Golden rule days
Short summer, wasn't it? Time to get back to classrooms, back to the drone of lecturers and the whirr of overhead projectors.
If you're a student in the class of 2009, welcome to the big show. And here are a few tips to make that first day of class a smidge easier (if I've left some good ones out, please post them in comments):
- Show up on time. Better yet, be a few minutes early.
- Use those few minutes before class -- or take a minute after class -- to introduce yourself by name to the instructor. It helps more than you know. I still remember Alex and Jenny and Meghan and Michael, who shook my hand and told me their names on the first day of class. Somehow the name sticks better when the student makes the effort to be known.
- Look nice. Don't overdo the wardrobe, but at least make the effort to wash up. Clean hair, clean nails, clean feet. Sure, it's still flipflop season, but nobody likes looking at your dirty hooves, so wash, trim and polish. Also, keep visible skin to a minimum. We're not sidewalk inspectors. Don't show us your cracks. And like Jonathan the hairdresser said to that heavily tattooed stylist he ended up firing on Blow Out: "More sleeve, less ink."
- Don't buy the books till you check out the class. Some profs may tell you they've changed books or aren't using the ones on the bookstore shelves anymore. Or maybe you can tell by the syllabus that you'll only need to read a chapter or two in that $60 text that's on the list. In that case (if you're trying to save money), you can check it out of the library or just sit in the bookstore and read the relevant sections without having to buy it. (I think the price of textbooks is a scandal and a racket. But then, I haven't written one.) You could also co-op books with another student in class. Just make sure it's someone who's a fast reader.
- Make friends in your classes. Introduce yourself to someone who looks reliable. You can find yourself a study-partner or note-sharer that way. And when the day comes that you really do have the avian flu and can't wing to class, you'll have a buddy who'll feed you the info you missed.
- Do NOT tell profs on the first day of classes that you have to leave early for fall break or that you have to miss the midterm because you're in a wedding, you have non-refundable tickets to Hawaii or your parents expect you to spend the full week with them in Nantucket. Profs don't care. And those are not excused absences. They're just annoying reminders that students get better vacations than the people who teach them.
- If you have a learning disability, don't use it as an excuse to miss assignment deadlines, exams or other class responsibilities. Nobody in the real world will cut you slack because you're dyslexic or have ADHD. Work with profs if you really get in a bind, but otherwise, try to overcome it. You'll have to eventually anyway.
- Resolve right now: You will not grub for grades. You will not grub for grades.
- If the prof is boring on Day 1, drop the class. He or she will never be more energetic than that.
- Don't be afraid of the professors you've heard are really tough. The harder they are, the better they are and the more you'll learn. Seek them out and take their classes. You won't be sorry.
- Take time to read every word of every syllabus (those are the class outlines handed out by the teachers). Syllabi are ridiculously long these days because teachers have to spell out every requirement of the course to keep students from using loopholes. I used to offer a "monkey bonus" on writing assignments -- 10 extra points if you worked the word "monkey" into any story. But you wouldn't know that unless you read page 8 of the syllabus. And I didn't mention it in class. I could always tell which students read the syllabus. Cheeky monkeys!
- You're in college now. Nobody knows that in high school your cross-eyed cousin was your prom date or you were the treasurer of the Hillary Duff fan club. You're a blank slate, able to re-invent yourself to be whomever or whatever you want to be. Right now. Today. Shed the old baggage. Erase the old tapes. You're cool.
- Get some sleep the night before classes start. Do not try to start school with the worst (or first) hangover of your life. First impressions count.
- Take a deep breath, walk in and own it. You're in college!