Student Success Strategy #75: Make Your Degree Worth More

Yesterday, I had the privilege of assisting with the induction ceremony for The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi at the University of Central Florida.  As the immediate past chapter president, I did not participate in the ceremony itself, but managed the logistics and was able to talk with many families about the honor that their student had earned.  There were some interesting conversations about what it means to earn membership in this highly selective honor society.

First, it means that the student excels as a test taker, reader, project manager, team member, writer, speaker, thinker and all those things that are required as a student.

Second, it means that as these students graduate and move into their careers, their accomplishments reflect back on their schools.  Great employees and entrepreneurs come from great education.  As these students improve their workplaces, their communities, and their fields of endeavor, they reflect that quality back.

Thus, their schools can claim quality students and earn the reputation of quality education, and that makes a degree from those schools more desired by employers.   Graduates of those schools then benefit from the reputation of their university.  Some will even receive higher starting salaries because of this reputation of excellence.

It’s a circle of quality, brought on by the collaboration of students, faculty, staff, families, and employers.

The next time you consider slacking off on an assignment, think about the big picture.  If you work harder to be a better student, you learn more, your productivity on the job increases, and your degree may be worth more, even with a possibility of earning more money because of it.

But even beyond that, the next time you wonder whether to take the time to help another student learn, remember that their productivity also reflects on your degree!

Student Success Strategy #75:  Make your degree worth more.   Make it a win-win situation by promoting excellence among all students.


Student Success Strategy #58: It’s Raining!

As I write this, Tropical Storm Isaac is moving away from Florida and headed for New Orleans.  Florida is getting rain, a little wind, and there is a threat of tornado formation.  Students are not thrilled to be walking around campus in this kind of weather, and some will decide to skip classes.

Don’t.  Just don’t.  Your professors will be in class, and they will not be pleased that you didn’t make the effort to be there too.  Oh, they will remember skipping classes when they were undergraduates, but they won’t be sympathetic to your desire to stay dry.

For those of you in areas where rain is common, put a large plastic bag inside your backpack and just leave it there.  Someday you can use it to protect your books so even if your backpack gets wet, your books won’t.  Wear it as a poncho if you need to.  There will be others looking just as dorky as you, wearing garbage bags to stay dry.  If you can’t bring yourself to do that, keep an umbrella in your backpack, but we warned that if it has a metal shaft, it becomes a lightning rod and is not safe to use in electrical storms.  The wind may also turn it inside out.

Do you really think anyone is looking at you hurrying into a building in the rain?  They are trying to get inside themselves, and are only looking up enough to avoid running into you.  Once inside, you can remove your garbage bag poncho and be comfortable, while they will be waterlogged and miserable.

Most important, though, is that you made it to class.  Not only do you not miss important information, you have made a good impression on your professor.  Take this opportunity to ask a question, make a comment, or do something to let the professor know you are still focused on learning, even if your shoes have an inch of water inside and your toes are turning into wrinkled prunes.  Turn in your assignments, take notes, and congratulate yourself on braving the elements to maintain progress toward your goals.

Every impression on your professor makes a difference in how they see you.  Do you need a letter of recommendation for a student government position?  They will remember your dedication and effort to do what it takes to complete your obligations.  Do you need just a few extra points to raise your grade?  Knowing that you care about your education may be enough for the bump to the next grade.

Student Success Strategy #58:  It’s raining!  Be prepared for inconveniences.  Go to class anyway.

Strategy for Success #44: Wait! Wait!

Waiting for a professor to show up?  It happens that occasionally a professor misses a class.  Usually, there is some form of notification, especially with all of the electronic means of communication available.  There may also be a note left on the door or in the classroom.

Those situations are easy.  If you know ahead of time, don’t go.  If there’s a note at the class, you have two options.  Leave as soon as you see it, celebrate your free time (not too enthusiastically, please), or use the time to meet with your fellow students to plan ahead for group projects, get questions answered, or even to study together.

If there is no note, how long do you wait for the professor to arrive before leaving?  One tradition is that a teaching assistant rates 5 minutes, an assistant professor or lecturer 10 minutes, an associate professor 15 minutes, and a full professor 20 minutes.

The rumor is that as a professor’s rank in academia increases, so should the courtesy shown to him or her.   Have you done your research to know your professor’s rank?  Some colleges don’t even use rank, only the term “professor.”

Does your college have a tradition for this?  Is it written, unwritten but understood, or just a rumor?  Why not ask the professor before any possible misunderstanding?  Ask with extreme restraint and respect, to avoid creating an impression of hoping for canceled classes.

