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Matador Tips

Don't you wish you had an inside person to help you navigate every new situation? Some students are fortunate enough to have designated mentors in siblings or parents who have attended CSUN. But for those forging a path of their own, we bring you Matador Tips, a series of articles in which we share some secrets of success from current and former CSUN students.

Get Tech Smart  

To avoid some major headaches, try these tips. 

Email that won’t download, research files that have been corrupted or a tablet that won’t hold a charge? As a student, you’ve probably had your share of these types of technological problems. Four California State University, Northridge seniors share their best suggestions for preventing and alleviating technical catastrophes.

1. Back it up!

Even if you have a brand-new, top-of-the-line computer or device, if you don’t back up your data, you risk losing it in a number of worst-case scenarios, including ransomware, a hard-drive malfunction, software bug or disastrous drops and spills.

“Just recently my hard drive went out, and I lost some programs that I really enjoyed,” says Mario Cordova, a computer science major and student assistant for CSUN Information Technology (IT).

Options for backing up your data include using an external hard drive or an internet service such as CrashPlan, BackBlaze, Carbonite or MozyHome. Additionally, a cloud storage service such as myCSUNbox (available for free to CSUN students) is a more affordable option that performs essentially the same function. Cordova recommends starting with the data you care about most, including documents, photos and music.

2. Go big.

Do you spend long hours staring at a computer screen? Business administration major and META+LAB team member Ekene M. Akpati says you can make it easier on your eyes by using Google Chromecast to cast your computer’s desktop view to a larger screen, such as the monitors in the Delmar T. Oviatt Library computer labs.

“Casting via Chrome is actually fairly simple. All you need is Chrome installed on your Mac or PC,” Ekene says.

Open your Chrome browser, he instructs. Then select the vertical three dots in the top right section of the window. Scroll down to Cast (under Print). If there is a larger screen open for casting it will pop up in a list in a smaller window. Choose the screen you wish to cast to, and select Cast.

Keep in mind, he says, both devices must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

3. Google it.

 Is water wet and the sky blue? Joking aside, if you’ve got a tech question Google will very likely have the right answer. 

“Google is your best friend for tech issues,” says Brian Canedo, a computer science major and META+LAB team member.

In addition to typing your issue directly into the search bar to find related discussion threads, if your computer gives you an error code, you can try searching that too.

4. Get smart about requesting tech support.

CSUN IT offers full-service tech support, but to get the proper service and answers you’ll need to make sure your request is accurate and complete. When filling out the request page, describe the issue as specifically as possible and submit photos or screen capture the problem, Ekene suggests.

“Also, for the Impact tab, be as honest as possible,” Ekene says. “If the problem is not pressing, make sure to select either the medium or low level of impact. Choosing the high impact level for a problem that is not really in that category decreases the support team’s productivity.”

5. Remember, CSUN can help.

As a Matador, there are lots of free technology resources available to you that go well beyond tech support.

“Take advantage of all of that CSUN offers,” says Filiberto Reyes, a computer science major and META+LAB team member.

With offerings including training (in-person and online via, free software and technology discounts — and these tips — you'll be well on your way to technological and academic success.  

Steal the Show at Your Internship 

With these suggestions, you can make a lasting impression. 

Congratulations! You’ve landed that prized internship! Now that you’ve made it past the application process, it’s time to get serious about optimizing this opportunity. Here’s some of the best advice from other Matadors who have been there.

1. Arrive on time. Always.

As an intern, your schedule may be somewhat flexible, but make it a habit to arrive at your work site on time, or even a few minutes early. “It shows your supervisor and the other staff members that you actually want to be there, you are responsible and you are someone that they can count on,” says senior cinema and television arts major Joshua A. Escobar, who was a fall 2016 intern at Fox Sports. Be sure, also, to clarify the work hour policy in the event that you’ll be late or absent due to an emergency. If that is not part of your initial training or orientation, ask who you should contact and how.

2. Set goals.

What do you want to get out of your internship experience? By setting some objectives upfront you’ll have a better sense of how things are going, and you’ll help your supervisor determine which tasks you should handle, beyond coffee and errand runs. “Speak to your boss to find out what is expected of you and what needs to be accomplished, but also set personal goals and establish what you wish to learn,” Pamela Zamarripa, a senior sociology major, says. “This will help you stay focused and motivated.” When she interned in the CSUN Student Marketing & Communications office during her junior year, Pamela says she regularly discussed deadlines and what she wished to accomplish with her supervisors.

3. Make connections.

Don’t be shy! Make an effort to get to know your supervisor and other office staff. “Ask your supervisor if you can eat lunch together or go out for coffee,” Lisa Ramirez says. “I would often have lunch with my supervisor, and other staff. This was my opportunity to ask them questions about their own academic and career paths. I found that we had similar interests and we would even talk about our weekends!” Lisa is a senior history major and intern at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Her one caveat about getting to know others on the job: Keep it professional. Be careful not to get too personal or inappropriate.

4. Always give it your all.

Internships aren’t always glamorous, and yes, you might find that you’re asked to do the occasional menial task, such as making copies. Don’t let that discourage you. “Maintain a positive attitude,” Pamela says. “Giving up will only be an obstacle to you and your work.” You might even use these occasions as opportunities to stand out. For example, in the copy-making scenario, you might take initiative by asking if your supervisor would like you to also distribute the documents once they have been copied.

5. Operate in a learning mode.

“The point of an internship is to learn,” Lisa says. That means asking questions and staying open to constructive criticism. “One of my projects was very much a learning process through my supervisor’s edits and help,” she adds. “Without this collaborative working style, I don’t think I would have learned as much as I have.”

Advance Your Education With an Internship 

Internships can provide valuable experience once you know how to get your foot in the door.

Julius Caesar once said, “Experience is the teacher of all things.”

As a college student, one of the best ways you can gain experience is through internships. Internships can provide an introduction to your field of interest and important opportunities to meet professionals in your industry. If you’re ready to consider an internship, here are four tips from a group of California State University, Northridge students who have been successful.

1. Stay open-minded.

Internships are a great way to learn about what you’re interested in, and what you’re not. Don’t limit yourself by only considering certain opportunities. 

“I originally wanted an internship at the Autry Museum of the American West, but unfortunately that internship ended up not working out,” senior history major Lisa Ramirez says. “I ended up loving my internship experience at the Skirball Cultural Center, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lisa is also administrative and pathways program assistant in the Career Center.

2. Look for opportunities where the goals of the position align with your career aspirations.

 The internship you accept should allow you to build on your skills and strengths, while also contributing toward the success of the operation.

“While interning at the Valley Performing Arts Center in the marketing department, I was able to align my goals, to enhance my communication and marketing skills, with those of the organization, to expand its outreach in the local community,” says Yvonne Zimmerman, a junior journalism major with an emphasis in public relations. 

 She also works in the Career Center as the employer relations and career readiness assistant. 

3. Get prepared!

When you’re applying for internships, it’s important to treat each opportunity as though it were a full-time, professional position. This means doing your research on the organization, and tailoring your resume and cover letter to fit the internship position description.

“Read the company’s mission or vision statement, see what types of projects they’re working on, and read news articles,” Karla Montenegro says. “Dress professionally, and when [you’re in an interview] make sure you can answer questions with examples.”

A graduate student working toward a master’s in counseling (college counseling and student services), Karla has completed internships with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She’s currently a graduate assistant in Student Marketing & Communications.

4. Utilize campus resources.

To find internship opportunities, talk to your professors and advisors, and visit CSUN’s Career Center and CareerLink. Karla suggests also taking advantage of networking opportunities through the Matador Network or any of the student clubs and organizations that you’re involved with.

Get Smart About Financial Management

Try these tips, and learn to manage your money now for big savings in the future.

As a college student, one of the best things that you can do for your future ­— aside from staying on top of your coursework — is to develop good monetary habits. Here are some of the best lessons — learned from four Matadors who understand how important it is to spend and save wisely.

 1. Learn to budget.

It may sound time-consuming and stressful, but with today’s technology, you can easily start budgeting. Try using one of the many free programs or mobile apps, such as Mint.

“[Budgeting] allowed me to learn where my money was actually being spent, and how I could reduce spending in certain areas,” senior political science major Brenda Amboy says. “I use it to separate needs from wants when trying to manage my paycheck every month.”

2. Save! Save! Save!

Always be sure to save a certain percentage of your paycheck.

“No matter how small it may be, it will add up as time goes by,” says Irma Campos, a senior accounting major.

It was her dad who first encouraged Irma to save. Financial experts recommend establishing a savings cushion with enough money to cover six months of expenses. This will ensure that you’re prepared in case of an emergency.

If you’re finding it hard to save even a few dollars a month, look for small ways to reduce expenses.

“I like to bring my own lunch so I don't spend money,” Irma says. “That helps me a lot financially because I can use that [saved] money to buy something I need.”

 3. Avoid paying full price.

Shop around and take advantage of sales, promotions and coupons. Web browser extensions and apps such as Honey and Ibotta can also make it easier to find the best prices and savings. When it comes to textbooks, you might consider renting or opting for a used or digital copy to save money.

 4. Apply for scholarships.

“I always though my story wouldn't be good enough, so I never applied for scholarships,” says Christel Bowen, a peer financial mentor. “However, after hearing about the personal experience of another mentor, as well as the Financial Aid & Scholarship Department, I took the plunge and have been working on applying for scholarships.”

5. Learn to eat for less.

You can save big buy planning ahead and buying in bulk.

“For example, using chicken, carrots, bell peppers and onions you can make chicken fajitas, chicken soup, and chicken stir-fry with minimal additional ingredients from a shelf-stable pantry,” says Christel, who is also a family and consumer sciences major studying nutrition.

Also, be sure to check unit pricing for any food items.  

“Usually stores provide this figure for you on the corner of the pricing tag, if not, it’s is easy to calculate,” she adds. Divide the total price of the item by the total quantity in the container. For example, if 10 pounds of product X costs $10, the unit price per pound would be $1.

 6. Utilize campus resources.

“It can be easy to look past help, advice or even scholarships here at CSUN, but it’s definitely worth it,” says senior cinema and television arts major Alex Beltran.

Consider signing up for a basic personal finance class, and utilizing CSUN’s Financial Literacy Program and peer finance mentors. Started in spring 2016 through a Campus Quality Fee grant by Prof. Yi Cai, Ph.D., acting chair in the department of Family and Consumer Sciences, the peer financial mentoring program hosts weekly financial workshops, one-on-one mentoring, and special educational events.

Learn to Bounce Back From a Bad Grade

By managing your mistakes, you can stay on the road to academic success.

How did you react the last time you received a grade that you weren’t happy with? Whether it’s a B or an F, receiving a disappointing mark is never easy, but it’s no reason to give up. With this advice from other California State University, Northridge students, you can bounce back.

