Succeed with Seven (7) College Tips

by Calvin Olsen at

[for O-G tutoring in Columbus OH: 614-579-6021]

Everyone knows how to succeed in college: Show up to class, master the material, earn good grades, and graduate.

Simple, right? Of course, it’s more complicated than that. While most students know the broad outlines of what a successful higher-ed experience looks like, few discover until they’re fairly advanced in their college careers (if ever) the day-to-day tips and tricks that will help them achieve their goals.

To help you advance along your learning curve, here are seven practices you can do right now to make the most of any college course.


Many professors, especially those leading discussion-based classes, consider students’ participation when calculating final grades. Their reasons for doing so vary, but most of the time it’s to counter the weight of the large assignments (in other words, participating generally ups your grade). Some professors may explain their participation policies in detail, but even then the participation component may be downright scary to a shy or underprepared student.

While it is important to engage with the professor and the material while you’re in class, don’t assume the only way to gain participation points is to raise your hand every day. No professor wants you to chime in about everything, so striking a balance is important.

When you’re not answering or asking questions, it’s a good idea to let your professor see you participating. On most days, it may be enough to provide physical proof that you are engaged. Sometimes simple acts like having the required texts and materials out to reference and taking occasional notes go a long way. Be aware of your body language, too. How you sit speaks volumes about how you feel: If you look like you are participating and actively listening, it’s likely that you actually are.


The best way to lose all your participation points (and probably fall into participation debt) is to be seen — and not even caught — staring at a screen as your professor takes mental notes during class. There’s an easy fix for this: Lay off the technology.

Although laptops, tablets, and smartphones allow you to type more quickly, take pictures of the board, and access Wikipedia for some quick (and probably shallow) knowledge, science shows that writing your notes by hand improves conceptual knowledge, which is the type you want to work on.

Besides, let’s be honest: Anything with a screen is just an expensive temptation. Only a handful of people on earth will fault you for finding Angry Birds more intriguing than ancient Mesopotamian agricultural practices, but that game keeps you from being mentally present in class. Put it away, and prove your participation.

And get over the idea that you can be sneaky about it. Your professor knows when you’re texting, and, among other tells, your classmates take sporadic glances at your laptop when you’re on social media (they tend not to when you’re typing notes). Spend a few dollars on a notebook and some pens — they may very well amount to the biggest ROI of the semester.


Your classmates are one of the best resources you’ve got. Use them. Even in courses in which all the work is individual, having someone on your team is always a good idea.

Get to class five minutes early, and make a few acquaintances. The fact that you’re all taking a class together gives you common ground right away, and if you play your cards right, you’ll end up with at least one ally. Once you get to know your classmates, you can help one another brainstorm project ideas, share notes when someone can’t make it to class, or talk things out when the material gets complicated.


Depending on the course, a study group may be a huge help. As papers, projects, midterms, and finals approach, your classmates may be keen to join forces — though perhaps slow to organize — so be the one who gets the ball rolling.

Study groups also invite a creative approach. My personal favorite is dividing up large chunks of reading, so each group member can read a part of the assigned text closely and provide others with a detailed summary and notes. This is a particularly useful strategy you can use to prepare for class, since you’ll arrive with a broad view of the material and specific knowledge about at least one aspect of it. (Just imagine the participation points you’d get by correcting the professor on a quotation.)


You wouldn’t think using a tutor would be included on a list of college hacks, but the fact of the matter is that most students simply do not take advantage of the help available to them. The list of reasons for this academic neglect ranges from ignorance about available resources to pride in tackling a project alone, but there is always assistance to be found if you seek it out.

Most universities and colleges (and even some departments) organize tutoring resources for students. Knowing what these are and how to use them will make your life much easier.

The most common of these resources is a writing center, where you can take rough drafts of papers and receive feedback. Another option is a TA session, where an upperclassman or graduate student working for the professor (and who probably knows how to get a good grade from that professor) runs a review or lab tutorial. Then there are librarians — people who are uniquely qualified to help you navigate your college library and find more sources of information than you even knew existed and help you use it to blow your professor’s (and your own) mind.

