Student Success Strategy #37: Ask for advice Part I

Do you want to be prepared for college experiences?  If you could ask just one question, what would you ask?

You might not even have the questions to ask, but those who have recently been in college remember their difficulties.  Ask them what they wish they would have known.  Here are a few questions to prompt them:

Should I bring a car?  Where can I park?

How much money do I need for books?

What do I need to do to get checked in to my room?

What do I need to bring with me?

Where do I eat?

Where do I do laundry?  Do I need to bring rolls of quarters?

How do I get mail?  What will my address be?  Should I use my parents’ address instead?

What else do you wonder about?  Send in your questions, and I’ll help you get answers!

Student Success Strategy #37:  Ask for advice – from your friends, neighbors, relatives, and any others who will share their lessons.

Student Success Strategy #36: Practicing Religion on Campus

Many students find that they miss the community they had at their place of worship, and miss having friends who believe as they do.  Others find that they are questioning their beliefs.   Still others are looking for friends and activities that seem safer or more welcoming than other popular campus events.

There are many ways to satisfy all of these needs on a college campus.

If you are attending a college that is supported by a religious group, you may find that there is an emphasis on the specific religion and denomination or sect of that organization.  In most cases, there will be other religions represented as well, and you are free to express your beliefs by your participation.

If you are attending a secular college, one supported by the state or a non-religious organization, there are likely to be many ways to find a religious group to your liking.   However, you may not find the groups listed under the most common terms.

There may be an organization such as Campus Ministries or Student Faith Association that includes all religions and through which you can find all the religious groups on campus and a few off campus that focus on students.  You can also look for student clubs that focus on a common belief.

If you aren’t sure where to find these groups, the following are good sources to ask:

Your resident assistant in the resident hall or dormitory

The office of student involvement (or student clubs)

The counseling center

The health center

A department teaching religion, philosophy, or ethics

Your fraternity or sorority

Your advisor

The college catalog

The college website

Your fellow students

Religious groups on campus are generally welcoming of all faiths, and understand that the college age students are often exploring to find not only beliefs but social outlets where they are most comfortable.   Even if you are simply looking for a group of friends and activities in a safe environment, religious groups welcome you and offer the opportunity for you to join in.

Student Success Strategy #36:  Opportunities for religious practice on campus range from formal to casual.  Look for what fits you.

Student Success Strategy #35: Invisible People on Campus

Do you know who cleans your dorm room, takes out the trash, sanitizes the restrooms, changes the hall light fixtures, landscapes and maintains the grounds, monitors the safety of your water, adjusts heating and air conditioning, and vacuums the classrooms?

These are the invisible people on campus.  They may work the night shift to clean classrooms, so they don’t interrupt learning.  They wait until after 9 or 10 a.m. to clean your rooms, so you aren’t disturbed too early.  Some of them work 24/7/365 to keep the campus grounds and facilities in good repair.

Most of them work for relatively low wages, sometimes minimum wage.  Others are technically trained to the highest skill levels and earn very comfortable salaries, but none are getting rich.  Yet, they are the backbone and foundation of a college.  If the senior administrators were to play hooky for a week, would anyone really notice?

What would happen if the maintenance and housekeeping staff decided to play hooky for even 24 hours?

Pay attention to the service these invisible people provide.  Appreciate what they are doing for you.  If you live in a dormitory, learn the name of the person who cleans your room.  Make it easier for them to do their job – don’t grind pizza crumbs into the carpet or spill sticky liquids and leave them.  Give them the space they need to work.

An occasional greeting will make their day better.   I know students who have left a small thank you note on their door for the housekeeper, or a note taped to a room air conditioner for the HVAC repair worker.  You can also send an email to the department they work for, and have an effect on their performance appraisals and possibly even their future salaries.

You will probably never know how much this can mean to someone whose job it is to make your learning environment the best it can be, rarely getting any thanks, but often getting complaints when anything is wrong.  If you notice and show your appreciation, you might find that your housekeeper leaves a plate of homemade cookies in your room one day, or your maintenance worker comes to your aid first when an entire building needs help.

Student Success Strategy #35:  Thank the invisible people for making your college experience comfortable, healthy, and conducive to learning.

Student Success Strategy #34: The Library

Tiffany had a research paper to write on a subject of her choosing in family sociology.  It was due in four weeks, so there was plenty of time to figure it out.  No need to consider the topic yet – this weekend was a football game and a party.

The new week started, and Tiffany had a quiz in History and a speech for her Communications class.  No need to start the paper when she had to focus on those other assignments.

The following weekend, she decided to go home to see her high school friends.

Week two began, and her professor reminded the class that the paper should have at least five citations from scholarly journals, a clear thesis statement, and be written in APA format, whatever that meant.  Tiffany knew she was smart enough to figure it out, and she was tired from her weekend at home.

In class on Thursday, the professor asked if there were any questions about their research paper, and offered extra office hours both after class and during the day on Friday.  Tiffany was busy packing up and didn’t take any notes on when the professor would be available.