 1.  Remember that it’s not just you. 

There are nearly 40,000 students at CSUN, and it’s a sure bet that you’re not the only one who has encountered a challenge. 

“There has to be more than just you struggling,” says Adriana Covarrubias, a child and adolescent development major and Project DATE peer educator. “It doesn’t mean you fail at life. It just means there was a bump in the road.”

2. Practice positive self-talk.

You are more than one bad grade. Instead of berating yourself, it’s important to stay confident. Try repeating a positive mantra or affirmation such as, “With time and effort I can achieve.”

“It sucks to receive a bad grade, but use that feeling to motivate yourself to do more or change your strategy to get a grade you feel you deserve,” says Adrianna "Scooter" Bennett, a second-year academic mentor in Student Housing, currently preparing to apply to graduate school.

The child and adolescent development major has overcome her own struggles with math.  

“I had to remind myself that a bad grade doesn't sum up my entire worth as a student or person,” she says.

3.  Make a plan.

The best way to overcome a bad grade is to develop a strategy to avoid repeating your mistakes. That could mean evaluating whether you’re spending enough time on studying and coursework, or seeking out extra help.  

Campus resources include the Learning Resource Center, Science, Math and Related topics (SMART) Lab, Developmental Math (for Math 92 and Math 93), David Nazarian College of Business and Economics Student Services Center and EOP Satellite, College of Engineering and Computer Science workshops, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences tutoring, College of Science and Mathematics tutoring, and online language resources.

“I would also look ahead in my academic curriculum to see which other courses are similar to the one I got a bad grade in, so I can try not to take similar courses together,” says Karla Montenegro, a graduate student working toward a master’s in counseling (college counseling and student services).

4. Find relevance in what you're studying.

You’ll be a lot more interested in your schoolwork, and it will be a lot easier to maintain grades that you’re proud of, if you can connect your subject matter to something that you’re passionate about. For example, if you’re a biology major taking a history course and your assignment is to write a paper about the American Civil War, you might choose to write about the environmental impact of the conflict. 

“It’s hard to stay motivated in something that you feel is irrelevant to you,” says Rosa Tsay Jacobs, also a graduate student working toward a master’s in counseling (college counseling and student services).

“I was a lot more invested when I found my motivation for learning,” she adds.

5. Find a source of inspiration.

We all need something to keep us going, says Nathan Del Rosario, a microbiology major who expects to graduate this spring. Your motivation might be a loved one, a career goal or simply making the dean’s list.  Whatever it is, keep it in mind as a way to stay strong the next time your schoolwork gets tough. 

Keep Calm to Stay on Track

Try these tips the next time stress threatens to derail your well-being.

Do you regularly experience sleep problems, anxiety, fatigue, irritability or an upset stomach? Research shows that stress can cause these symptoms and more, and college students are particularly at risk. According to the American College Health Association’s 2015 National College Health Assessment, more than 85 percent of respondents reported feeling overwhelmed at some point in the past year. Additionally, 30 percent said that stress had negatively affected their academic performance.

To help you cope, here are six suggestions from three California State University, Northridge group exercise instructors, all students of the College of Health and Human Development Department of Kinesiology.

1. Shake it off.

Literally. Exercise is a proven strategy for keeping your stress levels in check.

“Sitting in class or at work all day can take its toll on your body,” says Daniela Caesar-Roden, who teaches yoga and Pilates. “Get moving for at least 30 minutes every day to clear your mind and energize your body.”

2. Talk it out.

“Whether it’s a friend, family member or even a professor, having someone you can talk to is essential,” says Tiffany A. Davis, an aspiring professional dancer who teaches Zumba. “Keeping your stress bottled up inside can make things a lot worse.”

CSUN’s University Counseling Services is another resource if you want a professional ear.

3. Get enough rest.

Exhaustion is a bona fide trigger for stress.

“Sleep allows the body to repair itself, feel more energized and better cope with stress,” says Alana Puerto, a Zumba instructor who also serves as a Matadors 4 Wellness peer health educator. “I try to have a relaxing bedtime routine, whether that’s reading a book or listening to soft music.”

4. Eat right.

“A balanced diet will help your body feel good from the inside out,” says Alana.

To make it easier to choose healthy options, try planning ahead.

“Prepare your meals for the week ahead on Sundays so you don’t have to stress over what to eat,” says Daniela.

Also, remember that some foods — particularly items with caffeine or sugar (such as coffee or candy) — can act as stimulants, which worsen stress.

5. Make time for you!

We all need some quality “me time.”

“Wake up early or set aside a couple hours on the weekend dedicated entirely to you,” says Daniela.

For an on-campus escape try the Oasis Wellness Center, offering both indoor and outdoor spaces for rest, relaxation and quiet contemplation, as well as wellness-focused services including massage, small-group yoga sessions, acupuncture and peer nutrition counseling.

6. Find what works for you.

Stress relief is not one-size-fits-all.

“Everyone is different; what works for another person may not work for you,” says Alana.

Meditation, aromatherapy, listening to music and journaling are also recognized techniques for handling stress.

A Few Words on Writing

Improve your writing, and your grades, with these tips.

“Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” — Gene Fowler, American journalist, author and dramatist.

Many students can relate to that sentiment, but there’s no need to panic the next time you have a paper due. Consider these writing tips from four California State University, Northridge University Writing Center student employees.

1.  Read your paper aloud.

It sounds silly, but simply reading your work aloud is a great way to catch mistakes. 

“Don’t rush through your reading either,” says junior sociology major Kimberly Newton, a student-athlete and University Writing Center tutor. “Pause at all commas, and stop after the periods. You took time writing; the slower you read, the more mistakes you will catch.”

2.  Use prompts to stay on topic.

Maintaining a clear focus on your main ideas will help you to stay on topic. Try using flash cards.

“Writing your thesis statement on a flash card helps keep you on track,” says Zuleima Ugalde, a graduate student working towards her master’s in English (literature). “As you’re writing, you can make sure that each paragraph directly relates to your thesis statement.”

Zuleima is also a supplemental instruction leader for freshman composition through the University Writing Center. Kimberly applies the same strategy throughout her document, writing a main idea directly above each paragraph.

3.  Ask your peer reviewers questions that check if they understand your paper, not questions about whether they like it.

“For example, when I ask others to read my introduction, I don’t ask them, ‘How is my introduction?’” Zuleima says. “I ask, ‘After reading this introduction, can you guess the points I write about in my essay?’ This usually helps avoid the bias that comes from asking your friends and family members to review your paper.”

4.  Save each revised draft as new document file; do not write over your previous draft.

Good revisions will generally look very different from your first draft, so it’s smart to save each subsequent draft separately. 

“Revision is not just correcting grammar mistakes. It’s rethinking your work and making appropriately bold changes,” Zuleima says. “Revising in a separate, identical file will allow you to track and compare your changes. A new document file also gives you the security of knowing that any change you make is not completely lost.”  

5.  Stay organized with outlines.

Organization is essential because good writing needs a logical structure and framework. 

“I organize my essays in outlines, mapping out the body paragraphs, topic sentences and quotes,” says Alyssa Dominguez, a student in the English graduate (creative writing) program and a University Writing Center supplemental instructor.

“This allows for everything to be clearly put together in the end.”

6.  Follow your interests.

Bottom line: If you don’t care about your subject matter, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to convince your reader to care about it either.

“When you care about what you are writing, the process becomes an exploration of your intellectual passions rather than a rote recounting of facts,” says English major Katie Mitchell-Askar, also a University Writing Center tutor. “Even if the assignment does not seem particularly stimulating at first glance, if you allow yourself to be guided by what interests you, the reader will also find your writing interesting.”

 Need more help with your writing? Visit the University Writing Center.

Learn to Love the Library

The Delmar T. Oviatt Library is one of the most valuable resources on campus if you know how to use it.

Does starting that research paper induce a full-blown case of bibliophobia? Your fear may be justified. Spanning 234,712 square feet, with a collection containing 2.1 million volumes of books and bound periodical volumes, the Delmar T. Oviatt Library at California State University, Northridge can be overwhelming.

 However, with a little know-how, you can fight the anxiety. The library staff includes more than 130 student employees. Here, three of them share their best tips for maximizing your research experience.

1. Understand how to use Boolean operators. 

Boolean operators — AND, OR and NOT — can be used on the library’s OneSearch catalog and database search tool to link your keywords and refine your information exploration to more quickly and easily find what you’re looking for.

“For example, if I am looking for research on exposure to asbestos and the prevalence of respiratory disease in automotive workers, then I might go onto OneSearch and, in quotations, type ‘prevalence of asbestos’ AND (in all caps) ‘automotive workers,’” says Jonathan Watts, a graduate student pursuing a career in epidemiology and occupational health. 

“Phrasing my search this way helps the search engine distinguish that I am interested in articles containing these two quoted items as separate phrases,” he adds.

2. Think beyond the books.

Oviatt Library offers more than just books and reference items. The material you need could be in one of several collections including Music & Media, Special Collections and Archives and Government Documents.

You might also find what you’re looking for in a digital format or on microform, and did you know about the interlibrary loan program, which gives you access to resources at 22 other California State University campuses and several other reciprocal libraries?

There’s also the ScholarWorks open access repository, a collection of digitized CSUN master’s theses. Jonathan joined the library staff in January 2016 as an assistant on the project.

I collaborate with several other student assistants and library staff,” Jonathan says. “The ultimate outcome is increased accessibility to these resources.”

Grant Coughlin, a graduate student pursuing his master’s degree in music (composition), recommends the Naxos Music Library, accessible with your CSUN user ID and password. Currently, the database features nearly two million tracks available for streaming.

“It has an app for your phone, so you can listen anywhere you want,” Grant says. “It’s just like Pandora, for the most part. 

For documentary fans, there’s also Docuseek2, featuring thousands of documentary films available for streaming.

3. Utilize group study rooms.

Team projects are part of the college experience, and there are several group workspace options at the Oviatt Library. You can reserve a group study room or collaborative worktable online with your CSUN email address.

“I’ve used the study rooms for meetings to touch base with my group mates, provide updates on our assignments, delegate tasks and create plans for moving our assignments forward,” Jonathan says.

4. Take advantage of the extras.

The Oviatt Library regularly hosts interesting speakers and displays. To find out what’s going on, check out the events and exhibitions calendar.

Other must-see opportunities are the finals week activities, including giveaways, snacks and therapy dog visits; the Creative Media Studio, outfitted for audio visual production and design; equipment rental (laptops and iPads) and printing services.

“The library also offers a valuable reference guide to help you cite your sources correctly,” Grant says.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Librarians are often thought of as stern, bookish and always ready to tell you to be quiet. Don’t let the stereotype fool you. Remember that the Oviatt Library staff is there to assist you at service desks throughout the building. There’s even a 24/7 live-chat option if you have a question outside of regular operating hours.

