Dark Chocolate Increases Alertness and Clarity

I recently read that dark chocolate increases alertness and clarity. I was looking for suggestions and tips for better study habits when the idea of eating dark chocolate appeared.  Well, I’m not sure that I can say that falls into the category of better study habits, but it might be worth a try. It’s certainly a study I would sign up for.

This morning I ran into one of my colleagues in the tutoring center.  I asked her if her office was busy with students gearing up for finals.  She laughed and said, “Oh yes, all the students with D+’s, showing up for the first time for tutoring.”  I responded, “Are they all coming in for the miracle tutoring session?” “Yes, they want the magic wand,” she added.

A few weeks before finals, students seem to realize that there isn’t much time left to turn things around.  Tutoring centers become busier; study lounges and libraries see increased usage before exams.  Sometimes there isn’t much you can do to save a grade at this late date.  However, you shouldn’t give up.  No matter what academic situation you are in, there are some proven recommendations for doing the best you can during your final exams.  Here are my recommendations:

  1. Study in a quiet area/distraction-free area. If your library is nothing more than a dry bar, you may want to look for study carols/carrels? or rooms or seek an entirely different building. Empty classrooms can be good spots.
  2. Get rid of distractions. If your phone is a constant drain on your time and steals much of your attention, turn it off, silence it, or put it away.  Ask a trusted friend to hold on to it for a while.
  3. Study for 50 minutes to an hour at a time, with a 10-minute break in between. Your brain needs a break, but make sure 10 minutes doesn’t turn into 10 hours. Treat yourself for good study behavior.
  4. Eat healthy foods that fuel the brain and body. Junk food and sugary, caffeinated power drinks should NOT be the “go-to food”.  Think nuts, whole grains, fruits, and protein.
  5. Contrary to popular college student opinion, all-nighters are not beneficial. You need a good night sleep to study well and to perform your best on a test.  Would you stay up all night before a race or any physical competition?  Your brain is a muscle too.
  6. Exercise. If you are physically active, don’t skip the gym now.  If you aren’t, just going for a walk can help.  Physical activity helps engage the brain.
  7. Study in groups – if this isn’t a distraction. Sign up for extra tutoring sessions if they are available, or take advantage of professors’ office hours. The purpose of these appointments is for clarity on certain problems or concepts.  It is not the time to say you didn’t understand the entire semester.
  8. Review old tests and exams. Re-do incorrect problems.
  9. Re-read and re-write your notes. You took notes in class for a reason, not just to look busy.  Use them.  The act of re-writing them reinforces what you have learned. Writing it out long-hand has been proven to help with memory more than using a keyboard.
  10. As a last resort – chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but dark chocolate. It increases alertness and clarity.  (Apparently peppermint does too).

Sorry, magic wands are not for sale.

The tutors just changed their bulletin board. Good timing!
The tutors just changed their bulletin board. Good timing!

I’m Going to Tell You what is Important

So many times people say to me, “It must be so much fun to work on a college campus.”  And without hesitation, I agree.  It truly is a wonderful place.  Youth, energy, and enthusiasm are everywhere.  Positive energy is not evident on just my campus. I have found this to be true at all the various schools I have worked throughout my career.  In previous posts, I have even mentioned the energy that is almost physical when students return in September.  The vibrancy is evident around every corner – except when something bad happens.

I have been debating whether to write this post. I think of myself as a positive, “the cup is half full” kind of gal. But lately, I have had something sad on my mind. Perhaps writing it down will help me put some closure on a few things.

WARNING: This post is on the heavy side. Feel free to bail now.

In the past three years, I had been aware of the passing of four students, two of whom I knew – one of whom was in my office the day before he died. Just two weeks ago, our campus lost a young student at the age of 18.  I didn’t know her, but her passing brought up all these feelings, particularly regarding the young men I knew.

