1. Preparing for class. Go back
1. Know where and when your classes meet. Know how long it
takes you to get there from here. If you can’t get there from
here, figure out an alternative route.
2. Know the course name and number. Know the professor’s
3. Your name is optional, but your university identification number
(UIN) is not.
2. In the classroom. Go back
1. Get to class early. If it’s a large classroom, sit
front and center – the teacher is likely to learn your face and, if
s/he is in the habit of chatting with students before class, may
actually learn your name.
2. If you must arrive late, come in quietly and sit in the back of
3. Do not use cell phones.
4. Be organized. Know what you need (notebooks, writing
instruments, recorders, textbooks, etc.) and have it ready to go
before the lecture starts.
5. Be quiet. Snapping gum, unwrapping candy, slurping drinks,
clicking your pen, wiggling in your seat to make it squeak, etc.
6. Maintain frequent eye contact with the professor.
Attentiveness projects a favorable impression. And you may find that paying
attention to facial expressions and gestures help you absorb the
7. Ask questions. A good professor will stop periodically to
let students catch up and ask questions. Take advantage of that
time. Don’t try to show off by asking a question designed to
demonstrate how much you know. Do seek clarification if you’re
confused (your fellow students who are too shy to ask will thank you
later) and do ask about connections between what the professor is
talking about and other things you may be learning. If the
professor doesn’t leave time for questions during class, take
advantage of office hours. One caveat: if it’s a question
about course structure and/or procedures, check the syllabus first.
8. Answer questions. A good professor will let you ask
questions. A better professor will ask you questions to see if
you’re absorbing the material and/or to help you make connections
among concepts. Take advantage of that opportunity and try to
answer the questions. Be sure to follow the appropriate protocol
– don’t shout out answers if a show of hands is asked for or if
the teacher has called on someone else (but do try to answer the
question in your head if that’s the case).
9. Unless the teacher is late and your next class is across campus,
don’t pack up your stuff and leave before you’re dismissed.
It’s rude and disruptive. If you have a teacher who is always
late ending class, let her know that you’ll need to leave right at
the end of class and sit in the back where you won’t disturb people
on your way out.
10. Introduce yourself to the students who sit next to you.
Get the name, phone number and/or e-mail address of at least one other
person in the class – someone you’d feel comfortable contacting
for information from missed classes or for studying.
3. Using a professor's office hours. Go back
1. Office hours are arguably the most underused tool
available to students. This is your chance to get to know the
professor a bit better (and to let the professor get to know you –
very important if you’re later going to ask for letters of
recommendation), to ask questions you’re too shy to ask in class,
and to get help with assignments and exam preparation. It’s a
good idea to round up some initial questions and queries (about the
syllabus, about recommended ways to study, about “tips” for success
in the course) and make a visit to cover those during the first week
or so of classes. This will help the professor get to know you
early, and can also help you feel more comfortable with her in case
you wind up needing more serious help later in the semester.
2. Although professors are always supposed to be available during
office hours, other important events (faculty meetings, laboratory
crises, or lunch with the Dean) may sometimes come up. It’s
not required, but it’s seldom a bad idea to double check that the
professor is going to be available (and that way she’ll be expecting
3. Before you go, be sure you know what you want to cover. A
written agenda isn’t required, but if you have a number of things to
discuss, a list will help.
4. When you arrive, knock or otherwise politely announce your
presence. Greet the professor, stating your name and the course
(and section, if appropriate) you’re in. Then tell the
professor why you’re there. “Hi, I’m Joanie from your
Tuesday morning Women’s Lit class; I have a question about next
week’s exam” is good. The following script, one I run into
virtually every semester, is bad: professor – “Hi, can I help
you?” student – “Yeah, I’m in your class and want to
know what’s on the test.” professor – “Which
class?” student – “Your Biology class.” professor –
“Which Biology class?” student – “The one that’s on
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.” professor – “Which one
that’s on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday?” See a pattern emerging
5. You do not need to apologize for being there (assuming you’re
visiting during regularly-scheduled office hours). You should,
however, be sure to thank the professor for her time when you’re
6. If you are using office hours to discuss a poor exam grade, do
not begin the conversation by explaining that you always perform well
on other teachers’ tests and never perform well on this teacher’s
tests. By doing so you are implicitly blaming the professor for
your performance. This is not the way to encourage the professor
to help you.
