August 29, 2011

How to Start College

Janis_picBy Janis Prince Inniss

Congratulations! You are a college student. Here are a few tips to help you have a satisfactory journey.

Regardless of whether you've been organized before or not, this is the time and place for you to become organized.

You need to have a calendar. You need to know when your assignments and tests are due. It is not okay to forget or to mix up various assignment dates.

You're probably taking four to six classes and keeping track of all of those assignments by memory is a recipe for disaster. Trust me. There are lots of tools to help with this, ranging from old-fashioned things like pens and day planners to high tech ones like cell phones and iPads. Many of the electronic calendars are available in a cloud. For example, if you have a Google email account, you have access to Google's calendar and that can be accessed once you're on the Internet. Pick your favorite, purchase it—unless, of course, it’s free, and then use it.

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On the first day of class, most of your professors will hand out a syllabus that they spent a lot of time preparing. Your syllabus functions as a quasi-contract specifying what your faculty member expects from you and what you can expect from him or her. Be sure to purchase the correct text books and other materials as indicated in your syllabus and as discussed by your professor.

After that, one of the first things that you should do is to input all of your assignment dates into your calendar. That puts you ahead of the game for the entire semester as most syllabi will include dates for the term. If there are changes along the way, as your instructors announce them, simply make those changes to your calendar.

New college students also often need guidance about how to navigate their relationships with their instructors. Your instructor is a professional. Do not expect him or her to be your pal. They might be fun, interesting, and you might envision palling around with this person. More than likely, however, this will not occur.

Do not refer to your instructor by his or her first name unless explicitly told to do so. Do not call him on her by a “pet” name; “honey” and “babe” are examples of names you should avoid. Similarly, writing to your instructor in lower-case letters with ‘text’ spelling is too back stage; keep it front stage.

As special as you are, so are all of your classmates. How large is your class? Are there 25, 30, 40 or another 100 special people in each of your classes? Therefore, you need to pay attention to your grades throughout the semester. Do not wait until the end of the semester to recognize that your poor academic performance may negatively impact your financial aid, scholarships, or engender the wrath of your parents and/or coaches. Use your favorite tool—paper or electronic—to track each grade as the semester goes on. Many schools now use learning management systems such as Blackboard into which your instructors will post your grades. Make use of those systems by checking in after every assignment and if your grade is not one that you like, that’s the time to address it.

Don’t write to your instructor about “making at least a C” when, at the end of the semester, he or she is trying to submit grades and—just like you—go on vacation. It will only annoy her and suggests that you don’t want to work for the grade you “need” but expect her to create it magically.

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How do you feel about writing? Regardless of whether you like to write or not, you will have to produce many pages of writing for many your classes. Some students deal with these assignments in dishonest ways. Some purchase papers, while others plagiarize or copy passages without crediting their sources.

I'm sure that you have at least heard of someone doing these things, although I'm sure that you would never take this supposed easy way out. Again, you'll have to trust me. This is no easy way. It will cost you in ways that you cannot imagine. Know that as much as students devise new ways of beating the system, the system devises new ways of catching students. Academic dishonesty is likely to bring you an F in the assignment, but could give you an F in the course, a tarnished record, and may lead to suspension or expulsion.

Finally, if—for any reason—you change your mind about a class and decide that it’s not for you, don’t just stop attending. This might lead to getting an F for nonattendance and/or because you are not turning in assignments. Recognize that, at most schools, you have to drop a course formally; each semester, an important date for your calendar is the last day on which you can withdraw from a course.

These are just a few tips to get you started on your college journey; the socialization process of becoming a college student is something be conscious of as you transition into this new identity.

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Comments

Before i came to college, i was always very organized with my school work. I am the kind of person to make sure i do well at everything i do and always get good grades.
I was worried about the level of difficulty in each class, the work load, and dealing with a whole new group of people, including teachers and students. The classes were a little easier than i thought and the work load was not always bad. I just wished i would have gotten my books a lot easier as advised to in this article. Also, i was excited to get to choose my own classes, but sometimes they did not meet my expectations. Some of my classes were hard, the professor was boring, or too early. I was worried about them, but i never dropped out or stopped coming; i would not get the credit for them then.
For me a huge problem is socializing. College is the time to get away and "find yourself" and make life-long friends. I am not a very sociable person. I like being by myself and i feel akward in a crowd. I need to work more on interacting with people, because i will never escape people and because my future career, FBI Agent, deals a lot with people.
This article is a good reminder to those in college, and a good source of information for those going into college. I wish i had something like thise before i started to help me get a better image of what college would be like.

I can relate to her first tip, because my tennis coach strongly advised me to keep a planner with me wherever I go. I used an agenda in high school for homework, but my coach told me to take the extra step and write down events and how long each assignment takes. I have found it to be extremely beneficial, and it is satisfying to cross items off the to-do list when I accomplish the tasks. I have tried sometimes to trust my memory to remember everything I have to do for that day, and it always fails. I have learned that in order for anything to become achieved, I must write it down.

I have found various uses of the syllabuses by professors. Some professors write down day-by-day what they hope to complete, which makes it easier to find out what one misses when they’re absent. Not to mention, they list what days important assignments are due, so students can plan accordingly, before the professor even announces it to the whole class. However, other professors just write down main goals they want us to learn in the course, and don’t have the day-by-day synopsis of what we’re going to do throughout the semester. The use of textbooks also varies by teacher. Some use the textbooks they list everyday, and some don’t even use them at all. The frustrating thing can be if we go out and buy these $100 books, and the professor never uses it once.
Students become disappointed when they spend all their time trying to find a book and then the professor never uses it, so they wonder why the professor even mentioned that they had to buy the book in the first place.

I have found grades to vary by teacher. Some professors list every grade on blackboard or turnitin.com, which really helps. Even though it's easier to keep track of grades on turnitin.com and blackboard, manually tracking my grades isn't a terrible alternative either. The toughest way is when professors don’t return anything we do, and unlike high school where every grade is listed online to check, we have no idea of our grade unless it’s the midterm or final grade. Furthermore, this grade does not even use a percentage for us to go by.

Finally, the author writing about dishonesty on papers is dead-on. Most professors use turnitin.com, which makes it impossible to plagiarize any information, even if one does it consciously or unconsciously. I found all the tips helpful, and most I have learned already through my experiences from the first and halfway through my second semesters. I don’t think the author included many important tips however, besides the very first one. Doing tasks right when one gets them, instead of waiting until the last minute is very crucial advice that not many college students understand. Spending a half-hour on a paper everyday for a week, is a much better way to go than to spend 5 hours on a paper the night before. If students followed this method for every assignment, their grades would vastly improve. In summary, I found the tips of the author helpful, but not very beneficial since I already do them.

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