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Final Countdown?

Lately, I’ve seen various BU countdowns.

Students are proclaiming the end on Twitter:

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Even the Sports, Recreation, and Fitness Center (SuRF) is reminding students there’s not much time left:

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The Writing Center got on the bandwagon:

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You may have even spoken to your student about how “close the end of the semester ” is. The point I want to make is that although students seem to be keenly aware that the number of “class days” remaining can be counted on one hand, what they should be doing over the next week and a half until final exams might not be so clear.

Here’s how the rest of the semester plays out:

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Another way to put it is: final exams begin next Friday, April 25. Some students have two major exams scheduled next Friday. Yikes! When your you speak to your student this week or see them over the long weekend, ask about preparation for finals: What is the game plan for completing the end of semester course work as well as beginning to tackle finals? When are exams scheduled?

It is not too late to create a plan of action for finals week. Only focusing on completing the semester can distract from the reality that studying for finals cannot wait until those “four days” of classes are complete. At that point, finals will be here.

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Pioneering Ahead to Sophomore Year

Pioneers isn't all fun and games! The activities are often aimed at preparing students for their college careers.

Although most Pioneer Scholars enjoy their experience, it isn’t all fun and games! The activities are often aimed at preparing students for their college careers.

The Pioneer Scholars have been busy this year. The events and activities planned each Tuesday are aimed at transitioning first-generation students from high school to college. But what happens after freshman year? Here’s an overview of several activities from this past year that should ease the transition into sophomore year.

Registration Preparation: Same Dance Every Semester

Class registration is often a very overwhelming process for students.  In the fall and spring semesters before registration begins, Pioneers has a small registration workshop during a Tuesday meeting.  During this workshop academic advisors and Pioneer Peer Mentors explain how the registration process works each semester including: finding the time ticket, getting cleared to register from an advisor, searching the course schedule for available classes, following a program schema if a student has declared major, registering for classes once the time ticket opens, and determining if college credit was accepted into Bellarmine.

In the spring semester, the Bellarmine summer tuition grant and how to take summer classes at other institutions and get the credit transferred to Bellarmine are also discussed.  In addition to academic advisors helping students understand the registration process, the upperclassman mentors play a large role in answering individual questions, giving recommendations on classes to take together, and how to get in contact with professors about majors and course selection.  This workshop helps prepare students as they enter their sophomore year and become more independent in their registration.

Finals Preparation: Study Tips and Managing Stress

Finals is another stressful time for students. To help students prepare, the upperclassman mentors went around the room and told their own personal stories pertaining to finals.  They shared tips that helped them relax and prepare during finals week and some even shared stories of “what not to do” so that the freshmen could learn from their experiences.  Learning how to manage time leading up to finals, finding relaxing methods to distress, and learning about campus resources during finals week is helpful as students prepare for finals throughout their college career.  On April 8, 2014 the Counseling Center will come to the Pioneer Scholars meeting and guide students through stress relief activities.  The activities will give the students an outlet if they become overwhelmed during finals week!

A Visit from the Career Center: A Time to Think About the Future, Learn About Resources, and Reflect

Representatives from the Career Center discussed how to decide on a major and career path, how to get the experience of internships, how different personality types can lead to different types of careers, and how to use the Career Center.  One of the activities the they planned was to have the students fill out the True Colors assessment and then break into their color groups to discuss why they were labeled that color, what jobs their personality would thrive in, careers in which their personality type would struggle, and how to communicate with coworkers of another color.  The students really enjoyed this activity because it allowed for them to reflect on their own personality traits and how they might relate to a career field they are interested in.  For some, it solidified their desire to be in a certain field and, for others, they began to question if another career path might suite their interests and personality better.  Having the career center come in and talk to the Pioneer Scholars allowed them to start thinking about the future, to meet and understand the Career Center, and it encouraged them to self-reflect on the major and career path they are in the process of choosing.

As students move into their sophomore year, it is important for them to understand the importance of internships and observation hours. At the meeting, the Career Center helped to introduce the process of securing these experiences and how to prepare for them.  The Career Center also stressed the importance of resume review and interview training and offered advice in these areas to students as they progress in their college careers.

A Common Theme: First Generation Faculty and Staff Share Experiences, Become Resources

Each year, first generation faculty and staff are invited to interact with the Pioneers. It is a good time for faculty and staff to tell stories and share experiences about the successes and failures in college that have shaped their paths both personally and professionally. As sophomores, the Pioneers can look to these faculty and staff members as identifiable resources at the university to help them navigate the system and enhance their success academically.

Reunion Event

All past active members of the Pioneer Scholars Program were invited back to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating first-generation students.  Graduates are presented with a cord to signify their accomplishments and to wear during the commencement ceremony.  This event is a great way to connect the past Pioneer students with the freshmen Pioneer students, which builds camaraderie and community among all first-generation students and builds confidence among students that will help them persist towards graduation.