On Sunday evening, Tiffany read over her assignments for the week to be sure she wasn’t forgetting anything.  Another quiz in History, reading for her Communications class, a few chapters and problems in her Algebra class, and two more chapters in Sociology.

You know how this goes.  One day you are on top of everything, and suddenly you have only two or three days to finish a project you haven’t even begun thinking about.

It’s time to panic!  Your other option – a much better one – is to go to the library and ask to meet with a librarian.

Did you know that librarians can help you narrow down a topic based on the requirements of your assignment?  They can help direct you to appropriate databases to find scholarly journal articles, and can teach you to determine the right keywords and search terms?  They can show you the easiest and most efficient way to find exactly what you need for research papers.

Don’t want to travel to the library?  Most college libraries have a method of contacting librarians online or on the phone.  Many college libraries have research guides to help you even when the library is closed.  These can be found on the library website or within the library in the research section.

Librarians don’t just catalog books and tell you to be quiet.  They are research experts, and they can be your best resource for academic assignments.   Don’t overlook this exceptional resource!

Student Success Strategy #34:  The library – and librarians – are one of your best resources for success.

Student Success Strategy #33: Undergraduate Research Opportunities

Undergraduate research opportunities are usually unpaid, but are a chance to learn first hand about your major and the trends within it.  It’s a great way to expand your knowledge.  It’s a great way to learn research techniques for a thesis or dissertation.  It could even lead to a job through networking or with your professor as a paid assistant.

It is also very impressive to future employers and graduate schools when found on applications and resumes.  It’s a chance to highlight what you have accomplished.  “I assisted with research in chemical catalysts that are being tested for use in medical intervention for addictions.”  “I wrote the draft of our results of statistical variance of children’s test scores.”  You may even get your name included as one of the authors of a published article.

How do you get an opportunity like this?  Your college may have an office of undergraduate research.  You can also talk with your professors about current research they are conducting, and express an interest in their work.  If they are not doing research, ask for names of others who are.  Then ask if you can use your professor’s name to introduce yourself to those others (networking is the way to find those opportunities).  If you have already impressed your professors, they may even recommend you.

Don’t wait until you have learned “everything” about your major.  Learn by doing, and you’ll learn more and better.  Then when a future employer asks what kind of experience you have, you can answer with pride.

Student Success Strategy #33:  Look for undergraduate research opportunities to expand your knowledge, your network, and your future.

Student Success Strategy #32: Office Hours Part II

Do you have a test coming up soon?  If your professor doesn’t give a study guide or go over exactly what will be on the test, go to office hours.

First, read the syllabus!  Find out what you already know about the test, then formulate questions that will clarify your knowledge.

Ask for advice.  “If I study chapters 3 and 4 plus the notes from class, will that cover what is on the test?”  “Will information from our guest speaker be covered?”

Don’t just ask what will be on the test, although that may get you some information.  Show that you are a better student, and go in with a tentative study plan that you and the professor can review and revise.  You’ll have a  head start on a format for your studying, and will not only impress your professor, but can make notes on it as you speak.  Your professor will see that you plan ahead, critically think about the class, and want to do well.

You can ask the format of the test.  What kinds of questions will there be?  Multiple choice?  True-false?  Essay?  Matching?  Short Answer?  Ask for the professor’s ideas on what is expected from the essay or short answer.  Are the matching questions one-for-one matches, or could there be some duplicate answers, or some not used at all?

Student Success Strategy #32:  Use office hours to prepare for tests.

Student Success Strategy #31: Office Hours Part I

Are you a little intimidated about speaking with your professor outside of class?  Many freshmen are, and sometimes it doesn’t change throughout your entire college career.  Many students never go to a professor’s office hours.  If that’s the case, you have missed out on a wonderful experience.

Office hours are scheduled times when the professor is available to the students, and there are several reasons to take advantage of them.

Do you have a specific question about class or an assignment in that class?  If you don’t want to ask it in front of your fellow students, use office hours, and you’ll have the professor’s full attention to your question.  You can follow-up with more questions if needed.

You can even ask the professor to glance over an assignment in progress to tell you whether you are on the right track.  Why not do that early, so if you need to make changes, you have plenty of time?  This is your chance to get some inside information as well.

Ask how the assignment will be graded, and get examples of what is expected.  Does the professor mark every grammatical mistake, every misspelled word and every unnecessary comma?  Does the professor require a thesis statement, three supporting paragraphs, and a reflective conclusion?  Even if these ideas are in the syllabus, it doesn’t hurt to discuss your ideas on the assignment before it’s due.

Using office hours to meet with your professor also gives you “face time” for the professor to get to know you as a student and as a person.  Think about how you feel about a new friend as you get to know them.  The more you know, the more you like them.  While grading is more objective than liking or not liking a student, having the professor know you better than others never hurts.  Going to office hours shows that you are a more serious student than those who don’t go, and that could be worth a point or two.

Student Success Strategy #31:  Use your professor’s office hours to learn more about expectations on assignments.