4. Important materials. Go back
1. The college catalog is your contract with the university.
It has all the rules and information according to which you will
succeed or fail, live or die. Like any contract, it is
virtually impossible for the uninitiated to understand. Try
anyway. Get several catalogs from the year you enter (they do
tend to wear out with use) and be sure to get new ones as they come
out. The one from the year you enter should be the one that
really matters, but you may want to take advantage of later changes.
Read the catalog through once just to get familiar with the
organization. Review the relevant parts before each advising
appointment and ask your advisor for clarification on the parts you
2. The course syllabus is your contract with your instructor for
the semester. It should contain such useful information as the
name of the textbook, a schedule of assignments, some notion of when
and how you will be tested, and the location and time of office hours.
(Note: if this information is not in the syllabus, check with your
professor during office hours . . .) You should review the syllabus
by the second class meeting. You should understand the policies, write down the test
dates, and post a schedule of assignments somewhere you can ignore it
regularly). Do not hesitate to get clarification from the
professor on confusing or complex points. Keep the syllabus with your course materials and
consult it regularly.
5. Questions you should never ask. Go back
1.Do I need the textbook?
2. Do I need to read the textbook?
3. Do I need to know this for the test?
4. Any question that is answered in clear, plain English on the
course syllabus (especially if the question is “Can I do extra
credit” when the syllabus says no).
5. Are the grades done yet? (Never to be asked less than a week
after the exam or assignment date; especially never to be asked the
day of the final)
6. Using a computer to your advantage. Go back
1. Save, make backups, and print hard copy frequently.
2. Be sure to have whatever “office” software is supported by your
campus computer service department. Be sure you know how to
use it. If you don’t, you should take advantage of whatever
opportunities your campus provides (courses, workshops, tutorials,
etc.) to get yourself up to speed right away.
3. Before you spend too much time creating fancy cover sheets and
elegant formatting, check the guidelines for the assignment.
Some professors actually believe that following their instructions
count. Others prefer not to waste paper. Others just
don’t want to store any more pages than are absolutely necessary.
None of them really want to see cute fonts or smiley-face bullets on
your term paper.
4. If you’re going to submit assignments on disk or
electronically, be sure you understand all the technical requirements
– your professor will not take the time to hunt down a copy of
Ancient Word Processor version 3.2 so she can read your paper.
5. Save, make backups, and print hard copy frequently.
6. Plan your work schedule to allow for glitches. Although it
will turn you into a cause of morbid fascination, print papers out
24 hours before they’re due rather than 5 minutes before class (of
course, this requires that you actually have them written even
further ahead of deadline – hence the morbid fascination).
That way you’ll have time to deal with dead printers, frozen
screens, broken scanners, etc. and still get your work in on time.
7. Save your work frequently and keep an external backup on disk or
CD. Better yet, keep two external backups – one where you can
spill coffee on it and one where it’s safe (possibly under the pile
of dirty laundry where it will be undisturbed until you graduate. .
.). It’s also a good idea to print hard copy of paper drafts
each time you finish working on them. You can recycle old papers
for this purpose – just be sure you can tell the old work from the
new stuff if you ever actually need to use it.
8. Save, make backups, and print hard copy frequently.
9. Did I mention that you should save and backup frequently?
7. Organization tips. Go back
1.Carry some kind of calendar to all classes and meetings.
Write down assignments and test dates as soon as they’re announced.
If you really want to scare your roommate, keep a larger master
calendar near your desk so you can see everything at a glance.
If you want to practice exreme organization, “backtrack” from due
dates and assign (and write down) dates for things like studying for
exams, completing drafts of papers, etc.
2. Everyone has her own way of organizing course materials.
Figure out what works best for you given the size of your backpack,
the state of your dorm room (or kitchen table), time and distance
between classes, distance from your dorm (or parked car) to your next
class. Whether you
use file folders or binders, loose-leaf paper or spiral notebooks, try
to keep all the materials from each course together. Color
coding or some other visual cue to content can be helpful.
