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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

8 Ways to Save Money

a bank shaped like a cow

Money in your bank is definitely something to smile about!

Last week, I talked about the importance of saving money and why it is good to create a budget. This week, I’m going to give you some specific ways to save money and reduce your spending.

And they are (…….drumroll please…….):

  1. Open a Savings Account
    The first thing you need to do is to go to your bank and open a savings account. Think about it: how are you going to save money if you have nowhere safe to put it?
  2. Divide Your Paycheck
    Whether during the school year or not, you should be dividing up your paycheck between your checking and savings accounts. A good rule is to put half of your paycheck in your savings account so that it can gain interest and you won’t spend it. You should also be using some of that money to build up an emergency fund. Only use your emergency fund for large, unexpected costs such as taking your car to the mechanic shop.
  3. Track Your Spending
    Meticulously add up your receipts for one month and see how much you spend on non-essential items– like eating out or clothing. You might be spending a lot more than you realized and then try to cut back your spending on those things
  4. Make Wish Lists
    There are several gift-giving occasions throughout the year and family members need ideas for presents. So let them buy the stuff you want but don’t really need for you! Make a Christmas list and a birthday list with those non-essentials that you’ve cut out of your monthly spending.
  5. Walk Instead of Drive
    Don’t drive your car as often.  Gas is expensive, so you’ll save money by walking or biking instead (and get a workout!). We are pretty lucky that many places in Winona are within walking distance of campus.
  6. Use Your Meal Plan
    Eat in the dining center on campus if you have a meal plan.  You have already paid for those meals so use them up!
  7. Make Your Own Lunches
    If you live off campus, go home for lunch if you classes allow it or pack a lunch and bring it with you to campus. Buying groceries is less expensive than buying food at restaurants or convenience stores.
  8. Take Care of Your Things
    Take care of your things–clothes, shoes, backpack, phone–so they don’t get worn out quickly or broken and need to be replaced often.

I know these tips are pretty basic, but believe me, they work! It might be difficult at first to give up going to Mugby for coffee every morning or keeping yourself from clicking “Add to Cart” while browsing, but you can do it. If you start saving and keeping track of your money now, you future-self will thank you after graduation .

–Liz Peterson

Meet My Fishy Friends

four fish in a small tank

Here are my first four glow fish! And you thought the title meant my human friends :P

From the moment we all moved in, the Class of 2018 Facebook page has been inundated with posts about missing our furry friends. I’m sure that these emotional outpourings aren’t limited to the freshmen. Those brave dogs and cats that put up with our nonsense for years are probably sitting at home and content to be left alone, but also missing us terribly–just as we are missing them.

Personally, my pet, a guinea pig I had for four years, passed away a couple of weeks before I left. That gave me time to mourn (Yes, I know he was a guinea pig, but he was my first real pet) and get used to the idea that I wouldn’t see him when I woke up in the morning or when I arrived home from school. For others, kittens are being born and Scruffy has to go in for surgery. Yep, college without our beloved pets is going to be tough, but there are some alternatives to moping in the corner because you miss Mr. Cuddle-Kins’ adorable face.

a pet guinea pig

As you can see, it would have been extremely difficult to leave my guinea pig, Keenan, behind.

The rules for living in the dorms say the only pets allowed are fish. So go get a fish! That’s what I did my first day in the dorms (which for me, was Sunday before everyone else arrived on Monday. There are some perks to moving here from the East Coast :) ). There may not be a huge pet store in town, but Wal-Mart has a nice selection of fish and tanks. Now you don’t have to be like me who spent $60 on fish and supplies. My tank, a one-gallon diamond-shaped bowl, was only $11. They don’t have bags of rocks smaller than 5lbs., but if you know someone who is also looking to get a fish you can share. The rest of the accessories you put in the tank is up to you–except the water. The water on campus is chlorinated and the fish won’t survive. You can pick up distilled water at Wal-Mart as well or go to any other store.

Also, there’s always Winston, the therapy dog. He is a 3-year-old Blue Heeler/Rat Terrier and as cute as can be. He’ll cheer you right up! Wednesdays with Winston, held from 4-5pm in the IWC every Wednesday, might be just the thing you need to pick up your spirits.

Then, of course, there’s Skype; the only way to talk to your pet from the comfort of your dorm.

