“Educación Superior” – El Salvador Day 5/15

For me, a photo can capture the appearance, but it can’t capture the essence; my feelings do while my memories retain them. With that said, “You cannot unknow what you know” & “Knowledge is power” are two phrases that perfectly convey my stance on education, specifically with higher education. My 5th day in El Salvador was filled with reminders of why learning is a necessity for an empowered, broadened, and informed life. Just being still and observing life can teach you just as much as a professor, teacher, mentor, and other educators. However, understanding the past and prior experiences in general are among the the greatest routes for learning, and I was able to do this the entire day and due to some excellent connections. When I teach my freshman students next year, I will also motivate them to learn from the world around them on their own accord as well.


The first stop was to Divina Providencia where Arch Bishop Romero lived and was assassinated. He was an individual who supported El Salvadorians of the lower class who struggled due to unjust and inhumane treatments. It was heavy depressing to be in the actual place he was killed, and I took photos of the church only, not the gruesome, explicit photos of his death or his personal effects.

For me, a photo can capture the appearance, but it can’t capture the essence; my feelings do while my memories retain them.


This was enough for me, and I took a photo of a soothing bird that made me feel constructive peace in a place that witness such destructive actions.


The next location was a talk with David Morales, Procurator for the Defense of Human rights. This was a detailed conversation that was broad enough to cover the necessities, yet detailed on each point. The piece on El Salvadorian higher education was of course where my interest was. The equivalent of a bachelors degree in ES takes five years, and there is one public university and many private institutions, yet it is difficult for many to get here due to inadequate primary education. Also, their focus in majors is on law, medical, philosophy and theology, with technology, sociology, and the arts almost entirely removed from major offerings. I was so discontented after heating this. The world is a diverse learning space, and by limiting the knowledge available to these students is actually LIMITING their learning, and the contributions they can make to their society and communities. Traveling to the USA to study is an option, but immigration and limitations on foreign students hinders more than helps. It is a vicious, limiting cycle that need to be reformed.


Our last location was a park where my group planned activities and games for elementary to middle school-aged girls who are and/or were victims and/or survivors of human trafficking. We played basketball, soccer, and a few ice breaker games and they had a fun time. I was hesitant as a male to do too much interacting with them due to their possible bad experiences, but the group climate was great and we just had fun playing without worries–I was happy to see the kids having the type of fun kids should have. At this moment I realized I’ve interacted with ES gang members and victims and/or survivors of human trafficking, and they all had smiles during our interactions. I really cannot articulate how I feel, or should feel, about that. I know one thing though, my little niño friend who I played catch with really energized me and kept my focus on having fun with the kids. He is an awesome little guy and won’t be forgotten.


“Despertado” – El Salvador Day 4/15

Education, opportunity, privilege, resources, and motivation are just a few components to understanding the world and all its historic events and happenings. Today would bring these five together in a way I’ve never experienced. During breakfast, our professor let us know one of our classmates would be heading back to Michigan for health reasons. We have a tight group, so while we understand the reasons, nevertheless the person will be missed and hopefully our group interactions will still be full of energy, perspectives and excitement.


Our first stop today was to Equipo Maiz an organization known for El Salvador (ES) publications, education and advertising, to learn the history of El Salvador from their earliest recorded to the present. I cannot summarize hundreds of years of knowledge and events, but I can highlight some key factors. The indigenous natives of El Salvador (the Pipil) spoke a language known as Náhuat, though when the Spanish arrived and colonized (took) their land, the Pipil were stripped of their traditions and cultures. The Spanish also raped many women, and that is one reason why the majority of current El Salvadorians are of blended Pipil/Spanish heritage. The speaker used detailed cartoon drawings given to each of us to convey key pieces of history in chronological order, and I encourage readers to research their history further, including the civil wars, political fractions (FMLN & ARENA) and the part the United States played in this struggle.


