Scholarly Advice for Academic Mastery
A collection of insights and advice from some of the most successful university, graduate, and professional students and scholars.
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How do you achieve success among the best? Everyone knows those two or three students in every class who seem never to do wrong. They always have an answer for every class question, make the best additions to every discussion, and always ace every tests no matter how difficult. Oh and here's the kicker, they never seem to study. The material just seems to come to them so easy as if through osmosis. Well I'll be the first to tell you that I am not one of those students. I have to work hard to perform at such a level. The key for me has been to find what means of studying truly work best for me. Now I know you've all heard the whole develop great study habits tip before, but it's actually very important and has kept me afloat among those I call the super brains at my institution. Now this doesn't necessarily mean shut your self in the coldest corner of the quietest library on campus and only remove your head from your book at 8 hour intervals. By finding the method of studying that works best for you, you can really stay on top of the material for your courses through minimal time. Your best study method will allow you to use your study time as efficiently as possible and leave you with a very accomplished feeling. I have come to realize that I actually do not like to study where it is super quiet. I prefer some background noise including sounds from outside when I study in my room with the window open or even the television. Sounds crazy huh?! Trying to study in front of the television? However, by putting the television on a program that I'm not super interested in and will not distract me from my books, I can listen to the sounds and manage to get through a lot of material in shorter time periods. I find that when I study in areas that are really quiet such as the art museum library on my campus, my thoughts tend to drift to many other things outside of my study materials or I get very sleepy. Now this doesn't mean all of you should substitute studying in the quiet library with studying while watching your favorite reality TV show. However, it does mean you should explore different methods to really determine what method of studying works best for you as this valuable knowledge will take you far. Knowing and utilizing the study methods that work best for you are a major key to achieving success among the best!
My best piece of advice: look toward the future. Out of high school, I went to a community college, and got tired of the question: "Why would you go to community college?; you're smart!" The community college I was accepted to had a program that I applied to, that gave me two years of scholarship, and a summer abroad program (fully paid for) at Cambridge University, in England. Once people heard of this, they often rescinded their question; after all, who could refuse two years of school free, complemented with a trip abroad? What I learned from this lesson was to look toward the end goal. My goal was never to stop at a two-year school, and most of my colleagues at my school felt the same. I looked toward my end goal: to become a wedding/party planner for the stars. Now, I have transferred to an Ivy League school, at Cornell University, and have found a great fit for both my social and professional goals. I feel that my community college sent me on my way, and believe the best scholarly advice I can give is to look toward the end goal, and to plan well and never give up on what you want to do!
Confidence in yourself comes from the inside, not from other's opinions. Respect yourself, but put others first. Take chances, do things that scare you, and set your own path. Never make the mistake of thinking that your way is the right way and everyone else is wrong. Put yourself in others shoes. Follow your curiosity and never do something just because its what the crowd is doing. Build others up and you will also benefit immensely.
Master of Public Policy
There are lots of ways to study, but there is one fail-proof,
infallible method of absorbing and understanding material. That is-- you
teach it. There is no better review in the world than for you to have to go
slowly through the material and explain step-by-step how it works to someone
else. It won't work for the subject you're clueless about, but if you're
reviewing for a test and just need to soak the lessons into your brain, grab
a friend who's having trouble with it and teach it to them. It is absolutely
unavoidable that you ingrain material into your head if your objective is to
teach it to someone else. You will break the knowledge into understandable
pieces. Your brain will go over it longer than it needs to. And you can
field questions that you might not have even considered before.
You might think, "I don't know this stuff well enough to teach it. That's why I'm studying it." Still, it's immensely helpful to approach the material as if you're presenting it to someone else. That's what your exam will be asking of you tomorrow. So read it and try to simplify as well as you can and then teach it to a friend-- even a friend who's on the same level as you are. Then you can go over it together. Maybe split the material into two parts and take turns acting teacher and student, explaining and asking questions. This method won't magically imbibe knowledge into your brain if you never had any comprehension of the subject at all, but it's the best possible method of review, memorization, and assurance of understanding.
Scott E. Olmsted
When I was an
undergraduate I was susceptible to being intimidated by the intelligence of
the brilliant people who surrounded me. Now that I am in a doctoral program,
the potential for such intimidation is even higher. However, over the course
of my academic career I have learned a critical coping mechanism: planning.
Meticulous planning of my projects, my days, my weeks and my semesters has
allowed me to stay competitive in every academic (and professional)
environment in which I have worked. There are plenty of people who are
smarter than me and plenty of people who work harder; my edge is working
As an undergraduate, I planned out my semester as soon as I could get my hands on the syllabi of the courses I was taking. For every semester, I scheduled every reading assignment, every test and every paper, noting not only when these items were due but the number of days I would work on them. So for a paper due on, say, December 10th, I would estimate the number of planning, researching, outlining, writing, and editing sessions I needed to complete the paper, and I would schedule each of those sessions so that the final editing fell on December 9th. I initially used a paper day-planner for this exercise, but am now a devotee of Outlook task lists.
Of course, plans change. Tasks never take exactly as long as you expect them to, especially when you try to break them down into minute chunks. The point of beginning-of-semester planning is not to preordain my life for the next three months, but rather to set out a general scheme within which adjustments can be made along the way. Many people think planning is pointless because of change, but planning is actually the best way to deal with change.
I have been surprised to learn that even in the much more abstract, less task-driven environment of a doctoral program, I still manage to plan my work at the level of the day, and I still get that work done on-time with very little stress. (In all of high school, college or graduate school, I have never pulled an all-nighter to finish an academic assignment.)
When people learn the details of my "dirty little secret" of meticulous planning, they usually comment that I am anal-retentive or crazy, or perhaps a combination of the two. The fact is that once you get these kinds of things down to a system, they don't take a huge amount of time. And that time is generously rewarded down the stretch. Say a paper suddenly becomes due two weeks earlier than I expected. While others are panicking, I am tapping into a reserve of available "bandwidth" that I set aside at the beginning of the semester. No weekends killed, no all-nighters pulled, no slippage of schedule.
Experts in personal organization will tell you to find a system that works for you. In addition to echoing that general advice, I would recommend: (1) developing a system that costs a noticeable amount of time upfront, just so you know you're doing enough thinking to do yourself some good, and (2) keeping at it until any feelings of being overwhelmed by work are gone. Planning is actually one of the most relaxing things I do. It's much cheaper than yoga classes.
PhD, Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
I, Brooke Jennings, graduated with a 4.0 GPA at Radford University. I earned my Bachelor of Social Work Degree and learned how to overcome many challenges. I am the first in my family to attend college and my goal is to encourage all adolescents/adults to further their education. I would like to say that my 4.0 GPA was not easy to accomplish. I went to college at the age of 31 and I suffer with short-term memory. I am a foster-mother of four girls, birth mother of two boys and one girl, a full time wife, I work full-time as a youth counselor, and I am full time college student. Now you ask! How do you do it?
My secret to success is time management and setting goals. As a busy person, I have to make sure that I have enough time in the day to accomplish my employment, school, and to enjoy my family. To manage your time you must be able to understand how to set goals and determine how you spend your 24-hour days. You need to create an outline on how you complete a typical week. You need to understand your priorities and keep a calendar. In the calendar, you need to write down when you have class, when you are going to study, and do your homework. You need to put in your calendar when you plan to exercise/sports, go to work, spend time with family, time for personal care, meal preparation, relaxing time, socializing, doctor appointments, and whatever else comes your way. Oh, do not forget to add sleep. Now this may seem to be a bit much, but you will be surprise how much you can accomplish in a 24-hour day by managing your time.
I also learned that you cannot manage your time if you do not motivate yourself. You need to be able to take responsibility for your learning and recognize that “failure” is success. Praise and reward yourself when you succeed and when you reach your goals. Motivation is very important, so keep you head up high and do not let failure get into your way.
You will also need to avoid procrastination. I am the queen when it comes to procrastination, and I know the challenges it brings not to procrastinate. It is important to remind yourself of due dates way in advance and tell yourself once it is completed you will have time for yourself. You need to be clear on what your final objectives are and what the end result will be. What are your major steps to get there? What have you done so far? You must always remember that the longest journey begins with the first step.
You will need to learn how to create effective study habits. Everyone studies differently so you will need to find what works best for you. Find the most comfortable place to study and set a positive mood. Take responsibility for yourself and again manage your time. I try to center myself on my values and principles, and I put first things first.
It is important to pay attention in class. I have short-term memory so I am writing down almost everything the teachers are saying. Sometimes, I bring in a tape recorder. I always sit in the front row and I participate in class whenever possible. I let the professors know immediately that I have short-term memory and I will be taping them and may ask repetitive questions.
I learned that writing is very important, especially in the social work field. It is important to use proper grammar and always check spelling. Do not rely on the computer to fix your mistakes. Most colleges have someone in the library to proof read your papers, so take advantage of services within your college. Always proof read and revise all assignments before turning it in.
Understand your preferred learning style. A learning style is a way of learning, and your preferred learning style is the way you learn best. I am an auditory learner. I learn best when information is presented by sound, through lectures and class discussions. This is why taping class discussions help me learn. You need to know your learning styles. Are you a Visual Learner? Are you an Auditory Learner? Are you a Kinesthetic Learner? Remember, your learning style is your strength, so go with what works best for you.
I suffer with test anxiety and I still learned how to succeed. I have a hard time focusing on multiple-choice tests. When I take a test, I have a difficult time understanding the directions and questions. Sometimes I read the questions wrong or I just draw a blank. I find my mind wondering and I forget the answers. Therefore, you ask how I got the 4.0 GPA with test anxiety. I learned quickly how to create healthy study techniques. I tried to create a positive attitude and tried to stay relaxed during the test. I reminded myself it did not matter when the other students finishes their exam. When I fail an exam, I learn from my mistakes and I analyze the test to see how I could have done better. If I did very poor I would talk to the professor and ask if I can do extra credit. I explained to the professor that I have severe test anxiety and I want to prove another way that I know the materials. I learned that most professors will work with you if you are active in class, always turn in your materials, and you are never absent. Your attitude with school is important and you must learn how to advocate for yourself.
Brooke Alston Jennings
Master of Science in Social Work
On May 5, 1983
I was born as an only child into a single parent family. Over the course of
my lifetime, I have had to face many obstacles and hardships that got in the
way of my dreams, including having to move 11 times and struggling from a
learning disability. If it was not for my mother, I would not be where I am
Upon graduating from high school in June of 2002, I made the decision that I wanted to attend North Shore Community College located in Danvers, Massachusetts. This was one of the best choices that I could have made because I learned the necessary skills in how to succeed, and I received the support that I needed. I did not hesitate to go for tutoring if I needed it and such actions paid off because I finished my first semester successfully and was notified that I had made the dean's list. In 2005, I graduated from North Shore Community College with highest honors and transferred to Salem State College, located in Salem, Massachusetts, that fall. I majored in psychology and graduated with my baccalaureate degree in May of 2007. I graduated with Summa Cum Laude. A few months prior to graduation, I applied to graduate school at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. I knew there was a 50/50 chance of getting in and I prayed that the admissions committee would accept me. A few days after my interview, I received a letter in the mail stating that I had been accepted. I was ecstatic by such news.
Today I am enrolled full-time in my master's degree program and hope to have my degree by May of 2009. I currently have a GPA of 4.0. After graduation, I will have my master's in mental health counseling and then have to take the Massachusetts licensure exam in order to become a licensed mental health counselor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. My goal is to become a college counselor and assist students reach their goals in life. I believe anyone can achieve their goals if they really want to. There were many times that the odds were against me, but perseverance and strength from God helped me to keep going.
One of the best tips that I can give those of you just starting college is to always think about your ultimate goal in life after obtaining a college degree. There may be hardships along the way, but as long as you persevere and hold true to what you want to achieve, you will reach your goals ultimately. Don’t give up! I never did and I never will.
Sean Michael Kenney
Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling
University of Massachusetts-Boston
My first year in college was certainly challenging, however I made it through successfully with a few insights which I would like to pass on. First and foremost, go to office hours. Many professors, especially those teaching large classes, have trouble adapting their teaching styles to such a broad range of interest and ability. If you go and visit them one on one during office hours what you will often find is a much more comfortable professor who is able to adapt his/her teaching to your strengths and weaknesses. In addition it provides you with a great contact within the university that can help you with a host of other things, including those pesky reference letters that appear on applications to almost all internships and jobs. Second, it is also important to be able to relax. Whether it is going out with friends or just hanging out and watching a movie, everyone needs time to slow down and catch their breath.
Joseph Arthur Renwick
Go to the Head of the Class
The first thing I do upon entering a classroom is to scope out a front seat. I usually don’t find that difficult since I always try to arrive a few minutes early. This one tip alone can make a significant difference in how well you will participate in the class, how much the professor will call on you, how engaged you will be, and how comfortable you will feel in asking questions. I am always amazed by how much more connected I feel, taking a front seat.
In taking note, I write down as much as possible and sort it out later at home, through highlighting. Next, I take what I feel is the most pertinent information and organize it in a concise manner on index cards. This is useful for me, as well as for anyone wanting to partner up and quiz me. I never have a test or assignment date approach without asking my professor specifics. Sometimes, I get lots of important information that way, and other times, professors prefer to be more general. Never miss your opportunity to narrow down what needs the most study! It does not hurt to ask, and most professors appreciate the involved student. Just as I try to arrive early to class, I strive to finish assignments and studies ahead of the target date whenever possible. This way, I have more time for review and reinforcement. Furthermore, if I get sick or an emergency arises, I ‘m pretty well prepared.
So, what would
you highlight as the most important parts of my study tips? Think of
everything as a bulleted list:
*Sit in the front seat and engage fully
*Take a lot of notes
*Narrow down specifics on index cards and ask questions
*Finish assignments in advance
Follow my tips and you’re sure to go to the head of the class!
University of Massachusetts
I have found that the same tactics that led to intercollegiate success as an undergraduate cross country and track runner have lead to success as a graduate school student. In academics, just as in athletics, one must put in consistent effort each day; one must keep a consistent schedule including 7-9 hours of sleep each night; and one must make sacrifices. A student must have the will power to study when they don't want to; to pay attention through 3 hour seminars when it is easier to daydream; and to grind out the assignments on time to stay on top of the syllabi. In addition, I also benefit from working ahead one week on the syllabus. By doing this I do not feel the stress and anxiety of daily assignments. I put a pseudo pressure on myself to continue as if I were not one week ahead. I find this gives me more study time and allows me more time to grasp the subject matter.
Master of Science in Sociology
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
God knows that
there are many obstacles and hindrances to thwart the success of anyone. So,
how do we become successful or succeed at any given task. Well, obviously
one must have a certain amount of discipline, competence, dedication and
intensity, but there is one particular attribute that all successful people
possess. The need or desire for completion or closure.
As a young man, I often pursued finality or closure in every area of my life. While I experienced great success in academics and athletics, a few areas still remained untamed. There are some things that we can control and then there are some things that we cannot. One of the most important things that we can control is the level of success we have in education.
Most people find it easy to begin a college education but find it difficult to finish. Those who find success in completing educational goals have one thing in common, closure. These types of people do not like loose ends and unfinished goals. That have a passion and drive to finish whatever they start. This mainly because there esteem is directly tied to their success at achieving preset goals. Once these goals have been achieved, they receive confidence, acceptance and esteem in those successes.
So, if you have begun your pursuit of educational success and have become weary in your pursuit, just remember that you must complete your goal, no matter how long it takes or how much it costs. Never give up, never quit because to quit is to not achieve and to not achieve is to not succeed.
Master of Science in Education
Nicholls State University
I had a professor tell me, "school is the only business where the customers (students) want the least for there money." Go to class. Get your full investment out of your education. Even when you think you are too tired and only going to sleep through class -go and sit in the back if you must. When the time comes to study or review you will be glad you have at least been exposed to the material before.
Masters in Science
Colorado State University
Work ahead. I kept track of all of my assignments, and whenever I had a chance, worked on the next one due - even if I still had several days. Instead of killing time when I had no imminent assignments, I just went on to whatever assignment came next in the list. Using this strategy rather than allotting study time as necessary, I never had a disaster when an assignment took longer than expected or when a surprise or emergency interrupted my work. I also made sure to take time every day to exercise and a separate amount of time to enjoy myself. Some days the "me time" was just watching a television episode or taking 20 minutes to chat with my housemates, but I usually had the time when I wanted to go to a sporting event or watch a movie. I may have spent more of my time working, rather than watching TV or browsing the internet, but when something unexpected, but really fun came up, some of my friends had to miss out because they had not planned the time into their schedule. Unlike many college students, I never had to pull an all-nighter, and I usually felt relaxed knowing I was ahead of schedule for my assignments and studying. So... don't procrastinate!
Melissa Lynn Ising
Master of Music Education
Studying is without a doubt a skill that needs to be mastered in order to be successful in your college career. Personally, I made it entirely through my high school career without ever having to actually break down and study. It seems like a miracle looking back at it. Because of this, I was quite unprepared when I came to college. I had to learn how to study in a hurry. As with any other learned skill, you have to practice in order to become proficient. Listed below are a few tips that I have personally used quite successfully:
1. Pick a study location and stick to it. - Your study location can't double as your playground either. The area you choose to do your studying should be quiet, secluded, and free from any major distractions. When you walk into your study area, you should be in a mindset to learn. Good examples are the library, a quiet coffee shop (NOT STARBUCKS), or even somewhere outside.
2. Study groups are NOT for everyone. - It may seem beneficial to study with others to gain perspective or to ease the "pain" of studying. Many people get too distracted by the presence of others and studying quickly goes down the drain. If you have a relatively short attention span, group studying might not be for you. This does not apply to everyone. Many people do quite well in group sessions and thrive on the personal interaction.
3. All-nighters are not always a good thing. - After the first exam in any class, you should have a pretty good idea of how thorough that professor is when it comes to exam material. Start studying a week and a half or two weeks before the exam. Start with small doses of two to three hours and build up to ten hour long days if you need to. Cramming the night before does nothing but make you extraordinarily tired before the exam. If you study all week, you shouldn't need much more than a refresher the night before the exam.
4. Break up the monotony of studying. - Take a 15 to 20 minute break every two hours or so to break up the monotony. Your brain will become less and less responsive if you stare at paper for hours on end. Do something refreshing. Take a bathroom break. Go for a walk. Get some coffee. Play a computer game for a few minutes. Do something that doesn't require your brain to be overly focused.
5. Redo your notes if needed. - Often times the notes you take in class may be sloppy, illogical, and incomprehensible. This may be due to poor note taking skills, professors that opt not to teach in any logical order, or even professors that talk so fast that you have to struggle just to write everything down. In any case, it may be beneficial to rewrite or retype your notes and put them in a clearer, more logical order. Color coding is another study aid that has come in handy many times. The material is always easier to learn if it is presented in a precise, logical form.
6. Ask questions. - You'll never be able to learn all the material if you don't understand it. Ask your friends, your neighbor, the professor, or even a TA. People that have been in or are in a similar position to you will often have helpful learning tricks that have helped them. Many people use mnemonics and other learning devices and are usually very willing to share them with you.
7. Reading textbooks is an art. - We've all been there. Stuck with our nose in a textbook, reading words that are meaningless. Reading textbooks takes practice as well. Learn to skim passages and glean important information. Sometimes, you can read a passage twice quickly faster than you can once slowly. Bolded and italicized words also help to fine tune your speed reading skills. If you have continued trouble with accelerated reading, look into taking a speed reading course. Many universities offer these courses on site.
These seven tips should be a start to forming better study habits. Always remember, "practice makes perfect."
Master of Animal Science
Texas Tech University
Recopy your notes as soon as you can after class. The repetition will make the information easier to recall when you have to study for an exam at a later date and when you look through it yourself, you will figure out points that may not have been so clear during lecture.
Michael Emil Wagner
I used to
believe that as I got higher and higher in the pecking order of school --
high school student, then college student, then graduate student -- the
questions on my exams would get more and more complicated. I suspect I
imported this idea from high school, where it was true to a great extent.
(My junior-year biology exam had more complicated questions than my
freshman-year biology exam, etc.) However, now that I am a doctoral student,
I am finding that the opposite is true. The toughest questions in the world
are the really simple ones. It would, for instance, be acceptable to ask
this question on a doctoral qualifying exam in international relations:
"What causes war?"
The point is that the advice to "never be afraid to ask questions" in class needs a little nuance. If it seems like a simple question to you, and your professor has not addressed it, you should probably ask it; you are probably touching on an issue that is deep and important. If, on the other hand, your question seems really complicated, rethink it. If you boil it down to its essence, it's probably pretty simple.
PhD, Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Find your ideal study environment. Some people find it best to study in the library, some like to study under a tree. It is always good to focus and study alone, but do not neglect your classmates. Sometimes subject will become clearer to you if you explain them to other people. Furthermore, difficult classes like Organic Chemistry or Biology are often easier if you can work through problems with a friend, after all there wouldn't be Watson with out Crick (and Rosalind Franklin).
Michael Emil Wagner
I have two words of scholarly advice for academic mastery: (1) priority; and (2) balance. One does become wiser with age, and looking back on my academic career, there are some things I know now that I wish I'd known then. I would like to begin with priority. While I was an undergraduate student, I allowed myself to become distracted with social influences and began to lose focus of my goal of academic success. At the time, the sorority and fraternity parties seemed more important than reading the biology text, but in retrospect, the bed for my future was being laid out right there in undergraduate college. Decisions that I made at that time, whether to study or go to the Greek party, would affect my future career, income, success, and status. By choosing the Greek parties over the Greek literature, I caused myself an unnecessary diversion off my path to success. Now in my thirties, and no longer in my twenties, I understand the implications that being successful in academia has on income and status. Now, I refrain from the alcohol, focus on my studies, earn scholarships, earn higher degrees, and seek a higher professional assignment. Now, I look back, remembering the students that I partied with, and realizing I only keep in touch with them on random occasions. It was not worth sacrificing my future or shortchanging my future for the immediate gratification.
priority is balance. One cannot study all the time or work all the time. You
must make time for fun. Actually, taking a break and balancing fun with work
or study will cause you to be more productive. First, place the priority on
studying, set goals, including time commitments, but also reward yourself.
Make time for breaks, relaxation and fun. Prioritize what is important to
you. Think to yourself about the important people in your life. Think to
yourself how you would feel if you earned the PhD, but lost that loved one
in the process. To me, the PhD would be worthless. There, you have your
priorities set. Make time for the important people in your life first, make
sure those people know they are valued by you, and then, set aside your time
to study. Then, you can imagine your important people by your side,
congratulating you when you graduate and celebrating with you.
I hope this helps. Your past sorority girl; present doctoral student.
Robin Dianna Evans Matutina
Medical University of South Carolina
When I study I go into a silent room and study by myself. Some people can study in a group of people but I find it easier to be alone and be in the quiet. When it comes time for testing I take the most important parts of the lecture and make flash cards. Listening to the professors inflection can tell you what is important and what isn't, I listen closely to everything my professor says. Making flash cards and then going over them at least 10 times is the trick for me, after the tenth time it is time to test myself. I have my partner take the cards and quiz me over the information, once I've done that I feel I'm ready for the test. However, an hour before a test I go over my flash cards one more time just to be sure.
University of Arkansas
Throughout my college career, two things allowed me to succeed - determination and organization. As soon I entered the college atmosphere, I was completely determined to succeed. I could have done well in school without sticking my mind to it, but I would never have done as well. That is something that just has to come from deep within and that no one can force on you.
Organization has taken me a long way in my education. It prevented all-nighters, kept me from becoming stressed near the semester's end, and kept me on my toes throughout the semester. At the beginning of each semester, I would break open the planner as soon as I received my syllabi for my courses. I would then write all the dates for each course in my planner so that I could "map out" my semester and pay attention to potentially stressful weeks caused my overlapping assignments. I always kept multiple planners and looked at least two weeks in advance so that I could begin assignments ahead of time and have plenty of time to check and double check anything that I handed in.
Lastly, always remember that the work that you do is a reflection of who you are not only as a student but also as an individual. If you consistently turn in top-notch work, your professors will remember that and will likely remember that when the time comes to write recommendations. However, if you regularly turn in poor work, your professors will likely remember that as well.
Wallace Derek Dupuis
University of Mobile
Go to alumni
events-any that you can make time for. Not only is it never too early to
start networking for your after college years, but plying enthusiastic alums
about their strategies for success is a great way to improve your own
approach to academics and professional life. Remember, anyone who comes back
to their college for one of these events wants to be involved and cares
deeply about the students at his or her alma mater. They are already
interested. Don't miss your chance to take advantage!
In terms of effective networking, the most important thing is to do your homework ahead of time. If you have specific alums that you want to speak to, use college resources or the internet to learn as much as you can about them, and have a few unrelated questions to ask them. I say "unrelated" because it's important to be able to move the conversation in a different direction if one of the tacks you take isn't working. Also, it pays to have your contact information available in an easy to pass out format, something akin to a business card or a sheet from a small notepad. If you don't have any particular alumnus (or alumni) that you're hoping to meet at a function, be free in talking about yourself to the first few that you meet. Without being egocentric or pushy, make sure that you talk enough about your interests and aspirations to make it possible for the person (or people) that you're talking with to suggest friends they may know that could steer you in the right direction. Lastly, if at any point you get advice that you aren't entirely sure of (or in agreement with, etc), let it slide. At the end of the day, you're entitled to your opinion, but it's best to take alumni's opinions into consideration so that they take YOU into consideration.
