Planning Beats Panicking : 4 Keys to Academic Success

keytosuccessWhew!  The first two weeks of the semester are in the books… only fourteen more to go!

While the first week can be overwhelming, it is usually the easiest!  All your instructors ask of you is to show up, buy your textbooks and supplies, and get started.  It is a few weeks later when your world might feel shaky.

The fifth week of classes is usually when your first paper might be due, your first large tests take place, or when major projects might be assigned or due.  All this… AT THE SAME TIME.  We teachers see major panic starting to occur as “the rubber hits the road”.  Students who were successful before they came to college are cool, calm, and collected.  Those who struggled in the past, or are not used to being completely responsible for their own success, are freaking out!  So what can you do to keep from freaking out under the weight of tests, projects, and papers, plus possible jobs and family responsibilities?

4 Tips for Success All Semester Long!

  1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. That’s right.  Sometimes simply doing the work assigned can help you be more successful!  Think about something: we instructors love our subject matter and want to share our knowledge, but first, you need some background information.  If you read the chapters you are assigned, the class will be more interesting because you will not simply be reviewing the book material, but you will be going deeper into the subject matter with an instructor who has extensive knowledge and experience in his or her field!
  2. SHOW UP. Not only in class, but also in your instructors’ offices.  I know.  It seems crazy, but coming to class can go a long way to being successful.  When you skip class, you miss important information and activities.  When you come to class, but you still don’t understand the material, show up in our offices.  We are here to help.  We want to help.  We are cheering for you.  Let us help you.  Come in and talk.  See us when you are confused about an assignment, a lecture, a reading, or a class discussion.
  3. PARTICIPATE. Be a part of the class discussion.  Actually, those who participate wholly in the class activities or discussions usually fare better on their assignments and tests.  Why?  Because they are interacting with the material, and they begin to feel more comfortable working with that material.  They are sharing ideas with each other and with their instructors.  These students are more likely to ask questions when they are confused, and to having conversations with the material.  That is right.  Students who participate are figuring out how they connect to the class material to predict where it is leading them, and to translate the material to their other classes.  That is a WIN, WIN for everyone!!
  4. KNOW YOUR RESOURCES. I know, I know.  I just said to show up in our offices, but where else can you show up?  Easy peasy lemon squeezy!  There are many services at Ridgewater dedicated to helping students who “show up.”

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Top 10 Reasons to Make Costa Rica Your Spring Classroom

Costa Rica 2016 graphicIf nice days make you wish your instructor would move learning outdoors, study abroad in Costa Rica during spring semester 2016 might be the ticket for you!

Ridgewater College is a partner with Education for Global Learning (EGL) and the Instituto de Culturo y Lengua Costarricense (ICLC). Together, they are broadening experiences and perspectives for students seeking a larger view of the world.

Ridgewater’s own science instructor Lori Anderson took the Costa Rica plunge and narrowed down her top reasons she’d recommend the experience to others.

  1. Beautiful beaches, lush cloud forests, sunshine and warm weather are the norm!
  2. The families students stay with are generous, loving and supportive. They take care of all of your room and board needs and become your second family.
  3. Being immersed in the Spanish culture and speaking the language in daily life is the best way to learn a second language.
  4. Former students enjoyed the experience so much they keep in contact with their Costa Rican friends and family.
  5. The food is fantastic!! There are fresh fruit stands everywhere you travel and farmers’ markets that have the best of the local foods for you to sample.
  6. Weekend adventure opportunities are numerous, such as: zip-lining in the cloud forest canopy, ATV trails, rock climbing, white-water rafting, deep-sea fishing, and many more!
  7. You will see amazing wildlife like crocodiles, iguanas, monkeys (a big favorite with everyone!) and a wide variety of beautiful birds.
  8. Costa Rica has eight national parks with a wide variety of beautiful ecosystems: beaches, volcanos, lowland dry forests, rainforests, and cloud forests. Their love of the environment and their desire to protect biodiversity is something that will surely be passed on to you!
  9. ICLC’s classrooms are all outside so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery as you learn.
  10. ICLC’s Spanish instructors are native to Costa Rica and are able to share their love for their country and their traditions along with teaching students to become more fluent Spanish speakers.

Learn more at www.ridgewater/edu/costarica .
IMG_0096 IMG_0301 pura vida

Earn a Business Degree at Ridgewater – What Are You Waiting For?

business partnership graphic
You could be among the first to earn a Bachelor of Arts Business degree at Ridgewater College, thanks a new partnership with Concordia University, St. Paul. (Did I read that right? A bachelor’s degree at Ridgewater College in Willmar and Hutchinson?)