Our next activity was an economic exercise at the San Miguelito market. Our group split up in groups of threes and we each took a list of items to buy. The inside of the market was filled with fruit, veggies and common household items. After getting what was on the list, A saleslady held up some boxer briefs and smiled, and I soon found myself saying “no gracias” a lot. As usual, people were all nice though and knew by my culture, clothes, etc., that I was from abroad. After we returned with all our items, we debriefed as a group about how much the foodstuff cost, minimum wage prices, and calculating logistics of working enough hours to make enough money to by food that can sustain a person or family. Like the history talk, it raised awareness of this system.


We had dinner and got to explore Suchitoto at the end of day. Though first we visited the Art Center for Peace to talk with Sister Peggy O’Neil. This community was beautiful and sister O’Neil’s witty, honest and compassionate talk forced me to pause in my adrenaline rush of studying abroad to reflect on who I am, what I’m doing, and who/what is affected by it. Though I am a Christian, it has been a while since I’ve been to church, and her words were like nostalgic hymns I had once memorized and almost forgotten.


Her words and anecdotes made me feel vulnerable, they made me think about thoughts I needed to reflect and process but haven’t. Who am I? I’m a young adult aiming to work in higher education and student affairs. I’m at my absolute best when I’m in this environment, and I just have this internal feeling that this is where I belong: helping new college students navigate their new environment. What am I doing? I’m trying to be the best, excel, never lose and always succeed. This is where I need work. Her talk conveyed there are more important aspects of life and professional work than winning–it’s what’s learned that matters, and mistakes are a part of this process. I’m far from perfect and only allow others to see the “best me”. While it’s nothing serve, I did learn it’s best to solve internal/external problems to avoid them in the future and focus on succeeding.


Her last point, who is affected by the work I do was the biggest question poised, and I only have half an answer. I want to positively work with college students. However, how will I process this El Salvador experience when I leave? Honestly, life is not what I thought it was growing into a young adult living a very sheltered, privileged life (even while being a minority of oppressions via Africa/The United States). The systems of oppressions globally, lack/fabrications/omissions of education globally, and dictated hierarchies anger me–they make me feel angry because of the unnecessary suffering attached to them. My classmate leaving for home may be gone tomorrow, but that person said something that will alway stay with me:

“I may not be able to change the world, but I can change the world of one person.”


I sat in my El Salvadorian environment and thought about this for hours, because it made me happy. Happy that there are social workers, educators, and other individuals out there trying to make a difference. If enough people took this type of ideology, then the world really could be changed for the betterment of equality and justice. The machete I bought represents this: though the blade is sharp and capable of destruction, if handled correctly it can be used for good and no harm sheathed. This is pictured against my College Student Affairs Leadership M.Ed. binder. While I am not a social worker, I am an educator, and by working with college student I hope to impact them to make positive choices domestically and remind (or introduce to) them that there is work to be done globally.

“Perseverancia” – El Salvador Day 3/15

Even though my birthday was a few days ago in El Salvador (ES), like most individuals I didn’t feel more mature after it. I mature as a young adult and practitioner in education every moment my limited perception is expended by the testimonies and experiences that shaped current societies, and thankfully ES has helped me with this greatly. After another excellent breakfast and fellowship with my classmates, we left for a community, one of many community settlements where ES gang members lived. My initial framework of what a “gang” is will forever be changed, or at least a negative connotation will not be automatic. Foremost, the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang members, one of two top tier rival gangs of ES (including simply troubled youth) lived with their family and friends there. There is a complex, systematic hierarchy built in their operations that only members know. The leaders of this community house in Selva told us about their current affairs with the ES government and how the gang members fit in. Their artistic mark was all around the community, and as an artist the skill they must possess in art is all too apparent.