“I think some students get the feeling that they might feel stupid or might be a bother to the librarian,” Devon Williams, a sophomore sociology major and a library student staff member, says. “The ones that I have met are pretty nice and helpful in finding resources.”

Be Savvy About Online Classes

Did you know there are three kinds of online classes at Northridge? Learn about each type before signing up for them.

Taking an online class to save time may seem like a no-brainer.

Sophomore and music major Enrique Chavez struggles to fit rehearsals and practice among the eight classes he’s taking this semester and a campus job. Fortunately, some of his courses are online.

"Online classes personally work for me since I have a lot to schedule. I like to do classwork when I have the time," Enrique says.

On the flip side, online courses may also require that you be a more meticulous student.

"Sometimes if a class is completely online, you forget you’re taking it,” explains Sierra Hunter, a graduating senior and art major.

Since there aren’t any professors or students to remind you when a due date is looming, you have to stay on top of your work.

"You can’t even miss a deadline by one second. It’s not like a physical class, where you can slide in five minutes late and still turn in your homework," Enrique says.

Fortunately for those who need a little face time in the classroom, there are three types of online classes with varying degrees of online instruction. In addition to fully online classes, CSUN offers partial and hybrid online classes for students who want the flexibility but prefer a few in-class meetings. Before you decide to take an online class, check out the following definitions to help you decide which kind is the best fit for you.

1.  Fully online classes

Fully online classes are sometimes challenging for a new e-learner. All class sessions and exams are online; there are no campus meetings. With these types of classes, time management skills and self-discipline are key. For someone who is organized, like Enrique, they actually help him. Many professors who teach online classes post all assignments for the semester upfront. As a result, sometimes he completes homework and quizzes well before the due dates.

"It stays at the back of my mind. I think, ‘I have to do this,’ and I actually get the work done faster," he says.

2.  Campus online classes

Most campus online classes take place on the web. Face-to-face meetings may include orientation, special in-class presentations, exams or other in-class proofs of competency.

"I like that when I go into a physical class, it’s dedicated to things outside of written work, such as presentations, group activities and discussions," Enrique says.

3.  Hybrid classes

Hybrid classes take place both on campus and online. Typically, classes meet half online and half on campus.

Sierra’s schedule alternates — she only attends a lecture once every two weeks. On the weeks without meetings, she turns in homework online. She likes the regularly scheduled meetings because of the interaction with the professor. Being in a classroom allows her and the other students to ask the professor questions and receive clarification on assignments without having to communicate via email. Another major benefit to any online class is electronic materials. Some of Sierra’s professors scan materials for their students to the web. 

"A lot of the classes I’ve taken provide books online so I save money," Sierra says.

And since students take tests electronically, they receive their scores as soon as they submit them, which is another plus for her. How will you know what kind of online class you are signing up for? Do an online class search, pick the class you want and select Detail. Under the Notes section there is a description that explains whether it is fully online, campus online or hybrid. 

Consider a CLEP Exam

Want to take fewer classes? Consider a CLEP exam, which can be used to fulfill lower-division general education or major requirements.

First of all, what is CLEP? CLEP is a college-level examination program. It offers 33 types of exams, ranging from history, social science, and literature and composition to science, math, business and foreign language.

It's offered through the CollegeBoard, which administers other standardized tests, such as the SAT, ACT and advanced placement exams.

Not only does CSUN accept academic credit for CLEP exams (check with Admissions and Records to see which ones qualify), you can also take them on campus. 

"Anyone can and should take CLEP tests because they are of great benefit," says senior David Reichelt, who took the algebra CLEP exam in December 2011.

Here are three ways CLEP can help you reach your academic goals more quickly. 

1.  It saves time. 

As a troubled teen, David dropped out of high school and joined the military. After serving as an army medic, he decided to pursue a bachelor's degree at CSUN. However, he was short on some math units required for a transfer to CSUN's undergraduate theatre program in fall 2011.

"In order to transfer, I would have had to first take two semesters of rudimentary math,” he explains. “That would mean I would have had to wait a whole year to transfer."

Additionally, upon transferring, he needed another semester of college algebra at CSUN. Fortunately, David remembered that an academic advisor at Bakersfield College, a community college he attended for three years, told him about CLEP. With CLEP, he could attend CSUN immediately and bypass three semesters of math.

David signed up for CLEP, studied for three months and tested out of his math requirements. Because of CLEP, he didn't have to wait to pursue his dream. 

2.  It saves money.

Since he didn't have to take three math classes, David didn't have to spend money on tuition, fees and textbooks.

"In total, I must have saved $2,000 or more," David says.

To supplement the free study guides on the CLEP website, David also visited the Learning Resource Center and purchased practice books on He spent around $60. 

In addition to the $80 fee for the CLEP exam, which he paid on the day of the test, there was a $30 administrative fee. Thus, his entire cost for taking the CLEP exam, including study materials, totaled $170. 

3.  It's convenient.

The CSUN Testing Center, located in Bayramian Hall 180, administers the 90-minute-long CLEP exams Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Since the exams are electronic and multiple choice, scores are issued instantly (unless you request the optional essay). Essay results are usually sent in the mail within three to four weeks. There are three ways to register for a CLEP exam: by walking in at the Testing Center, by calling (818) 677-2369 or by emailing For more information, check out the Testing Center's CLEP web page.

Get Ahead by Getting Involved

California State University, Northridge has nearly 300 student clubs and organizations. If you’re not a part of something you’re missing out. 

Ask graduating seniors about their most memorable moments at California State University, Northridge, and you’re not likely to hear enthusiastic reveries on textbooks, tests and studying. It’s often the extracurricular involvement that provides the richest aspects of the college experience. Participating in clubs and activities can help you develop management skills, pursue a passion, make connections, and provide opportunities for practical career experience.

Sophomore journalism major Kenia Lopez is already taking on leadership roles in several groups, serving as director of finance for University Ambassadors, an Associated Students senator, and as a director for The University Corporation she contributes to the decision making for the corporation, which provides services and solutions that address the needs of CSUN. She’s also a member of the Delta Zeta sorority and working with Dreams to Be Heard to develop an AB 540 student center. Kenia, who came to Southern California from Mexico at age 11 with her mother, received CSUN’s Dreamers Scholarship for undocumented undergraduate students as a freshman. Determined to make the most of her time at CSUN, Kenia offers tips for other students looking to live the Matador life to the fullest by getting involved.

1. Look for activities and organizations that support your passions.

If you’re not sure what you might like to be a part of, the Matador Involvement Center is a good place to start. Consider joining a club or organization that is related to your major, suggests Kenia, who was a member of Radio Television Digital News Association last year. Professional groups are a great way to connect with other students in your classes and find out about potential internship and job opportunities.

2. Take advantage of opportunities to network.

Club activities are the perfect way to get to know other students, faculty, staff and even professionals in your chosen field. Kenia attended Freshman Convocation last year, and watched President Harrison present the Dianne F. Harrison Leadership Award. Afterward, she went and introduced herself to the recipient, and by being bold she was able to learn about the opportunity and what she needed to do to qualify as an award candidate. It paid off, and at the 2015 Freshman Convocation Kenia herself received the honor.

3. Learn to lead.

While your classwork and professors are providing important knowledge and understanding, taking an active role in a student group is an opportunity to learn valuable leadership and management skills.

“Taking on leadership positions and getting involved will definitely teach you about yourself,” Kenia says.

Those leadership roles can also be an important addition to your resume, but don’t jump into a commitment too quickly. Find out exactly what’s entailed, and consider whether you have the required time and skillset. Ask also about the financial commitment, and exactly what the responsibilities are. Additionally, you’ll want to think about your relationships with anyone you’ll be working with closely.

 “Don’t take on a task just for the title,” says Kenia. “It can affect the whole organization if you take on a role you don’t have a passion for.”

4. Step out of your comfort zone.

College is all about exploring new activities and taking on new challenges, so look for organizations that might encourage you to do something you never thought you could do.

“You might develop passions that you didn’t know you have,” Kenia says.

If you’re thinking about switching your major, extracurricular activities are also a great way to learn more about different career fields and opportunities. Not sure if something is for you? Most CSUN groups have websites and social media pages where you can find out more about activities and events.

Go Further by Studying Abroad

Participating in a study abroad program can be one of most academically and personally rewarding experiences of your college career, if you do it right.

Have you thought about studying abroad? More than 304,000 U.S. students studied abroad in 2013-14 (the last academic year for which statistics are available), according to the Institute of International Education, Inc.

That number is on the rise, and for good reason. Getting out of your comfort zone is an opportunity for new friendships, academic and professional advancement, and personal growth.

CSUN’s International and Exchange Student Center (located in the University Student Union) can connect you with a number of unique study abroad experiences. Here are some tips from Matadors who have participated. 

1. Start planning early.

Most students choose to study abroad during their junior or senior years, and often the biggest hurdle is not planning ahead to ensure that they can complete all required classes and still graduate on time.

“I thought about it freshman year and looked into it sophomore year,” Stephanie Alfaro, a junior kinesiology major currently studying in Guam, says.

“It's important to think about it early in your college career, because the earlier you do, the easier it is for you while you are away,” she adds.

2. Anticipate some homesickness.

Leaving home can be a little terrifying, especially if it’s your first time being away from familiar faces and surroundings.

“I was scared going somewhere so far from home,” Stephanie says. “The thought of only being able to speak to my family and friends through FaceTime and text frightened me even more.”

Erika Villalvazo, a junior communications studies major, had the same worries before she went to New York for a semester last fall.

She recommends combating homesickness by keeping busy and staying connected via technology. Additionally Erika and a close friend planned to spend the semester together in New York — another good option if you want that extra level of companionship.

 3. Travel and see as much as you can.

 If a semester abroad is for you, consider a program in a place that you’re not familiar with and wouldn’t otherwise visit.

“One of the main reasons I picked studying in Guam was to get a little sense of what it was like to get out of the city for a while,” Stephanie says. “Guam’s beautiful beaches, exotic hiking trails, extremely friendly people and amazing weather exceeded my expectations.”

Wherever you might decide to go, plan to take time to visit local cultural and historic sites, as well as other nearby destinations of interest.

Erika used her time in New York to explore Manhattan as well as destinations in New Jersey, Washington D.C., Virginia and North Carolina.

4. Do your homework.

Before you head off, take time to learn about where you’ll be going and what you’ll need in terms of travel documents. Research details, including your housing arrangements (whether you’ll be in a dorm or apartment, or with a host family), transportation, local customs and holidays, what immunizations you may want, and local weather.

“I did not expect it to be as humid,” senior journalism major Ann Er Lim says.

Ann studied in Taipei, Taiwan last year. 

5. Consider an internship. 

An internship in another city or country is a great way to gain professional experience and expand your network.

Start preparing and applying even before you go, Erika says.

