01 February 2013

It's February One and . . .

Today is the beginning of both Black History and Women’s Heart Health Months.  Both are very important, so it’s important that we all understand as much as possible about both.  Being African-American and female isn’t my motivation for wanting us to all be more educated. However, the experiences of being both may make me more open to understanding others and how regardless of our differences, we are all connected in some way.

That understanding isn’t always necessarily academic and this blog is.  So with that let’s talk about how it is also very important that our first-year college students implement their plans for a successful spring semester and our graduating seniors implement their plans for successfully completing high school and being accepted to college.  Plan, what plan? you ask.   Yes, it’s important to plan.  Often times you can get lucky or someone else can make things happen for you, but that is really the exception, not the rule.  So let’s get to it.

If you’re graduating from high school, finish strong.  Don’t slack off once you get accepted (and awarded scholarships) to college.  See it through and try really hard not to have “senioritis.”  It’s very easy to get distracted by all things graduating senior, but make sure you keep doing what works.  At commencement, look back with no regrets. 

If you’re a first-year college student, learn from the lessons of last semester.  Try new study strategies and use all the resources at your institution.  Tutors, writing centers, and office hours are all available to help you better understand.  Use them.  Ask questions.  Understand concepts.  Push yourself.  Nobody knows everything when they begin college . . . otherwise why go? 

15 January 2013

Starting on the Right Foot

Every time we begin something new, many of us promise, vow, or resolve to do certain things.  When we have the opportunity to do something again, or similarly, we often say we'll do whatever "it" is differently this time around.  So what are you going to do differently this term?

We all have things to work on, so it's unlikely your answer is "Nothing."  Perhaps you didn't have the best GPA and you want to make better grades.  You could have earned a 4.0 last semester, but there are social/professional things you could have done.  Maybe joining a student organization is your goal.  No matter what it is, break your goal down into small, achievable tasks and get to work.

In the last post, I mentioned working on these specific, measurable tasks.  Try it; it works.  Not only does it break down a larger goal into smaller pieces, it also gives you things you can check off as you get them done.     Try it . . . and keep me posted.  I'll check back in a couple of weeks. 

01 January 2013

New Year, New Term!

Happy New Year!  Believe it or not, it's already 2013.  Every year seems to go by quicker than the last for me . . . but this blog isn't about me. (I have another one for that.)  This blog is about you.  So let's talk about you.

With or without the urging from my last post, hopefully you have begun to think about how to make your Spring Semester as good and productive as possible.  When you return to school, it will be time to implement your plan.  People make resolutions all the time, but frequently do not follow though past a few weeks.  Some good advice I've heard before and was reminded of  today is to be specific with your resolutions; the same goes for your plan.  For example, if you want to get a better GPA, identify specific goals that will help you get there: I will study 2 hours per night; I will go to office hours at least once per week and ask relevant questions when there; I will rewrite my class notes.  Each of these specific actions can be measured and collectively will contribute to your higher GPA goal.

Right now, most of you are taking general classes as freshman that most first-year students take.  As you matriculate, your courses will be more challenging and you will most likely have to adjust to keep pace, but start now by making plans and you won't be caught so off guard when your major classes begin to kick in.

Whatever happened last semester was last semester.  You have established a record as a college student.  It may be what you want and expected or you may have to make some adjustments. Either way, you  made it through and have some lessons you've learned from that first term.  You can make this term what you want it to be.  Own it . . . this education belongs to you, and you only!

06 December 2012

Fight to the Finish!

Believe it or not, your first semester in college is almost over.  This or next week is most likely your last week of classes.  As you prepare for finals, step back and evaluate it from all aspects.  Think about the academic and social habits you established this semester . . . and whether they are they habits that contribute to your college success or ones that need to be fine tuned.