But I mean, come on–fish are great! And even though you can’t play with them like a dog, cat or even a guinea pig, they have their own unique personalities and can fill the void in your heart that was once filled with taking care of that special little friend back home.

–Rachel Adam

Give Back for a Sustainable Future

three potted plants

These carbon-absorbing beauties are one small way I give back to the environment.

In an industrialized world, it can seem near impossible to do everything you can to save the environment—sure you recycle and you walk when your destination is close by, but there are many other ways to adapt a sustainable lifestyle. That being said, you DON’T need to do anything drastic like permanently ditching your car and biking miles from place to place or going off the grid and covering your rooftop in solar panels (Your landlord might not appreciate that too much). Leading a sustainable lifestyle, as this year’s University theme “Sustainable Futures” calls us to do,  is all about giving back in little ways.

Give Back to the Earth

For many years, humans have destroyed plants and habitats to make space for cities and farmland. By stripping the land, we have fewer plants to soak up all the carbon dioxide we put out through cars and other machines.

A simple way to combat this is to plant. This summer my roommate and I bought some pots at the Salvation Army and planted flowers in them. Not only are they good for the environment, but they also look so pretty on our stoop. You could also get vegetable seeds at Wal-Mart and plant them in a pot. At the Sustainability Fair last week, I planted a few pea seeds in a Dixie cup and recently transplanted them to a pot. They’re growing steadily next to the cactus on my windowsill.

Give Back to the Local Economy

As college students, we tend to buy anything cheap and easy–i.e. pasta, pasta and more pasta with some frozen pizza thrown in for good measure. However, buying from local food sources will help sustain the local economy as well as help you avoid all of those nasty pesticides found in grocery store produce and high-fructose corn syrup in pretty much everything else on the store shelves.

The Winona Farmer’s Market runs 7:30am – 1pm every Saturday until October. On special days, the Winona Artisan Market is there as well. I went a couple times this summer and got really great food for cheap (an ear of corn was $0.50 and four cucumbers cost $1). The Bluff County Co-Op is a great place to buy local and organic food all year round. When you buy local, you support members in your community and you get great food out of it too!

Give Back to Your Wallet

Drop your thermostat a few degrees lower. Turn off the lights when you’re not in the room. Stop using paper towels. Quit buying bottled water and use a stainless steel or glass reusable bottle instead. Wash your clothes with cold water and line-dry them (at least during the summer anyway). These little things can help you save money on your energy and grocery bills. At the same time, you’re making a positive impact on the environment.

–Kim Schnieder

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

How Art Improves Our World

Monet 's "La Siene a Vetheuil"

“La Siene a Vetheuil” by Monet is one of my favorite pieces at MMAM. Photo found at

Bright lights, silky oil on canvas, gilded frames intricately carved—there is something so wonderfully magical about art. Earlier this summer, I decided I wanted to get more involved in the Winona community, so I ventured to the Minnesota Marine Art Museum to sign up to be a volunteer greeter. For two hours a month, I wander around a gallery in the museum and do whatever I must to make people feel more comfortable. However, my favorite part of the gig is definitely getting to spend time with all that beautiful art for free.

Growing up in the suburbs of the Twin Cities was a godsend for me. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Walker Art Center and a few high school teachers exposed me to so much art, from the impressionist painters to Japanese pop art. Through all forms of art including music, poetry, dance and painting, I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world as well. Many people see different forms of art as self expression—and it is—but art is so much more than that.

I know it’s cliché to say but I really do believe that art dramatically improves our world.

Art has the power to cross cultural, social, racial and economical boundaries. Consider for a moment, the kinds of diversity we have here in our own homeland.  America is a melting pot and art can be a common place where our many differences disappear. Art is like it’s own language that anyone can speak. Furthermore, art provides an opportunity for authentic cultural experiences. From the traditional dances of an African tribe to impressionistic European paintings, each is a lens for a view into another culture.

Art is also a window into the past. It’s a visual record of what people in the past thought and experienced. While written and oral histories can provide a fully story, artists like Van Gogh and William Turner put a picture of the past directly into your mind. And that’s much more exciting than history textbooks, eh?