PhD, Government (Political Theory)
Be honest with yourself about your study habits. It's entirely possible to convince yourself that "you study best with music on," or "you can only get work done when you're in your room," or "if you don't have friends around, you can't focus," but in the end, it is highly unlikely that those things are true. It may be relaxing to read with music on, but it isn't likely to be "more efficient." It may be comfortable to work in your room, surrounded by familiar scenery, but it probably isn't "more effective," and so on. Not only does research show that academic reading and writing is best done in a quiet, well-lit area, but most of us will admit, in the end, that these "alternative" study strategies are really about meeting other, non-academic needs. It's important to relax, to be comfortable, and to be social in college (in fact, these may be equal objectives to academic success in some regards), but it pays psychologically to be honest about which needs you're actually meeting with your study strategies. That way, when you are facing a serious academic challenge, you'll be ready to prepare in a serious and effective way.
PhD, Government (Political Theory)
Take some time to clear your mind before taking a test. For a long time I thought I had to "cram" as much information into my mind as I could before sitting for a test. Sometimes this would happen right up to walking into the classroom, and sometimes the very moments before the Professor actually handed out the test! It took me years to realize that this wasn't helping any. The truth was, I knew everything I was going to know hours before taking the test, provided I had prepared accordingly. Much more important for me today is taking the critical hour before test time to clear my mind and focus on more important things in life. Many times I was so situated that I could walk to class and admire the beautiful day. Also helpful is to participate in deep breathing exercises. This would calm my nerves and any anxiety that might be looming. Most importantly, always remember that a test is just a test. It is not the determinant of who you are, or what you are capable of in life. Have confidence in yourself. Intend to do well, and you will.
Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling
University of North Texas
Interest is so important in academic success. Let me give you an example. For years I studied as a Business major. Convinced that this was surely a quick way to financial freedom, I stayed the course despite my seeming lack of interest in many of the subjects. Now, by no means am I saying that Business is not an honorable field. To the contrary, life as we know it today would not be without the great minds of Business. Yet, I still felt out of place. It was such a struggle for me to stay tuned into the lectures and projects. I followed my heart and made a huge chance in the direction of my academic career. Although risky, it was the best decision I ever made for myself. Now studying in a discipline that I have genuine interest in, I find it much easier to become motivated in my academic studies. Interest is truly the dog that leads the way!
Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling
University of North Texas
It may seem
strange, that the same letters, the B.A. or B.S., the college degree, is
rewarded to individuals no matter what experiences they had leading up to
this reward. Online university, state school, or private college each can
produce the same outcome. Of course, anyone with a college degree has taken
courses, and gained knowledge about a specific field, however, the true gain
of the college experience is something different, not reflected in our
degree title after graduation. It is our peers along the way who truly teach
us about life. The memories, the talks, the emotions, the passion
experienced with other individuals within one’s college experience are what
matters. It is our classmates, roommates, teammates and best friends who
shape our college experiences and alter us forever.
From the first day of orientation, we learn about what high school is like in another town or state. Through the intensity, stress, and competitiveness of academia we learn poise and compassion from those around us. We have long talks and big laughs. We hurt from damaged relationships, and we share our deepest worries. Trust commences. We watch some struggle and others succeed, and we learn how to deal with each. On the day of graduation, we finally receive those two little letters, but few tears are shed for the ending of chemistry exams and long nights in the library. Instead, we look back and cry for the beauty of our time together, our growth, and how much we truly love one another. This connection, the trust, the truth, the love, is the greatest benefit of college.
Master of Human Development and Family Studies
Case Western Reserve University
My belief or
philosophy to success in college or academia in general is quite simple if
you think about it. The biggest road to success is for students to listen,
keep an open mind and stay on task. Listen to your professors and advisor,
they are there to help students succeed. If you hit a snag in an assignment
do not wait until the last moment to talk to the professor, they are happy
to help. Make sure that you don't fall behind, time management is key for
success too. Keep a notebook or day planner and write all assignments and
their due date down and look at this frequently.
Other ideas for success, use the resources provided by the college, use the library and the staff for assistance. If your university has a writing center, get them to assist in writing professional college papers. Also use the tutoring centers provided by the college.
It is also important to become involved in the college itself. Take advantages of membership of clubs, and social networking, it can pay off in the experiences one has at school, and it's a great use of time and can provide networking opportunities post-college in getting a job. It's also a good way to meet new people and develop lasting friendships
Leigh A. Dudley
Master of Performance Improvement, Training and Development
Northern Michigan University
“Good teachers are unquestionably the thing that matters
most. Studies indicate students with more effective teachers showed 6 times
greater gains than those with less effective teachers, regardless of the
Understanding that teachers make up a major component in student success is not something that is new to students or educators. Typically adult learning theories are embedded with the basic concepts of behavioral change and experience, but never mention the active role of the educator. We understand that adults learn differently than children by the great work and research completed by Piaget, Knowles, Gardner, Fry, Merriam, and Caferella. We must than turn to the remaining factor left in the equation. Will the educators and the university or college you choose provide you with the best opportunity to succeed?
All major university are making changes in the way education is being delivered, but does that meet your needs. Before I buy a car, I take it for a test drive. Have you played an active role in sitting in on your university or college? Walking around campus and visiting the dorms is a ticket to failure. Visiting the classrooms and observing the teaching methods of the professors is one way to ensure that your university or college will help you succeed.
Read the sticker and ask about the many options available with this model. Take time to ask for syllabus and get an understanding of the strategies and methods used during instruction. College students are interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life. Make sure that your professors customize all deliverable processes and that you are really spending your money (or your parents) wisely.
In conclusion, make the most of your educational experience by asking that they provide you with the most. The days of lecture, test and grade are over. Universities around the world have recognized that canned education belongs in the can. Sempre Audi – “Dare to be wise” Horace
Adjunct Instructor - Buena Vista University
Master of Educational Leadership
would perhaps describe the motivational tool I have used to travel the
academic road to success. The more determination a person has for success
will inspire the most motivational skills to become successful. I came from
a family who did not know or recognize the greatest importance of
educational values needed for success. I am what you might call a late
bloomer. I wanted my children and my grandchildren to know the significance
an education can make in their lives. I started to college at the age of 42
years old, and I have not stopped. I intend to graduate with a Masters in
Guidance and Counseling this December 2008.
Being determined means to be ready to study and work toward the goal(s) set to see a fruitful end. Life has a way of teaching us the important steps to take and to give honor to whom honor is due. I do my best to walk a Christian life and to encourage those around me not to give up. Faith and determination go hand in hand. Secondly, I place the value of doing my part. My part is allowing time to study and to plan time for every facet within my life such as, church, family, work, school, and my self.
Finally, using the experiences of life as a stepping stone to keep me on a path to reach my goal (s). Life is the motivational tool I use the most. I believe we need to live life to its fullest.
Joyce Ann Wolfe
Master of Science in Counseling
Murray State University
Although it may be intimidating at first, it is definitely helpful to go to your professor's office hours before a test or whenever there is something that you don't completely understand either because it's difficult material or they didn't explain it clearly or you didn't have enough time to write down good notes in class. It has been my experience that most professors care about you and want you to understand and do well in their class, so they are very willing to take the time to answer all of your questions. In spite of their busy schedules, they set aside specific office hours for their students, so they want you to take advantage and ask them for help. It also shows them that you are genuinely interested in the class, that you care about how well you do, and that you want to learn more. I recommend that before you go to meet with your professor, you should make a list of all the questions you have so that you feel more organized and prepared, and then you won't forget any of the things that you wanted to ask while you were there. In addition, if you are concerned about a test grade or any other matter relating to the class, just go and talk about it respectfully with your professor, but don't whine or argue with them. It will make you feel more comfortable and they will appreciate your honesty and maturity.
Master of Marine Science
University of North Carolina
Studying Techniques and Habits:
I use various types of study tools. I am also a creature of habit; I have created a designated place to study. Along with the designated place, I have created a designated schedule at the beginning of each semester for each class with an allotted time to work on lessons and to prepare for test. I mark on my calendar the due dates of papers, assignments, and test schedules. One of the most important tools I think a student can use is acquiring information from the teaching Professor if early submission of assignments is acceptable. When early submissions are acceptable, it will allow you extra time to study for upcoming test or to work on term papers that are due at the end of the semester.
I create a list of bold faced typed words out of the book I use for the class and define each one. Another important tool is outlining each chapter. This will allow you to read but also write the information acquired out of the chapter. When the professor goes over the information during the class time, you will be familiar with the topics that are spoken.
I also create a test for my self to take on the information that has been given during class. I study the material each week to keep my self familiar with the topics that are given during a semester.
Joyce Ann Wolfe
Master of Science in Counseling
Murray State University
My advice has
to do with students who are married and are either in school or returning to
continue their education. It is essential that your spouse has a full
understanding of what to expect when returning to study for your graduate
degree or continued education. Before making this decision you and your
spouse must establish roles and responsibilities regarding child rearing,
family income, meal obligations, and even day to day schedules.
Likewise, it is very important to have the full moral support of your spouse for the challenges that you will face in school. You must both be fully committed to each other and fully committed to the academic goals that you have set for yourself. This will be very valuable support during the trials and tribulations of school.
Matthew Joiner Lozier
PhD, Public Health
University of Iowa
I was 24 years old when I decided to return to school full-time. I had just married, worked full-time night shift at a mill, and was six months pregnant my first semester. Most of my friends and family urged me to wait until after the birth of my daughter to return to school, but I knew that I had waited long enough. It was now or never and I was determined to succeed in school while keeping up with the other demands in my life. That first semester was difficult and I just kept thinking, "If I can make it through this, the next one will be easier". My daughter was born 2 weeks before the end of the semester and I was back at school five days after her birth. I finished the semester with flying colors and decided to take the summer off. The next fall, my daughter was four months old and I had returned to work part-time. When I needed to study, she wanted to cry. When I needed to type a paper, she needed to be fed. Once again, I thought the next semester has got to be easier! However, by spring, she was crawling and learning to walk; now she was really into everything. I quickly discovered that it was useless to try opening a book while she was awake. I learned how to rearrange and prioritize my household chores and my studies while still spending time with her and my husband. If I was to be successful, I knew I needed to be organized and always one step ahead with each assignment. Even today, I never wait until the night before to do an assignment. My goal for each paper that is due is to have it completed one class period before the due date. As a student with a family at home, I know that at any time, someone could get sick or an emergency could happen. I try to be prepared and being prepared helps me with my confidence level when taking tests and completing assignments.
Amanda Carter Rorrer
University of North Carolina
I could not have succeeded in school without the support from my friends and loved ones. I have had to ask for it on occasion. People who have not experienced college first hand, may not understand that you may not be able to do everything and anything with them. Having explained how important my grades were, I have received much needed encouragement and praise.
I have sought out others who are willing to study with me. I have searched for like-minded students, who are trying to succeed as well. Surrounding myself with people who have a successful attitude keeps my attitude up too. I think it is imperative to ask and receive positive feedback for your success. It appears to help keep me on the right path.
As a returning
student after thirteen years, I was excited as well as apprehensive about
going back to school. Not only did I leave my home of seventeen years, but I
also left my friends and family to move to a town I knew nothing about.
However, as a single Mother, I knew I wanted to further my education in
order to provide a quality lifestyle for myself and my daughter.
Months before the fall semester even started, I emailed all my professors, introduced myself, and asked for the required texts and materials for each class I had registered for. By the time I arrived in Flagstaff, I had already purchased and received all my books for my fall classes. I found most of the books online at a significantly lower cost than purchasing them at the university bookstore. I also arrived a week before classes started and toured the campus, walking and exploring on my own, with my daughter in her stroller. I familiarized myself with the route to my classes from my apartment on campus. When the first day of school arrived, I felt fully prepared to tackle my first semester of classes since 1995.
I kept a detailed calendar, noting all due dates of assignments, required readings and upcoming tests and papers. I made flash cards for my Spanish class and practiced a little bit each day. I also used the breaks in between classes to read literature and finish any written assignments. In addition, I qualified for the Federal Work Study Program and worked in the front office of Family Housing where I currently live. I was able to complete much of my homework while sitting at the front desk when I was not assisting residents. By studying between classes and during my office hours, I was able to decrease the amount of study time at home with my daughter. Despite taking 13 credit hours and working 20 hours each week, I never felt exhausted or overwhelmed due to excellent time management.
Organization and time prioritization are both essential to succeeding in school. Academic success is possible no matter what stage of life you are in. Remember that you will make mistakes but determine to learn from them and avoid the same pitfalls in the future. Reach out to your fellow students, learn names and faces and take down phone numbers and email addresses. Put together study groups at home, the library or at a local coffee shop. Get to know your professors and take advantage of their office hours. Your teachers are there for you and want you to succeed. Talk to them, ask them questions and do not hesitate to express any frustrations or concerns you may have with the class material. Do not forget...your professors were all students at one time or may still be working on their own education.
I am proud of my accomplishments and am grateful to friends and family for their support and suggestions. Do not let anything or anyone get in the way of your education. Just Do It!!!!
Melissa Gay Reiswig
Northern Arizona University
Here are a few
helpful tips that I have used over the years to make sure that I keep moving
forward with my education and do not get stagnant. First of all - do not be
afraid of your professors! I think that saying for bears goes with
professors, they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Seriously
though, they have office hours for a reason and they may seem grumpy or
scary or very knowledgeable, but go and talk with them and create a bond.
This is beneficial in large lectures and small seminars because they get to
know your face, your name, how you think about things and then they can
teach accordingly - not to mention the brownie points. If you are not sure
how to approach them, find something they are interested in or researching
and open a conversation about that, ask them how you can improve in the
course even if you are doing fine, anything to start a conversation and
build a connection will help you feel more comfortable and connected to the
university and will help when you need recommendation letters in the future.
This tip is for graduate students and ambitious undergraduates. The first part of this advice is very simple and every student going to school knows it: DO THE READING. Do not fall behind with the reading, or not read it because you read it a year ago, or the myriad other reasons. At this point in your career you should be excited and into the readings so read it. If it is a book you read before, read it again because you will probably read it with new eyes and pick up things you missed last time. Also, the bibliography, work cited, reference page is your friend. If you notice that a certain author keeps being cited in the works you are reading, look in the bibliography and then go read their original work. This may blow some of your minds, but authors cite their sources for a reason one of which is if you want to question the assumptions, their reading of the author, or just find our what was said earlier - you use the bibliography. All graduate students should become friends with the bibliography and consider it part of their assigned reading. This will help prepare you for quals and your dissertation not to mention class.
PhD in Higher Education
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
I would say
that the key to getting a high GPA in college is to learn how to study. I
know that sounds easy and you may already think that you know how to study.
Well the truth is everyone studies differently. It took me until was almost
a Junior before I knew the best way to study for myself. I used to have a
really long study session just before tests where for hours at a time I
would read over the same information. I would still do well on the test
however, I wouldn’t retain the information for long after the test was over.
This of course made writing papers and final exams where I had to recall
that information extremely difficult.
I started my Junior year studying everyday for about 20 min at a time. I would study for 20 min and then I would get up and do the dishes and come back to my notes and see what I remembered. If I had retained the information I would study something else for 20 min and so on. Not only did I retain information but I was able to do other things around the house and in my life that needed to be done.
I strongly recommend bringing your books with you where ever you go. If you get caught at a train then pick up your book/notes and try to pick one thing to remember. It’s all about time management. I have and have had a full time job all through my college career and I know that I am not alone. I found that every moment of studying would have to count. I couldn’t afford to read for an hour and not retain the information. Sometimes that hour was all I had.
I know these days it is very common for people to try to juggle work, school, relationships and sometimes families. I can tell you right now that when you are in any of these situations you have to make time for school, even if it’s a small amount. Get up 20 minutes early or look at your notes while you brush your teeth. Ask loved ones to help you study. Make a game out of word association so that you can remember the material. I am a criminal justice major and I would have my boyfriend try to help me remember court cases by word association. It helped me on the test and we were able to spend time together. You need to make school a priority but you can’t make it your life.
Learn the best way for you to study and learn how to manage your time. Most importantly try to interweave studying and your other responsibilities/relationships together. Otherwise you will have to choose between them and one of them will lose.
Amanda Elane Meyers
Western Michigan University
For those that are interested in retaining knowledge from their classes beyond the semester (which I highly recommend) and those that are going to head into graduate school I offer the end of semester review advice. At the end of every semester, after finals are over and everything is done for a heartbeat, I sit down and go through each of my courses one by one. I start by reviewing any notes that I wrote, books that I read, etc and I organize all of the class materials into a binder. Once they are organized and I have gone back through the entire course reflecting on my experience I type up a one page synopsis of the course to put at the beginning of the binder including major themes, big ideas, questions left unanswered, and others so that I can go to that binder anytime in the future and with a glance at the beginning see if it will be helpful to my current semesters classes or projects. It is also nice to look back over the semester and see all the work you have done as well as how you grow throughout the class.
The last tip that I have to offer is this: organization skills are very important! Whatever system works for you please employ, but there must be some sort of organizational structure to get through the educational system. There are so many forms, offices, due dates, etc. that it is necessary to succeed (even in getting scholarships, studying abroad, etc. this focus on organization will pay off) and to enjoy the opportunities that college presents. You need to be responsible for yourself and your dates. I use a planner and highlighters where I mark (using a different color) personal activities and dates, classes, departmental dates, thesis dates, etc. so that by glancing at my planner I can tell by the color what areas I need to focus or take of next week. Also, highlighting helps me to remember but whatever system you use, I plead with you to be organized to make it through.
PhD in Higher Education
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
I think that the key to being successful in any given task, academic or otherwise, is to believe in your abilities and apply yourself to achieving your objectives. If it is important to you to score top marks in your studies, then you should "study to show thyself approved" if you will, and devote the necessary time and energy to achieve such honors. I personally don't consider myself to be that "smart," just well-disciplined in my studies. I put a certain amount of time, energy, and preparation into all my studies. I also involve myself in class discussions so that I can absorb the communicative aspects of learning. At the advanced level of education (masters and PhD), it is incumbent upon the student to take the initiative and properly prepare for, and devote ample time to, all coursework. No one forces you to be a good student, it should come naturally.
There are basically two types of loci in this world: extrinsic and intrinsic. One is either driven by an internal locus of control to succeed, or motivated by an external locus of control: money, fame, acceptance of others, etc. My personal locus of control happens to be an internal "need to succeed" in my studies. I am by nature, a neurotic student. I prepare for assignments very early and begin studying for tests early as well. I am not in school just to "get a degree," rather, I am a part of the educational dynamic in order to become a more well-rounded individual and academian. As one reaches the higher echelons of academic success, one realizes how much of an honor it truly is to be recognized by others for academic accomplishments. The purpose of intelligence is to enlighten oneself and share this accrued knowledge with others. Awards and degrees mean nothing if one doesn't apply that knowledge and help others.
Jonathan Todd Wigle
Master of Early Childhood Education
East Tennessee State University
Extracurriculars: Get involved. I found that my general happiness was directly related to being involved on campus. As I got more and more involved, joining club athletic teams, volunteer groups, the student newspaper, social clubs, and fund raising groups, I had more and more fun and was happier. When I was happy, I was more dedicated to my school work and had a stronger drive to do well. You will also get to know more people. When you know more people in your classes you will have people to call to get notes for missed classes, you can form study groups or ask questions about confusing topics, and you will also have motivators for going to class. So, get involved, your GPA will benefit and so will you.
Kelly Laura Hocutt
|Maintain excellence||You need to have excellence in your attendance. Show up early for class. Turn in your excellent home work on time. I took notes at class and then typed them out at home. This helps to review your work too.|
|Attitude of gratitude||Keep a thankful, positive heart towards your professor and also your fellow students. Do not grumble or complain.|
|Goal setting||Set short term goals to achieve the best grades on the way to your final exam or final project.|
|Never give up||There will be obstacles that you will face but keep on persevering towards your goals.|
|Appearance||Dress well. Don't be sloppy in your outward appearance.|
|Team up||Join with other excellent students in class and help each other out in your studies too.|
|Inspiration||Let your faculties be stimulated to a high level of
activity or feelings.
|Pray||Yes, pray that the Lord will help to guide and to strengthen you in your academic pursuits|
|Servant||It helps to have a servant's heart. Be humble and willing to do extra things for the teacher or for other students. Give a greeting card, share a snack or give a cold glass of water to someone who needs it.|
Yes, you are right. This is an acrostic that just happens to spell: Magna Tips.
Ruth ann Pulaski
Master of Music
New Mexico Highlands University
Something that is very easy to do that will help you and your grades a lot is to look over your class syllabus and schedule your first week. It helps to know what is required of you throughout the course of the semester and to know your deadlines before they surprise you. Some assignments require more thought, time, research, and planning than others and it helps to know about these assignments further than a day in advance. Also , some professors are not as good at warning you about upcoming assignments and events and still expect you to have your work in on time-- and they will not be very lenient with late submissions, giving point penalties for each day late. So get a planner and put big assignments on the calendar. You may also find that you have 3 big exams or papers due the same day or week. If you know this at the beginning of the semester, some professors will be more likely to let you request more time or alternate submission dates. Even if you are a big procrastinator, spending 1 hour at the beginning of the semester going over dates and deadlines will save you from a ton of stress, will help you avoid late assignments, and will help you submit stronger work on time.
Kelly Laura Hocutt
There comes a time in every busy student's life when your mission- to complete all tasks to the best of your ability in a given amount of time- becomes impossible. Some choose to let their work suffer or to make considerable sacrifices ("Oh, I can't be your maid of honor anymore... finals week is approaching!") But fortunately, mission: impossible need not become mission: hopeless. The clever student will use this opportunity to connect (or reconnect) with teachers and- gasp!- communicate. With an honest assessment of your predicament, a sincere commitment to uphold your responsibilities as a student, and a proposed solution, you will find a way to succeed. It is important to remember that teachers are there for YOU. Get to know them! With that said, never abuse your power to ask for assistance; your "get out of jail for free" pass should be earned.
Master of Violin Performance
The infamous weight gain that comes with your first year of college.
Sometimes, Freshman 20, or 30, or more! It is the phenomenon that morphs
hordes of fresh-faced, energized, svelte freshmen into nameless blobs
swathed in university hoodies and sweats. Here are some tips to help prevent
you from packing on the pounds...
1.) Prioritize sleep. It's important to your health, happiness, brainpower, and sanity. Did I mention metabolism? Because if you're needing more sugar to stay awake, the candy, the soda and the Starbucks will only go so far.
2.) Fried chicken is not your new best friend. Neither is ice cream. Or pizza. Real friends are much better, so use your free time to join a club, go to free events, and socialize with complete strangers. After visiting my fair share of colleges, I guarantee there is a free ballroom dancing class somewhere on campus.
3.) Chances are you can get to the gym. For free. Don't be scared or intimidated. There might be TV! (Why else would I work out for a full hour? Must survive commercial break. Must see end.)
4.) Drink in moderation. Enough said.
5.) If you do gain some weight, don't stress. Just make sure it's not a symptom of stress, depression, or loneliness. And for heaven's sake, get to the mall! There might be a sale at the Gap!
Master of Violin Performance
The most important step to take in succeeding in college is to learn your own personal learning style. For example, some people learn best visually while others are auditory learners. If you are a visual learner, flashcards may prove to be very helpful. If you are an auditory learner, it might help to record something and listen to it daily. Once you find out what type of learning style is best for you, it is likely that you will learn an ample amount of material in an efficient amount of time.
University of Tennessee
I waited ten years to begin on my doctorate at MU and as I look back on my life, my advise to others is to avoid being scared to achieve what you want in your educational life. I was scared to death to take statistics and to write at a level of a doctoral student only to find out that I am capable of both. So as I said before, Don't be afraid of what you dream to achieve! GO FOR IT!!!
Cynthia Kaye Jorgenson
PhD, Educational Leadership
University of Missouri
As a single parent for many years during my education, it was always my priority to keep my family first. In the end it was my family who supplied the support to complete my education and share in my success. My advice would be to be very selfish with your time, plan well, don't wait until the last minute (although some of us work better under that pressure), and take failures as a learning opportunity to become successful.
Master of Special Education
Pittsburg State University
Taking detailed notes was one of the most important factors in my academic success. Ideally, I would take notes on my laptop. Barring that, I would record the lecture on a micro-cassette player (with the professor's permission), and at the earliest opportunity I would type the notes and print them out. This accomplished two things: it would give me a permanent record of the lecture and it would re-emphasize the information, which would enable me to retain more of it. I found that it is best not to rely solely on the recorder, though; I would also jot down the high points of the lecture in the event of a problem with the recording.
