Arrive early, keep up and seek help to succeed in college

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Mortuary science sophomore Keith Arroyo browses Anne Rice books while deciding on which one he will give a story telling presentation over for his English final exam. The hours for the library the week of finals May 9-13 are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. Saturday. To get information on library hours for the summer, call (210) 486-0554. File Photo 2016

Staff, faculty and students share academic advice.

Getting to know teachers, being on time, managing schedules and keeping up with assignments are practices recommended to help new students succeed in college.

The Ranger asked employees and students at random the first week of classes to share the best advice they were given.

Speech instructor Justin Blacklock said his mother, who is also a speech instructor, told him maintaining contact with instructors and making sure they know you is the most important practice for students.

Blacklock’s mother teaches speech and theater at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi.

Making oneself known in the class and talking with instructors either after class or over email helps build communication, he said.

 “Don’t be afraid to talk to the instructor if they didn’t do an introduction in the class,” he said. “Introduce yourself after class so that your instructor can put a face to the name.”

Blacklock said this helps students stand out.

“Make yourself a person and not just a class participant,” he said.  “Then if you need help, the instructors are more likely to give you that help and give you that boost if you have taken that extra step.

He shares his mother’s advice with students on the first day of class. 

“It’s hard, when you have 160 students, to meet every single student and see where they are,” he said.

“So, as a student, making yourself known to the instructor and staying in contact is the No. 1 thing you can do in every single class to improve,” he said.

Marissa Seanz-Pena, interim associate director of admissions and records, believes to succeed in college or work people should never give up.

 “We are capable of doing more than what we think we can,” she said.

Seanz-Pena took this advice from her high school teacher to heart. With this advice, she was able to achieve what she wanted in life.

“When I first started in college I was an ESL student,” she said. “The only language I knew was Spanish. I got two associate (degrees), went on to get a bachelor’s, and then finally my master’s. I didn’t know I had it in me, but I kept remembering what I was told in high school.”

Music freshman Julian Marzette, a part-time singer, believes being prepared, showing up on time, and showing good leadership skills will help people succeed in life.

“My parents and my boss gave me this advice. They want me to be successful in life and do the best I can,” he said.

Marzette is also a Student Ambassador for new students.

“Being an ambassador really helped my leadership skills and my social skills,” Marzette said.

His advice for new students is “to have a good support system, come prepared and study hard.”

Marzette plans to use this advice to accomplish his goal of being an opera singer.

Dee Dixon, student success adviser in the MESA center, said students should become consistent in study habits and space out sessions to avoid cramming.

But studying the night before isn’t necessarily cramming, and can still be a good usage of time, Dixon said.

On the night before, students should do a light review and get plenty of sleep afterward, she said.

 “You may be surprised by your performance,” she said. “I was.”


Biology Professor Shelly Sheppard came to college as a first-generation college student and sought the help of advisers to find the right path in higher education.

Shepard said students plan for their major and devote time to research courses and transfer institutions.

 She also said students find additional extracurricular activities.

 “A lot of people see SAC as a commuter campus,” Sheppard said. “But that doesn’t mean this college won’t offer opportunities outside of class to get involved.”

Sheppard said student join an organization and network with peers.

Jason Hand, a social work intern and graduate of this college, said college students should have a detailed plan for each week.

“Sometimes, it gets chaotic and it looks like a big monster, but breaking it up into small chunks helps,” he said.

 Seeing all the work that must get done gets overwhelming, but he said his wife and his mentor helped him create a schedule with a detailed plan to take each day step by step.

“The hardest part about attending college as a new or transfer student is registration,” he said.

Once students have the paper work done, they should attend classes and try their hardest.

“Taking time to communicate to your teachers helps,” he said. “Email them. Do what you have to do to reach out to them, and they start to acknowledge your hard work.”

Being able to communicate with others and plan helped Hand graduate from this college with a 3.9 grade-point average.

He now has a 4.0 GPA at Our Lady of the Lake University.

Solus Meek, coordinator for students with disabilities that need to test in this college, said students need to communicate with themselves, be honest with yourself and communicate with people from different walks of life.

“That helps us identify the bigger picture, and knowing the bigger picture helps us find the small puzzles that will lead us to the bigger picture,” she said.

Meek said, “The definition of successful is different to everyone.”

Being able to find their own meaning of success helps them in their journey.

Her advice to any new or transfer students is to “replace the ‘can’t’ and trade them for the ‘cans’” and be accountable because “there is no one to blame but yourself.”

 Meeks learned her advice from experience. She found her own definition of success in her career.

