Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Secrets of your success

Gimme your brain for a sec. For a magazine story, I'm compiling a list of "secrets of success in college (whether it's your first year or your last)." What are some tips you'd give college students based on your experience? Shmooze teachers more? Less? Drop the goofy nickname you've had since childhood? Sit on the front row? Eat protein at breakfast?

A prize from the bulging prize closet awaits the best three (judged by moi) posted in Comments here by Memorial Day. Funny is good. But within funny should be some good advice, especially for those just heading into college in the fall.

So I'm crunching deadline on several stories. Last week I was pressed into service as a fill-in restaurant critic. Not easy, given that the little bistro I was assigned wasn't exactly Le Cirque quality. I'd have settled for Golden Corral. Or Sonic (love them tater-tots). And I had to eat there twice. You're supposed to go anonymously, paying full price for the meal (the paper reimburses later) and not letting on that you're there as a critic. But on both visits, my friend and I were the only diners in the joint. And we had to order a lot of food. Take my advice: When you ask the waiter if the veal is good and he looks over his shoulder like there might be a sniper in the corner and then he shrugs, don't order it.

I'm also taking a night course online. More about that later.

And because some of you have asked via email -- including some of you nice members of the Nigerian royal family who need my help securing some of that fat inheritance money -- I'll confirm that I'm still seeing Professor Lunch-Guy, about whom I wrote a few months back. To me he's Dr. McDreamy, but I still can't get a read on his attitude toward the whole dating thing. We talk about everything but that.

He's out of town a lot, so I end up going out with my gay friend (as I did last night), which is so much more predictable and easier to navigate. You can ask him anything and he'll tell you what's what. And at the end of the night you don't have to surreptitiously slip one of those vile Listerine tape-lozenges on your tongue in anticipation of the goodbye smooch.

My gay man will go ahead and TiVo American Idol without having to be asked.

And then happily watch it with me later.

OK, secrets of college success. Type me some. Prizes await.


Blogger Logical Philosopher said...

I found there was one key success factor in both my degrees - it sounds simple but is much harder to do than you think: Form a group of 3 or 4 friends in your classes to do all your assignments together... Make sure they all know how to work hard, and play hard... and here comes the hard part - make time to do non-school things with them. Learn when to learn, and when to be social. Bond properly and you will skip the "storming" and jump right from "forming" to "performing". Done right (kick out the slackers!) you will not only have a group of friends that will enhance the learning experience, but cover your ass when you just can't fit the group assignment in (like the week I had an assignment due and also had my first child - my assignment somehow got done and handed in for me!).
And why is this a key success factor? This group will become invaluable after you leave academia. After all, isn't preparing for the rest of your life the reason for university? Your group will become your sounding board, peer mentors and confidants when you enter the struggles of the working world.
From both degrees I have two unique groups of friends that offer advice (and get some from me) on all aspects of my life. Invaluable to say the least.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet Prof. McDreamy reads your blog and now he will know how you feel.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Amanda said...

My secret of success really isn't a secret at all. I just graduated from Syracuse Univ. and when I thought back on it, I realized the relationships with TAs and professors really did help me out a lot. The few TAs that I really enjoyed and got along well with, I got better grades. They understood my thought & writing processes better after having coffee or just meeting during office hours. One of my favorite professors got in me on the inside in DC when I decide to pursue a career there. Another was from the Deep South like me and had amazing advice on how to overcome that in a 'yankee' town. Another I keep in touch with via email about once a week, even when I was taking a class with her. I know I can depend on her for a letter of recommendation at the drop of a hat if I need it.

It's true folks; as brown nosing and uncool as it seems, relationships with those who teach you REALLY are worth it.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

If your college has a freshman orientation period, let go of your shyness and introduce yourself to anyone who looks friendly and/or is sitting alone. It's a tremendously fertile period for making new friends, since a lot of people have only met their hallmates so far. And if they do know a lot of people already (from high school, for example), they'll either have friends they can introduce you to, or they'll be keen to branch out now that they're in a bigger pond (how's that for a mixed metaphor!).

If you're trying to find smaller classes, there are hidden treasures in the course catalog. For example, I wanted to take elective literature courses, but the courses offered by the English department were either huge or impossible to get into. The Asian Languages department, however, offered some great courses of literature in translation which were much smaller. Plus, I got to read books I would never have otherwise discovered.

Another way to get into small, interesting classes is to look closely at the last-minute additions just as the semester begins. Sometimes a good visiting or adjunct professor who was hired at the last minute will be offering a great little course which wasn't available during the main registration period.

Get to know the libraries. Identify several good places to study, depending on how much isolation you need. Sometimes you can afford to study in the main area, where your friends are likely to pass by and lure you out for coffee. Other times you need to hole yourself up in the basement of the science library and grind out that essay undisturbed.

Make the most of the free/cheap entertainment options on campus by going to student plays and concerts. Go hear some weird instrument you've never heard before, and drag your friends.

On student theater: Much of it will suck. Reserve the right to sneak out at intermission. There's still time to salvage the rest of the evening.

If you tend to drink every weekend, try going a weekend without. See if you can get some friends to join in. It could be a very fun change of scene.

If you or a friend has a car, discover weird local sites that are off the beaten track. There may be a great swimming hole a few miles from your rural campus, or a place to go apple picking, or a wonderful farmer's market.

Never watch TV alone. Either skip it altogether, or make it a fun event with a group.

Be nice to people. You're not in high school anymore.

1:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Learn one or preferably more than one foreign language. If your language is Spanish or French, or German, be sure to learn something harder like Russian or Chinese or Farsi. Learning a language will never be easier than right now, because it gets more difficult as you get older. (It might have been easier in elementary and high school...but those language programs seem to be cut in favor of "sports".)

Subsequent languages will be easier to learn than your first foreign language.

2. Go JYA to a non-English-speaking country. Do *not* hang out with other JYAs, or expats. Stay away from the US embassy.

3. Get a lover in your foreign language. You'll be fluent in six months, and you'll have an entirely different perspective on your host country, (to say nothing of your native country).

1:18 PM  
Blogger milowent said...

andrea used all my good stuff!!! that's how to succeed! plagairize! (just kidding, my only idea was "Visit the library more than the porcelain goddess.")

1:19 PM  
Blogger milowent said...

"Get a lover in your foreign language."

Damn, my orientation guidebook was really worthless!

1:21 PM  
Anonymous Sultan said...

Hi There -- Some thoughts that apply both to school and to work:

1) Have a schedule (be it get up early or not) for each day and keep to it.
2) No matter what, make sure you have 1 hour before your first class to get yourself grounded. I usually glanced over my notes from the prev. session and made sure to review anything (like homework) due for this class.
3) Don't rely on others exclusively. I've found that most of the people (in school or professionally) I am around do not capture notes or do assignments at the quality level that I like. Per the previous thing about "groups", that author is correct that group work is important, however, the critical thinking component that you need to achieve in college will not develop at the level I think it needs to if you focus solely on group work.
4) Keep the big picture in mind. If you've got an assignment and 80% of it is in one area, spend 80% of your time on that area. It also helps to prioritize. At some point you are going to run out of time and you'll have to skip something. Make sure it is the least important thing.
5) Know the professor / boss. If they're an old crusty who thinks computers are evil, make sure to print out the assignment in advance. I've also find it useful to follow their style guidlines exactly (not matter what!). Occassionally, I've switched fonts to an old fashioned typewriter style font and gotten good kudos for it.
6) If they have office hours, use them! At least 2 times per semester. Sometimes, in bigger classes, just showing up and saying "hi" is enough. Make sure, however, that you go to the next session.
7) Have down time. Example: If you work 30 hrs a week and have a 18 hr / week schedule, work it out so that there is one day where you don't work or go to class. Do laundry. Sleep. Drink. Whatever. For me, that day was Sunday. To this day, Sunday is my recharge day. I don't do anything except clean and do laundry on Sundays. Friday was my backup; only classess in the AM and no work. A close group of friends all did something together friday afternoon / evening. Sometimes we went for walks in the park; sometimes we went to bars. Just a nice chance to interact without the pressure of courses.
8) Have fun. College is a great time in your life. I've been out of academia for nearly a decade and still remember some of the conversations I had with other students and professors like they were yesterday (one of my fav's: A 3 hour discussion amongst 3 professors and 5 students on the power of Casablanca as a propaganda piece)

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Garnigal said...

Be interested.

Be interested in your courses, in your fellow students, in your instructors, in your campus, in your neighbourhood. Being interested leads to learning stuff and listening to people, which leads to being interesting.

1:40 PM  
Blogger The Unknown Professor said...

Here's one that got me through grad school (and my undergrads who've actually trie it swear by it):

At the end of each day, rewrite your notes for the day. Don't just copy them word for word - organize them a bit. While doing this, keep a sheet of paper handy and write down any questions that occur. Then get them answered either before the next class (from friends or by going to your prof/TA).

It seems simple, but it cuts the total amount of time you spend studying significantly. It also makes sure you keep up.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Terminaldegree said...

The person you view as a professor today could some day be your colleague or boss. Treat them with the respect you'd reserve for anyone who might some day be your supervisor. The world is small, and you never know when the person who is interviewing you for a job will remember that horrible (or wonderful) paper you wrote for a freshman survey class. Yes, even in a class of 400 students, such flukes happen. Get to know your profs and TAs, turn assignments in on time, and don't whine--ever.

