Six Steps to College Success

Six Steps to College Success offers a detailed, but easy to follow, system that shows you each exact step of a complete study plan, plus practical exercises to get you actively involved in each step along the way.



The Vital Study Skills System

A Systematic,
Evidence-Based Approach to Learning Strategies

Our holistic approach to learning addresses the 3 fundamental strategies that allow you to not only repeat the material for a test, but to actually know it for life.

Time Management

How you spend your waking hours

Body Management

Getting proper sleep, nutrition and exercise

Mind Management

Learning focus, concentration, and self talk

Reinforced Learning

Take steps to cement the material in long term memory.



Activities are used to stimulate prior knowledge and build new knowledge. Pre-reading helps students become more active and engaged in classroom lectures and increases reading speed and comprehension.



Students learn how to structure the material as they listen to lectures and read the texts. The structuring phase helps them internalize the information and build mental models.


Self Test

The information is encoded in long-term memory by a structured approach to spaced reviews and self-tests.



Having stored the information in long-term memory, students are able to easily access and apply what they have learned. This step is typically demonstrated in examinations and laboratory work.

Free Tools

Use the Baseline Time Recording Sheet to record your activities for the next week. By observing and recording your behavior for a week, you will discover “bits” or “chunks” of time that you can use more effectively.

Use the Plan/Actual Time Recording Sheet to discover how closely you are following your schedule. By checking off planned activities as they are completed, you can determine if there is a pattern to your “off schedule” activities. E.g., Does housework suddenly seem important when you are supposed to be studying? Do phone calls or e-mails interrupt your study time? Once you discover your patterns of distraction, you can better deal with them.


Books Sold





Our Clients:


What People are Saying

Kent R. Folsom, MD

Senior Partner, Harrisonburg Emergency Physicians

“If you read their manual, and if you follow what they say, you will study better, study faster, recall more efficiently and learn more than you ever thought possible. I know. I was one of the many who saw a dramatic change. I found this course to be a turning point in my medical education and its techniques still serve me today in my professional career. To Jean and Kathy, I give my unending thanks. You saved me!”



“There are not words to express my appreciation. You gave me the tools I needed to study. As a matter of fact, I showed one of my classmates the chart I made for one of the topics and she created the same to study. You’re awesome! Thank you a million times.”

Laura McGuinn, MD

Children’s Hospital of Austin

“This book should be mandatory reading for anyone contemplating a professional health education curriculum…. I used this study system to survive medical school…. Even after residency, I have continued to refer back to the charts I made. I was excited to hear that Jean and Kathleen were publishing their study plan so that even more students could benefit from their guidance. The workbook format encourages the reader not only to read the book … but also empowers the student to take personal control of their study system.”

Pamela K. Friesen, PhD, RN

Bethel University

“I would highly recommend this workbook for any beginning nursing major. It is an excellent document that addresses all the essential study skills nursing students need to know in order to be successful in their nursing education. This is excellent! You have addressed all of the essential study skills nursing students need to be successful. The workbook format, to be used over several weeks, allows the students to interact with the content. The approach is holistic in that you recognize the impact every dimension of their lives will have on the nursing education process. Thank you for writing this book. It will be extremely useful for all nursing majors and educators. It’s been my privilege to be a reviewer. Thank you.”


W. Scott Warner, MD

UTMB - Galveston

“Study Without Stress…is an excellent book for students who need to acquire, assimilate and put to use a large body of knowledge in a relatively short period of time…. By using this system in medical school, I greatly improved my exam scores. But now I find that I have better retention of the knowledge that I utilize daily in my patient care. These techniques have helped me become more efficient with my studies (which don’t end with the completion of school!) with better time management. “Also they have given me much better recall by helping me structure the information in my mind for better access…. By using this approach I was able to go from a struggling medical student to a knowledgeable resident to a confident fellow. This system has helped me greatly in achieving my goals.”




“My study habits have changed greatly. I now realize I can accomplish a lot by using my time wisely – concentrating on the task at hand and reading in a much smarter and faster fashion."



“The information will stay with me forever – even after nursing school. This is really, really helpful for everyone.”

Immaculata Igbo, PhD

Prairie View A&M University, College of Nursing

“The book is very well organized, gives a practical assessment of the problems and feedback on each tool. It gives a lot of examples for each case and is written in easy-to-read language. The pictorial illustrations are very helpful. The summary at the end of each chapter captures the key elements of that chapter is an easy to review manner. Reports of students’ feedback on tested techniques and skills say a lot to other students. This book is an essential tool for incoming nursing students.”

Margie Bentch Landson, MSN, RN, CNE

Prairie View A&M College of Nursing

“This is a book that every student thinking about nursing should read, and the earlier, the better. While it will certainly help students already in clinical nursing courses, going in prepared by using this book and trying out the skills during their prerequisite work will empower those students and give them a distinct advantage in their nursing courses!”