There are many, many types of student resources (learning centers, language centers, and offices of disability services, to name just a few), so keep your eyes peeled.


If you have an extenuating circumstance — a real one, not “my plane ticket home for Christmas is for December 1, so I can’t take the final” — or a disability of any kind, your professor will certainly accommodate you as much as possible. Your professor is interested in you as a person and knows that life can be messy, so just give as much notice as you can. If you need additional help, reach out; however, if you’re asking for a deadline extension because you didn’t make time to complete your work, don’t — and instead accept the consequences of your own poor planning.

Telling your professor you’re “busy” is an insult. Five midterms, two papers, and a presentation in one week do not qualify a student as busy — especially not when she’s received detailed syllabi at the beginning of a semester explaining what to expect and when to expect it. Professors have hundreds of students, multiple classes to teach (sometimes at different schools), office hours to hold, publication deadlines they could be fired for missing, departmental assignments, and many more obligations.

If you still need an extension, then be gracious about the lower grade you’ll probably earn in exchange.


Grades are a motivation for most students, but not always in a beneficial way. The key is to keep yourself informed. Read the syllabus thoroughly so you know your professor’s grading policy, and use graded assignments as tools to increase your success in class. If you want to discuss a graded assignment, particularly one whose score is lower than what you wanted, do so in person with your professor or TA.

Regardless of how you feel about your grade, seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Most professors will tell you how and why you earned a given grade, and provide you with advice about how you can improve in the future. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that most professors won’t change your grade unless they’ve made an error. (Some reserve the right to change it in either direction, so be mindful of that, too.)

There is nothing wrong with disputing a grade, but there is a wrong way to go about it. Too many students show up angry or otherwise upset and demand a change rather than arriving ready to present a logical argument and receive instruction for the future.

Chances are, you won’t change your professor’s mind, but be prepared to make your case, and don’t get discouraged if your grade remains the same. You’re in college to learn, and part of that process can involve getting a bad grade here and there.


Are you ready to take Calvin Olsen’s advice and find a tutor? First, check out these tutoring resources, and then use the Noodle online and in-person tutor search to help you find the ideal instructor for your academic needs.

Calvin Olsen holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, where he received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. His poetry and translations have appeared in The Missouri Review Online, Tar River Poetry, Nashville Review, Catch & Release, Salamander.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email

Handwriting Helps You Learn

by Drake Baer, Business Insider

[for Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH 614-579-6021 : see below]

Typing is fast.

Handwriting is slow.

Weirdly, that’s precisely why handwriting is better suited to learning.

Take it from research psychologists Pam A. Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, who did a fascinating study investigating just how terrible laptops are for note-taking in classrooms.

Earlier studies have argued that laptops make for poor note-taking because of the litany of distractions available on the internet, but their experiments yielded a counterintuitive conclusion: Handwriting is better because it slows the learner down.

By slowing down the process of taking notes, you accelerate learning.

It works like this. If a skilled typist (also known as an American millennial) is sitting in a classroom, he or she will be able write down almost every word that the lecturer utters. The thing is, that transcription process doesn’t require any critical thinking. So while you’re putting the words down on the page, your brain doesn’t have to engage with the material.

As learning science has discovered, if you’re not signaling that the material is important to your brain, it will discard the lecture from memory for the sake of efficiency.

But if you are taking notes by hand, you won’t be able to write down every word the speaker says. Instead, you’ll have to look for representative quotes, summarize concepts, and ask questions about what you don’t understand.

This requires more effort than just typing every word out — and the effort is what helps cement the material in your memory. The more effort you put into understanding something, the stronger signal you’re giving your brain that it’s worth remembering.

Mueller and Oppenheimer conclude that for students, “transcrib[ing] lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”

The benefits of handwriting — though it’s a disappearing skill — have been documented by lots of educational psychologists, who have found that handwriting engages parts of the brain that typing neglects, especially areas associated with memory formation. For these reasons, the arguments go, kids come up with more ideas when they’re writing in cursive versus typing.