Don't take on too many projects, activities, or clubs. Choose one or two instead of the handful you juggled in high school. You'll be able to enjoy your activities without feeling guilty for slacking off, and you'll avoid some of the inevitable stress of college.

Particularly if you are female, quit apologizing for being smart. Celebrate the fact that you have a brain. Sit up front in class and speak up even when it's scary.

You will need letters of recommendation when you graduate. Make sure to take small classes with profs who will still be around in four years (most likely these will be tenure-track folks, sadly). And make sure to do stellar work in their classes.

Read the damned textbook. Or at least skim it.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Shelly said...

When I started college, a friend gave me some good advice. It was - go to class. No matter what. Not matter how little sleep you've had, no matter how much you drank the night before. No matter what. Just being there you will absorb something.

To that I add my own advice, which someone else already said! Make friends with your profs. Stop in during office hours and just chat. Be more than a number, even in the biggest classes.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if it ain't on the board it ain't on the test.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come to office hours with an actual question, and save me from yet another game of computer solitaire.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My advice for incoming college students is simple: Wait.

1. Wait to make up your mind about a major -- and wait to change your major -- until you've done some exploring. Don't try to figure out your entire college career ahead of time, as you'll only end up disappointed. Come in with ideas, but never be afraid to change.
2. Wait until you've taken a professor before you listen to what everybody says.
3. Wait to get super involved until you know how much extra time you'll have.
4. Wait until you get (most of) your work done before going out. (Not procrastinating, human as it may be, will add years to your life and points to your GPA.)
5. Wait until you're finished to determine how worthless or valuable higher education is. It's not helpful for you or anybody else you're in school with you to complain about how it's such a waste of time and how spending a Sunday writing a term paper will never be relevant to what you want to do in life.
6. Wait until you've read the book to comment or write about it.
7. Wait until you've shared a meal or a conversation with somebody before slapping a label on them, before asking, "Is your name Ashley?"
8. When you get rejected (twice) for a major scholarship, or get a B+ in a class where you expected an A, wait to complain. Better yet, don't complain at all. Prove them wrong with your performance, not your words.

Patience is not common among college students, so those who are just starting out will do themselves a big favor by learning to wait.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous BEJ said...

Your sleeping schedule is God. Nothing must ever, ever, ever disturb it aside from natural disasters or deaths in the family. All else may change, but you must always get to bed when you plan to get to bed. It is The Law. And it will ensure you have a guaranteed excuse for leaving parties and bad conversations and it will keep you from procrastinating too much, because you will know that when Bedtime Arrives, you will go to bed and NOT be able to do any more homework.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with many of the above. College students need to realize that they are the only ones accountable for all of their actions, career plan, finances, classwork, and social life. Learning this early saves alot of pain once in the real world.

1) Take advantage of all of the "free" services that are a part of college life. Never again will you have access to a free gym, free career counselors, a free research library and its databases, free psychological help, etc. Research librarians are a real hidden gem. The are often underused and bored, so will jump at the chance to help you find articles, data, books, etc 100x faster than you ever could on your own.

2) Know teachers & TAs.

3) You don't always need to buy the book, but you should do the reading (especially if the prof wrote it--what better way to know what he/she thinks?). Share a book with a reliable friend or use the library's reserve copy. This makes you take notes and budget sufficient time to do the work.

4) Make a point to speak up in the 1st or 2nd class and make an intelligent point or solid question. You will be thought of well by the professor by breaking an awkward silence, look interested and intelligent, and will probably never be cold-called when unprepared.

5) Skipping a party/night out at a bar is ok. Chances are no one will notice and if so, who cares? Most of the time its the same people, place, & conversations. Save the money, avoid a hangover, and save some liver cells.

6) Go to class. You're paying for it. Would you physically throw that much money out? Didn't think so.

5:05 PM  
Blogger StyleyGeek said...

I agree with the anonymous who had all the "wait" tips.

The rest of this is advice for the top students out there: the sort that stress not about whether they will pass the course, or even whether they will get straight As, but whether they will get 100% or 95% on the upcoming test.

The most important thing is to really really let yourself believe that college is not the be-all and end-all of your life. When you are stressing about life, take time to just sit back, take a deep breath, and go out for a beer.

So much of what you think is super important now (exactly how long you take to get through the degree, whether you have straight A+ grades or one B among the rest, how many societies you were president of) just won't be later on, and you'll regret not spending time on the things that do continue to be important (like friends, family, learning things that interest you, finding your place in the world).

There are a LOT of genius students out there and if you go into academia, you will be competing with them for positions. So what will give you the edge is being a well-rounded person who is fun to be with -- the sort the interviewers would like to go for a drink with after work.

And finally, some advice for everyone: if you ever have even the smallest opportunity to do so, go study overseas for a semester or a year. Preferably somewhere where they don't speak your native language. And while you are there, avoid people of your own nationality like the foreign-culture-sucking viruses they are.

Living in another country has the effect of taking you outside the system, the country, you are embedded in and allows you to see it, your assumptions and yourself with new eyes. You'll never quite be as deeply, as blindy, part of your own country's world again, but it's the people who are a little bit outside the system who can see it most truly, and who have the best chance of changing it.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Sean the Monkey Man said...

1. Spend your first year, and possibly the second, in junior college. It's much cheaper on yourself and potentially any kindhearted parent(s) that will pay or co-pay your tuition.

2. Don't drink or goof off during your stay in junior college. (Trust me, I'm going somewhere with this). In fact, don't even have a social life. You'll have time enough to date later. Attend classes, take notes, and get solid grades.

3. After 1st or 2nd year, apply to gi-normous public or private university if you have good grades. If not, stay in jc.

4. Apply for every grant imaginable. If you followed Steps 2 & 3, you'll probably be eligible for a transfer scholarship. Be sure to write a killer entrance essay. Mine was about Grimace from McDonaldland.

5. Get accepted at gi-normous public or private university. Your first year is critical. Keep the grades up.

6. Senior year is the time to finally go nuts. If your grades have been kept up, this is the year that you can slide. If you haven't drank too much, partied,or had your heart broken, this is the year to do so. Again, if the grades have been kept up, you'll probably be able to graduate with a few C's in your last term.

7. Graduate.

(All of the above is the God's honest truth).

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Don't eat before or in class. Hunger helps you learn better. Not instinctively stuffing your mouth at the slightest craving helps build discipline.

2. Drink water (that you bottle yourself -_-) instead of any sort of caffeinated drink. The reason you're falling asleep in class is either bad sleeping habits or dehydration. Cutting out the caffeine will help w/ both.

3. If you're still falling asleep, use the margins of your notebook to scribble haikus based on today's topic.

4. I just finished failing out of college, so don't trust my advice.

5:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My big recommendation would be to get to know at least two professors well enough that you don't feel weird about asking them for letters of recommendation. My whole grad school application process was kind of fraught with anxiety as a result of failing to do this.

Also, some little recommendations in no particular order:
1) Get enough sleep. Falling asleep in small seminar classes with everybody looking at you is not cool.
2) Roommates can make life very very unpleasant. Get a big security deposit up front from them and/or a very detailed agreement on how dirty/smelly/gross the place can get before it needs to be cleaned.
3) Do some different things. You meet new people and find interesting things to do that you might not have have heard of otherwise. This is the only part of my advice that I've managed to do, sadly.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Dr. Bear said...

Stay ahead the first two weeks of the semester. You'll feel tempted to slack off (There's a killer party and I can always catch up later!), but you'll be behind the 8-ball the rest of the semester. Stay ahead the first two weeks, and you'll be flabbergasted how great the semester goes!

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What do you do during the mornings or afternoons when you're not in class? Chances are, it's either nothing or finishing up homework for a class you will have imminently. Change that! Ever since I started actually doing work during the day rather than saving it for the night before (or morning of), my stress level has gone way down even though my classes are considerably harder now than they were while I was still screwing around saving everything for the last minute. Start assignments right away whether they're due in two days or two weeks, and you won't feel the crunch later. There's no glory in starting a paper at midnight and not going to sleep. If you use the time when you have nothing better to do wisely, then your evenings will be free.

Don't view going to class or doing ungraded work as optional. Even if attendance isn't part of your grade, don't get in the mindset of only going when it "counts". If you think you have something better to do than to go to class, then you shouldn't be enrolled in it. Don't try to skip out on all your readings or ungraded work, too. You might be able to get away with it through cramming at the very end or bullshitting in discussion, but you haven't done yourself any favors as far as getting an education. Even if I hate a class, I get a lot more out of it when I do the work that is assigned whether or not it counts directly towards my grade. Learning to make the most of downtime goes a long way towards making getting all of your work done on time and having a good social life possible.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get your ass out of bed in the morning

6:23 PM  
Anonymous renita said...

-- know your habits. if you're not a morning person, don't take 8 a.m. classes. if you work best before noon, get your classes over with then.

-- reserve one night for fun, and get your crap done the rest of the week.

-- join clubs. go to activity fairs. try new things. don't feel too bad about cutting back, though, if you get too overloaded.