If your time doesn’t allow you to do a full internship, look for opportunities for informational interviews and other types of networking. Talk to professors and look to connect with local chapters of professional groups.

6. Try to make friends.

When it comes to meeting people and navigating cultural differences, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and remember that you have something to share as well, by introducing others to your customs and sharing your experiences.

“Try not to just stay with your own group of friends,” Ann says. “Make an effort to meet people from other cultures. I still stay in contact with the friends I made abroad.”

Healthy Body, Healthy Brain

Getting good grades in college isn’t achieved by studying day and night. To be a student at the top of your game, it’s important to find a balance between life and work. 

Between classes, homework and tests, it may feel like it’s hard to fit anything else into your life.

However, think of it this way — the healthier and happier you feel, the better you’ll perform in reading, writing and testing.

Fortunately, CSUN offers a number of free to low-cost services for improving student well-being: the Klotz Student Health Center for medical check-ups, acupuncture and massages; University Counseling Services for depression, stress and anxiety management; and the Student Recreation Center for working out, group exercise and outdoor activity.

In September 2012, CSUN introduced the first issue of the online health and wellness magazine Student Health 101. Its simple recipes, tips and student testimonials are a boon for someone who may be struggling to find that right life balance.

Larisa Villa, a master’s student in counseling, says she finds the Student Health 101 articles helpful.

“I get motivated to try and be healthy," she says.

The Student Health 101 Facebook page even shares health news related to students and features an Ask the Doc tool. You can like the page to be notified of the next issue of Student Health 101.

We’ve asked Larisa and other fellow Matadors, Elisabeth Gibson and Daisy Hernandez, to share their best tips and favorite resources for achieving the good health that is so necessary to academic success.

1.  Eat well.

When you eat food that is nutritious and healthy, it’s like putting high-quality fuel in the engine of your car, points out Elisabeth, also a master’s student in counseling. Larisa notices that staying hydrated and eating more nutritious snacks gives her more energy to stay alert in class. Thus, she brings fruit and veggies with her to campus so she has something healthy to munch on instead of chips and candy. And instead of buying a soda from the campus eateries or vending machines, she opts for juice or water.

The Student Health 101 videos are Larisa’s favorite part of the magazine, especially those that demonstrate how to concoct fruit and vegetable smoothies. Since most of the recipes in Student Health 101 are simple to make and require few ingredients, they are perfect for busy college students.

2.  Make room in your schedule for exercise.

Our Matadors say that when they feel physically tired, they become unmotivated or have difficulty concentrating. Exercise not only gives you more energy, it also shoots endorphins in your brain so that you feel more confident. For fitness tips, you can tap into the many resources offered at the Student Recreation Center. Student Health 101 also offers videos on exercises you can even do at home, such as yoga.

The key is to find an activity that you enjoy — walking, biking, hiking, sports — so it doesn’t feel like a chore. In addition to giving you more energy, group sports promote self-discipline, which can also be transferred to academics, and social interaction.

“If you are physically active, you are helping your body operate better. And when you exercise socially, you feed the parts of you that crave social experience," Elisabeth says. 

3.  Take care of your emotional health.

Feeling emotionally distressed can affect your ability to complete assignments, go to class and understand what is being taught, Larisa points out. What’s a great tip for dealing with stress? Give your brain a break.

“Checking out for a little helps put things back in perspective," says Daisy, a senior biology major.

Elisabeth recommends that when you feel like there are too many things coming at you make a list of the due dates so you can address everything that you need to get done, one task at a time. And find a go-to spot for performing your most difficult mental processes.

“Your body has kinetic memory, especially when dealing with studying,” Elisabeth says. “Studying in the same place with the same atmosphere helps your body realize, ‘Hey, it is time to focus,’ and you can retain information better."

Articles in Student Health 101 on budgeting and creating the perfect environment for studying are good resources for de-stressing college life. University Counseling Services also offers a number of workshops to help you manage your emotional health.

4.  Find a mentor and build that relationship.

Whenever we embark on a new adventure, there are always adjustments that need to be made, particularly if you are living away from home for the first time. 

“I usually get stressed when I don’t understand how to do something. Asking questions and receiving guidance from others gives me clarity on what to do," Larisa says.

Our Matadors recommend that you seek out mentors by approaching older students, staff or faculty members. Having a support network not only helps you adapt more quickly—but also enriches your college experience.

Daisy, who is also minoring in religious studies, recently approached professor Jody Myers in one of her classes. By reaching out, she found a mentor to help her secure a Jewish studies department scholarship, which funded a two-week trip to Poland.

Make the Most of Your myCSUNtablet Course

Try these simple strategies for success in your myCSUNtablet course, and then adopt them for all of your classes.

Have you taken a myCSUNtablet course yet? If you’re in California State University, Northridge’s biology, journalism, liberal studies, public health, physical therapy, kinesiology, psychology, or special education program, you can look forward to the opportunity. Launched in spring 2015, the myCSUNtablet program is an initiative to improve instruction and reduce costs by incorporating tablet devices into the curriculum.

“It’s definitely changed the way that I study,” senior biology major Nicole Looper says. “It’s made it more efficient.”

Nicole has taken five tablet classes; all that are offered in the biology program. While integrating the technology took some getting used to, she believes the experience has enhanced her education, making her that much more prepared for a career as a biomedical technician. Nicole and her lab partner Emma Collosi recently shared these tips for myCSUNtablet success.

1.    Take advantage of the fact that you have an iPad.

Students who enroll in a tablet class are required to have an iPad or iPad mini running at least iOS 7 or newer (available at the CSUN Campus Store or Apple Store). Once you own it, make the most of the technology and use it for all of your classes. Ask your professors to share their Microsoft PowerPoint sides, and take notes on them just as you have learned to do in a tablet course. 

Emma, a peer learning facilitator for Biology 106, says iPads are also convenient for group work. You can quickly and easily share documents during group or class meetings by using the AirDrop feature.

Also be sure to download the CSUN app, to stay on top everything CSUN-related.

2.    Customize your learning.

Do you absorb information best visually, by listening or by physically participating? You can use iPad features such as recording and drawing tools to enhance your education by adapting it to your style of learning. Notes Plus, Ideate and MyScript Smart Note are three iPad apps that are ideal if you like to draw diagrams. Study tool apps such as Flashcards with Cram or Quizlet, and subject-specific apps, including quizzes and guides for the Periodic Table of Elements, are also available. 

“There’s so much functionality in the iPad that people forget it’s not just for writing stuff down,” Emma says. 

3.    Use a note-taking app.

The best note-taking apps generally cost around $5, and the convenience is well worth the nominal cost.

“I use Notability,” Nicole says. “It allows you to write notes on the Microsoft PowerPoint slides while recording [the lecture].”

Free options include Evernote, Microsoft OneNote and Penultimate.

4.    Be an opportunist.

With an iPad class all of your course materials are easily accessible in one device, so there’s no more excuse not to use that spare hour you have in the middle of the afternoon to study almost anywhere. Remember, CSUN uses the Wi-Fi eduroam so it is available everywhere on campus, even outside on the lawn.

“Also be sure to sync your iPad to your computer,” Emma says.

It’s relatively easy to do with either a Mac or PC, and it will ensure that you have the most up-to-date notes, calendar and files on all of your technology.

 5.    Charge it!

An iPad with no battery life is useless; so get into the habit of charging it regularly. One option on campus is the Delmar T. Oviatt Library’s Learning Commons charging lockers. You can also find freestanding charging stations in the University Student Union Sol Center, East Conference Center and Oasis Wellness Center, and in Bayramian Hall and other campus buildings.

 6.    Experiment.

“Too many students tend to remain stuck in the ways that they’re familiar with,” Emma says. 

Tablet technology is constantly evolving, so don’t be afraid to experiment and open yourself to new possibilities for enhanced learning.

AppCrawlr, an app discovery tool from Softtonic International, is one way to find out about new apps. Try using the audience search feature to find apps specifically designed for students. 

The Office Hour

Meeting with your professor can help pave the way for scholastic and career success.

First piece of advice — visit professors during office hours. This is the place to get extra instruction and undivided faculty attention outside the classroom.

"All the people who were doing well in my class were there [in office hours]. I figured it must be a good idea," says Evan Sata, a second-year computer science and engineering major.

Sounds great, right? So why doesn't everyone go?

The answer is simple. Life keeps us busy. Between work and the normal class load, many of us may feel we don't have the time to squeeze in a meeting with a professor.

But the fact of the matter is you're attending a great university with educators who are the best in their field. To not mine their brains for knowledge is to miss out on a significant campus resource. Building these academic relationships over time can prove invaluable even after college when you are considering graduate school or prospective careers.

Professors, however, are busy folks. So it's important to strategize in order to make the most of your visit. Here are some tips:

1.   Show up early.

In the classroom, a professor may see you as one in a sea of faces. But if you're the first student standing outside a professor's office door, you'll have a much better chance of making an impression. Donna Watts, a senior film major, shows up half an hour early for professors' office hours so that she can be the first one in line.

2.   Come prepared.

Have an agenda before you show up. Jot down thoughts beforehand or prepare a list of questions. This may help you feel less nervous approaching a professor for the first time.

"[Since] I'm there [at office hours] for a reason, I don't feel uncomfortable, "says Jason Sobel, a senior psychology major.

3.   Give a heads up.

Send your professor an email, or drop him or her a line before or after class. Office hours can get busy, especially during the final weeks of the semester.

"Most professors are open to making appointments," Evan says.

4.   Size up the individual.

Take into consideration that each professor has varying comfort levels and requires a different approach. While you should try to be assertive, avoid sounding aggressive. And be open to suggestions. While discussing upcoming projects with his professors, Jason says he likes to "show that it's a collaborative effort. I'll ask them how they would [approach an assignment]."

5.   Visit more than once a semester.

Like everyone else, professors take a while to warm up to people. But once they see you've taken a real interest in their course, they will likely be flattered. You don't even need a homework excuse to go in and chat. You can always stop by after a riveting lecture and expound on ideas brought up in the class.

6.   Time it right.

Don't wait until the final weeks of a term to meet with a professor. Not only will you be competing with other students, you probably won't get the desired amount of face time.

7.   Don't be deterred by a crowd.

Even though the wait to see a professor usually operates on a first-come, first-served basis, don't be afraid to negotiate with other students if you're in a hurry. Since you're prepared, you might only need a few minutes to get your point across.

8.   Ask career advice.

If you're interested in pursuing a job in your field of study, you can always ask your professors to share their insights. As an aspiring screenwriter, Donna consults her professors on the realities of the job, such as how to juggle family and career. And after you've built up a relationship, a professor will be more inclined to write you a letter of recommendation when you ask.

Practice Long-Term Class Planning

Thinking ahead about your future class schedules can help you reach academic goals faster and graduate on time.

As a generation obsessed with the present, it may be hard for us to think about the future.