“Excellent tool. Clearly maintains its uniqueness from other books on the market.”


Dave Fuller, MD, PhD

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

“The rigors of medical school demand a level of academic performance that is unique in both volume and level of focus required. Med school is tough enough. Don’t deny yourself a tool to both increase your performance and help you effectively manage your life. Having expended so much effort to get to medical school, don’t sell yourself short once you have arrived: Get and use this book right now!”

Robert H. Coombs, PhD

UCLA School of Medicine

“Students have consistently told the authors that if they had learned and used the Study Without Stress method during their pre-professional preparation they would have had an easier time and earned much better grades. Everyone who has read this book has remarked, ‘I wish I had seen this book earlier; how can I get a copy?’"

Robert L. Galloway, III, RPh, DC, CCN, DAAPM, DACBN

Galloway Wellness Center

“As achievement in higher education becomes increasingly more stressful, students need new skills to enable them to cope. This book can enable any student in the medical sciences to master study skills and stress management techniques that will ease their transition through the maze of material and courses to graduation. This is THE how-to guide to successful study."

Annie Chang, DO

Scott & White Memorial Hospital

“I wanted to let you know that I used the charting techniques I learned in Study Without Stress a lot during our toughest semester…and raised my class ranking forty spots!!! It’s especially useful for Pharm, Micro and Path.”

Mike Wadley, DVM

Wadley Animal Clinic

“This book is a must for the professional student, but all students can benefit from this book… I found the material well organized and easy to read and implement. This book should be mandatory the first year of professional school.”

Janie Perez, MA, RN, PNP

Stanford University Medical Center

“This guide is easy to follow and user-friendly with engaging exercises. The self-tests at the beginning of the chapter, as well as the feedback that follows each assessment, help in applying the strategies provided. The time management and organizational skills the students learn from this experience will assist them in becoming life-long learners and will be utilized in their every day nursing careers. I also recommend this guide for pre-nursing students during their prerequisite courses.”



“Thank you so much for everything that you’ve done for us this semester! It really did help a lot. I ended up with 2 A’s and 2 B’s this semester, and the B’s that I had were really high B’s too! I know that I would not have been able to do it if wasn’t for your awesome study strategies. I just wanted to let you know how appreciative I am for the time you took … and that I really did succeed with your tips. 
Thank you again!



Intensive Training for Better Course Comprehension


In a Vital Skills Workshop students learn to:

  • manage their time
  • get the most out of lectures
  • organize study notes
  • improve long-term memory
  • increase concentration
  • reduce test anxiety
  • prepare for exams


Skills and Strategies for Mastering the Material


We’ve taken our years of research and workshop experience and distilled it into workbooks for self-study.

We present self-diagnostic tools and strategies that can be applied by students of any discipline. These skills are a must for any student embarking on a rigorous course of study.

For students who do not have access to one of our workshops, our workbooks can be used in a small group setting. Our books are also an excellent resource for counselors and teachers.


A popular speaker for both faculty and students groups, Kathleen Straker knows her audience and subject matter well. She presents her work on learning strategies in a way that is interesting and memorable.


Kathleen regularly speaks at international conferences and is the go-to person for local student organizations.


Some of the organizations that have invited Ms. Straker to present include:

Generalists in Medical Education (GME)

Student National Medical Association (SNMA), UT Chapter

Undergraduate Medical Academy (UMA) Pre-Health Science Summit

National League for Nursing (NLN)

Professional Nurse Educators Group (PNEG)

Camp Cardiac

Education Policy Institute (EPI)

The Professionals

Our Team of Experts


Kathleen Straker, M.Ed.


Kathleen Straker is president of The Straker Group, LLC. She is a master’s-prepared educator and reading specialist with two decades of experience in teaching study strategies. The workshops she teaches have helped thousands of students graduate to careers in nursing, allopathic and veterinary medicine and research.


Richard Straker


Rick Straker has more than 20 years’ experience in a variety of consulting, training, and management roles in the public and private sectors. He is a Certified Facilitator, a Certified Performance Technologist and has extensive training in performance improvement best practices. He is co-founder of The Straker Group.


Tony Moore

Tony Moore is a Certified Performance Technologist and president of Moore Performance Improvement. MPI is a virtual company, networked with other consulting companies around the country that share the same stringent standards and systematic approach to improving performance.


Eugenia Kelman, PhD

Eugenia Kelman is a cognitive-behavioral psychologist. She has served on the faculty and in the administration at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO; University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX and at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Her favorite question is, “What can I learn from this?”


In addition to Student Workshops, we also provide Faculty Seminars.

If students declare they “study ALL the time” but don’t understand the material, what can you do?

A faculty seminar will provide tools to help faculty determine what the underlying issue may be, without having to re-teach the course to each student who comes for assistance.
Increase student persistence, retention and graduation by hosting a Vital Study Skills Workshop or Faculty Seminar. For more information write or call us:

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