-- if you're just starting to drink, start slow. learn your limits without puking. and if you do go out and drink, always have several large glasses of water before bed. trust me, you'll thank me in the morning.

-- take something you're interested in, but no good at, pass/fail.

-- be friendly. talk to everyone. you never know who you might meet and who you might want to network with someday.

6:41 PM  
Blogger SuperHolmie said...

Actually speak to the professor each day. Just a simple greeting is sometimes all it takes for them to know who you are, and then they are willing to help you when you go by their office.

When you have to miss class, don't ask them when you return if you missed anything important. Instead, ask what you can do to get caught up (if it's not stated in the syllabus). Asking the former implies that nothing useful goes on in the class, ever. Easy to piss them off if you do that.

Instead of waiting until the last minute to do assignments, or cheating on them, actually DO the assignment, with all of the research and asswhip it entails. Forego some of the drinking binges and sorority/fraternity bullshit. It's college. You are supposed to spend hours studying. Actually spend hours studying.

Try not to take the classes your friends are taking, just so you'll know somebody in there. The beauty and fun of college is meeeting new people. Break out of your shell and develop a broader social circle.

After the first week of class, when you have all of your syllabi spread out before you, READ THEM. If you see that you have projects coming up, a LOT of the time they are things you can work on throughout the semester instead of slapping them together in a weekend. See when tests are and when major due dates in one class coincide with important shit in other classes. Then, on those weeks, cut back your social time, or request off from work (way ahead of time-- your boss will thank you) so you can study.

Take advantage of internships and scholarship money. Both might afford you chances to do cool shit that you otherwise might not be able to.

Finally, become familiar with your college campus. I went to East Texas State University, now A&M-Commerce. Some of my fondest memories of that place have nothing to do with friends or professors, but instead some of the interesting buildings, paintings, sculptures, and walkways. I met my husband there. When we go back and visit, or get the alumni newsletter, it's actually meaningful because we knew that campus inside and out. We even climbed on top of a few buildings, but that's another story.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Koru's Daughter said...

1. Don't take things personally. The professor generally does not think about you in a deeply personal way - he or she is just grading papers. The TA and the professor do not sit around, analyze your personality and talk about you all day like you might focus your energy on them.

2. Take responsibility for your own education. Don't expect other people in your life to pick up your slack or spoon-feed you the information. This includes your parents, teachers and fellow students.

3. Generate your own ability to be interested. Don't expect the professor or textbook to add the fun. If you can't do that, then at least generate the capacity to tolerate boredom. It is a skill that will serve you well in modern America.

4. Treat your education as an extension of a job, not as an extension of your home life. Fight your own battles, make your own decisions and plot your own academic course. Asking a professor to act like a parent or having your parents make all of your decisions will stunt your maturity. Move beyond needing a babysitter.

5. Don't expect or demand happiness. Some days are harder than others. Accept that you cannot be happy every moment of every day of your life. If your momma didn't say that you'd have days like this, she should have.

6. Don't whine. The professor/class/book/assignment/etc. is not an obstacle to your happiness. You are the obstacle to your own happiness.

7. Getting something because you feel that you need it only works with your parents. The rest of the world will give you what you need or want only when you give them what they need or want. Often this does not work perfectly or even well (see the next secret for details).

8. Accept the fact that the world is not fair. Don't demand fairness when you want things your way. If the world were actually fair then many of you would not have been admitted to college. For example, the professor's policies actually are fair - they apply to everyone - you just don't like them.

9. Intellectually explore beyond popular culture. You can find many people in many places to discuss American Idol with you. College is one of the few places where you can intelligently discuss the Iliad with rare someone who actually read and thought about it.

10. Take risks, explore and rebel. Die your hair blue. Try on a different persona for a while. Take a course outside your comfort zone. Challenge your traditions and assumptions. Take different points of views. Don't just regurgitate the textbooks and the professor's words - challenge them. Believe it or not, college is a comparitively safe place to experiment.

11. Value the education more than the diploma. Appreciating the journey more than the destination is a grand secret of life.

12. Don't lie. This is such a common student academic strategy that the professors actually expect you to lie to and manipulate them for a higher grade. It is the worst part of their job. Pleasantly disappoint them.

13. Move beyond your perceptions of perfection. In life beyond college, you won't have the time or resources for it. Aim for the best forms of efficiency and competency. Accept failure as a part of life.

14. Aim to think beyond the college mindset. Everything is not about fashions, ipods, grades and drinking. For example, if you are writing an ad campaign for class, do not assume that everyone values what you value or has your same problems. Your assumptions are often obvious and wrong. Learn to empathetically walk in someone else's shoes.

15. Do actual research - don't reply on Google, Wikipedia and your own limited experiences. Set aside time to do library research. Library resources are becoming more complete and more complicated than ever before.

16. More students today need to learn how to calm themselves. If you are one of those students, then make it a priority to learn manage your own stress. Don't expect others to care for you on an emotional level. Life is harder after you leave college - prepare for that. Check out the university counseling center. In many cases, it is free and, in every case, it is confidential.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Ragman said...

Well, I'm probably going to end up echoing, but I'll pu t my two cents in since I'm going back for a second BS.

1. Eat SOMETHING for breakfast. Nutrigrain, snickers, dirt, whatever. Doesn't have to be a lot, but it will make a difference in your attention level.

2. Go to class and sit in the front. For math/technical classes this advice: If the professor goes so fast you struggle to take notes, don't. If you walk out of class with a stack of notes and no clue as to what just went on or how to start homework, you've accomplished nothing. Instead, LISTEN to the prof, pay attention to how they're solving the problem. That stack of notes you took - there are libraries and bookstores full of written examples (and more likely to be correct than your notes). Watching the prof solving the problem will show you more than hastily written notes. If it's a lecture class, get a recorder and go over your notes with it after class.

3. Never schedule an 8 am, noon, and 5:30 classes on the same days if at all possible. (I dropped the 8 am - I didn't want a music minor THAT bad)

4. Make time to have fun. Make time to study. Too much of one, and you'll regret leaving off the other.

5. If you live in the dorms, hang out in the lobby/tv room/community areas. I met some great friends that way. Several friends of mine met their spouses that way.

6. For the love of god, don't let your parents pick your major! Grow a pair (girls too) and stand your ground. Don't be afraid to change your major if you decide you don't like it.

7. If/when you decide on a major, find out what the reality of it is like. Talk to those who do it for a living. Talk to those who love and even those who hate it, if you can. Every profession has a practicing professional who hates it - they may be hard to find, but they're out there.

8. Co-op or intern if you can. My wife helps interview at her firm, and internships (no matter what you did at them) count big.

9. Most profs don't give you busy work, make-up work, or much else to help raise your class average. You may be stuck with 3 tests determining your total grade in the class. We're not in high school anymore, Toto.

10. If you are an aspiring writer, how would you view someone who sat in English I and whined about how hard it was to read and that they shouldn't have to write papers? If you're an aspring arts major, how would view someone who whined about having to draw in art class? That's how we aspiring scientists/engineers/comp sci majors look at you when you whine about taking algebra. They're called "core requirements" (it's Latin for "Hell Torture"), and you can't do anything to avoid them. So don't whine - do you really want to go to work somewhere and have the IT dept remember you as the whiner in algebra??

11. Don't be afraid to take an intro class to something you've wanted to learn. Guitar, archery, dancing, martial arts, intramural sports - you won't get a better chance than now. I haven't touched my guitar in years, never played in a band, but I've never regretted taking some of the MOST enjoyable classes I've ever had.

12. Don't laugh at the nerds in the front rows of class. In four years, you'll utter their names, following with the phrase " an offer for HOW MUCH?".

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do your own heavy lifting. Do not count on mom, dad, your aunt Jane, or your trust fund manager to be an intermediary with your professor. This is not a nuclear test ban treaty negotiation. Represent yourself. Know your prof's name from day one. One student throwing herself on my mercy (as cog in administrative wheel) actually didn't know name, sex, height, hair color, facial hair, or number of legs (last one is joke – others are true) of professor, though she assured me that she was in class every day, taking notes and thirsting for knowledge. Obviously a thirst unquenched. A mom approaching me on behalf of the scion of the family, who was in danger of failing a simple freshman level class. Mother Dearest informed me archly that her best & brightest was a high school honor grad, accomplished poetess, and a dancer. Instantly I silently framed these questions: 1. A class of one? 2. What rhymes with “suspension”? 3. Ballet, interpretive, or strip pole? - Rosencrantz

9:47 PM  
Anonymous plasticsardine said...

Hi Prof,

I didn't read over all the other comments so I'm sorry if I'm being boring by repeating, but here's what I did while I was in college:

1) I always had a daily planner with plenty of room to write.

2) I bought one highlighter for each class, each in a different color.

3) After the first day in each class, I sat down with my planner and my sylabii and wrote out my exams and assignments, highlighting them in the appropriate colors, just to get a headstart on things.

4) Also after the first day, usually within the first two weeks of class, I would make a point to go introduce myself to my professors during their office hours so I could have a chance to sit down and talk with them on their time. If I had a professor I had never had before, I did this during the first week of classes. If I was taking a professor again, I would usually pop in the week before classes even started. (I was one of those nerds who was on a first-name basis with most of her profs.)