That’s right. Get your four-year Business degree at Ridgewater College. How’s that for convenient? But how do you know if it’s for you? If you connect with one of these scenarios, take advantage of this new partnership and degree:

  1. You’re a Ridgewater student or alumni with credits you’d like to work for you as you build upon your two-year liberal arts OR technical degree – $2,000 scholarships are available for you!
  2. You’re an employed worker who wasn’t ready for the academic challenges of a bachelor’s degree when you were younger, but the strings to your dream of earning a BA degree cling to you daily – opportunity is knocking at the RIGHT time this time for you!
  3. You’re a parent with children at home so you don’t see commuting to a university as feasible, but you could commit to one night a week at nearby Ridgewater College – the door to your future is just outside your back door!
  4. You’re a high school senior and you have academic dreams that involve more than two years of college – great things come in small packages, you just have to open them!
  5. You’re simply someone who is curious – lucky you, because information open houses are set for 4:30-7:00 p.m. June 10 on the Willmar campus and June 11 on the Hutchinson campus.

Ready to launch your future with a business degree at Ridgewater College? Let’s find out!

For more info:


Student Show-and-Tell at Ridgewater Today

Show-and-Tell for students at Ridgewater’s Hutchinson Campus won’t include bunnies or lizards, but it will include computer-generated animations, Pickles the local cable TV star, electronic designer portfolios, 3D drafted and machined projects, mobile apps, marketing plans, art projects, strategies for raising great kids, and other cool stuff.

Meet students who are changing their lives at Ridgewater in the Hutchinson Commons between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Race you to the refreshments! #RidgewaterColl


4 Steps to Apply for College Financial Aid – Without Pulling Out Your Hair!

FAFSANights2015Yay! You’ve decided to go to college! Now it’s time to figure out how to pay for it without eating just cheesy noodles day and night. Maybe your mom or dad saved some money for you. Maybe you worked summer jobs and saved just enough for the newest phone. Or maybe you’re working…a lot… but all your money goes for grownup bills for you and your family.

Regardless of your age or situation, the majority of college students could benefit from financial aid for college. Four simple tips can get on the right track without losing all your hair!

  1. Regardless of what college you plan to attend, come to Ridgewater’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) workshop. Pick your session! Both help sessions will be from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. (come-and-go format).
    1. Willmar on Wed., April 22
    2. Hutchinson on Thurs., April 23
  2. Then register for that free help session by contacting Megan Field at
    320-222-5264 or .
  3. Bring the following with you:
    Note: Students will need their parents’ information unless they are 24 years or older OR married OR have been legally emancipated from their guardians.
    I. Parents’ and student’s W2 forms
    II. Parents’ and student’s 2014 tax returns
    III. Social Security cards or Alien ID#
    IV. Student that are reapplying should bring their and their parents’ 4-digit FAFSA PIN
  4. Show up and let us help you complete – then click submit!

“Colleges have many students who wait until the last minute to complete their FAFSA, causing additional struggles when it’s time to pay tuition and buy textbooks,” said Megan Field, Ridgewater Student Success Coordinator and FAFSA event organizer. A late FAFSA submission may also cause students to miss out on opportunities to work on campus through the Federal Work-Study program. Campus supervisors can be so flexible and the jobs provide great work experience. “It is my hope that we can help students (and/or parents) by getting FAFSAs done with them ASAP.”

If you have more questions or want more information regarding financial aid, contact the Financial Aid Office at .

College Visits 101: Plan Ahead


Deciding what college to attend can be the most important decision a person will make that can affect an entire life. It can determine potential majors, professional connections, BFFs, and perspectives on education, careers and life.

It’s not just about whether you’ll be a Warrior, Dragon, Gopher or other spirited fan –     this is a BIG, exciting decision about cool, life-changing experiences ahead!

Web sites make it easy for prospective students to research colleges, but many will agree: setting foot on a campus is the best way to determine a good fit.

So what makes a college visit SUCCESSFUL? “Plan ahead,” says Jill Traut, Ridgewater College admissions representative. “Start thinking about college before you are a senior.”
– Research possibilities.
– Visit with college representatives who visit your high school.
– Visit with your school counselor.
– Narrow the list of colleges you will visit.

Or if you are an adult, think about college months in advance of reinvesting in yourself. Many colleges have special event days for group visits. Knowing dates early for your top college choices helps families schedule visits around school or work days off and activities. Like this Wednesday, March 25, the Hutchinson campus will host a Discover Ridgewater visit day. Then on Thursday, March 26, the Willmar campus will do that same.
– Meet faculty and students
– See program areas
– Learn about financial aid and the admissions process
– Experience student life with lunch and a comedian

A great experience can create pitter-pats of excitement for a more directed future!

Want a more informal experience? Call the college admissions office about two weeks prior to your anticipated visit day. Share your visit goals and interests. Then staff can make arrangements with faculty, coaches or activity advisors.