If the professor objected to being recorded (which some did), I took notes by hand. I did not try to write everything word-for-word--most of my professors talked too fast for that. Instead, I developed my own form of shorthand--I would write only the most important words, leaving out articles, adjectives, and verbs. If the professor was lecturing from the book, I would highlight important information or make notes in the margin, such as an asterisk or brackets. I would then write the page number in the corresponding section of the notes for future reference. As with the recorded notes, I would type the handwritten notes as soon as possible after class, while the lecture was still somewhat fresh in my mind.
Prior to the test, I would re-read the notes, usually several times. If the professor provided a study guide or review sheet, I would go through the notes and highlight areas that the professor had stressed. I often scanned the review/study guide into the computer and typed the answers in red. I would print them out and read them over and over, right up until time for the test.
Tina Marie Shelby
Master of English
Texas A&M University
STUDY TECHNIQUES / MEMORIZATION
Success in college can be guaranteed if you focus on three major areas of your life while enrolled:
1) Resting ~ Make sure you get some sleep. If you are a procrastinator and wait until the night before to cram for a test, keep in mind that research shows that an extra hour of sleep is just as advantageous as an extra hour of cram-studying. Sometimes you will have to force yourself to make time for sleep, but "rest" assured, it is one of the single most important study habits that you can form. Without adequate sleep you will not be able to focus and that precious GPA that you are trying so earnestly to protect will be in jeopardy.
2) Memorization ~ If your professor says it, references it, or alludes to it indirectly -- you should try to memorize it. The ABSOLUTE best way to understand and memorize concepts is to find someone ignorant of the subject matter and teach it to them. Go through the material step by step with them and explain it to them so that they can also understand it. The hard part is finding a volunteer (start with parents and siblings) who will listen for any length of time. Yes, this technique is time consuming, but it is extremely effective. It also works in ANY subject matter -- from English literature to organic chemistry.
The second most effective technique with regards to memorization is making flash cards. Sure, they seem childish and bring back those nostalgic feelings from the days of memorizing multiplication tables, but they are effective. The important thing about making the flash cards is the actual MAKING process. You will memorize ("learn") as much from making the actual cards as you will flipping through them and studying the material on them. Making them is easy. Just take your notes (professor made study guides are even better) and turn each note or fact into a question. Put the question on one side of the card and a correct response on the reverse. Yes, this too is time consuming. As you can see, there is no "quickie fix" in the world of studying.
3) Networking ~ This is just a common sense way of saying "ask those around you for help and suggestions." I would never advocate anyone being an educational mooch, but if the stranger sitting beside you has had your current professor before, maybe she can tell you a little about his testing styles or the types of questions he asks. This is NOT a form of cheating! So many students feel as if they are committing a crime by trying to network to make things easier for themselves. Networking can also include forming study groups or joining academic related clubs. Many times the professors who sponsor these clubs or honor societies will offer you private advice and suggestions for success within their department. Networking is just another way of saying "make friends and work with them."
PhD, Educational Leadership
East Tennessee State University
Most colleges or universities give students agendas at the beginning of the school year, for free. My advice: use it! (Okay, so maybe your school doesn't give out agendas; go to the grocery store and buy yourself a planner.) If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. During the first week of classes each semester, professors each hand out a detailed syllabus, which usually includes a course calendar. Take the course calendar with your agenda and write in all assignment due dates, quizzes or tests, etc. It's not a bad idea either to write in which chapters are to be read for that book. Use different colors, pens, stickers, or highlighters to organize the assignments by course. For example, if you see blue you know there's a math assignment coming up. Staying organized and on top of your schedule saves a lot of stressing over due dates and assignments.
Mary Elizabeth Burr
Florida State University
1. Start Early
Probably the most important study tip I have discovered from my college experience is starting early. When I start early this allows me to work on the assignment for shorter periods of time, which is less frustrating. For example, in my choral literature class we were given very long and arduous take home tests at the midterm and at the end of the semester. My professor gave our class 2 weeks to complete the assignment so I would start the day I received the assignment and work at least an hour a day. Some days I was more productive than others, but I would work at least an hour. This helped me to complete the assignment early and also have time to work on other homework that may have required more time. This cuts back on stress and not making the deadline.
Also syllabuses are a great way to keep you ahead of the game and most professors give one out at the beginning of the semester. Try and get a jump start on your homework from the syllabus, this will keep you from feeling stressed. This will also free up time for more fun activities in the future. So start early and have fun later.
2. Study Groups
Study groups can be positive and negative. Sometimes groups play more than they work. However, try and find a group that can stay somewhat on task because you will learn more from studying with others. A variety of people bring a variety of ways to remember important facts or formulas. If you are a freshman it is also a way to meet new people who may have common interests. Also don't forget to look over the notes by yourself as well. You should dedicate a little bit of time to studying solo.
The library can be a great place or a scary place. You must learn how to use it first. Colleges and Universities have some of the best libraries available to you. Get to know your subject librarian for papers. These men or women can help you find twice the sources that you on your own can find. As an undergrad student I never tapped this resource and I probably would have done better to have asked for help. Also remember that you can do library loans from other libraries from all over the country. however, get started early because these loans take time to process. We are lucky today to have the internet at our fingertips, utilize sources such as worldcat.com and even other university library search engines to research. Consider yourself lucky that you are not required to use only the old card catalog.
Learn how to take notes that best serve you. Ask other people to see their notes as well. This ties in with study groups. A neighbor may hear something or catch something you missed while writing your own notes. Also if you have to be absent make sure you find someone trust worthy to get notes from and be prompt with returning the notes.
5. Take a Break
Breaks are necessary and very important. Even if it is just a 5 minute break stop and let your brain recharge. Take a quick 20 minute nap, eat, exercise, or take a shower. These are all things that can get you ready for another study session. Also don't underestimate the importance of a good night's rest. You will perform better on your test when you are well rested. My junior year of college I made a B on a test when I should have made an A because I had no sleep the night before and fell asleep during a listening section of the Music History test. I was mortified and I didn't get the grade I could have. So make sure you take five.
Katherine Lea Anne Watson
Master of Arts in Choral Conducting
One of the tips I use before I begin to read a textbook for class, is to read the Index first. If you read the Index first, you will get an idea of what is important in the book you are about to read. An Index gives you a good idea of what topics are important to the author, and as you read the book, you will have an idea of what to look for in the book.
Master of Arts in American Studies
To succeed in college can be quite a balancing act between personal life and academic life. Many students don't care to balance the two and that leads to many students not completing their degree. Only a handful of my senior class in high school graduated with a degree. A majority entered college but let the social realms of university life pull them from the sole purpose of going to college, to become educated. I enjoy having fun like the next person, but a line must be drawn. Time can very easily slip away while you are pursuing an education. You must set up times and dates you plan on working on big projects, papers, or studying. If you have this in your mindset from the beginning, the party going on at the same time takes a back seat. I learned that lesson the hard way my freshmen year of college when I received a C in a history course. I have never received anything close to a C in my life and it taught me a very valuable lesson on balancing fun and school. It is the only C I received while I was in college. It is very easy to used to C's but I challenge you to push yourself above mediocrity. The pressure of living it up while you are young are very strong and I pray you remember the importance time management. Most of my friends who rather have "fun" while they were young can be found at the local bars trying to make ends meet. It is hard to see that while you are in school but if you can discipline yourself while in college, you will already be very ahead of the majority of people your in age group when you enter the job market. Good luck.
David John Pietzman
Masters, Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning
Preparation, and Studying
Methods and Habits
1). Take clear, concise notes. You may have to abbreviate a lot because of a fast-speaking professor, but as long as you understand your notes that’s all that matters.
a. By the time you enter college, you may have developed a note-taking style; however, there’s always room for improvement.
b. You will need to learn to adjust your style according to the style of the professors and the way they present the material to the class.
2).Do not be afraid to ask questions of your professor and/or your peers during and outside a class session.
3) Do all work that is graded, and do as much of the suggested work as possible. While it may consume some of your free time, it will be well worth it, especially if you struggle in a specific area.
4) Always read what is assigned prior to the introduction of that material in class. This allows you to benefit yourself with interaction in class and come to class prepared with questions.
a. When I read material for the first time, I always put a star or asterisk next to trouble spots or areas that I do not understand.
5) Studying is entirely dependent on the personality and work habits of the individual, but your habits can be adjusted towards successful studying, too.
a. I only begin my actually studying for an exam 2 days prior to the date of the exam.
b. Find your “hot spot” for studying – the library, your bedroom, outside, whatever works best for you.
i. I have to be in my bedroom closed off from all possible distractions so that I can put my full concentration toward the material.
ii. Your “hot spot” should be an area that allows you to remain focused and motivated, and should be a place you will not be miserable in after studying there for an hour or more. Finding your “hot spot” may take several tries in different places, but trust me – it will be well worth your time.
c. I reread all textbook chapters/material. I take my time to understand everything that I read to my best ability.
d. I suggest studying with a classmate; you don’t need to interact directly while studying but you can be resources for one another. Many times your classmate will understand a specific area of the material much better and have a good way of explaining/demonstrating it to you, and vice versa with you providing assistance to that person.
e. Re-work any problems/calculations, in relation to the exam material that have been assignments so that you will have an answer. Be sure to re-work the problems/calculations until you understand the process fully and not just how to do that specific problem.
f. Re-read notes several times, but at least 3 or 4 times depending on the amount of notes you have for this exam.
i. Memorization: Re-read notes as many times as possible before you begin to read and be able to recognize when you are not taking the material in anymore. At that point, you are merely wasting your time and actually harming yourself because you may begin to mix-up material in your head since you will not be concentrating as well.
6) Be willing to dedicate time to your studies; do not allow yourself to get frustrated. If you begin to get frustrated, take a break from your studying and return in 15-30 minutes with a motivated, open-mind.
Samantha Lynn Farris
Frostburg State University
When I was in middle school, I remember my parents inviting some family friends over for dinner. Their daughter, a junior in high school, was working on a FIVE PAGE PAPER for her honors English class. At the time, that sounded like an insurmountable task! I couldn't imagine finding enough to say to fill a five page paper -- at least, not enough quality material. But a few years later, I was writing five-, ten-, and fifteen-page papers and doing it quite well.
At each stage of education, it seems at first to be too much. College is a step up from high school. But when you make a few adjustments and finally adapt to the differences, you realize that you're PREPARED for this! Our education system, despite some flaws, is set up to help a person progress naturally to the next step and be able to succeed. Hence the reason we don't begin preschool pursuing a master's degree.
After college, I taught for two years before beginning my master's degree. I was putting it off until I just couldn't find any more excuses to wait. How would I do? I hadn't had to study for an exam, take notes, or write a paper for a couple of years. And frankly, I was enjoying the break. However, once I began, I found that I was just picking up where I left off. Yes, there were challenges (, but I was prepared to face them. In December, I graduated with an M. S. degree in Educational Administration and a 4.0 GPA. What next? Perhaps a doctorate degree is in my future.
If you find that you're not quite prepared for your next step, remember that there are people who will help. Your friends are resources, and most of your professors truly do want to see you succeed in their classes. So, RELAX. You're ready. Take the next step.
Carissa K. Goodlet
Master of Educational Administration
Youngstown State University
Tip 1: Extracurricular
Instead of joining a bunch of clubs and becoming only superficially involved in each one, join the two or three that interest you most, go to all the meetings and events, and run for an executive board position. You will meet lots of great people, and you will make more of a difference by focusing your energies on only a few difference causes/activities. Also, join some kind of community service organization. You are lucky to go to college, and it's nice to show your appreciation by giving back to those who do not lead such a privileged life. Also, a lot community service is relaxing and gives you a chance to wind down between going to class and doing homework.
Tip 2: Exams and Papers
Let's face it, college students procrastinate. Even if I tell you to start writing your papers or studying for finals ahead of time (yes, you should do this), you probably will only start writing or studying a few days before the due date. However, even if you do not start writing until a few days before the due date, you should still do your research ahead of time and come up with a thesis. Writing as you go, without any intended direction, just does not work in college. Also, avoid summarizing; you have to analyze in college to get an A. Also, if a professor offers to read your rough drafts and make suggestions, TAKE HIM/HER UP ON THE OFFER! This is an almost sure way to get an A, because usually if you follow the professor's directions, you will have a near perfect paper. Regarding exams, be sure to do all the readings and take notes well before the exam. Once you get behind on reading and note-taking, it is practically impossible to catch up. Also, always attend class, even if the professor does not take attendance; you could miss something important (like a due date or requirements for a paper/test). Finally, if you need help with your paper, talk to the professor during office hours. Professors are generally happy to help, and you can get to know them better (which makes them favorably disposed to giving you the benefit of the doubt when trying to decide your grade).
Tip 3: Living and Eating Healthy
It is very easy to become unhealthy and gain weight during college. Be sure to go to the gym at least three times per week (this especially helps clear your mind during finals and can energize you to continue working). If you do not have time to go to the gym, bring your readings or notes to the gym and read them while exercising at a slower pace. Also, never study in the kitchen or anywhere near food, because when you study, you tend to get bored and start eating. Without realizing it, you could eat an entire bag of candy while reading. Also, reading in bed is a bad idea; there is such a thing as a too comfortable study environment, and you almost always end up falling asleep. Finally, the cafeteria generally has fattening and oily food, but if you mix this with a salad or sandwich (or something grilled if they have it), you can avoid the "freshmen 15." I know the dessert looks enticing, but remember, it will be there all year, you do not have to sample every flavor of ice cream at once!
One of the greatest keys to academic success is learning to study while living in a dorm situation. Dorms can be very distracting. There are so many things to do, friends to talk to and laziness to be had. Still learning to isolate time to study will help greatly you’re your classes. The best way to do this is to separate the space where you live from the space where you study. Since the dorm room is where you watch TV, relax and basically do anything except study, it can be very hard to focus there. The best way to avoid the distractions is to leave them. Find somewhere away from your dorm room to study. The library, a shady place in the grass to lay and read, or a quite table at a coffee house are all examples of places to go and study. Finding a separate space to study can help you focus while you are there and feel more compelled to use your time efficiently. In addition once your studying is complete, your can more fully enjoy the laziness in your dorm room!!!
Jessica Lynn Taylor
Master of Arts in World History
East Tennessee State University
10 Tips to help you Succeed in College
10. Get 6-8 hours of sleep per night; there’s nothing worse than falling asleep in class
9. Eat healthy; stay away from fried foods and the freshman 15, head toward that salad bar.
8. Be active; get involved in intramural sports or school clubs, boredom is the enemy.
7. Be social; you can never have too many friends.
6. Manage your time; always make a schedule. Use a calendar or day planner to keep up on all of your class assignments and upcoming activities.
5. Talk to your teachers; teachers are people too and they can be willing to help you along the way, if you speak up.
4. Be punctual; the easiest way to gain respect is by being on time, the quickest way to lose that respect is by showing up late.
3. Study; know the topics beings discussed before you get to class. Come test time rely on notes, as well as previous tests and quizzes.
2. Track your grade; it is very important to know what your grade is at all times throughout the semester. This will allow you to make up work you may have unknowingly missed or ask for extra credit if needed.
1. Go to class!!! You can’t succeed in school unless you actually go.
Patrick Michael Christian
Southeast Missouri State
For many people, college is a challenging experience as they try to juggle working full time along with their academics. Through my own experiences and in observing others, I have come to the conclusion that what helped get me through school were the small moments. As anyone who juggles a full load of courses along with 40 hour work weeks can attest to, there is very little time for big moments. By big moments I mean going out all night with friends, heading to the gym to work out, or even just going out for coffee. When opportunities arise for moments like these of course I would encourage anyone to take them. But the reality is they do not often for those students who are committed to both work and his or her academics. So I say, embrace the small moments. When living in the dorms this for me was meal time with my roommate or someone on my floor. It was the first snow of the year and just standing outside and watching it fall for a few minutes. It was late night study sessions (but know who you can and cannot study with) at the local diner with the really bad coffee. It was dancing goofy while folding laundry, and spreading post it note reminders on the alarm clock so I would not hit snooze. It was being social with co-workers who at times felt like my only friends. But most importantly, it was taking a minute here or there to take a deep breath. A really deep one. And remind myself that I could do it. So if anything, in the crazy chaotic episodes of the full-time student/full-time worker, always stop to breathe.
Master of Arts in Bilingual/ESL Literacy Education
Northern Illinois University
Balancing a Variety of
Extracurriculars With a Pre-Professional Degree
As a pre-med student at Emory University, I knew that I could be engulfed with work from my various classes as well as the pre-med required courses. That being said, it was still of the highest importance for me to be involved in non-academic activities on and off campus. This was true, not only for my sanity, but to set my medical application and resume apart from the thousands of other candidates applying. As a social escape, I joined a fraternity, knowing that it would take up a serious amount of time. While a fraternity of sorority is not for everyone, it could be an easy way to stay socially involved with your peers as well as have a way to perform philanthropy and take time to volunteer.
Another possibility to become
involved is a sport, whether it is a varsity or a club sport. I was a 4 year
member of the varsity track team and 3 year member of the club rugby team.
Why should you put yourself through that much activity on top of your
studying? There is no better or cheaper way to travel while in college than
being on an athletic team. Most teams will travel out of the state as well
as all over the country, and the best part is, they will pay for it.
Other avenues of extracurricular activities include music groups or ensembles, debate teams, academic teams, among others.
Here are some tips to the balancing act. First, make sure that you do not only join the club, but become involved or even hold an office. Professional programs as well as employers love to see involvement and leadership. Leadership experience is a key ingredient to any application. Second, please do not stretch yourself out so thin that you do not have time to study. After all, that is your overall reason for being in college, and no matter how many activities you have, they could only help you stand out as a good student. To avoid this, become involved in activities over time. You should find out how much free time you have on top of your studying commitments.
On top of proving your ability to be well-rounded, extracurriculars serve a very important purpose-networking. Networking allows you to meet a variety of people, and it is important to stay on good terms with everyone. When applying to professional programs, letters of recommendation will be of the utmost importance. Teachers as well as coaches can be of great help if they see someone who is not only involved, but committed to his or her respective club or activity. At application time, you will need to call on these mentors and ask for their help to make you stand out as someone that has helped make a difference through a non-academic activity.
Let's say, however, that you do not get into a school of your choice or are put on a wait list. Your best options will be to take more classes, work in a lab or on a study, or just get a job in other avenues of life. This is where networking is an absolute necessity. In our job market and economy, you must stand out with employers, and many of your peers or people you have met along the way will be in a position to help you. If they recognize you as someone who has been involved and driven, they will go out on a limb and hire you or even refer you to their colleagues. I saw this many times, and the phrase still holds true, "It's not what you know, it's who you know!" This mythical "who" could just be that senior who was on your track team or junior who was in your string ensemble or just a fraternity alum who you impressed on a alumni relations dinner.
All these activities could be your key to success in school as well as professional programs, but extracurriculars are only a part of it. Balancing your schoolwork with other activities is your ticket to success.
Stan N. Tolkachjov
University of Tennessee Medical School
Assigned reading is often
looked upon as tedious and time consuming. Though some might consider this
true, assigned reading is certainly important.
You should read every assignment given and never skip a reading. When given an assignment, it is important to start reading early, otherwise you will not have time to finish. For longer assignments, it helps to plan how much you will read a day. For example, divide a book by the number of days you have to complete the reading and write down each section as a separate assignment on your calendar. You may wish to skip a day or two for rest.
It is important to take notes while doing any assigned reading. The notes need not be detailed, especially for longer assignments. Use a separate notebook and write down key ideas and the page number in case you need to come back later for reference. I often find that for assignments over 100 pages I write down a note about every 2-3 pages.
Skim each section before reading it to get an idea of what the section is about. When reading longer assignments, try to skim through the chapter reading a few sentences from different paragraphs. This helps focus your mind on what you should be thinking about as you read the chapter. For shorter assignments, it helps to go through the entire assignment reading each section heading as well as a few sentences at the beginning of each paragraph before beginning any reading. Some people recommend reading short assignments twice, but if you skim through the assignment effectively before reading it, twice becomes unnecessary.
If you budget your time efficiently and develop good reading techniques, assigned reading can be easily managed--which will help not only in your class, but also in your overall education.
University of Virginia
As a graduate student in chemistry at FSU, I have witnessed first-hand, what
is expected of, and how to succeed at being a PhD student. The first and
most important aspect of graduate student success relies on commitment.
Being a professional student brings along with it the higher expectations
than what an undergraduate student is accustomed to. Without the proper
degree of dedication, the level of success to be obtained is limited.
I have found that it is necessary to implement a daily agenda that you as a student adhere to closely. I have a list that I update every evening. I make sure to have more tasks on this list than is possible for one to complete over the course of an average day. This ensures that you always have more than enough to keep you busy and limits the time that would normally be used for leisure activities.
Upon receiving a doctoral degree in any subject, the student is then considered a master of that specific topic (inorganic chemistry in my case). In order for one to be considered a master of their subject, it is essential that they learn to be as independent and responsible as their mentors. This is achieved through the student’s involvement in every aspect of their subject consistently throughout their graduate career. It is my hope that this message reaches at least one other person so that they can take what I have learned in my early years as a graduate student, and build upon these values and become one of the great students in the NSHS.
Lawrence Keith Keniley Jr.
Florida State University
Through the years I spent as an undergraduate student at Eastern
Illinois University, I learned many valuable lessons on how to perform well
in a classroom setting. It is my belief that one’s success in a classroom
starts with the student, and more specifically, the student’s attitude. It
is essential that the student begin a semester by observing the professor
and what he/she expects out of the student. Through “gauging” the professor,
the student is better able to live up to what is expected of them. Without
knowing the expectations, how can one live up to them?
Another aspect of importance to a student’s success in the classroom is note-taking ability. At the graduate level, the speed of which a lecture is delivered and the amount of information covered is much more than I got used to as an undergraduate. I had to quickly learn what needed to be done so that I could stay ahead of the curve. I often record lectures on a handheld tape recorder, with the permission of the professor of course. Then after class, I usually take some time to rewrite my notes in an organized and more legible manner. Rewriting lecture notes reiterates the material and gives you time to think about and comprehend the material. While rewriting, I usually listen to portions of the recorded lecture that I did not fully understand.
Finally, and possibly the most important aspect contributing to success in the classroom, is a student’s test-taking ability. It is essential that each student develop their own study habits that fit their personality and thought process. As for myself, I found that for any given test, it is necessary to start studying the material ‘at least’ one week prior to the exam. I usually take my own notes from the text on the specified chapters. Then I make a more condensed set of notes, utilizing my notes from the text and the notes I took in the lectures. I then make a final, fully-condensed set of notes from all three of the sets. This final set is what I use the morning before the test. Through writing the material several times, one is forced to learn the material since they have already seen it more than a couple of times. As I said previously, this is my technique and it is important that every student develop their own strategy to tackling those tough midterm and final exams.
Lawrence Keith Keniley Jr.
Florida State University
Speaking the language: “College vs.
University?,” “Department vs. Major vs. School?,” “Professor vs. Dr.?,”
Sometimes half the battle of keeping yourself organized is knowing the environment you’ve entered a bit better. This helped me to organize my ideas about what my academic career was about. It also helped me feel a part of something bigger than myself. This can feel very magnificent and rewarding. Help yourself understand the “language and culture of higher education.” Here are a few lessons:
Universities are like universes! They are universal in being an institution that provides a large variety of areas and units of study, usually containing several colleges. My university for example contains a College of Business, College of Law, College of Art, etc. Colleges are like collages, combining several smaller departments together who are similar to each other. Realize that many colleges see themselves as quite independent from the “mother university” with their own goals and rankings. Most universities tend to house their “liberal arts” areas together. But this can vary according to the mission and resources of the institution.
Liberal arts contain the classical educational curriculum, much of which you’ve previously studies at some level. College allows you to take these areas to a richer, deeper level, exploring what hasn’t been explored. Usually subjects such as Humanities, Physical/Life Sciences, and Social Sciences are contained in a liberal arts college. Humanities are an analytical/critical study of the human condition containing departments of Languages (Spanish, Latin, German, etc.), Rhetoric/Letters (English, Classics, Literature, Religion, History, and Philosophy). Physical/Life Sciences are primarily used to explore and measure the physical world we inhabit and its properties. Those departments include: Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Ecology, Zoology, Medicine, Pharmacology, Meteorology, Geology, Mathematics, Statistics, etc. Social Sciences are concerned with the social lives/behavior of individuals and groups. Social Sciences are often included in liberal arts colleges as well such as: Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Communications, Political Science, Geography, Cultural/Ethnic Studies, etc.
Of course there are more colleges including engineering, journalism, law, art, dance, education, dentistry, medicine, nursing, computer science/technology, etc.
Think of your studies as a hierarchy:
You take a CLASS as part of CURRICULUM within an ACADEMIC DEGREE PLAN for a MAJOR OF STUDY housed within an ACADEMIC DEPARTMENT as part of a COLLEGE/SCHOOL within a UNIVERSITY. A detailed example would include: a student taking Introduction to Sociology to satisfy the requirements of her curriculum of courses required for her sociology major within her department of sociology as a part of a college of humanities and sciences, within her university.
