Posts Tagged ‘college advice’
As the eldest child in my family, I wasn’t lucky enough to get my hands on those glimmering snippets of valuable college information. I knew my father had a college roommate who put on The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited,” and danced after his final class every Friday, and I knew that movies I had seen portrayed college courses taught in something more like an arena than a twenty-five student classroom. My concept of college lied somewhere between these two ideas, and regardless of that fact, I took my first steps on my college campus ready for whatever freshman year would throw at me! Having graduated in 2009, here are three things I wish I had known on my first day.
There Are Better Places to Get Your Textbooks
For the first two years of my college education, I took the option of having the college bookstore collect everything I needed for my courses, placing it all neatly into a huge box, taping it up, and giving me a call when it was ready. Don’t get me wrong: this was highly convenient! I didn’t have to wait in the same line as the other hundred people looking to cash out, and I knew I had what I needed before the bookstore ran out. On the other hand, this was not the cheapest way to go, and taking back books professors decided they didn’t want the first week was a pain! If I had it to do over again, I think I would spend more time buying books off of Craigslist, buying used books online, or renting books!
Nobody Is THAT Perfect
My freshman year, I had big dreams, and I was going after them! For me, this meant getting to know the people around campus I idolized. I wanted to be like my RA, who was not only beautiful, she was brilliant in her double major, and a leader in a dozen organizations! I wanted to be like the president of one of my campus groups, who won tons of academic awards and everyone on campus knew him! I soon learned that my RA struggled with major body image issues and was miserable as far as relationships go. That guy on campus everyone knew? He frequently asked if he could copy my work. That’s when I learned these people weren’t perfect, and I was reaching for something that was never there. Of course, the lesson here is not to go around pointing out others’ flaws, but rather to not let the seemingly perfect perception of your classmates dampen your own confidence in yourself. Perfection isn’t a realistic goal, but improvement always is.
Not Everyone is Trustworthy
While there are certainly people I didn’t like, and who didn’t like me, I had not met too many people with truly poor intentions. My junior year of college, I was approached by a guy around my age who said he was selling magazines so he could study abroad. Seems legit, right? He wanted me to pay him in cash, and there just happened to be an ATM near where we were standing. How convenient, right?! After taking out a hundred dollars (he said he’d give me change), he took off with the money! I learned then that if something seems off, I would be willing to risk possibly disappointing someone to get out of the situation.
What’s so hard about college?
You might think it’s the coursework. After all, college level academics are more difficult than high school academics, and often times, the methods used to teach a college level course are unfamiliar to a freshman. You might think the hard part of college is making friends, as you’ve likely left most of yours, along with your family, behind.
While the academic and social aspects of college can be challenging, the students who haven’t figured out how to balance everything are those that have the toughest time. The demands of college students are high, and they’re coming from every direction: you have two professors expecting papers by the end of the week, your club meets every Wednesday, your RA is holding a mandatory event tonight, you have a group presentation tomorrow, Mom wants you to call her, and your best friend just broke up with her high school sweetheart and she needs you right now. Feeling stressed yet? Most college kids do.
So what are you going to do about it?
Well, you could simply throw your pens in the air and say, “Forget this! College is too hard!” and walk out. There are plenty of students who do. Or, you could learn how to balance all of these activities in a way that brings you success and happiness!
Your first lesson is a basic one: get yourself a planner (and use it)! Write down when your assignments are due and when you plan to do them. Schedule in your weekly meetings, even if it seems obvious that you’re busy at 7 p.m. every Monday. Note test days, birthdays, off-campus parties, visits home, group project meetings, campus events, when construction is going to be blocking your typical entrance to your campus, when you’ll need a new toothbrush, and everything else you need to remember. Color code it if you have to! Pour your life into this thing because your mind will not be able to handle it all.
Your second lesson, one that many people have a difficult time with, is being able to recognize when things are about to get crazy, and doing something about it. When you’re documenting everything in a planner, it will only take you a moment to realize there’s a dark and twisty Tuesday coming up where you have a twelve page paper due, two meetings scheduled for the same time, and coffee with your ex where you’ll discuss whether or not you’re getting back together. Yikes. Understand that this is a storm warning, and you’ll need to make preparations for it.
Your final lesson in performing a successful balancing act is being able to prevent spillage from one demand into another. Focus on the task at hand. If it’s homework time, don’t get on the phone for an hour. If your friend is visiting from another college, don’t spend that time polishing the final words of a paper. Think of your demands like paint: while a few mix nicely, too many mixed together makes an ugly greenish brown.
Even if you’ve known you wanted to graduate college with a degree in bio-physics since you were 7 years old, depending on which college or university you wind up at, there’s a good chance you’ll have to take some classes outside of your major. There are core classes you’ll be require to get credits for, and even just extra credits you’ll have to fill.
