The spring semester means students can reset their academic clock

Tips for making the most of the spring semester, plus flu shot information.

SMU Student Studying

How can I kick-start the new term?

By Deanie Kepler
Director of Parent and Family Programs

There is no better time than the start of a new year and a new term for students to fully and honestly assess how the first semester went.

SMU Student StudyingWere you as a student satisfied or disappointed with your grades from the first semester? Are you willing to take responsibility for your successes and your failures? In case of a less than satisfactory GPA, is everything someone else's fault or do you hold yourself accountable?

The Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC) offers one-on-one counseling, one time or on a regular basis, for students looking to focus – or in some cases refocus – their efforts. First-semester “disasters” do not have to mean a disastrous college career. Call 214-768-3648 for an appointment.

Regardless of a student's GPA, most everything said in August still applies:

  1. Go to class
  2. Get to know the professors for each class
  3. Take advantage of the resources on campus (hint: the A-LEC has free tutoring, academic counseling and a writing lab).

Every GPA from the fall can be improved upon with some “sweat equity.”

Here are some do's:

  • More time studying
  • Numerous meetings with an academic counselor
  • Regular visits to the A-LEC
  • Getting to know the faculty teaching a course
  • Making appointments for the Writing Center
  • More visits to one’s academic adviser,
  • More studying ahead
  • Reading all assignments
  • New study habits
  • Making new friends in class and forming study groups (if endorsed by the faculty)
  • Regular meetings with faculty during their office hours
  • Changes in the company one keeps
  • A strong determination to improve

And do less:

  • Shopping
  • Partying
  • Watching soap operas

And don't:

  • Cut class

Students need a genuine commitment to change past behaviors that were barriers to success and a willingness to do whatever it takes to be successful.

SMU Student StudyingInvolvement in the campus community is important but should enhance one's academic pursuits, not detract from them. Student activities, club sports, Greek letter groups, Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, intramurals, community engagement and leadership, religious organizations, academic clubs and honoraries all have openings in the spring term.

It is not too early to consider SMU Summer Studies, which is offering more than 250 courses on the Dallas campus, at SMU-in-Taos and through SMU Abroad. New this year is a May term on the Dallas campus, May 16-31, in addition to the May term in Taos. Summer courses are a good value, typically costing only about two-thirds of the cost of fall and spring courses.

In addition to summer courses, SMU Abroad offers programs throughout the year, and students can experience a full fall term at Taos. Students should plan early in the semester to talk with their academic adviser about these opportunities.

The start of the term is also a good opportunity for students to familiarize themselves with information on SMU’s Health and Safety website, including the role all students play in preventing sexual misconduct and substance abuse on our campus. Many resources are available to help students have a productive and healthy semester.

Deanie Kepler is the director of Parent and Family Programs at SMU. She can be reached at 214-768-4797 or

Learning experts offer study tips and resources

SMU Student StudyingStudents begin every term with the potential to earn a 4.0 grade point average, says Patricia Feldman, associate director of SMU’s Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (or A-LEC). “When we see students acting like 4.0 students, we see them reaching their academic goals,” she says.

She adds that one high-achieving senior recommends getting one assignment ahead of the syllabus. “That way, you will always know what’s coming up next in class, allowing you to take better notes, clarify confusing points and more easily master the material,” she says.

Here are more tips from Feldman for students as they begin the spring term:

  • Go to every class. Arrive on time. Sit in front.
  • Complete reading or homework assignments before class so you are fully prepared to learn.
  • Go to each professor’s office hours to get acquainted and to ask for advice on how to excel in the course.
  • After each class, edit and review your notes.
  • Every week, review all reading and notes in your hardest course or two.

A-LEC offers workshops throughout the term to support students, including on textbook study reading, taking notes and preparing for the first round of tests and test anxiety. Find the workshop schedule here.

A-LEC also offers free drop-in tutoring. Drop-in tutoring will begin on a limited basis on Tuesday, January 22, and full tutoring will begin the second week of school. The schedule will be posted by the third week of school and updated throughout the semester.

Also at A-LEC, the Writing Center’s English faculty offer help with any paper in any course. Call 214-768-3648 for a half-hour appointment Mondays through Fridays.

Search smarter: Ask a librarian

SMU Student in LibraryBefore students begin writing their papers, librarians at SMU’s Central University Libraries can help them refine their topics and efficiently find the best resources, allowing more time for refining papers, says Rebecca Graff, research librarian and instruction coordinator.

“When students mention the words ‘research paper,’ they should think of ‘Ask a Librarian,’” she says. As part of the “Ask a Librarian” service, librarians are available through instant-messaging, phone, e-mail and at the libraries’ reference desks. Students also may schedule consultations for larger research projects.

Research Guides are a great place to get started. Librarians point out most important databases by discipline,” Graff says.

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