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Explore the latest trends, tips, and experiences in college life in this blog written by fellow students.

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PreK-12Higher EducationProfessional

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    Teacher appreciation: This professor is my motivating force

    Victoria Bankowski

    Being invited to my former community college’s retirement reception as a guest of one of my professors was such an honor and privilege. I met so many wonderful past and present professors of the college. While standing in the buffet line, a gentleman introduced himself by name and we began to talk. I was unaware he was one of the English instructors hired to take the place of a recent retiree. I spoke fondly about my experiences with all my professors and the importance of student appreciation. He smiled at me and thanked me for the exchange, adding how a short simple message on a piece of loose paper could mean so much to a professor. I am fortunate to have had instructors who have my best interests at heart and care about my success. I think it is important to tell teachers how important they are in your success.

    Since transferring to the University of Michigan to complete my degree, I have found myself in unfamiliar territory. The level and degree of difficulty at the University has far exceeded anything I ever expected. I felt as though I did not really belong in the world class learning environment of the University of Michigan and contemplated finding a university that was less challenging. My first semester did not go exactly the way I wanted it to go and I earned my very first B+. I previously was able to keep a 4.0 GPA at my community college and I began to have self-doubt. In my second semester things began to look a little brighter and I began to feel more optimistic when I enrolled in Environmental Sustainability with Professor Sara Soderstrom. I had previously spoken to Professor Soderstrom before the start of the class and shared my insecurities with her. Professor Soderstrom actively listened to my issues and offered that while I might feel as though I lacked the traditional skills the other students had, I gained in the life skills that most likely the traditional students lacked. This helped me realize that my contributions in the class were as important as the other students’ contributions.

    I remember the first day of that class so clearly. Professor Soderstrom was centrally located and walked about the classroom with such poise and confidence, portraying a vision of self-assurance. When she spoke, we listened, and we learned. Her words were like a security blanket and gave me a sense of direction that was heartfelt and filled with enthusiasm. I was assigned to a group which worked with the Alumni Association’s camp project. Professor Soderstrom created a learning environment that allowed me to shine. She met with me several times throughout the semester to discuss how the group was treating me. She would walk around the room and make suggestions often including the importance of the diversity of each group. She shared that it was our individual skills which would make us successful at the University. She made me feel relevant. After the class ended, I wanted to learn more and later worked on an independent study research project with Professor Soderstrom as my mentor.

    The classroom is a nicer place with Professor Soderstrom in it – she is my inspiration. She helped me to adjust my perception of myself and recognize my true potential, and continues to encourage me to push for what I believe in. I am honored and privileged to have sat in her class room. There has not been a day that passes that I don’t think about the impact that she has made on me. Thank you so very much, Dr. Soderstrom, for your patience and guidance helping me to take pride in my path. I will forever cherish the thought of you in my heart. I hope not to disappoint you for you are such a determining factor in my success at the University and in life.

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    Improve Mental Health With a Nature Walk

    Victoria Bankowski

    Every day as I cross campus heading to and from class a friendly squirrel approaches me,  allowing me to take my focus off my studies for a few minutes.  It is not everyday that I have the time to stop and admire nature but every now and then I stop in my tracks and interact with the cute little fella.  It’s a boost to my mental health. I catch myself admiring the beauty of the falling leaves in autumn. In the winter my friend follows me closely hopping through the snow, putting a big smile on my face.  I am sure there is more than just one squirrel, but I interact as though this squirrel is my squirrel. I have even given my friend the name Skippy. 

    Give yourself a break today and enjoy the world around you.

    While I am outdoors, I catch myself looking around at the world and what is going on around me.  I look up into the tall trees or watch how the smaller plants sway back and forth as the wind finds its way up the walk.   I find that taking a walk through campus or a park has a way of taking my focus off the challenges I face.  It helps me recognize that even with life’s challenges I have a getaway any time I need it.   

    The positive effects of nature help to reduces stress and improves mood.

    In July of 2015, Gretchen Reynolds wrote How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain. She writes, “A walk in the park may soothe the mind and, in the process, change the workings of our brains in ways that improve our mental health.”  I believe this is true from my experiences.

    If you find yourself down and out with a case of the moody blues, go for a walk and enjoy the beauty which surrounds us.  It is not every day that I get to go outside and enjoy nature.   But I think it is important that we all do.  Life can be challenging, but if we give ourselves a chance to sit back and enjoy nature, our mental health is sure to benefit.    

    Life is what we make of it. Take time to discover the beauty around us!