This year's graduating Pioneers displaying their cords at the Reunion Event

This year’s graduating Pioneers displaying their cords at the Reunion Event

 

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Alternative Spring Break in New Orleans 2014

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The group of students and staff who participated in ASB New Orleans 2014

Two students who participated in Bellarmine’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to New Orleans agreed to share their experience with us.

Lauren Thomas, Sophomore Accounting major

Why did you decide to participate?

My goal is to go on a different Alternative Spring Break each year. Last year, I went to Washington D.C.  I appreciate the awareness and insight that the program provides. In our daily lives, we often look the other way when we encounter someone asking for change or when seeing litter on the ground. However, on ASB, we actively seek out these situations. Our sole purpose is to help as many people as we can in the most meaningful and, hopefully, lasting way. I also like how the program balances heavy subjects, such as poverty or gender equality, with free time to ensure we have some relaxing fun over your break.

What was the best part?

I find myself seeking out new relationships with people with whom I otherwise would never interact. We visited the Arc of Greater New Orleans, a center which cleans and resells Mardi Gras beads. Most of their employees are adults with intellectual disabilities. While working, we met Mike. Within about ten minutes, he said, “You guys are my friends, did you know that?” The friendships formed are some the truest examples of what it means to be a friend. Each year I sign up for this trip thinking about how many people I’m going to be able to help, but I always forget about how much they are going to help me.

What was the most challenging part?

The most challenging part of the trip was seeing the destruction that still remains from Hurricane Katrina. Driving outside of the city, it was like they had just abandoned whole sections of town. The house we worked on had been abandoned since the hurricane. The water had risen to the second story. When I first walked in the house, I went upstairs and looked out across the neighborhood. It was hard to imagine being surrounded by water as high as the floor I was standing on. However, the most lasting image of the whole trip was the marking on the outside of the house. When rescue workers finally made their way through the city, they would leave a series of markings on the outside of each home indicating when it was searched and how many deceased people were found inside the home. Although the water had receded, the mark was like a tattoo on the home, a constant reminder of the horror the people of New Orleans experienced.

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Lauren and Mike


 Dara Ricketts, Freshman Communication major

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Dara at the St. Bernard Project, a housing assistance and reconstruction non-profit which focuses on rebuilding and rehabilitating homes for families that were impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

Why did you decide to participate?

When it came time to write my Christmas list, I found myself struggling to come up with much besides food and socks that I needed for the holidays. I heard about ASB in the Daily Knight (the daily student email with the campus goings-on) and realized what a great opportunity it would be go on a service trip. Rather than ask for more material items, I asked for a chance to learn, experience, and serve others. I wanted to eat new foods, meet new people, and see new cultures. ASB was the best gift I could receive.

What was the best part of the experience?

The best part  was the impact we made in New Orleans. We focused on several different projects including helping post-Katrina homes, assisting the school system, working with disability services, and giving back to the mission home where we stayed. Seeing so many sides to such a cultural city and getting the chance to help others in all those areas was unbelievably rewarding. We made friendships with people we may never hear from again and helped locals that we may never even meet in-person, but contributing to such a determined and beautiful city was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

What was the most difficult part of the experience?

Leaving. Going back home after pouring my heart into a new place and new people was impossibly difficult. I made so many great friends that I probably never would have met. Much like leaving the beach after a relaxing week of vacation, I felt like I was leaving something beautiful and better behind. I know that even if I go back to New Orleans it will never be the same experience I had that week. But when I packed up my suitcase I packed up my memories as well, and now I have something I can truly treasure forever.

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The whole group at the St. Bernard project. They worked on mold removal for a home that had been sitting vacant since August 29th, 2005.

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Summer Talk

If your student will be home, or, more likely, breezing through, over spring break, use this time to discuss academics: progress, priorities, and goals. If you are a parent of a first or second year student, midterm grades will undoubtedly be a part of this conversation; however, summer classes can be a factor for students at any point in their progress toward graduation.

Students take summer classes, either at Bellarmine or at another institution, for various reasons including:

  • To get ahead on credits to allow for more focus on intensive courses later
  • To stay on track for graduation because of a major change
  • To take a prerequisite or gateway course in order to begin in fall semester on track in one’s major
  • To replace a low or failing grade in a Bellarmine course by retaking the course at Bellarmine

Taking a Summer Course at Bellarmine

The most straightforward way to achieve any of the goals listed above is to simply take the desired course(s) at Bellarmine during one of the summer terms. Bellarmine tries to offer courses that fit various needs from IDC, Biology 108: Anatomy (a general education requirement for nursing), to key major requirements such as Accounting 101.

If students do not have any account holds, they may begin registering for summer classes when their “ticket time” opens for fall 2014. Fall and summer registration for degree-seeking students will occur between March 17-26.

Bellarmine also offers summer grants for half off courses for students who qualify (the majority of freshmen and sophomores qualify for at least one grant).

Students taking summer classes at Bellarmine may live in the Residence Halls for $50 per week (for a double room) during the session(s) in which they’re enrolled.