Now onto the more interpersonal parts of academic life: what to call your faculty members. Different faculty require different credentials to be able to teach and conduct research within a college or university. Yes, it is true they are all professors, but not all of them are doctors. Check the syllabus to see how they identify their academic credentials and what titles they use. Some of your professors will be graduate students who have not finished their graduate master’s or doctoral degrees yet. While I’m sure they will be flattered by the title of “Dr.” they haven’t earned this title yet. Use “Prof.” for them.
Of course, in graduate school, especially if you are going into academic work as a professor one day yourself, it is expected that you greet your faculty members by their first name. You are among their academic peers and colleagues now. It’s weird to think that you are approaching their level of intellectual abilities, but you are! Peers call each other by their first names and you are entering a community of peers. It takes some getting used to, but this will prove your confidence in yourself as a graduate student and future faculty member.
Tiffany Sanford Jenson
University of Oklahoma
Do not be afraid of hard work, especially if you are worried about the criticism of others as being a “brain” that never has any fun. As a sociologist, I am very aware of the social labels that students had applied to them in high school such as a “nerd,” “brains,” or “jock.” I am also aware of the social stigmas that accompany these labels. Being known as intelligent in high school may not always have been popular or flattering, but in college, you get to enjoy it a bit more as prestige.
Realize in college that you are among friends. You are finally being rewarded for achieving high academic goals. Do not let this prestige fool you into thinking that you get to relax. If anything, keep in mind that there are many other “brains” just like you in college who have equally worked hard to achieve academic success and probably went by the same labels you did in high school. In fact, if continue your education past your undergraduate degree, there will be even more students like yourself that want to maximize their potential in graduate or professional school. The competition gets a little thicker at this point in your life, and while you may have stood out in your high school, you may not stand out as much in a larger institution such as a college or university. Be determined to stand out academically by working hard in college. It is possible and rewarding. College is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. You need to have study habits and academic goals firmly in place to be able to set a good pace and steadily make progress toward graduation.
I am in the middle of my Ph.D. and the best advice my mentors have given me was that at this level, they couldn’t emphasize how important it was to keep a strong work ethic. The students that finish their dissertations were not only intelligent, but they knew how to work hard. They were the ones meeting with professors after class and during office hours. They were the ones putting in extra time at the library. They were the ones attending summer school. They were the ones using holiday breaks to get ahead on papers, and prepare for mid-term exams. They were the ones who understood how something worth doing requires attention and focus. The students who rested on their laurels and thought their brains could get them by never finished school. Professors are keen on students’ academic abilities and know who the real students are and who the “fakers” are, (the students not willing to read the chapter, study for exams, or put in the extra effort toward mastery).
The skills that got you through high school are not the skills that will get you through college. Success in life requires progress, and you need to be constantly refining and improving your skills to give yourself that study edge as school inevitably becomes more demanding. Do not be afraid of their challenges. The farther you go the more artillery you have at your disposal to confront the challenges. You will be able to see the challenges as opportunities and learning experiences that make you stronger.
Tiffany Sanford Jenson
University of Oklahoma
Creating a “Master Deadline Document” for
each semester, digesting syllabi:
Professors expect you to read, save, and consult their course syllabus regularly during the semester. The syllabus spells out exactly what is expected of you, what is due, when it is due, and how your will be graded. Many faculty think of syllabi as an informal learning contract between the student and themselves. The problem is EVERY course had a syllabus, and it can be confusing and overwhelming to keep track of them all.
Something that helped me deal with the piles of syllabus pages was to make a “master deadline document” at the beginning of every semester to keep track of my assignments, exams, quizzes, and overall due dates. You should have time at the beginning of the semester to do this as the first day in most classes is known as “syllabus day” where not as much can be accomplished or assigned quite yet. “Syllabus day” is a good day for you to prepare a master deadline document since all of this information is still fresh in your mind. I would organize the document by class with due dates, assignment descriptions, and grading weight assigned to each task. This way I could refer to my document at any point in the semester and know what is due for EVERY class in any given week and focus my attention accordingly.
I did not put everything needed to be done for everyday, as this was not a good use of my time and could prove to be overwhelming if it all stared at me at once! I would certainly have weekly readings to do, which would not be included. I accepted these daily tasks as “a given” and would do those regularly without having to refer to deadlines as much. If you have classes that require readings or review, then those are routine tasks that you will be doing normally anyway. This document is intended for the graded items that are turned in sporadically throughout the semester that tend to creep up on you unless you read ahead on the syllabus.
Think of the “master deadline document” as having the critical grade-intensive items all in one place. It’s sort of like having 5 syllabi in one document. This way you can leave off the other “noise” on the syllabus that take up space and pages of paper like the professor’s contact info, the academic rules/regulations, the course objective, the names of the textbooks, classroom management, etc. You should NOT throw away or replace the syllabus at all. You need to know those other pieces of information of course, but just not continuously. You don’t need to shuffle through those things on a daily or weekly basis, just “as needed.” You will use your syllabus most for identifying your readings in your texts and for checking deadlines. This “master deadline document” allows all the deadlines to be in one place to simplify things for you and allow you to sort your tasks week by week without having to shuffle so much paper and so many notebooks.
With such a document I also could set and manage my own deadlines for those projects which had flexible due dates (such as final project and papers that just need to be turned in “just sometime before the end of the semester”). If you look at when all the final projects are due for the 4-5 classes you are taking at once, you can stagger the work much more easily and decide to finish a paper a few weeks before final exams and other deadlines occur.
As assignments are turned in I use a big black marker to cross out that item off the list for that class. This helped me see what I had finished, and identify what was left without getting distracted. It also helped give me a sense of encouragement and progress during times of stress. If I could see that I had already marked off over 75% of the graded item required for the class, it gave me the needed energy to persevere through the end of the semester and not feel so buried. Realize that some classes will allow you finish you graded requirements earlier that others and use this document as a tool in those cases. Focus on the “top heavy” and “bottom heavy” courses first. The “top heavy” courses load the work up front, while the “bottom heavy” courses make everything due towards the end. By balancing “top heavy” and “bottom heavy” courses together, you can easily make progress and have something to work on each week as the semester go onward and take satisfaction at having an easily workload during finals week than most other students.
Tiffany Sanford Jenson
University of Oklahoma
Scheduling work in advance!
You always need to schedule your work in advance! Realize that only BAD papers are produced overnight with little revision, and sometimes no editing. You can’t expect a decent grade without any preparation invested. Schedule appointments to have your papers reviewed and revised for clarity at local campus writing centers in advance, well before the paper is due.
Understand that professors may not follow the textbook. Instead, to amplify the text, they give explanations, illustrations, provide background information, or include relevant research on the topic you are studying. They expect you to make the connection between lectures, classroom experiences, and your assigned textbook readings. This takes time and occurs at different moments throughout the semester. Lectures and assignments are designed in the assumption that you’ve already done your readings! Take time to do your readings in advance if possible, as class time will become more meaning and familiar to you. This is a better use of your time and you will find that exams will be easier to tackle as the learning experience has happened continuously rather than all at once (e.g. such as in a cramming session).
Professors may lecture nonstop, expecting you to take adequate notes that identify the most important points. When professors write on the board, they are amplifying the lecture, not summarizing it. That’s your job! Invest the time into solid note-taking skills. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. Make sure you can read your own handwriting and use summary abbreviations for longer words such as “govt” for “government” or “intnl” for “international.” You do not need to write down every word, but you should try to capture the main ideas and themes of what is being presented. If you intend to electronically record lectures, be sure to ask ahead of time if this is ok with the professor. Most are fine with this, but realize you may run out of time to listen to every word of every lecture. A good set of notes usually works better than a recording.
Professors expect you to synthesize unrelated topics together. In fact, this is what most exams try to accomplish. Rote memorization will not carry you as far if you cannot apply and integrate what you have learned. Synthesis is a skill that requires thinking at the next level, beyond familiarity with a term or concept. Invest your study time into a deeper understanding of concepts and use office hours to ask questions when they arise. Of course, one way to practice mastery is to teach someone else through a study group session.
Spend time reviewing class notes from the previous class before your class begins that day as an exercise to help you connect the ideas from one day to another. Learning is a fluid exercise and happens cumulatively, and usually not all at once.
Not all of your learning will occur in a classroom. Be open to practice your ideas and experiment with this new knowledge you have acquired.
Tiffany Sanford Jenson
University of Oklahoma
College is a meaningful life experience that most students enjoy, but unfortunately time flies by quickly and students need to make the most of every opportunity provided for them. When I started college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro I spent tremendous time learning how to read the undergraduates’ bulletin so that I could plan out every class I needed to take each semester until I graduated. I looked at all the prerequisites that I needed for every class when I made my preliminary schedule. By preparing this schedule, I knew what classes I needed to take before I went to my advising sessions; therefore, I was able to make better use of my time at the advising sessions discussing with my advisor my future plans at the university. Also, by making a schedule beforehand, I found it easier to network with other students who had taken classes that I needed to take in order to graduate. I discussed with these students whether or not they thought a particular professor taught a specific class better than other professors.
On the first day of my classes, I
was always given a syllabus, and I would write down on my wall calendar the
days I had exams along with the days that projects and large assignments
were due. I used this calendar to plan ahead and organize a work schedule so
that I would not procrastinate and so that I would not have too large a work
load any night of the week.
Throughout my college career, I have learned that it is easier to always attend class because professors give hints in class as to what they will emphasize on their exams. The professors will always say things like “this idea is really important” or “this concept is needed to understand any other topic in this class” or “this material is the most significant element in this chapter.” Statements like these helped me plan out the topics that I needed to focus on and study the most. I also learned that it is best not to wait until the last minute to work on group projects because problems may arise in delegating tasks. Furthermore, the group may need to ask the professor to clarify project requirements, and I have found that most professors are far more willing to help out the groups of individuals who seem to be putting in a better effort by starting the assignment in a timely manner.
Classes are not the only important aspect in college though. Other social aspects are also essential to making the college years great. I sincerely believe that every student should consider studying abroad because it is a remarkable learning experience. Most colleges offer students the opportunity to pay tuition at their home university while attending a university abroad. While abroad, students can interact with individuals from different cultures and gain a worldwide perspective. I recommend looking into a university’s study abroad program in the freshman or sophomore years because it is easier to take general education requirements abroad versus taking specific major requirements abroad. I would also urge students to get involved in their college communities by joining different clubs and organizations. Not only will these organizations look good on a resume, but through these groups students are able to meet more people on campus and are able to develop life long friendships with people who have similar interests. Overall, college can be a wonderful, exciting experience so I advocate making the most of it by taking advantage of every opportunity that arises.
Sarah Elizabeth Compton
University of North Carolina
On going above and beyond....
When I got my first job at the age of 12 (babysitting), my dad gave me advice that has proved to be invaluable. He said, "Anyone can do the job they are hired for. Always do a little more than expected."
This has helped me to be successful in a multitude of different jobs over the last 30 years. It also applies to schoolwork. Anyone can turn in the project as assigned. Always go above and beyond what is required. You will be remembered for it and in time rewarded for it as well.
Master of Arts in Educational Leadership
Texas A&M University
Seven Keys To Academic Success:
1. Read slowly and analytically - Make detailed notes to complement your readings while drawing references to other literature and synthesizing information.
2. The professor is your ally - Feel free to discuss the course with your professor and if you are having difficulties, those should be voiced early on so that you can get their assistance.
3. Time blocking - have a dedicated portion of time completely devoted to school work and allow yourself extra time for subject areas that are more challenging.
4. Knowledge is power - Always research more than what the paper or subject matter requires. Additional information can be quite useful for subsequent assignments, making the process easier the next time around. Also collaborate with classmates exchanging information and ideas.
5. Plan for the semester - If you have a syllabus and course outline, do advance reading and preparation for class. Note when assignments are due and coordinate with other course workload so that you are not overwhelmed.
6. Take a load off - In moderation, make sure you give yourself enough time for rest and relaxation where school work is not pressing. If your brain is overworked and overloaded it will be of no use to you anyway. Don't force yourself to do school work when you have a mental block, instead do something enjoyable then get back to it sometime later.
7. Positive energy - Have a positive outlook on the semester, the courses, school work and the professors. Negativity is self-defeating.
|Jason A. Ellis
Master of Arts in Public Administration
University of Memphis
Two of my hardest classes taken during my college experience were both of my Western Civ. classes. They were difficult for a few reasons: large class size (80-100 students), no textbooks, and the information was very detailed and not applicable to everyday life. Every class consisted of the professor standing behind a podium and lecturing straight for 90 mins. Here are some tips and strategies that I used for both of these classes that helped me be successful and do well in the class. These strategies can be applied to any type of lecturing class, not just Western Civ. classes.
First off, you need energy in order to be able to keep up for 90 mins. and be able to write fast. Make sure to eat before class and/or bring something small and simple with you. Bring a coke, coffee or energy drink with you to help keep you going. The next piece of advice is a personal preference. I ALWAYS handwrote my notes. However, many people prefer to type their notes because they type faster than they write. While this maybe true, I find that by handwriting my notes, I learn the material better. The material seems to stick with me and I remember what I wrote rather than what I typed. Make sure to bring a lot of paper, pencils and extra writing utensils.
After class was over I would make sure to go back to my notes at some point THAT day to highlight keywords, people, dates or events. I also reread my notes to make sure they made sense or that I could read all of my handwriting. Going back over your notes on the same day of class is so important because the material is fresher in your mind. Each day you wait the easier it is to forget what you were writing, meant to write or to remember what the professor said. Also this gives you time to meet up with a classmate before the next class to compare notes to see what you might have missed or any incorrect information (such as dates or names, etc) that you may have written. ALWAYS date your notes and keep them in order because this will help you keep the information straight. This is key for Western Civ. classes since chronology is crucial to understanding history.
Next comes the test. For history classes where the material isn't common knowledge allow yourself MORE time than normal to study for these tests. I usually started studying for my tests a week ahead of time. However, it doesn't matter how much time you spend studying for the test, but rather HOW you spend that time. USE TIME WISELY AND EFFECTIVELY!! I always went somewhere quiet where I would not get distracted. Studying should be in designated chunks of time. For example: I would study for about 2-3 hours a night. After 3 hours I was burnt out and knew I couldn't study for this test anymore so anymore time spent was a waste of time. During these 3hours I took 2-10min. breaks. I used the bathroom and maybe made a quick phone call in order to get my mind off of studying. Breaks are a crucial part of studying.
This is how I studied for
these tests: I took my notes and read over 1 page at a time. After
each page I rewrote my notes to make a condensed version This technique
helped me pick out the important stuff that I wanted to remember and leave
out the extra stuff that wasn't crucial to know. Once again handwriting my
notes helped the information stick with me!! This is the approach I used for
all the tests and it worked so well! Studying in groups is great if done
effectively. I recommend studying the material on your own FIRST. Then go to
your group studying session. Here you can ask any questions you have or
clear up any confusion. Secondly, since you already have a good handle on
the information, you can help "teach" your peers the information if they
aren't understanding something. Teaching someone else the material helps you
gain a better understanding of the material too!
I hope these tips and strategies help you to be successful in class!
Katie Marie Daniels
The Crucial Act of Support
I am an older student that made a decision to return to school full-time and even relocate to a different state. I come from a very active community life in Fort Worth. I worked with a non-profit and was on many boards and committees in the area. It was a difficult decision but one that I am thankful I made. The ability to immerse myself in the academic environment has allowed me to succeed to levels that I would never have imagined. I know it is not always possible to pursue an education full-time but the difference has been dramatic for me. It changed from ‘getting by’ to ‘savoring the experience’.
Something that is essential for success in my opinion is support and encouragement from friends and family. Although dedicated and persistent, I am not sure I would have continued on to where I am today without that support. We are all social creatures and we need each other. As my ancestors have said “we are all connected in the web of life”. Balance is necessary for success and creating the space for interaction with friends and family is essential, even during our academic endeavors. Too many students along my path have not been able to sustain themselves when there was not the support of their family or friends. Some drop out, some go back home. My hopes are that they continue their education where they are close to their support network.
Remember if there are those that you are aware that need some friendly support, let us try to help each other out and encourage each other both in action and verbally.
Marjeanna Faye Burge
Master of Indigenous Nations and Peace & Conflict Studies
University of Kansas
I have learned that organization and time management is the key to a successful academic career. I utilize lists for every aspect of my life, but I find them most helpful for School. I make lists for short term goals I plan to achieve in my classes, like weekly work that needs to be accomplished, and I make lists for the long term items for planning purposes. Before beginning any assignment I make a list of what I want to achieve and a plan of action. This technique is especially good for papers and helps to keep you on track. Also, if there is an assignment in which I need to read a book, I find it helpful instead of reading the entire thing in one shot to divvy it up into sections. Again, I will make a list of which pages need to read by which dates. I find it easier to retain the information in smaller doses. The planning ahead helps to reduce stress and ensure that I am able to concentrate on other facets of my life besides just school.
University of Virginia
1) Use an assignment calendar and write everything in it every day for every class.
2) It will SAVE your life!
a. Things get busy and it’s easy to forget certain smaller assignments or assignments that have a due date that’s a month and half away.
b. Many professors will not remind you about the assignment except for the first time they assign it to the class.
1) DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE.
a. This stresses you out.
b. This forces you to provide work that’s not your best because you are not relaxed and not giving yourself enough time.
c. It is a great feeling to be done early and have free time for the weekend.
d. If you just set your mind, restrict yourself some to do work at specific time intervals then you’ll be much more productive and you will not despise doing the work as much.
2) Set Goals for Yourself.
a. This is good practice for the rest of your life.
b. You do not want to be an aimless wonderer who stays in college forever to “find themselves”. You will get tired of it as you mature and look forward to the next stage in your life.
c. This will help you accomplish more and opens your eyes to the many opportunities available to you.
d. This will also help you manage your time and succeed overall because you will have something important that you want and will enjoy working towards.
Samantha Lynn Farris
Frostburg State University
When I was in high school (back
in the 1980s) I started out as primarily a B student in most of my classes
with a few A's. My parents told me that if I studied harder that I could get
A's. I took their advice and I did do better. During my last two years of
high school I was mainly taking home A's with a few B's. I graduated in the
top 10% of my class with regards to my GPA. I noticed then that I liked to
be challenged academically. I carried those words from my parents with me
while taking my college courses later in life.
In my mid 20's I decided that nursing would be the field I would excel in. I knew intuitively I could do well if I worked hard, studied hard and applied myself. In my 20's I pictured in my mind where I wanted to ultimately go to college to earn my four year degree and graduate school and what road I would have to take to get there. It's been a long road but a very successful one.
I enjoy challenges and reaching goals that I've set for myself. Once I accomplished one goal I would look to see if there was another goal that I could achieve, both academically and career wise. I started out in nursing in an LPN program. After that I looked to see what classes I would need to take to get my RN in the two year program. I then looked ahead to the additional classes I would need to get my four year degree and also took those while I did my RN two year program. When I transferred to my four year college I had all of the prerequisites done and then took the rest of the classes I needed for my undergraduate degree. I still looked ahead during undergraduate school and checked out what programs I would eventually be interested in pursuing for graduate school and saw what the curriculum required and what the entrance requirements were to the schools I applied to and made sure that I did everything that would get me in the door at those particular schools.
If there were courses that I could take for honors credit I did those since that gave me an edge in the admission process over other applicants. I also made sure that I met whatever GPA requirements were needed to get into particular honor societies and to include those memberships on my application process. These steps show college admission committees that you're willing to work hard and to excel and your achievements will be a step above other applicants into getting into competitive colleges.
For my study methods, if there was a test or paper that needed to be done I would start working on it early and do the proper research. I would include all the material that they would request. If there was a test coming up in a couple of weeks, I would usually start studying a week or two ahead of time to get all of the material into my long term memory. I would know when I had studied enough because when I tested myself I was retaining all of the material. I would then periodically review the material for a small amount of time before the exam. I always took time on my tests. I never crammed for tests. I never rushed through an exam. I went over the material 2-3 x before submitting it into the professor. I was usually the last one left in class but since I always took my time I did very well. I have always had to work, so I also always looked at how many hours a week a class would require of my time and balanced that with my work schedule.
Looking back over the course of my life, I've been blessed to attend all of the schools I wanted to go to. I went to schools that were my first choice and got in. Both the LPN and RN schools were my first choice. Also, I was privileged enough to attend the four year college and graduate schools that were my first choices - Johns Hopkins University for my undergraduate degree and Georgetown University for graduate school. It's been a lot of sacrifice but overall worth every step. I can definitely say without a doubt that attending these schools has been the highlight of my academic success.
Best of luck with your career and successes in academia!
Nancy M. Gruber
Master of Science, Clinical Nurse Specialist
Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies
1. I know it sounds silly, but
on the day of an exam, I always dress up a bit. I read a study that said if
your personal confidence is up due to your physical appearance, then you
will perform better than average. So now I make sure to leave my normal
school days sweat pants at home on a test day, and shine up a bit. And I
tell you what, I have felt better and performed better on tests!
2. If I am taking a big lecture class, I always take a few moments at the end of the first day to introduce myself to the professor afterwards. It shows respect, dedication, and I always prefer to be known as a name and not a face. Should you need to set up an appointment or email your teacher, they will know you by face, and that always helps.
3. The day before a test, I always make flash cards on index cards. The topics can be broad or specific, but by just writing things down, these facts stick in my mind better.
4. To help me remember material, I use word association. For example: I was taking a test in a film class, and I couldn't remember who was considered "America's Sweetheart". It was Mary Pickford, so I started to repeat over and over "Mary is picky, but she sure is a sweetheart". This stuck in my head, and I then associated Mary Pickford with America's Sweetheart. If you can tie the question to an answer with a little phrase or rhyme, the information will be easier to recall on test day.
5. I always look at homework as a job that I will get paid for. Please TRUST ME when I say that you it is far better to do the bad stuff first, (ie: homework) then get rewarded, (ie: watching tv, or going to meet friends.) I will set limits to what I can be rewarded with based upon how much homework I have done. It takes a bit of self-discipline, but there are plenty of hours in the day to enjoy if you just manage your time well.
University of Nevada Las Vegas
It was chaos in the classroom. I was trying to quiet down my 4 year olds,
but they were yelling and running around the room. Quickly thinking of any
idea, I got out some crayons for them to color with. No, that didn't work.
Neither did a storybook. Finally, I shouted, "Everyone get a chair! We're
going to make friendship bracelets!" The children loved that idea. They all
were seated immediately, and I grabbed the strings and beads. I explained to
the class what a friendship bracelet was and how they will each trade it
with a friend. I repeated it so I knew that they understood. Well after the
bracelets were completed, I told the 4 year olds that it was time to trade
it with a friend; hence the meaning of a friendship bracelet. You know 4
year olds, they don't want to share anything; so not one child wanted to
give their bracelet up. "But it's mine! I made it" was all I heard in the
classroom. My lesson didn't go as planned, but I thought it was okay because
the class was finally settled.
Parents were starting to pick up soon after. Each child went home, and we showed off our bracelets. Amir's mom had just shown up. I explained to his mom about my lesson objective of a friendship bracelet and how it didn't work out. Then randomly, Amir looks up at me and says, "Miss Heather, I want YOU to have my bracelet." It was a moment that I will never forget; the power of a child. My lesson got through his head, and I was a proud teacher.
And this was the day that I knew that teaching is what I am meant to do. We all have those "ah-ha" moments, and it is then that we are lucky to have a profession that we love (now we just have to graduate and do it!).
Arizona State University
The best advice I can offer for "academic mastery" is to have multiple positive forces outside of your world of work. Having places, people, activities, rituals, and thoughts that make you feel content and strong are essential to being a fully developed individual. These elements rejuvenate your creativity, make your life happier and therefore make you more effective, and most importantly, they allow you to look at academic problems from new perspectives and remember why you want to excel in the academic world.
In order to be successful one should :
1. "If a drop of water falls in a large water body, it has no identity but when it falls on a leaf, it shines like a pearl". Think about the short term and long term goals for yourself and the right place for you so that you can be the pearl at that place. Like what do you want to achieve in life and where do you want to see yourself 5-10 years from now. These goals can be in terms of levels that you want to reach professionally and other things that you want to do in life which at this point might be difficult to do maybe because of money constraints or any other constraints. So, goals in terms of the professional career which in turn will help you achieve goals in your social life too.
2. You should have the sincere determination, dedication and a crave towards everything you do which will help you to reach that level where you will be able to achieve those goals of yours step by step.
3. For this you need to plan just a general framework, about how are you going to reach those goals and what you want to achieve in terms of your academic career so that you can get into a good job which will be the beginning of the ladder that you have to climb for reaching the final long term goal.
4. Be systematic in your approach towards every task that you carry out which will help you being clear about your next step. One should prioritize the responsibilities and carry them out accordingly. Give it a thought about what is important for you and what is good for you and at the same time be humble. Don't be over confident about anything. Keep your confidence level at a point which is necessary to do your work successfully. Over confidence can ruin things by causing mistakes.
5. Be strong at mind and don't be attracted to smaller pleasures of life, dream big so that it will always keep you working to reach that dream. At the end you might or might not reach that bigger dream but in the process you will achieve at least the dreams which will give you a feeling of satisfaction.