5) Learn the campus library's hours. Get to know a librarian. Learn to navigate the Dewey Decimal System. This was a huge challenge for me, coming from Nowheresville, TX. If a girl in my dorm hadn't taken me to the library and explained how to find books, I don't know how I would have survived.

6) Is there an IHOP nearby? Can you get there on foot? Will you need to get a bike to get there if you don't have a car? This is important.

7) What stores in town offer student discounts on clothes and such? Sure, you come with your own, but your high school style goes away fast. Our Goodwill gave a student discount on clothes, and college kids kill for secondhand clothes!

8) Where is the nearest Wal*Mart? Like IHOP, this is an important thing to know. When you're sick of pancakes, you've got to know where you can find the Ramen.

9) Take at least one class outside your major per semester, just to break things up and to make sure you know you're where you want to be. By the time I was a senior, I needed 20 hours of electives because I didn't take any until then.

10) Try to get copies of sylabii and booklists before classes start. Email professors. I did. See if the books listed will actually be used and when to budget those precious dollars.

Okay, I think I'm finished rambling now.

10:05 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Sit up front and center. This keeps you honest and makes it certain that you will do the reading. Ask questions. Raise your hand. Know at least one answer every class.

Know your professors' names. Talk to them after class. If you're really enjoying their class, ask them which class you should enroll in next. Which professors would they take classes from if they could? For that matter, is the professor you like teaching any upper-level courses?

And if college really isn't working out for you, go out into the world and get a job. You can always go back to college later when you're ready.

This is from a returning student (Sophomore at 37!) who just got straight A's her first semester back (c's, d's, & f's the first time around).

10:58 PM  
Blogger Mike M said...

Never take a class that starts before noon. Or at least 11:00 a.m. Seriously, don't be afraid to conform your schedule to they way you're going to live your life. You're in charge for the first time. If you're not a morning person, you're not going to do well getting up early. Don't delude yourself.

Pick classes based on teachers, not on content! Beyond obvious, but it is 1) so hard to learn; and 2) more honored in the breach than the observance, etc.

Find out where the best three 24-hour restaunts are near campus.

Get a good pillow. Little luxuries count for a lot.

Be very careful who you play poker with. If you don't see a fish at the table -- you're it.

SMU 1981, UT Law 1984

12:19 AM  
Blogger Lizett! said...

Get to know at least 2 professors well, you'll need them for recommendations.

Go to class. (Most obvious and important one.)

Hang out with people smarter than you.

Get involved with activiites, it'll give you an edge if your grades aren't that great.

12:38 AM  
Anonymous w said...

the most important things I would tell an incoming freshman:

Classwise: Sit as front and center as possible, and talk at least once every class. Go to every prof's office hours at least once per semester. Always go to class, no matter what. Become actual friends with at least two profs, they will write great letters of reccomendation when the time comes (but be sure to kick ass in the classes they teach).

Studywise: Do your work between classes and before the sun goes down as much as possible. Don't watch TV during the day. Its amazing how free your nights become and how low your stress level becomes when you do this.

Socialwise: There's not a "cool" crowd anymore, nor is there a "nerdy" crowd that is taboo to hang out with. You'll probably find that the people that were in the cool crowd in high school are boring and not so fun now, and the nerd crowd is a lot cooler than you remember them. Be nice to everyone, as much as you possibly can. Drink a lot and have a good time, but don't go out drinking and having a good time until you've taken care of your shit. That way you can enjoy yourself without stressing about that big paper/exam/presentation thats coming up in 2 days. Join a group that does volunteer work, its a lot more rewarding than you think. And its a great way to meet people outside the typical bar/party scene.

3:30 AM  
Anonymous anon for now said...

Get yourself a really, really good mentor. Mine was and is my dean, and we still keep in touch a lot; she's also quite a well-known academic and has written me glowing reference letters for everything I've done since undergrad.

Mentor relationships are fulfulling for both mentor and mentee. College, especially away from home, can be stressful and lonely-making for students, and a mentor can act almost in loco parentis at times, providing guidance both academic and emotional without the the more destructive and fraught dynamics of the parent-child relationship.

A lot of academics, myself included (if I, a PhD student and adjunct professor, can really include myself...) also enjoy acting as mentors to bright, capable students. It's the best parts of teaching without the worst parts, and it's very rewarding to watch a mentee succeed.

(I'm not sure if I have to include this part, but since I've seen a couple of mentor relationships go really bad because of this, I'll do it anyway: try to make sure there is no romantic/sexual tension, AT ALL, between you and your mentor.)

I suppose this is really an extension of the "get to know your professors" advice, but trust me: college life is so much easier to navigate if you've got a mentor who's invested in you.

4:13 AM  
Blogger graycie said...

Don't go to college right away.

Working for two years between high school and college, and fifteen years between a Bachelors and a masters, made a HUGE difference in how I viewed things. I knew from the years after high school that, for double-darn-sure, I did NOT want to work a minimum or near-minimum wage job. Getting the Masters after fifteen years of teaching English opened up employment and assignment opportunities, and considerably improved my teaching repertoire for all kids. Tough choices at both levels of study became a lot easier, knowing that what I wanted was worth having my brain turn to lemon jell-o by the end of each semester. Eyes on the Prize, right?

8:11 AM  
Blogger mattbg said...

I've read through a number of the comments, and a lot of them are about what worked for them when they were in college, or what would have worked for them if they had been in the right mindset when they were in college.

I wonder if it'd be more wise to take the 1st year to do some self-experimentation and figure out what works for YOU. It never hurts to have advice, but at that age, advice is often in one ear and out the other. It might be more valuable to suggest a heuristic for finding out what will meet your goals for what you want to get out of the college experience.

I'm talking about a scientific self-experimentation where you are aware of what you're doing and are constantly testing your own hypotheses so that you can figure out how to get the most out of your time there.

For an example of why this is perhaps a bit better than some of the other suggestions, I don't think that people change as much as they think they do. They can grow, but their basic structure and character doesn't really change very much. If they do change, it's often for the worst. So, if you're not the type of person who likes having 50 friends and a constantly-ringing cellphone when you go into college, the advice to talk to as many people as possible is no good; in that case, you'd need to be looking for quality over quantity. You already have an abstract idea of who you are when you enter college; the time in college should be spent enhancing your positive aspects and challenging your negative aspects.

So, I think that a heuristic is what's needed, rather than a checklist or a roadmap... but I acknowledge that it's a lot more difficult and time-consuming to both develop and fit a heuristic within the context of a magazine article that needs to have the appeal and accessibility of a "hot sex tips" piece.

8:24 AM  
Blogger mattbg said...

Here's another one: LEARN HOW TO COOK.

Not only will you save money, but you'll get your life off to the right start by naturalizing the wholesome food approach, and you'll quickly come to the realization that it's only laziness that makes fast food or restaurant food faster than cooking for yourself. You have more control over portions, and you'll probably feel healthier because of it. You can make extra and save some for later (freezer/fridge), and you also get something out of being able to do things for yourself.

Pre-packaged "combine the ingredients" types and microwave meals don't count. Buy the vegetables and ingredients and get to work!

8:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whew! I tried reading the above posts but did not make it. My system worked very well for me, keeping in mind that everyone is different and from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds (I had to take a class early and/or late so I could work as much as possible).

Here is my system:
Keep up.
Be yourself.

9:29 AM  
Blogger J said...

There are obvious suggestions, such as go to class, pay attention, and do your homework, but I think it's more important for kids to understand that the world is limitless. I do not mean that most people will tranverse these infinite pathways, but I suggest exploring them. I've been studying abroad for a year in England, and am writing this comment from Berlin, Germany where I booked a flight here for 40 bucks. Now that I have proven my worldiness, let me expound.

If you are interested in art, creative writing, uncreative writing, whatever, DO IT. WRITE. Everyday. A wise woman once told me to write at least a page a day of whatever project I am working on, and I followed that advice. It may be true that now I have several hundred pages of shameful psychobabble that no one will ever see, but it was an exercise. Like lifting dumbells.There are a million opportunities out there that have nothing to do with your grade on your last paper, but instead of using that as an excuse to slack off, know that the "art world" is ten times more difficult to break into than the business world so apply discipline to your self-expression.

Ignore the demographic of your school, wheather it be prep or jock or nerd. Don't plan your career around a reaction to the people around you in your college class, because those people will go away and you'll still be there, bitching and moaning without a cent to your name.

Have fun, explore and challenge your identity, and travel. When you graduate (which will be much sooner that you think) You'll have alot of responsibilities and obligations that will make you regret not doing this sooner. And by "this" I mean therapy. Lots of it. Chances are your campus gives it to you for free. Take advantage of it while you can, 'cause I promise you, you'll find out later that you needed it. Much more than you could ever afford when you graduate.

And last, have an open-door policy to your friends. Most people come to college completely alone and will "bond" with you instantaneously. Allow people to come and go, because in the end, you will too, and the less attachments you have out of college, the better and more clear headed you will be.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Sweet83 said...

