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A Beginner's Guide to College
by Sara Ali
Helpful tips to get the most from higher education
Being a college student is a full time job. An unpaid and demanding job that you can either walk away from with pride and success, or feel like you have utterly wasted your time—both results which solely depend on the decisions you make throughout your college career.
Heaps of first year students don’t know where to start—from declaring a major to time management; to knowing the ins and out of how to be an “A student” and doing something useful with the information you obtain; there is a plethora of knowledge one should attain before attending college. After all, college is an adventurous and sometimes bumpy ride which will greatly effect your future, and your wallet.
Although your teachers in high school claim to have prepared you for your new journey, there is a lot that high school graduates have yet to learn about the institution of higher education. Everyone experiences college differently, and your prior knowledge before filling out that application influences that experience.
Have a general idea of what you want to do well before your sophomore year. There is nothing wrong with going into college undecided, but don’t take too long to chose a major. UB Student Kevin Coleman stressed the importance of having one of the most important end goals in mind at the beginning of your college career: getting a job after you graduate. “I went through undergrad and at the end I graduated Magna Cum Laude and had no idea where to get a job; I panicked and went to grad school for something I ended up hating—the most expensive mistake of my life thus far.”
This brings me to another point; even if you choose a field where the job opportunities are low, remember that the more work you do in college, the more beneficial it can be once you graduate. Resume builders are key, so staying active in the field you are studying as well as involvement in extra-curricular activities throughout your college career can increase the chances of getting a job. The more you network while in school, the more people you know once you graduate—which can lead to potential careers. Never chose a major simply for employment, happiness is key. “Make sure that you’re actually passionate about what you’re studying, and how you want to make an impact on the field,” UB Student Tommy Buttaccio said.
It is also a good idea to get to know your professors. Befriending your professor can be beneficial in several ways. It seems as if professors come off to students as these bizarre creatures who live life behind the doors of the classroom and never see the light of day. We have all heard it before but it is a good reminder that professors are people too and they have busy lives of their own. In my experience, many of my professors are active in the field they teach; being a professor is a job on the side or one of many jobs.
Show your professors that you are interested in the class and that you want to do well. A careless attitude won’t encourage your professor to want to help you. Participation is key and can boost your grade as well. Responding to your professor when a question is asked is never a bad idea. Don’t be afraid to speak up, professors encourage students to do so. It can make things a bit more interesting for everyone. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, it shows that you are paying attention and are interested in learning something new.
Another good thing to know are professors’ pet peeves. Know what annoys your professor and avoid completing that action. Another important thing to become familiar with is email. Throughout college, and even after you graduate, you will have to be on your “A-game” when it comes to email. Professors can tell a lot about a student through their grammar, punctuation, and overall attitude through an email, and it is usually the main (and sometimes only way) you will communicate with your professor, aside from in the classroom. They don’t want to read an email with poor grammar and punctuation. How you address a professor is important as well.
“Freshmen should know that when you contact a professor by email, things will go more smoothly if you address them as Professor, never assume Mr., Ms, or Mrs., and sign your own name at the end of the message; also use complete sentences in between,” says Meg Knowles, Associate Professor of Media Production at Buffalo State.
One of the distractions amongst students in a college classroom are mobile devices. Smart phones—those addictive, tiny and mobile computers that can fit into your pocket are one of the biggest annoyances for many professors, and an annoyance to anyone who is trying to have a conversation with you in general. Just because you are dealing with professors and will not receive detention does not make it okay to “tweet” and text in the middle of a lecture. William Langer, Buffalo State College graduate and current graduate candidate in the M.P.A. Program at Buffalo State agrees on the no cell phone policy. “You can tweet, Facebook and text just as effectively after class; you’re not gonna miss much by unplugging for a few hours.”
Smart-phones don’t prepare you for finals. They won’t earn you an “A” in the class. Many professors will deduct points from your final grade for cell phone activity. After all, it is a bit rude to completely disregard the person talking to you to check your Facebook or text a friend. Paying college students sometimes believe that they should be able to do whatever they want; this is a very poor and sometimes detrimental attitude to have, freshmen or not. “First of all, if you were actually paying your money to be there, you would be more disciplined in your investment,” Langer said. Books have been written about smart phones and how they negatively effect all humans on several different levels.
Aside from classroom etiquette, almost every college student will recommend that you do not purchase school books unless you absolutely must. Always ask your professor if you are able to pass the class without the book, and decide from there. If you choose to buy the book, search for it online or see if your local library has it; this will save you hundreds of dollars in the end.
If you’re not up for reading The Freshman Survival Guide, check out the list below for some more helpful tips.
Steve Ardo, SUNY at Buffalo alumnus: “From my personal experience I wish I had known to avoid taking out privatized student loans. I wish that someone had told me that after you graduate private lenders don’t actually care if you’re in extreme poverty and homeless for years because of your massive debt; they only care about what you owe them even if you’re the victim of circumstances beyond your control.”
Scott Quider, Niagara County Community College Graduate: “When attendance is optional always go anyway. It’s easy to fall behind. Also, if you don’t have a parking pass they will find you. And you will get a ticket.”
Jennifer O’Donnell, Senior Director of Development at Asylum Entertainment: “Don’t walk into class late with a coffee cup. I’ve been late before. People are late sometimes. Things come up. But when you walk in late with a coffee it’s very obvious that something didn’t just come up—you just don’t manage your time well. The worst is the guy who always walks in late with a coffee cup. You look bad!”
Brian Meyer, Adjunct professor who has taught at SUNY Buffalo State: “Study skills are critical. I have to thank all the instructors at St. Joe’s for spending four years getting me into the habit of studying. By the time I became a freshman at Marquette University, I embraced the mindset that class time must be supplemented by quality study time. For example, I never tried to study in the dorms. I would block out specific hours when I would confine myself to a quiet cubicle in the library.”
Mike Niman, Professor of Journalism and Media Study at SUNY Buffalo State: “Find a text, email and other e-interruption free space to read, study and do your writing. Quickly figure out the difference between a professor and a teacher. And sleep, you have to sleep.”
Siobhan McCollum, Lecturer at SUNY Buffalo State: “Read for comprehension and mastery. Do more than look at the words on the page. Presume that the readings are the foundation for what you’ll do in class, and be active in finding the connections between and among the readings themselves, and the lectures and discussions you’ll have in class. If you’ve been assigned a traditional textbook, use all of the tools for that text, including glossaries, chapter summaries (read these first to know what you’re looking for in a chapter, if you want to) and online support sites.”
Sara Ali is a senior at SUNY College at Buffalo majoring in Communications.blog comments powered by Disqus
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