It was the day she understood that she is “just as important as everyone else.”

Being successful in college takes commitment.

Mechanical engineering freshman Mohammed Aourana said students need to be organized, have a support system of family or friends and appreciate the opportunity to attend college.

Aourana’s wife recently graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and now it’s his turn to work toward a degree, he said.

His wife takes care of their daughter while he attends classes.

“Family support makes it easier to attend classes,” he said.

His wife inspires him to do well in school. She helped him organize his classes around work and to avoid making two trips to campus the same day.

He noticed most college students are younger. New young students may not realize how lucky they are to go to college at a young age because they’re still growing and maturing, he said.

“Don’t take college for granted,” he said.

Math sophomore Christopher Elizondo advised new students to attend class everyday, arrive early for parking, to be on time and take advantage of resources.

“Don’t skip your classes,” he said.


He said students should not waste the money they spent on tuition.

When students skip class or show up late, they miss out on lectures and can miss quizzes or tests, he said.

“The more students skip class the more likely they are to fail,” he said. “Nobody holds your hand in college.”

College is a huge responsibility, he said.

“Take advantage of resources on campus, such as the math lab and the readers’ workshop,” he said.

Academic resources on campus can determine whether students pass or fail, he said. There are workshops for every subject.

“Professors give out their office hours,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to go to them for help.”

Nursing sophomore Katisha King is in a work-study program at the Tech Store, said she got advice from her dad on succeeding in college.

She said that he told her to “stay focused and Not to give up.”

King took the advice from her father to heart and made herself what she calls a “vision board” through Pinterest that consists of pictures of success to condition her mind with the attitude of not giving up.

She also meditates to stay focused.

From 6-10 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, she turns off her cell phone, computer, TV and other distractions and sets her mind for meditation.

Her advice for other students is “to take it one day at a time.”

When it comes to succeeding in college, KSYM program director James “Hot Mustard” Velten advised students to start early to keep their grades up and maintain their momentum.

“Students have to realize that they are maintaining an A. By the time finals come around, students who stay on their grades early aren’t as stressed.”

Velten, a graduate of the college’s radio-television-broadcasting program, said this advice has helped him grow into the radio personality Hot Mustard.

 “It’s always something new,” Velten said. “I started off as a student in the radio experience class. I then worked on a nighttime show, and soon we started the very first morning news show on KSYM on May 11, 2009. I’ve now been with KSYM for 10 years.”

Ana Rodriguez-Martinez, an admissions office registration specialist and music major, suggested having an organized daily schedule.

“Time management is key,” Rodriguez-Martinez said. “If I’m in a rush, I can’t shine the way that I’m supposed to. You have to take your time or it’ll take away from what it is you’re trying to get done.”

Whether you are an experienced college student or a high school graduate, the thought of a new semester can be daunting.

For Belen Cabrera-Sanchez, administrative assistant for the allied health department, “communication is key.”

Cabrera-Sanchez recommended talking with advisers and professors as often as possible and asking questions such as, “What do I need to take to fulfill the requirements of my degree? or “Do I need this book?”

Cabrera-Sanchez has found communicating with advisers at the beginning and throughout each semester has saved her time and money by not taking courses she does not need.

  She also suggested not buying textbooks until finding out if teachers are going to require them.

 Nursing sophomores Jennifer Ramirez and Pira Ly said when navigating a new semester, students should read everything available, including the syllabus and reading guide.

This will allow students to plan.

“Give yourself enough time to get the material and set realistic goals,” Ly said.

Ramirez stressed, “Learning how to study and learning what works for you will save a you a lot of time.”

They said students should take advantage of organizations and clubs that help students succeed.

Ramirez and Ly suggested joining the Texas Nursing Students Association where there are mentors to help nursing students succeed in the program.

Project Quest has helped them and students they know get money for school supplies, uniforms and even tuition.

Project Quest is a San Antonio nonprofit that offers career coaching as well as financial assistance for tuition, books, childcare, transportation and emergency assistance.

Ramirez said if students have credits that do not transfer, they could take a College-Level Examination Program test to get credits for those courses.

Ly noted that for the nursing program at this college, “they expect you to be on top of your work.”

However, Ramirez, who has a daughter with spina bifida and a grandmother with dementia at home, encourages students who may feel overwhelmed to be persistent.

 “If I can do it, anyone can do it,” she said.


Feliciano De Haro III, J. Lucio, Brian Crane, Esther Lopez Caballero, Blanca Granados, Janie Medelez, Richard Hernandez and Jackie N. Muralles contributed to this story.


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