Here is the best advice I can give a new college student (a few have already been mentioned):
1. Go to class. The first day you will receive a syllabus. Almost every teacher has their own policy about absences. Plan your absences wisely. If you miss class, miss for a good reason. Also, don't use them all early in the semester. There will be time you were geniunely sick or had a crisis. Don't waste on absence on staying up to watch Conan O'Brien. Some teachers even give a pretty strict calendar as to what class will be each day - if you plan to hit Six Flags all day - don't go when there's test review or something you can't easily get caught up on.
2. Don't overload yourself with too many classes too soon. You may think that 12 hours will be easy, but as a new student you should figure out what you can actually handle. Also, take a least one "fun" class a semester. Many will count for electives. For instance, take dance, theatre or physical activities like swimming or tennis. You need something to look forward to instead of math class or biology everyday.
3. Respect your teachers and TALK TO THEM before or after class. To say it as humbly as possible, I have often been told by past teachers, I was their "favorite", even if I wasn't the person with the highest grade (although that was sometimes also true.) The way I have looked at it is the way I treated them they in turn treated me. Always be on time, awake, TAKE NOTES (this keeps you awake and active), and ask questions. If you don't feel comfortable asking all questions in front of the class, go to your teacher after or kindly ask of a convenient time that you can meet with them. Teachers like students who show a desire to learn, are responible for their own educations and treat the teacher and the class with respect. If you do follow these actions, if some crisis does come up (car breaks down, family issues, etc.) a teacher will be 100 times more likely to help you and work with you if you miss that test or missed a deadline. If you are a deadbeat student, you just might be treated that way.
4. Get basic classes out of the way first. If you haven't decided on a major - which I think is ridiculous to do anyway at the age of 18 since so few people know how they want to spend the rest of their life at that age - take classes that go with everything. All degrees need english, science, math, and humanities.
5. Watch your money!!! Even if mom & dad are helping, it is very easy for first-time college students to rack up credit card debt and other money issues. Eat out rarely, take advantage of the free food on campus, don't ever buy alcohol at bars (it's highway robbery), instead (if you are legal)buy it a the liquor store and enjoy it responsibly at home for alot cheaper.
6. NETWORK. I can't tell how valuable this is. Don't be slimey but make friends as much as possible. Be the smart one and offer to help others - it pays you back later - but be careful, every once and while you get the slacker who needs your notes from the last three weeks - find ways to graciously distance yourself from those who don't share your work ethic.
7. Finally, enjoy it! It can be a great time. Just remember to relax, work hard when you need to, and get involved with things and people that interest you and further you in your education, not the other way around.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Dr Pretorius said...

Making friends with professors and TAs is good - making friends with secretaries, clerical workers, and librarians is very good. There are very few problems that can't be solved, or alleviated seriously, by a secretary who likes you. It's easy to assume that Professors are serious authority figures - and they are to a certain extent - but this does not mean that they run the college. Secretaries do that.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Tabitha said...

Wait until you are ready to go to college. It might take several years after high school graduation to come to that realization, but the more prepared you are, the better. I went to college because it was the " right thing to do", and dropped out after my first semester. It wasn't until I looked back that I realized that I wasn't mature enough on my own terms to continue my education, and I was simply following what everyone around me was doing.

After a string of jobs, I had such an urge to return to college and finish my degree. As a result, I have benefited from that desire and motivation. I am more focused on my studies and a much more confident student.

I would also recommend that you take a few night classes. You will be with a more mixed and "real" crowd. Night classes are filled with people who work full time and are often returning students. You will meet many more people of different ages and demographics. In a night class, it's not unusual to be in a group with a person who is old enough to be your mother and another who is old enough to be your grandmother. I have had fellow students arrive to class still wearing their work uniforms.

Learn from that, because that is the real world. You won't always work with or socialize with people your exact age or background. I'll bet after five years, you won't associate with most of the people you went to high school with.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous sarah m said...

Stop obsessing about how you're going to decorate your dorm room. When you get there, it will be the least of your interests or worries.

Join a club. Or two, or three.

You're not too cool to go to the football games and cheer for your team.

If your roommate sucks, don't hesitate to change rooms for any reason.

12:39 PM  
Blogger War Bride said...

Don't get married three weeks into freshman year.

You will be making the worst compromise of your life. If he doesn't love you enough to value your education, then he doesn't love you at all.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't expect your freshman year roommate to be your immediate best friend where'll you'll be maids of honor in each others weddings. You are roommates, some develop into friendships, some don't. It's ok to have either.

Stop judging in general. I've seen independents drop friends cause they choose to pledge a Greek house and Greeks do the same to those that don't. They are people in any organization/group that fit your pre-conceived stereotypes and some that don't. Talk to them all, you'll learn things from everyone.

Be nice to all your professors; if you put forth effort, they will be willing to help you. I was in office hours of an Eng. prof (I was definately not an English major) and made a comment about a picture on his wall (the Pope, I recognized the pic from an event I attended). The next semester, he remembered my comment and recommended me for a university panel on interfaith issues. I was in meetings with the president of the university and the board of directors as a freshmen. This was all because I made time to visit a prof during his office hours and commented on something he was interested in.

Don't take yourself so seriously. You'll make mistakes, just learn from them.

Be involved. Join clubs, even stuff not in your major/what your job will be. I was in all kinds of organizations and met great people.

Have fun.

1:48 PM  
Blogger milowent said...

Well, I've seen a lot of good stuff above, but I'll add a few more:

1. Be really smart! Those smart people seem to get quite good grades.

2. If you're not smart: work your ass off. Those people seem to do real well too.

3. Be rich. If you're not smart and won't work hard, a nice trust fund will be essential.

4. Learn to count cards. If you're not smart, won't work hard, and aren't rich, you'll need some scam to get ahead in life or else hope that dumb luck shines upon you.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Koru's Daughter said...

1. Ditto on befriending the secretaries. Also, get to know the janitors and lab assistants. They can, for example, let you stay in a computer lab later that usual when your paper won't print and they have access to resources. This meets meeting them, making small talk and KNOWING THEIR NAMES before you need them - not sucking up when you are desperate.

2. Also, join any club connected to your major as soon as you declare it and attend meetings. Of the almost 200 ad majors at our school, there are only eight that belong to the ad club. When a student comes sniffing for a lead for an internship or wants a job contact, I know that they are not the ad club members who have been developing these opportunities all year.

3. If you get a chance to go on a professional expedition course, take it. Also, be a participant not a tourist.

4. Also go on the study abroad semester. At our school, it is only a little bit more than a regular semester. For about 200 dollars more, you can spend months (not just a few days) in Europe.

5. When you meet someone in your field or close to your field, ask them for a card. After you leave the meeting, write the circumstances of your meeting on the back then put all the cards in a special file folder. These are the resources you can use in a few years when you start your job search. The people are always impressed that you remember them.

6. As an advertising professional, I am not going to send a slacker student through my professional network. It is odd that those I would give job contacts are never those who ask for them. They are the self starter

7. Do not tell one professor that you are skipping their class to finish an important project for another professor (What? My class is not important?). Do not tell the professor that you have a hangover.

8. Try to get a recap of a missed class from a reliable fellow student before you go to the professor. Develop study buddies for just this reason.

9. If you know that you have to miss a class, send the teacher a heads up e-mail a day or two before the class. Never ask if you missed anything important (of course it was important!). Don't go to their office and ask them to completely repeat the class.

10. Sit up. Don't sleep. DO NOT PUT YOUR HEAD ON THE TABLE. Try not to fart in class.

11. Extend your wardrobe beyond PJs and flip-flops. As a professor, I have more respect for students who wear clothes to class.

12. Don't make extra work for the professor. Avoid the following: a) visiting too often with all your questions. It makes a student look dim or so lazy that they can't bother to read/understand the book. b) Handing in assignments after all the other ones are are graded. c) Asking for extra credit to save your grade. d) E-mailing your papers rather then printing them out (so the prof has to print them out to grade). e) Using IM to get the prof to write your paper. (For example, I had a student ask what she should say in the first sentence... then the second sentence... and so on. I cut her off at the third senetnce then deleted my IM account.)

13. Act like a professional in your field. This takes practice.

14. Follow your OWN passion. Not anyone elses.

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aggie '02 said: don't get s----faced the night before your parents come into town for a visit.

3:03 PM  
Blogger MarySunshine said...

Here are my 2 cents - for what they are worth. I won't pretend it's universally applicable advice - just what I learned.

1. GO AWAY to college. Like - more than a 3 hour drive away from home AWAY. Homesickness is good for the soul in so many ways. Plus, if your parents are cool (mine REALLY ARE) you realize just how cool they are when you don't get to see them everyday. This distance also gives you a chance to do this:

2. Become yourself. By your senior year in high school you probably have an established group of friends, you have probably had some teachers several times, you have associations with churches or organizations - and all these people pride themselves on "knowing who you are because they have known you forever." Maybe the way people define "who you are" doesn't truly represent who you WANT TO BE. Now is your chance. Start over. Be courageous. If you have a quirky sense of humor that was squashed by the funnier girl in your high school group - WORK IT. If you slummed in high school because being too much of a brain was "uncool" - EXCEL. You rarely get these chances in life to be disassociated with "who everyone thinks you are" - live IT UP.