With smartphones in hand 24/7, we've become accustomed to instant gratification. We have all sorts of apps at our disposal to answer questions — where is my favorite food truck parked today? What song is playing right now? — as soon as we ask them. So it may be hard to stop and think: How does this all fit in with the big picture? We might feel the same way about our class schedules. Between taking tests and writing papers, the last thing we want to worry about is next semester. When it comes to registering for classes, however, thinking ahead can help you take control of your education. So what's our tip? Practice long-term class planning.

Matadors Moranda Glasper, Eugene Ringpis and Jethro Leynes say it's worth the effort. Here's some advice on how to effectively plan your schedule as far as one year in advance.

1.  Use a planning tool.

You can find a degree planning tool such as My Plan to Graduate for your specific field of study in your portal on the Academics tab. The degree planning tools list prerequisites and courses you need to graduate. Most academic departments on campus also have their own worksheets to help you plan out classes for your major.

The Degree Progress Report/Planner and University Catalog, also on the Academics tab of your portal, will help you populate the academic planning tool of your choice with the classes you need to graduate. 

2.  Get an academic advisor. 

Check in with an academic advisor to stay on track. When communications major and graduating senior Moranda decided to schedule all her senior-year classes, she visited her counselor just to be safe.

It was smart move. Upon reviewing Moranda's course load, her advisor noticed she was missing two key requirements. Since she discovered this early, Moranda was able to complete those credits in the winter session before the spring semester of her senior year began. Because she planned ahead and got an academic checkup, she managed to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

3.  Register for classes in the same series.

For some majors such as biochemistry, two-part class series, such as general, organic and analytical chemistry, need to be completed before moving on to upper-division courses. Therefore, according to Eugene, it's a good idea to take the entire series in sequence over the course of the same school year. He learned the hard way when he missed an opportunity to take his second analytical chemistry classes in his first year as a transfer student. Now that he's graduating, he has to scramble to fit this 300-level prerequisite in his last two semesters. 

4.  Make a backup list.

Working out your class schedule ahead of time isn't difficult, but, if you miss your registration date or the class you want is full, you may have to go to plan B. That's why it's a good idea to anticipate changes and put together a backup list in advance. Jethro, a graphic design major in his junior year, makes two wish lists. He has a priority one of the classes he needs to take right away, whether they are prerequisites or courses that help build his portfolio, and a backup of electives and optional courses. If he isn't able to register for everything on his priority and backup lists, he uses them to plan out next year's schedule.

5.  Keep a file.

Whether you practice planning for the future or not, it's always a good idea to keep a file of your old schedules. Or, print out a copy of your unofficial transcript for each semester.

Knowing which classes you've already taken will ensure that you don't accidentally register for the same kind of class twice. Also, this may help you keep track of how many credits you have left until you're eligible to graduate.

Prep in Advance for Finals

Hearing the word "finals" may make us sweat. But a little advanced prep will dramatically reduce the stress of studying up until the final hour. 

Most of us are all too familiar with the last week of the semester when we take our final exams.

During this time, all over campus, students tote around piles of flash cards, books and papers. They disappear into the study rooms at the Delmar T. Oviatt Library. The library becomes a shelter for those looking for peace and concentration.

Finals certainly can be stressful. But it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Junior journalism major Jasmine Terzian admits that she procrastinates and pulls all-nighters every now and then. But she's had to learn some good habits over time.

"For most classes I've taken, I'm usually so prepared by the time the finals come around that I have nothing more to do but review," she explains. 

Here are five tips from Jasmine and another fellow Matador Jobin Kaur to help you survive finals.

1.   Come up with a study plan at least two to three weeks in advance.

Use this time to organize what you need in order to study for your finals. Review class notes, midterms and quizzes and bookmark topics, questions and formulas. Double-check to make sure you have the correct answers and solutions. You may even want to rewrite messy notes. All of these steps will make it easier for you to study later as the date of your finals come closer. The more time you give yourself to do these things, the less hectic your study plan will be in the final weeks of the semester. For this reason, Jasmine regularly checks her answers and notes as soon as the day after the lecture, quiz or assignment deadline.

2.   Attend final review days.

Another way to prep for a final exam is to make sure to attend any final review days a professor might schedule. This can be a valuable time for getting information you might have missed otherwise in class. 

"What I try to do is prepare some questions I have before that review session so I can ask them then," Jasmine says.

She recommends bringing up broader questions, such theories or term definitions, during group study sessions. But for specifics or if you are confused about something the professor said, take the time to go to office hours so you can get a one-on-one explanation.

3.   Identify your studying technique.

Each person is different when it comes to finding the right way to study. Some of us find study groups to be effective while others prefer to study alone.  However, keep in mind that it also may be helpful to compare notes with a fellow classmate to get information you might have overlooked. To find the best technique that helps you effectively study might take some time so try different approaches a few weeks before finals.

"I try to study alone because I'm easily distracted. But it's helpful to have a study buddy if he or she keeps me focused," Jasmine says. 

4.   Give yourself a break and de-stress.

Stepping away from your work and coming back to it can help you focus by clearing your mind of clutter. 

"Take breaks — watch a short TV show or read a novel or magazine — and refresh your mind for just a bit," says Jobin Kaur, a junior engineering major. "Giving yourself little rewards in between studying can help get you through the long sessions." 

Jobin tends to spend a couple of minutes on something unrelated to studying such as taking a quick nap or painting her nails, so that she is able to return to studying in a more focused state.

 “But give yourself a definite amount of time for your break," she warns.

5.   Take advantage of CSUN’s extended hours and perks during finals week. 

During finals week CSUN offers the following special services to students. 

“I usually go to the tutoring labs in Jacaranda Hall and the private study areas in the library since it’s open late during finals," Jobin says.

The University Student Union organizes a week-long event designed to help students get through finals by providing free massages, quiet study rooms, snacks and refreshments, and study kits. Study kits are free and contain a Scantron, blue book, pen, pencil, highlighter and two pieces of candy. You can also get massages at the Klotz Student Health Center or talk to someone at University Counseling Services located in Bayramian Hall 520 if you feel overwhelmed.

6.   Get enough sleep and snack healthy.

“I can’t focus properly with just a couple hours of sleep and an empty stomach," Jobin says. “I try to get rest and eat right."

Pass on cookies and grab some fruit. Fruits can be a healthier way of getting a sugar boost without the crash. Chocolate is Jobin’s snack of choice and a great food to eat when trying to stay focused, especially dark chocolate which contains natural stimulants, such as caffeine. 

- Gretchelle Quiambao, journalism major, fall 2012

Prep for the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam

Just because the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam (UDWPE) is mandatory doesn't mean you need to be nervous. Here are some tips on how to get a good score.

What is the UDWPE? It's a graduation requirement designed to test your ability to write an essay.

Why is this important? Because it evaluates how well you can examine, apply or question ideas to form an argument. Once you enter the real world, the ability to think critically and write well is extremely important. Knowing how to effectively get your point across will allow you to pen the cover letter that will successfully hook a prospective employer or make a persuasive case for your ideas in whatever job you do.

Note that the policy for the exam has recently changed. If you don't take the UDWPE by the time you complete 75 units, a hold will be placed on your registration for the following semester.

So what's our recommendation? Take your exam as soon as you realize you're about to complete 75 units.

Current students Megan Winning, Patrick Santiago and Gretchelle Quiambao share their tips on how to score well on the UDWPE. 

1.  Two weeks before: Take a prep course.

Eight-hour or two-and-a-half-hour sessions are usually offered two weeks before the test date. Prepping really helped Gretchelle "know what to expect on the actual day of the exam and what the UDWPE graders would be looking for."

Although the junior journalism major is confident about her writing, composing a first-rate essay within the 75-minute allotted time is still a scary prospect. Taking the practice exam at the prep session trained Gretchelle how to manage her time wisely. Signing up is easy. Stop by the Learning Resource Center, Delmar T. Oviatt Library third floor, or call (818) 677-2033.

2.  The night before: browse the Internet.

Glance over sample prompts to get an idea of what to expect on the day of your exam. Former test takers' essays are posted online and so are the UDWPE graders' remarks. You can review them to see how and why some scored better than others. Doing some extracurricular reading might also help by giving you supporting material to discuss.

"The night before the exam, I brushed up on current events online in case I had to present examples to support my thesis," says Patrick, a third-year journalism student.

3.  The day of the exam: Don't waste time.

"The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to a timed test is to sit in the chair and stare at the prompt," Patrick says. 

Therefore, he advises that you don't waste time overanalyzing it.

According to Megan, "It's pretty self-explanatory." 

Her prompt was a one-page text on students who take a year off between high school and college. She was asked to identify the main points of the text and argue whether all college-bound graduates might benefit from an interim.

"They list exactly what they expect you to write about on the exam booklet," says the fourth-year cinema and television arts major and multimedia production option. “You can use that knowledge to formulate a basic outline before you start writing.”

Resolve to Start the Semester Off Right

It’s a new year and a new semester; make it your best yet!

The Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” 

With the new year — and new semester — upon us, now is the time to start developing some fresh healthy habits to help you thrive academically.

In this Matador Tip, a diverse group of your fellow Matadors shares their resolutions. Read on and get inspired to make some positive changes for yourself.

1. Keep my room clean.

“I live in an apartment and I just have too much stuff for my space,” Jared Berman says. “If my closet was 2 feet bigger all of my problems would be solved.”

 As a junior cinema and television arts major, Jared’s film equipment takes up plenty of room. He hopes that by making better use of his space in 2016 he will become more efficient and find it easier to focus on studying. His first step is clearing out his workspace by getting rid of unnecessary papers and school stuff.

 If organization is your goal this semester, you can find lots of tips and tricks online. The KonMari method is one concept that’s popular right now. Developed by Japanese organization guru Marie Kondo and outlined in her best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” the idea is essentially that you remove every object from your life that does not spark joy.

2. Stop procrastinating on schoolwork. 

“My biggest issue is getting distracted by social media and having my TV on while I’m doing schoolwork,” sophomore cinema and television arts major Dominick Argana says.

He admits that giving in to those distractions leaves him stressed and tired when he has to rush to finish something. Consequently, his work isn’t always as good as it could be.

To avoid procrastination, University Counseling Services recommends creating a schedule and breaking the task down into smaller components. You can find additional tips on this flyer.

To avoid distractions at home altogether, senior art (visual communication) major Hector Rodriguez is planning to utilize study spaces on campus more this semester. 

The Delmar T. Oviatt Library has group and individual study rooms available to reserve on a same-day basis, and there are also study areas at the University Student Union and the Sierra Center.

3. Develop better relationships with professors.

As a junior kinesiology (exercise science) major, Cassie Toraya is beginning to focus on her career. Her goal this semester is to make a better effort to connect with  professors, most importantly those who might be able to provide references and advice.