6. Last but not the least, have faith in yourself in your capabilities and have faith in God and things will fall in the right place. Hard work always pays off. For some it pays off early and for some it may take some time but in the end the results of the hard work done by you will be good. Also always remember that " Even the word IMPOSSIBLE says 'I M POSSIBLE' ", so always try before you give up on something.
Masters in Financial Engineering
University of Michigan
The key elements to long-term success is an undying passion for your work
and a positive attitude. A positive attitude is essential because that is
what will give you the strength to get through the frustrations which are
inherent in every discipline of life. To get this attitude, the first step
is self-confidence- "I can do it!". Extra-curricular activities are a great
way to build self-confidence. To substantiate my point, let me tell you the
story of my life.
In my primary and middle school days, I was an above average student. I used to take part in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities and my grades were always near the top of my class. When my family shifted to a new country, all the extra-curricular activities came to a full stop. I had to learn a new language and had extra tuition classes to be able to cope with the lessons as I'd joined when half the school year was over. I did acceptably well in the finals and started the next year. But I had lost interest in what I was learning and school life had become monotonous. By the time I completed my 9th year, my grades had gone down below average, and my self-confidence all but lost. My parents were far from pleased and I had no hopes of securing a good high school subject choice if I didn't perform well in my 10th grade. Then, I joined tennis lessons and started playing regularly. It was miraculous how my performance took a turn after that. I was positively motivated when I realized that I was good at tennis and this gave a great boost to my self-confidence and helped me improve my concentration. I secured third rank in my school, and got to choose the subjects of my interest. Over the years, I have seen to it that I keep learning new things and find new ways to better myself by taking part in plays, yoga classes, athletics; and strangely enough, the more I did, the better I performed! I am now half-way through a Masters' in electrical engineering with a 4.0 GPA and I continue to play tennis and practice yoga every day, which is extremely refreshing after a long day of work.
In conclusion, all I have left to add is that Life is very short, so live and love every moment, and try to learn as much as you can because knowledge is indeed power!
Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
a. Financial plan: complete your FAFSA before or by the deadline to help you determine the cost of your education, your expected family contribution and repayment schedules of any loans you may need to apply for. Most likely your budget will require a long-term adjustment to allow the extra expenses for tuition, books, materials and other related cost. Check with your employer and research scholarship options to off-set your out-of-pocket expenses. Take as many classes as possible with your local community college and transfer them to your 4-year school of choice.
b. Degree plan: the sooner you can decide on a degree plan the sooner you will get a firm guideline which courses you need to take. If you have not completed your core requirements you should do so at your nearest community college for several reasons: the tuition is much lower; the classes are much smaller; you may not even need to borrow money to cover the cost. At the 4-yr school you should plan to enroll in more courses than just a full load because many schools will not charge tuition for courses above your full load. Also, the degree plan will help you maximize short semesters by planning ahead which courses are offered towards your degree during short and flex semesters. Also, be prepared that some courses are only offered during certain semesters so be sure to work out a long range plan. Your degree plan is your roadmap with the most accurate, most efficient and most economic route towards graduation. It will help you stay focused and deter you from dropping courses easily.
c. Study plan: budget your time as you would budget your money. Neither of these resources come easy – but they go very fast :-). Set time aside for studying and homework calculating your out-of-class preparation time at 2-3 times (weekly) the amount of credits a course gives you (Example: 3 credit hour course: 3 hours in class per week, 6-9 hours prep time per week). Build a firm schedule which shows your class schedule, study time, work, and other obligations. Be sure to leave time to relax and also for sleep. Be realistic where you may need to adjust your time commitments. It does not make sense to borrow money for a college education and then fail to follow through on your time commitment. If you are coming fresh out of high school you are still in study mode and should be comfortable with a school schedule. If you have been out of school for a while, ease into it. Start with one or few classes and slowly increase your load with each semester. This incremental approach will keep your adjustments on time, finances and other obligations at a manageable rate. Once you have reached the maximum course load you have reached the highway of your education road trip. You will be moving towards graduation at a much faster speed.
Applied Technology and Performance Improvement
University of North Texas
I'm a graduate student working towards my masters degree in Special Education. I also work full-time and I'm raising three children, ages 16, 14, and 9 on my own. My youngest child is a foster child, which I do in addition to everything else.
My greatest advice for students is get a date planner/ calendar. As soon as you receive the syllabus from your professor, write all assignments, etc. on your planner. This is especially important if you have several classes. At the beginning of each and every week, check your planner/date book for assignments due that week. Cross them off as you complete them. Do not wait until the very last minute to complete assignments - take the time to do your best work. You get out of it what you put into it! Little effort yields bad grade! Big effort yields knowledge and great G.P.A.!
The second pointer is to make sure you attend and participate in class. You and/or your parents are paying thousands of dollars for your classes and books, so get your money's worth. Professors love it if you participate and if there's a grade for participation, you have to participate anyway. Finally, if you participate it helps the class go by faster.
Third, type all of your assignments. If you don't have a computer, there's a computer lab. on campus or the public library in your local area. It's important to actually complete assignments and hand them in on time. It's also important to make each and every completed assignment your best work. Make it look neat and professional. You are not in high school anymore. Everyone you're in class with is just as smart as or smarter than you are, so do your very best work. Your work is a reflection of who you are inside!
Finally, ask questions! If you don't get it or understand, ask! I'm sure there are 10 more people just as confused as you are!
Do your best! When it comes time for those tough interview questions, you will know the answers if you do your work, participate, and hand in assignments!
Get to know people who sit around you in class. You may need to borrow their notes or get clarification on an assignment later on...
Masters, Special Education
This is, I believe, one of the most important factors to succeeding as a student. With a limited number of hours in a day, week, month and a semester, students must learn to balance all of the many facets of their lives in order to achieve academic excellence.
What has always helped me was to keep a calendar. Set it up as soon as you get your syllabus and update it as needed throughout the semester. Write down all assignments and tests and their due dates on your calendar. For term papers and other written assignments, give yourself a "rough draft" date in advance of the due date so you can have ample time to edit and revise if you need. Mark down any in-school and out-of-school activities or commitments as well. A good habit to develop is on Sunday, before the start of the week, prepare a weekly schedule.
- Record your daily classes
- Write down things to be done that week from your semester calendar
- Add in any activities/appointments
- Schedule in times for finishing assignments working on projects and studying for tests (including nights + weekends)
- Place a check mark next to things as you accomplish them
Master of Science in Nursing
West Chester University
Choose your major wisely. Find out if the major requires a thesis - and if it requires one for honors. Look at course offerings, requirements, professors' areas of interest, and students' thesis topics. It is much easier to be in the right department to begin with than to switch midway through college.
Do not be afraid to ask questions and use the resources that are right at your fingertips. Asking intelligent questions will get you further than pretending to already know the information. Speak to professors about their experience working in academia because it will help you determine if you are interested in pursuing a PhD or other higher degree. Professionals who currently work in your field of interest are invaluable resources because they can inform you about the day-to-day reality of their field, rather than presenting a glamorized version in the classroom. Take the time to think about what you want to get out of life, what is important to you, and what kind of lifestyle you would like to have. If you get to know yourself and start trusting your personal preferences you can avoid spending a lot of time inadvertently working toward someone else's goal!
Master of Science in Social Work
Florida State University
For On-line Courses:
I print EVERYTHING the professor posts. Even if you think it is something insignificant, like a small note, or a date, or a change...PRINT IT.
I print everything posted, and keep it organized with a
3-ring binder. I keep a 3 hole punch right beside my printer, and as the
pages come off, I hole-punch them, and put them in order in the binder. I
also use this time to add any notes or tests dates on the pages I printed.
I use a different colored binder for each course. I label the binder with the class name, the professor's name, and the required texts in APA format (so it is easy to reference if needed) at the beginning of the semester.
This helps keep me organized, and I always have easy access to when assignments are due, when tests are, and any other information that I may need. This may also help with traditional classroom settings.
Clarion University of Pennsylvania
Study Techniques and Habits
During my academic career I realized that practicing certain study skills helped me achieve a higher GPA. One of the most effective steps I took was to get organized by setting a study schedule. At the beginning of each semester I would take a thorough look at all of my syllabi to get a sense of the expectations each of the professors had throughout the term. Knowing that my professors were not liable to stray from their syllabus, I marked my calendar with all the papers, exams, presentations, etc. that were scheduled. By doing this, I was able to check my calendar regularly so to prepare for multiple assignments in advance, which decreased the unnecessary stress of trying to remember everything for the upcoming weeks. After marking my calendar, I would try to anticipate each assignment by giving myself ample time to prepare for them. So if there was a lengthy term paper to write or mid-term to study for, I would check my calendar and begin researching, outlining, drafting and/or studying about two weeks prior to the end date. Giving myself this time dramatically increased the likelihood of my producing quality work or better comprehending course material. By following this timetable, I found that I had less anxiety and more confidence with the papers I produced or the exams I completed. This was especially critical during those very stressful mid-term and final periods when grades are weighed more heavily. While this method of preparing two weeks in advance worked for me, other people might feel they need more or less time. I would recommend that each person adjust themselves according to their particular need. Some classes may require less time than others; it all depends on the individual. Nevertheless, I feel it is essential that students mark up their calendars and make up a study schedule and stick to it. If indeed they do follow this routine, I believe that it will most likely improve their GPA.. It worked for me and I think it will for others too.
A second habit I fostered was completing homework assignments, even the seemingly insignificant ones, on time. Throughout my four years, there were many days when all that the professors assigned was reading. While it was very tempting to defer such simple assignment, I found that by forcing myself to sit and read I kept from falling behind. I have learned from personal experience that when one does put off the smaller assignments, they come back to haunt you. It is imperative for students to understand that the pace of college is must faster than in high school, which means that there will be more reading and homework than usual. The teachers will expect you to have read all the material when assigned and usually will not stop to go back unless you meet them outside of class, at best. Furthermore, by procrastinating, assignments will only accrue as there will be more materials to read and review for other classes than you can reasonably manage. Therefore, if you find you have time, work on assignments as soon as you receive them. Do what you can when you can since you don’t know what the next week’s responsibilities may bring. Good luck!
Anne Marie Skalecki
University of Dayton
You can succeed college with a learning disability! I am
proof and I succeeded with a 4.0 GPA. Although college can be especially
challenging for students with learning disabilities, success is still an
option. You may just have to work a little harder than the average student
does. Here are some strategies to help you succeed in college with a
Make sure you are eligible for college services. In order to be eligible for the services provided to learning-disabled students, you must provide documentation to your college showing that you are learning disabled. Make sure you utilize the services offered. Colleges provide academic accommodations to students with learning disabilities. Accommodations may include use of tape recorders, note takers, textbooks on tape, test readers, tutors, and much more. Therefore, check with your college has to offer. I used tape recorders and it helped me. Make sure you select an appropriate set of courses. When registering for courses, be sure to pick less demanding classes along with your more demanding classes. Having a good balance of courses will keep you from feeling overwhelmed. I would take two challenging classes along with two classes that I would consider easy. For example, I would take an English class, Biology class, Health/PE, and enjoyable elective. Make sure you attend all classes. If you know that you are not a morning person then do not sign up for an 8am class. As a learning-disabled student, it is crucial for you to try to attend every class so you do not fall behind in your studies. So schedule your classes that will suit your schedule. Always stay organized. Organization is the key in being successful at college. The combination of classes, assignments, study time, social events, club meetings, work, etc. makes it crucial for you to stay organized. Create a weekly calendar of your schedule, assignment due dates, test dates, project deadlines, etc., and make sure to review the calendar on an everyday basis. Be aware of your learning differences and limits. As a learning-disabled student, you may find that it takes you longer to complete assignments than your classmates. Therefore, you may have to start working on projects and homework assignments before they do. Be sure to set aside a time period for working on projects, studying, etc. that is convenient for you. You need to know yourself and your learning disability in order to allow yourself enough time to finish assignments. Lastly, stay in contact with your professors. At the beginning of each semester, get in contact with your professors and let them know that you may need help along the way, such as note takers, alternative test formats, etc. If you have to use a tape recorder, be sure to ask if tape recorders are allowed in their classrooms and let your professor know about your disability. If you find that you are having trouble with assignments or tests, ask for their assistance right away; do not wait until you are failing.
Brooke Alston Jennings
Master of Science in Social Work
SEVEN STEPS for SCHOOL SUCCESS (plus a bonus tip)
From a lifelong student who is also a teacher.
1. STAY ORGANIZED. Why is this Number 1? Because without organization, everything else falls apart. Believe me, I’ve seen some near genius 7th graders who could not get an “A” in math because they couldn’t keep their things in order. Start by choosing a different color notebook for each class and then USE them. Have a place for your books and notes in your dorm. And make lists if you need them!
2. GO TO CLASS. Reading the book is just not the same as being in class. Professors usually make things more clear when they explain it their way. Don’t skip a class or you’ll find it easier to do so the next time.
3. TAKE NOTES IN CLASS. Writing something down helps to cement it in your memory. Plus, it will help you stay alert at your 8 o’clock class. Professors often mention something that will be on your exam but is not in your textbook. You’ll be much more likely to remember it on the exam if you write it down.
4. TAKE NOTES WHEN YOU READ. That way you can use your notes to review, rather than going back to find the important parts in the book. I think this is way better than highlighting your textbook (especially if you rent or borrow). Also, I knew of a student who made some extra cash by selling his meticulous reading notes. And taking such good notes benefited him on the exam.
5. HIGHLIGHT YOUR CLASS NOTES AND READING NOTES. With class notes, highlight and study them the same day you write them. Highlighting the most important parts of class/reading notes narrows down the important stuff even more. And these make for great last minute study guides for exams.
6. GET TO KNOW YOUR PROFESSOR. Introduce yourself. This will help you feel comfortable asking questions and contributing in class. This also helps the professor determine whether students are understanding the material. Most of your professors truly do want to see students succeed in their classes.
7. GET TO KNOW YOUR CLASSMATES. Classmates can be excellent resources. Form study groups with WORTHY classmates (as in, people who are serious about doing well). Cooperative group work is so valuable because it gives every person the chance to be the teacher and/or learner at various times.
Bonus tip: GET REST! Set aside time for sleep and relaxation. It will make you happier, healthier, smarter, more focused, and less stressed.
Carissa K. Goodlet
Master of Educational Administration
Youngstown State University
The pursuit of higher education is nothing short of tedious and
frustrating at times. But, it is those very obstacles that make it worth
your efforts. Life in itself is often frustrating and tedious at times, with
family, friends, careers, hobbies, etc. Higher education helps equip you
with the tools needed to tackle those difficult circumstances in life. It
helps you become more disciplined and motivated. The most rewarding thing of
all is looking back and being able to say, "I did it. I finished." Higher
education or academia changes your attitude and motivation when attempting
important goals in life such as a graduate degree or the career of your
dreams. Some of my life's most clarifying moments came when I found myself
in situations in my career where lessons I had learned in school such as
personality characteristics from an Organizational Behavior were applicable
to that very moment or that person. I was truly experiencing my education at
work, and it gave me an edge.
My advice is reach for the stars, and an education helps lift you up in that pursuit. If school in general is just not interesting, the way it changes who you are should be. Education is enrichment in my opinion, not work. It helps you grow, mature, and open your mind to things you may have never considered before. Higher education opens up doors to new people, opinions, cultures, and fresh ways of thinking.
My dedication to school and the discipline learned from it have molded how I approach my career and how I have chosen to raise my son. I started my career right after graduation in 06, was promoted a year later in 07 to a Brand Specialist, and decided to continue my education with an MBA through UTC. I will be finished in December of 2009 with my MBA. I decide to get my MBA before my son officially starts school, so I can focus on him and his education while he is in school. Because to me, it is so important that he understands the value of a great education.
University of Tennessee
Master of Business Administration
Always have a plan. Know where you want to go, have a plan how to get there and stay the course. Be prepared, use all available resources, and don't wait until the last minute to complete an assignment. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, just know which tunnel you are heading down.
Clara Jean Ervin
Pittsburg State University
Masters, Special Education
This submission is to the students who will be conducting research, or writing a research proposal for the first time.
I'll start off by saying that good research is extremely valuable for many reasons. The results can impact a person's life in a positive way whether it be medical research or clinical psychology research. Thinking outside the box is sometimes necessary to discover a better way to do something and can have long term effects on people's lives for generations to come. With that said I am no research expert, but I know enough to say that it shouldn't be taken lightly. Below are some practical tips for that big research project.
The first thing
I would ask myself when considering a topic for research is what am I
passionate about? What have I always wondered about and what benefit could
my results have on our society? If you pick a topic that isn't that
interesting to you, you may become bored and burned out easily. You may
think back to past events in your life and look for patterns of interest or
curiosity. Do you have a burning question that's not yet been answered? Do
you yourself gain gratification from your personal hobbies and interests
that impact you in a positive way in all areas of your life? What ideas do
you have for improving your own life and why? These questions are meant to
get your thought processes going in the right direction; you may come up
with your own questions that explore other concepts. Remember it's always a
good idea to run your ideas and thoughts by your professor. He or she may be
able to help steer you in the right direction. Keep in mind that your topic
may have a bottomless pit of data on it, or hardly any at all. Your
professor will be able to help you narrow a topic down that is too broad,
and show you how to find your data on the internet. If you need a certain
number of journal articles to collect, sometimes they will require them to
be peer reviewed. If you have any doubts as to whether or not your articles
are peer reviewed make sure to ask your professor. Don't assume that your
data is sufficient material until you get a green light.
After you have decided on a topic and have all of your data collected you'll need to absorb it all! I would suggest reading your articles and/or book reviews over a period of time. You may not need a week, but plan to read them slow enough to really grasp what the article is saying. Don't just skim them; it will make the task of writing the paper more difficult in the long run. You know if you are a fast or slow reader, so plan accordingly. Read in the morning if you are not a night person, and take breaks if you need them. Do what works for you personally, but try and really absorb the information. Highlight things that you might want to quote later on and keep all of your material neat and organized so that when you come back to work on your paper, you can find exactly what you need. I would also suggest buying a folder of some sort at your book store and some large paper clips to store your articles in. You may need several folders or a large binder. Most likely you will be searching for sources on the internet; it may be your best friend for a while so get familiar with a variety of resource finding web sites. Again, just make sure you are meeting the requirements when selecting a source, and always check when in doubt.
Last, but certainly not least, educate yourself on ethics and research. There are laws and regulations that you need to know about. You will be informed of this in your class, but it's your responsibility to learn them and put them into practice. Whether you do the actual research or just write a proposal, you need to think like you are really going to conduct your research design. Your professor will go over this in class in depth.
With these things said, the actual work is up to you. The preparation has its own challenges, but now it's time to put life into your thoughts and ideas. Try to enjoy your work; when it's all over you will have a big accomplishment that you can be proud of. And remember that you may be the next person to discover some new technique or form of therapy to benefit the whole world! Have fun and good luck.
Masters of Science in Counseling
Missouri State University
You have to be dedicated and focused if you are going to meet your mark. Remove all hindrances that block you from being serious. Have a calendar with enough space to write on, and outline what you will do everyday. Break large projects down into small daily tasks, and then make the time to complete them. Some things will have to be sacrificed for the time being, but if they are meant to be in your life, they will still be there after your goals have been accomplished. Once in a while reward yourself and give your mind a break, but remember that the fun has to stay brief for now. Eat well. Rest well. Balance. Work the best you can, and think about how you'll feel in the end.
Master of Science in Social Work
Morgan State University
Thoughts on Staying On Task and Sane
(1) Location is key. If you are easily distracted, switch up your study spot . If you associate places like your common room with socializing or your room with watching TV, don't study there. If you can't stay off Facebook or IM, pick a place without free wireless or Ethernet. I recommend Starbucks. You always feel so cool sitting at Starbucks being intellectual. That's some good branding... And chances are, there's at least one (or four, or seven, or eighteen...) nearby.
(2) Avoid at all cost the "pre-study break." You may want to justify this trap to yourself by saying, "Well, I opened up my textbook, started up my laptop, and sat down at a desk... that took some work! I'm wiped- it's beak time!" This needs to not happen. Trust me, the "pre-study" study breaks tend to be the longest. That being said, do take legit study breaks once in a while. Just give yourself a time limit. Set an alarm or something, unless you are in a place where an alarm going off may be discourteous.
(3) Don't rule out places with lots of people or music playing. It's not for everyone, but experiment with different study locations and atmospheres to learn which is best for you. But be honest. The place that's the most fun may not be the place where are most productive.
(4) It's always preferable to not have to stay up late working. Now, you WILL have so much homework that this is unavoidable, but if you prioritize well and do the most important, brain-consuming tasks first, you will only have the less-challenging assignments to do at night.
(5) Don't get into the habit of "needing" coffee to get up in the morning or stay up late at night. Nothing in coffee is good for you, and you only feel like you "need" it because you are addicted to the caffeine. Just like any addiction, this can be reversed. Energy drinks are even worse. Just.... don't. Please.
(6) You do not need to do everything you are assigned. Well, papers and projects are an exception. This mostly pertains to reading. Now I know this sounds very irresponsible, and it IS always preferable to do all your work. But this is not always realistically possible. Sleep is important. A social life is important. Mental health is important. If a professor gives amazing lectures that provide more-than-adequate summaries of the readings, you can afford to miss a few chapters ONLY if you absolutely have no time for it. Don't use this an an excuse to not work so that you definitely won't have time for it. And try to stick with slacking off only in easy classes and core requirements. Classes for your major, or classes with professors you want to talk wit further, should get priority.
(7) As an even more last resort, apply tip #6 to missing classes. Now, of course ditching class is bad. But if you were up 'til 5 working on an essay, you may want to consider missing your 8:15 class just this once to get some sleep. Showing up half-asleep wouldn't be of any benefit. Just make sure you can get the notes from a trustworthy friend.
(8) Join clubs. Explore the town/city. Maybe get a low-stress part-time job somewhere fun, like a favorite store. Exercise regularly. Whatever it takes to get your mid off of classes once in a while. You need to strike a manageable balance between work and play. Your mind and body will thank you for it. It's college. Get the most out of it as possible, which means going beyond the world of academia, without straying completely from it.
Isabella Maria Janusz
I have found that one of the most important factors for me in achieving academic success has been to maintain balance in my life. It took some time of always putting school first for me to realize what didn’t work for me.
I make time for things that I really enjoy and care about, like spending time with the people I love, running, traveling, and taking time to myself. I find it necessary to maintain a clear separation between school time and my time. I don’t like to bring school work on vacation, and I like to have at least one day a week where I don’t do any work, no matter how much work I have to do. When I feel happy and fulfilled in my own life, the school work comes much easier.
Jamie Marie Ellison
University of Florida
Masters, Counselor Education
Study Techniques and Habits
• Choose the proper study environment.
• Make flash cards. Write the question on one side and the answer on the other. You’ll find that after one review, you’ve retained most of the information. Then, you can use your time more effectively by reviewing those topics that you haven’t yet mastered.
• Have a friend help by testing you with your cards.
• Keep your cards with you at all times. You never know when you’ll be waiting (in a doctor’s office, before class, or in a restaurant).
• Remember that even if you can think of an answer but can’t explain it, you need to keep studying!
• If there are study questions at the end of your chapters, use your time to answer them. There’s a good chance that at least one of your exam questions will come directly from your study questions in the text.
• Compare study notes with classmates or a study group. Others may be focusing on a topic that you haven’t thought to study and vice versa; getting input from others will help you to learn more effectively!
• Classmates can also help you to understand material that you can’t quite grasp in a way that instructors can not.
Master of Health Administration
The University of Memphis
Maintaining a Healthy “Work/Life” Balance
There is much to be said about the value of a formal education. Logically, an individual’s investment in higher education provides the opportunity for growth professionally. But arguably, as equal in importance, it too is the premiere venue for Jack or Jane Student to mature socially into Mr. Jack Adult or Mrs. Jane Adult.
For those of us who are part-time students, I believe that our unique situations have vetted us for this maturation and transition well – more through circumstance than necessarily happenstance. Our responsibilities to our jobs, families, communities, and any other critical need that forbade us from attending college full-time have taught us the value of living with a healthy balance of our responsibilities. Time management becomes as essential of a commodity to us as any other in our lives.
The ability to balance these multiple-needs is a lesson that must be learned in college but cannot be taught by any professor. I cannot promise you that what has worked for me will necessarily work for you (since we are all different), but let me share with you three of the critical tricks-of-the-trade that I have picked up through my graduate studies at Georgetown University and my undergraduate work at La Salle University and the American University.
1. “Take It Serious”
College is an investment in not just our money, our families’ money, and our government’s money in us. But it is also a HUGE commitment of our time. No matter whether you are taking one class online in a continuing education program or you are a full-time undergrad, grad, doctoral, or legal student you’ve committed yourself to advancement through this investment.
Whether you’re playing Fantasy Baseball on ESPN.com or putting money into the stock market, the more time that you dedicate to managing your team or portfolio the odds are the better you will do. So too is college.
