I’ve taught at colleges and universities in the United States since 1985. I teach writing. And over the years, I’ve amassed a great deal of information on how to teach. In short, each semester I practice educating others, I become a better instructor. But I’ve also collected some good info on how to get the most out of the college experience from the other side of the “fence” — how to be a good student and how to enjoy, not just suffer through, college.
Below are some of my tips for doing well in college.
This is a no brainer, but go to class. We’ve all heard the sentiment that “half the battle is just showing up”; it’s true. Be there. Participate. Ask questions. Help build a classroom community. Your teacher and your fellow students will appreciate it, and you’ll learn much more.
Read the Syllabus
Another no brainer, but very important. The syllabus is your classroom “contract.” It lists everything that will be covered in the course. Doesn’t it just make sense to scan it every day and see what will be occurring in class regularly? Come on; be ready to learn.
Buy the Book
Another very obvious point, but you wouldn’t believe how many students try to slip by in a course without the proper textbooks. You just can’t avoid purchasing the books. It’s not fair to yourself, your fellow students or your professor.
Find Out What You Missed When You’re Absent
Class periods are important, each and every one. If you miss a week of class, by all means, consult with the teacher as to what you missed. Again, your syllabus will give you an idea of what was covered, but ask the teacher if she/he added or deleted anything vital. Your grade could depend on it.
Don’t Fall Asleep In Class
This is not a joke. I can’t tell you how many students literally doze off in classes. Teachers don’t appreciate this. Get enough sleep; don’t be rude. Come to class ready to learn, not snooze.
Don’t Argue About Your Grades
Your teacher is a professional. She/he knows what she’s doing in the evaluation department. Arguing with them about your grades will only make them angry. It’s fine to ask them about a grade, but don’t be combative. Politely ask to be shown how they calculated your grade.
Join a Club
When you join a campus organization, you meet people with your interests. Clubs get you out of the library. Yes, you’re in college to work hard, but you’re also there to grow and have a bit of fun. Examples of clubs at my university are American Sign Language Club, LGBTQ+ Club, Campus Crusade for Christ and Philosophy Club. If you look, you’ll find there’s a club for just about everyone.
At Oberlin College (where I went to school) after dinner, I loved seeing films. Sometimes, I’d go with my friends Daniel and Dina, and sometimes, I’d go alone. At a dollar to get in, they were a real bargain. Where else but college will you have the time to see every Ingmar Bergman film ever made? College is the time to learn about everything you can, and that includes popular culture. Yes, this is the era of Netflix, but campuses still run film festivals. Go ahead; see a few films.
College can be a wonderful experience.
Be a good student; be conscientious. If you learn good work skills in college, the transition to “real life” will become much easier.
Oh, and don’t forget to study.