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    Two Programs to Help Students Build Business Etiquette

    Victoria Bankowski

    Business etiquette is an essential skill that every student should feel confident in using. However, if you are not a business major like myself, your degree program may not include a course on business etiquette. Fortunately, there are tools and programs out there dedicated to ensuring students succeed in professionalism and career readiness! I have found two specific programs that helped me refine the skills I needed to become the successful professional I am today, and I would like to share those with you.

    Pearson Student Insiders

    The Pearson Students Insiders program focuses on student development.  Comprised of college students passionate about education and career success, I collaborate with other students nationwide on topics of professional development. Through the program, I complete challenges that test my career readiness, and give me interesting things to think about regarding motivation and success. The daily challenges helped me refine skills such as time management, professional writing, and organization skills. Through completing these challenges, and competing against other students, I was able to earn monetary rewards such as gift cards. Even more valuable, I earned endorsements on my social media accounts, such as badges on my LinkedIn. This shows employers that I am a step above the rest.

    Federal Programs

    Federal programs, such as TRIO, give “hands-on experience” to students. I was a part of TRIO while attending Wayne County Community College District. Since most public colleges have this program, I highly encourage you to look into it on your campus! The Federal TRIO programs are outreach and student service programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. One of the programs, Upward Bound, serves and supports low-income individuals, first generation college students, or individuals with disabilities. This program helped me develop interpersonal and business etiquette skills. I have used these skills to apply for scholarships, get admitted to University of Michigan, build my resume, and further develop my professionalism.

    I owe much to these two programs, as I am very proud of my accomplishments both in my academic and professional career. Business etiquette is a very essential, but commonly overlooked part of career readiness that each and every student – regardless of major – needs to be knowledgeable on. Programs such as Pearson Student Insiders and Federal TRIO programs can be used as tools for success.  Whether you are earning LinkedIn badges through Pearson Students Insiders, or getting the hands-on experience of a proper handshake introduction through TRIO – these programs are set to ensure you have success in your future career.


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    Tailor Your Note Taking Style to Match the Way You Learn

    Victoria Bankowski

    Note taking is an essential part of college. We all take notes differently, either based on our own personal preferences, skills or abilities. It’s important to adjust your method to your own personal needs.

    Early in my college career I didn’t understand why taking basic notes was so challenging to me. Then I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia, in addition to my preexisting ADHD. While I was upset with the diagnosis, I was also relieved. Knowing that this is something other students have worked through, I would be able to work through it, too. Note taking is very difficult for me because of the wiring in my brain. It requires the ability to listen, comprehend and translate the given materials into text to be used later. Dyslexia affects the way I perceive information and dysgraphia affects the way I transpose the information in my notes. I learned through experience how to adapt the way I take notes to align with my educational needs.  Here are 4 tips that helped me succeed.  

    Handwritten vs. Typewritten

    When taking notes on a reading assignment or even a lecture I focus on taking down the main points.  Writing by hand strengthens the learning process.   When writing by hand the brain receives feedback from our motor actions, together with the sensation of touching the pen and paper.  More information is collected through typing but less of the information is can be recalled later.

    Find helpful technology

    My university suggested I purchase smartpen. The pen is a recording device which allows my paper notes become interactive with the professor’s lecture!  I can touch any point in my notebook (it’s a special notebook for use with the the smartpen) and hear exactly what the professor was saying at that moment.

    Emphasize important points

    Learn how to decipher the most important information. Good note-taking habits include asking an instructor for clarification when the materials being presented are not making sense.  Highlighting helps with organization of notes. Using different colors to represent various categories will help you recall the material.  Highlighting can also be used to mark cues the instructor may give as to what may or may not be on a test.

    Collaboration is key

    Share your notes with other students and ask them if your concepts are clear.  At the same time read over their notes.  By reading other students’ notes you are reinforcing what you have learned.   You may find that your classmates have a trick or two of their own that you’ll find helpful.

    When I began to understand the importance of taking good notes, I began to think more critically. The picture which was being created through instructor lectures became more defined.  My notes are far from perfect, but they are becoming more clear the more practice I get.  Good luck with your studies, and let’s get note-taking!


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    The Meaning of College

    Victoria Bankowski

    People go to college for many reasons. But for me going to college has its own meaning. The most important part of college for me can be justified through a series of life changing events. I lived my life trying to figure out how to get by and I failed to realize I was “missing out”.  When I decided I wanted to go back to college I was nearly 50 years old. I felt it was not too late for me to start my life over again.   My children were grown and having children of their own.  For the first time in my life, I recognized I needed to do something for myself and I was determined to see it through.  

    Fear of the unknown

    The day I decided I was going to go to college was terrifying, yet so surreal. I first enrolled in community college in the summer of 2013 after the completion of a college preparation program offered by a Community Care program near my home.  I can vividly remember the first day of class. The reality of walking into a classroom for the first time is still one of the scariest moments of my life.  I wanted so desperately to succeed. Just two years later I would deliver the valedictory to the graduating class of my community college.   I am convinced that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. 

