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New program to alleviate graduation stress

Two new programs, an automated degree audit system and a class on college life skills are intended to alleviate some of the common worries and stressors that plague students.

The Degree Applicability Reporting System is a new service meant to make decisions on scheduling a bit easier.

“We started implementing this last year, and we’re hoping in certain departments it’ll be available to students at the end of the year,” said Robert Mercer, senior adviser for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Started in 1984 at Miami University, the degree system is an online computer interface that allows students to immediately calculate which requirements they’ve met or need to meet for a desired degree.

The program will add new flexibility to the advising and degree auditing system.

“You could wake up in the middle of the night and get a panic and punch in your BA/BS and major and get a reading,” Mercer said.

The system is part of a larger program called Title III, whose goal is to improve students’ retention rates and connectivity to PSU as well as improve academic advising.

“The main reason for doing that [for students] is to alleviate that anxiety during their senior year,” Mercer said. “One of the anxieties which I hope we’ll be able to alleviate is there are a lot of people who don’t seek academic advising, and their primary advising comes from when they apply for graduation. They get their degree audit back in the mail a term before they’re to graduate, and if there’s a problem at that point they’ve only got one term to fix it – sometimes a problem can’t be fixed in one term.”

One wrinkle in the development of the system is the complexity and ever-changing nature of PSU’s degree requirements.

“Since about 1994 we have changed general-ed requirements, degree requirements and major requirements more than any time I can remember, and I’ve been here since 1978,” Mercer said.

“One of the common mistakes that you’ll see is when students get the bulk of their advising from another student,” Mercer said. As rules change each year, the advice of those students may not be accurate.

“They may be reporting something that’s accurate for their major and their catalog year, but it may be completely inaccurate for the student being advised,” Mercer said.

For more information about the degree requirement system, check out the Web site at

Skill building

Karen Ledbetter, a PSU psychologist, is coordinating a class on college life skills to be taught winter term. The class will look at “the broad spectrum of skills needed with the hope that we can help people get a better idea of the skills they need,” Ledbetter said.

One of those is how to manage sleeping.

“Sleep is extraordinarily important,” Ledbetter said. “Often times people will try to take shortcuts and think that they can crash-study before exams, but what we find is that without sleep, people are more vulnerable to sickness, anxiety and depression.”

Ledbetter also recommends that students not worry about jumping into college too quickly.

“Keep in mind that this is a learning process, that you need to be flexible, not expect too much of yourself at first, to ease into it a bit, to not take all the hard classes at first, get connected to the university,” Ledbetter said.

Getting connected and learning about the resources on campus is another goal of Ledbetter’s class. She intends to have lectures by representatives from conflict management, the writing center and financial aid to show students where they can go for help.

Ledbetter will also be teaching a course on stress management in the winter term.