At the start of every semester I re-post a blog on starting your semester right. Spring 2012 is no exception. I know it sounds incredibly cliché and all types freshman orientation, but the fact of the matter is, if you don’t start the semester right, you’re running late and playing catch up from here to May. Click the link below for a few tips to make sure you start the semester the way you should! Don't miss the bus!
1. Show up- Many students make their first mistake by skipping the first class. We’ve heard it (and probably said it) a thousand times "You never really do anything on the first day of class. It usually, is always a flip of the coin. Sometimes you’ll go in, the professor will introduce him/herself, hand out the syllabi, have you fill out an information index card and send you on your merry way. Other times, the professor will fulfill these tasks in the first 15 minutes of class and then delve right into the first class lecture/discussion complete with readings and a homework assignment Since you never can tell which way it’s going to be, just to go to class. Usually the tougher the course content, the more likely your professor will want to get started ASAP (aka the first day). Miss the first lecture, when the fundamentals and basics are covered and you run the risk of being completely clueless from the jump not a game you want to play in Statistics, Organic Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology or your most challenging course.
2. Really Read the Syllabus- It’s likely that the Professor will go over it the first day but you want to thoroughly read the syllabus for yourself. It won’t take that long and it’s really worth it. Know what you’re getting into. Your syllabus is a synopsis of the class. It’s going to explain what you’re going to be learning and how you’re going to be learning it. You’ll find out what readings are required vs. recommended, when the assignments are due and what it’s gonna take for you to get the A. Will you have to write papers weekly? Will there be quizzes, or is your total grade based on a midterm and a final? It's best to know the answers to these questions so you'll have an idea of the work and effort necessary for your success. Also, pay attention to how (and if) your professors grade your attendance and class participation. I’m not one to tell you to skip class but life happens. The syllabus is going to tell you what classes you need to make sure you attend and when it’s not as serious.
3. Use Your Syllabus in Planning your Semester- Get your calendar, planner, cell phone, or however you keep track of important dates and write down when all major papers/projects/assignments are due and when you have your exams. You will then know how to structure your life. If you know you’ll have a heavy week of exams or papers or a group project, you can cut back on your hours at work, or know not to plan a road trip the weekend before, etc. Don’t rely on the professor to remind you of anything. Most of the time, it’s not gonna happen.
4. First Impressions are Everything- Remember that first impressions are lasting ones, so if you spend the entire first class tweeting, half sleep or just looking you’ve set yourself up. Your professor/TA will likely label you a slacker and you’ll be working the entire semester to prove him/her wrong. I know here is usually the part when you’d shrug your shoulders while saying something to express you complete lack of concern about what your professor thinks of you. I get that, but let me just remind you... He/she is responsible for you grade. Don’t sleep on their level of authority and influence. Even in huge lecture classes, professors remember students. Be prepared for your first day. Get there on time, don’t sit in the back, pay attention and look engaged(even if you aren’t). You don’t have to be extra in order to make a good first impression. Set yourself a part, the right way and for the right reasons. It will pay off, trust me.
The Textbook Hustle- Doing your class readings; can determine how much you learn or don’t learn in your classes. As expensive as textbooks are we have all considered just not purchasing all the books on the course list. Again reading the syllabus will let you know if you’re going to be reading an entire book or just reading certain chapters/sections. This will help you plan your pockets. If you will be reading 3/4 chapters of a book, see if your campus library has book and take it out and make copies. You could even approach the professor and see if he/she can put those chapters on E-Reserve so you can access the readings online and print them out. Doing this at that start of the semester, when you have time is typically a lot easier than having to do it the week the reading is due after you’ve realized that you don’t have the book that you need. Also, check bulletin boards and Facebook to see if others in your network have taken a class and wouldn’t mind letting you borrow the book for a semester or selling it to you for a better price. If you’re cool with your professor, you could even ask him/her if they have an extra copy of the book that you could use for the semester. Think quick, think smart, it may save you a dime or two. SEARCH the GlamNERDS for the Textbook Hustle Post for more information.
Hope this helps. I wish you all the best for this semester and as always keep it where you got it for more tips in successfully navigating your academic situations.