“I’m planning to take advantage of office hours more, and get to class at least 10 minutes early to have more chances for casual conversation,” she says.

4. Take group exercise classes.

Maddie Telles, a sophomore majoring in marketing and art (visual communication), says her resolution is to take the yoga and Pilates group exercise classes offered at the Student Recreation Center (SRC).

“It’s going to be my first time trying the classes,” she says. “I hope it will help me relax and just be healthier.”

In fact, research shows that, in addition to physical improvement, exercise boosts cognitive function, focus and mood. In other words, by jumpstarting your activity level you’ll benefit a lot more than just physically. If group classes aren’t for you the SRC offers lots of other options, from the climbing wall to the treadmills.

5. Get more sleep.

If you feel like you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not alone. Research indicates that college students are especially at risk for sleep issues. Most college students need somewhere around eight hours of sleep a night, but that can be tricky when you’re busy or stressed.

Freshman Hannah Supangkat, a linguistics major, says she regularly only gets about five hours a night. She plans to get more rest by cutting down on gaming time and TV in the evenings.

“I take a lot of morning classes so hopefully it will help me stay awake and concentrate better,” she says.

University Counseling Services also provides these tips for better sleep, and the Oasis Wellness Center offers power-napping sleep pods, available by in-person reservation.

Think Like a Teacher

Want to score that A+ grade? Here’s a wild idea: think like a teacher. Fellow Matadors point out how approaching your studies from an instructor’s viewpoint can make you a better student.

Upon entering college, many students struggle because they fall behind. Knowing how to catch up can keep you from getting buried.

Leila Benoun, Nina Kotelyan and Robert Ahdoot are graduate students. They have already gone through the gamut of undergraduate experiences. They are also instructors, so they have participated in the college classroom from the point of view of both student and teacher.

Leila, a linguistics master’s student with emphasis on English as a second language, works as a supplemental instructor — teaching her own classes, assisting professors and tutoring at CSUN’s Learning Resource Center. Teaching is one way she engages with her course work.

“It helps to explain what you are learning to others,” she says.

Leila, Nina and Robert are invested in the ways their peers respond to the curriculum, so they offer advice on how to achieve academic success with lessons from the instructor’s perspective.

“Teachers understand you’re responsible for your own success,” Leila says.

1. Take control of your own success.

As she points out, professors assign a workload with the expectation that students will apply themselves and succeed. Their goal is for students to learn and be able to produce results from what they have learned. Assignments are not so much a test of how well you follow directions but how well you adapt and are accountable for yourself. After all, teachers want you to run a marathon, not a sprint.

Leila’s advice: “Pace yourself. Don’t take on too much.”

For this reason, she discourages cramming. Trying to dump information into your brain all at once is unrealistic, she says, and it doesn’t give you room to learn and grow. Instead, she recommends putting knowledge at your command and making it work for you.

“It’s about constantly participating and staying engaged,” Leila says.

2. Find balance.

Contrary to what some might think, Leila explains, teachers want you to have a life outside the classroom. Balance prevents you from burning out before you reach the finish line. Teachers don’t want you to drop out of their classes due to stress. Therefore, she emphasizes work-life balance over any other habit.

“Organize your time,” she says. “Balance schoolwork and fun, and stay motivated.”

Nina, a master’s student in communication studies, teaches the class COMS 151: Introduction to Public Speaking.

She recommends using a calendar and setting up a schedule for work and play.

“For each day,” she says, “dedicate a certain number of hours to homework, meals and your job.”

And she recommends giving yourself a “me” day.

“During ‘me’ day, you’re allowed to do homework,” she says, “But only for two hours so you don’t feel like you’re falling behind. Then the rest of the time is for you to relax or to reflect.”

3. Confront your fears.

Like Nina, Robert is pursuing a master’s in communication studies. He used to be a high school teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. One thing he observed over the years was how sometimes the mere anticipation of failure can stymie a student. Robert even gave a Tedx Talk about math anxiety as an obstacle to academic success.

“When you are experiencing fear,” he explains, “higher-level brain functioning shuts down. It’s a proven biological phenomenon.”

He recommends confronting the curriculum head on. Review and familiarize yourself with the topics that make you nervous. Look at the syllabus, do the readings and ask the professor what will be covered on the tests. Start your preparations early. Ask questions when the professor is first explaining the assignment, or email or visit the professor during office hours at least a few days to a week and a half before the due date.

Lastly, conquer your anxiety through practice. Robert recommends teaching the subject material, such as in a study group.

“When you teach someone else, it irons out any problems you have with your understanding of the material,” he says.

Practice and repetition allow you to grow more confident so that you don’t take your anxiety with you on the day of the final exam.

— Patrick Pagan, communications major, spring 2014

Use Apps for Class

Fellow Matadors share their favorite free Apple and Android mobile apps for class.

As CSUN moves toward being more of a technology-friendly campus, recently adding electronic device charging lockers to the Delmar T. Oviatt Library, you are encouraged more than ever to use apps for class.

Since there are more than 1 million apps in the App Store and Google Play, finding new apps may be overwhelming. Fortunately for you, Matadors Blanca Samano, Lynda Rodriguez and Desiree Flores sifted through some of the most popular apps to find the best technology for students regardless of your major.

1. Use the CSUN app to plan your class schedule in advance.

Blanca, a Chicano and Chicana studies major, recommends using the CSUN mobile app to develop the class schedule for the upcoming semester before you register.

She uses the Enroll in Classes feature on the CSUN mobile app, which makes planning classes on the go easier. First, she signs in with her CSUN user ID and password to search for classes, look up meeting times and locations, professors, class descriptions and number of seats.

Even though you can’t register until your assigned date, she suggests adding your classes to the cart so that when the date comes, all you have to do is select Submit Cart.

She advises coming up with backups. This way if the classes you want fill up, you have alternatives.

“Planning multiple class schedules with first and second choice time slots prepares you to quickly register for the classes you need before they become full,” Blanca says.

The CSUN mobile app is available at, the App Store and Google Play. To learn more about additional features like the GPS-enabled map and paying for tuition, visit the Information Technology website.

2. Use the Microsoft Outlook app to check your CSUN email daily.

One of the main forms of communication between you and the university is through your CSUN email. CSUN sends you important reminders about missing documents, housing application deadlines, scholarship opportunities and more. Your professors also use your CSUN email to send you syllabi, required textbooks and other class materials, or notify you that class is canceled.

Lynda, a cinema and television arts major, syncs her CSUN email and other email accounts to the Microsoft Outlook app to stay up to date. You can add Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange and Office 365 email accounts to the app.

“It is a very organized app,” Lynda says. “It’s easy to find emails from specific people.”

The app is mobile-friendly: You can delete, reply and flag emails with a simple swipe to the left or right. You can also send large files through cloud-based file sharing such as Box, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive. The app also allows you to opt in to push notifications that alert you about new emails or upcoming appointments.

Microsoft Outlook is available in the App Store and Google Play.

3. Use the Sunrise app to mark important dates.

Desiree, a management major, uses the calendar app Sunrise to make sure she doesn’t miss any important dates — whether they are for classes, her co-ed business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, internships or personal activities.

As soon as she receives a syllabus for a class, which is usually by the first week of the semester, she enters important deadlines for the next five months such as quizzes, tests, projects and essays.

“I can add [dates for] my classes, syllabi and Moodle assignments [to Sunrise],” Desiree says.

Additionally, Sunrise allows you create to-do list items and reminders, and opt in to push notifications. You can also synchronize multiple calendars from social media and other apps such as Google Calendar, iCloud, Evernote, Eventbrite, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Other helpful features include weather — morning, afternoon and evening reports — and integrated directions: When you add a location to an event, the app connects to Google Maps, Apple Maps or Waze and gives driving directions.

Sunrise is available in a web version, the App Store and Google Play.

4. Use the Evernote app to take class notes. 

An effective way to retain information from a class lecture is taking good notes.

“I can use the [Evernote] app in any class I need to take notes in,” Lynda says.

Lynda likes Evernote because you can record lectures, insert images, and edit and mark up those images. You can create multiple digital notebooks for each class and save Microsoft Office and PDF files. Additionally, you can easily share notes with others via text, email, social media or the app’s work chat feature.

Evernote is available on its website, the App Store and Google Play.

5. Use the Prezi app to create a presentation.

Regardless of your major, you will most likely have to give a class presentation at some point before you graduate. Desiree uses Prezi to create presentations about strategic management for her Business 497B class.

Instead of slides, Prezi utilizes 3-D templates that allow you to zoom in and out on the screen and move from details to a bigger picture for a more dynamic presentation.

“The way Prezi allows [the user] to present information is a lot more fun as well as easier to understand,” Desiree says.

Since Prezi presentations are auto-saved, you can work with a group virtually and in real time to create a presentation. Although you can only create and edit a presentation on a desktop or tablet computer, you can sync the presentation on an Apple or Android phone to view and use to remotely control the presentation.

There are opportunities to purchase upgraded packages. But university students, faculty and staff that create a Prezi account with a CSUN email address receive free 500 megabytes and the ability to make your presentations private — two features not available for free users without a university email address.

Prezi is available on its website, the App Store and Google Play.  

Use the Reflection Guidebook

Utilize the Reflection Guidebook for Students to navigate your academic success.

Psychology major Tai Finley felt out of place when she had to take remedial math and English classes in her freshman year.

“It was just stressful and made me question what I was even doing here,” Tai says.

Ever since high school, Tai has dreamed of graduating from college and entering a career in foster care. But the remedial classes shook her academic confidence.

Tai’s situation is not unusual. Low academic confidence is one of the biggest challenges that all students face.

The Reflection Guidebook for Students, a resource offered by University Counseling Services as part of its Experience Confidence and Enjoyment in Learning (ExCEL) program, teaches you self-reflection as a tool for shaping your college experience.

One thing the guidebook points out is that academic success is only partly achieved by intelligence. The greatest obstacles are actually environmental and psychological-social.

Oftentimes your peers fail to graduate due to external factors: family, financial or health problems; lack of college preparation and unwillingness to seek help; restrictive attitudes about learning; and low academic confidence.

The guidebook teaches you strategies for overcoming these challenges. Firstly, it directs you to a thought-provoking 28-minute YouTube video featuring Mark Stevens, a clinical psychologist and the director of University Counseling Services. Then it has you answer 11 questions.

In retrospect, Tai wishes she had this guidebook when she first started out.

“Self-reflection is the biggest thing that anyone has to learn in college because your mom and your dad are not there,” Tai says. “I think this [guidebook brings] to light your strong and weak characteristics.”

Despite her initial doubts, a clear and strong sense of purpose kept her motivated all these years. Now a senior, Tai is set to graduate soon. She and fellow Matador Christian Alvizuris share tips from the guidebook that help you think critically about your college experience and ways you can take charge of your academic success.