You see, I sit with students day in and day out.  I talk to them about their dreams for the future.  When you are between the age of 18 and 21, life is full of promise. That’s not to say that students don’t struggle – believe me they do, but the expectation is that they will make it.  The expectation is that life will be long and today’s struggle will only be a blip on their lifeline.

The two men I knew had struggles. The one student told me that he and his older sister, and only family (whom he lived with), had a fight, and he didn’t know where he was going to live over summer break.  Naively, I figured it would work itself out.  It didn’t, and he was gone the next day – not just for the summer – but gone for good.  I was devastated.  The second student was a ray of sunshine. His smile would light any room. He struggled a bit with a math course or two, but not so much that it would cause greater concern.  His academic record showed some semester breaks.  I assumed he was just trying to re-focus for a stronger semester.  Later, I learned he had bigger demons. This past December, purely by happenstance, I saw a posting of his passing through friends of friends on Facebook.  Again, I was crushed.  How do two seemingly healthy 20 year-olds die?  I can take an educated guess to answer that question regarding both boys, and I think I would be right.  However, that is no longer important.

The other two students I didn’t know, but their passing is nonetheless heartbreaking.  When you work with people entering the prime of their life, mortality isn’t something you think about.  To hear of an unexpected death of a college student, to me, seems all the more tragic and contradictory.  When you look at the national statistics for death, unrelated to physical illness, of people in this age range, it’s pretty high.  I often say to some of my friends, “We can relax (a bit) when our kids reach 26/27.”  Some of the leading causes of death seem to drop around that age.  My non-expert opinion is that the pre-frontal cortex or the “executive suite” of the brain is not fully formed until the mid-20’s. This area of the brain controls problem-solving, prioritizing, risk vs. reward, thinking ahead, long-term planning, and regulation of emotions.  Could these things be tied together? I don’t know. I am just me trying to make sense of some very crazy stuff.  However, regarding these four students, and others like them, the reason is no longer important.

For those of you still young and able to read this, I will tell you what is important.  The answer is YOU!!!  YOU ARE WONDERFUL (even if imperfect), and YOU ARE (what is) IMPORTANT!  Not for one second, not even for the little blip, should you ever think otherwise.  YOU MATTER!!!


To S and J, I hope you know that you are still important. Love, Mrs. D.




National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1 800-273-8255 www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org


DrugAbuse.com 1-877-759-5122

Have You Heard About the New SAT?

It’s getting good reviews.  On March 5, 2016, the College Board released a new version of the SAT. Here are some of the changes that are getting an A+:

  • Obscure vocabulary words are being traded in for more real-world analysis of more widely known words.  Students must demonstrate meaning through content.
  • Students are no longer penalized for guessing.
  • Students have reported it to be more straightforward and less tricky.
  • Math is more algebra and problem solving, but the use of a calculator is limited to certain questions.
  • There is less memorizing of math formulas.  A student needs to understand basic algebra and have the ability to work through a problem to be successful.
  • There are fewer questions: 154 with an essay vs. 171.
  • Students have a choice to write the essay.
  • A perfect score is 1600 with a separate score for the essay.


The College Board restricted the new SAT initial use.  Only those applying for college, scholarships, financial aid and other programs requiring the test score could take it in March.  People who didn’t fall into these groups can reschedule to take the test in May.

Keep in mind, the test continues to assess reading, writing and mathematics.  However, with fewer overall questions, there is more time for students to focus on an individual question in one of these areas.

The next administration of the new SAT will be on May 7th.  The registration deadline is April 8th.  If this date doesn’t work for you, you can find out other SAT dates through the College Board website.

Do you need practice?  There’s an app for that!  Get a question a day to keep on top of your skills.  And it’s free!  The College Board also has other tools and resources for doing the best you can.  Visit their website to “Meet the New SAT!”

For the class of 2017 or younger, who would like a more in-depth, but brief, review of the newest version of the SAT, visit The Princeton Review.

If you took the March debut version, and would like to give your feedback, feel free to comment. I’d love to hear about your experience.