Decoding the DARS: How I graduated a year early

The hardest part is over. You’ve applied, been accepted, and are ready to begin life as a Bobcat. Aside from all the excitement of giving your dorm room that personal touch, bonding with your roommate over  your newfound independence, and binge eating during that first trip to the dining hall, you suddenly realize that you’re here to obtain a degree. Enter the Degree Audit Reporting System, or DARS, and welcome to the Bible of your college career.

DARS Cheat Sheet. Use this to help decode what each symbol on the stars means.
DARS Cheat Sheet. Use this to help decode what each symbol on the stars means.

According to Ohio University, your DARS report is the official tool for tracking your academic progress, which analyzes degree requirements for a major, minor, or certificate according to the catalog year in which you entered the program. DARS reports are the printed results of the analysis. The DARS report displays the courses from which you must select in order to complete degree requirements, and it shows how the completed courses apply toward those requirements. In in simpler terms, the DARS is a report that tracks your progress to graduation based on the academic track you’ve chosen to embark on.

I’m going to explain the DARS step by step, because whether we like it or not, this little document full of random course titles and confusing phrases is the key to graduating. Uncover what those requirements mean, which options best fit you, and how to successfully turn each section from red to green.

  1. Locate the DARS 

 

2. University Requirements

 

3. Tiers

 

4. Course Requirements

 

5. In Progress Classes

 

6. Course Offerings

 

7. Free Electives 

 

8. Course Record

 

9. What-If DARS 

 

Go ahead and take a deep breath. You are now on your way to becoming a master of the DARS. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to your advisor, set up a time to meet, and relish in the comfort of knowing how to stay on track to graduation.

 

Recap: Advice From Advisors 

  1. Read your DARS carefully. Take time to sit down and read through your entire DARS.
  2. Plus (+) and minus (-) symbols appear next to each section on your DARS and provide a guide as to what you have completed and what you still need to complete before you can earn your degree.
  3. Also, pay attention under each area where it says NEEDS.  This is telling you exactly what you still need to complete, whether it’s a specific course or set of courses, or a certain number of credit hours.
  4. It’s always important to email your academic advisor if you have questions.  You can find your academic advisor in two places: 1) In your MyOhio Student Center portal and 2) on the left side of the first page of your DARS, located just beneath your GPA.
  5. If you need an appointment with your academic advisor, always be prepared for your appointment.  Print and bring a copy of your DARS if you can, come with a list of your questions and concerns and bring a paper and pen to write down the information your advisor gives you.
  6. Use the course catalog to look up required classes for every major, minor and certificate.  This is also a great way to check requisites for classes, so you can be sure you’re eligible to enroll in the class yourself.

 

Other Resources

Ohio University offers advising help in the Allen Center on the fourth floor of Baker Center Monday–Thursday, 8 a.m.–7 p.m and Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Other majors also offer walk-in advising during a specific block of time once a week, no appointment necessary. Check with your advisor for details.

 

 

The five free apps every OU freshman needs to get a 4.0.

So, you’re starting at Ohio University next year and you’re worried you won’t be able to get that GPA high enough. Look no further — with some hard work, determination and these five apps, you’ll be on the way to a 4.0 first semester.

Google Drive

Google Drive for iOS.
Google Drive for iOS.

You can’t get a 4.0 if you’ve lost all of your documents!

At the beginning of the semester, I wasn’t saving my work on Google Drive, and for a while I had no problems. But when disaster struck and my computer broke when my phone slid off of my lap into the screen, I was unable to access any of the work I was working on. It was toward the end of the semester, and I had to start several projects and papers over again. It wasn’t fun. At that point, I vowed to save everything I did on my Drive. And just a few weeks when my replacement computer also broke (it actually broke in half, see picture below), I was able to access my files from my phone and the computers at Alden Library. So, even though I was incredibly inconvenienced by my lack of computer, I was able to pick up right where I left off. I learned from my mistakes, and so should you.

Broken computer.
A sad boy and his broken computer.

