Students in class

Photo provided by Special Collections Department / Iowa State University Library

Course Overview

Psychology 131, the Academic Learning Skills Seminar, is designed to facilitate students’ development of academic skills, behaviors, and attitudes. Content in this course will build a foundation for academic success to help students immediately and better prepare them for further success throughout their college career.  

The remaining sections of this page address the following topics:


Who Should Take Psych 131?

Psych 131 is for any undergraduate student who would like to improve their academic skills. Our experiences have shown the students benefit differently from Psych 131 in the following manners:

  • First-Semester Students typically benefit by learning about academic skills that help them transition from high school to college. These students typically are confident in their abilities, but may feel overwhelmed by the transition. Psych 131 helps these students to manage the transition to college, to persist through challenges, and to establish early academic success.
  • Second-Semester Students, Sophomore Students, and Students on Academic Probation or Warning typically benefit by learning about academic skills based on mistakes or successes they have already experienced in the preceding semester(s). Psych 131 helps this group of students revise (not overhaul) their study habits within a framework of realistic goals.
  • Transfer Students typically benefit from Psych 131 by relearning study habits during their transition to Iowa State University. These students might have missed out on orientation courses at ISU that target first-year students. Psych 131 may help them adjust to the academic culture and environments at ISU.

The class size is generally limited to 30 students to allow for group interaction and individual attention.


Who Should Not take Psych 131?  

  • Juniors and Seniors (excluding transfer students) may benefit the least from Psych 131. Upperclassmen students commonly have a good sense of what they need to do to be successful at ISU. When discussing Psych 131 or academic skills with a Junior or Senior, it is important to think critically about how their needs can best be served. It's likely that these needs can be met through Academic Coaching.
  • Graduate students cannot enroll in Psych 131. Graduate students seeking academic skill development should speak first with their major professor to discuss their needs.

When Should Students Take Psych 131? 

The course content and formats best fit students' needs during their first four semesters in college. (Or first semester at ISU for transfer students.) We encourage academic advisers to recommend Psych 131 during these early semesters.


What is the Content of Psych 131? 

The learning outcomes for Psych 131 are based on goal setting and motivation, time management and planning, learning strategies and individual differences, and team-based, peer group interaction.

The Academic Success Center provides Psych 131 instructors with resources to develop and facilitate course content, but does not prescribe specific activities for every section. Activities and facilitation methods are adapted by instructors to best fit students' needs within each section. Some of the secondary or related topics covered in the course may include: memory and memorization, written/oral communication, group work, or mental health and stress management.

The required textbook is: Academic Transformation: The Road to College Success (3rd ed).


Who Coordinates Psych 131? 

The Psych 131 course coordination is a partnership between the Department of Psychology and the Academic Success Center. The Department of Psychology hosts the course, while a Psychology faculty member (Chris Meissner, Ph.D.) and Academic Success Center staff member (Leif Olsen, M.Ed.) collaborate with instructors to coordinate and teach the course. 


Who Teaches Psych 131? 

Psych 131 instructors vary from semester to semester, but are commonly graduate students within the Department of Psychology or School of Education.


Enrollment Tips for Psych 131: 

  • Targeted Sections: Please note that some sections target specific groups, such as learning communities or scholarship programs.
  • Obtaining Signatures for Adds: Students can add most sections of Psych 131 without an instructors signature. An instructor signature is needed only if:
    • A student is adding on or after the first day of class. If a signature is needed for a late add, please refer students to their instructor only. Faculty/Staff in the Academic Success Center and Department of Psychology will not sign add/drop slips. 
    • Note that students can add a second-half semester section before class begins for this section by going to 10 Enrollment Services if there is at least one seat available.
  • Obtaining Signatures for Drops: Please refer students to their instructor only. Faculty/Staff in the Academic Success Center and Department of Psychology will not sign add/drop slips.

How Does Psych 131 Impact Students' Academic Success? 

The core course outcomes target a variety of students' needs. In-class activities and assignments encourage students to develop individual skills to meet their academic and personal goals. 

Students' comments (from evaluations and projects) also demonstrate the impact of Psych 131:

have learned a lot throughout this course and am so glad I have taken it. I am going to keep my book as a reference for the rest of my college career.

Psychology 131 holds all the tools that a student may need during college to help them be successful. Personally, I have already found most of the material covered in this class to be useful in my studies during my second semester at Iowa State.

I loved going to class. The small class size and the atmosphere was always something I looked forward to. This is why I didn't miss a single class this entire semester!

To be honest, when I signed up for Psychology 131, I wasn't really sure as to what it would entail. I figured that I would be learning about stuff I basically already knew. I was completely thrown for a loop -- I learned a lot of valuable information from this course that I would have never known otherwise.

I really wish I would have known this class existed during the first semester. It really would have helped me excel in all my other classes. All students coming to ISU who are freshman should really consider taking this class as soon as possible.