3. Contrary to what you hear college WILL NOT make or break you as a human being. Meaning - going to college or not going to college, OR getting a degree in something you ultimately decide not to pursue. It's truly not the end of the world. It IS NOT "the most important decision you will ever make" in the sense that if you screw it up (your major, the college choice) it is irreversible and you are done for. Really.

4. (This from the Professor side of me.) Choose your excuses carefully. While it is entirely possible that you could run out of gas on the way to school, have your grandmother and aunt and uncle die, and have major surgery all in the same semester. . . too many excuses will lead your professor to call "b.s." at the most inconvenient time: when your excuse is honest. There are occasions when you oversleep and miss an exam and you must feign explosive diarrhea - but if you have already claimed "cramps so bad I couldn't even MOVE" and "transmission fell out of my car" and "I was attacked by a pack of rabid monkeys". . . you may be in for a rotten surprise.

5. This is something my professors told me when I was in my first week of training for my MFA in acting - perhaps it applies to performing arts more than other disciplines - I don't know. But this is the biggest truth. ENJOY THE LUXURY OF BEING ABLE TO STUDY SOMETHING YOU LOVE. I have been out of school since 2001 and although I work quite a bit there is nothingin the real world that is comparable to doing six shows a year in major roles. SO enjoy it while you have it. Stay up late studying. Party. Become brutally aggressive with discovering who YOU are. Be very tired. Feel like you couldn't possibly get everything done that you need to do this week. And love every minute of it.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Paris said...

To be completely honest, a major key to my college success was that I was very aware how much my education was costing my family. This got me to class and kept me there until I learned enough to get interested in the material.

I found someone else to pay for the graduate degrees!

5:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Note: if you ask for a business card from someone in your field. Send them a quick note (i.e. nice to meet yous, thank you for speaking at..., etc.). Include details on where and when you met them and keep these same details on the back of the business card. If you contact them later, refer to this information before asking for advice/job opportunities (i.e. I spoke to you at ### University after your speech on ##/##/####). That way, they know you have made the effort before you needed something.

5:26 PM  
Blogger DVE said...

1. Haunt your favorite professors' offices.

2. In discussion-based classes, speak up often, but don't be long-winded. Concise, clear comments or questions, about 2-3 sentences long, are perfect. You don't have to show the professor you're brilliant, just that you're interested.

3. Take advantage of the college community: plays, concerts, outdoor recreation, recitals, galleries, etc.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous mk said...

Make friends with the cafeteria ladies.

Don't limit yourself to one set of friends, and try to make friends early.

Don't go home the first weekend. Or the second. Wait at least a month.

Get involved in student government, hall council, anything.

You will spend money every time you leave campus. Be careful with your debit/credit card.

~mk, Hendrix College class of '09

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Experiment. "Find yourself."

People will forgive you. Three years out they will probably just be amazed and amused that they met someone who was so...charismatic. These are the same people who, at the time, were "shocked" and "horrified" and convinced that "you weren't doing anything new, just tacky" and that you were, dare I say it, "immature." Yes, these same people are going to turn around and be happy to work with you, as long as you didn't lie to them and refrained from actually screwing them over along the way.

So, don't hold yourself back. Once you get out into the job market you are expected to have a sense of who you are, and it's pretty hard to do that if you are too concerned with who everyone else thinks you can be. Oh, and those people who were really vicious and mean to you at school? You probably won't hear from them again. But you are doing yourself a disservice if you go to college believing that everyone will be nice...especially if you are attending an elite school where the most obnoxious (and sometimes criminal) kids have had their behavior "covered for" in the past.

And along those lines, one sobering note. If you are raped or stalked, go to the campus cops and the police. Do not let your administration cover it up. People may hate you for a while. They won't when it's their own sons and daughters dealing with that type of environment.

Above all else, do not let yourself be swayed by the temporary fantasies of everyone else who is simultaneously experimenting. They will settle down, just like you. Some may even become professors...

6:49 PM  
Blogger L'oiseau rebelle said...

1. Expand your social circle beyond the college crowd. Get to know people from the community. Plus, they can be valuable if you have any problems - they're likely to be older and wiser than you.

2. Ditto on getting to know the secretaries.

7:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Advice Part Deux
1.Say “please” and “thank you”.
2.Wear underwear. This applies to both sexes. Especially in summer. Please. Thank You.
3.When you visit with prof, counselor, dean, whoever, please don't call Mother Dearest to relay each answer and get a new question. Is it your search for truth or mommy's?
4.Echo of others. Come to class. I don't care if you sleep, as long as it is on the back row and you do not snore. Learning by osmosis does occur. I have seen it.
5.Please be honest. BE HONEST! DEAR GOD, DON'T BE A LIAR, PLAGIARIST, OR MALEFACTOR!!! Sorry, this is my hot button. Thank you.
6.Address older individual by an honorific in public, no matter how friendly in the confines of their office. I grind my teeth every time an 18 year old junior deb swishes in the suite in search of “Roxy”, her teacher & my peer & a 48 year old divorcee with two children in college. I drank beer with my campus leader on numerous occasions, but still addressed him as “Mr. President” in any public venue of three or more people. It is just the right thing to do.
7.Upon entering my office, please don't express shock that I am listening to Oingo Boingo. Yes, I had a life before old age. Hide your amazement. It will serve you well later in life when working with supervisors and managers. Understand the dichotomy of life and culture.
8.Read Kierkegaard. Enjoy Kant. Feign appreciation for Nietzsche.
- Rosencrantz

8:23 PM  
Blogger Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

A very wise professor told me once that getting good grades was just a matter of organization and discipline.

Be organized enough to know when things are due.

Keep every graded assignment until you get your final grade.

Keep a copy of everything you write. Your professor may make a maistake and misplace your paper. It is much more convincing to say that you'll be back with another copy in 5 minutes than to say you'll try to find it.

Go to class. Go to class. Go to class. Go to class.

Do the reading and take reading notes.

10:28 PM  
Blogger hannah said...

Don't apologise for being intelligent. That's why you're there.

Summer reading! Important! Really! I know that it seems tempting to not read in the summer - or if you're a book fiend, to not read those boring looking tomes you've been assigned for compulsory courses, but the tip to getting ahead and staying ahead is summer reading. Thus last summer was spent reading Romantic and Victorian poetry, and this summer will be the summer of Everything Shakespeare Ever Wrote.

Get enough sleep. Even if it means leaving your housemates chatting til three am, whilst you climb into bed at half eleven. It sounds dull, but it realy is helpful. And it's like a diet; you're allowed breaks.

Other than that: develop a taste for coffee. No really. Coffee. The work of genius. I'm fairly certain it's the only way I'm getting through these exams.

10:07 AM  
Blogger hannah said...

Also, because exams are eating my brain, and I'm all over the place.

Go away to university. As in leave your home town. Three hours drive/train ride is preferable. It's close enough to get home if you have a major crisis, but it will also stop you going home all the time. Homesickness is something to learn to deal with.

Connected with the above: wait a month or so before taking a trip home. You aren't doing yourself any favours if you go home the first or second weekend, that's when people start getting to know each other properly.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Stacy said...

1. You paid for the books, you might as well read them.
2. Go to class. You paid for that too. If you're paying in-state tuition, you're doing a diservice to your state and the tax-payers when you fail a class because you were too lazy to go.
3. Make friends. See a world other than the one you grew up with/in.

10:12 AM  
Blogger 100farmers said...

The library is your friend. The quietest place in the most obscure section of the library always seemed to help get that edumacation thing on. Highlight your notes. You wrote them down for a reason, didn't you? Cross-reference them with the readings textbooks. You were actually assigned that text for a reason.

10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got this tip from my mother, who earned her undergraduate degree after fourteen years, three states and eleven institutions:

Sometimes it is not possible to do all of the reading and exercises on the syllabus. Triage.

She graduated and I did, too, alhtough in only four years and one university... I guess that makes the second tip don't drop out to get married and have babies.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Koru's Daughter said...

Hey Prof,

Check out the NYT article on Interns and Blogging:

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

- choose your friends carefully...not everyone is as nice as they seem.
- study abroad...I studied abroad in the summer because I was afraid I would "miss something" if I went a whole semester. Looking back I wish I would have gone to Europe an entire semester.
- Talk to your professors.
- Don't use lame excuses. Come on...just get the assignment done!
- Live on campus for at least 1 year.
- Study what you love, don't let parents/friends opinions discourage you.
- Relax and is one of the best times of your life.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Mike Duffy said...

Success Secret: go to the professor's office hours.

When I was a sophomore at Harvard in 1974, I took "Chemical Thermodynamics" from Professor William Lipscomb. I took notes in class, and if I had questions, I went to his office hours to get them cleared up. Invariably, I was the only one there. Lipscomb won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry that year for his work on X-ray crystallography. So, I received private tutoring from a Nobel-Prize-winning chemist that semester, which paid off at exam time (I also enjoyed the course more, even though I wasn't a Chem major).

The underlying secret: you are responsible for your own learning - take charge of it. One way of doing that is developing working relationships with your teachers.

PS - Try new things. I entered college thinking I wanted to major in Economics and go to law school. I ended up becoming a computer programmer and ultimately the general manager of a computer game company. "And that has made all the difference."

7:34 PM  
Anonymous ecirun said...