The military are tasked with routine checks to maintain order. When the military and the youth (I will use the term youth now because not all of them are in the gang, even if they were once affiliated with them. They could have a brother, girlfriend, etc., affiliated with them, simply be a troubled youth, or a full gang member) interact, they do not just search them; they beat them–even in front of friends and family with no probable cause. Additionally, some military members are drunk during these moments and attack the youth because they are “bored”, with the youth not doing anything to them. The community leaders and youth themselves also report it is difficult to reenrolled in schools because the military tasked with guarding the schools harass the youth at school via threatening and encouraging them not to go. Because our arrival alerted the military, the youth stay away from them if possible and we were unable to meet them in the community house (where events, parties, meetings, etc., happened) we had the opportunity to walk through their community and meet them, and I felt so safe; safe in an area full of youth involved in MS-13 gang activity. I was the first of my group to interact with them and they were so young, smiling, shy and talking in Spanish about “Americanos”. I asked one if he liked video games in Spanish and he smiled yes. Following this we heard their individual stories, and one of the older young adults pulled up his shirt and showed us brutal marks from when a military officer attacked him a week prior. This instantly hit the entire group about the severity and reality of their struggle; it’s one thing to hear a claim, and another entirely to witnessed the effects of it. In no way am I justifying gang activity, however, I can honestly understand why the youth would feel the desperate need to “band together” and fight back because of their circumstances. After we thanked them and left a little boy was jumping fence and I asked to take his photo. While he was posing, I quickly prayed that he wouldn’t have to go through what those in his community did.


The next stop was to ACSYECA, a non-profit community organization that supported surrounding communities with health care options, education, and environmental issues. It was a small building, yet an aura of hope could be felt there. ACSYECA staff helped anyone, no matter gang / political affiliation or financial stability with care and medicine.


The unfortunate piece here is it was voiced not all supported this organization, and wanted to turn it into a place for fun, sex, and dancing. Even though some clients don’t pay their bills, they still care for their needs. They also work with schools to teach health literacy and academic subjects. At this time I asked, “How do you all stay so positive and smile under these circumstances.” The speaker replied their perseverance, hope and fulfilling the legacy of those before them, and this was said with a smile as well.


We had lunch at the beach and it was beautiful. The sun was shining, the water was clear and the scenery of the area was just stunning. I had fish, chicken (both delicious!) and spicy veggies that just made this breezy afternoon perfect. A group of performers similar to a mariachi band approached the table twice, once to request a song from our group and the second time specifically for me. I recorded one and truly enjoyed their musical talent. During the first two sites we visited today, two new students were with us for the day: Maria and Alejandro. While Maria talked with the women, Alejandro and I really hit it off. He was 25 and was a senior studying Psychology at an ES university. After realizing he liked video games, I showed him my Pokemon tattoos and he got 2/3 of them right. For the rest of the half hour we talked and I taught him English and he taught me Spanish (though we could both speak the other language fairly well). We talked even more on the ride back, and I learned how ES universities differed from those in the US, such as not having student organization because they don’t need that structure to have activities with friends. I also explained how snow affected the climate and social structure of the United States, and he voiced that he really wanted to touch and experience snow and a winter season because ES is hot all year round. Alejandro said he really liked technology, so I gave him my digital LED watch that told time via blue stacked lights instead of hour and minute hands. He was thrilled to have it and we promised to hang out again on one of our free days.


The last stop was to a workshop on masculinity gender roles. This was located in the heart of downtown El Salvador and the facilitators were excellent. We started with an ice breaker, small group activity, then full group debrief, all centered on identifying how masculinity was formed, how it was associated with femininity, and how these labels were affecting males and females. The most striking aspect about this session was how it was linked to the other two sites we visited. Gang and military activities could be seen as masculine, status building decisions because males are suppose to be “tough” while Acsyeca supports victims of violence, health issues and decisions made from persons lacking education. My professors said that almost all issues are linked, and I could clearly understand both why and how.


After saying our goodbyes after taking photos and exchanging information, we were shown Iglesias el Rosario (church of the roses) and it is the most beautiful interior of a church I have ever seen. I was in a trance looking at the stain glass, just wondering what this city has actually gone through, and what will happen to it next.

“Café Delicioso” – El Salvador Day 2/15

Light was filled in the room when I woke up in my second day in El Salvador, and the exotic sound of birds chirping woke me up before my iPhone’s alarm. There’s a bird that chirps with a sound similar to a harmonica and it sounds heavenly. It honestly seems like I’ve been here for three days because each day is full and takes much energy to tackle and process. Breakfast was great as usual and our first agenda item was a testimony from Damian Alegria, who is now a deputy of El Salvador. His testimony was powerful and talked about his journey into FMLN during their civil war and their fights against ARENA (similar to the United States’ democratic and republican parties respectively). In short, he was captured three times and escaped because of the loyalty he shared with his comrades. The ARENA (who controlled the El Salvadorian government at the time) used dictatorship to control the country and now Damian still works to improve the country to this day.

