go to bed at 10 p.m. or midnight, performance was found to be about the same. There was a significant drop off for those who regularly went to bed after 2 a.m. if you get the same amount. Quantity is good but, again, researchers found that quality and consistency make the effort you put into studying more effective. There is nothing worse than staying up all night to study for a test or prepare for a presentation only to “choke” when it is time to demonstrate how much you know.

Crossing the Finish Line to Degree Completion

STRIPES-VUB works with veterans from multiple points in their journey to higher education completion. Some walk into our office after a few years of service having never stepped foot into a higher education setting. Others started an academic program and have been on hiatus for several years. It is not uncommon to be working with a veteran who attempted a higher education program and was not able to complete to graduation. This can happen for several reasons; a poor academic fit, financial pressures, lack of passion, minimal student supports, etc. The STRIPES-VUB program is happy to partner with the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and connect veterans with degree completion programs like the one highlighted below.

So, what are you waiting on? Did you begin a higher education program and stalled out before completion? Are you at a cross roads and need some help finding the right road map for you? Give your STRIPES-VUB program a try this next time returning to the classroom. We can help you get back on the path and ready to cross the finish line to degree completion. Outreach Specialists are available by appointment throughout the state of Oklahoma. Call 405-974-3686 or email STRIPES-VUB@uco.edu to schedule an appointment today!

8 schools selected for Degrees When Due initiative

Originally published in The Journal Record on 10/7/2019

OKLAHOMA CITY – Eight colleges and universities from Oklahoma have been selected to join Degrees When Due, a national initiative of the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Thrive On A Budget & Eat Like The King

College Life and Food

When I think of college students and food, I think of cheap instant noodles being heated in a dorm room microwave. Chances are this diet is no stranger to most service members from their E-1 thru E-3 days. Well that was then and this is now. The goal is not to just survive college we want to thrive in college. To accomplish this feat, we are going to need more than instant noodles to power our brain and body. Although instant noodles are one of my favorite instant meals they should not be a staple in your college diet. College is a marathon like no other that requires more than processed carbohydrates. We need simple and complex carbs like those found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy that can be broken down by the body and used as energy.

What Do I Want To Be?

What do I want to be when I grow up?

Chances are you have asked yourself this very question. I know I did after I retired from active duty. The difference is most people ask themselves this as children and in high school. We as veterans ask ourselves this after serving our country at a later time in life. Some of us in our early 20’s and others in our 40’s. The most common responses I have heard from veterans when asked this question is I do not know, I am not sure, or they give a list of several possibilities.

This is where STRIPES-Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) can come into play. All of us here at STRIPES-VUB have been in this very situation. We have gone through the transition from military life to civilian student life. We are subject matter experts in the pre-enrollment phase of college assisting hundreds of veterans walk the path. Don’t bang your head against the wall trying to find the right school and the right degree plan that fit you. We have don’t that leg work for you and can assist in guiding you with your decision.

Student Study and Academic Resources

The start of the Fall semester is days away. Do you have a plan for learning? Learning in higher education requires focus and motivation to practice and study outside of the classroom. Students no matter your age, who expect to only attend class and pass all courses have a significantly lower success rate for degree completion. As adults is can be a challenge to find study groups or make time to be on campus. That doesn’t mean you are left to bang your head alone trying to learn new material. Read on for several free or low cost online websites and smartphone apps.

Night Vision – Student Vet Night

Night Vision will be on the UCO campus in room 204 in the College of Education Building from 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm. 

Are you considering the transition to college life as an adult?

This night is for you.

Are you ready to start the application and enrollment process?

This night is for you.

Are you an existing student rolling along in classes?

This night is for you.

Are you struggling this semester and unsure about enrolling next semester?

This night is for you.

STRIPES-VUB announces Night Vision for student veterans. This is an ongoing Thursday night weekly event for student veterans of any school and at any stage in the process to meet together for a short adult student vet focused program and vet-to-vet networking. Light dinner is provided and attendees get an opportunity to vote on the program topic for the following week.

Completing a degree anywhere requires focus and having a clear vision of what you want in life. Our goal is to make Night Vision the place to go to help refocus on your target.

If you are an active STRIPES-VUB participant, this event is stipend eligible. Each Night Vision that you attend is equal to 1 credit. Earn 4 credits and you can request a $40 stipend.

Often times our significant others are critical to achieving our long term goal and keeping our vision of the future in focus. As a part of your support system they are welcome to join us.

If childcare is an issue, please contact us by email or phone to RSVP a spot for your child at least 48 hours before the event. We can arrange an activity table and one of our student workers to be available for oversight.

To make sure we have enough food, please RSVP by calling 405-974-3686 or via email at STRIPES-VUB@uco.edu 

OESC Veteran Services Job Club Announcement

As an adult student flexible employment is sometimes a necessity. If you find yourself needing employment as a student, consider the monthly OESC Job Club event. Hosted by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Veteran office, the monthly Job Club assists US Veterans with finding employment, full and part time positions.The next Job Club is Thursday July 18th from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm at Regional Training Institute Education Center, Room #103, 6500 North Kelley Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73111. The Job Club provides job seekers with an opportunity to network with employers for job hunting tips and employment opportunities. Please come dressed for success with resume in hand and ready to interview! Open to Transitioning Service Members, Oklahoma National Guard, Veterans, and Spouses.
If the monthly Job Club does not fit with your schedule, they have offices across the state with Veterans’ Employment Representatives ready to assist with employment services. You can contact their offices to set up an appointment.