Not only that, but art is great for the local economy. Just like buying local food at the farmers market, supporting local arts is healthy for the community. Events like Winona’s monthly Downtown Art Project  bring a lot of people to local businesses. It’s also a great opportunity for people in the community to get to know each other. During orientation week my freshmen year, I went to a music night at Some Sum Studio and ended up chatting with the artist and the owner of the studio. As a result of that night, I decided to volunteer for Midwest Music Fest in the Spring and I’ve met so many wonderful people through that event.

Art fosters community and, while one person can make a difference, an active and engaged community can really change the world.

–Kim Schneider

It’s All About the Money, Honey

Scrabble tiles spell the word money

We all need money but there are things you can do take better care of yours.

We are all starting school and trying to figure out balance in our lives, stressing about school, social life and jobs as well. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one thing you didn’t need to worry about? The one thing I am choosing not to worry about would be money and my finances. And I’ll let you in on my strategy for financial zen (hint: it doesn’t include winning the lottery).

College students almost always struggle with money because we have to pay a lot for our tuition and textbooks and housing and groceries.. you get the idea. The bottom line is we usually don’t have much money. One thing college students don’t often realize, however, is that we need to manage our money a lot better than we do.

I personally live paycheck to paycheck and, honestly, that’s just not cutting it anymore. So I decided to take a personal finance class and it is helping me figure out how to stress less about money. I have learned that the key is to manage your spending and to save your money.  It is easy enough to manage your money by creating a budget. All you have to do is to record all of your spending for one month and then cut out the expenditures that aren’t strictly necessary. For instance, if you are eating out several nights a week but didn’t realize it was that often, you can decide to cook more often at home which will usually cost less than a meal at a restaurant.

The other part of the money management equation is saving. It is very, very important to save money. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t have a savings account then you don’t have emergency money for unexpected costs such as car repairs, heath care or even losing your job. This could cause a lot of trouble because if you don’t have any money set aside you’ll likely turn to credit cards which can be a dangerous road to start traveling.

An easy way to start saving is to take a portion of each paycheck you earn and put it into a savings account. Some workplaces will let you set up a direct deposit right to your savings account. The amount you decide to save every two weeks doesn’t have to be much. If you save just $10 a month, over 12 months you will have $120. That’s enough to buy a few textbooks or even a month’s worth of groceries. Now imagine what saving $20 or $30 will give you!

I’ve only been in my personal finance class for a few weeks, but I’ve already gotten a much better handle on my money. These simple tips on managing your money, creating a budget and saving money will help you immensely too. But I am not quite done imparting financial wisdom. Next week, I will share some specific ways you can save money and help to accomplish your financial goals.

–Liz Peterson

Why I Will Never Forget 9-11

memorial wall that reads "We will never forget"

I remember sitting in my first grade classroom at the young age of six. My first grade teacher was trying to teach us something when suddenly we heard the news. Our country had been attacked on our own soil by a terrorist group, Al Qaeda. My teacher wheeled in a TV so we would see the coverage of the Twin Towers falling down.

Even though I can remember that day, the 9-11 attacks never felt that real for me. I knew that this all happened and was tragic, but sometimes it was hard to imagine that it all actually happened. That changed this past summer, I had the amazing opportunity to go to New York and visit Ground Zero. This experience was very powerful and helped me see how real this event was.

It started when my mom and dad said we were going to go see Ground Zero and possibly the museum and tribute center building. I thought this would just be a boring depressing event but my parents insisted that we went. First, we went to visit the Ground Zero memorials. There are two huge square water memorials located right above where the towers once stood. The names of everyone who passed away from that tragedy are inscribed along the outer walls.

After the Freedom Tower, my family and I entered the brand new 9-11 Museum. This museum changed my perspective on the event so quickly. Suddenly I was immersed in stories, videos, and exhibits dedicated to this horrific event. I saw a couple beams from the towers. As you can see, they are pretty much bent in half.

Bent and twisted steel beams from the Twin Towers

The famous “Survivor Stairs,” a set of stairs which withstood the collapse and brought many people to safety, were proudly displayed in an exhibit. I learned the story of a man who was trapped on the 50th floor of the North Tower in an elevator with a five others. They used his squeegee to pry open the doors and break through sheet rock to get out of the building."Survivor Stairs" that held firm during the tower's collapse

Multiple videos of live footage and testimonies of survivors were constantly playing throughout different exhibits. In one video, while pedestrians were running away from the smoke of the event, police officers and fire fighters were running towards the buildings. Many sacrificed their lives to help rescue and save the civilians in the building, and because of this, I have gained an even stronger sense of respect for these officers.

