Student Hacks! 3 Easy Strategies to Get Ahead

This month in The Learning Hub we’ve been collecting various “student hacks” or tips and tricks to help you be successful in your classes this semester. Today, we’re bringing you our first three – read on to check them out!

hack my life kevin GIF by truTV

1. Chew gum.

Did you know that the flavor of gum you chew can really help you with your study habits? It’s true! Here’s two specific ways you can use gum to do better in your coursework:

A) Chew the same flavor of gum when you’re studying and when you take the test.

Research has shown that chewing the same flavor during study time and during exam time helps you link you test-taking brain to your studying-brain and retain the information better.

unimpressed uh huh GIF by Brooklyn Nine-Nine

B) Chew different flavors of gum for each of your subjects to differentiate them in your brain.

If you find that the above tactic actually does work for you, and want to try it for all of your classes, make sure that you use different flavors of gum for each subject so you don’t get them all confused and mixed up in your brain as you try to take the tests and remember your studying!

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2) Listen to music.

If you aren’t a person who can sit in silence and read pages and pages of your coursework at a time without feeling like you’re suffering, try listening to some music. Avoid music with lyrics/vocals, as it can harm your concentration. Instead, try out instrumental music like film scores or classical or other artists who don’t include singing.

Research has shown that instrumental music can actually improve your concentration. And we won’t lie, we always feel like badasses when listening to a particularly good movie soundtrack!

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3) There’s an app for that.

Did you know that many of your favorite studying/school sites also have apps for free? Check if your favorite or most frequently used school-related websites (Quizlet, BlackBoard, Google Docs/Drive) have an app for your smart phone, tablet, or computer.

Having the app on-the-go with you can help you to accomplish small tasks, like looking up due dates or reading assignments for a class, testing yourself really quickly between engagements before you have a test, or sending a document off for your tutoring appointment. Use those apps to your advantage so you’re an efficient and effective student!doctor who app GIF

PS If you don’t already know, UIS students have access to Office 365 for free by visiting and logging in, then clicking the “Install Office Apps” dropdown on your profile page.

PPS If you also don’t already know, UIS students have access to 50 gb of free storage on Box, the official cloud storage system for our campus. Check it out by going to and setting up your account.

PPPS If you really didn’t already know, UIS students can log on to Google Drive with their UIS email and password. Go to and log in with your UIS credentials, and you can then have your school documents separate from your personal uploads.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these first three Student Hacks! Please let us know what you think, and if you need additional help, don’t be afraid to make an appointment in The Learning Hub! Our contact information is below:

The Learning Hub

Brookens Suite 460

(217) 206-6503

Welcome Back! Get in Gear!

Well, it’s been two weeks. We’re well into the semester by now, and instructors are finishing up with setting up their classes and are ready to dig into the material and will be expecting you to come to class prepared, ready to work.

We thought we’d check in with you and see how you’re doing so far. Are you keeping up? Are you staying motivated? Are you understanding everything? If so, awesome!

If not, we thought we’d run through some of the most common issues students might be facing to help you troubleshoot and get a handle on your semester!

Are you finding that you’re often running late? Just a little bit behind in everything that you’re doing?

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This might be a symptom of not yet having a set schedule for your classes, study time, and recreation time.

We recommend coming in to see our Academic Skills TA in The Learning Hub! Liliana will meet with you and discuss time management skills, help you set a schedule, and work on balancing your coursework and your fun time as you begin your college experience!

Are you losing track of assignments? Having a hard time knowing what readings or projects are due and when to turn them in?

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Get a planner! A week-by-week planner is a great way to log assignments, readings, and other activities for your classes on a daily basis. Rather than shuffling between all your course schedules, you can have everything marked in one, easy place. You can find the planner that works best for you – there are all different shapes, sizes, and layouts!

Are you a commuter struggling with parking on campus? Confused about where to park for convenience or to avoid a ticket?

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Here’s a handy link to the UIS Parking website, a link to a parking lot map to plan out where to park, and a link to the form to fill out and get your parking pass. Don’t worry! It’s not too bad once you get the hang of it.

Are you struggling with getting help for your classes? Do The Hub’s hours conflict with your schedule, or you only have a few questions?

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We offer a variety of ways to receive help in The Learning Hub that will still work for you!

Firstly, consider meeting with a tutor online. We use Skype for Business to conference with students, and they don’t have to physically come into our suite.

If that doesn’t work, you can make an email appointment for writing tutoring. How this works is you will send in your assignment to The Hub the morning of the day you set your appointment, the tutor will look over your assignment and make comments, and then will send you the assignment via email with the feedback so you have it to work on.

