Sunday, August 17, 2014
Tips for New Students
Wise and worldly readers -- including current students -- what would you add?
Visit the campus and identify all of the places that look like good places to park. Ignore them, because they will be full unless you have an 8:00 class. Look for a lot that looks like it is hard to get to or just hard to find.
Find out if you can study in or near the tutoring center. This can be an ideal place for a study group to meet between classes. You did schedule an hour between classes so you can do some homework there, right?
Join some student club which interests you. You will meet many other students in a social setting. This is especially important if you went to school with the same kids for 6 or more years. The new students you meet in college will give you a chance to practice your social skills without the expectations or what you are like of your former classmates.
Anonymous reminds me of something I put in a blog many years ago about the difference between HS and college: In HS you were required to attend but your teachers were required to find some way to pass you. In college, you are NOT required to attend and your professors are NOT (at most places) required to pass you.
That popular freshman instructor who gives lots of extra credit is just setting you up for failure.
Student Clubs: Already said (@Anonymous). Find something other than classes to occupy your time. It is important to meet other students outside of class who are facing the same challenges as you. Sports, hobbies, games clubs, whatever it is. The solidarity boosts morale! My universities had "club fairs" the first week of classes where all the clubs recruited new members.
Entertainment: If you're from out of town, find some local places to unwind. Stress ratchets up very quickly. I did a lot of studying at school and at home, so sometimes I needed to get away from both places to keep my mental health from disintegrating. Granted, I was a single teenager at the time, so this might look very different to a student with family.
Offices: When you get your syllabi, make sure you know where your prof/TA's office is. If you don't know, find it in person. When your assignment is due and you had a power failure and a printer failure (has happened to me), you don't want to be looking for an office.
E-mail: If you know you're not going to check your campus e-mail, set up an IMAP or mail-forwarding right away. Some in-house systems can be finicky, so get it done right, and before you find out you've been missing e-mails.
By this I mean, don't just sit there and quietly panic and/or give up when you don't understand something or can't figure out how to get yourself out of whatever mess you've found yourself in. Ask your classmates. Ask the tutoring center. Ask your professor during office hours. Reach out for help from the office of disabilities, office of diversity/minority students, and the office of any other helpful-looking thing you may find. (I went to a school that had a Dean of the Chapel. He was a pretty helpful guy who'd been there forever, knew how to navigate the campus bureaucracy, and was perfectly willing to help out students figure things out even if it wasn't a religious issue or a student of his particular religion having the issue.) Sure, you might lose that look of cool competence you've been trying to cultivate, but it's probably better to look stupid but pass calculus than fail calculus but convince the other freshmen you totally have your act together.
If you are not sure what you want to do, start with the hardest thing and work your way to the easiest.
If you can take art classes at the JC, do it. They will be hard to get into at many transfer schools.
If you really want to major in the sciences, take all the freshman and sophomore level courses before you transfer. Minimize GE and take chem and calculus as soon as possible.
12 units is enough for your first semester.
Talk to the transfer counselor at the school you want to go to AFTER the CC (your destination school) and ask them how to plan your courses. Find out about transfer agreements early and plan for them.
When you go for advising, arrive with a plan that you have created using the school catalog and only have the advisor check it. Do not let them make the plan for you.
Get internships and work in a field that interests you.
Form study groups and make friends so you don't get isolated.
Make sure you know the places to access printers on campus and how much they cost. Think about crowds and lines and bringing enough change (or loading it on your printing card) if you plan to print an assignment right before turning it in at class. Also check your supply of paper and ink if you have a printer at home.
Please don't assume that because the professor doesn't say anything to students who walk in 5 minutes late every class that he or she does not notice and will not hold it against those students.