So, as French psychologist Stanislas Dehaene told The New York Times, you may want to step away from the keyboard.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” he said. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain, it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize.”

The result?

“Learning is made easier,” he concluded.



for Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email

Rick Riordan’s Tips to Get a Kid Reading

  1. Model reading at home. If the parents are too busy to read, it’s a safe bet the children will feel the same way. Set aside time for family reading each night. It doesn’t matter so much what the kids read, as long as you provide them space for reading and a sense that it is a valuable part of your daily routine. Sometimes the Riordan family will read books together. Sometimes we’re all reading different things. But we value books, and we have great conversations about our favorite authors and stories.
  2. Match your children with the right books. By the “right” books, I mean the ones that will leave them wanting to read more. Every child’s taste is different. Don’t worry if they’re not reading War and Peace at age 12. First, build a good foundation and a positive attitude about reading by letting them pick the stories they enjoy. Make friends with a bookseller or librarian. They are a wealth of information on finding books that kids enjoy.
  3. Create a productive environment for reading. Usually, this means few distractions. Reading with music or TV? Not such a great idea. On the other hand, many ADHD kids can focus better if they can have something to fiddle with like a stress ball, an eraser, or some other small object that absorbs their kinesthetic energy. Let your child participate in finding the most comfortable space to read — a chair, a sofa, a loft, a patio.
  4. Most important, keep the long view. Your child will grow up to be a successful person. ADHD and dyslexia really are differences, not disabilities. A disproportionate number of millionaires are dyslexics. ADHD adults are valuable in the workplace because they can focus like a laser on things that really interest them. Kids with learning differences naturally become out-of-the-box thinkers, because they have to find different ways to solve problems. If we can get these kids through the school years, they will excel.

Take it from this dad. It seems like just yesterday my son was hiding under the table to avoid reading. Now he’s writing books longer than mine!

Rick Riordan is the acclaimed author of the Percy Jackson books, and most recently the Heroes of Olympus series for kids. He began Percy Jackson as bedtime stories to  interest his dyslexic son in reading.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email

Adolescents and Adults with Dyslexia Fact Sheet — IDA

Fact Sheet from the International Dyslexia Association

[O-G Tutoring in Columbus OH 614-579-6021 …see end]

Beginning in grade 4, skilled reading is necessary for school achievement in all subject areas. Beyond school, reading proficiency is just as important for job success. As we grow and mature, more and more is expected of all of us. But for individuals with dyslexia, the demands of school and the workplace are especially great.

It is often assumed that students have acquired sufficient decoding, and that their reading struggles are only comprehension related. However, struggling readers with dyslexia may have significant difficulty with word recognition and might not have established skills to identify unfamiliar words. Older students with untreated dyslexia have not benefited from years of reading, and the exposure to various kinds of complex texts. This disadvantage may hold them back with other key aspects of reading such as vocabulary, background knowledge, and comprehension skills. It can also affect their ability to spell and write, making it difficult for them to accurately express their knowledge and ideas.

After grade 4, it is often assumed that an individual who cannot read should be assisted with accommodations and technology aides rather than receive direct reading instruction. However, a wealth of evidence shows that intensive, high quality literacy instruction can help students who are struggling build the skills they need to succeed in high school and beyond (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2006). In other words, it is never too late. Older students with dyslexia, including adults, can benefit from specialized reading and writing instruction, but it is essential for them to find an instructor who is highly trained to successfully teach individuals with dyslexia.

Identifying and Addressing Instructional Needs

A diagnostic evaluation will indicate all areas of reading and writing that should be addressed. If an individual has not yet established sufficient word level skills, direct instruction is necessary.