If there are two main exports El Salvador (ES) is known for it’s indigo (blue dye) and coffee. Because indigo was soon synthetically produced, coffee became the main export, and many internet searches will frame this in a positive light. However, it’s far from positive. The ES president at the time valued the marketability of coffee to the extreme by claiming land where coffee could grow and hiring basically the equivalent to slaves to grow and harvest the coffee. My group spent much of our day at El Jabali Coffee Cooperative, where the coffee is fair trade (genuine labor and prices) and organic (meaning no chemicals were used in the growth process). The owner Miguel, similar to the hospitality of other El Salvadorians, offered us coffee are afternoon. I truly like coffee, and his was so delicious I could drink it without cream and sugar. It was smooth and very flavorful. We got a tour of the area and learned about ALL of the logistics involved with growing coffee: from how they are planted to exporting details.


The attached photo is of a coffee plant infected with a fungi know as “Roya”, which thrives on the leaves of coffee trees, choking off the source of nutrition for the coffee cherries that encase beans. Afflicted trees produce fewer cherries, and harvested beans are sapped of flavors. Because this coffee farm is organic, they cannot use chemicals which could get rid of it because it would go against their organic farming and they could lose funding. It is indeed bittersweet, and was truly an enlightening session. The lunch we were given was as flavorful as what I’ve quickly grown to expect from ES food. I bought 5 bags off coffee and cannot wait to brew it.

The last stop was to an open market area called Paseo El Carmen, and it was an urban, exciting, and bright place. As usual, we received smiles and attention from El Salvadorians and were always treated nicely. I bought a ton of souvenirs and want to make as many purchases as I can to remember this amazing country (it also helps give back to the communities because many crafts and items are handmade). What truly impacted me this day was a little adorable El Salvadorian boy who walked up to my group and handed us little pieces of paper, which in summary were asking for money so he could buy food for his family.


This honestly broke my heart because he was so young, yet had a business ethic and strategy to obtain money. However, I was left with many questions. Was he being exploited by his parents? Did he do this on his own? How did he get these pieces of papers typed up via a computer, printed, and cut? During our debriefing our group was reminded of solidarity, which means understanding someone where they are without a hierarchy and as social workers and educators we cannot “save” the world, only help as best as we could. Would giving him money have helped? Did they eat tonight? These are the types of questions I just cannot help asking myself. Hopefully, and truly, I hope he did.

“Feliz Cumpleaños” – El Salvador Day 1/15

El Salvador is a country rich in vegetation, hospitality and community. Immediately after landing the burst of heat hit the group, with temperatures reaching 85 degrees (give or take 10 depending on the day). I am an avid coffee drinker, so when I saw coffee being sold at the airport it was the first item I bought. This, however, was not the best decision to make. Coffee was El Salvador’s first main export to other countries, so there is a strong sense of justification and respect in regards to it. Not only was the coffee $12 (1lb) but it was not fair trade coffee, which is the coffee type that should be bought instead. Tomorrow my group will visit a fair trade coffee shop, where the coffee is of a better quality and only $3.50.

My first step off the plane also got me smiles, winks and stares from the El Salvadorians who saw me. We drove to lunch via the driver who will take us around for the next few weeks and my first meal here were huge shrimps, chicken breast, and rice. It was delicious and tasted different, more flavorful if I had to describe it. Here I learned that calling myself an “American” is politically (and technically) incorrect. El Salvadorians are Latin Americans, so the term isn’t a good descriptor: “US citizen” is. The meal was so great I inquired about tipping, and was advised not to. While US citizens are typically individualistic, El Salvadorians are more collective, so leaving a tip to a specific server can causes imbalances in their group dynamics, because someone is achieving more than another. It’s about the collective effort, so the tip is added to the overall bill to distribute evenly.