1. Identify your goals and how to accomplish them.

Most of us start college with the same purpose: to earn a degree. Having clear goals about what you want makes planning and overcoming challenges easier. It’s also okay to be flexible and set new goals. In fact, most of us change our majors more than once during college.

For example, Christian started out as an architecture major at San Diego-based Mesa Community College. But when the economy took a turn for the worse, he adjusted.

“The recession hit pretty bad,” he explains. “A lot of [architecture] firms that I really looked up to were closing down.”

Christian switched gears by exploring other interests. During the course of fulfilling some general education requirements, he fell in love with journalism and transferred to CSUN.

Now he hopes to own a public relations firm one day. The guidebook helped him come up with tips on how to stay motivated: he plans to keep a photo of his dream job close to where he studies, read a book related to his dream career once a month, and join a CSUN club.

2. Find your true academic worth and improve it.

We all arrive to college with varying levels of academic worth. Some of us are more confident to begin with; others have feelings of shame and embarrassment.

Sometimes someone telling you that you aren’t good at something can cause you to have low academic worth. For instance, failing a statistics class was a blow to Tai’s pride.

“It really made me feel worthless,” she says.

Instead of discouraging you, you can use these negative experiences as learning tools by acknowledging the areas you need to improve in and seek help for them. Tai’s failing grade inspired her to sign up for tutoring. As a result, she was able to pass the statistics class when she took it a second time.

3. Rediscover the joy of learning.

A negative attitude can inhibit academic performance. If going to class and learning feels like a chore, your brain actually retains less information. Both Christian and Tai noticed that they enjoy the social aspect of the classroom and learned best with group activities.

“For me, to make learning more enjoyable is to do it with other people and be hands on,” Tai says. “Before you know it, your three-hour class is over already.”  

She recalls how one professor made her and her classmates move their chairs into a circle every class meeting. This different configuration changed the classroom dynamic to encourage group discussion about the subject.

Christian too shares the merits of a collaborative classroom experience.

“I like group work to gain extra feedback and opinions,” he says.

Most of the learning we do in college tends to take place on our own time. Learning shouldn’t stop in the classroom. For instance, create a study group outside the classroom to review before your midterm, final exam or essay deadline.

Whether you are an intrapersonal or interpersonal learner, you can use the guidebook to come up with doable ways to uplift your learning attitude and make learning fun.

Use the Virtual Library

Instead of physically going to the Delmar T. Oviatt Library the next time you have a research paper to write, visit its website.

The Oviatt Library is as much of a place to hang out as it is a place to study. The spacious and state-of-the-art Learning Commons features amenities such as comfortable seating, whiteboards, collaborative study tables that allow you to connect portable devices to a large-screen monitor and traditional private study rooms that you can book via the website.

However, did you know that many of the materials in the library’s physical collection can be digitally accessed? And that the library subscribes to a number of key academic publications and major domestic and international magazines and newspapers that you can search for and reference online?

And did you know the website has invaluable academic writing resources? For this reason, the Oviatt Library website is a go-to guide for fellow Matador Sarah Hernandez.

“I use the website when conducting research or citing my sources,” says the senior English major.

Since it may take some exploring before you can utilize all the benefits of the library website, Sarah highlights the three features that she most commonly uses: the Find Articles by SubjectDatabases A-Z and Cite Your Sources.

1. Find Articles by Subject

Research papers are a staple for college students. At one point in your undergraduate career, you’ll probably be expected to write one. The first time you are assigned a paper, you may feel overwhelmed. However, if you don’t know where to begin, a good place to start is Find Articles by Subject.

When Sarah had to write a seven-page paper for her children’s literature class, she first went to the Find Articles by Subject feature, located the Search by Subject section and selected the Children’s Literature link. The link pulls up a list of academic databases that offer published materials related to the topic of children’s literature, even prioritizing them as Most Useful or Also Useful. The search provides contact information for a subject specialist from the Oviatt Library’s reference desk.

In addition to looking up source materials, you can also use Find Articles by Subject to brainstorm topics. If you are struggling to come up with a good thesis, Sarah recommends browsing the databases for ideas and bookmarking interesting articles, which you can use toward a paper outline.

2. Databases A-Z

If you already know your way around some academic resources, you can go straight to Databases A-Z, which provides an alphabetized list of all the databases the Oviatt Library subscribes to along with a short description of the articles types that can be found in each database. Databases A-Z can help you easily locate specific databases that you may have used before.

For instance, since Sarah often taps JSTOR for her research papers, she can quickly access it via Databases A-Z. However, she utilizes both Find Articles by Subject and Databases A-Z because the former allows her to discover new sources.

“Since I wanted to use something other than JSTOR, I found Literature Resource Center through Find Articles by Subject,” she says.

3. Cite Your Sources

“I use the Oviatt Library’s Cite Your Sources for every single research paper,” Sarah says.

The Oviatt Library’s Cite Your Sources provides formatting tools and guidelines for common academic styles such as Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA). This resource is important to Sarah because of the fact that CSUN has a strict anti-plagiarism policy, and the style guide ensures that she’ll never accidentally take credit for another person’s work.

You can use Cite Your Sources to create and organize your works cited or bibliography pages. There are also links to websites such as Easy Bib, which automatically generate citations for you, giving you one less thing to worry about while writing your research papers.

— Melaney Christy, English major, spring 2014

Utilize Campus Technology

Fellow Matadors share their favorite campus resources that allow them to access technology without sacrificing their wallets.

You may have noticed the increased presence of technology in the classroom lately. In lieu of traditional pen and paper, many students are now taking notes on electronic devices. Others use mobile apps — such as Evernote, Explain Everything or myHomework Student Planner — to record lectures, annotate textbooks and upload assignments.

In light of such technological progress, CSUN is upping its game. Tech-savvy professors use iPads for lecture presentations. The myCSUNtablet initiative, launching fall 2013, aims to reduce the cost and increase the quality of learning materials by using iPads in select classes. The Delmar T. Oviatt Library will also allow students to check out loaner laptops and tablets in the new Learning Commons.

Keep in mind that jumping on the technology bandwagon doesn’t necessarily mean you have to shell out a lot of cash. There are a number of CSUN technological resources you can utilize at little or no cost. Fellow Matadors share some of their favorite services that are either free or paid for by the Campus Quality Fee.

1.  Print Anywhere

Instead of constantly replacing expensive ink cartridges in his printer at home, junior and environmental and occupational health major Scott Fan takes advantage of free wireless printing through the University Student Union’s PrintAnywhere service. To use it, you simply log in to the PrintAnywhere web page with your CSUN user ID and password. You are allowed up to 20 one-sided, letter-size printouts daily. 

“Being able to send my printing job from anywhere makes things so much easier for me," Scott says.

He likes to log in using his smartphone or a computer on campus. He sends the document he would like to print to one of two pick-up locations: the University Student Union or the Satellite Student Union computer labs. Once Scott sends a request, it stays in queue at the pick-up location for up to two hours, which gives him plenty of time to retrieve the printout between work and class.

Scott usually goes to the University Student Union because it is conveniently located near many of his classes. The lab has stations with a 10-minute limit that allow him to pop in, confirm his request, print and leave.

“I would definitely recommend this service because of the convenience and speed," Scott says. “It saves a lot of money and time."

2.  myCSUNsoftware

Ryan Camire is a third-year mechanical engineering transfer student. His major requires complex software, such as Computer-Aided Design, SolidWorks and MatLab, to conduct analysis and simulation, solve large systems of equations, and perform elaborate series of operations and data.

If Ryan were to invest in all the software, he would have to spend at least a few thousand dollars each year or buy student licenses with his textbooks. Considering that the average cost of his textbooks is $180, adding $300 more for an annual student software license would put a crimp on his finances. 

Instead of shelling out the cash, Ryan accesses myCSUNsoftware, a virtual software library that features basic versions of the programs he needs. The set-up is easy, and he can log in to myCSUNsoftware from any Internet-connected computer. Plus, he can save his files onto a personal web drive.

“myCSUNsoftware is really good and fast," Ryan says. “It gives 24/7 access to computer programs that are typically only kept on school lab computers. It is convenient in case I forget to work on something while the lab is open. Or, I can just work from home on an assignment that requires the software."  

Check out the myCSUNsoftware website for a list of all available programs.

3. features more than 2,000 video tutorials on computer software and other technology such as Adobe Photoshop and HTML as well as nontechnical courses on topics such as improving job interview skills and time management. The tutorials can be viewed 24/7 from any Internet-connected device.

Matadors Dina Najeeb and Teodoro Navarro use to learn new software or brush up on skills.

“It’s really convenient to watch videos on the go via a phone or a tablet," Dina says.

Because she is a computer science major, Dina has to take Javascript and C++ courses. The programming topics on help her get a leg up before entering these classes. Mechanical engineering student Teodoro has used to learn Microsoft Excel applications prior to taking Virtual Basic for Applications, a requirement for his major. 

According to Dina and Teodoro, is easy to navigate. It allows you to bookmark courses, videos or even a specific point in the video’s time code, and share your video playlists with friends via email. Another feature is the ability to post certificates of completion with potential employers on LinkedIn and other social media networks. You can find out more about features by watching the How to Use tutorials on the website. tutorials, range in length and number of videos. If you don’t want to watch all the videos, you can cherry-pick how much time to allot for each series. 

“You can watch segments, chapters or topics instead of a whole course," Dina explains. 

Teodoro points out that is especially good for those who are just starting out.

“I recommend to students who just want to get a feel for the basics," he says. “You can learn a trick or two from each course."

4.  myCSUNtablet initiative 

The myCSUNtablet initiative is a partnership between CSUN and Apple, Inc., aimed at reducing costs and increasing the quality of learning materials for students. Those who enroll in myCSUNtablet courses, currently available in select majors, will use iPads, e-books and e-learning materials in the classroom.

What are some of the perks of the initiative? Faculty who are teaching the myCSUNtablet courses plan to reduce the costs of textbooks and other teaching materials. The Matador Bookstore also offers two- to three-semester payment plans for iPads purchased by students who are enrolled in the myCSUNtablet courses. Students who receive financial aid can apply their funds toward an iPad purchase.

Second-year chemistry major Shawnita Preyer took a class taught by professor Cheryl Van Buskirk called Full Immersion Research Experience (FIRE; Biology 447L). Every student in the class used an iPad, a laptop or a Hewlett-Packard tablet. Whenever professor Van Buskirk gave PowerPoint presentations during lectures, she sent the files to her students so they could upload the slides onto their mobile devices before class. Shawnita annotated the uploaded slides using the Explain Everything mobile app. On the same app, she can take real-time notes during the lectures, record audio and insert digital memos. If she has to handwrite anything on paper, she scans it in to her iPad using a mobile photo scanner app, such as TinyScan or My Scans.