    Focusing on perseverance

    I reflect on my past as I am getting closer to achieving my goal of earning a Bachelor’s degree.  I remember a quote my first professor in the college preparatory program shared from Abraham Maslow: “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” Maslow’s quote gave me direction and a purpose despite the difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement I faced throughout my life. Through the words of Maslow I began to focus on the importance of perseverance even when faced with difficulty or little prospect of success.  

    Looking ahead to success

    I no longer feel ashamed of the choices I have made in life.  It no longer matters that I dropped out of school so young.  It is insignificant that I had difficulties learning, and that I couldn’t figure out the direction my life was heading.  Going back to college has saved my life.  College has taught me to believe in my abilities and I am now living my life knowing I can do anything I set my mind to.   

    What does college mean to you? Please share with the Pearson Students community by commenting below!

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    A Message for Transfer Students: You Belong

    Victoria Bankowski

    When I received word that I was accepted into the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, I think my head swelled three times its size.   However, once I started classes there I soon realized that what I had expected as a transfer student was not at all what I was faced with.  I was in over my head. Reality slapped me right in the face.  What little social life I had went straight down the drain.   The complexity of the work felt overwhelming. I could not seem to “get ahead” the way I previously did at community college.  I began to have self-doubt in my capabilities.  

    Earning a place

    Luckily, I already had a support network in place. I was contacted by the Provost’s office and asked to come in to talk.    He shared that the application process was stringent and noted that I had earned a place among the others on campus.  He assured me I had all the tools I needed to become successful and stated I was a true Wolverine. This helped to set my mind at ease and I gained the confidence I needed to complete my school work.   

    Becoming a part of the community

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    My Inspirational Professor: Dr. Brem

    Victoria Bankowski

    As I sat in Professor Toni Brem’s Microbiology class I kept asking myself, “what did I get myself into?” Taking this class was sure to be a challenge for me. Up until that point I managed to breeze through the classes at my community college without much difficulty. Walking into Professor Brem’s lecture on that very first day of class intimidated me, making me sick to my stomach. But through this challenge and perseverance I managed to learn a significant life lesson.  

    I was afraid to breathe.

    Microbiology is rumored to be the most difficult course within my major. I feared I was destined to fail with an instructor who had a reputation of being tough. I studied her mannerisms and took note of the softness of her voice and her delicate facial features. With her hands in her lab coat pockets, she tapped her leg patiently waiting on the attention of the class.  In those first few moments I came to realize that Professor Brem had a great deal to offer through her demeanor.  Without saying a word, her posture and actions demonstrated that she demanded the full attention of her students. She took pride in the knowledge she had to offer for those who were there to learn.

    Facing Fears

    I was very intimidated by her stature, as was the rest of the class. When Professor Brem spoke, we listened.  However, I had a difficult time comprehending the technical lingo of Microbiology. One morning I found myself walking past her office where she sat quietly working on her lesson. She asked me if there was anything that I help with.  I managed to tell her I was scared to death of her class, and what she was teaching was so difficult to comprehend.  She shared ways for me to learn the material and promised her door was always open.  

    Gaining Confidence

    After that talk with Professor Brem, I began to interact with her more during class, lab and after class. It was nice to know that she wanted me to succeed and her mannerisms were evidence that she was a professor who truly cared about all her students.  I began to celebrate the possibility of making it through her class. One day after lab I stayed to talk to her about applying to transfer to several universities.  Professor Brem thought I should apply to her alma mater, the University of Michigan.  I thanked her for believing in me, even though I questioned even being eligible for such a prestigious university. Professor Brem encouraged me further by telling me it would not be an easy task but she felt I had the makings of a good student.  Apparently I reminded her of a time when she was in the same place.  I walked away with a smile on my face. I was determined to cherish the kind words she offered to me.  

    She pushed me to believe

    Not only did I survive Microbiology that semester (I earned an A in the course!), but Professor Brem also inspired me to apply for a college I would have never even thought to consider due to its prestige.   I am pleased and proud to share I am a University of Michigan Wolverine.   Professor Brem’s patience and guidance over the semester helped me to take pride in the direction I was heading.  It was her belief in me that pushed me to believe in myself.  Her words of encouragement will continue to manifest in my head.   I could not have done it without her.   I pray that I make her as proud of me, as she has managed to make me proud to be a part of her path.

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    Understanding Myself

    Victoria Bankowski

    As I sit back and reflect on my life, I am pleased because I can see the rocky road I have managed to conquer.  I started with so many bumps and wrong turns I never believed I would be in the final stages of accomplishing a bachelor’s degree. To get to this point I focused on self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence. Each one of these values was important in helping me work towards understanding myself. They helped me to see I was worthy of feeling good about myself.

