Senior Ashley Mikolinis sits at the Campus Center dining table where she studies nearly every day. (Photos by Carlo de Jesus)

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 16, 2016) — Sometimes, students must find their own path to excellence.

For senior sociology major Ashley Mikolinis, that added up to shifting her class schedule to accommodate a part-time job and even downtown Albany traffic patterns, finding an ideal campus locale in which to study, adopting a color-coded system of notetaking, and just working more intensely than she ever had before.

Mikolinis knew things had to change drastically for her after receiving her fall 2015 grades, which left her with a 1.6 GPA at UAlbany. She’d been a good student at Ulster County Community College, but her first semester at the University was an unpleasant shocker.

“I thought I was doing fine last fall for the first few weeks, but even though my professor in intro to sociology was a great guy, I started to find that it was taking me a little longer to grasp the concepts he was talking about in class,” she said. She tried to compensate. “My other classes were easier, so I thought I’d work a little less on them and concentrate on the intro class more.”

It didn’t work out. She failed the intro course anyway, and the “easy” courses only amounted to a B, two C’s and a D.

The spring semester, she pulled a 3.46. How’d she do it?

“I tried new techniques,” said Mikolinis.

Rather than obtain her spring course books just before classes began, progressing through them week by week, she bought them ahead of time, and read them all before the opening bell.

“And I bought Post-it notes of different colors for every course. I’d write down everything I couldn’t grasp in the books, go back and re-read them, look up their definitions or look up their subjects elsewhere until I understood what I couldn’t understand before.

Taking Her Future in Hand

“I just found out I needed to write everything down, and not on a computer — by hand. And no taking a picture of the page with your phone. The Post-it notes was an idea I picked up by searching a Pinterest app on tips for studying.”

Ashley Mikolinis at UAlbany

Ashley Mikolinis praises UAlbany's faculty and courses, and she discovered the way to take advantage of them.

One of her professors in the spring, while giving a class lesson, told Mikolinis, “You don’t need to write all this down — it’s in the book.” Not for her. It all went down. Her social theory course — “one of the hardest things I’d taken” — required a 15-page paper on a subject of her choice. The professor allowed his students to turn papers in early, have them critiqued, then be resubmitted by the final day of class. Mikolinis got hers in a week early, resubmitted, and got an A.

The other major change she required from fall to spring involved relieving personal burdens. She couldn’t stop working because she had to pay the rent on the apartment she shares with her twin sister and fellow sociology major, Allison. But even in the fall, she knew that the Albany job she had was asking too much of her — working till 1 a.m. — so she quit and went back to the weekend job in Kingston she’d had since her senior year in high school, at Boice Bros. Dairy.

Even then, however, she and her sister would leave Kingston past midnight on Sunday nights to return to Albany. “I was so tired Monday mornings that sometimes I slept in and missed classes. That had to stop.” Not only that, she had found that with several colleges in her vicinity of her apartment, the morning commute of less than 10 miles to campus would take up to 45 minutes.

She switched to afternoon classes. It not only allowed her to sleep late on Mondays, but on those many other mornings when she stayed up studying till 2 a.m. “I don’t go to bed until I’ve make sure I understand a particular topic,” she said. The afternoon commute was also much quicker.

On campus, she found a particularly quiet table in the Campus Center dining area and made it her regular daytime study place. There, she takes out her notebooks, with class notes written in different-colored inks to match the Post-it notes in her textbooks — and she studies, and studies.

Including the A in Social Theory, Mikolinis wound up the spring with 3 As, a B and a C. “My overall GPA is up to 2.53, which is decent, but I am determined to get it up to 3.0 this fall,” she said. Due to the one F last fall, she may finish a few UAlbany credits short of the 60 she’d need to graduate in May. But if she enrolls in a summer course, which she now intends to, she can attend graduation with her class.

After that she plans to pursue a career working with juveniles who have been placed within the criminal justice system. Of UAlbany, she says, “It’s a great place. I love the faculty and amazing courses that are here.”

Once, of course, you find your unique way to make things work.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.