Now that you've reflected on your habits, let's talk about how you can efficiently prepare for final exams.  Some courses/professor provide study guides -- particularly if there is a common final.  Begin studying as soon as you get it.  Set aside a little bit of time every night to complete a section of the guide.  If you aren't given a study guide, you can make one.  Here's how:

  1. Begin by using each syllabus topic as a heading.  
  2. For each topic, identify concepts, formulas, and main ideas you should know.  If you're not sure, then look at the sections in the text that correspond to the syllabus topic.
  3. Compare your study guide with a friend's.  By now you ideally have 1-2 people in each class that you can contact.  If not, make a new friend FAST.  You know who's been asking the good questions.  
Last but not least, begin reviewing now so that you don't cram later.Biting off a piece at a time gives you time to process and ask questions of your professor, TA, or friends when you're confused.  Wait until the last minute and you're up all night trying to understand by yourself.  Study all along and you don't have to study long the night before!

Good luck and finish strong!  

23 November 2012

No Talking Turkey

Thanksgiving break is a wonderful opportunity to get away, take a deep breath, and get some much-needed sleep and laundry done :)  The extended weekend is also a great time to regroup and rejuvenate to prepare for the final stretch.  Here's a suggestion: think about the classes where your grades are good versus those where you  may have to focus your efforts more.  Prioritize how you will prepare for final papers and exams.  Make a plan, write it down, and execute it.  Yes, rest . . . but not on your laurels.  Stay ahead of the curve and finish strong!

06 November 2012

In the Swing of Things

Well, it's November and you're almost three-quarters into your first semester of college.  By now most of you have established academic and personal habits around being a student.  (Remember, it takes 21 days for our bodies to develop a habit.)  At the institution where I'm currently employed, the University sends out academic progress reports at 11 weeks to give students an idea of where they stand.  If your school doesn't send anything out -- or the last update was at mid-terms -- then it's possible for you determine where you stand yourself.

Every class should provide a syllabus that outlines the grading process and weights for different types of assessments (i.e. there is a certain percentage/points assigned to homework  quizzes, exams, etc.).  If you didn't get a paper copy, it's probably online in a classroom management system like Blackboard.  You can also use a study habits inventory to assess or quantify some of your behaviors.  Based on your class performance and overall personal well-being (physical, mental, and emotional health), make adjustments.  Some of the adjustments may be effective as you go into finals, others may better assist you next term.  Either way, take note of what is working well, where you need to maintain, where you need to improve, and what actions are necessary for both.

You've made it this far and simply need to put in a strong effort for the next four to five weeks.  If you're doing well, keep it up.  If you know you have areas that need improvement, make a plan for what YOU will do.  Being successful will require a real commitment on your part.  Be honest with yourself about how much effort you are willing to put in to achieve the GPA you want.  And just go for it!

Get out and vote!  Be part of the process . . own your future.  Don't let someone else do it by default.

23 October 2012

Mid-Term Check-In

Congratulations!  You survived through the first 8 weeks or so of your first semester in college.  How did you fare?  Did you hit the ground running and take charge of your courses and activities?  Did you find a way to make it happen, but know you could do better?  Do you feel like college is a run away train and you are holding on for dear life?

Regardless of how your semester started, there are ways to finish strong!  There are some very simple strategies that will help.  Here goes . . .

  • Go to class.  Be there physically and mentally.
  • Prepare for class ahead of time by completing all assigned reading.
  • Ask questions for clarification.  (If you have a question, so does someone else.)
  • Take notes.  If your instructor is writing, you should be writing as well.  Put comments in the margins if you need to.
  • Review your notes after class.
  • Begin each assignment when it's given, regardless of the due date.
  • Ask more questions (of your instructor/TA/tutor/friends) when you don't understand.
Now, some of you are saying "I do all that and I'm still not making the grade."  What I suggest for you is a more in-depth session with your academic or program adviser.  There are people on every campus who specialize in easing the freshman transition to college.  Find this person on your campus and make regular appointments.  Do what they advise you to do until you notice a change.  Then, keep doing it.

The semester is at least half way over.  You can make it through the other half.  I promise.