I use Google Drive all of the time, because as a college student I need to be able to access my files all the time,” said Gaby Godinez, a sophomore studying Integrated Media. “ I like it because it’s easy to understand and it keeps me organized. It’s also so easy to share files and work together on projects when you aren’t together.”

Having all of your documents at your fingertips can be a lifesaver. Are the printers in Alden broken and is your paper due in mere minutes? No problem. Email the document from the Drive app to your professor, and let them know you will print it out as soon as the printers come back online.

While there are other cloud alternatives, Google Drive is great for collaboration, user-friendly and the first 15 GB of stored data is free (and you probably won’t need any more).

 

Download Google Drive here for iOS

Download Google Drive here for Android  

 

Amazon

Amazon app
Amazon for iOS.

Need something in a jiffy? The student six month free trial of Amazon Prime is your best bet. How will this help you get a 4.0? Textbooks, of course! Nearly all textbooks you will need your freshman year are available on Amazon, and with the Prime membership, you’ll get them with two days with free shipping.

“You can wait until after your first few classes and receive the textbooks in a matter of two days. So, it’s very convenient, it save you money, everything is discounted and the products are good quality and easily returnable,” said Libby Chidlow, a junior studying journalism and political science.

Chidlow hasn’t just ordered textbooks with her Prime membership. She orders her daily essentials, like soap, shampoo and face wash because she finds the prices tend to be cheaper on Amazon than at brick-and-mortar stores.

She says she ordered all of her Christmas presents for friends and family members using the app this past December, and when the weather turned warm last week, she ordered a hammock and had it in two days.

“I order from Amazon an unhealthy amount,” Chidlow admitted. “My mom told me I should be an Amazon ambassador.” That’s a thing, by the way.

 

Sign up here for your free Prime account.

Download Amazon here for iOS.

Download Amazon here for Android.  

 

Microsoft OneNote

OneNote for iOS.
OneNote for iOS.

Although I’m not the biggest fan of Microsoft (to each his own), the OneNote application is an excellent app for taking notes and keeping organized in all classes your freshman year. It makes keeping the notes organized easier than with Microsoft Word or other standard text editing software. The mobile apps allow for easy syncing between devices and if you forget your laptop — no problem! Just pull out your phone or tablet and pick up where you left off.

“OneNote syncs all of my notes between all of my devices. It is very easy to set up outlines and bulleted lists,” said Nate Doughty, a freshman studying journalism. “I’m able to draw and highlight and on both phone and with with my laptop which doubles as a tablet. In the past I used Google Docs to take notes, and that was fine, but this is lightyears better for organizational purposes.”

The best part? The full-featured version of OneNote comes with a subscription to Office 365, which is free for all OU students through the Bobcat Depot. You can find a download link from your Catmail when you get your account next year.

Most professors permit computer use for note taking, although some forbid the use of computers, tablets and phones, so make sure you bring a notepad and pen!

 

Download OneNote here for iOS.

Download OneNote here for Android.

 

BB Student

BB Student for iOS.
BB Student for iOS.

If you’re unfamiliar with Blackboard, it’s time to change that. Most professors at Ohio University use Blackboard to post lectures, assignments, discussion questions and even grades. There’s no mobile website, and the full-featured site loses some functionality when viewing on a phone. Have no fear, though, BB Student here!

While it won’t let you do everything you can on the computer, it’s a great way to quickly view upcoming assignments, course syllabi or grades. It’s biggest flaw? It makes you login with your OUID and password every time you launch the app, but otherwise, it’s a great way login to the site when your computer is not in reach.

“I’ll admit, it’s not the best app, but it has definitely made my life a lot easier this year,” said Marianne Dodson, a freshman studying journalism and political science in the Honors Tutorial College.  “I hate that I have to login everytime I open it, but it’s still way more efficient than visiting the site through Safari, because Blackboard doesn’t usually work on there. I can quickly see the contents of my courses and really easily check my grades, which is usually why I open the app.”

 

Download BB Student here for iOS.

Download BB Student here for Android.

 

2048

2048 for iOS.
2048 for iOS.

 

You probably once enjoyed 2048, but have since deleted it to make room for some extra photos or a software update. Well, it’s time to bring it back.