Going to Ground Zero and visiting the museum was probably one of the most memorable events of my trip to New York. It was much more interesting and intense than I thought it would be. I could have stayed in the museum for hours listening to the videos of testimonies and reading all the information posted about the tragedy. The next time I go to New York, I will make sure to spend some time at Ground Zero. It truly impacted the way I thought about 9-11 and helped me see the reality of everything that happened that fateful day. I have learned that despite the trauma this event brought to America, it has made us stronger and brought us all together. We will never forget.

–Sharna Miller

The Facts of Res Life

a man yelling and the caption "Loud Noises!"

Unfortunately, res halls can get pretty noisy. But I’ll help you handle it better than Brick Tamland here.

Tired of the person above you dragging a chair across the floor at 3am? Me too! My name is Hannah Carmack and by the end of this article you’ll know how to deal with some of the downsides of res life. Don’t get me wrong–for the most part, res life is great. The food is all you can eat, your RA plans activities to keep the hall entertained, friends are only a few doors down and you can commute from home to class in minutes. The pros of living on campus far outweigh the cons, but that doesn’t make the cons any easier to deal with.

Here are a few quick tips to help you deal with some of the less pleasant parts of res life.

Oh the Hills are Alive with the Sound of College Students
Proving to be one of the biggest issues on campus, unwanted noise continues to aggravate innocent hall residents. However, there are multiple ways to adjust to noisy neighbors. The first and most direct way is to talk to your neighbors. Many students don’t realize their noise travels through the walls or down long hallways, so alerting them to that fact in a kind and cordial manner can help a lot. The second way to go about handling noisy neighbors is to block them out. I like to place a fan directly next to my bed to drown out the elephant-laden basketball game that seems to go on in the hallways. Another option is to give ear plugs a try. They’re not for everybody, but they work wonders to silence your surroundings.

RubbaDubDub There is No Tub
Plagued by long lines and low shower pressure? You’re not alone. But do not fear as there are a few ways to make showering here on campus a bit smoother. If you keep getting stuck in long lines for showers you may want to consider changing the time you shower. Like the café and the quad, there are times where the showers are insanely busy and times where it is incredibly busy. If you are trying to shower at 8 or 9am, odds are you’re hitting the rush. If shower pressure is the problem, the best advice I can give is ask your RA. Each hall has at *least* one good shower, and odds are your RA knows exactly where it is.

Are You Done with that Dryer?
My advice for laundry is pretty much the same as my advice for the showers. Keep your eyes peeled for the busy times to avoid. You’ll get your laundry done a lot quicker if you’re not waiting for someone to get their clothes. But you don’t want to be that person hogging the washer and dryer either, so set an alarm on your phone so you can pick up your clothes promptly. Your hall-mates will thank you for it!

Hey, “Free” Pizza!
Ahhhh, the community fridge. Just as much of an issue in college as it in the workplace. Food theft is real, and although there is no surefire way to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you, here are a few tricks to help deter thieves. First, try labeling your food, like Marco here, with your name and what’s in the box.

food in a community fridge labeled with a person's name

Maybe threats are a little extreme, but putting your name on your food is a good idea.

Second, try to keep any leftovers you do have in your own mini-fridge. If the pizza box is too big, ditch the box and store the slices on plates or in tupperware. If you don’t have a mini-fridge, ask a trusted friend to store them for you. The community fridge is great, but if you’re paranoid about possibly losing your beloved three-day old pizza slice, find a securer place to put it.

It’s Getting Hot in Herre but Please Keep Your Clothes On
Here in Minnesota we have ‘real’ seasons, and by real I of course mean ungodly hot summers and arctic tundra-esque winters. Seeing as how the highs have been in the 90s the last couple weeks, here are a few tips to help you beat the heat. Try putting a box fan in your window; bringing in the air from outside can really help your room cool down. If you only have an oscillating fan (one that sits on the floor or table and turns to the left and right), try putting it in your doorway to bring some of the cool air from the hallway in. Placing a frozen water bottle in front of your fan can also give your room an icy chill.

Res life may not always be perfect, but the community will always be there for you. If you’re ever feeling lonely or homesick, you need only to walk out your dorm room door.

–Hannah Carmack

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