Don't look for external forces to change you; you must be willing to change yourself. Don't decide you want to quit smoking and request a non-smoking freshman roommate. The highly asthmatic roomie won't like you much when you can't quit and smoke in the room. (Yes, I requested a room change immediately -- then made the smoker move.) Take advantage of college opportunities to inspire you to do things rather than to force you to do distasteful or required things.

And when you go to grad school, don't have your dissertation advisor email another professor requesting a grade change for you. I didn't think anything was worse than helicopter parents, but I think this took the cake.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having trouble picking a major?
Take a bunch of classes that sound cool, whether or not they apply to a course of study or career you think you might be heading towards.
Then, sit down and think about your range of classes. Ignore how you felt about the professors because they won't always be attached to your impressions of the topic. Think: did you like the stuff you know now that you've taken that class? Can you see yourself learning, knowing, and doing that stuff for extended periods of time? Zero in on the classes that may have bored you sometimes, but in the long run makes you less bored than other stuff.
Take this into account, and keep studying the stuff doesn't immediately bore or distress you. Continue until you wanna learn something else.
Then, stick your finger up your nose. Hum "When You Wish Upon A Star." While doing this, attempt to take your choice of major too seriously. Giggle when it's impossible.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Dee Charl said...

1. Wake up and realize that your parents ARE not going to pay for every thing! That includes your grades!!!!! They are not up for auction so go to class EVERYDAY and LISTEN to the teacher. Dont forget to sit on the front row (redundant, I know) also make friends with some one on the front row. Take notes and compare your notes with that friend to see how perception can change things. Study hard at least one day a week. And then watch desperate housewives afterwards!!!! (JK) College is not hard if you study.

11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

see college as more than just something you do on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

--Don't presume anything is going to be fair. Yes, you sent your prof and email, but don't presume he/she will return the response. You're the one at the disadvantage if you need assistance and you must hunt it out.

--NEVER tell a professor in front of the entire class that you don't like his/her class and that you don't want to be there. Don't.

---Write legibly and type things in 12pt Arial. Always. The profs just might have old eyes.

--Anytime you have the chance to make a favorable impression with profs, do so. This includes the aforementioned tip.

--Don't eat anything that might give you diarrhea on final exam day.

6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this sounds wonderful, idealistic actually, if you are on a “parental scholarship” or other means of paying for school which allows you to study abroad, go to instructor’s office hours, etc. What about the poor people (me, while in college) utilizing every spare moment working? Certainly I am not the only one who had to pay for my entire education… right? I did not qualify for any loans and/or grants for various reasons.

BTW, I graduated from a top business school (public) with a 3.3 GPA and based on US demographics, currently in the 92nd percentile of annual income. Oh yeah, and I like what I do for a living—it is not all about the money.

I am proud to say that I paid for everything, even my junky kick-start motorcycle that got me everywhere I needed to go.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should be in college to get an education. This is now your job! As much as possible from 8 to 5, you should be getting an education: in class, studying, at the library, doing your reading for class, working on your assignments, writing your papers, talking with classmates about class, organizing your notes, studying for your tests. If you spend this kind of time on your studies, you will have plenty of time after 5 and on the weekends to do all of the other things you want to do while you are in college, and you will make great grades.

Not everyone will have the luxury of being able to devote all of this time to studying. Some will have jobs to make it possible to even be in college. My advice to you is to spend as much time as possible on your studies while you are on campus and not working. Don't waste that time; don't procrastinate; stay on top of your assignments; don't forget why you are there.

9:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Working Anonymous above:

I had to work also and understand where you are coming from. Most of these “tips” sound like they are coming from the privileged folks. I guess things have changed a lot, but most of it sounds absurd based on my experience.

I am now in the position of making hiring decisions for my department and I prefer people who have already experienced work in their life than those who attended activities and studied abroad.

One tip for students: Get at least a part-time job, the experience will be invaluable and prepare you to some degree of what is to come.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Koru's Daughter said...

You are right, most of my tips are for the rich, non-working children (or that is how they act). I worked at a rich private college. I called it the University of Extra Princes because if these very wealthy kids were actually smart, they would be at a more academically-challenging school.

I do have some kids coming to my class in their work uniforms and, not suprisingly, these are not the students that I have to tell how to be an adult. They arrive on time, do their homework, do not wear PJs to class, make their own decisions and do not make up BS excuses.

I also never have trouble with older students who decided to come back to school or the (I hope this is not too politically incorrect) divorcees who are rebounding from past mistakes.

I always cut these students some slack. You can see the effort and thought in everything they do.

I guess to really don't have advice for these hard-working, responsible young adults beyond "Keep up the good work. I am proud of you."

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Jenny said...

I was actually going to write up something like this for my brother, who is going off to college this fall. Anyway, having just finished my sophomore year, here are a few thoughts (some have been said, some haven't):

-- SMILE AT PEOPLE. random people you pass on the street, profs, the dining hall workers. especially the dining hall workers. some of them are ridiculously interesting people, and you'll miss out on getting to know them if you ignore them like everyone else. also, just on general principles, make eye contact with people. say please and thank you.

-- STUDY EFFECTIVELY. Do the reading, take notes in the margins if you find yourself skimming/not absorbing anything. taking margin notes is a great way to force yourself to pay attention, even if "taking margin notes" simply means noting a few key words. even better, it makes it easier to find the main points when you're going back to study for exams! hey, who knew? furthermore, form effective study groups - when exam time comes around, divide up the work, outline the main themes of the course, get together and discuss.
--- subset of this topic: if you are good at a subject, TEACH IT to your friends who are having trouble with it. if you can't explain it to someone, you probably don't understand it well enough. on the flip side of this, if there's a subject you don't understand, find a friend who's really good at it, and ask them to help you. I can't overemphasize the importance of this.

-- when it comes time to really study, DISCONNECT YOUR INTERNET CONNECTION. whether this means physically pulling the ethernet cord out of the back of your computer, or whether it means pressing the little button to turn off your wireless card, do whatever it takes to get yourself disconnected from the internet. otherwise, you WILL procrastinate. better yet, unless you're actively typing an essay or something, get off your computer entirely. grab your books and go find a quiet spot in the library. it's much easier to focus without distractions.

-- DON'T TAKE TOO MANY COURSES first semester freshman year. this is a time to meet people, get involved with a million activities, and find your niche. you'll probably be pretty unhappy/socially uncomfortable until you find where you "fit in," and if you don't take the time to do this at the beginning of freshman year, you'll have a much harder time doing it later.
--- corrollary to the above: get involved in lots of student groups. yes, you're at school to learn, but you'll burn yourself out if you don't take time to have some fun too... and you'll meet some way cool people that you simply wouldn't encounter otherwise.

-- on the subject of classes, TAKE CLASSES OUTSIDE YOUR MAJOR. as many as you can, preferrably. especially if you go to a school that's known for a specific department, take classes in it even if you think they're totally pointless. i'm a science geek through and through, but some of the best profs I've had have been my humanities & social sciences profs, and I would have completely missed out on the experience of taking their classes if I'd been afraid to venture outside my comfort zone.

-- finally, since this is getting long, DON'T GO OUT AND GET WASTED. yes, it's fun to go out drinking sometimes, but many students go off to college and get completely trashed every weekend (I suppose some don't even restrict themselves to the weekends...). this really really damages your ability to function both academically and socially, and can cause you to do some pretty stupid things. so if you're going to drink, please do so responsibly. PLEASE.

... and I apologize for the inconsistent capitalization. it is late at night, and it takes too much effort to hit the shift key :-P (but obviously not too much effort to do a smiley. hmmm. oh well.)

1:36 AM  
Blogger MzUnderstanding said...

There is some excellent advice listed here!

As a fellow student I would advise you not to ask "Is this going to be on the test?" YES - everything will be on the test in one way or another. KNOW IT!

Don't waste 10 minutes of class time trying to talk the prof into moving the test back a week. If you aren't ready now you won't be ready then. (See above advice on studying / time management.)

If you get a grade lower than you expected talk to the prof about it. Don't assume you know why, and don't assume it was because the prof disagreed with something you wrote. You will learn much more if you take the time to talk it through.

And to the person who's mother did her undergrad in 14 years and 11 institutions. Woohoo - someone that beat me! I'll graduate in August after 12 years and 5 institutions.

8:05 AM  
Blogger MarySunshine said...

Not trying to start a big war here. Just want to give a shout-out to those of us (myself included) who were NOT on the "parental scholarship." I realize that I am privileged in that I COULD HAVE had my parents pay for school. But instead I got full scholarships for all 4 years of undergrad and graduate schools. And I did work-study for the incidentals.

I went through the Louisiana public school system too - K-12. So. . . remember guys, not all of us are on parental scholarship. Some of us worked really hard to get college paid for through our high school grades/activities.

I totally understand the dynamic of growing up in an educated, supportive family environment and how that significantly contributes to any individual's ability to excel. In that way I was truly privileged. But I (and others too assume) did not take it for granted. This is just me getting the backs of people who did "work their way" through school - just in a different fashion.