In discussing the importance of education in the 1958 State of the Union Address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said that hard work is critical to success and that hard work comes from, “state and local governments, private industry, schools and colleges, private organizations and foundations, teachers, parents, and—perhaps most important of all—the student himself, with his bag of books and his homework.” Although these comments were made more than 20 years before I was born, I’ve learned that Ike was right and take my time in and out of the class room very seriously.
President Eisenhower didn’t just see the importance of education to the individual, as the former Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in World War II, Eisenhower understood the importance of education to the national security of America. Therefore, this hero of heroes championed the most comprehensive investment in the United States’ history in education with his marshalling of the National Defense Education Act of 1958 – 50 years ago to today.
2. “Plan Ahead”
The planning and strategy to your education is very important both at the micro- and the macro-levels. Although you may not concretely know what career path you want to pursue after college when you walk into the student union for freshman orientation, I hope that you have a good idea. That is absolutely fine and I do recommend leaving some “wiggle” room.
When I started college in 2000, my mission was much different than what it was when I received my diploma in 2004. And since then, it has continued to morph as I’ve been studying for my Masters. Now these paths haven’t completely diverged from previous plans, but when I get to a point in my studies that I need to make a decision instead of rushing into one, I made a calculated decision based on the pros and cons of taking any of the paths at the fork in the road. An example of this came during the summer preceding my junior year at La Salle, a small liberal arts school in Philadelphia, PA. I had been taking my education very seriously for my first two years but realized that I needed to do something more than get good grades to separate myself from the rest of my classmates. So I decided to do a study-abroad program.
I looked into all of the recommended programs that my school offered. None of them fit what I was looking to do. Instead of accepting my options and just going to Rome – the closest program that fit my budding political interests – I began to research other opportunities and found the Washington Semester Program at the American University in Washington, DC. This program was ideal for me as my political interests focused more on the domestic agenda instead of the international; and more in a particular niche that fit my technical undergraduate degree. So I sought more information, spoke to people at the program, and brought the proposal to the director of my program and the associate dean of my school in the fall. The following semester I was on my way down Route 95-S to our nation’s capitol to study Information Technology & Telecommunication Policy for one semester. The program was all that I hoped it would be and more. But my next calculated decision on where I should take an internship led me to even more potential.
After receiving multiple offers from various government, non-profit, and for-profit institutions I whittled the list down to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the American Electronics Association (the largest high-tech trade association in the U.S.). After much consideration, I opted for the association internship. I spend the next four months working in their DC location and enjoyed it so much that I was able to transfer to their New Jersey office for two additional months after my semester ended. One year later, after I finished my senior year of college, I received a phone call from my previous boss (who I stayed in contact with) and was presented an opportunity to come back with a job. I interviewed and an offer was given with-in seven days. My plan after graduation had me returning to DC with-in three to five years…now I had an opportunity to jumpstart those plans early.
But this macro-planning for my future is just half of the formula. As I have stressed, time management is critical for our day-to-day life in balancing work, school, family, etc. So before I write any paper, I create an outline of my ideas. While I read any book or homework assignment, I write thoughts and notes in the margins that can be skimmed later. And before I start any week, I weigh all of the short- and long-term tasks that I have to accomplish and devise a strategy to do it. For instance today (Monday morning June 23, 2008), I made a list in my head of 10 things I need to do before I board a plane on Wednesday. Unlike my previous domestic study program in DC, my graduate level study abroad will be at Oxford University in England.
Without my micro- and macro-planning, I would not be where I am today: employed at a company that I respect with a fulfilling job, studying at a premiere graduate program at Georgetown University, and spending my summer in England and Brussels to supplement that education.
3. “Give Yourself Jason Time”
Obviously, I wouldn’t necessarily call it that – unless you too are named Jason or if you think it may help – but set aside time in your busy life for socializing and just R&R. You’re young and college is the place for you to find yourself and meet like-minded people that will help your maturation into adulthood.
DISCLAIMER: This doesn’t mean go out and party all day/night/week.
Finding the right amount of downtown and what kind is important to keep your life stress-free. This also should have “wiggle” room. You don’t need to be on a set schedule saying Tuesday night is your “Jason Time,” I’d actually avoid doing that because that too may become another job function in your multi-tasking life. Instead listen to your mind and body. When you’re tired, go to bed. When you want to play X-box 360 – do so, but hopefully just in moderation because you are not allowed to get better than me in it (just kidding).
Join student government or an intramural sports team. Play ultimate Frisbee on the quad with some friends. Volunteer in the community. Play more X-box 360. Just break-up your day and your routine.
Of your life-work balance, this is going to be your life part so you should take your personal time serious too. We all remember the famous line in the Stanley Kubrick classic, The Shinning with Jack Nicholson that “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.” Well, unless you’re dorm is a haunted hotel odds are Jack or Jane Student won’t get to the point of Mr. Nicholson's character, but you may burn yourself out.
Jason Langsner is studying to receive his masters in Communication, Culture & Technology from Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The graduate program explores how we use media and technology to communicate from social, economic, political, and cultural perspectives. He will be attending a graduate level International Business Management program at the Corpus Christi College of Oxford University in England this summer. He received is Bachelors of Arts, with honors, from La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA, where he studied Digital Arts & Multimedia Design with an IT concentration and had a minor in English. He also studied Information Technology & Telecommunication Policy at the American University’s Washington Semester program. He is also the Director of Internet Communications for the American Electronics Association.
For me the bottom line boils down to getting ahead.... and staying motivated.
Some of the issues I face are :
The very thin line between completing schoolwork and actually learning.
Balancing class, work, and a social life.
Keeping ahead in all of my classes without neglecting one.
Firstly, at the beginning of the semester everyone is in lazy mode. Preparing for a class is vital to success for me. This is a perfect opportunity to read over the first few chapters of the text book, and get an organized system in place for the class. I cannot recall how many times an organized notebook or binder of past homework's has saved me come time to study for exams. I knew right where to look and where to find it. (It also helps if you take good notes, show up to class well rested and focused and sit where you will be distracted the least even if it means not sitting by your best friend)
Secondly, don't wait until the night before homework is due to work on an assignment. It's much more beneficial if you want to learn to go to office hours or have a friend explain a troublesome problem or concept to you in a non pressure situation rather than fifteen minutes before you have to hand in the assignment.
Thirdly, in order to really do well you have to be motivated. Set aside time
for work, school, and friends and stick to that schedule. Schoolwork
everyday isn't exciting but it pays off. Find what type of
classes/profession interests you and follow that, don't make school a chore.
Most importantly learn, don't just complete. Completing an assignment for the grade or studying for the grade does you no good. If you make mistakes, look over them. Learn from them. Mistakes made on homework should never repeat on exams. Leaving a class confident in the material is much more important than a lucky A. The grade will come if you have truly been learning.
Just remember not to fall behind, stay motivated, and learn what you are being taught and I promise you will do well.
Jeffrey M. Otto
University of Michigan
Student exchange programs are an excellent opportunity for a student to study in a foreign nation and still earn college credit towards a degree. While overseas, a student will be immersed in a foreign culture and will gain a better understanding of the society, an experience he/she cannot receive in the states. And if the country does not speak English, language skills will be significantly developed during one's stay. When considering an exchange program, students should look for countries that offer specific benefits tailored towards their major. An art major would benefit greatly from a semester in France or Italy. A technical major would learn much in Japan or Germany. An environmental studies major could study the rainforests in Brazil. It's typically best to wait until your junior or senior year to study abroad, since the upper-division courses will directly tie-in with one's degree. Tuition is comparable to in-state costs, although travel, room, and board may cost more internationally. Even for just one semester, a student exchange program would greatly benefit one's understanding of the international scope of their future profession.
Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
University of West Florida
Margaret Thatcher once said, “Being in power is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Consequently, leadership is an evolving process. First and foremost, a leader earns the right to lead a group of people by establishing relationships, building trust, and creating positive experiences in the school community (Maxwell, 2007). In order to gain this level of respect, many items need to be taken into consideration. Leaders must be able to create a safe and orderly school environment so that learning can take place. A school administrator should be considered the instructional leader of the school by promoting and implementing curriculum and technology. Using professional learning communities to accomplish this goal is effective because they aid in creating a community of collaboration to foster ongoing learning by both students and teachers (Eaker, DuFour & DuFour, 2002). In addition, communication becomes essential between all stakeholders in order to effectively move forward. An educational leader must assume the role of a change agent in order to continually refine current process and implement necessary changes to fulfill the mission and vision of the school community. Finally an effective educational leader is passionate about their role as an educator; the energy derived from this passion drives an effective leader, even when times are tough.
Jennifer Busby Ridgway
Masters in Educational Leadership
Kennesaw State University
BECOMING AN EDUCATOR: IS IT FOR ME?
Many students find themselves finishing a degree in accounting, math, science or even history and wonder what on earth they will do with that little diploma once the university has sent them on their way.
For many people, the idea of teaching will at least come to mind as a possibility. The job has steady pay, summer and all major holidays off, room for advancement, and several other perks. It seems like a great choice for those who do not know what else to do with life. Besides, I can't count the number of times I have heard the expression, "Those who can't or won't do, teach." My response is always, "But those who do, have been taught."
Before you decide to become a teacher or even college instructor or professor, I urge you to consider the following suggestions.
1) Reflect on your school days sitting in a classroom. Recall those teachers who were "great" and those who were "lousy." Ask yourself what made them seem that way to you while you were in their respective classes? If it makes you smile to remember those teachers who meant the most to you and seemed to love their jobs, teaching could be for you.
2) Do you like people? If you don't, teaching is probably going to be difficult for you. Sure, we all have our pet peeves about children and even adults that drive us all crazy. It is how you deal with those that determines your effectiveness. Not all students will understand subject matter, but almost all of them understand human nature. If you don't like them, they can tell.
3) Do you love your subject matter (math, English, welding, etc.) well enough to talk about it every single day you work? Can you break the tough stuff about your subject matter into manageable chunks of information? If either of these makes you feel uneasy, teaching may be challenging for you.
4) Anyone can take a textbook home and stay one chapter ahead of the class and assign questions at the end of a unit each day. But it takes someone special to teach. Only about 50% of the job is subject matter. The other 50% is decision making and interpersonal skills. Once you realize this and students realize you care about them, the job is easy.
I HAVE A DEGREE, BUT HOW DO I BECOME A TEACHER? (NON-EDUCATION MAJORS)
If you hold a bachelor's degree in an area that is taught in public schools you should visit the college of education (also sometimes called the teachers college at some institutions) at your university. If you graduated from a community college you should find the education department at that college. You will need to speak with either an academic advisor or certification specialist for the college. These people will direct you where you will need to go from here. They will also give you a specific list of courses that you will have to take to achieve certification to teach.
WILL I HAVE TO TAKE MORE CLASSES TO BECOME A TEACHER?
Generally, yes. You will have to take several classes in adolescent psychology, classroom management, and pedagogy (techniques). States vary in their requirements in this area. A safe estimate would be six to nine courses in addition to your current degree.
DO I HAVE TO TAKE A TEST TO BECOME A TEACHER?
Generally, yes. Most states utilize Educational Testing Services (ETS) and their PRAXIS (C) test series. If you go to the ETS website you will be able to see the required tests and the scores needed for passing each test. Unfortunately, these tests are not free. They vary in pricing from around $55 all the way up into the hundreds of dollars.
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE REGARDING THE CLASSES AND TEST(S) FOR BECOMING A TEACHER?
The classes are generally not academically rigorous. Much of the coursework involves learning the state curricula and where to find them, understanding how to treat/discipline children/students (classroom
management), and how to write a lesson plan. Much of the material will seem like "common sense" to many, but some people struggle with how to CARE for children. I wish I could share the secret of caring with you, but it is something that you cannot be taught.
The tests for subject matter can be tough. I recommend looking over the FREE study materials that ETS provides. The materials that you can purchase from them can also be helpful, but they are also pricey. Make yourself flash cards and spend some time reviewing the basics of your subject matter. Also, many universities have copies of study materials that can be checked out of the library (see a librarian) or checked out of a special mini-library within the college of education (see the department chairperson).
PhD, Educational Leadership
East Tennessee State University
So you’d like to study. Would you really like to study? That’s Lesson #1: engage the material at hand. Presumably at this point you’ve hit on something you like. Now run with it. It seems obvious to say, but beginning a study session anew, each day, is often the most difficult part. An appropriate Latino word for the energy one brings to the table in any given situation is ganas. Without ganas, without that drive, good results are impossible.
Lesson #2. Shoot for a quiet setting. People differ in terms of their preferred study spaces. Some like music; others like the white noise of busy cafes. In truth, whatever best conduces to the maintenance of sustained attention should be sought. I find a quiet corner of the library optimal in terms of productivity. Build yourself a fort in the back of the book stacks where people seldom walk. Make yourself comfortable. Pull up chairs, desks; put your feet up. Bring coffee, tea, plenty of healthy food. Look at the books around you for inspiration. And then begin working on your own classic tome!
Lesson #3. Learn to be a hermit. The best scholars really seem to have a sort of hermit on/off switch. Everyone knows that family and friends come first. People are what make life worth living. But when you decide to study, you should study—and nothing else! Turn your phone off. Leave the iPod behind. The amazing folks in your life will still be there when you emerge like a crazed recluse, exhausted and edified after seven hours of intensive study. And no doubt, after seven hours of intensive study, you’ll love all the people in your life more than before!
Lesson #4. Adopt a stress-reduction technique. Studies have demonstrated that, while a reasonable amount of stress enhances productivity, stress in excess greatly diminishes one’s capacity to function both physically and mentally. Study hard, but don’t let problems in your personal or professional life get the best of you. It happens to all of us sometimes—especially those of us driven to succeed at any cost. But you cannot succeed tied up in knots. Play sports. Practice yoga. Hike or rock climb. Dance. Get physical, and get plenty of fresh air. Success presupposes health.
Lesson #5. Practice concentrating. The more you concentrate, the more you can concentrate. The more you can concentrate, the better off you’ll be vis-à-vis your academic work. Meditation is helpful in this regard, so check out local WebPages if you think this is an avenue that might serve you.
Lesson #6. Enjoy yourself. Pick a course of study that you really dig. When you do something you love, you succeed automatically, effortlessly, as it were, because in this case, effort is easy. When activity is driven by passion, time in the conventional sense ceases to exist. You can do what you’re doing forever! And, objectively speaking, there is no ultimate goal, only a series of plateaus. As you continue forward, you’ll see that the plateaus are much less interesting than the process. Love of process is the supreme achievement, because the process continues no matter how many initials follow your name!
Keith David Sherman
Master of Arts in International Relations
Northern Arizona University
There are many things you should and should not do to help you succeed in
obtaining your college degree. These are my few words of advice.
Do not procrastinate; organize your time well. I believe this to be the strongest factor of academic success, once you know the material.
Find what study method works for you! Just because all your friends study in groups does not mean its the best way to study.
Get to know your teachers. I always go to a teacher's office at least once during the course of a class, so that they at least can put a face with my name. A relationship with a teacher can be the difference between an A and a B, or an okay job or a great job.
Also, get to know people outside of your normal circle. There are so many different types of people at college!
Exercise. Volunteer. Keep in touch with your family and old friends.
Make sure you have a great time. School is important, but so is having fun! If you are well organized and disciplined, you should have plenty of time left over to do the things you enjoy.
Start looking for a job early! It's time consuming.
Use your good judgment--jail time never looks good on your job application.
Lindsay Campbell Swany
Masters, Business Administration
University of Tennessee
A tip I have, and truly
believe in (because of personal positive benefits as well as scientific
back-up) is the practice of listening to classical music while doing
homework and/or studying. I find that piano music works best for me, and I
have definitely learned that I cannot ever have music playing that has any
kind of words, as the words distract me.
Research does show that classical music is not only a beneficial factor in adolescence and comprehension/ learning of mathematics, but it has been shown to help in comprehension and retention of material being studied in all ages.
One day in Sociology class right before an exam, a student saw me sniffing a tissue with peppermint oil. She asked me what I was doing, and I told her. Her response was, "I'll bet you listen to classical music when you study, too!" That was interesting, because I had been doing just that, (and still do), and because someone else must have read similar information as to what I had read, therefore reiterating my "strange rituals".
Monique L. de Graw
University of Central Florida
I know that attaining good grades and maintaining a solid level of success does not come easy. I know for a fact because I have experienced it. I was asked to participate in this new resource because I was "recognized as one of the highest achieving scholars of America" and I admit it gives me a good feeling, but anyone, everyone could be on this list. I am not a naturally, super-genius type of person; fortunately I was guided by an excellent set of parents, but not only that, I have had to apply myself indefinitely. I always asked questions, went to every class, talked with my professors, and spoke with other students around me. There is always someone that seems to know just a bit more than you and that will help you make it to that next level, in turn you will be that person someone needs some help from--it will give you an awesome feeling of accomplishment and that is what will always keep you going.
Natalie Kay Webb
When you get to college, don't let anyone tell you that you aren't capable of doing something. You are bound to hear the Dean, a counselor, or a professor tell you that although you were used to getting good grades in high school, "college is a completely different ballpark." It is true that college is different from high school- you have to really take self-responsibility in order to succeed. But if you were a hard-working determined, goal-oriented student in high school, chances are you'll continue to set similar goals for yourself in college. It is more difficult to get the 4.0 you may be used to, but being successful in your classes is definitely achievable. The most important thing to do is to introduce yourself to all of your professors and to take advantage of office hours. That is what saved me in my biology class. In college, many professors grade on a curve, and if they see that you're a hard worker and that you make an effort to maintain open lines of communication with them, you'll have a much better chance of doing well in their class; it separates the A's from B's and the B's from C's. (A professor will be much more inclined to bump you up to an A from an 88 if he/she knows you and recognizes your name than if you're just another faceless student in his/her class). So don't get discouraged- as clichéd as it may sound, if you believe you are capable and truly apply yourself you can accomplish almost anything.
College musicians are an interesting breed. While others study by the
book, spend hours in the lab, or stare at computer screens for hours on end,
the music student lives in a tiny practice room akin to a prison cell (minus
the windows). Others may note your pasty complexion and nod knowingly when
you explain that you go to the Such-and-Such School of Music. Being a music
major in college boils down to this- you, and only you, are in control of
your progress. There are no chapters to read, tests to pass, or theses to
write on the road to becoming a better musician. Instead, hours of practice,
introspection, reflection, and observation are your tools of the trade. The
stage life, the creative life, the life of an "artiste" is your oeuvre. That
said, it is easy to lose motivation and inspiration without any tangible
markers of progress. Here are some tips to help you stay productive:
1. It's easy to lose perspective left to your own, so get feedback. When you spend the majority of your time obsessing over little details and adjusting the tiniest elements of your playing/singing/composing, it's necessary to take a break and get a second opinion. Break out of your creative bubble and reach out to others to see how it translates. Your private teacher, your peers, chamber coaches, etc. can all provide interesting feedback.
2. It will never get any easier. Don't get discouraged; it's not supposed to be easy! Heed the words of legendary Sergei Rachmaninov: "Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music."
3. Reach out. Sometimes it seems like you are the only one who hears yourself play. Take opportunities to perform or organize them on your own. Don't feel like you're not being heard- you can make things happen. When in doubt, volunteer! It's truly rewarding to perform gratis.
4. Remember WHY. It's not easy to constantly have to prove yourself i.e. "you are only as good as your last performance." The years of sacrifice and dedication can sometimes seem for naught, but remember why you chose music in the first place. Or why "music chose you." If you constantly find yourself re-evaluating your passion for music, it might be a sign that you're meant for something else. If you know that this is what you love to do, then stay strong. Being a "starving artist" will only help your craft in the long run. And peanut butter and jelly isn't so bad either.
Master of Arts in Violin Performance
We all know the feeling: sweaty palms,
racing heart, sheer panic. Stage fright afflicts many of us when giving a
presentation, performing a recital, or speaking in public. Here are some
ways to battle nerves:
1. Visualize- Get as much information as you can about what awaits. Where will you be? Who will be there? What will happen? Imagine yourself completing the task successfully with as much detail possible.
2. Dry Run- Whether by yourself or with some friends for support, have a run-through. Practice performing and you will be sure to learn something useful.
3. Fight Dread- If you find yourself trying to ignore what awaits or starting to make negative predictions, become proactive. There is no better solution to feeling helpless than doing something about it.
In the Moment
1. Remember & Trust- This is the time to fall back on preparation. Remember that you are prepared and trust in your ability to carry through.
2. Focus- Don't let your mind wander or dart around the room looking like a nervous animal. Some people find it helpful to concentrate on focusing their eyes. Breathe deeply for four counts in and out. Make every motion purposeful and your mind will start to clear.
3. Quiet Negative Voices- See that your hands are shaking? Acknowledge it and move on. Don't freak out about what is happening to your body- it's a natural response to heightened adrenaline. If you find yourself looking for a way out or thinking negative thoughts along the lines of, "OMG! I can't do this! What am I doing here? This sucks!" repeat a positive affirmation. Create your own mantra and repeat it in your mind to help block out negativity.
Master of Arts in Violin Performance
EDUCATION IS A PRIVILEGE
I am 45 years old. After homeschooling my two children through 6th grade, it's my turn to FINALLY further my education. Namely, working (one class at a time) to obtain my Masters in Education. When I was 18 and an undergraduate I was told by my parents that my great grandmother had provided for my college education and I would not be required to work. Essentially, everything was taken care of and not to worry. Six years later, I finished school and not particularly well. I really took advantage of my situation and didn't realize what a gift I had been given. With all the time I took and transferring of schools, I could have spent the same amount of money and gotten my Masters right after my undergrad! I was given the greatest opportunity of a lifetime - a free education - and took it for granted. Now, here I am, trudging along, scrounging for study time, one class at a time, paying as I go. getting 'A's, and loving every minute of it and feeling like the luckiest person alive. I am usually the oldest person in my class and the one asking the seemingly silliest questions. I probably email my professors too much and bore my friends and family with what I'm learning. But, I am LEARNING! It has taken me 20+ years to figure it out, but now I can honestly say, I am privileged and will never take my education for granted again. I can't wait to share my new found knowledge with my future students and with anyone I see making the same mistakes I've made. Think of education as a gift and never turn it down!
Sheri Lynn Robertson
Masters in Education/Reading and Literacy
Mississippi University for Women
Advancement in education can be an exciting endeavor. Financial restraints can be one factor that prevents many from enjoying the benefits of an advanced degree. Therefore, financial planning for an advanced degree is highly important. The financial aspects of furthering your education does not only include the cost of tuition, books and supplies. Educational expenses may also include housing costs, automobile expenses, food, health insurance, personal expenses, etc. Personally, I have learned that there are unexpected expenses that may arise that will often put a damper on your budget. In addition, I often worry about how all of these financial responsibilities may affect my credit rating which foretells my future financial decisions. An easy fix to this dilemma is learning to budget and effective financial planning for your education. Loans are often used to help fund educational expenses, but keep in mind that these will have to be paid back, often times sooner than later when it comes to graduate level programs. Effective financial planning is the key to making sure your are able to cover the cost of school, as well as being able to afford outside expenses while keeping a good credit rating. It is important to learn to budget your money and not overlook the small expenses that often have a big impact on your overall budget. A lack in finances should not prevent anyone from having the opportunity to obtain further education. Saving, effective financial planning, obtaining and sticking to a budget are all keys to help prevent a total financial drought in the long run.
Marriage & Family Therapy
Mercer University School of Medicine
HOW TO DO YOUR WORK: The Manufacture of Inspiration
When I began my graduate program at Cornell University in landscape architecture, I was determined to do brilliant work, learn everything possible, and get the best education out of my 3-year program. That wasn’t really anything new, though. Like many people, I tend to go into new experiences super idealistic, an enthusiastic perfectionist, and then when reality inevitably sets in, I rearrange my priorities according to my interests, talents, and of course, my life.
This time it’s been different. For one thing, as a grad student, I don’t have much of a life outside studio. However, this isn’t as bad as it sounds! I have fun, but about 90% of the fun I have is located within my academic program. As design students, we take classes, eat meals, make friends, have parties, attend lectures, organize groups and meetings, do homework and research, watch movies even, all in our beautiful studio at Cornell. A few students I know seem to live in studio- sleep under their desks, eat in the cafeteria on the ground floor, etc. Many pull all-nighters at studio consistently, and most people I know (including myself) keep food, toothbrushes, even a change of clothes, at their desk. Last semester, I took four classes and was a teaching assistant for one other class, and as a result I was scheduled solid from 9 am to 4:30 pm. I spent the rest of my waking time doing homework. I still managed to live a balanced life, though- more so sometimes than other students, who sometimes didn’t do as well in classes as I did. I love dancing and managed to dance with the Tango group in Ithaca a few times a week. I often swam at the school pool in the evenings, I went to parties on the weekends, I hiked in Ithaca’s beautiful gorges, bought fruit and vegetables at the farmer’s market. I even managed to wade through The Last of the Mohicans in my spare time! I think the difference for me was that homework was suddenly exciting, and it was sociable, too. The people I wanted to be with were doing the same work I was doing, and most importantly, I had found a career that I loved. I can never overemphasize that last point: once you find what you love to learn about and spend your time doing, almost everything about school will suddenly make sense.
