tips from a seven-year undergrad
By R.M. Monk
January 22, 2009 | Tommy: You know,
a lot of people go to college for seven years.
Richard: I know, they're called doctors.
-Chris Farley and David Spade from
the movie Tommy Boy
January 22, 2009 | I, like Farley's
character, have been going to college for seven years,
and, no, I'm not a doctor either. I'm finally graduating
this semester, and unlike Tommy Boy, I've learned something
at college: what it takes to pass. My collegiate career
represents the worst to best accomplishments in academia.
From flunking an entire semester to getting A's, from
academic probation to academic grants, I've done it
all. Some of my advice may seem obvious, but I'd like
to impart some of the do's and don'ts I've done or seen
over the years:
1. Hound Financial Aid. If
you pay for college through loans, then you definitely
want to get your money on time. Out of all the semesters
I've gotten loans, only twice have things gone swimmingly.
All too often a hiccup with your paperwork will delay
your loan, which may result in your classes dropping
or defer your funds for books until halfway though the
semester (both have happened to me). So when speaking
to the Financial Aid office or whoever are your creditors,
never assume everything is as it should be. Double and
triple check your loan's status, by phone and in person,
and get into the habit of saying “What do I do next?”
to ensure you don't miss a step. The employees at Financial
Aid try their best, but mistakes do happen. Remember,
you have to pay this money back; so it's not too much
to demand you receive your loan on time.
2. Go to class. I know,
what a shocking concept. But seriously, not attending
class is the easiest and most temping way to fail, and
going to every class is the easiest way to pass. Woody
Allen once said that 80 percent of life is just showing
up, and I've found that formula to be fairly accurate.
When I attended every period of a class I could barely
understand, I usually got a C+ or B-. The great thing
is, when you get into this habit, you'll hate it if
you ever do have to miss a period, and if your grade
is still in danger, a professor is more likely to help
you if he or she knows you're always present. A flawless
attendance record ensures you become a better student.
Besides, you're paying for these classes, why not go?
3. Enroll in MUSC 3020 - History
of Jazz. What's better than listening to great
music all class long? Listening to great music all class
long and getting credit for it. Jazz History is one
of the best classes USU has to offer outside of your
chosen major because it fills a Depth Humanities requirement
and the homework doesn't seem like homework because
you mostly listen to music. Isn't that what you do instead
of studying? This was the first class I ever got an
A in. It allowed me to get my scholastic footing under
me, and my iTunes library has grown exponentially since
4. Always Turn Something In.
Never allow yourself to think, “I'm going to fail this
paper, so why even turn one in?” Because, dummy, an
F is better than a zero. Think about it. If you get
a zero for failing to submit anything, then try to make
up for it and get a 100 on the next assignment, you're
left with an average of only 50. That's not passing.
If you at least turn something in, however, even if
it stinks and you get a 55, and your next paper is decent
and garners an 85, then you have an average of 70, a
C-, which is passing. Doing poorly is easier to recover
from than doing nothing at all.
5. Network Your Classes.
Find people you like in class and make friends. You'll
find when you hang out with them, you'll eventually
start talking about the class and, bingo, your understanding
of the material will increase. Even if the both of you
find the material dense and incomprehensible, just sharing
frustrations will help. Also, take advantage of all
the independent study sessions, or create one if your
class doesn't have it. A quick review with people who
don't quite understand the class' subject either will
do wonders for you on a test.
6. Don't Be Afraid To Ask Your
Professor. Yes, these people have advanced degrees
and hold the fate of your grade in their hands, but
there is no reason to be intimidated by them. You pay
the tuition that pays their salaries. So in essence,
they are your employees. If you have a question, ask
it. Chances are if you're confused, someone else is
too. If that's still too intimidating, meet them in
their office. That's why they have an office, to help
you. Also, if you need an extension on a project, ask!
Professors more often than not remember the hassle of
being a student and having a life at the same time.
So if you have a decent reason for an extension, ask!!!
What's the worst that could happen, the professor says
“no,” and you're back to square one. Fun Fact: Asking
for help has never lowered anyone's grade.
7. Don't Pop Your Zits in Class.
I saw somebody do this last semester, and it still
grosses me out just thinking about it. Generally, don't
do anything infelicitous in class, i.e. vulgar wisecracks,
texting, telling personal stories that have little or
nothing to do with the class topic, or showing up in
your pajamas with a blanket in tow. Whenever I see that,
I wonder if the person is purposefully trying to make
the professor think that he or she doesn't care about
the class, because I guarantee that's what the professor
thinks. Don't view college as you did High school: a
place you're forced to go. Think of it as job training,
because, in essence, that is what it is. George Washington
once said, "Every action in company ought to be done
with some sign of respect to those that are present."
People, listen to Georgey, and act professionally.