Under the right conditions, intensive and skillful instruction in basic word reading skills can have a significant impact on the comprehension ability of students in fifth grade and beyond (Center on Instruction, 2008). The Center on Instruction report of research findings indicates the following are key recommendations for teaching word study to older students:

Teach students…

  • to identify and break words into syllable types
  • when and how to read multisyllabic words by blending the parts together
  • to recognize irregular words that do not follow predictable patterns
  • the meanings of common prefixes, suffixes, inflectional endings, and roots. Instruction should include ways in which words relate to each other (for example, trans: transfer, translate, transform, transition).
  • how to break words into word parts and to combine word parts to create words based on their roots, bases, or other features
  • how and when to use structural analysis to decode unknown words

Factors for School Success

First and foremost, an older student with dyslexia should have skilled instruction in deficit areas of reading and writing as determined by an evaluation. If the student cannot decode or spell efficiently and accurately, he or she will need proficient instruction in these areas to progress to more advanced levels of reading and writing.

In addition to direct instruction, the following considerations may assist in school success:

  • subject area tutors
  • accommodations such as extended time
    and oral exams;
  • modification of assignments;
  • reduced course load;
  • major course of study in areas of individual strength;
  • small classes;
  • technology aids such as text readers, smartpen, and spelling and grammar checks.

Factors for Job Success

Individuals with dyslexia may not be alone when struggling with the reading and writing demands of the workplace. Approximately 40% of high school graduates lack the literacy skills employers seek (Achieve Inc., 2005). An adult with dyslexia may have difficulty with work-training courses, even literacy classes, if these are not presented in ways that accommodate their learning needs.

Adults with dyslexia can succeed in the workplace with training and other written materials in an accessible format, restructured job tasks, and assistive technology, for example, text reading systems, reading pens, speech recognition systems, and portable word processors with spell and grammar checking. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as amended 2008 (ADA) is a federal civil rights law designed to prevent discrimination and enable individuals with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of society. The ADA protects an individual’s right to request reasonable accommodations for the hiring process and on the job. A key principle of the ADA is that individuals with disabilities who want to work and are qualified to work must have an equal opportunity to work. To be protected under ADA, you must have a disability as defined by the ADA, and you must also be able to do the job you want or were hired to do, with or without reasonable accommodations.

While early intervention is the best way to help students get on track with their reading and writing, it is never too late to help older students and adults make progress and succeed. With proper evaluation and appropriate instruction and accommodations, adolescents and adults can achieve their goals, too, and make their own unique contributions to the workforce and society.

References and Further Reading

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2006). Adolescent Literacy. [Fact Sheet] . Retrieved from ns/PDF/AdolescentLiteracyFactSheet.pdf

Achieve, Inc. (2005). Rising to the challenge: Are high school graduates prepared for college and work? Washington, DC: Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. /Public Opinion Strategists.

Kruidenier, J., Partnership for Reading (Project), RMC Research Corporation & National Institute for Literacy (U.S.). (2002). Research- based principles for adult basic education reading instruction. Washington, DC: Partnership for Reading.

Torgesen, J. K., Houston, D. D., Rissman, L. M., Decker, S. M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., et al. (2007). Academic literacy instruction for adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction, Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction. p. 79.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) thanks Barbara A. Wilson for her assistance in the preparation of this fact sheet.

© Copyright The International Dyslexia Association (IDA).

Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email

Writing Difficulties: Terms to Know

source: Erica Patino at

[O-G tutoring in Columbus OH : see contact information below] offers these nine terms you should know if you are a parent of a child with “dysgraphia.”  Dysgraphia is a brain-based condition which causes difficulty with the physical act of writing. The word is often used interchangeably with the term “disorder of written expression.”

Below are nine terms your school or your doctors may use when speaking about writing skills.

“Orthographic coding”  means the ability to remember how to form a letter or word and then write it accurately.  If a child struggles with orthographic coding they may forget how to form letters; they may have difficulty spelling.

“Disorder of written expression” means a condition in which a student’s writing abilities fall below expectations, based on age and intelligence.  Often used interchangeably with “dysgraphia.”

“Sequencing problems”  means difficulty ordering letters and numbers. Your child may struggle with directionality when writing letters, or place them out of order.  Sloppy handwriting may result.