Taking a Summer Course at Another Institution

In certain situations, Bellarmine degree requirements may be fulfilled by taking a summer course at another institution (a “host institution”) and transferring the credits back to Bellarmine. This process is guided by the ‘Study at Other Institutions’ and “Transfer of Credit Policy” found in the 2013-2014 Course Catalog.

Although it can be convenient to take a course at a college close to home, it is very important for students to take the appropriate steps prior to enrolling at the host institution to ensure that taking the course will fulfill their goal in progressing to their degree at Bellarmine.

Here are the main points students need to know prior to registering at another institution:

  • Students may not replace a Bellarmine grade with a course grade from another institution. Any courses students wish to “retake” must be at Bellarmine.
  • Students must complete and have approved the “Petition” form located on the Registrar’s website. This process ensures, prior to taking the course, that it will indeed fulfill the intended requirement. Students must attach a course description of the intended course and their unofficial Bellarmine transcript to the form.
  • Using the information provided on the Petition and the students’ academic standing, the Registrar will issue a Visiting Student Letter if it is determined that a student is eligible for study at another institution.
  • Once a student has been approved by Bellarmine for study, not more than eight semester hours or two courses may be applied under “Visiting Student” arrangements to the General Education Requirements or to major or minor requirements.
  • After the course is taken, it is the student’s responsibility to have the transcripts sent to the Registrar.

Spring break is a great opportunity to begin these conversations with your student so that he or she can make appropriate arrangements with his or her advisor and the Registrar before the end of the semester. ARC advisors can also help students navigate the process.

Thank you to Jared Burton, Associate Registrar, for his input on Taking a Summer Course at Another Institution section of this post.

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Financial Aid Awareness

Did you know last week was Financial Aid awareness week at Bellarmine?

The fantastic staff of the Financial Aid Office has been doing their best to spread the word about the importance of filing the FAFSA as soon as possible. Last week they gave away snacks, t-shirts, and gift cards to students.

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Four staff members of the Office of Financial Aid

In addition, they advertised opportunities like this one: a contest sponsored by 55,000 Degrees that will award $1,000 in college scholarship money to one lucky Louisville area winner who fills out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and then uses social media to spread the word. If your family lives in the Louisville area, you are strongly encouraged to check out the details and participate. The deadline is January 31!

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Listen Up: Final Exams are Here

On Tuesday during free period, Pioneer Scholars took a break from studying to have their annual holiday party.

On Tuesday, Pioneer Scholars took a break from studying to have their annual holiday party.

The Louisville weather must have known final exams were here– it was nearly seventy degrees on Wednesday and this morning is wet, icy, and cold.

This time of year– for most of us associated with holiday parties, friends, family, shopping, and cooking– is fraught with many emotions for college students, especially first-year students. Though they may have sailed (or bumped along) through the semester, finals are whole new territory. Worse, there’s no time now for trial and error.

I have a feeling that many Belllarmine parents have already received “the call” from a stressed student. When one is facing three exams in a matter of days , a paper to complete, and possibly having to pack up and head home immediately after it all, it is difficult to not feel stressed.

I came across an article that gives some very practical suggestions for students dealing with stress during finals, including staying away from Facebook and Twitter, going for a run, and playing with a pet. Take a look to see if any of these suggestions could benefit your student. The Counseling Center is also available. Remember though, sometimes they’re calling you because they just need someone to listen.

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Four Ways to Prepare for Finals Over Thanksgiving Break

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Might not have time to make a hand turkey this year. Finals are right around the corner!

The name “Thanksgiving Break” is probably a misnomer this year (and, really, for any college student)– when students return from “break” there are only three days of classes left before finals. It’s important for students to keep this in mind, or else finals might sneak up on them.

So, even though final exams may be the last thing on the minds of students over break, we recommend that students use this time to get ready to begin heavy-duty studying when they return.

Here are a four basic recommendations you might keep in mind when speaking with your student this week:

1. Bring home all books and notes over Thanksgiving break.

2. Create a “finals inventory” including:

  • When are the finals scheduled? It’s important to know what the layout of finals week will be– finals are scheduled at different times than classes to allow for more time to take the tests.
  • How much of a course’s overall grade depends on the final exam? This information will be on the course syllabus.
  • What will the exam cover?  Some finals are cumulative, meaning they cover all the material for the semester. Others cover only the material from the last portion of the class.

3. Make a study schedule for the week following break. A solid organization is crucial, especially for students who have two exams on one day.  Often it’s difficult for freshmen to study for more than one exam at a time, but they must tackle multiple classes, especially if they have all their exams in three days.

4. Locate, review, and organize all of the papers for each class stuffed into folders. Find the old quizzes, handouts, homework problems, and any other information that they have for classes.

Some students may need to go further and begin studying over Thanksgiving break, but even without devoting all of one’s time over break to studying, following the tips above with help students manage once the break is over!

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