Tips for Students
+ Visit more than one college. It’s about perspective.
+ Avoid scheduling two visits in the same day. Can you say information overload?
+ Decide who will join you. Parents? Great. Friends? Possibly distracting.
+ If you bring friends truly interested in the college, consider scheduling separate tours if your majors differ.
+ Ask lots of questions – tuition, housing, activities, part-time jobs and placement.
+ Explore the community –  your potential new “home”. Continue reading

Seeing is Believing: Discover Ridgewater College

Not many people go to a movie without first seeing a movie trailer. Actors, action and scripts tantalize the potential audience to take the plunge and enjoy the whole movie experience.

Discover Ridgewater is a chance for potential students of all ages to visit our campus “sets” in Hutchinson and Willmar to check out the leading faculty and students, witness intriguing career actions, and ponder life-changing scripts to help future audiences take the plunge and enjoy the whole Ridgewater experience.

Registration is now open online for Wed., March 25 in Hutchinson and Thurs., March 26 in Willmar at .

Each “showing” will run 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Plot components will include:

  • Campus tours
  • Interaction with faculty and students
  • Technical program visits
  • Explanation of general education/liberal arts and the transfer process to four-year universities
  • Exploration of Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO)
  • Financial aid and scholarships nuts, bolts and upcoming deadlines

That’s right – it’s a 3-D show and goodies on us – with no special glasses to wear!

You might not smell popcorn, but if you love the smell of automotive shops, sawdust or hair salons, you’re going to want to be in Willmar!

You might not see Hunger Game challenges, but if you are fascinated with 3-D animation, sound effects or working with children, you’re going to want to be in Hutchinson!

If you’re intrigued by the writing of movies or their reviews, marketing that sells movies or accounting that calculates the blockbuster success, you can take in Discover Ridgewater at either campus! There’s lots more, but you get the idea.

Register today for your free spring showing of Discover Ridgewater and bring a friend and/or parent!

Learn more at .IMG_4039


Want to Earn More and Spend Less? Enroll in a Community or Technical College

News stories continue to pop up examining the value of a college education, the wisdom of a liberal arts degree, increasing tuition and student debt loads, and myriad other questions around the pursuit of higher education.

Of course, the facts are quite clear: a college education is still a great investment in your future. What isn’t always portrayed, however, is the extraordinary value and earning potential available through a community and technical college education.  The article below appeared in a recent issue of Forbeswoman magazine, and does a nice job of illustrating just how attractive it might be for a budding college student to consider enrolling at a community or technical college.

Forget Four More Years: Why Community College Could Be Your Ticket To Financial Success

Does less classroom time equal a bigger bottom line? New research shows that when it comes to earning big bucks right after graduation, community college graduates have an edge over those with four-year degreesCollegeMeasures analyzed data from three states and found that not only did new graduates of technical or occupational programs outearn their community college peers in non-technical programs, they also outearned bachelor’s degree holders. This on the heels of stats from the Department of Labor from the fall that showed job growth for those with associate’s degrees was outpacing that of more advanced degree holders. The good news doesn’t stop there; the majority of the fastest growing occupations in the US, from dental hygienists to veterinary technologists,  require only a community college education.

In these sluggish economic times and in light of sky-high unemployment for four-year grads, community college has become an increasingly attractive and affordable option. In 2010 – 2011, the average community college student paid $2713 in tuition – a tenth of the tuition expense shouldered by students at private four-year colleges. Students at community colleges also received, on average, $1700 in Pell Grant aid to offset these tuition fees. While community college tuition costs did  rise 2.7% during 2010 – 2011, this was still less than half of the increase at private four-year schools.

Enrollment has reflected this educational bargain, increasing for seven consecutive years during and after the Great Recession and finally dipping only in 2010 – 2011. Completion rates have also been on the rise, having grown 127% between 1989 and 2010. Not only is community college a more affordable option for cash-strapped high school grads unwilling or unable to shell out the tuition for a public or private college education, these schools have a long history of catering to non-traditional students – adult learners, those seeking to re-enter the workforce after a break, part-time students with outside job and family obligations – with flexible class options and accelerated, practical curriculum. The federal government has capitalized on this aspect of the community college system by investing $2B in community college re-training programs for unemployed workers. Community colleges have also surged in popularity among those who already hold four-year degrees and are looking for practical skills to complement their liberal arts education and give them an advantage in the job market.