Next, we went to the beach and saw a Pacific Ocean route. It was beautiful and the waves crashed as forceful as the sun shown down. It was refreshing, but not as refreshing as the mangos I bought on the sand. Two adorable little girls were selling mangos; 5 for 25 cent (know that kids as young as 7 and up start working to help support their families). I only had a dollar, so just bought 5 and told them to keep the change (really, I didn’t need 25 of them and a dollar alone isn’t worth much to me–and El Salvador uses the US dollar fyi, since 2009). It took a bit of communicating to let them know they could keep the extra 75 cent, but they were happy when they realized it.

The next stop was to an open market the was such a culture shock. As mentioned before, El Salvadorians are a collective, inclusive community and it show with how all vendors were helping and supporting one another. As expected, when my classmates and I walked by all eyes were on us, with vendors offering wares and wanting photos. I gave my attention to the kids, there were so adorable and kept walking up to us and selling stuff. I bought so many things from them, and will have to work on saying no if needed. We didn’t get carded buying alcohol and they carted to us, making our group the center of attention. We left after drinks and made our way to Hotel Oasis, the place we would be staying for the trip.

When we arrived at Hotel Oasis, the serving staff was outside and waved us in. I’m just in awe at their hospitality. We began with the study abroad orientation and expectations, then had a delicious dinner. After eating with great conversations, the lights went out and everyone thought there was a power outage. To my surprise, the staff came out singing happy birthday and presented me with a delicious carrot cake. This made my night, and further confirmed their hospitality was some of the best I’ve encountered in my life.


“Los Problemas” – El Salvador Day 0/15

I’m an American. I’m a young adult. I like video games, drawing, writing, and research. Then there are El Salvadorians, who have vastly different values and priorities than myself. El Salvador (which mean “The Savior”) is a beautiful country which lives up to its namesake. Rich in Myan and Aztec culture due to their close proximity, El Salvador is a country were it initially was able to embrace its culture without outside influences; this means traditions, customs and languages were rich between the Pipils, the earliest known group that would soon become modern-day El Salvadorians. However, with the rest of the world industrializing and expanding, this culture would soon change in many ways. 1524 brought about the first wave of intrusion by the Spanish, and since then there has been constant clashes regarding El Salvador ownership and identity.


Today, El Salvador is classified as a two-thirds world country, and issues such as inequality in work, political corruption, human trafficking, and gang scuffles flood this beautiful area, just to name a few. For myself, this study abroad experience will be a balance between noting the positives of this rich culture with lavish landscapes while simultaneously accepting the negative foundation of current events and historical acts that contributed to its current state. I was told that as an American, many natives will want to take a photo with me, request specific items unobtainable there, and inquire about my views on politics. While here, I can treat this experience in two different ways: I can be passive. I can simply listen to the speakers during sessions and take notes, take photos while touring the country, and buy as many survivors as I can afford. I can also be active. I can do the before-mentioned actions while also inquiring the “whys” and “hows”. I can use my research skills to do strategic planning for organizations with limited resources. I’m no solider fighting for either country. I’m not a millionaire able to contribute greatly, nor do have access to staffing resources to address major issues. However, I do have drive, and even though I cannot positively impact the country, a city, or an organization, I’ll make all efforts to positively impact that one, single, individual or issue. Also, this experience isn’t necessarily about “me”. I’m a guest of this county and to achieve  solidarity this must be remembered. I may not be “The Savior“, but I will be active in the work I do here.


Asociación ~


ACT, SAT & GRE – How I Never Had to Take Them and How to Potentially Avoid Them

The ACT and SAT are two widely accepted test many pre-college students take to assess their competence in math, English (writing), reading and science. However, it is easily possible to graduate college without ever needing to take these exams–if your academic journey is similar to mine. Below are three summarized options I took as an undergraduate to avoid standardized testing, including the GRE for graduate school admission. Also the “End Summaries” in red provide an even briefer summarization.

Home Schooling

I was never accustomed to taking standardized test even as a home schooled student. The majority of my exams were essay-based or project-based to broadly assess what I learned. Every subject had learning outcomes and my essays and projects needed to hit each learning outcome in detail or I would not get full scores. My GPA throughout high school was between 3.8-4.0.