Before coming to Cornell, I was an English major. I had also gone to art school. I have always loved writing, reading and drawing, but these things did not necessarily encourage cooperative work, certainly did not demand collaboration, and, to me, working with others made all the difference. Collaborating on work that you care about with your peers and superiors can be an indescribably inspiring and motivating experience. I am fortunate that my department is a communal environment, and that the resources (scanners, copiers, printers, computer lab, library, teachers, and other students) are available to us. We are almost always collaborating at some level. We read and edit each others’ writing, we critique designs, we brainstorm design concepts, we discuss theory and history, we help each other out with research and mapping resources, we practice presenting to one another, we test each other, we teach each other computer programs, and we exchange site analysis data. Homework is a social event. Students take over a classroom for the evening, order a pizza, play music, and work together. We talk while we draw, we share coffee and gossip, and most of all, we keep each other awake and motivated: after all, if somebody gives up and goes home, others are likely to follow.
The system certainly isn’t perfect. Sometimes, when we meet up for plant walks, or quiz each other on species, we spend more time joking than studying. Sometimes what helps one person learn doesn’t help anybody else. Some people I like a great deal would rather work alone, some are distracting, others don’t care as much about doing well in school. But I was lucky: halfway through my first year I made one of those friends you know you’re going to stay in contact with forever. She was in her third and final year, one of the most brilliant designers in the department, and a very hard, motivated worker. We got along great, and soon I found myself pulling all-nighters with her and her faded old cat in her stuffy little apartment. Now, I can tell you that the value of hot coffee, good company, and good music at 3 AM is priceless when you have a frightening amount of work to do. Moreover, being around someone whose work and ideas I respect helped increase my own ambition. As Stacy outlined how she made the most of her time at Cornell through TAships, competitions, internships and research opportunities with professors, I found myself planning out my own career and talking about my plans with her. The nice thing about future planning is that it makes you feel as if your plans are already completed. It gave me a premature (and undeserved) glow of success that helped me feel confident in my work. I felt stronger in my skills and my decisions, and this gave me an edge in my studio work which continues to serve me well.
The upshot of my experience in this new environment of academic collaboration is that I am doing extremely well in my program. Before Cornell, I was a good, but not outstanding, student. I had not won any honors or awards in my undergraduate program, nor in my time at art school. During my first year at Cornell, I received a $600 grant from the university to do an outdoor installation on campus the following year, got a TAship for a class 2 years ahead of me (I was the only student in my class to TA), completed three commissioned drawings for publication in a book on wetland restoration, was invited to become a lifetime member of The National Scholars Honor Society, and at the end of the year, I received the James Rose award for my design of the Cornell Plantations botanical collections. My work will be in the national archive at the James Rose Museum, which is located near Princeton.
Whatever your course of study, I recommend that you at least try the experience of working with the best of your fellow students. Sharing research, reviewing the work of your peers and having your work reviewed by them, and even sharing space while studying or working, are all activities that can be applied to most disciplines. Other people can motivate you, inspire you with their ideas, and help you when you’re stuck. Be sure to select appropriate people to work with, who have similar learning styles and have compatible interests in your field, and above all, people who you like personally and hold in high regard. In the best cases, you will find that you are looking forward to your work because your work has become socially meaningful. It will have taken on extra importance with the creativity, intelligence, research, and hard work, not only of yourself, but also of your respected friends and role models.
Masters, Landscape Architecture
Life, the Universe and a Thesis: how to get the most out of studying religion
You may have heard from a well-meaning friend or family member that it takes a real leap of faith to study religion in college, whether or not you are a believer. The standard objections come easily to mind: it’s not a ‘practical’ choice career-wise; religion doesn’t matter in the modern world; theologians talk nonsense anyway. But I won’t dwell on those because presumably if you’ve decided to study religion you have at least some sense of its worth as an object of academic inquiry. Perhaps you’ve come to the conclusion that in a time of increasing cultural fragmentation, religious fundamentalism and widespread skepticism about both the reliability of material wealth and its ability to satisfy the most basic human longings, the need to understand and critique religious beliefs and practices is more urgent than ever. Perhaps upon recommendation you’ve read Pascal’s Pensees or William James’s The Varieties of Religious Experience and realized that there’s more to this ‘nonsense’ than skeptics appreciate. Whatever the reason, you’ve declared your major, stuffed yourself at the departmental picnic and are wondering what your next two years will be like.
The first thing you must let sink in is that a religion degree is like a piggy bank: you get out of it exactly what you put in. Religious studies is a field wide enough to accommodate a huge variety of interests, from art history or philosophy to environmental policy and social justice, but it’s up to you to take advantage of that flexibility and all the resources you have access to, such as professors, libraries and local religious leaders. If you’ve been diligent in fulfilling general education requirements (where applicable) in your first two years, once you start your major concentration you are free to devote yourself exclusively to the particular subjects that interest you. The key here is to read, read, read. Don’t limit yourself to assigned books. Your identity as a scholar of religion (and you are a scholar, whether you go on to postgraduate studies in the field or not) will be formed in critical dialogue with the great minds who have gone before. The only way to find out what you stand for and what you are prepared to argue is by discovering what you stand against or what you disagree with. And nobody can do this for you, not even your professors. Reading the classics will also help you develop your writing skills, the most critical component of success in this field. It will also give you a head start when it comes time to write your thesis, which really should be spent writing and not trying to catch up on all that reading you thought you would have plenty of time for at the last minute!
Religion classes center on reading and critical discussion. Arguments in the field resemble those found in the neighboring disciplines of history, sociology and philosophy. This means that an ability to rapidly absorb large amounts of information and follow the subtleties of a complex, multilayered discussion is essential. You will acquire this ability as you read professional monographs and articles. Most large religion classes have precepts led by graduate students, and those are good opportunities to practice close reading and develop argumentative skills. But don’t argue just for the sake of arguing. It is not worth it to be constantly raising questions and points just to show the preceptor or professor that you’re ‘involved’. You will be graded primarily based on your written work (including essays and exams) and only secondarily because of good precept participation.
You will hear a lot from professors or outsiders about a ‘crisis’ in liberal arts education and religious studies in particular. You will hear that religious studies lack a common methodology, a definite purpose and anything approaching consensus about relevant data. To some extent, this perception is justified. On the other hand, there is nothing inevitable about this situation, and again a lot depends on your own approach and initiative. If there is a crisis in religious studies, you may form part of the solution through your studies! The main goal of a college education is to develop critical thinking skills. That means keeping an open mind about everything you hear, even when it comes from professors or ‘experts’. You are under no obligation to follow the latest trends in scholarship. You are, however, expected to know what the relevant arguments are and engage with them critically.
From a practical (i.e. career) point of view, a very important decision you must make is whether to study religion with a view to continuing on in academia, or aiming for a general liberal arts education which you can take into other fields. If the former, you should focus on becoming familiar with the discussion in a relatively restricted field (say philosophy of religion, American religious history, Buddhism, etc.) to position yourself to contribute intelligently to those discussions. If the latter, you should focus on developing vocational skills which you will need in a wide range of fields, such as computer literacy, public speaking, management skills, etc. In both cases of course any new skill you develop is likely to be an asset, but there are definitely different emphases in the two domains. Academic work is demanding and there is a lot of competition for desirable jobs (such as tenure-track professorships), but it is possibly the most rewarding you will ever do. You must decide whether it matters more to have a secure, highly paid job or to pursue your intellectual passions. Of course in some cases it is possible to do both, but no one can predict in advance what the future may hold for any given religion major!
The key to getting the most out of a religion major is to allow yourself to appreciate what it could mean for you personally. The chance to critically explore the sources of your most basic commitments and the impact that religion has on the modern world in the leisure of a college environment is one that not many people can boast of. I speak from personal experience when I say that studying religion can enrich you beyond your wildest dreams. It is true that much academic writing on the subject is dry, abstract and disconnected from the passions of everyday life. But in the very best works you will find exciting new perspectives, fundamental challenges to your worldview and wisdom to help you live well (rather than simply get by) in an increasingly uncertain time. In the end, a college education is not worth the paper your degree is printed on if it does not result in the acquisition of wisdom, the ability to apply head knowledge to the ‘real world’ with compassion, skill and critical awareness. The writer of the Proverbs had it right: getting wisdom is the chief thing, and is more to be coveted than gold or silver or jewels.
|John David Walters
For the international student
As an international student attending an American college, I have always felt at a disadvantage to my peers. While I had done my best to excel in high school and had made the most of my academic career, the quality of education was unfortunately extremely low in the developing country in which I had grown up. This disparity in high school education became exceedingly clear to me when I first began classes in college: I realized that the majority of students had some form of AP credit – and some of the other international students had taken IBs (International Baccalaureate), which had never been available as an option in my country. This made them better prepared for introductory classes in college, or in some cases even allowed them to qualify for upper level classes. Initially, this left me feeling dejected and unmotivated, since I was afraid that I would never be able to catch up with my peers and that my shaky high school education would set me on unequal footing with my peers from the day I started college.
Incidentally, my problem is not specific to international students only. I have spoken to other minority American students, and even students who have taken a gap year and have not studied for a while, who share the same feeling of being at a disadvantage. Fortunately, many colleges recognize this problem, and most will try to offer as many resources as possible for all students to have equal advantages. The key is to not feel embarrassed to take advantage of these resources. I suggest looking on your college website, speaking to administrators who are there to support you, or simply talk to your residential adviser, about what options are available to help you with your academics. Perhaps you may need to swallow some pride, but in the end, you will know that you did your very best with the resources that you had available, and that is much more comforting than failing without ever really having given it your all.
Another discrepancy between American and international students is the number of opportunities to do research or internships while in high school. In many countries, this is not allowed before you have received your first University-level degree – whereas in America, many students attend college having done some science research, or having had an internship at a law firm. The Catch-22 is that in college, many firms recruiting college students like to see some experience on your résumé – experience that I was never able to have! This can be extremely deflating on self-esteem. My best advice is to carry on applying for internships and to never lose hope, because, although it does sound like a cliché, there will be someone who will give you that chance to get your first experience, even if it might not be your ideal job. The key to this is patience, with the intent to ultimately get something even better. And hopefully, after that, you will have the courage and motivation to seek out those internships that you are really enthusiastic about.
My final piece of advice is geared towards the social aspects of being an international student in a foreign college. While attending college is a new experience for everyone, and we all get to enjoy the thrills of being on our own and having to take care of ourselves, the experience takes on a new meaning because international students are on foreign ground. Some of us – like me – need a 20-hour flight to get home. Parents are in different time zones. Most of us are struggling to deal with culture shock. Perhaps your college does not have that many international students, and you cannot relate to the students around you. All of these make attending college as an international student extremely difficult, and for some, the homesickness can become overwhelming. The most logical piece of advice that I can give is to immerse yourself in as many activities as possible. Get involved in that dance club you’ve been wanting to try. Find ethnic or international groups that you are interested in. Join the debate club. Volunteer in your community. I kept myself busy for the first few months of college with numerous extra-curricular activities – so much so that I didn’t leave that much time for me to feel sad and lonely. With volunteer work I knew that at least I was giving of my time to help others in need, and perhaps make someone else feel less lonely. And of course, the wonderful advantage of engaging in many activities is that I made a group of friends with interests similar to mine that I have kept even after my interest in the activity has waned, and who are there for me when the homesickness might just be becoming a little unbearable.
The most important part of attaining scholarly success seems rather simple at first glance: belief that it is possible. Although success at anything requires dedication and determination, the most critical part of true success comes before the success even exists; one must believe that it is possible. When one's belief in success becomes an internal truth, it becomes an external reality. That is to say, when one believes that one can achieve something, one more than likely can make this happen. This has always been the most influential piece of my own success. Although the work toward a higher degree or level of academic success can be overwhelming at times, the belief that it is possible makes it so. I've just always said to myself and to those around me that I wanted to achieve certain things; then, I go out and achieve them. I know when to ask for help, when to accept that help, and when to offer help to others, but most importantly, I know within myself that I can do whatever I want to do. The belief in myself is the most important part of what has driven my success and inspired those around me, too.
|Kristin L. Jones
PhD., Educational Administration
Three Golden Rules for a Personally Rewarding Higher Education Experience
As a rising junior at Vanderbilt University, I must admit that my educational journey has just entered its beginning stages. However, in my two seemingly short years here, I believe I have discovered the formula for personal and academic success that goes beyond the generic advice of ‘studying harder’, ‘balancing work with play’, and ‘realizing that responsibility accompanies newfound freedom’. While these well-known sayings do possess some merit, their principal focus on academic advancement creates a serious lack of direction for self-improvement. Through careful consideration of the following ideas, I hope you gain a more profound understanding of and appreciation for your beliefs, your goals, and most importantly, yourself.
1. Obligation Should Never be a Motive for Your Educational Path
Why are you currently attending or considering attending university? Why have you chosen a particular major(s)? If either of these questions cannot be answered using the words 'I want', obligation may be deterring you from the career path best suited for your interests and talents. Although a family legacy of congressmen or a desire for recognizable social gain may be provisional reasons to pursue a certain field of study, they are less likely to bring about long-term success and happiness.
After an unfortunate roll of the genetic dice, I still enjoy the irony of considering myself lucky. Because of the debilitating physical and emotional challenges I have faced due to my condition, I am dedicating my life to the study of genetics. As a prospective genetic counselor, 'I want' to serve as a mediator between scientific researchers and the general public to increase testing options and awareness. 'I want' to eliminate the unnecessary burden of genetic disorders for as many children as possible. Shadowing prenatal and cancer genetic counselors at Emory University has confirmed that there exists no greater professional opportunity more perfectly suited for me. Being exposed to the wonders of this field in any capacity only furthers my fascination with it. No matter which profession you ultimately choose, that passion, that drive, that intense love for a subject should be the rightful dictator of your educational future. And if you are concerned about the possibility of ever discovering true inspiration for your passion, take a moment to reflect on where I found mine.
2. Established Preconceived Notions of the Self can Hinder Progress
What type of person are you? Which nouns/ adjectives truly define you as a person? The answers to these questions should be continually evolving in order to allow for adequate self-growth. Being overly certain of how you should be defined at such a young stage in your educational journey could solidify a future lacking in potentially life-changing opportunities. When first entering university, past activities and life experiences will most likely be responsible for providing you with the answers to these questions. For instance, in high school, I participated in varsity cross country and track, so, naturally, one of the terms I used to define myself was 'runner'. However, when I arrived at Vanderbilt, those defining words changed in ways I never would have imagined.
During the first semester of my freshman year, I became involved in anything and everything that interested me, which ranged from activist organizations to research jobs to dance groups. Although I admittedly stretched myself a little too thinly in the beginning, being exposed to such a wide variety of events and ideas provided me with new and rewarding ways to define myself. Participating in aspects of university that were both foreign and fascinating allowed me to build close relationships with other individuals sharing the same interests and to become involved on a more significant level. I now hold officer positions in three student organizations and can use more thought-provoking terms to define myself such as 'belly dancer' and 'gay rights activist'. Interestingly, I am neither Middle Eastern nor homosexual. Becoming involved in every aspect of campus is not necessary for self-growth. Simply search for new, unique, and meaningful ways to define yourself.
3. Ideas Should Not be Discarded Without Further Investigation
Are you affiliated with a particular religion or spiritual practice? Why? The second of these two questions is the more significant. Although religion, like politics, is considered to be somewhat of an impolite subject for discussion, I believe the opportunity to recognize the ‘why’ behind those beliefs can be best achieved in the college environment. This subject matter clearly relates to the previous heading in that religious affiliation is often an established preconceived notion of the self, which can prove dangerous if it causes selective learning and more limited social interaction. Taking classes that challenge your beliefs will force you to answer the ‘why’, which will not only make you more knowledgeable about your belief system, but also about yourself.
For me, the topic of religion and spirituality had always seemed confusing and complicated. This may have been because my father was Buddhist and my mother was raised in Catholicism. Fortunately, as a rising high school junior, I decided to take a philosophy course at UNC Chapel Hill. That single class, which took place over a mere five week period, was life-changing for me. It raised questions I had never previously considered and exposed me to the art of argument and logic. Although I have since taken a number of philosophy classes at Vanderbilt, each one humbles me with new questions and insights that both intrigue and mystify. My recommendation for considering the philosophy curriculum is not intended to alter your current beliefs, but rather to make you better understand them. Belief systems are the foundation for all of our thoughts and actions, and if that foundation is properly constructed, then we may achieve anything.
The National Scholars Honor Society is a great achievement as well as a
formidable stepping stone to aide in getting a "foot-in-the-door" to a
prospective employer. To achieve the status of acceptance by the society I
found a "simple" yet effective formula. The formula is as follows:
For every credit hour of academia, I spend 3 hours of study: an hour prior to class, an hour post class, and an hour before the major exam (mid-term/final). Add to this a conation of understanding the material during the lecture and the result is almost unanimously a 4.0 GPA.
I hope this formula is not only beneficial but also adopted, as the greater the understanding of the world around us, the more mankind can achieve. This results in a more rewarding life for all.
Robert G. Nadon
Masters, Computer Science
University of Texas
In looking at my journey in
academics, I contribute success to many factors. The first and most
important is my faith in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Throughout all of
life's difficulties and trials, I have found comfort and hope through my
faith and through prayer. God has enabled me to continue my academics into a
Master's degree and has granted me many blessings in understanding the
curriculum as well as focusing during exams. I also owe recognition to my
family for supporting me during the many years while at school. I have a
wonderful, encouraging husband and three understanding children who range
from age 11 to age 4. When I thought I couldn't study anymore because of
tired, my husband would talk me through my frustration and his works always
lifted my spirits. My extended family has also helped with babysitting
whether I had an 8:00 class or evening class; they never complained. In
looking at myself, I have a strong desire to achieve at higher levels in
anything that I am working at. I feel most relaxed when I know that I have
done my best and so with classroom work, papers, presentations and/or exams,
I always tried to prepare myself prior to submission of my work and no
matter what the grade is, I can be satisfied with my total efforts. It has
worked out for me that the areas of my study are appealing to me so that my
studies on a whole are not boring but in fact motivating and intriguing. I
belief that this has helped in attaining a high success.
Masters, Elementary Education
Texas Tech University
Finding the Resources for Success
(A guide for students who have packed it all up and left home to attend
Picture this. You have just barely unpacked your boxes, met your new roommate and his Nintendo Wii, (which he unpacked even before the shampoo, soap, and towels) and sat down for a moment’s rest on the edge of your brand new dormitory-style bed. Your family left you just hours ago in their old station wagon, either tearfully pained during your goodbyes or cheerfully thrilled at the prospect of making your old bedroom into an exercise room. Or maybe a home spa with a state of the art Jacuzzi. At any rate, life as you know it has changed and this is the first moment of silence you have had to yourself since beginning the grand plan of relocating yourself to the next county over, across the state line, or even across the country—that is, if you were feeling particularly brave when you read through all those college brochures you received in the mail and began picturing yourself in exotic places spanning from one end of the U.S. map to the other. However far you have traveled to get here, you have clearly made a big decision that is bound to change your life, and only one thought is racing through your mind: “How on earth do I get started?”
Let’s face it, moving to a new community—even one with a built-in group of peers such as a university or college campus—offers its share of challenges. Even if you are as ready as you’ve ever been for a big move like this one, settling in and finding a sense of home is going to take some effort, particularly if you are also taking a full load of classes and trying to decide on a career path at the same time.
So what comes next?
First of all, after you have unpacked and gotten settled in, get yourself to the library. These hallowed stacks of dusty books may make for a great study spot, but both public and university libraries are also good places to get more information about local opportunities. Check the bulletin boards, pamphlets, and the information desk to find what you need. Even if you do not consider yourself to be a “library person”—not that you have to be a “library person” to go there once, for goodness sake, but I know some of you reading this may claim a chronic allergy to the library stacks to get out of going—then by all means, you can still make an effort to learn about as many of resources as possible that are available to you in your community and via your university. There are resources around you all the time, although discovering them might require paying a little more attention than usual to your environment and the people in it.
One easy way to become better informed is to listen to friends, teachers, and local community members who have recommended a workshop or other opportunity they enjoyed—then you can consider whether you might benefit from paying a visit to the arts center, yoga studio, or community center where they discovered it. Even if at first that pottery class or volunteer opportunity you have your eye on doesn’t seem related to your coursework or your major, it cannot hurt to become more involved in your local community. In fact, it might turn out to be a great help—sometimes the connections you make in your free time can even turn into job prospects later on down the road. Trying new experiences also helps to relieve homesickness and anxiety about moving so far away from home, because it helps you to develop more confidence in your abilities and to feel a sense of empowerment in navigating your new surroundings.
Whenever possible, it is best to explore your options as early in your academic career as possible, so you will be able to plan ahead for programs and discussion groups that meet infrequently or courses that are offered only once in a blue moon. For a start, you might want to try investigating any sites in your community and on campus that house the resources you need to succeed in your chosen major or career. For instance, many universities and colleges offer free career counseling for students needing guidance and support in choosing and pursuing a vocation. Such services can usually be found at the campus career center, where you can participate in mock interviews to help you prepare for the real thing or meet with career counselors who will help you fine-tune your current resume and narrow down your career prospects.
In many cases, career centers also offer a service that allows you to begin a file in which you may gather together any letters of recommendation that you gather from your professors over the course of your degree-seeking years. Many graduates find that it helps to have all of these valuable resources all in one place once it comes time to look for a job, internship, or study abroad program.
These are simply a few of the options that might be discovered at your college or university if you make the time and effort to track them down. Of course, you will not be able to use these valuable resources if you are unaware of their availability. You might want to begin by paying attention to your surroundings in order to discover the best opportunities—particularly if you have left home in order to attend school and are new to the community. Local websites, newspapers, and bulletin boards at cafes and public libraries can be great places to learn about current local events. Remember that the best opportunities in your community may not be sponsored by your college or university, and might not be publicized with the rest of the upcoming student activities.
Every community offers a different set of resources, so be sure to investigate local community centers, free programs offered by the local public library, and programs sponsored by local spiritual centers. For instance, one of the local churches here in Lawrence offers a course taught via DVD by Dave Ramsey, a well-known financial guru who offers solid advice about getting out of debt and learning to manage your wealth (i.e. lessons include how to pay off loans and credit cards, create a savings fund, and share your wealth through generosity). At the University of Kansas, a non-denominational spiritual center located on campus offers “vocation workshops” for interested students. The sessions rely on group discussion and excerpts from the popular book "What Color is Your Parachute" to help participants get clear about where their skills lie and begin exploring the career choices that will make them happiest in the long run. Your community or school may offer similar programs.
If you have already chosen a major and have begun to narrow your choices for a career path, you can use local resources and the Internet to help you locate opportunities that will give you practical experience in your field. Sometimes, you will discover that there are internships, study abroad programs, and extracurricular courses available that might give you an advantage in your field. You'll be ahead of the game if you apply early or prepare yourself ahead of time by gathering resources (such as recommendations) and enrolling in necessary prerequisites such as language courses.
And so, as you unpack those suitcases and plug in the Wii, getting your new digs ready for the year ahead, keep in mind that you will likely get out of your education exactly what you put into it. There is nothing wrong with being social and taking some downtime for yourself, but if you want to get the most out of your new community, you will also need to make an effort to seek out the things that you are truly passionate about. One thing is certain: Keeping an open mind and paying attention to the world around you can help you to notice opportunities you may not have seen otherwise, opportunities that may lead you straight to a future that makes you feel inspired and excited to get up each morning and go to work. This is the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow we're talking about, the real American dream: the career that makes you smile every time you think about it. If I were the betting kind of gal, I'd bet you five that on the scale of all good things the thought of that career--once you have the chance to discover it--beats playing your new Wii, being away from home for the first time, and even enjoying on your next visit home the brand new Jacuzzi your parents just installed...in your old bedroom.
Masters, English Literature/Literary Theory
University of Kansas
Brigette Bernagozzi is herself a frequently relocated student. She has lived in New York and attended universities in New Orleans, Scotland, Australia, and Kansas. She currently lives in the Midwest, where she is pursuing both a Master’s degree in literature and a writing career.
During my years of college I often heard those infamous words sound from the mouths of professors, “Remember that for every hour you spend in class, you should be spending three hours outside of class studying.” While this always seemed to make such logical sense to professors, I realized very quickly that between eighteen hours of classes per semester, cross country practice twice a day, weight training three times a week, and working, fitting some fifty four hours a week of studying was somehow not going to make it into my schedule. Truth be told, studying is very necessary, but so is your sanity. Whether you want to believe it or not, you aren’t always going to have time to study for every class. While there may be those who are study-holics and believe that they will study endless hours in an effort to reach the maximum hour study goal, it really isn’t plausible. Even the biggest study nerds will admit that they didn’t read every word of every chapter they were assigned. While every professor believes that their class is the most important (and at times they aren’t far from the truth) you will have to make sacrifices. There are going to be weeks that you won’t study for one class and other times you will. It is necessary to find a balance between necessary hours of studying and material you are familiar enough with to skip the studying. If you have some classes that are easier than others, those are the ones you can cut back. If you have a more challenging class, it is going to require more of your time. Bottom line, study when you need to and skim when you don’t.