While it’s certainly not the most important app to obtaining a 4.0, everyone needs a study break to clear their mind. And yes, 2048 is a game, but it’s math based and will definitely keep your mind sharp unlike a Netflix break (although those are nice sometimes,too).

Just be careful — it’s addictive!

 

Download 2048 here for iOS.

Download 2048 here for Android.

And here, for a bonus, play online on your computer.

How to pass your college classes

As Bobcat Student Orientation draws near, many high school seniors, as well as their families, begin to think about what their next four years are going to entail: roommates, dorm life, dining halls, parties, interviews, career fairs, apartments… It’s funny how college course are normally not what students look forward to when it comes to the college experience. It’s funny how very few students actually look forward to going to class.

Failing a class is a huge fear among incoming freshmen and their worrisome parents, but taking the right steps and avoiding a few bad habits will ensure success in your college academics. Here’s your crash course on how to pass all your classes.

 

What’s Considered Failing?

In high school, failing was normally denoted with a D or F. College is a little different, though. Some majors have certain grade requirements. For instance, at Ohio University, medical students need a B or higher to receive credit for a class. Students under the Scripps College of Communication, as well as the College of Business, need a C or higher.

 

How Do I Know Which Classes to Pick?

Let’s face it: some professors are better than others. In every university, you’ll find professors experiencing burnout, or you’ll stumble upon professors who seem to have no mercy on their students. That’s why it’s important to do a little research on prospective profs. For instance, ratemyprofessor.com is a great resource to use when you’re trying to decide between class sections: you can tear through many reviews on a variety of professors on campus; after all, a professor can make or break your experience with a certain class.

 

Failing Classes: What’s the Common Denominator?

In a nutshell, not going to class can kill your chances of passing it, and having a set routine of when and what you study will help you to remember assignments and tests.

 

Other Tips for Passing a Challenging Course

1. Send out a group email suggesting a study group.

This may sound cheesy, but it can prove to be very helpful. In most instances, if you’re really confused by a concept you’re going over in class, someone else is not getting it. Talking it out with someone could help you and your classmate(s) figure the subject out.

2. Hire a tutor.

Spending money to pay for a tutor isn’t ideal, but it will save you money in the long run (tuition, fees, and textbooks really do add up). Sometimes people put up flyers on campus offering tutoring services.

3. Talk to the professor during his or her office hours.

When in doubt, ask your professor. That’s what they’re in their office for. If you happen to have a professor who is incredibly busy or unapproachable, hit up your course TA. He or she may have office hours, too.

4. Talk to a person who participates in the class often.

Because he or she speaks up in class quite often, he or she must have some idea of what is happening in the course. *Caveat* Don’t ask for help from the class heckler: it’ll frustrate you more than it will help you. You want to get help from someone who spouts answers to questions, not his or her opinion on every topic related to your course.

5. Look up additional resources online.

When the professor, your classmates, and your textbook fail you, you always have thousands of digital sources to turn to. Schmoop is a solid place for literary and math help, for instance.

6. Check out one of the many academic centers or resources on campus.

If you need help writing a paper, book a tutor at the Writing Center on the 2nd floor of Alden Library. Their staff consists of English and Journalism students and staff trained to critique your paper and help answer your questions. Other course offer Supplemental Instruction, or SI. These sessions are packed with slow-paced information to help you work out the kinks in your understanding of the course content.

 

Now, what happens if you do fail a class? Let’s hear from a music student who admits to struggling in one of her college courses.

If It Happens to You

You’ll need to sit down with your adviser to weigh your options and hash out a plan, ASAP.

You’ll more likely than not have to retake the course; keep in mind, though, that if it was a class that fulfilled a certain requirement for your major, you might be able to take a different course. You may have needed the class for a college requirement, meaning a class you take for the school with which your major is classified. It could also be a general education requirement, or gen-ed. Depending on what requirement the class was fulfilling, you may be able to take another class instead of re-taking the one you failed.

Have no fear, future Bobcats. Freshman year is going to be epic: inside and outside the classroom. Do your part, and you’ll go far.