3. Keep course materials as long as possible. At a minimum,
keep them around for a year (the usual statute of limitations for
grade appeals). Longer is better, especially for materials in
your academic major.
8. Know your advisor. Go back
1. Find out who your advisor is. Know her name and where her
office is. Find out the best way to make appointments to see
2. Understand the two different kinds of advisors. The first
kind helps you wade through the rules and requirements of your
institution and helps ensure that you’re taking the courses you need
to complete your degree more or less on time. This advisor is
often also a good person to talk to about special programs and
opportunities that may be available to you if you’re doing well and
places to go for help if you’re having problems. The second
kind helps with career planning. This advisor (who may be the
same as the first one) should be an active member of
the field you’re interested in and able to tell you about all the
unwritten rules for getting into good graduate programs and being
competitive for good jobs. Both kinds are important!
3. You should meet with your academic advisor
every semester. Even if you’re not required
to do so, you should probably do it anyway. Observe good Office
Hour Etiquette. Being on good terms
with your academic advisor is a Very Good Thing.
4. Do your homework before you show up for your academic advising
appointment. Bring a catalog, a schedule of classes (if one is
available), a current transcript that includes the courses you’re
taking that semester, and a couple of plans for your coursework the
following semester. Also make a list of any questions you have
about your requirements, academic progress, etc. Your
preparedness will make your advisor very happy.
5. Follow your advisor’s advice. If you decide to follow your own
advice (or your roommate’s, or your roommate’s cousin’s
girlfriend’s classmate’s), it’s no use whining when you discover
that after 3 years of coursework you’re still 3 years from
6. If you are doing all of the above things but feel that
your advisor is not giving you appropriate, careful mentoring, it’s
OK to at least think about changing advisors. If changing
“official” advisors isn’t possible, you can probably find a
faculty member whose interests match yours and who is willing to be a
mentor even if she can’t sign official documents.
7. Other students – especially those who’ve been around a while
– can be valuable sources of information on everything from who the
really good professors are (note that definitions may vary . . .) to
where to get the best pizza. Be careful who you trust, of course, and
remember that tastes (in pizza as in professors) really do vary.
9. Homework tips. Go back
1. Do your homework. Even when it’s not required, do it
2. Know, understand, and follow the directions. If your
professor provided written instructions, keep them and refer to them
frequently – and check the completed assignment one last time
against the instructions before you turn it in. If your
professor provided oral instructions, write them down. If you
think you might have missed something, check it out during office
hours (follow that etiquette!).
3. Turn it in on time. You should actually try to have it
done the day before it’s due. That way, you can still have a
friend deliver the homework on time even if you have some kind of
emergency the next day.
4. If you have a legitimate emergency (oversleeping because you
were up all night finishing the assignment doesn’t count), contact
the instructor right away. Follow the usual protocol for
identifying yourself, then explain the situation and find out what, if
anything, you should do. Remember that dealing with late work is
a major headache for instructors, especially if it’s a large class,
so be polite and courteous.
5. Identify yourself. In some prominent location indicate
your name, the date of the assignment, the course
name and number, and the professor’s name. It sounds crazy,
but this comes in very useful when you’re trying to find your paper
in the middle of the hurricane that is your room during finals week.
It also helps the professor find your paper in the middle of the
hurricane that is her office during finals week.
6. Follow up. Be sure to get the homework back from the
instructor (yes, there are students who will regularly fail to do this
– they also regularly fail other things . . .). Study it to
find out what you need to work on (believe it or not, that’s the
whole point behind homework). If you don’t understand
something, hit those office hours!
7. Be sure you understand your score or grade. If you
don’t, it’s office hour time again. You can generally get
away with politely pointing out an instructor’s arithmetic mistakes.
You can also generally get away with politely asking for an
explanation of why an answer you think is correct is incorrect (in
fact, this is an important thing to do to avoid making the same
mistake on the next assignment). It’s a bad idea to quibble
over semantics and argue over half-points (you’d be surprised at how
many additional points can be found to take off at other places), and
an even worse idea to tell the instructor that you’re right and
10. Expand your horizons. Go back
1. You know all that stuff your parents have been harping about all
these years about eating right, getting plenty of rest, and the value
of outdoor exercise? Well, they were right. If you hope to survive
long enough to get into graduate school or make a killing in the
latest technology craze, you need to take at least a passing interest
in your general health.
