High school's over and college is here. I'm about to state it bluntly. Time to grow up, take responsibility for your schedule, buy a planner (I have a post about that by the way), and start going the extra mile... in everything. These next few years determine your starting salary, your friends, and kind of the rest of your life. No pressure. Don't get me wrong, college is also a time to have the time of your life. I've loved college more than any other time in my life (thus far). That's of course in between the break downs I had when 10 assignments were due on the same day within a week (never take 18 hours online, lesson learned). But seriously speaking, from two years experience, here's how to set yourself APARTat your college campus.
STEP 1: Get a job on campus
I speak from experience, this is great way to make connections with numerous students and meet the 'big fish' on campus. Not only will you be meeting peers (and usually positively influential ones) but you'll be working alongside adults that care about your school and the students. Also look at being an Orientation Leader each summer at your college. I've had a blast doing it the past two years. It's great pay for pretty much socializing with incoming freshmen and showing them around campus. In the photo above, we're with UALR on the road to Fort Smith helping recruit.
I've grown to love my college even more by telling others about why I enjoy investing in my education here. You have countless opportunities to meet students and connect with them as they grow to feel at home on campus. Not only will you meet students but professors and leaders within your college. This could serve as a perfect opportunity to get the Dean of Students to write you a killer recommendation letter that could help you get that job or internship you've had your eyes on. Recommendation letters are also great from professors, which brings me to my next step...
STEP 2: Get to know your professors
Don't worry, not every single one of them. Make it a goal to become close to at least one each semester where they know you on a first-name basis. At UALR, I've been blessed to have small class sizes of about 14 so I know 8/10 of my professors closely. If you're at a larger campus or you're not very outgoing, this may be a bigger challenge for you. The answer: office hours.
And no, they won't think you're annoying, that's what these miracle hours for. I guarantee you, if you've been in and out of class all semester and haven't stepped foot in their office, brace yourself for a mediocre grade. Now, let's say you've been in and out of class but when you're there you actively participate and you've visited with your teacher outside of class, you've got much higher chances. In an intro to web principles and design class I took last year, I was absolutely clueless in class. That's why I met with my professor during office hours... A LOT. And guess what? He loved it. I don't know how he stayed sane explaining the same thing over and over to me, but teaching is truly that man's passion and it shows in and out of the classroom. I would have made a 'C' if I hadn't have put in the hours outside of class.
STEP 3: Make a Linked In
I'm still developing mine, (you can check it out here) but this is the equivalent of Facebook in the professional world. It isn't called 'the world's largest professional network' for nothing. Linked In keeps track of your accomplishments... making the Deans List for three consecutive years, clubs or scholarship organizations, projects, leadership roles, even the Prezis that I've made. People you know can even deem you credible for different professional skills by endorsing you. Another great thing about Linked In is you don't ever forget anything. With so much material to remember in college, your brain is fried before finals even get close. Making a Linked In gives you one less thing to worry about. Just don't forget about keeping your resumé up to date along with your Linked In. If you haven't paid your resumé time in a while, be able to refer to your Linked In so you get it back on track.
STEP 4: Know what you're paying for
As a tour guide at UALR, I'm always sure to point out those hidden places around campus that somehow no one told me about. These hidy-holes had the potential of saving my life during finals week of my freshman year (bad memories). I always tell incoming students that you are paying a lot for college... shouldn't you know what you're paying for? The answer is YES! Look on your student account and you can see where every one of your 8precious dollars is going. This includes the writing center, library, fitness center, even tanning beds!
"Know what you're paying for so you can USE IT!"
Be able to locate the Writing Center along with other tutoring that's available. In our writing lab, we have free Macs to use, FREE printing (FREE is GREAT), and tutors that will tell you what the heck proper Chicago format is for that final paper I wrote for my online Intro to Principles of Marketing course I took in the spring.
STEP 4: Use Rate My Professors
If you're taking notes... write this down. This website will literally save your life. The way I explain it is when you go see a movie, do you just cross your fingers it's good without checking out the reviews online? NO! You could be wasting your money. Before, if you didn't catch that, BEFORE you take a class -not after- check out your potential professors online. Rate My Professors has millions of ratings of professors from each college all over the country along with what to expect and answers to questions like, "Will I need the textbook I spent $200 on?" Kind of important right? In my case, 9.5/10 times Rate My Professors is extremely accurate, just trust whatever it tells you and consider it your personal fortune teller of what the upcoming semester will hold. You can also get an idea of what kind of assignments are to be expected along with attendance expectations, and even how hot your professor is. You'll probably have a crush on at least one professor before you graduate, just a heads up.
Once again, no one told me about this helpful website either, so you're already way ahead of where I was going into college. Just a tip though, some professors you're going to be forced to take. With general classes (not your core) like electives, you have more options about the time you'll be taking it and with whom. For your core curriculum you may have one professor as your only option. Just fight through it, have a good attitude, and learn something. :)
STEP 5: Read the syllabus (and keep it)
Yes, you'll already have a good idea about your professor if you're following my instructions and use Rate My Professors... but the syllabus will give you an idea of what the professor expects while you're in their class and not someone else's review. Pay attention the first day of class. The expectations should be set clear about attendance, late work, all the important stuff. Even if you think that the info isn't applicable to you, just listen closely. You may be hitting yourself in the head at the end of the semester if you didn't hear your professor tell you they don't do make-ups on the test you missed because of a dentist appointment and it screwed your grade. Yes. It can and will happen, just not to me yet.