“Working memory”  means short-term memory, which occurs in the part of the brain that stores information temporarily until you can react to it. A student with writing difficulties might have trouble retrieving information from working memory; one possible reason is much of their energy goes into the physical act of writing.

“Graphic organizer” means a visual tool the illustrates or maps out ideas before writing. Other terms for this are “concept maps” or “mind maps.”  Students with writing challenges often find graphic organizers helpful to outline an assignment before writing.

“Fine motor skills” means small muscle control: those muscles needed to deftly move fingers and thumbs. A child with writing challenges typically has weak fine motor skills; they may manipulate pencils and scissors awkwardly.

“Visual-spatial difficulties” means trouble understanding what the eye is seeing.  A child with dysgraphia frequently has visual-spatial problems and so finds it hard to read maps, or to differentiate left from right.

“Language processing” means making sense of what is heard.  Students with language processing issues need time to understand what they hear. When this happens in tandem with writing issues, it is a huge challenge to translate what’s heard into writing.

“Sequential finger movement” means moving fingers in a particular order. An example would be touching the thumb to the pinkie, then to the ring finger, and so on. This is why many dysgraphic students do better using a keyboard than writing by hand.

Author Erica Patino publishes on She is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.


Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email

Keep Up With Homework: Tips

for Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH, see below

At, Amanda Morin makes these four suggestions (I’ve added a comment or two):

1] Catalog by Class: students can use different colored binders/folders for each separate class. Make headers on papers showing topic and date. Utilize file pockets; identify which pockets will keep ‘pages to be dealt with,’ ‘pages to hand in,’ ‘pages to be filed into a binder/folder.’

2] Have one dedicated space at home where student stores school materials: it’s difficult to stay organized if notebooks, notes, textbooks and writing utensils are scattered through the house.  Have a dedicated desk if possible, but if not, a shelf or cabinet where these can always be found.

3] Create a system for study materials: the system might be as simple as a shoebox filled with paper, pencils, highlighters, staplers, clips, scissors. After finishing work, you or your student restocks the supplies and sharpens pencils for next time. A lot of time is wasted searching for these things.

4] Type up class notes: if a student types notes, they are easier to read. But typing them also helps build memory.  In addition, if he emails them to himself he’s got them at school in case he forgets to bring them to class. Or: use a cloud service (e.g. Google Drive or Dropbox) to access school documents from anywhere with an Internet connection!


Amanda Morin is a parent advocate and former teacher, and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 (call or text).  Or Email:

Sleep Disturbances in Girls

From the Laurel Center for Research on Girls

[for reading tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Sleep and Mindfulness
By now, most everyone is aware of the disheartening statistics surrounding teen sleep. While it’s recommended that teens sleep 9-10 hours per night, only 20% reach that optimal amount, and nearly half of teenagers average less than 8 hours per night during the week. There are many culprits that work to deprive adolescents of their much-needed sleep, including homework and extra-curricular activities, early school start times, technology use and stress. While some of these factors are outside teens’ control, promising new research indicates that managing stress may play an important role in improving sleep.

Stress and Sleep
More than a third of teenagers report that high levels of stress interfere with their ability to fall asleep at night. The stress-sleep relationship is cyclical, with insufficient sleep also increasing stress, and the relationship may be more pronounced for teenage girls. Some research suggests that the emotion-focused coping often utilized by teenage girls may increase sleep disturbance during times of stress. Although many factors affecting sleep are outside of teens’ control, stress management is one place they might make positive changes to improve sleep quality.

Mindfulness, a specific way of paying attention to one’s surroundings that can be honed through meditation and acceptance practices, is gaining support as an effective stress-reduction technique. Research with teens indicates that mindfulness may have positive effects on sleep duration and sleep quality. Mindfulness techniques may also indirectly improve sleep via decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms in teens. Although mindfulness has been extensively studied in adults, research in children and teens is just beginning. In its early stages, this technique shows similar promise as other stress reduction techniques in improving children and teens’ overall well-being.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email