2. Just because your roommate seems to survive just fine on two
hours of sleep in the middle of the day doesn’t mean you can. Know
your body well enough to know how much sleep you need to feel good,
how much you need to survive over the long haul without getting sick,
and how much you can sacrifice in the short term in case of
emergencies (and how you need to go about recovering from that). Pay
attention also to your own natural activity patterns. No, you can’t
use your biorhythms to avoid those 8:00 a.m. classes – but if you
understand them, at least you can plan your time to be as effective as
3. Just because your roommate seems to survive just fine on a diet
of caffeine and junk food doesn’t mean you can. Of course you’re
going to eat more pizza in your first week at school
than you normally do in a month at home – but that’s no reason not
to force down a few fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and to
drink some plain water once in a while. Don’t forget to floss, and
be sure to take your vitamins!
4. If you’re lucky enough to attend a residential campus with a “no cars for
freshmen” rule and lots of beautiful open space between buildings,
you’ll get at least some exercise by default. If you can force
yourself to find something else to do every week that elevates your
heart rate, you’ll
thank yourself down the road. Most universities offer a wide
range of activities at a wide range of times, so try a bunch and find
one that works for you. A regular exercise routine
will relieve stress, improve your focus and concentration, keep you
looking good, prevent you from spending quality time at the student
health center, and help you avoid the unbelievable hassle of making up
long periods of missed class time.
5. Try to remember that college is about expanding your horizons,
not just a fancy type of job training program. Take some fun, even
frivolous courses now and then. You’ll meet new people,
exercise new parts of your brain, and maybe even discover a lifelong
11. The power of the internet. Go back
1. The internet is a wonderful thing. The resources that are
available are vastly expansive, but information literacy and
is an important tool for any college web surfer.
2. The list of web sites you should be familiar with begins with
your college’s own site. Increasingly, students are expected
to use their university’s web site to monitor their academic
progress, register for classes, pay fines, search the library
catalog, get e-mail from faculty members, and more. So spend some
quality time surfing through it and bookmark essential sites
(Student Services, the Registrar, Financial Aid, student
3. In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, anyone can create web
pages and post anything they want on the web. Just because it’s
online doesn’t mean it’s true, relevant, or legitimate to use on
your latest term paper. Learn to evaluate web sites with the same
care you evaluate other information sources and avoid the pitfall of
thinking that the web is a legitimate substitute for the campus
library. And forget you’ve ever heard of sites that post student
research papers “for information purposes.”
4. Your campus library probably uses at least some web-based
research tools and probably offers a variety of ways for you to learn
how to use them. Do it. Now.
5. Remember that campus computer networks, like any other computer
networks, sometimes crash. Just another reason not to wait until the
last minute to complete that web assignment.
12. Things to remember. Go back
1. As much as campus officials try, no environment is completely
safe. Know what the risks are and how to minimize them – then do it!
2. Invest in a good basic self defense course, then be sure to
practice the skills you’ve learned.
3. Remember that most women are in more danger from people they
know than from strangers – so take the precautions you already know
about to avoid date rape and similar kinds of assaults.
4. If something happens, know how to report it and to whom.
Remember that victims are never to blame, and that no matter the
outcome, you always did your very best. Take advantage of all
available resources to assist in the recovery process and try to give
yourself the gift of patience with the process.
5. Sexual harassment is less of a problem than it once was, but
certainly hasn’t been eliminated. The good news is that your college
should have published policies on what constitutes sexual harassment
and how to deal with it. If you feel you’ve been harassed by anyone on campus, you may
want to start by talking it over with a trusted, but “neutral”
faculty member or counselor.
6. You’ve heard more than you want to about the problems of binge
drinking, drug abuse, and eating disorders. Unfortunately, what
you’ve heard is probably true, so try to pay at least a little
attention and exercise more caution than you think necessary (it’ll
still be less than your parents would like).
7. If you or someone you know is in trouble, get help. Believe it
or not, there is a whole community of folks out there who want nothing
more than to give it to you.
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