Many college students started class today. As I promised earleir this week in my post A Good Start for College Freshmen, here are a few more thoughts for you to begin this year strong.
Live by the Syllabus
Your professors will most likely give you a class syllabus the first day of class. Your treatment of the class syllabus should be like the equivalent of cheese and pizza, Linus and his blanket, Batman and his mask.… In short, live by it!
Some professors will take the time in class to walk through the syllabus with you. Others won’t. Either way, it’s your responsibility to make sure you understand all that will be required of you in a class. Your syllabus will typically include course objectives, professor expectations, deadlines for papers and projects, test and quiz dates, reading schedule, how your class grade is calculated (that is, tests, quizzes, projects, and papers), and attendance expectations.
You will find out quickly that most if not all of your professors are not really concerned about whether you come to class, turn in your projects, or study for tests. It’s not their job to take your hand and walk with you through college. It’s also not their responsibility to see that you pass their course; it’s their responsibility to provide you the opportunity. And the syllabus shows you the way.
Take Advantage of School Resources
Many college freshmen enter their first semester assuming they already know how to study. I did. I graduated from high school with a 3.8 GPA. There were times in high school that were academically challenging for me but none that were super intense. But I found out fast that the study skills required to succeed in college were vastly different from those in high school. Many colleges will provide workshops that will help you prepare and give you practical training to help you understand the study, writing, and test-taking skills necessary. A tutor or study group is also an option.
In College, be Prepared to:
You should try to sit at the front of the classroom. As silly as this may sound, sitting at the front of the classroom does two things for you. First, it keeps you near your professor. The more you connect with your professor, the more your professor sees you are serious about the course. Second, the closer you are to the front of the room, the more likely you are to stay focused on the main thing rather than be distracted by others.
If in the past you have not had to read much in school, your first semester of college will change all of that. In fact, it’s going to happen the very first week!
You will write—a lot. Don’t buy the lie that you don’t need to write down what you’re hearing in class or reading for assignments. The amount of information that you will be expected to retain can be overwhelming, especially if you do not make a record of it. Take as many notes as you can every time you are in class. Use a laptop or iPad to ensure you make a digital copy. Know that you will probably be working on several papers and projects at a time. Figure out a strategy to write and store vital information that you will use throughout each semester.
Know Your Academic Advisor
Deciding what courses are necessary for you, particularly when you are undecided about your major, can be confusing. Work early in your first semester to develop a relationship with your academic advisor. He or she is there to help you make important decisions about classes and ultimately will play a vital role in helping you achieve your academic goals. Know the hours that your academic advisor is in the office. Ask him or her what is the best way to communicate, whether by making an appointment, writing an e-mail, or whatever.
Most executives in the business world have gatekeepers to weed out calls that don’t require the attention of the executive. In the same manner, many academic advisors are the gatekeepers to employers who are on the hunt for summer interns or are searching graduates for job prospects. Maintaining a strong relationship with your academic advisor can provide you with attractive internships and job offers that may not otherwise come your way.
You for You
College life will afford you many new and exciting privileges. Enjoy, have fun, and make amazing memories. But with this new season of privilege comes responsibility and an entirely new set of challenges. Know now that your goal shouldn’t be to do it all right. You won’t. And even if you get close to perfection, the unknown variables of new friends, a new boss, new professors, and a new home may throw you an unexpected curve ball.
Remember, you can’t control anything or anyone other than you. You are only responsible for you.
Colossians 3:23-24 (msg) says,
Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.
There are many who would love the privilege being afforded you to go to college. Use your privilege wisely, giving it your all for God. And, as Colossians reads, be confident that you will be rewarded.