“The nice thing about taking a class catered toward the iPad or tablet is that it limits my paper consumption," Shawnita explains. “It helps me be more organized because everything is on my iPad. I can find everything I need as long as I label it correctly. My iPad goes with me everywhere. Unlike a laptop, I can just throw it in my purse."

Shawnita saves money by getting her e-books secondhand. Some of her classmates share their copies of e-books with her so she can download them to her iPad. Shawnita uploads the e-books via iTunes and reads them on her iPad using the Adobe Reader mobile app.

Converting to an electronic format entirely was difficult for Shawnita at first.

“It takes time to switch from paper to the iPad," Shawnita admits. “I am used to the tactile sensation. If I find that a section of an e-book feels too heavy to read on an iPad, I print that part out. Since I don’t print out the entire book, it doesn’t cost me that much."   

In addition to Explain Everything, Adobe Reader, Tiny Scan and My Scans, Shawnita uses the SlideShark mobile app to create PowerPoint presentations and a digital imaging app called 3D Brain to help her with assignments. For more information about the myCSUNtablet initiative, check out the website.

Visit the Learning Resource Center, Part 1

If you’re registered for a math, science, economics or accounting class and are worried you might need extra help, Science, Math and Related Topics (SMART) Lab is one of the Learning Resource Center (LRC) labs that can beef up your skills.

Located in the third floor of the Delmar T. Oviatt Library, the often bustling SMART Lab is staffed by tutors – undergraduate (mostly juniors and seniors) and graduate students – from a variety of majors. The SMART Lab offers tutors for the following subjects: accounting, biology, chemistry and economics. At any given hour, at least five tutors are available, both for group or one-on-one sessions. You are allotted an hour to spend each day on a single subject. If you feel like you need further attention, you can sign up for a supplemental instruction session through the LRC.

The tutoring helped boost her grades, says Maria Paredes, a senior biology major. But the fact that it also improved her study habits was the biggest boon. Having her tutors push her to be a better student actually created long-term benefits.

"You have to do your part as a student," she explains. "You can't just come to tutoring and expect your grades to improve."

Maria and Faisal Bensaidan, another SMART Lab regular, offer tips on how to make the most of your visits.

1.  Check the schedule and arrive early.

The SMART Lab operates on a walk-in, first-come, first-served basis only. Availability of tutors can be tricky depending on when you visit during the semester. Sometimes, you can get started with a tutor right away or you may wait for a few minutes. Each tutor teaches a different subject, and they work at different times during the week. Before dropping by, check out the schedule online or pick up a hard copy at the LRC's front desk. Ideally, arrive before the tutor you want is scheduled so that you can be first to reserve a meeting with him or her.

2.  Review the material beforehand.

If there are concepts or sections of a book or article that you'd like to discuss with the tutor, read it before coming in. Make note of specific areas you would like help with. By knowing what questions to ask, you'll get to the answer faster and save time, says Faisal, a senior microbiology major. 

3.  Bring specific formulas or equations.

If you have specific problems that you want to go over with your tutor, try solving them yourself first. Then the tutor can review your work to see how well you understand the concepts, and he or she can then quickly identify where you may need improvement. 

4.  Check out a group session.

While the SMART Lab provides one-on-one tutoring, it is offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Be open to working in a group session during your visit. In fact, working with other students on the same subject can be another way you can squeeze in some additional help into your allotted time.

5.  Be proactive and ask for tips.

After working with your tutor, be sure to ask for practice problems that you can go over on your own time. Asking a tutor for tips or advice on studying for a certain class can also help you prepare for the next quiz or test. Maria likes to work with senior biology major D'Ary Greene. 

"He taught me study habits that I was never taught before and how to make time for studying," she says. 

D'Ary advised her to begin studying all the material for an exam a week or two before so she doesn't have to cram. And in the last few days before an exam, he recommended that she focus on major concepts only.

6.  Try out different tutors to find the best fit.

Try sitting with different tutors who teach the same subject to see whose strategies work best for you.

"Every tutor is different," Maria says. "Just because D'Ary worked for me doesn't mean he's going to work for somebody else. That's why there is a variety of tutors."

 Gretchelle Quiambao, journalism major, fall 2012

Visit the Learning Resource Center, Part 2

Looking for someone to review your paper? The Learning Resource Center (LRC) should be your go-to spot for writing help.

The LRC Writing Center, located in the third floor of the Delmar T. Oviatt Library, is a great place to sit down with a writing consultant – part-time English faculty and English graduate students  who can look over your written assignments and make recommendations.

"I have met with consultants to go over the UDWPE, scholarship and internship essays, and class papers," says Andrea Evangelista, a senior and public health major who frequently takes advantage of the writing center.

There is a lab just for freshman composition classes, and workshops devoted to the Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam (UDWPE).

Paige Andrews, a junior and communications major, often comes to the writing center for help with her communications papers. She saw her grades get a boost once she began to visit.

"More people should know about the LRC and how its services are free. It can help make a difference," she says. 

Since the writing center can get busy, especially during midterm and finals week, she and Andrea offer some helpful tips on how to optimize a visit.

1.  Make an appointment. 

Walk-ins are allowed but are not guaranteed spots. Sometimes you may have to wait for a writing consultant to become available. Scheduling an appointment is easy. You can call (818) 677-2033 or stop by the front desk. If you want to meet with a particular consultant, look for his or her hours online.

2.  Arrive on time.

Being on time is crucial because appointments are only a half-hour long. The writing center also has a strict no-show policy. If you do not cancel or reschedule two hours before your appointment, or if you are more than 10 minutes late, you will be entered in the database as a no-show. Once you have two no-shows, you will not be able to make appointments for the rest of the semester and will only be allowed to see consultants as a walk-in. 

3.  Bring hard copies and reference materials.

Print out a copy of your paper before your appointment. A hard copy will make it easier for a consultant to read and make notes on your paper. Also be sure to bring the assignment prompt and any related materials, such as books or articles that you have cited. This way the consultant can get a better idea of the approach you want to take with your paper.

4. Collaborate with your writing consultant.

Meeting with a consultant is a collaborative experience, so don't expect him or her to do the work for you. Showing up for an appointment with a poorly written paper or one filled with spelling and grammatical errors will minimize the effectiveness of your session. Paige has her consultants read over her paper only after she's painstakingly gone over it first.

"They catch mistakes I've missed or help me focus on things that I may not have noticed or know how to do," she explains.

Collaborating with her consultants has not only improved her writing grades but also her critical thinking in general.

"What is unique about the Writing Center is that the consultants not only offer suggestions for your papers but they prompt you with questions to get you to those solutions yourself," Andrea says. 

5.  Become a familiar face. 

Schedule follow-up appointments.

"I usually come in well in advance of a paper's due date and go to multiple sessions periodically throughout the writing process," Andrea said. 

Don't hesitate to ask for practice essays or prompts from your consultant. 

 Gretchelle Quiambao, journalism major, fall 2012

Work Together for Group Success

Try these tips when working with groups to make a more successful and positive experience.

The American industrialist Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

Working with others to complete assignments and projects can produce amazing results; however, it can also be stressful. Problems between individuals may arise, and we sometimes have trouble finding solutions.

Here are some useful tips from fellow Matadors to make your next group project a success.

1. Meet and communicate with members properly.

Poor communication can be the biggest problem affecting the success of the group, so don’t be shy. By taking the initiative to get to know your team members you can avoid misunderstandings.

“Introduce yourself and exchange contact info,” says Luis Nunez, a junior communication studies major.

An intern at Power 106 (KPWR- FM) who aims to be an on-air radio personality, he recommends using Google Docs, Google Hangout, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. These online tools make collaboration convenient when long distances and time constrains are issues.

2. Discuss and clarify goals.

By clearly stating both individual and group goals you can prevent misjudgment and overreactions, and make it easier to avoid and resolve future conflicts.

“Establish both short-term and long-term goals,” says Katherine White, a senior mechanical engineering major and member of CSUN’s Formula SAE project.

Katherine and the Formula SAE team have spent nearly a year working closely together to meet various goals and manufacture a race car to enter in the Formula SAE competition.

For this project, an example of a long-term goal would be to design a Formula SAE-compliant vehicle using available resources. A short-term goal would be a smaller task, like designing, manufacturing, or installing a specific part like a steering rack.

 3. Get organized to avoid procrastination.

“People have a tendency to push things to the last minute,” Luis says. “Deadlines are needed so other members can tie in their part. When deadlines are established they need to be respected.”

Scott Marino, also a senior mechanical engineering major and the manager of the Formula SAE team says deadlines should be specific and realistic.  

He recommends avoiding the acronym “ASAP” because items may get overlooked or even when they get done, they might be rushed.

4. Pull your own weight and help other members.

Teamwork emphasizes working together, and your responsibility is to put in effort and deliver.

“Everyone has to pull their own weight,” Katherine says. “If you can't contribute, let the group know you can't do the task.”

You should also look to assist anyone who may need help. If other members are struggling and don’t finish all the work they are responsible for, the whole group will suffer. Talk to group members who are not contributing and offer assistance, but make sure not to complete all their work for them.

“Communicate what you are able to do,” Scott says. “Try to help their situation. You can only try to help them help the team.”

Most importantly, when dealing with a group member who is not contributing, have patience.

“Don't trash talk those who don’t contribute,” Luis says. “You don't know their situation. You can’t judge them, so don't purposely make them look bad. The work reflects them, but it doesn't define them.”

Luis says that instead of directing your energy and frustration towards the person who is not contributing, do as much as you can to make the group’s final product — and yourself — look good.

“Problem partners can be hard to handle, so try your best to have infinite patience,” Katherine says. “But sometimes you do have to confront members in a professional manner. Tell them that they are not contributing, and there are consequences [for the project].”

5. Be open and respectful.

In a group situation, all members should feel free to voice opinions. Arguments are okay, but remember that every person thinks differently.

Most importantly, learn to listen.

“Even the underdog has something to offer,” Katherine says. “It’s easy to get emotionally attached to ideas, but remember that it's okay to let go of ideas for the better of the group.”

Katherine says that this happened a lot during the Formula SAE project, but once you spend enough time with each other, you will start to open up and contribute more.  

6. Have procedures to resolve problems. 

Problems do arise, and it’s best to establish procedures upfront to resolve issues. Conflicting opinions, personalities, lifestyles and values can affect group chemistry and efficiency.

When disagreements arise, you can resolve them by a simple majority vote, but there are no strict rules. Often, solutions depend entirely on the problem.

When there’s a difference of opinion between two group members, strive to find the root cause of the disagreement. Use logic to determine a right and wrong party, or find a compromise. For the Formula SAE Project, if the problem is design or manufacturing based, the group defers to the solution that best matches their original design philosophy.

“There are things you can't expect and that's okay,” Katherine says. “Figure out why mistakes were made in order to learn from them and move on. Document the mistakes so you can reference them later, and others can learn from them as well.”