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree to a certain extent about the "parental scholarship" idea. However, I will be attending am exclusive East Coast private college next year using the trust fund that I inherited from my crusty maternal grandfather. I am EXTREMELY grateful that my education will not burden my family financially nor will I be stuck with student loans for years to come. My grandfather willed me the trust fund because I told him that I wanted to go to college when I was 7 years old. He wanted me to achieve my ambitions and was willing to finance my dreams. Without his trust fund I'm not sure I would be able to attend my first choice college. Like most middle class families, I don't qualify for financial aid.

On another note, I'm not "buying" my college education. After both my mom and brother died from cancer within my first two years of high school I almost dropped out. I'm graduating next week with a GPA around 3.6 and having taken 7 courses (as a high school student) at the University of Michigan. Attending college next year isn't just my personal dream/agenda for future financial success. I'm also doing this for my mom and my brother who never had the chance to experience graduation or college (he was a top student). I owe it to them to excel.

Also, thanks for the advice. I'll try to follow some of it next year...

Ingrid, Bryn Mawr College class of 2010

9:22 AM  
Blogger Mike M said...

A note or two about the sentiment expressed in a few posts about experimentation in collage, finding yourself, and most particularly Marysunshine's comments about college not making or breaking you as a human being. I view these comments with a somewhat jaundiced eye and want to say, "Yes, but . . . “ While collage and the choices that you make there may not, strictly speaking, make or break you as a human being, the grades that you make there (or for that matter the grades you make in high school) may well make or break your career depending on what you want to do. If you want to get into an elite law school, I dare say that your collage grades, and you choice of collage, will be highly relevant. Likewise, if you wish to teach at the college level in the humanities, you will need a Ph.D. from on of the very elite universities to secure a tenure level teaching job.

Of course, there are many great human beings who are not graduates of elite law schools and Ph.D. programs. Indeed, many would argue that the percentage of great human beings is higher in the general population than in those two sub groups. But one must be careful in making generalizations about the effect that college success may or may not have. I went to SMU and made moderately good grades and got into one of the three best public law schools in the country (and at the time one of the top ten in the country). But many career options were closed to me because I didn't go to a more prestigious undergrad institution and did not go to a more elite law school. Likewise, I had many options that those who wend to schools with lesser reputations didn't have, etc. But entrance to those schools, both undergrad and law, is controlled by how one does at the preceding level. I'm sure much the same is true in other professional programs such as medicine, etc.

7:16 PM  
Anonymous JBux said...

Some of the most basic advise...

GO TO CLASS!!! (and yes the other SMU reader now know where I went to school). But I don't mean just show up for class, actually attend classes. Be attentive, ask questions (either in class or of the prof after class), don't be hung over, etc. If you do this I found that it makes studing much easier, which means you have more time for the fun stuff in college!

7:56 PM  
Blogger cluelesscarolinagirl said...

Don't believe your friends when they claim they never do any work. They're either lying and are going to smoke you when it comes to grades, or they're lazy wastrels and you need friends who are better than that, because sometimes professors notice who you hang out with and assume you're just as lazy and worthless as your friends.

11:26 PM  
Blogger theprofessor said...

Thanks, everyone! Your tips and suggestions are so good, I'm having a hard time picking just three winners. Check back tomorrow on the blog!

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Charles said...

A few things I've found to be helpful...

1) Attending class is important. If you can't be there, send the professor an email beforehand saying as much, and expressing your regrets, as well as the truthful reason why you can't be there. I've found they appreciate the heads-up, and if you tell them beforehand, it seems more like a reason than an excuse-- an all-important differentiation.

2) Sitting up front in a class is overrated. Sit wherever you're comfortable, especially in smaller classes. I've found sitting by a window in the winter is a good plan, as you can always crack it open a little and get some fresh air, so that the oft-overheated room doesn't make you sleepy. Nothing makes it harder to learn than a space that is hot and cramped, especially if you're not interested in the subject beforehand.

3) If you're one of the brilliant students, try to showcase that in the first or two of class. But don't go overboard. Limit yourself to two comments per class, or else you'll find a lot of dirty looks coming your way. Of course, it's tremendous fun being the know-it-all, and it often happens that you'll meet a lot of smart people who want to discuss something with you after class about a point you made. So hit the pub and have a pint while discussing the subject at hand.

4) The night before an exam should never be devoted to cramming. Sleep. There is nothing more important than a good night's sleep before an exam. Go to the washroom before the exam so you don't lose time later, if that's possibly an issue. Buy a coffee and bring it with you-- there are a couple of studies that say that coffee helps to improve short-term memory recall. It'll also perk you up, which is nice.

5) ALWAYS (and I cannot stress this enough) be friendly with your departmental secretary. It stands to reason that she will be the gatekeeper to many things-- forms you need to have signed for program transfers, class enrollments, and perhaps even the department chair's appointment book. The departmental secretary is the one who will help you with any questions, so always be polite.

6) Professors are not freaky robots, nor should you be scared of them. Hang around their offices. Drop by to chat. Talk to them when you've missed a class-- especially if they're a professor you like. Respect them, and talk to them like human beings. It's entirely possible to be shooting the breeze with them for half an hour before class, only to realize you're both going to be late. If you can, go to pub nights and hang out with them outside of an academic atmosphere. You'll have made invaluable friends. If you can, find an older professor who has been around the school for a long time, and hook on to them as a mentor. I was lucky enough to do that with a well-respected professor emeritus who has been nominated for numerous awards for his fiction stories, and it's perfect for recommendations.

7) Don't take university too seriously. I know people who work themselves into a tizzy if they can't work an extra hour of study into their schedules near exam time. They're killing themselves with stress for a marginal bonus. What's an extra 2% on an exam if it means you're stressing yourself to the point of taking a few years off your life because you're hypertensive with a blood pressure problem before you're even done your sophomore year? University is, like high school, rather a silly institution. So treat it as such. Have fun with it. Play with it. The universe tends to unfold as it will, and if you're not adaptable enough to roll with the punches, you'll never enjoy life. Don't always try to bend the will of the universe in your favour-- it'll never work. Enjoy life. Learn to deal with adversity with a smile, and have fun.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous Katy said...

A little tardy, but I'll try to keep this to the absolute essentials:

1. Choosing a Major/Classes: Pick the classes that sound the most interesting, the ones that make you think, "Hey, I've always sort of wanted to know about that." That's all there is to it. That was the single best piece of advice I received entering college.

2. Study Abroad. Make this an absolute priority, few times in life give you the chance to go somewhere exotic, be someone else, AND get academic credit. Go learn a language, get some stories, have some adventures. It will serve you well.

3. Start being one of those people who's always on time, it's the first step to being a professional (and a good date).

4. Go to class. Failure to go to class leads to severe and unecessary anxiety. If you fall behind in a class, get sick, have a crappy week where you can't get your life together; talk to the professor. Professors will cheerfully clarify assignments and will listen since they understand that life happens to all of us-- just not the day before the exam.

5. Use a condom. Don't leave your friends alone at a party, don't let them leave you. Work hard, play nice, and if all else fails, call your parents.

So much for brevity.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Don't fall behind. Don't procrastinate. Learn to relax. Caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. Plan your day. Don't just attend: learn.

Focus on getting your degree.

Explore now; later will be busier.

5:56 PM  
Anonymous lauren said...

A bit late, but very important.

The summer before I started college, my pseudo big brother gave me some of the best advice I've ever received - "There are three things in college: sleep, social, and studies. You get to do two of them. Choose wisely."

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take Latin. Find a job on campus, and work as much as you are in class (they'll give you your references for the real world). Don't work during finals week, study. Didn't figure this out until my senior year!! I did better that year than the rest.

8:07 AM  
Blogger On The Rebound said...

If only you knew how my day was going. I was searching for one thing and I ended up here. Now you see how that might affect me!

12:45 AM  
Anonymous littlem said...

1) If you are having trouble in a class, go immediately to your professor or the T.A.s. If they are bad at explaining, DEMAND that they phrase things a different way until you understand. Do NOT let your fear of them thinking you are stupid stand in your way.

2) Go to the gym, or put some equipment/dumbbells (the nonhuman kind)/yoga mat in your room. Even if you are the uber-intellectual anti-jock type. ESPECIALLY if you are. Oxygen in your brain makes you smarter, and putting some muscle on your body in college will make it much easier on your body when you are, um, out of college.

3) In the cafeteria, more protein and veggies and fruit, less mystery potatoes and other refined starch crap. On the weekend, more beer OR more pizza, or less of both. Find out if health services (or whatever they call it on campus) has a nutritionist to help you learn how to eat well. If not, make friends with a favorite jock and trade favors to get to know THEIR nutritionist. (Trust me, they have one, especially if they're on scholarship.)

4) Absolutely intern every summer/winter break you get after freshman year.

5) Find out who your advisors -- departmental, dorm, honors, career -- are supposed to be. ALL of them. Get to know them before you need them, and charm them so that after you have researched them relentlessly they will not resent you when you grill them to find out whether they know what they're supposed to know in order to help you plan for your future. If they do NOT know how to help you, MAKE them refer you to someone who does.

I try not to mourn for what I didn't know. I didn't know how far into the future it all would affect me.

6) What Logical Philosopher talks about will also help you exponentially in grad school, if you don't get around to it as an undergrad.

1:43 AM  
Anonymous rigario said...


11:21 PM  

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