Thursday, February 4, 2016

College is a Balancing Act

Second semester is in full swing and it hopefully is just a little bit better than the fall.  Regardless of your fall experience, I hope that you are striving to push yourself.  As a bona fide "older person" that's my goal - to be a little better and do a little more each year.  It's called growth.

In order to grow, you have to reflect.  Not necessarily to live in the past, but to learn from the past.  So although it's February, I hope you took some time to reflect on our first semester in college.  Look at the things I suggest at the beginning of each year: how you spend your time (time management), when and how to study (study skills/strategies), and accountability (ownership).

You all know I'm a proponent of being honest with yourself, so here we go.  Be honest and real and determine where you were on track and where you could improve.  Your grades are an indicator of where to start.  Let's say you happen to have a 4.0, then your academic game is on point, you just have to maintain there.  You can check out your student org involvement and any other recreational activities.  

Being successful in college is about balance.  There are so many facets of college life and you should enjoy all of them.  Keep it all in perspective.  Earn the right to play hard by working hard.  Keep or build a strong academic game.  Then, reward yourself for a strong academic game by having fun.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Where Do You Stand?

Mid-terms are right around the corner and it's a good time to see if you're ready.  They potentially look different in every class and can take the form of papers, exams, small project, or a series of assignments.  No matter what it is, be prepared.

The best way to be prepared is honestly to do your work.  Every assignment for every class.  However, to do each assignment well, you have to be prepared for the content.  That means reading prior to class, taking notes and engaging when possible doing class, and reviewing information after class.  This takes more time and effort that you probably are accustomed to, but it's not impossible.

Go back to your time management plan and be honest with yourself about how well you've stuck to it, in general.  I mentioned in previous posts and episodes that your time management plan is a guideline, not set in stone, and it is intended to provide a general idea of how to structure your time.  However, using it helps.  Using your time wisely helps, as well.

So if you aren't where you want to be with any (or all) of our courses, do something differently.  Switch up your study space.  Try to study when you're most alert.  Read more or differently. (Side note: Try SQ4R if reading comprehension is a challenge.) Do more problems.  Go to office hours one more time per week.  Do all you can to create a different outcome.  This is particularly true for anyone who is relying on high school habits and hoping they will work out.  And if you are where you want to be, keep on doing what you're doing.  And perhaps reach out to a friend who isn't doing as well and bring them along with you.  No one gets though college alone.  

Whether you are leading, following, or collaborating, you can make it work.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

First-Year Checklists

As you prepare for the beginning of your first semester of college, I’m sure there are tons of things going through you head.  What you may not be thinking about are your school supplies.  I know, you’re not a high school student and I’m not trying to send you back to 12th grade.  However, there are some things that you’ll need to make your first few days a little easier.  I’ve separated them into two lists – academic supplies and dorm supplies.  So here goes . . .

Academic Checklist
Binders and paper
Pens, pencils, and highlighters
Calculator w/batteries
Post-it notes and/or flags
Flash drive
Laptop, Printer*
* Check with University to determine what your electronics/IT options are.

Residence Hall Checklist
Bed linens (Sheets, blanket, pillows)
Grooming products
Shower shoes
Throw Rug
Power strip/Surge protector

* Speak with your roommate to decide who will bring what.

Neither of these lists are all-inclusive, but they will definitely get you started as you begin to purchase and pack for college.  Don't forget to read every correspondence from your school because they are also giving you information about what to expect and bring as you prepare to move in.  

I'm sure you're extremely excited about your new college career.  I'm here with you every step of the way to get you ready and keep you on task.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Where Are You Now?

Believe it or not, the semester is actually getting ready to wind down.  It feels like you just got back from spring break, and that actually is the case for many of you, but there honestly aren't very many weeks left before the semester is over and you are officially no longer a college freshman!

However, right now you are a freshman and in the throws of a second semester that you all are experiencing with varying degrees of success.  We are all works in progress and it helps to periodically take stock of where you are and think about what is working and what needs to change.  Time and time again I see first year students who are overwhelmed, dazed and confused, or just unsure about what to do.  Have confidence, but be realistic about where you stand academically and what options you have for the remainder of the semester and the summer.

What did your mid-term exams and papers look like?  Do you feel as though you've learned content and grown as a student this semester?  Are you employing good study habits and not doing the same things you did in your former life (i.e. high school habits)?  Have you received any decisions from your summer applications?  Is summer school in your immediate future?  Be real.

Think about it and change what you can to do what you can for the next few weeks.  Hopefully you can at least say you are growing, regardless of whether or not your grades show it.  I personally believe it is sometimes possible for someone's grades not to reflect their improvement.  However, your transcript is usually what people see first and they have no reason to dig deeper if you can't impress them.

