Dear Ally,

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Monthly Archives: April 2016

I Scream, You Scream!

Dear Ally,

It’s your last week of classes! Hopefully you’re hanging in there so you can finish strong. My students have two more weeks, then finals. If it were 1996, I’d still have well over another month of classes. That was the trade-off for having a six-week break from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and not starting the year until after Labor Day.

This time of the year in Athens it would be starting to get hot and that meant you had to be careful. You would begin to see ice cream cones on the sidewalk in front of Perkins Hall, an all-guys, upperclassmen dorm. These were a warning to steer clear and give that particular section of sidewalk a wide berth. Perkins was right next to our beloved Shively Dining Hall, so it was possible that someone just dropped their soft-serve cone on the way out – but often there would be more than one cone – highly suspect.

A group of us used to sit on the wall across the street after dinner and just wait, wait for a group of poor, unsuspecting freshmen to come walking along, perhaps on their way to a math class in Morton. They would reach the target zone, and out of nowhere – splat! Several ice cream cones launched from an open third floor window would scatter the group like a flock of pigeons. And we would just howl, it was just hilarious. Even seeing the melted cones on the sidewalk made me smile.

The RA’s in that dorm never did find out who the ice cream hurlers were. The culprits would sling the sweets from a hallway window and dash back to their rooms. I had several friends that lived in that building, but, although they appreciated the entertainment, were never directly involved in the mayhem as far as I know. There were threats to no longer allow the cones to be taken out of the dining hall, but they never made good on them. Maybe I’ll go back for a homecoming and there will still be ice cream on that same sidewalk.

Study hard, but not so much that you aren’t also enjoying your college experience.

I really want some ice cream now.

Aunt Sarah

You Can Do It! Preparing for Final Exams

Dear Ally,

The temperatures are getting warmer and everyone is beginning to think about the summer ahead. In fact, I’m writing this post from my back deck, which reminds I need to change the cover picture for this blog to a more seasonal one. But you can’t let yourself fall into summer mode just yet. There are still a few weeks left and one big hurdle to jump before you’re free: final exams.

Now’s the time to begin studying for finals and working on final projects, not the weekend before finals week. Here are some steps to take now to help you study as efficiently as possible:

  1. Get all the facts. Look closely at the grading policies in the syllabus. Will the lowest exam be dropped or replaced with the final exam, if that grade is higher? Is there any opportunity for extra credit? Can you turn in assignments again for a second chance? What percentage of the class grade is the final exam or project? Is the final exam optional if you’re happy with your current grade?
  2. Do the math. Are you sitting pretty or trying to climb out of a hole? How many points are left in the class? How many of those points do you need to earn the grade you want/need? If it’s too complicated, make an appointment to consult with the instructor. I get so many “what do I have to get on the final to get…” requests that I’ve posted an excel file that allows students to plug in their grades and the desired final grade and it spits out remaining points they need. Hopefully there are still enough points left.
  3. Prioritize certain courses. You’re going to have to up your game a lot if there are any classes where you need to raise your grade, so plan to study way more for these classes than you did previously and less so for the classes that you’ve been able to get along just coasting.
  4. Make a schedule. One of the most common rookie finals week mistakes is to study for classes in the order you have the exams, but that won’t work, even if your finals are pretty well spread out. Study for ALL your classes a little bit every day beginning now. For example, if you have 6 hours of free time tomorrow, plan to spend 2 hours on your two most difficult classes and an hour each on the other two. (Six hours a day sounds brutal, but it will be worth it not to have to repeat a course and much better than trying to spend 18-20 hours a day studying during finals week. I really don’t think 100 total hours is unreasonable either. Right now studying is your job and everything else takes a back seat.)
  5. Study what you don’t know. This sounds obvious, but most students try to review everything if the final is cumulative. If you knew how to do it on a previous exam, you’ll probably remember it on the final, so don’t spend much time on it. Go back and look at what you missed and study those topics in depth, rereading those sections of the book and practicing more problems, even going to the teaching assistant or instructor for help or extra practice if necessary. That’s where you’ll be able to make up the most ground.
  6. Take care of yourself. Continue to eat right, get enough sleep, and practice good hygiene. Steer clear of that friend with the sniffles. You cannot afford to get sick now, you need to be in top form. Stay away from caffeine and sugar as much as possible (no alcohol either, but you’re underage, so that shouldn’t be an issue).
  7. Stay disciplined. It’s going to be really hard to stick to your schedule and keep studying, but remember that it will be worth it and summer is just around the corner, if you can just hold out just a little while longer. Plan little rewards for each day that you keep it up. The hardest will be the weekend before finals week. I don’t know why, but college students always go crazy the weekend before spring finals week. Plan this weekend as a reward for studying continually for the next two weeks, but don’t go hog wild and be sure not to stay out all night because that would ensure disaster.

You can do it! You’ve been working all semester and your professors have been preparing you all semester for this!

Stay strong,

Aunt Sarah

Phil 413

Social Media Do’s and Don’ts

Dear Ally,

Even with all the good that the internet, smart phones and social media have brought to our lives, I’m glad that, as a college student, I didn’t have to worry about someone posting an embarrassing picture of me or that my words written in anger will forever haunt me. College was complicated enough and looking for a job was stressful enough.