Lastly, we have lots of walk-in hours this semester for a variety of subjects. All of these happen after-hours as well as in The Hub, so whether your schedule is crazy, you already had an appointment this week and want more help, or you only have a few questions and don’t need a full, hour-long appointment, you are welcome to come in and get that extra bit of help with one of our tutors.

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We’re here to help you with your coursework – don’t forget about us!

Are you struggling to get your course materials? Your textbooks are back ordered, your financial aid isn’t coming through, or some other reason?

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Keep in mind that for some classes, The Hub has course materials available for students to borrow. If you come up to use them, you must stay in our suite (you can’t check it out like a library). But feel free to try us out for certain classes!

The library might have books for classes, too. They would have them in the stacks, or else on reserve at the front desk. Ask and see!

Lastly, talk to your professor about your options! They might be willing to let you borrow their copies of the books, might make copies to put on Blackboard, or have some alternative solution that will work for their class. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Are you feeling like you aren’t involved enough? Are you struggling to meet people or feel like you’re part of a group?

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Look into Student Life, find a student organization to join, or visit UIS Connection! There are always lots of things going on at UIS that make it easy for you to get involved.

Are you feeling homesick? Is this the first time you’ve really been away from home, and you’re missing your friends and family?

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Facetime or Skype your family or friends! They probably would love to hear from you, even if it’s just to check in and talk to them about how your day went. If you’re not a Facetime kind of person, create a group message with your friends on whatever social media platform you all use, or get your parents to join and message with them on there.

Are you feeling overwhelmed entirely? The stress of the semester is already getting to you and making you feel like you’re drowning in the work?

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Again, our Academic Skills TA in The Learning Hub can be a great resource for you, so make an appointment with her to try to get back on track. Otherwise, the Counseling Center can be a great resource as well to let you talk through your stress and struggles, and to find strategies to improve your emotional health, your management of your workload, and your stress levels.

Now. With these pieces of advice, hopefully you’ll be ready to tackle the rest of your semester with confidence and success. So. Here’s a couple of challenges for you to try and meet as you get going with that process.

Challenge #1

Introduce yourself to your instructor, visit their office hour, ask them questions outside of class. It’s important to establish a working relationship with your professors now, so that when the class starts getting difficult, you already feel comfortable asking them for help.

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We challenge you to meet with them outside of class and work on that right now!

Challenge #2

Try out a student organization or event in the next week or two.

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Here’s some ideas:

Good luck as you start your third week of the semester! We’ll be providing you with lots of writing resources as the semester progresses, so check back often to see how we can help you succeed in your classes!

Goodbye Writing Tutors!

Well, we’re at the end of yet another semester. How have your finals been so far? How many do you have left?

Here in The Learning Hub we’re helping students with their final exams and projects, trying to make sure they’re getting everything that they need done so they can go home for the summer to refresh and relax before we start all over again in the fall.

But we’re also sad. We are sad because we’ve got a pretty big staff turnover this year – one of the largest in recent memory.

So today, for our last Web Series Wednesday of Spring 2018, we’d like to say thank you to our graduating tutors, and best of luck to them as they move on to bigger and better things and take their next steps in life.



DSC_1664 Since earning an MA in Communication from UIS in 2014, I have worked as a professional writing tutor and instructor of developmental writing at various community colleges. I decided to return to UIS to earn a second MA in English in the digital pedagogy track and work as a Writing TA so that I may build upon this experience and continue helping students achieve their goals in the classroom and beyond. I have found that students apply abstract concepts more concretely and express themselves more fully when they feel that the university is a collaborative environment where they can safely practice new skills and where their insights and experiences are integral to a vibrant learning environment. I thoroughly enjoy opportunities to assist students at all levels and to hear them say, “Now I get it!”



Greetings! My name is Brock and I am a senior political science major as well as a Writing Peer Tutor at The Learning Hub. I enjoy seeing the power of writing and rhetoric in all of their various forms and hope to help students realize the power of their own writing. In my free time, I enjoy catching up on my favorite podcasts, cooking, and spending time with friends.

Quote: “A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” – Tyrion Lannister

Raven (& Dana)


My name is Raven, and I am a junior studying English at UIS. Since I was in the eighth grade, I’ve been fascinated with the written language. It is amazing that the words we write on a page have the potential to transform the way that others view and experience the world. My goal as a peer writing tutor is to help others develop the necessary skills needed to allow their writing to be revolutionary. I am of the opinion that anything I read or write should challenge my thinking and the assumptions I make about the world around me.

In addition to writing, I also enjoying reading, music, and theatre. I am also heavily involved in various student organizations on campus. This is my first year working for The Learning Hub, and I am truly excited about the opportunities, challenges, and rewards I will encounter on this journey.