"Every professor is different."
News flash, not every professor cares about their students grades, hate to break it to you. It's not high school anymore with abundant extra credit and homework once a month. And in case you didn't read the parentheses, keep your syllabus. You'll be thankful when you can refer to it for any questions. And don't e-mail your professor without checking your syllabus first. They won't answer questions they handed you the answers to.
STEP 6: Get to know student teachers and befriend at least two new classmates
My freshman year I signed up for what I didn't know was a third level Anthropology course. I didn't even know that anthropology was a subject or a science for that matter. I only was thinking of my favorite store, Anthropologie. Anyways, student teachers or interns or whatever you want to call them was the only way I survived that class. They tutored me for free twice a week and studied more for that class than anything in my life but still made horrid grades on her tests.
"Find 2-3 friendly faces... they could turn out
to be some of your closest friends."
The first day of class, make a point of looking around the classroom, finding 2-3 friendly faces , and jotting down their numbers after class. Get over the creepiness, you'll be thanking me. They will not only be understanding when you vent about homework, but they'll also be your go-to people for questions like, "When is that due again?", or "Do you get this cause I don't!". You can also make some of your closest friends this way, Ricky was from my anthro class two years ago and we still keep in touch. We always started a GoogleDoc for the study guides and divide it up into semi-manageable sections of 10+ pages each. These study guides might as well have been the Bible and half. They were (I'm not exaggerating) 20+ pages long. I was in wayyyyyy over my head okay? Luckily, that semester anthropology was my only hard class so I learned a lot of study skills from it. Third level Anthropology classes are not for incoming freshmen whose worst subject is science. Point being... my teacher saw that I wasn't good at science but I made an effort, never missed a class, I went to her office hours and attended every study session with the student teachers. I also did all extra credit work, which is my next step to success in college. I failed her cumulative final and there's no way I made close to a 'B' in the course. But it's on my transcript... so I'm not asking questions.
STEP 7: Do ALL of the (not optional) Extra-Credit work
You never know what kind of dumb mistake you'll make in a class. You're going to get right at the end of the semester saying, "I got this!" and then you're going to fall straight on your face. That's why there's extra credit. Let me introduce you to your new best friend in college. It's the difference between a passing grade and a fail, an 89.8 or an 89.9, yes there's a difference between one decimal point. College has no mercy! Except for a kind professor here and there and extra credit if you're lucky. When you're on the waiting list for going into medical school, your grade point is a huge factor. Make sure you know that throughout your college career. Extra credit is not 'extra', it's credit and it's not an option. That's my mentality, so I make time for it and work it into my semester each year.
STEP 8: Know how to make a presentation using Prezi
Get used to stepping in front of the classroom and making presentations. For most freshmen, you're required to take an intro to speech class to help your presentation and communication skills. I'm a huge supporter of using Prezi for any presentation I make for a course. This is a great way to keep your audience entertained and engaged. Prezi is an alternative to PowerPoint that's much more interactive than just moving slide to slide. Your presentation will stand out from the rest with the many different templates you can use that are already set up for your success.
STEP 9: Rent books online or buy/borrow from friends
Don't be fooled into thinking your university bookstore on campus is the only resource for textbooks. That is simply a way to cheat dumb freshmen (like I was two years ago) of a bunch of money. The answer: rent books online. Last semester, I came across an Intro to Principals of Marketing book that was cheaper to buy than to rent. I then sold it back and somehow made money off of it. My friend Stephanie introduced me to a site called Valore Books that's my new favorite money saver, along with Campus Book Rentals. It takes time to surf the web to find the best deal on textbooks, but it's SO worth it when you have $200 extra books in your pocket.
Some professors like to milk students for all the money they're worth and wright their own book every year just so we can't buy it used from a friend and have to purchase it through our university. Some say they don't make "any profit at all"... but they're 9 times out of 10 lying, I mean why else would you write a new freaking text book every year?!?! *cough-cough* If you're making money off of it.
My geology book this semester was a more expensive one that I knew I would never use again in my life. Thankfully, I found two copies in the library and just checked it out each time I needed it this past semester. Even if you have a few over-due fees that turn up on your student account bills, it's going to be cheaper than buying or renting the book... just don't lose it! ;)
STEP 10: Get involved on campus, but be selective!
College is what you make of it. It's a fresh start for everyone with a whole new crowd. Getting involved on campus is a vital part of finding your place and your closest friends! I mentioned getting a job at your college, but there are so many other ways to meet people. UALR has over 175 organizations on campus. You'll find anything from the Lawn-Chair club (they sit around and socialize) to the Biology club. The Biology club is a great resumé builder you can include, especially if it's your major. There are also fraternities and sororities on campus, not my cup of tea, but another awesome way to meet people, I just don't like to pay to be a part of things.
The key is to be selective about what and with who you're investing your time in. I advise only choosing a one or two organizations to get involved in. Time is valuable and so are your grades, you'll find yourself getting lost in your social life and having to retake some classes if you're not careful. I'm also involved in American Cancer Society and organizing Relay For Life each year at UALR.
Doing philanthropic work is a great resumé booster which I'll be elaborating more on in another blog post. My freshman and sophomore years I was really active in my scholarship organization. That's another thing to be sure to factor in before joining a group, along with any jobs you have and how many hours a week you're expecting to work. You can always go back and join a club on campus, but it's hard to undo it if you find that you've overcommitted yourself.
When you follow these steps, you're going to be off to a terrific start and be over prepared for college.