End Summary: Standardized test are not the only way to assess what students know.

Associates Degree

This was ultimately the key in avoiding the ACT and SAT. Many students are now being told an associates degree is worthless.  This is highly inaccurate if it is used in the correct way.  Foremost, many community colleges have open admission policies, meaning they will assess your skills via a placement test instead of relying on the ACT/SAT. That said, I applied to my local community college, did not need ACT/SAT scores, and was easily admitted without them. After obtaining my Associates Degree, I transferred from Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to Grand Valley State University (GVSU) and immediately took classes for my program at half the price since my Associates Degree handled all general education via the MACRAO transfer agreement. My GPA throughout both colleges was 3.5-4.0, I was an honors student at GRCC, and in a national leadership honor society (ΟΔΚ) at GVSU.

End Summary: If you know you want to obtain your Associates Degree first, look into their admission policy. If it is an open admission policy you may not need to take the ACT/SAT, which saves you time and money. However, be cautious if you decide to transfer before obtaining your Associates Degree, because many colleges and universities will still require you to take the ACT/SAT if you transfer with a low amount of credit hours.

Graduate Institution’s Discretion in Utilizing the GRE

The GRE stands for Graduate Records Examination and assesses prospective graduate students on fundamentals (general education) they would have learned as an undergraduate student. How the GRE is used differs significantly. For instance, ‘university A’ may require a set score for admission in any graduate program, ‘university B’  may only take into account the Literature in English section while ‘university C’ does not requite it at all for their programs. My graduate institution only required it if your GPA was below a set standard.

End Summary: Do your research before taking the GRE, depending on the university requirements and their program, you may not need to take it–which saves you time and money.

*Note–this article was not meant to discredit the ACT, SAT or GRE. This article is simply a testament that they are neither required to academically assess a student nor required to reach graduate study.

about_actMario Adkins is a graduate student in Grand Valley State University’s College Student Affairs Leadership masters program. When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus collecting, assessing and process data as Research  Analyst in Teacher Education for GVSU’s College of Education. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked

Education to Employment – 5 Transferable Skills from any Undergraduate Major

Majors, minors and even certificate programs  from colleges and universities offer a vast array of knowledge, skills and hands-on learning experiences. Although the aim of most college students are to create a “brand” or “trade” for themselves in their chosen fields, there are some skills that all forms of employment will require regardless of what your degree is in. Here’s a brief  rundown of those five.

Communication Skills

Effective communication is  one of the most requested skills any employer wants. Verbal communication through annunciation, articulation–both said with utmost confidence. Written communication through reports, memos and emails–all spelled grammatically correct. Tactfulness (knowing when and when not to say something) and cross-cultural communication (cultural competency) are two other types of communication skills you should have.

Project Development Skills

All those semesters of extended research and putting together projects (essays, slideshows, etc.) will not go to waste.  Many employers will request for different projects depending on the type of work. It is even more crucial if said employers lack skills in that project area and are relying on you to provide an effective project or report. Innovation is more and more becoming an unsaid standard, so the more creative the better.

Time Management Skills

Yeah, let’s revisit these familiar two words. In a typical work day there could be many assignments or tasks that need to be completed.  The most effective way to categorize your assignments in a work environment is by deadline and complexity. Have due dates on hand while simultaneously working on your more difficult assignments first. Also, ask yourself if you can break the most rigorous work up in sections to make it easier.  Completing work early if you have any free time could also prove beneficial.

Conflict Resolution Skills

No matter where you work, conflicts with co-workers, difficulties with work assignments and emergencies are all possible options where having conflict resolution skills are a must. Talk with your co-worker (before going to your supervisor, depending on the conflict) using “I” language (“I feel…”) instead of “You” language. If technology, lacking a needed skill or piece of material, etc, is holding you back from your work, communicate this with a supervisor, or ensure you can resolve it on your own if you chose to do so. Emergencies are special (or not-so-special) cases when it pays to know procedures and escape routes depending on the emergency.  You can practice these as an undergraduate via group projects and assignments.