Cheap tuition augmented by grant money, practical, employable skills, a decent salary and a shorter time investment – what isn’t to love about a community college education? Firstly, graduates of highly specialized technical programs may find themselves locked into those occupations because of a lack of transferable soft skills. If you go to school to learn how to become a submerged arc welder, you will likely graduate as someone who can get a job doing SAW, but if you want to switch careers in 10 years, that decade of technical experience won’t necessarily help you land a position outside your narrow field. Secondly, despite CollegeMeasure’s findings, overall lifetime earnings are still tied to increased education levels. The more schooling you have, the more money you make, as a rule. But even then, 28% of associate’s degree holders buck the trend by outearning their bachelor’s degree counterparts over the life of their careers. File this under further proof that now more than ever, getting a job in this economy is about what you’ve studied vs. where and for how long.

My Ridgewater Story – Justin Rademacher

The following post is Justin Rademacher’s Ridgewater Story.  Justin is a student in the Marketing and Sales Management program and authored the post.

In 2008 I was working at a hardware store as an assistant department manager making a little over $20,000 a year. I had moved up the ranks fairly quickly and was on track of being given more responsibility. I knew that the company had plans for me to eventually take over as the department manager within a year or so.  Even though I was on the “right track”, something was missing. I felt that I could do more, that I had a lot more potential that I haven’t obtained yet. After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that furthering my education would deliver me more opportunities.

The fall semester of 2009 began and I was beginning my time at a university up north. I started doing my generals knowing that I wanted to receive a degree in business. In doing my generals, one thing kept sticking out to me. The class sizes were huge and I wasn’t really getting the individualized help that I really needed. I began to wonder if this was the right choice for me. I thought about it a while longer and decided to finish up my generals and then look for another school that would more suit my needs and would focus my desire to success.

Spring semester 2010, I began my time with Ridgewater College in Hutchinson, MN. I have to say that by far it is the smartest decision I have ever made in my life to this point. I met with the marketing and sales management advisor prior to transferring and based on what I wanted and my personality, I decided this was the field I wanted to pursue.

Once classes began, I could tell right away this was the place for me. I had the individualized attention I needed, was learning the field that I wanted to be in, and I was offered many more opportunities than my previous college. I was received a PELL grant which decreased the size of my college debt.

Immediately I began getting involved by joining a group called DECA where I was able to participate nationally in marketing competitions. And now, I am the president of our local DECA chapter, I am a part of the Ambassador program, and I volunteer in the marketing department where my classroom skills are being applied.

The roads in life often take wild turns every now and then. I am not quite sure where my road will turn next, but I have every confidence that Ridgewater has provided the tools and opportunities for me to change my life.

Excellent Employees Make an Excellent College!

Several Ridgewater staff and faculty have recently been recognized by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) Board of Trustees for excelling in their job duties.

Two Faculty Honored as Outstanding Educators

Two members of Ridgewater’s faculty have been named by the Board of Trustees as Outstanding Educators for 2012. Dr. Allen Balay, chair of the Veterinary Technology department, and Shawn Mueske, Biology instructor, have both been bestowed with this honor.

Nominations for Outstanding Educator were made by students, faculty peers or staff, and were evaluated by a campus review committee before being submitted to the MnSCU Senior Vice Chancellor as Outstanding Educators by Ridgewater President Dr. Douglas Allen.  At the System level, a committee used detailed criteria in assessing Outstanding Educator portfolios and will make final recommendation of four Educator of the Year recipients, who are reviewed and approved by the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees Educator of the Year Award for Excellence in Teaching program evaluates each nominee in the following areas:

  • Teaching strategies and materials
  • Content expertise and professional growth
  • Service to students, profession, institution, and system
  • Assessment of student learning and performance

Ridgewater Finance Team Receives Award

The Ridgewater College Finance team, led by Dan Holtz, Vice President of Finance and Operations and Cheryl Norlien, Director of Business Services, has been named as recipients of the 2011 Excellence in Financial Management Award in recognition of Ridgewater’s leadership and efforts in financial management.

This award is part of an awards program that was put in place in 1997 to recognize leadership and team effort for excellence in financial management and facilities management.  It also recognizes significant contributions and outstanding efforts of special employees at MnSCU colleges and universities.

Other members of the Finance team at Ridgewater include Teren Novotny, Karen Stulen, Shannon Mittag, Christine Gerding, Deb Wiprud, Audrey Harper, Jennifer Loeschen, and JoLynn Kosek.

Student Services Leaders Recognized

MnSCU leadership has also presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Ridgewater College and several key student services leaders for outstanding contributions to the system-wide Students First project, which has been instrumental in improving the student experience in the areas of admissions, financial aid, payment, and registration.

Recipients of this recognition include Kelli Kienitz, Registrar; Sally Kerfeld, Director of Admissions; Cheryl Norlien, Director of Business Services; and Jim Rice, Director of Financial Aid.

Congratulations to all of the recipients of these honors, and THANK YOU!  It’s because of your tremendous effort that our region is home to such a great college!