Anastasia Saluk sits in complete silence, memorizing what she has decided is study-worthy. She is in her fifth year of university and has become a seasoned professional in the art of studying. Her drive to become a teacher motivates her to succeed.

Sarah Cheshire studies in a rainbow as she highlights, re-reads and re-highlights. Ambitiously, she pushes herself to excel in her classes, working towards a degree in Criminology. Even with different destinations in mind, both work diligently towards one common goal: good marks. Everyone has a different study method, but finding the method that pays off (literally) in the form of a Dean’s List-worthy grade and a job is the challenge.

With the arrival of a new year comes a fresh slate – a chance to break a nasty habit or to try something new. Many people make New Year’s resolutions, though they are easily forgotten by February and difficult to maintain. “I resolve to get good grades,” or even better, “I resolve to make it onto the Dean’s List” are two common self-promises made by students. Every year, a new list is posted, holding the names of a select few students. These students can obtain extra funding, bragging rights, the satisfaction of a job well done and membership to a theoretically elitist club. About 200 Laurier Brantford students can be found on the 2009-2010 Dean’s List. Anastasia Saluk and Sarah Cheshire hold two of those spots.

Reserving a slot on the list is no easy task. Laurier Brantford uses a 12-point grade point average (GPA) scale. To make the Dean’s List, one needs a minimum of a 10.0 GPA (80% annual average) in a minimum of 5 credits. Only courses taken in the Fall and Winter semesters are used to determine eligibility. Students registered with the Accessible Learning Centre have slightly different requirements, although they still have to achieve a 10.0 GPA.

Students can be found reading over notes industriously throughout the pre-exam craziness. Now that exam season in the rear-view mirror and a new semester is on the horizon, it is sensible to reflect and revise one’s study method for the next round of exams. From first year and onward, study skills seem to develop cohesively with credit attainment. Both Saluk and Cheshire explain their improvements developed with experience.

Saluk, a fifth year Honours Concurrent Education student, has found a way to alter exam season into something a little less stressful.

“I need a day or two to be alone and keep reading notes every single day,” she explains. “I read along progressively every day until it gets to the point where I don’t even need to look at my notes.”

The Internet offers a wide variety of study tips. Many sites identify the most important tips as planning, organizing, allotting yourself plenty of time and making your own notes.

Of course, not all study habits will apply to all students. Sarah Cheshire, third year Criminology student, has found what works for her.

“I’m living at home,” she says. “I lived on [residence] first year for the experience and fun but immediately I knew I would study better at home. It is less of a distraction than living on campus.”

The generic tips found online seem reasonable to an extent. However, as Cheshire noted, studying conditions are often less than ideal, especially when living on rez. For these women, successful studying begins when picking courses. They recommend that, when possible, students pick small classes, and choose courses depending on the teacher. Familiarity with an instructor’s teaching style and the ability to interact with them can ease the transition from class schedule to exam schedule.

If and when you can grasp a Dean’s List-worthy GPA, what to do with the much-anticipated 10-point-oh becomes an issue.

Lori McMaster works in Laurier Brantford’s Career Centre. While venturing to the second floor of the SC Johnson Building, one can note the silence broken only by typing and the hum of machinery. The sounds of students discussing their after-school plans, a dreaded conversation for some, are nowhere to be found, perhaps because of exam season, or perhaps because of ill-utilization of resources like the Career Centre, Academic Advising and the Writing and Learning Centre.

“The University offers a lot to help get you on the Dean’s list,” says Saluk.
The Career Centre is one of the many resources at Laurier Brantford meant to help students achieve success. McMaster breaks the Career Centre’s purpose into three areas. First: the job search. From resume building to accessing the employment opportunity database, the Career Centre aids in all aspects of the job search.

Second: further education. Though a GPA is important for resumes and job searching, it is even more vital when applying to further education. The Career Centre helps students research and apply to these programs. Roughly 40 per cent of Laurier Brantford students apply to further education after graduation.
Lastly: decision-making. Determining plans for life after university is difficult. The Career Centre will supply students with information and advice regarding careers, education, and what possibilities stem from your discipline. Students can attend workshops or make appointments for help in any of the three areas.

Cheshire explains her aspiration to attend law school and her flexibility in her post-grad options.

“I came into the undergrad program without an end goal in mind. I would be interested in any number of jobs.”

Saluk, however, has a more defined plan. Teaching in Oakville, her home town, fits her description of “dream job.” Her desire to try writing or even voice acting highlights her interests, regardless of GPA.

But there are more tangible reasons to want a spot on the Dean’s List. A high GPA presents the opportunity of additional bursaries and scholarships. Those on the Dean’s List also receive the luxury of a less-costly tuition invoice. These in-course scholarships begin at $500 for those with a GPA between 10.0 and 10.49. Individuals who earn a GPA between 10.5 and 10.99 receive $750. Those with even higher marks see $1500 reduced from their tuition.

Despite these benefits, Statistics Canada reports that many students struggle to make the grade. In 2004, roughly 1 million Canadians enrolled in university. Four years later, in 2008, less than half of those students received a diploma (about 244,000). Of course, the statistic has its flaws. Perhaps some of the students needed a few more years to graduate, perhaps not all post-secondary institutions were accounted for, and perhaps some students changed their mind about the career they wanted. However, these flaws do not compensate for over 700,000 students.

Lose 10 pounds, quit smoking, and stop biting your nails: the common resolutions intended to make us better people seem helpful, but are difficult to commit to and maintain. A more reasonable goal is needed. Making the Dean’s List is a stellar aspiration, and if you can, kudos to you. But if the possibility of failing-to-achieve clouds your ambition, simply avoiding becoming one of the 700,000 statistically missing in action students may be a reasonable and admirable resolution.

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