So, how do you choose classes that are out of your normal comfort zone? You’re in luck because we have to have 7 ways to choose college courses outside of your major:
1. Peruse through the entire course guide
If you’re at a larger university, this can be a daunting task, but you never know what you’ll find! There are so many intriguing, even fun, college courses being offered these days (like all of these pop culture courses). Make sure you look through all the classes so you don’t pass over something that might be right up your alley.
2. Choose by professor
Did you have a professor who just taught the most interesting lectures on what could be the most tedious subject ever? If you found a professor who can keep your eyes open and neurons-a-firing, don’t let him/her slip through your fingers. It’s kind of like what your grandma would say about your girlfriend, “She’s a keeper.” Find another class they teach and sign on up.
3. Ask your friends
Ask your friends if they’ve taken any classes that they recommend you take. Your friends are a great source of information because they know you better than any counselor or adviser. If they think you’ll enjoy Mummies 101, you should probably trust their judgment. That is, if you trust their judgment in judging what you’d like.
4. Do some research
Course selection is almost an entire course within itself. And just like any other class, you should probably do some research. If faculty reviews are public at your school, take a look-see. Insight into what others think about a class can help inform your decisions. You can also always hit up RateMyProfessors.com.
5. Take a class outside of your comfort zone
One of the best ways to expand your mind and widen your view of the world, is to take classes about things that might make you uncomfortable at first. Take a class in a religion that you don’t practice or a history class about a country you’ve never heard of before. While your major provides the opportunity to focus in on one field, your entire college experience is about widening your horizons.
6. Channel your inner artist
A lot of us have inner artists that come out to breathe less and less frequently as we get older. So, college is a great time to give your inner artist some oxygen. Take a painting class, bongo class, creative writing class–whatever it is–just sign up; give your inner artist some room to walk around and express itself!
7. Does it fit in your schedule?
The college student’s MO is creating a school schedule that fits perfectly with their nap schedule. Or work schedule. Or whatever. The cool part about college is that you have the liberty, most of the time, to design what time you wake up and what days you wake up. You could schedule a semester with no classes on Fridays, or no classes before noon. That’s why college is magical.
How have you chosen your classes? Leave a comment below!
Here’s a story my mom told me:
Bobby and Betty Ann were THE COUPLE. Like, all of CutiePatootieville just thought that they were the bee’s knees and would be together forever. Senior year of high school was flying by, and Bobby and Betty had to decide what their next move would be.
See, Bobby wanted to be an astronaut. And there was only one school in the entire nation that offered a bachelors in astronaut.
Betty Ann wanted to be a crocodile hunter–don’t let the polka-dot purple dress or the rosy red cheeks fool you–Betty was a beast when it came to Australian wetlands. But, there was only one school in the entire nation that offered that degree and it was NOT the same school that offered Bobby’s dream.
So the couple compromised and went to State where they were both so unfulfilled that they broke up, individually wound up in prison for robbing banks (what a crazy coincidence!), and to this day dream about space and crocodiles–just look at their tattoos!
Anywho, that’s a true story. People warn against following your high school sweetheart to college all the time, and people ignore it alll the time.
So, I thought it’d be the best idea ever to draw out the pros and cons of this situation. If you have others, please leave a comment in the field below!
Going off to college is akin to moving into an alien civilization on Mars. There are new maps to figure out, new people to remember, a totally new academic language to translate…I can go on forever. Having your dude/dudette there to commiserate with you and/or hold your hand while growing accustom to the Martian culture can be very helpful in your transition.
He/She can introduce you to knew people
“Betty, meet Betty. Isn’t that funny? You two have the same name! You’ll probably wind up being best friends!”
Sometimes having your Bobby introduce you to a couple people winds up being so much easier than actually doing the bulk of the work yourself!
Avoid the long distance relationship
Sure, Skype is amazing. But, when you need that shoulder to cry on, you will destroy your computer if you get too much salty water on it.
If your boyfriend/girlfriend has already gone to college a year ahead of you, then they are basically a gold mine of information. Use them!!!
Getting to be with your boyfriend/girlfriend
Living in their shadow
Getting to college after your boyfriend/girlfriend has been there a school year often means that you’ll be following them around like a puppy dog for an undisclosed amount of time. Unless you’re comfortable constantly standing behind your boyfriend/girlfriend’s shoulder nodding your head as if you’re included in the conversation with his friend that you’re actually not included in, then be weary of a life in the shadows.
Not making decisions based on your needs
Following your sweetheart to college illustrates how much you are willing to sacrifice for that person. It could lead to making choices that actually hurt your goals and dreams.