Try THIS:  “Professor, what should we do if you are delayed getting to class and have no way of notifying us that you are on your way?”

NOT this:  “Professor, how long do we have to wait for you if you are late?”

Student Success Strategy #44:  Wait!  But plan ahead for this possibility so your time isn’t wasted.

Student Success Strategy #43: Turn it off!

Is there anything so important and urgent in your life that you must be available 24/7?  Including during the hour or so of class?

Turn OFF your cell phone.  Before class begins.  Leave it off until class ends, and leave it in your backpack or pocket throughout the class.

If you do have an urgent issue, such as a family member’s surgery outcome, then discuss that with your professor before class.  Explain that you want to be available for your family in case they need to contact you, or when there is an update to a health condition.   Then, if you get a call, or even a text, nod to your professor, motion to your phone, and quickly leave the classroom to talk or read.

This will be the least disruptive for your fellow students and the most respectful to your professor.  Even if you do not need to use this permission during the class, you will have impressed your professor with your thoughtfulness, forward thinking, and acknowledgement of the value of the class.   Beyond that, you will have created professional “face time” for the professor to remember you, your name, and a positive association.

Student Success Strategy #43:  Turn off the cell phone!  Show respect for the professor and the class.

Student Success Strategy #27: Experience is necessary

Why are you in college?  For most people, it is the path to a better job.  You need good grades to impress your future employers, but once you begin applying, you’ll hear something like this:

Student:  I’d like to apply for this position.

Employer:  What have you done to prepare yourself for this position?

Student:  I have a 4.0 GPA in my major.

Employer:  Great.  And what experience do you have?

Student:  I studied my way through college to get my 4.0 GPA.

Employer:  But what can you do for us?  What have you done?

Student:  I’ll work very hard.

Employer:  We are looking for someone who has proven themselves through action, not just studying.  Do you have any experience?

Student:  No, but I’ll do a great job for you.

Employer:  Thanks, but we need people who already have experience.

Don’t despair!  Look into your college’s Career Center, Experiential Learning Center, or other office specializing in finding work for students.  There are opportunities for students to get experience in the “real world” while they are still in college.  Get that experience, and you’ll have the edge on others who have just studied or spent their time on non-work activities.

A few of the opportunities we’ll explore in future posts are internships, externships, co-ops, work-study programs, and even volunteer opportunities.

Student Success Strategy #27:  Experience is necessary.  Find resources on your campus to plan your path to a professional position before you are graduating!

Student Success Strategy #26: Honor Societies Part IV

How can you tell a legitimate honor society from a scam?

If you are an above average student, you will get invitations from honor societies.  Not all of them are worth your money or your time.  The following are a few criteria to research before accepting invitations.

Use their website:

1.  Do they have a professionally prepared website?

2.  Is contact information available to you?  Does this information include names, phone numbers, street addresses, and email?

3.  Do they have criteria high enough to rate as an honor?  Most legitimate honor societies will have requirements that show excellence in academics, not just average grades.  With grade inflation, anything under 3.0 would be suspect, although it depends on the purpose of the honor society.  A society focused on service or leadership may have a lower GPA requirement than a purely academic society.

4.  Does the honor society have benefits useful to you?  A certificate may be nice, but unless there is quality behind the society, it means nothing.  Look for scholarships awarded, and whether they announce the winners publicly.  Look for academic benefits such as test preparation discounts (GRE, LSAT, etc.).  Is there a career portion of the society’s website?  What networking opportunities do they offer?  Are there local chapters?  Is there someone at your school who can verify the advantages of joining?

Think carefully before sending your money for every invitation.  Honor societies can provide exceptional value, but they are not all equal.

Student Success Strategy #26:  Honor societies are not always an honor.  Be careful to do your research and select only those that will benefit you.

Student Success Strategy #23: Honor Societies Part III

Maybe you haven’t earned a top grade point average (GPA) but are a leader at your college.  Those who show leadership and service excellence are eligible for another type of honor society, the leadership honor society.

Employers recognize leadership honor societies as evidence of your potential for leadership in their organization.

Leadership Honor Societies:

Omicron Delta Kappa is the most recognized leadership honor society.  Qualifications for membership include exemplary character, responsible leadership and service in campus or community life, superior scholarship, genuine fellowship, and consecration to democratic ideals.

Membership in Omicron Delta Kappa is awarded to undergraduate junior and senior students, to students of graduate and professional schools and colleges of the institution, to members of the faculty and administration, and to alumni.

Student Success Strategy #23:  Even if you are not a top grade-earning student, your college success can be recognized by honor societies that focus on leadership, service, or other criteria.