My day job includes teaching freshman writing; over the past five years, I’ve simplified a few key things that, while simple, are important for success in the college classroom. If you’re headed out for your first time in the college classroom, keep these in mind (and please, please, don’t use the “my laptop exploded” homework excuse!):
1. LOOK AT THE CLOCK: 99.99 percent of professors will expect students to be on time, whether it be an 8 am or 3 pm course, and they don’t buy excuses. Buy a loud alarm clock or set several morning alarms on a phone. Getting to class on time is half the battle!
2. SIGN UP: Join groups, clubs, rush, committees – whatever you see the first few weeks of school that interest you – check it out! Most students don’t stick with them all four years, but freshmen will certainly meet tons of people and find some with whom they click.
3. BUY BOOKS ONLINE: There are so many resources these days, that not buying books isn’t a great excuse – so, check out Amazon Student and buy those used versions for fractions of the prices (plus, buyback time is always a way to make money back, at the end of the semester.)
4. WRITE IT DOWN: Did you know that people who actually write down their grocery list, even if they forget to bring it into the store, are much more likely to remember what items they needed? Writing down assignments, test dates, essay deadlines can even help your memory. Buy an agenda and/or notebook and commit to at least writing down the deadlines for your courses.
5. HOW DO I STUDY? College is certainly a transition into a new academic world, and many students have to re-think studying habits – and they should! College offers new rigors and ideas and classes, of course one is going to have to change their study habits. Figure out what works for you: library, quiet room, music, at night, re-writing lectures, studying Power points, listening to podcasts – everyone’s unique, especially in his or her studying capabilities.
6. ONE QUESTION. If a student can read and/or study the material before class and think of at least one question about the subject material and tries to add that question to discussion or get that question clarified – the application of learning will go very far. This doesn’t mean, of course, to skim the first heading of a chapter and think of a silly question. But, in terms of critical reading and thinking, one question can bring home many ideas…and, if students are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of coursework – this is a great way to approach it.
7. GET OFF TWITTER: If you can’t stay off social media in class, don’t bring your laptop/phone/device. Seriously, first, nothing makes a professor more aggravated than a student clicking on his or her phone all period long; also, think about the money per course a student spends – why waste the time? It only takes a few days to make something a habit, don’t even give yourself the ability at the beginning of the semester, and that will set up a great habit. Here’s an app that let’s the user “turn off” certain websites/social media apps for customized periods of time:
8. CHECK YOUR EMAIL: So many situations, grades, meetings, and failing grades could have been easily avoided by students checking and/or responding to his or her email (not that all faculty are good about answering emails – I do know that’s true!). Get familiar with your school email and log in and be prepared to use it.
Remember above all, pace yourself! There is much fun, heartache, confusion, excitement, and emotion in starting a college career. There will be plenty of time for parties, roommate drama, and bad cafeteria food – take your time. Its also a hard transition, so remember that most professors know you and are happy to help that transition become more comfortable. Good luck!