Using the Resources at Whatcom

by Brianna Kuplent

Horizon Reporter

First year students from Whatcom Community College quickly discover that high school or only working full-time compared to college is very different. Such as the class times that depend on the teacher, and some tests account for a large portion of the grade. Every student deals with stress, procrastinates at one time or another, and has test anxiety. The Student Success Workshops at Whatcom tries to resolve these issues, and to help the student improve and succeed in college.

“I get pretty nervous, but no more anxiety than the normal person,” said Whatcom student Alyssa Regidor, 19, about test anxiety. It is “more so English because it’s my worst subject, but math is pretty intimidating.”

To retain information, Regidor completes practice problems as her testing strategy.

“Usually I will go to the end of the chapter and they will have example problems,” she said. “I’ll do those to prepare for the quiz.”

Another student has a different way to prepare for tests.

“I usually make note cards a few days beforehand,” said Chloe Fearing, 19. She has anxiety for “probably math because it seems the hardest to study for.”

Dean Hagin, a professor at Whatcom who teaches English 188, said the workshops don’t cover math specifically, but he recommends the math center for students who need extra help. Hagin directed the “Test Strategies and Tips” workshop on Feb. 28. He armed himself with handouts for the workshop, and photocopied pages filled with tips and guidelines.

Margaret Vlahos, a counselor at Whatcom, also instructs at some of the workshops and teaches Human Development 115, a stress management class.

Vlahos has been a counselor since 2003, the same year the workshops started.

“The goal was to hopefully reach more students who have the same problem,” said Vlahos. She said that the common topics were test anxiety and time management.

With test anxiety, Vlahos advises students to be prepared, relaxed, and keep negative self-talk under control. The self-talk are negative comments that go through a student’s mind before taking a test, affecting their score.

“It can snowball when someone thinks they’ll fail the test,” said Vlahos.

The handouts from the workshops help students feel more confident that they’ll pass. One handout from the “Test Strategies and Tips” workshop shows a strategy for retaining information. It’s a visual study tool called mapping, where the topic is in the center of a piece of paper, and main ideas are attached with details. Colors, shapes, and pictures can be added to better visualize the topic, and main ideas with specific details can be remembered better.

A longer handout is photocopied pages from the book “Orientation to College Learning,” which advises, when coping with anxiety, to “prepare well, use relaxation strategies, avoid negative thoughts, use visualization, and don’t arrive too early to the classroom.”

In the math tutoring center in Cascade Hall, Vyacheslav Shportko, 18, is studying for a test.

“I’ll come in with questions, then go home and practice with my Dad,” said Shportko about his test strategy.

His tutor, Kendall Jones, uses a five-day studying strategy for tests, a strategy he learned from Leo Hopcroft’s English 170 class his first semester of his first year at Whatcom. The English 170, College Study Skills, teaches a lot of the same strategy skills found in the Success Workshops.

“It’s been a great help,” said Jones. Jones added that they help you with different kinds of tests and writing essays. He has a 3.94 grade-point average here at Whatcom.

Both Hagin and Vlahos advise students to use resources available at Whatcom.

“I would encourage students to really use the resources on campus,” said Vlahos about the tutors, math and writing centers.

“Once I realized the value of it, the more I would advertise it,” said Hagin.

Workshops are in Cascade, room 101 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The last workshops for Winter quarter are on Monday, Mar. 7, a “Don’t Let it Manage You” time management workshop, and a week later on Mar. 14, a “Be Prepared and Breathe” test anxiety workshop.

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