By Sergio A. Lagunas @salagunas
The anxiety I felt during every test, midterm, and final exam kept me alert and kept me going. I had a trick to reduce my anxiety before any exam. I would first visit the closest student store on campus and invest in a snickers chocolate bar, and trust me, the chocolate put me in a good mood.
Finding ways to relax and reduce anxiety was great and all. However, as a first generation student and my appearance affected my experience during these tasks. I always tried my best to go into a midterm or final exam the most prepared as possible. I had my own style of preparing for an exam. I would annoy my roommate, but I would review my notes by blasting a hip hop instrumental and recite my notes like if I was performing a two-hour concert.
As a person of color and one of few Latino men in a classroom of 300 students in a Literature course, I was closely monitored by the teacher assistants, because of course my professors never attended these things only gave an intro. It was a strange yet unforgettable feeling that someone is watching you during an exam because of how you are dressed (fitted cap, hoodie, jeans and vans). Sometimes, I felt this way when I would visit my professors and teacher assistants from section. It was like if they were afraid of someone like me for some reason. I tried my best to let them know right away that I was a student at this university, and that I was in their class.
In the end I made some decent connections with my professors, and that helped me sometimes, especially when it came to grading. In terms of earning your grades, prepare for every single exam. Some strategies that helped me was to type and update my lecture notes, do all the assigned readings, review notes, ask questions during lecture and section, visit professors and TA’s during office hours, and if you go to class prepared you never will be required to cheat.
My view of cheating is, if you plan to cheat your way through school just to get good grades, then you are in school for all the wrong reasons. I barely graduated from a four-year university, and it took me 6 years total. I never plagiarized, paid someone to do my work, or cheated on a test because I went to school to learn. I learned to try, and if I make mistakes I strategize on how to do better next time. I learned to collaborate and form study groups to share ideas from other students. I was never the smart student, and I always knew how to ask for help. For some students, asking for help is a challenge. And, reaching out to someone for academic, professional or personal advice is the healthiest form of preparing for any exam.