Straying from academics
If you follow your sweetheart to college, they obviously take a priority in your life. Maybe even ahead of why you’re at college in the first place.
Being in a relationship from high school to college with the same person can stunt your growth as an individual. A little single life where you make your own decisions for your future will make you stronger to stand on your own.
Over the weekend I began going through the ever-growing tower of past schoolwork I’ve kept from high school and college. I read through probably a hundred different papers I’ve written over the years. With each one, a little flood of pride swept over me–Wow, I knew what ‘Defenestration‘ meant?–and, ultimately decided to keep a bunch of them (and by ‘a bunch of them’ I really mean every single one).
You’re probably reading this post as a cry for help from my secret hoarder life, but it’s not (it is), it’s really not (I had to tunnel through my hallways filled with every newspaper since 1987 just to get to my room filled with 48 cats).
No, we’re talking about great college papers. With hindsight being 20/20, I was able to see what made some of my college papers works of, dare I say, genius, and others just kinda lumps of complicated words that didn’t really add up to much in the end.
Here’s my words of wisdom, which include the comments scribbled in the margins from professors who’ve read my papers:
1. You need to stop procrastinating now!
This one’s a bit obvious. But hey, here’s the simple fact: If you start your paper 5 hours before it’s due, chances are it will not be thoroughly researched, thought through, or finely edited. I’ve had my share of “let’s watch this marathon Law & Order all day and start writing at midnight” experiences. It shows in the work. If you start your paper when it’s assigned, you’ll have a chance to write an outline, fine-tune your thesis, and even sleep on your ideas. Letting your ideas marinate a bit will help them grow stronger, or will help you realize what works and what doesn’t. Give yourself the gift of time!
2. I’m confused, what’s your thesis?
Sometimes the things our teachers told us in high school don’t quite sink in. If that’s the case with what they taught you about a thesis, it’s definitely time to learn what a thesis is. The thesis in your paper is the argument you’re making. It can be as simple as “Juliette was stupid” or “Hamlet was a nutjob.” You can argue whatever you want, but it has to be a strong and interesting enough argument to carry through your entire paper.
3. Do you even know what this word means?
Avoid trying to sound smarter than you are. You are probably a very smart person. Using words because they sound esoteric will turn your paper into something pedantic and alien. Your teachers don’t care how much you can impersonate an academic voice as much as hearing YOU argue your thesis smartly and thoughtfully.
4. Did you read the book? I’m seriously concerned you didn’t read the book.
Read the book. They always know when you don’t read the book.
4.5 Please never write an essay in 15 pt Comic Sans Again. Please, I beg you.
5. Where’s the proof?
Once you have your thesis, go back carefully through the text to come up with evidence. Think of yourself as a little Sherlock Holmes and gather all the evidence you can for your argument. The proof is in the pudding. And in this case, the pudding is the text, not your memory of it.
Do you have any tips for writing a great college essay? Leave a comment!
Anything that comes in a list of best to, uh, less than best, is fun. I’m not quite sure about the science behind this, but I’m pretty certain somewhere down the line the answer to all war will be solved by producing a massive “Best Of List” to captivate the world’s attention and distract from war for centuries.
The rankings that caught our attention this week came from U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings. They’re certainly fun to look at, to compare and contrast, and see who’s winning the race. But, in reality, is the college ranking system really all that accurate or dependable?
Of course, the schools that made this year’s 2012 top 10 colleges ranking are undoubtedly superb schools–Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc. (you can probably fill in the rest yourselft)–but is there any such thing as the one, singular best college in the nation for every student?
Of course not.
There’s also something that smells a little fishy with the rankings. According to Michael N. Bastedo’s column in the Chronicle, the percentage of responders to the U.S. News survey is declining every year.
On top of this, there is a clear conflict of interest in how the rankings are produced. A huge percentage of the survey takers are college admission folks. Why would college leaders want to give positive evaluations to their competition? It’s like asking you to vote for your opponent in the student body president election.
Another issue is that rankings don’t necessarily mean that much despite the amount of significance we place on them. There are so many schools that are overlooked because they’re not as well known, a lot smaller, in stranger places, whatever the case may be, that leads them to be overshadowed year after year in the college rankings.
If you’ve created a profile on Cappex and connected with your college matches, you were probably pleasantly surprised at how some of your college matches are schools you had never heard of before.
So, yeah, rankings are super fun to look at. And I bet it doesn’t feel too badly to make the top ten list. But, when it comes down to choosing a college, college rankings barely skim the surface of how good school will be for you and your career.
How does this post rank in your blog post rankings?
How important are college rankings in your college decision? Leave a comment!
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