Etiquette & Civility Skills

I cannot stress enough how building a good reputation can advance you in the workforce. “I’ve heard great things about you” and “you’ve always done good work” are just a few examples of how much weight etiquette and civility skills can carry. If you know you’re lacking in these skills get a book on building them or talk with a person you trust to help you assess what could be worked on. It is no secret that “people talk”, so make sure to the best of your abilities that it is good things those people are talking about in regards to you. This skill is a must, and even an individual having the four previous skills and only lacking this one would have difficulties advancing.

zerolocked1Mario Adkins is a graduate student in Grand Valley State University’s College Student Affairs Leadership masters program. When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus collecting, assessing and process data as Research  Analyst in Teacher Education for GVSU’s College of Education. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked

The Ultimate Study Guide

There are millions of study guides out there covering many subjects. However, The Ultimate Study Guide below has you covered for all your courses in three main areas.  Let readers know which works best for you or if you would add anything else in the comments section below (no registration required). And two lucky comments will be chosen for study supplies valued at $20. [Sweepstakes ends 02/10/13]


Write/Type It Out!

The main goal of any study guide is to help you retain the information. However, just reading a study guide over and over is not always the best way to retain information. (Ever read an entire textbook chapter and learn nothing? Yeah.) Writing or typing key terms and information can help you remember much better because it’s an active, engaging process. That said, take a scrap  piece of paper or open up a word processing file and type, write, type, write in addition to reading over a study guide.


Note Comparisons

How does your notes stack up against the student sitting behind you? What if they found that definition you were looking for? And ironically you know how to answer the short answer question they’re struggling with. Knowledge is a puzzle, though you can easily put the pieces together if you work together. Try and compare notes and study guides with classmates whenever possible, that way you all win.


Review, Review, Review!

This is the biggest. Aim to actively read your notes and study guides at least once everyday (or more) for all subjects. It’s all about consistency. A nice way to test yourself is to look at a term/question/concept and if you cannot immediately answer/define it then type/write it out! Also, discussing grey areas with classmates or having them test you also can find focus points.


zerolockedMario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.

Top 5 MUST HAVE items for College Students

Almost all students have a backpack that holds a few essential items such as writing utensils, paper, folders and textbooks. However, there are a few items many students may not carry that could be a huge benefit. In no specific order are the top five items of 2012 that can highly assist any student and ease many college days.

Mini Stapler

Having your own mini stapler is a not-so-common item that could be very useful after printing out essays and other similar papers. Many instructors require students to staple their work, otherwise they may not accept them. This is an easy way to keep your work ordered, just make sure to have a supply of staples handy!


Post-It-Notes, aka sticky notes are so versatile and have many uses. Taking notes, bookmarking and creating reminders / to-do lists are just a few uses for these handy supplies.  They are inexpensive to buy and may very well save you from forgetting important dates, information and  academic notes.

USB Drive

If you do not own a USB drive give it a purchase. This is an easy way to transfer data files between computer devices without attaching files to emails or cloud/data storage. The USB drive I own is 2 gigs and flips out, or, attached (hidden) in my army dog tags. A few USB drives are actually key chain items or even mini skateboards! Find one that matches your style.

Laptop / Mac Book / Tablet 

Internet, word processing, calculator, PDF reader, music player, photo viewer, video editing and way, WAY more. I’m not even going to say this is optional, because if you do not personally own one [which I encourage if possible] you’ll be in your local college library using theirs. From online classes to digital textbooks, having this item [or access to it] is almost a must.

Echo Livescribe Smartpen

This item, unlike the others above, may need an introduction. In short, this pen is also an audio recording device that records and syncs simultaneously what you write in a companion notebook. You can also upload the pages to an online site and watch/listen to what you wrote/heard. Make sure to have that laptop for this feature! Take a quick look at it in action HERE! (And play around on the site to learn more about it).

Do you have any of these items? and/or Would you add anything else to the list? 

Mario Adkins is a senior at Grand Valley State University (GVSU). When not drawing or playing his favorite video games, he can be found on campus facilitating programs and events as both a resident assistant and vice president of membership for GVSU’s OΔK Circle–a national leadership honor society. Follow him on Twitter @zerolocked.