March 17, 2009
I started “Clues for the Clueless” to basically snark about things adults and students should know, and fail to do anyway. I complain a lot here, but I thought today I would share some helpful hints that many students may not know as they leave high school and enter the world of college. They have been somewhat trained to be adults, but have never actually had to do it all for themselves, and there really are some helpful hints that are learned on-the-job, rather than drilled by some high school worksheet.
I offer some of these hints, and hopefully will add more. So to balance out my snarkiness, here are some helpful hints for my students, and for your students, and for you if you are a student, that you might not know or be expected to really think about:
1. When arranging a meeting with your professors, think about when that meting would take place. If you can make the appointment during the professor’s office hour, do that. Call or email and make the appointment. If those office hours are absolutely not possible,be sure to suggest times that are good for you. Note any times your prof has already said are definitely bad (I always tell my students certain afternoons are off-limits; they don’t know it, but these are times I have another job, teach another class, or my kid has therapy). If you make an appointment, SHOW UP.
2. When making that appointment, be sure to clue the professor in as to what you are meeting for. Saying “I just want to meet you” is fine, if that is what you really want. Saying “I just want to meet you” then showing up with a lot of detailed questions about policy and assignments, not so good.
3. Make sure a meeting is necessary. Many questions can be answered quicker through email or a phone call. Saves time for everybody, and you get your answer sooner.
4. Do make appointments “just to meet you.” Have in mind something you want to know. What is the professor currently working on? What is the professor’s specialty? Has the professor been to interesting places, mentioned an interesting topic, seem excited about a certain theory? Find out more. The professor will remember you.
5. Be remembered for the right reasons. Professors remember students who present them with good work, ask solid questions, and put in effort. Don’t be snarky blog fodder. Think about that when you are attending classes, sending emails, and making phone calls.
6. The difference between an A and a C is what you have put into the class and the assignment. You have to go beyond what is expected to get that A.
7. Most academics love talking with students. That’s why they do what they do, to pass it on. You’ll know when you meet a professor who doesn’t like students, and you should avoid their classes. If they are not interested in passing on knowledge, then you are wasting your money in their classroom. The best indicator? Professors who don’t seem to care if you show up for class (no attendance policy), are labeled “easy”, or who never return emails.
8. Never confuse a first draft with a rough draft. A rough draft is something you think is a finished product, done at least a week before the assignment is due. You turn it in to the professor so they can help you be a better scholar and writer. In other words, you should have the paper completely written, including proofreading, consulting the writing center, and reworking it from those suggestions.
9. If a professor takes rough drafts, plan to have your project/paper/whatever done at least a week ahead of time. Then take advantage of the opportunity and hand it over to your professor for critique.
10. Use the writing center. Use the tutoring center. Use the career center. Visit all of these offices during your first few weeks on campus and familiarize yourself with what they do and can do for you.
11. If you have a disability, document it and document your accommodations. Alert your professor with copies of the document that includes your accommodations. Insist on having those accommodations. If you suspect you are experiencing a disability, go have yourself tested. Accommodations are not advantages; they are things you need to level the playing field, so you can learn and demonstrate your skills appropriately.
12. You can do this. They don’t let you in unless you have demonstrated the potential to succeed. The admissions folks are convinced you can do this. They are well-trained folks. Believe it.