    Self-esteem is how we value ourselves  

    If you think everything you do is wonderful and deserves praise, you have a positive self-esteem. However, if you feel like you are not worthy of good things, your self-esteem may be low. Self-esteem reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of their own worth.  I have had issues with judging myself. Even though I have managed to do well for myself – I own my home and have excelled greatly in academia – I have still had issues in believing in myself.  I needed to remind myself that “I am competent” and “I am worthy”.  My self-concept brought about the negative emotions of despair, instead of the positive emotions of pride.  To help build my self-esteem I engaged in positive self-talk. Whenever I was feeling anxious about my abilities, I would say out loud “I am worthy” and “I’ve got this”, which helped me out a lot.  I began having confidence.   

    Self-worth is how we regard our abilities

    When a person possesses little self-regard for themselves they can become depressed and fall short of their potential.  Self-worth is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself and one’s abilities.   As I previously stated I fell short in self-esteem and because of that my self-worth was non-existent.    However, as I began working independently on how I felt about myself, I began to feel better about the person I was yet to be.   I began to develop a feeling of self-respect for myself and my abilities.  I found myself volunteering throughout my community, and as I took on more and more, I began to feel my self-worth increase.

    Self-confidence is a positive feeling of trust in our own abilities

    This is a trait that you can develop through having high self-worth and high self-esteem.  Self-confidence is built upon as we master the activities which make us who we are.   I have found the more pride I took in who I am, the more confidence I began to exude.   I began to realize my full potential and slowly become the person I strived to be.  

    I have made a lot of mistakes in my lifetime; however, it is those errors which have helped in determining the person I am yet to be.  It is through consistent dedication to myself that I have built my self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence.  I want to be the kind of person that others respect and I will continue to work on it for as long as it takes.  The day I stop making mistakes, will be the day I stop learning.  As Abraham Maslow once said, “I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act.”  We cannot change the past, we can only learn from it.


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    Staying Healthy in College: Tips from a Microbiology Major

    Victoria Bankowski

    As a child, my mother would always say to me: “make sure you wash your hands”.  At the time, I would often get irritated because I felt she was being weird or controlling.   Now I’m in college and I am starting to understand the world of microbiology. I realize my mother just wanted to keep me healthy. Staying healthy in college contributes to overall student success. Here are a few of my tips for maintaining your good health this semester.

    1. Hand-washing really does make a difference. I study microbiology which examines bacteria so small it can only be seen through a microscope. There are good bacteria and harmful bacteria. On campus many people are within a close proximity of one another, the perfect place for harmful bacteria to multiply. Students who come to school sick, not wanting to miss classes or an exam, subject everyone to their harmful bacteria. The best way to avoid getting sick at school is to wash your hands as often as possible with soap and water. When soap is unavailable use hand sanitizer. While people who skip hand-washing do not have ill intentions, their actions can cause havoc on another person’s health. 

    2. Eat a balanced diet.  As college students we often find ourselves choosing meals that are cheap and easy, which doesn’t always result in a healthy option. A well-balanced diet contains all the essential nutrients, including whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. It is now recommended that half of your plate contain low calorie but filling vegetables.  The other half of the plate should be divided into two equal portions – one lean protein and one whole grain or starchy vegetable.  

    3. Exercising regularly helps facilitate a healthier you. If you do not currently exercise regularly it’s easy to begin with taking a brisk walk for ten minutes either before or after meals.  Just simply move more if walking is not convenient.   When you find yourself standing somewhere for a long period, swing your arms, or you can even rock yourself back and forth. Take the stairs whenever you can. Park farther away from the store front when going shopping. Taking the opportunity to add more movement in your day will promote heart health and help prevent sickness.  

    4. Pay attention to your social wellness, too. A commonly overlooked activity that helps your mental well being is engating in social activities with other people.  Including friends or family in your daily routines will keep you motivated and improve your mood. Negative emotion can break down the body’s microbial barriers, lowering your resistance to getting sick.  Research suggests that certain personal attributes, including maintaining a positive outlook, help some people manage diseases (Harvard School of Public Health).  So even when I’m not happy I force a smile on my face and I begin to feel my mood lighten.

    Next time you are sick, reflect to this article to see what you might do differently to create a healthier you. I have turned my health around and I attribute my good health to these best practices I developed for myself.  I hope they can help you stay healthy too.


    Works Cited

    Harvard School of Public Health. “Harvard Public Health.” The Biology of Emotion–and What it May Teach Us about Helping People Live Longer (2011).