Crystal Nichole Mille
Changes in Mindset
There are several practical tips that allow students to succeed academically in the college arena. However, college success isn’t all about learning the bare minimum of material so you can succeed in a specific career; it’s also about learning to learn so that you can succeed in life. College offers unique opportunities to expand horizons, try new things, and reevaluate your perspective of the world. So with every new course, every untested field of study and every experience, enter it with an open mind.
Don’t feel obligated to enjoy every new thing, or to change every belief system you’ve relied upon up to this point in your life. That is not the goal of attending college. Instead, use this opportunity of new experiences to reevaluate your individual perceptions, to recognize your own ignorance, and also to cultivating in yourself a healthy sense of curiosity that questions the assumptions held by others as well as the assumptions you hold yourself.
Do your best and persevere. Adopt a responsible attitude toward your studies, even though you will sometimes feel they are dull and pointless. Although living for short-term gratification may seem like a good idea, and the things you are learning may have no ostensible merit or usefulness, you must alter your mindset to think of the long-term consequences of your present actions. Make yourself a goal, and resolve to reach that goal having done your absolute best, so that when you graduate you will have nothing to regret. Instead, you can with integrity tell your family, friends, and employers that you have done all you could, and have fulfilled your potential as a successful student.
Above all, try to have fun. Don’t leave the course material behind when you leave the class room, but think about subjects discussed in class. Try to relate it to your everyday life, so that not only will you have better comprehension and memory of the course material, you will also have developed your own perspective, and emerge from academic life as a wholly unique person, not just an amalgam of how a bunch of professors have told you to see the world.
Laura Catherine Strommen
University of Wisconsin
When I first entered college, I was not sure which area of study I wanted
to pursue. Since math and engineering were my academic strengths, I
initially enrolled in the engineering department. However, I realized that
it was vital to begin the process of exploring as many of the majors my
college offered as possible early on in order to see if engineering was the
truly the best choice for me. I did not want to dive into the engineering
major only to decide a few semesters down the road that engineering is
incompatible with my abilities and interests, something that I have seen
many of my fellow students experience. This is especially common for
engineers because most engineers take very general courses in math and
physics during their freshman year, and do not experience a true engineering
class until several semesters later. Many students decide a year or two
later that engineering is not for them, and eventually switch out of the
engineering program. In doing so, they wasted credit hours (especially if
they decide to re-enroll into a very different major without overlapping
requirements, such as business administration or psychology), and possibly
even hurt their grade point averages by taking classes that were
incompatible their strengths and passions.
During college orientation, I began talking to juniors and seniors whenever I had a chance in order to learn about their majors. This way, I accumulated much advice about the nuances of the different programs and courses that I would otherwise have missed. I learned about what students generally appreciated and disliked about each major. But most importantly, I also found that I needed to experience the various programs firsthand. In my free time between classes, I often tagged along with upperclassmen and accompanied them to their class lectures in specific major topics whenever possible (most universities allow and even encourage students to sit in on upper-level lectures). Although I did not always have all of the prerequisite or background knowledge necessary to understand every specific concept covered in lecture, I received a good general feel of the topics pertaining to each major. By the second semester of my freshman year, I was already sure that I wanted to be an electrical engineering (EE) major, and I continued to sit on on upper-level EE courses in my spare time to learn more about this area of discipline. I finally decided that EE was the major that best suited me. I have since excelled in this major, and I am confident that it is the right one for me.
It goes without saying that many other college students face dilemmas similar to my own. There are simply so many robust major programs available that it is difficult for a new student to choose the right one for him or her without feeling overwhelmed. Nevertheless, I must emphasize that it is best to start early and find time during the first semester of college to talk with older students, and most importantly, that it is imperative that students experience their future upper-level classes firsthand. This way, new college students will waste no time in becoming better informed about which area of study best fits their strengths and interests, which in turn maximizes both their college experiences and their future potential.
Timeline for Pre-Professional Students
Summer Before Freshman Year
* Begin job shadowing individuals in the profession of your choice. Make sure that your impression of your chosen profession is accurate.
* Plan your academic year: what classes should be taken (not only those you have to take, but those that you are interested in too), extracurricular activities you would be interested in, volunteer opportunities, work opportunities, etc.
* Get started on the right foot. Make sure you attend your classes, do your best to get good grades (seek tutoring if you have to, it is ok to ask for help!), get involved early on in extracurricular activities (it is a good way to make friends and make your resume look good too!), get involved in the community with some volunteer work, take on a leadership role or two, and seek a part-time job (not only to pay for those miscellaneous expenses, but it also requires you to build good time management skills and teaches responsibility).
* Continue to job shadow in your chosen profession. Explore all specialties to determine all that your profession has to offer. Be specific. Know exactly where you would like to end up. This helps focus your plans. Graduate schools like decisive students who know what they want and how they plan to get it.
* Start putting together a curriculum vitae. Have a professor or advisor you trust look it over to help you make improvements. Putting a curriculum vitae together early on allows you to make updates throughout your college years, so that it will always be up to date if someone asks for it. Plus, many graduate school applications require the information on the curriculum vitae, so putting it together early on means you won’t have to scramble later on to gather your information for your applications.
Summer Before Sophomore Year
* Begin researching graduate schools you would be interested in attending. Many professions have an educational association such as the American Dental Education Association in dentistry that publishes a guide that contains a profile of every graduate school in that profession. Important information to look at includes: expenses, required prerequisite courses, GPA or admission exam averages, application timeline, residency requirements, how many students apply, how many are interviewed, and how many are accepted.
* Continue to job shadow, work, and volunteer.
* Continue to work hard to get good grades, stay involved in your extracurricular activities (or try something new!), take on more leadership roles, stay involved in your community, and work a part-time job.
* Participate in an honors program if your school offers one. If they don’t, take as many upper level courses as you can. Graduate schools love students that challenge themselves.
* Begin planning a research project that you can do with a professor. Seek that professor’s permission and advice. Pick a topic that interests you, perhaps one that is related to your future profession. Put forth a lot of effort with this research project. Not only will you gain a lot of valuable information, but your professor will be impressed and will undoubtedly be willing to write you an impressive letter of recommendation.
* Keep your curriculum vitae up to date. Make sure to include things like degrees earned, cumulative GPA’s, job shadowing experiences (include name of the person shadowed, how many hours spent with them, and a description of what was observed), extra curricular activities, volunteer opportunities, research experience, awards received, work experiences, and possible references.
Summer Before Junior Year
* Continue to work, volunteer, job shadow.
* Begin visiting graduate schools that you are interested in. Graduate schools like applicants who take the initiative to set up visits. It also shows them how interested you are in their school.
* Begin studying for admission tests, such as the LSAT, DAT, MCAT, etc. If possible take the test sometime before returning to school that fall. Not only does this allow you to have all summer to study for the test improving your chances of success, but it also gets the test out of the way so that the following summer you can focus solely on your application for graduate school. This is much easier than trying to apply to graduate school during the same time you are preparing for your admission exam.
* Make a final decision as to which graduate schools you will apply to. Most students apply to 6-10 schools.
* Continue to work hard to get good grades (remember to challenge yourself), work on your research project, stay involved in your extracurricular activities (or try something new!), take on more leadership roles, stay involved in your community, keep your curriculum vitae up to date, and work a part-time job.
* Begin planning an internship, probably related to your future career. Remember unpaid internships are good too! They show graduate schools that you are not just doing the internship for the money (because you aren’t being paid), but are doing it because you truly enjoy that field and want the experience/exposure that the internship provides.
* Begin gathering information you know you will need to apply to graduate school. This will not only make the application process go more smoothly, but it will also help you to get your application out more quickly. Most graduate schools operate on a rolling admission so that the students who apply the earliest are often given the best chances of being admitted.
*Retake any admission tests if necessary.
* Make sure to fully understand the application process at each individual school you wish to apply. Map out a timeline that helps you to keep track of important dates.
* Choose professors/professionals to write your letters of recommendation. Choose individuals who know you well and can testify to your academic abilities, extracurricular/volunteer experiences, work experience, research experience, exposure/experience with your chosen profession, dedication, time management skills, etc. Research what skills/qualities graduate schools would like to have the letters of recommendation touch on and pass this information on to the individuals who will be writing them. It may also help to provide the writers with packets to guide them. Packets could include the topics you would like them to cover, your curriculum vitae, an unofficial transcript, and your admission test scores.
Summer Before Senior Year
* Fill out applications and submit them as soon as possible once the schools begin accepting applications. Follow up with any supplemental applications, application fees, official admission test scores, official transcripts, and letters of recommendation that are required.
* Research which questions might be asked of you in an interview and begin developing/practicing answering those questions. It would be beneficial to have a friend ask you the questions and to video tape the interview so that you can watch yourself when you are finished to see where you need to make some changes.
* Continue to work, volunteer, job shadow, and complete your internship.
* Continue to work hard to get good grades (remember to challenge yourself), work on your research project, stay involved in your extracurricular activities (or try something new!), take on more leadership roles, stay involved in your community, keep your curriculum vitae up to date, and work a part-time job.
* Continue to follow up on applications. Complete interviews and make a final decision as to which school to attend out of the ones you have been accepted too. Make sure to send any final documentation, such as transcripts or deposits, to your school of choice.
* Begin finalizing plans to go to your new school, such as financial aid, living arrangements, and books/supplies.
* Complete a senior audit to make sure all of your requirements have been met for your degree.
* Enjoy graduation and all of your accomplishments. You have a lot to be proud of!!!
Tyler Jerome Kimmel
University of Saint Francis
Engineers will obtain a vast breadth of technical skills by graduation, but engineering majors also need to learn "soft skills" to excel in their career field. Soft skills include non-technical subjects such as teamwork, taking initiative, technical writing, creating and delivering presentations, project management and leadership. According to managers I have spoken with, a 4.0 GPA doesn't substitute for a demonstrated ability to work with other engineers as a team. Employers want both technical and soft skills in a candidate. A student can practice these soft skills by working with study groups, practicing and improving presentation skills, and taking a leadership role in clubs and organizations on campus. Remember, when you graduate with your engineering degree, so will all your classmates. Soft skills will set you apart from your peers when it comes time to look for a job.
Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
University of West Florida
A fundamental element of success in college is academic honesty. With the increased use of computers in the classroom, plagiarism has become a serious issue with most universities. Nowadays, countless number of term papers and reports can be found online, free or at a cheap price. But don't be tempted by these shortcuts; the consequences of plagiarism far outweigh any trouble avoided from using someone else's work. If caught plagiarizing, expulsion and revocation of college credits is a very real possibility. Imagine working 4 years on a bachelor's degree only to have everything taken away from you because you were too lazy to write your own paper in your last semester. It simply isn't worth the risk. And the idea of copying a fellow classmates work has been extended to the software world too. Computer programs have been written to analyze submitted software code and determine the likeness between any two copies. Plus, a student who doesn't practice writing papers, reports, or software in college will be far less ready for working in industry than an honest student. The ramifications of plagiarism simply are not worth the risk of attempting it in college.
Master of Science in Electrical Engineering
University of West Florida
Use the add/drop period! I know that it's a pain to go to extra classes at the beginning of the semester, but it will inevitably pay off by the end. There is nothing worse in college than sitting through a class for an entire semester if you don't find it interesting. Colleges always offer more great classes than you can take, I promise. You'll never know, however, if you don't occasionally stop in and go to a few extras. That way you won't end up with a dud. For what it's worth, sitting in on additional classes you think you might find interesting even after the add/drop period is also a great way to make the most of your academic career. Think of it this way: you'll never get another chance (probably) to sit in on these kinds of classes for FREE. After graduation, you'll pay for language classes, for guided reading groups, etc. Even though it adds to your course load (only a bit, since the homework isn't really a priority or required in that case), you'll absolutely appreciate it later. I'm not saying that you ought to sit in on five or six extra classes every semester, but that you won't regret attending some (even if it's just a few sessions) that you can't fit into your schedule.
PhD, Government (Political Theory)
Here's to Education Majors:
Having graduated recently with a degree in Elementary Education, I would like to offer the best piece of advice to help all those future teachers out there. Throughout my four years of college I have been searching for the perfect solution/plan that will make me an effective and successful teacher. I have come to realize that this plan doesn’t exist.
There is no one, specific way to be a successful educator.
Through my own experiences and observations I have seen what works for one
teacher may not work for another. It all depends upon the teacher’s
personality, the needs of the students and the school’s demographics. This
is partly what makes teaching a difficult occupation. I would like to think
of teaching as a “trial and error” job. You try one strategy, technique or
management plan and if it doesn’t work, you simply try something else and
you keep trying until you find something that does work.
While you’re still in college take advantage of your resources. Your professors of education who have experience in teaching are often the best people to talk to. Your cooperating teachers in the schools that you may be observing/student teaching in are also excellent resources. I often took my digital camera with me and took pictures of bulletin boards, teaching strategies, management techniques and student work so that I would be able to remember different things that I saw that I would consider using in my own classroom. Create a notebook where you can jot down teaching websites, magazines, or any other strategies that you want to be able to remember later on. You can even add lesson plans to it that can be used in the future too. Lastly, ask for teachers and professors emails/phone numbers so that you can contact them for guidance or advice when you finally get your own classroom.
Going into my first year of teaching I feel confident that I will be successful because I have a multitude of resources to pull from in my notebook. It’s always better to have more than not enough.
Best of luck to the future teachers out there!
Katie Marie Daniels
Academic success is a frame of mind. It is a belief in one’s person
abilities. This belief overlooks the odds and the obstacles that stand in
one’s way. I was born and raised in a poor African home. My mother struggled
to not only pay my school fees but also provide for my needs. To succeed, I
had to overlook the obstacles in my path and look deep inside myself and
say, I can make it. Success is totally dependent on my abilities and not the
circumstances around me. I decide to look at my abilities and ignore the
difficulties that would make formidable stumbling blocks in my path.
Success does not come without toil. It is characterized by hardship and falling every now and then. Rising after falling is the difference between success and failure. A man bound for success always defies the odds and stands up after falling. He smiles instead of crying when he gets a poor grade. He looks at his own abilities and defies the poor grade with a decent performance on his next test. I have always learnt from what I get wrong and not what I get right. I am very obsessed by looking at what I get wrong than admiring my good works on what I get right. “Failure is part of a learning curve that culminates in perfection”.
I am not the best of soccer players but I can do something with the ball. My experience with soccer has in so many ways shaped my view of academic success. A soccer side is an eleven man strong team that stands to defeat the opponent. All the players: the goalkeeper, the defenders, midfielders and strikers will always do all in their power to win a game. Victory is as much a team effort as it is in the academic arena. I have always ran to my friends for assistance when ever I feel like I can not do it alone and I too have been of assistance to them on many occasions. We can all learn from each other and we do need each other. In soccer, there is a coach who dictates the mode of play by creating the tactics. In academics, the professor takes that position. For a player to keep his place on the first team, he has to do all in his power to listen to the coach and do it the coach’s way. I have always looked up to my professors for inspiration. I regularly attend office hours and ask questions whenever I am not sure. I have made friends with all my professors and I just never feel afraid to go to their office to ask them what I need to do to improve.
Academic success is a cluster of hard decisions. It is a choice between staying up late to talk to friends or going to bed early so as to be early for my 8 AM class. It is a choice between attending a party and completing my lab report on time. It is a choice between playing soccer on a daily basis and keeping up with my biology notes. I never get complacent when I get an A because I believe an A+ is better and neither do I feel happy with a 90 because a 95 would make me happier.
Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Academic mastery is perhaps the highest level of enlightenment that one may seek in any content area. To reach this level of mastery, though, a student must often learn from a master. Part of what has contributed to my level of academic achievement has not been of my own doing, but that of others, that is, the masters in my life. Although I have a great deal of self-efficacy when it comes to my own learning, I have also learned how important it is to seek out help and support when I need it. This is part of being an excellent student, knowing where and who to seek when I don't know something. It is not always easy to admit that one needs help, but I firmly believe that reaching out for this help and accepting it when it is offered is critical to academic success. There are many wonderful teachers in our lives at any level and it is certainly not without their help that we are able to succeed. As good students, we need to know when to ask for help and not be afraid to accept it when it is given to us. This leads us to learn from the masters.
|Kristin L. Jones
PhD., Educational Administration
In this age of computerized exams, I have found it useful to study up on my materials and then put my notes away and sit in front of a computer screen with a blank Word document in front of me. From there, I proceed "Blue Book" style by giving myself topics or categories that will be on the exam and typing everything I know regarding those subjects. This is a great way to get into the habit of typing what you know, as well as overcoming any anxieties regarding staring into a blank computer screen and being expected to produce something intelligent. Practically speaking, it is a lot easier to organize thoughts, ideas, dates, names and other information on computers, and when you are finished, you have a nice legible study guide.
PhD., Voice Performance
University of Northern Colorado
My best piece of advice is, ironically, don't listen to too much advice. Lots of study books and well-meaning teachers will try to tell you that it's better to study this way or take tests that way, but you have to do what's best for you, even if it's "unconventional." For example, when I write papers I write the whole thing straight through once and then go back to check for minor mistakes, like grammar and wording in a given phrase. Most teachers will say that what I just wrote is a rough draft and probably needs extensive revision. But that's not how I write: I'd rather push through and write well the first time, and then be done. If that works for you, do it. If you do something else that goes against the rules of good study habits, do it and don't worry about forcing yourself into doing something's that not going to actually help.
As a student who did particularly well in high school (I was in the top 25 of my class of about 440 students), I expected to come in to college and do the same. Five weeks later I was receiving a C+ on my first chemistry test. "How could this happen?" "There must be some mistake!" "I know I did better than this!" When all these thoughts subsided and I realized that there was no mistake and this was in fact my true grade, the only thought I was left with was "Maybe I don't belong here." This self destructive thought stuck with me for entirely too long. I had lost my confidence in my abilities and began to sink into stagnation. I had already given up. However, after many inspirational talks with my parents I began to realize the semester was not over. I began to work tirelessly on my chemistry studies. I became a frequent visitor to office hours and help sessions. My work paid off. I earned an A- and B+ on my next too exams. A dropped test allowed me an opportunity for an A if I did well enough on my final exam. I amped up my studying for the final exam earning high enough to the leave the class with an A- in a class that is considered a "weed out" course at Wash U. I learned the most valuable lesson that I could, and that is to never lose confidence in yourself. No matter how well you perform in high school, college will be significantly more difficult. As long as you work hard and give your all, you will do better than if you don't try. But, never let any grade cause you to lose confidence in yourself.
Dale Kesley Robertson
Washington University in St. Louis
Look outside the "box" of your studies. Don't just learn what you have to. Researching other information in other areas will help you to be more well rounded as a person and with you know.
Master of Special Education
Pittsburg State University
Investing into yourself through education is one of the greatest things
you can do for you and your family. We each have skills that can be
cultivated and developed, and then eventually we can drastically impact many
lives, including our own. However, this doesn't just happen out of thin air
or because it's something we want! We have to endure the gruel of being
trained!! For some, pursuing education is an anticipated endeavor, while
others may be less inclined to go after advanced education because it's a
lot of work!! Whatever category you fall into, I'd like to share with you a
few highlights of the experiences that have contributed to my success and
enjoyment of the educational process:
1). First, you must pursue something you love or in which you have strong interest. I spent a lot of time talking with people in my field of study before I actually started school to make sure this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. As a graduate student pursuing my Masters in Nurse Anesthesia, I have found that my schooling has become so fascinating and enjoyable because I love the field of anesthesia.
2). Different areas of graduate study require different levels of time commitment, but I think one very important thing to realize is that your life during school will be very different than it was when you were not in school. Unfortunately, I have observed many classmates who try to maintain the same lifestyle as before school, while becoming very frustrated with grades, fatigue, stress, personal relationships, etc. While I am a very strong proponent of taking breaks to have a good time or just to relax every once in a while, you have to be willing to sacrifice some things for a short season in your life to really maximize your training. It really does make a difference.
3). While last minute studying (also known as cramming!) is always warranted to catch that last little bit of information before a test :), cramming will not help you long-term. I think every student will admit to cramming so don't be ashamed if you do too!! I have found that my greatest success on making As on exams has been when I have spent the time for several nights in a row before a test going over the material. Instead of the information loosely sitting in my brain, I have etched it deeper into my understanding, and my answers on tests aren't hopeful guesses but correct because I really DO know the answers.
4). Don't always compare your approaches to studying or preparation with what everyone else is doing. While this can be healthy in some situations to gauge where you are at, remember that YOUR best may not be their best.
5). Writing papers is a BIG part of graduate school, and it doesn't have to be out rightly resented...too much! In my experience in graduate school, I found a way to get them done efficiently and comprehensively without undue stress or incomplete work. When I was told the amount of papers that we had to write and when they were due, I immediately made a schedule of when I was going to get them done. I decided that I was going to write one every weekend, regardless if I had a test or not the following Monday or Tuesday. I would just do one that was not as lengthy or required as much work on those weeks. Most of my class procrastinated for several months and ended up more stressed out at the end when they were due, and subsequently weren't able to give each paper the time and attention it needed to be the best it could be. You are not really doing yourself a favor by procrastinating. That said...
6). The last and probably most important thing that has helped me throughout my educational process is remembering that school is a stepping stone to a career that follows it. I can't just study for only a grade or for highest honors, even though they are good goals for which to strive. However, I don't know too many professionals who walk around with a special button that says "I got a 98% in Advanced Pharmacology." The mistakes and less than desirable grades I have made have helped me to learn important information that I will hopefully never forget and will ultimately strengthen me as a nurse anesthetist. Often, it's through our mistakes that we become stronger.
Allyson D. Maze
Medical University of South Carolina
The lack of knowledge as the first step towards a productive dialog.
Knowledge can be acquired not only by reading but also through a productive dialog. But what makes a dialog to be productive?
Perhaps the most important requirement towards a productive dialog is the non-dogmatic attitude of the participants. A dialog is usually triggered by the lack of knowledge. When the participants accept their lack of knowledge they ask questions and then the dialog starts. The Socratic idea captured in the following words: “I know only one thing that I know nothing” is essentially the acceptance of the lack of knowledge and at the same time could be the beginning of a productive dialog.
Working as a teaching assistant, I realized that one of the effective ways of teaching is via a productive dialog. In order to analyze a complex idea and answer a difficult question, you can pretend that you do not know the answer first. Then, by asking several very simple questions and depending on the students’ answers, you can lead their minds to the correct answer. In this way, you can initiate a productive dialog and use the students’ way of thinking, in order to help them realize the answer. It is very important to understand that your approach towards the answer sometimes does not coincide with their approach.
In the same way, productive dialogs can be realized among you and your peers. With the acceptance of the lack of knowledge and with a humble, non-dogmatic attitude, one can gain the sympathy and help of others. Secrets and useful information could be revealed to you, which you may never obtain by a selfish and dogmatic behavior.
Georgios Nektarios Lilis
PhD., Electrical and Computer Engineering
The path to higher education can fruit plentiful gifts: a deeper understanding and appreciation of life in this world and the universe as a whole; the ability to see different perspectives, enabling one to relate to others and solve problems in creative ways; and the development of a practical skill set that can be translated to a dream career. The most important thing to understand is that college is amenable to your own personal adventure in life. It is your chance to explore the possibilities of existence as they pertain to you. Broaden your horizons by trying new things and don't limit yourself to prejudgments about uncharted territory. It is perfectly normal to go through a series of reconsiderations, major changes, and confusion about your ultimate path. The best way to minimize the confusion and expedite your path to victory in the heat of the battle is to get as much experience as you can. Seek out extracurricular activities to give your mind a study break once in a while; in the end, that will benefit your studies. Try out a few clubs that interest you or play an intramural sport to get to know people with similar interests. You might be surprised about what you find entertaining and rewarding, so be flexible. Network with the people you meet, who invariably will be from all over the world. Open your mind to their perspectives and learn to see the world through others' eyes. Keep them as friends who will complement your life and connect you to experiences, careers and people across the globe. Of course, balance will be key to keeping your grades up while you are flowering as your own unique individual, so don't overload yourself with coursework every semester. Once you are settled on a career path, shoot for the stars, but keep in mind that your life is more than just homework. In fact, your homework shouldn't be entirely work, it should be fun or at least inspiring. If you play your cards right, you may one day be one of the few who is rewarded by their job far beyond their salary. The biggest ticket to success is enjoying what you do; triumph inevitably follows.
For PhD Students, the the work never stops, but the
deadlines occasionally do. The programs are generally 5 years long, but only
16 months are spent in the classroom. We are judged, hired, and rewarded
based primarily on research, and research is often self-driven. Perhaps
nothing is more important for a PhD student than staying focused and
motivated in the absence of deadlines.
This is why I developed a point system. Each hour of focused research is awarded with 3 points, and I must earn 100 points per week before going to bed on Sunday. I have also began awarding myself points for exercise, reading, and generally living well. My points reflect my priorities and my strict adherence to the 100 point / week rule ensures that no week is wasted on my path to being a professor.
University of Michigan