Quote: “Men give me credit for some Genius. All the genius I have lies in this; I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.” –Alexander Hamilton



Hello, my name is Nick. I am a senior, an English major, and I am also a Writing Peer Tutor here at UIS. Writing, to me, is a self-expressive process; it is an artistic form that allows an individual to express elements of their personality, style, thought process, and beliefs into a written piece of work. My hope is to help other individuals see their own potential as writers, and it is my goal to foster a positive, supportive, and collaborative environment so that individuals feel both confident in sharing their work and feel a sense of accomplishment with what they have written. Aside from writing, I enjoy music (both listening to it and playing it), I love horror movies, riding my bike, and reading (especially Bret Easton Ellis’s work). I look forward to working with students from all walks of life.

Quote: “Have you paid your dues, Jack? Yes, sir, the check is in the mail.” – Jack Burton



Hello! My name is Kaylan Mills and I am a Writing Peer Tutor at the Learning Hub.  I am a senior Business major with a Finance concentration and minors in Management Information Systems and International Studies.  I am a retired athlete as I used to be a part of the women’s soccer team here at UIS.  I enjoy traveling, spending time with friends and family, staying active, and watching sports and movies.  I look forward to helping students and challenging them to reach their writing potential!



Howdy! I’m James, and I’m a Writing Peer Tutor here at UIS.  I’m a transfer student from McHenry County, IL.  I have an associate’s degree in Applied Science Criminal Justice and am currently pursuing a bachelor’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice.  I have enjoyed writing since an early age.  To me, writing is a way to present the best of yourself. When speaking one can stumble or misspeak very easily even if they are trying to be careful. When you write, you can edit out these errors.  It is for this reason that I enjoy helping students in their writing.  I love to see students present the best of themselves in their papers. In addition to writing I enjoy working out at the gym and playing Magic: The Gathering.

Quote “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” -Robert Frost

We’d also like to say a fond farewell to our other tutors this year who gradated last fall or or are graduating this spring:

Chris, Math TA / Peer Tutor
Ahmed, Science Peer Tutor
Tommy, SI Leader
Amandeep, Math Peer Tutor
Lizzy, Accounting Peer Tutor
Austin, Math Peer Tutor

Mobile Hub Spring 2018

This video is a compilation of highlights from our Mobile Hub event we held on May 1st, 2018. Our tutors are hard at work helping UIS students improve their writing and work on their final projects for the Spring 2018 semester.

Music by Bensound

Do you need help with your final writing assignments? Contact The Learning Hub today to set up an appointment, or visit our walk-in hours (see flyers below):

Brookens Library Writing Walk In Hours Spring 2018 FlyerFounders Residence Hall Writing Walk In Hours Spring 2018 Flyer

Commonly Confused Words – Tutor Roundtable #2

For the month of April, we have been sharing resources about commonly confused words – homographs and homophones that we see students struggling to understand the differences between.

For our last post, we have another roundtable discussion with four of our writing tutors, Alec, Brock, Michael, and Daymon, who share their thoughts about why these word pairs or groups can be so confusing, which ones they see students struggling to distinguish, and what students can do to improve their writing. Check it out below!

Thanks for your support over the month of April! Check out our handout with some information about commonly confused words below!

Commonly Confused Words – Allusion vs Illusion

by Michael

The Difference Between a
Reference & a Mind Trip

Today’s commonly confusing duo is none other than allusion and illusion. The former can best be seen in trashy reality television programming when contestants or personalities take passive jabs at each other, also known as throwing shade. The latter is usually associated with magic, hallucinations after taking one too many shots, and is also the title of an underrated, yet slightly misogynistic Edward Norton and Jessica Biel film, The Illusionist.

Allusion (n)

An indirect reference; calling something to attention without stating it outright.


Illusion (n)

A misinterpreted perception or presentation of an image that confuses the senses.



Hope you enjoyed, or at the very least, understood learning the difference between these commonly confused words. Don’t forget to check out the resources to learn more about allusion and illusion and other words they are confused with! Stay tuned throughout April for more confusing pairs.

Commonly Confused Words – Insure vs Ensure!

By Daymon

The English language never misses an opportunity to try to confuse us. Today, we’re looking at two words with a one letter difference.


ENSURE has two Es

just like all good GUARANTEES


When we ensure something, we’re making it certain, guaranteeing something, or keeping it safe.

Keeping it safe?! That sounds like the meaning of the other word!


INSURE and insurance both start with I,

which is something I’m sure to buy


When we insure something, we purchase insurance for it or we make something certain.

Both of these words can mean to make something certain?!


Yes, there’s some overlap there. But generally you can use INSURE for financial transactions of any sort and ENSURE for guarantees.


Good luck as you work on managing the differences in these commonly confused words! Stay tuned for more resources throughout the month of April on other commonly confused word pairs and combos!