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7 ways to avoid the 'Oh no, what happened?' moment

Another school year is under way, and everyone is settling into a routine. Some routines, however, are likely to be more successful than others.

In about four weeks, Mary Ann Slanina, Western Dakota Tech's Academic Services Coordinator, expects to see at least a few WDT students arriving at the Student Success Center in dire need of help with classes. The center staff will be glad to help those students get back on the right track, but there is an easier way, Slanina says.

Consider these tips for starting the school year off on the right foot and avoiding that four-week "Oh no. What happened?" moment.


We all know that planning can be a drag, especially if you tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person. But a little planning upfront makes a huge difference in the long run. After all, the average WDT student works at a job at least 20 hours a week. Many of you also have families and other obligations. You're busy folks.

So try this little trick. After the first week of classes, sit down with your class schedule and your calendar or smart phone. (If you don't have either, it's time to stop at the store to pick up a simple paper planner. If you live by the calendar on your smart phone, use that.)

Go through each class. Log the date of each test, project, and homework assignment into the calendar. It might take some time, but that calendar will be a lifesaver down the road when things get crazy busy.

Putting the schedule down in black and white also sets the tone for the school year, says Slanina. "You need to start working a schedule right away. Have a plan. Talk to your boss. Talk to your family. Make sure you're all on the same page."

Get to know your instructors

Don't be that student who sits in the back of the classroom and barely gets noticed. Make a point of introducing yourself to your instructors. Ask questions in class, participate, and get to know your fellow classmates.

If you don't understand something, ask your instructor, either after class or during office hours. You'll be amazed at how much you can learn in those outside-of-class minutes. An added benefit—your teacher will see that you care. That goes a long way.

"Probably the most underutilized resource is their instructors," says Slanina.

Schedule time for homework and studying

In the first couple of weeks of classes, pick a regular time of the day when you almost always have some downtime. Maybe it's 6 a.m. Maybe it's 6 p.m. Maybe it's 10 p.m. Whatever time it happens to be for you, find a slot during the day when you can put in a little study time. Then put it on your calendar. That's right. Schedule it, just like you would schedule a test or a meeting. Just having it there in black and white helps you get into a good study habit.

Pick a study buddy

"It's like an exercise buddy," says Slanina. "It's that accountability. If I make an appointment to study with a buddy, I'll probably show up."

So find someone from class or a friend. Pick the time and place. Again, write it down. If you set aside time to study for a test or work on a project with a fellow student, it's a whole lot harder to procrastinate. Someone is counting on you.

Get some sleep

Don't forget how important a little shut eye is to having a successful school experience. Sure, there might be some nights when you subsist on four hours of sleep, but don't make it the norm.

The average adult needs somewhere between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep a night. But the reality is some people function just fine on 6 hours of sleep and others really like 9 hours.

Find what you need and get it. You'll stay awake in class, absorb more, and stay healthier.

Show up for class

It may sound simple, but showing up for class is something a lot of students fail to do. Borrowed notes from a friend just aren't the same as interacting with an instructor in the classroom.

Get involved

Join a club or a study group. Make friends and engage with other students. Higher education is about more than just a diploma. You will make lifelong friends during your time at WDT, and the happier and more engaged you are, the more likely you are to care about your education.

So what if you do everything right and you still find yourself in a bind? There's good news.

WDT's Student Success Center has academic and peer tutors, study groups, workshops, and more. Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's what the center is there for, says Slanina. You can find the Student Success Center on the second floor of Wanbli Hall or you can contact Mary Ann at or (605) 718-2426.

Have a good and well-planned year.

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