I’m going to admit right now that I’m not a social media guru. I am a heavy user of Facebook, have an Instagram account that features my two cats and created a Twitter account for the sole purpose of receiving instant updates on the location of certain bird species during the Biggest Week in American Birding festival. Most of the advice in this post will probably be common sense, or at least I hope.

  • Pictures. The general rule here is don’t post anything you wouldn’t want an older relative or your future child(ren) to see. Don’t let anyone tag you in a picture without you allowing it first (for Facebook: Settings –> Timeline and Tagging).  Don’t seem like a total narcissist and post nothing but selfies. Don’t be like the idiot who posted pictures of herself vandalizing the natural features of several national parks and post pictures of yourself doing something illegal. Do post interesting pictures that your friends and followers will respond to and enjoy.
  • Posts. Keep it positive and do not post while experiencing extreme emotions. Stay away from using profanity and making generalizations about people groups. Do not use your feed to blast a particular person (especially a professor, boss, or co-worker) or business. About a year after I got married, I tore apart our photographer on The Knot because he still had not returned our photos. I never saw him or our pictures again.
  • Likes. Don’t forget about activity logs and the fact that sometimes your friends will see a post on their newsfeed titled “Ally liked this…” I know plenty of boyfriends who got themselves in trouble for liking some sexy picture. All the pages you like are on your profile. I creeped on yours today and was appalled to find out you like the Pittsburgh Steelers. 🙂
  • Check-ins and Events. This post is mostly written to help you save face and with your future job-seeking self in mind (it’s probably wise to delete any sketchy past events like “Johnny’s Keg Bash” or previous check-ins like “Hooters”), but you also need to keep safety in mind. If you don’t want someone to know exactly where you are at an exact moment, don’t check-in to specific places or say you’re attending location specific public events. Also remember that when you announce where you’ll be or where you are, you’re also saying where you won’t be: home. Hopefully none of your friends or followers would rob you and I’m sure your address is not part of your profile, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. One of the reasons I am writing this blog anonymously is to protect your identity.
  • Cleaning House. There are apps such as Simple Wash and Clear that claim they will go through your your social media account and flag anything that could be seen as inappropriate by a future employer so you can choose to delete it, but I just experimented and received error messages on both sites. The best thing is to assume that nothing is private and everything will be permanent and to think about what you post as you post it because, even if you delete it, that doesn’t guarantee that someone didn’t share your post or take a screen shot. Do not clean house if you are involved in or know you will soon become involved in litigation because this could be considered destroying evidence, even if it’s just evidence of your character.
  • Networking. Do create a LinkdIn profile and connect with your classmates, mentors and potential future places of employment. Join Facebook groups that are related to your future profession. Follow professional organizations or well-known people in your field. Interact with others and contribute to the discussion. After you graduate, join the alumni groups associated with your school.


As far as your personal Facebook page goes, it’s Aunt Approved! I don’t follow you on Twitter, but maybe I should make an exception and follow one non-bird-related person.

Have a good night!

Aunt Sarah







































and created a Twitter account last year for the sole purpose of getting instant updates on the location of birds I might want to see during the Biggest Week in American Birding festival.


The Plan…Ha!

James 4 vs 13 thru 15

Dear Ally,

The above is excellent advice. We are all guilty of trying to plan every detail of our lives and worrying about the future when the truth is, we have no clue and no real control.

I wrote the following brief autobiography in Spanish class, nearly 20 years ago:

Hola! Me llamo Sarah Courtier. Soy de Loveland, Ohio, cerca de Cincinnati. Cuando you era más menor creía que yo era un gato. VivÍa con mis padres y mi hermana menor que se llama Emily. Asistí Loveland High School. Mi familia tiene muchos animals, tiene 2 caballos, 5 gatos, un perro, y cuatro conejos. Teníamos una cabra y un par de cisnes pero eran demasiado apuro.

Ahora vivo en Johnson Hall. Me gusta mi cuarto y mi compañera de cuarto. Estoy especializando en la quimica. Me encanta la quimica. Soy un miembro de Reach Out on Campus, una organización religiosa. Atendo Athens Church of Christ. Soy un miembro del coro de ACC. Me encanta cantar.

Despues de graduación, mi novio y yo vamos a casarnos. Viviremos en o cerca de Loveland. Mi novio es ministro. Yo trabajaré en una fabrica de quimico.

I won’t translate the entire thing, but the gist of it is that I used to live with my family and we had lots of animals and now I like living with my roommate, love chemistry and singing. The last paragraph, which is the point, says “After graduation, my boyfriend and I are going to get married. We will live in or near Loveland (my hometown)…I will work in a chemical factory.” When I read this now I just laugh and laugh. Some things are still the same; I still love animals, chemistry, and singing. The boyfriend mentioned here and I broke up some months after this and, though we are still good friends, I can’t imagine having married him.  If someone told me then that I wouldn’t get married until I was 27, that I would move to northeast Ohio and work for a women’s college, I never would have believed them.

One day everything seems settled and to be going according to plan, our plan, but everything can change in an instant. Enjoy the ride and love the people that you get to live life with and don’t stress if you don’t have it all figured out because, chances are, it’ll get turned upside down at some point anyway and that’s OK.


Aunt Sarah

P.S. I learned how to make my own memes this week! 🙂

Jeremiah 29 vs 11