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Caitlin Trom is an academic adviser originally from Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Editor's Note: This is part 16 in the Iowa State Daily’s “Speaking Success” series.

This week's Academic Success Center tips

My name is Sydney Wallick, and I am a Peer Coach for the Academic Success Center at Iowa State. I am a sophomore studying Kinesiology on a Pre-PA track. After a year of virtual school, studying for college exams can be a daunting task, and when it comes to students wanting to succeed on their exams, preparation is essential. However, there are many tips, tricks, and resources I can provide to help you build strong exam preparation and study habits for this year. Let’s discuss what some of those tips and resources are.  

The first task when it comes to exam preparation is to be organized. Personally, I like to grab my planner and write down all my important exam, quiz, and project dates and divide them up using color coordination. Since I am a visual learner, using a hard copy planner helps me plan out each week accordingly. This is especially helpful in noticing when I have multiple exams during the same week or if I have other important assignments or projects due during the same week as an exam. My planner helps me prioritize when I need to start studying but is also helpful in keeping me aware of important exam dates. Google calendars and other online planning resources are great tools as well.  

One of my favorite resources we utilize at the Academic Success Center is the 5-Day Study Plan. This resource helps students be more intentional when studying and helps by taking big units and breaking them into four smaller chunks. The first page of the 5-Day Study Plan gives an idea of how to prepare and review material, while the second page helps break up the studying each day and how long to study. On the first day of studying, focus on one chapter of material for roughly two hours. On the second day, study the next chapter of material for about two hours while also adding a 30-minute review of material from the first chapter. You continue this pattern for five days, gradually adding material while also reviewing. This is an effective strategy because the more a person sees something, the more likely it is to be placed into long-term memory. This resource is flexible. The time frames are just suggestions. For example, the five days can be condensed into four or expanded into six. 

One of my own personal study strategies I like to use is Intense Study Sessions. Intense Study Sessions is a four-step strategy that helps students study in roughly one-hour increments at a time while also maintaining focus. The first step is to set a goal, which should take 1-2 minutes. Here students decide what they want to accomplish in this study session. The second step is to study with focus for 30-50 minutes, and it can include organizing, creating concept maps, processing information, re-reading a chapter or two, summarizing key concepts, filling in notes, etc. The third step is to take a 10-15 minute break and reward yourself. This is the time to give your brain a break from all the hard work it just did. The last step is to review what you studied. This will help your focus and will help you maintain the information you just looked over.  

When it comes to studying and preparing for exams, not everyone does it the same way. It is important to recognize what works and what doesn’t work for you as a student. Don’t be afraid to try new strategies or techniques to help you study better, but if there are strategies that work for you, continue doing what you are doing. Review and repetition are key when you want to learn the material well. This stems from using your notes, reading your textbook and reviewing previous homework assignments as study tools. If you want to know the material well, avoid simple memorization and instead focus on understanding the concepts of the course, this will make it much easier to study when finals week arrives.

The adviser

This week's adviser is Caitlin Trom, she/her/hers, who is originally from Hoffman Estates, Ill.

How would you introduce yourself?

I am the eldest of four children in my family. We are all very close to one another, and people often think we were named after the Kardashian’s, haha. Names for reference: Caitlin, Kyle, Courtney and Chloe. My favorite things to do include spending time with my family, traveling and being outdoors. 

How many years have you worked at Iowa State?

I started working full-time at ISU in January 2020.

Why did you choose Iowa State?   

The quick answer would be because my brother decided to attend ISU to pursue a degree in both Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science, and I wanted a familiar face on campus. I was a transfer student when I arrived at ISU. I originally attended a small private religious institution for a semester and quickly realized it was not the experience I wanted for myself. My journey continues with attending a local community college for one semester, which I loved. It was at this time my brother decided to attend ISU and spoke highly of it. I decided to schedule a tour and found myself in love with the campus, the people and the growing experiences that I would embrace. Attending ISU was one of the best decisions I made for myself, and I truly hope other students find their home away from home at Iowa State University.

How would you explain your job to someone who doesn’t know what it is?

I get the unique opportunity to help guide students through their college careers. 

What is something you never thought you would do in your job?

I never thought I would get the opportunity to plan social events for the learning communities! I have a passion for organizing, planning and executing, so this was a fun surprise that I really enjoy doing as part of my job!

What is something you want people to know about your job?

I am here to help guide and provide ongoing support for students throughout their college careers. I care about the students and love being a resource for them. 

What is something you want your advisees to know about your job?

I do not have an engineering education; however, I am no stranger to this esteemed field of study. My three siblings are engineers (Aer E and M E), which allowed for me to see first-hand what is required to achieve success. I am here to be a cheerleader as well as a listener when you need me to be. I want the best for you, whether that is in this department, college, or institution. 

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love getting to know all the students at ISU I advise and work with! Hearing people talk about what they are passionate about brings me joy. 

What advice do you have for students?

My advice for students is to pursue what they enjoy. I moved around in pursuing what I wanted as my major during my undergraduate career. Fortunately, I found a great fit with my strengths and interests right here at ISU! As an advisor, I want this joy for everyone, as life is too short to be unhappy. 

Caitlins dog Bill.jpg

"I also have a dog named Bill! He is a mini Schnoodle and thinks he is a large dog yet he really tips the scales at a whopping 11 pounds."

Do you have any pets or a favorite animal?

My favorite animal is a giraffe; I could watch them all day. I also have a dog named Bill! He is a mini Schnoodle and thinks he is a large dog, yet he really tips the scales at a whopping 11 pounds.

Favorite place to eat, hang out, or work beyond campus?

I welcomed my dog Bill into my life in March, and since then, Ada Hayden has been a favorite place for us to hang out. I love looking at the water and walking on the nice paths.

First word that comes to mind to describe yourself? Explain?

Listener. I love to listen to other's stories and experiences. Growing up in a six-person household, I quickly learned I enjoy listening and learning from others. My siblings and I are similar in many ways yet unique in other ways. I have always enjoyed seeing what makes each person special in who they are.

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