So, do more.  Study harder and smarter.  Use your resources.  And check in with me later.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Personal Statement

Writing a statement about yourself can be difficult.  I mean, you do know yourself better than anyone, but you are a very complex, multi-faceted person and it can be challenging knowing where to start.

As I mentioned in this week's episode of Tassel to Tassel Radio, sometimes an application will have specific questions for you to answer that can shape your statement.  However, there are times when you are left to your own devices.  While that may feel undirected, it is a way for you to demonstrate that you are able to write with focus.  So let me help you out.  When given no questions, simply answer these three:

  1. What influenced your decision to choose your major and pursue your field of study?
  2. What do you hope to gain from participating in this particular program or being employed by this company?
  3. What makes you a good candidate? (Think skills, not qualities.)
If you find you still need help as you answer these, be resourceful.  Check out your career services center or campus writing center.  I think Purdue has a great resource in their Online Writing Lab and have directed my own students there for sample documents.

Regardless of whether you are answering specific questions or using my suggested ones, always use an outline to direct your writing and ALWAYS have someone review your writing before you submit it.  Incorporate the feedback, even if it leads to a second (or third) draft.  We're not perfect and that's okay.  We are all works in progress.

So as you finish up your summer applications, begin your essays with enough time to have them reviewed and reworked.  I can't wait to hear all about your summer plans once the acceptances begin rolling in.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Requesting Recommendation Letters

With application season underway, it's time to get your recommendations lined up.  Some applications will allow you to use high school teachers, but most will expect you to use college faculty and staff.  After all you are a college student now and hopefully you got to know some people last semester.  So as you consider who to ask, keep these things in mind:

  1. In what class can you say you have made a positive impression on your instructor?
  2. Is there an advisor who knows you farily well?
  3. Does your recommender know more about you than your grade in their class?
  4. What positive attributes has this person witnessed?
Recommendation letters take time and you want to ask (in person when possible) at least three weeks in advance of the application due date if your potential letter writer can write a strong letter of support for you.  It sounds like a no-brainer, but if someone doesn't know you well, the letter may not be stellar, it will only be so-so.  You want to know that before you leave your summer plans in their hands.  Recognize that if you've been mediocre, it may be difficult to find someone to speak for you.  We'll deal with that later and we'll move forward as though you have this locked down.

When the recommender agrees, provide them with everything they need including an updated copy of your resume, program names, information, and application dates for each letter.  Don't over load them with more than three letters and provide a short paragraph about why you want to participate in the program and what makes you a good candidate.  The paragraph will come in handy when you write your personal statement.  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The College Ready Mentality

Okay, welcome to college.  You have your room assignment, your class schedule, your books, and your campus map.  Now what?  Do you just sit back and wait for the 4.0 to happen?  I'm afraid it doesn't work that way but it would be amazing if it did.  No, college is work.  I say this year after year and I'm going to keep saying it until it isn't.  So how do you make college work?  By making the shift from high school student to college student.  I call it the College Ready Mentality.

The College Ready Mentality is a mindset that acknowledges the increased intellectual challenge and level of personal accountability that comes with being a college/university student.  College is hard, and it should be, but it's not impossible.  There are a few things I've identified that can help you make the shift.  They are:

  1. Manage your time:  In college you don't have free time, you have time to manage.  You don't have the same classes every single day and you may not have class all day.  Use the time in between classes to be a good student and either review notes from the last class or prepare for your next class.
  2. Prioritize: Take stock of your activities and be realistic about what you can do in a certain amount of time and how much you have on your plate.  There will be time when you have have to make decisions between one or two activities.  Here's a hint, choose academics.   
  3. Know when to ask for help: At the first sign of difficulty or challenge, go see your professor or teaching assistant.  Don't wait for the night before the exam or the assignment is due to seek assistance.  Get help early and often.  There is no shame in asking.
  4. Know how to ask for help: When you do see your professor or TA, go with specific questions.  Even if you don't know what to ask, take a problem (or outline or essay prompt) that is giving you difficulty and let your professor know where you get stuck.  That will get you so much farther than saying "I don't understand this stuff."
  5. Be accountable: You are responsible for your college education.  You do the work, you make the decisions, and you earn the grades.  Be honest with yourself about how much you are doing and if you are spending the proper amount of time studying (2 hours for each hour in class) and putting forth genuine effort.  You are moving into adulthood and you have to have the tough conversations with your instructors and be real with yourself. 
I'm not saying that college isn't fun, because this really can be the best years of your life.  You just have to remain conscious of why you're there and use your time wisely.  You'll have different experiences, meet different types of people, and learn so many things about yourself it'll be amazing.  You can do it.  And I'll help you along the way.