25 Aug 2009 [ Prev | Next ]

College Success

A bright high school student who shows up without causing trouble, completes all the assigned worksheets, and crams before exams can generally expect four years of decent grades.  College raises the bar.

The key to academic achievement is time-management.

When students really bomb one of my classes, I find that it's typically not because they're hopeless writers, or "bad at grammar," or anything like that.  No, the big problem is usually a stretch of zeros, or too many zeroes here and there, that crush their final grade.

The students at the top of the class get there because they plan weeks ahead, consistently budgeting time for serious, concentrated work.

Let's Talk Strategy -- Before Anyone Falls Behind

You've probably already heard the magic formula: study for a minimum of 2-3 hours per every hour of class time. Consider fifteen hours in the classroom each week, plus another 30-45 hours of homework. With all your other commitments -- work, practice, family, friends, sleep -- you'll need to make every spare hour count.

For your sanity and health, you might decide to take a late penalty now and then, and you might be tempted to skip minor assignments. I certainly did, once in a while.  So, if you have to put some other obligation ahead of my class, I won't take it personally. 

In fact, I'll be happy to help you weigh the consequences and prioritize accordingly. All I ask is that you come to me before you start missing those due dates. 

In College, All Work Is Optional

You've chosen to be where you are (at this school, if not this particular classroom). In order for me to do my job, I hope that your commitment extends to completing all the assignments and submitting all of them on time -- or most of them on time -- so that I can give you useful, timely feedback.

I hope that, through assignments and e-mails and encounters in the hallways or encounters online, you'll share your triumphs and frustrations, not only in the classroom but also the concert hall or the playing field or at home or on your daily commute, and that together we can figure out how to draw on all these experiences, to challenge and enlighten you, to benefit your mind and character, body and soul

However you respond to the challenge of college writing, remember that lots of people have already put their faith in you, and lots of services are available here to help you meet your potential. (Before you get too busy with schoolwork, take the time to explore those resources.)

Use Your Stress

A writing course generally gives you leeway to choose your own topic. If you're feeling overwhelmed, or you miss someone back home, or you're considering the pros and cons of changing your major, write about it.

You might need some guidance turning your stress into the kind of assignment your professor wants (personal narrative? factual explanation? persuasive essay? video game review?), but once you find the right form, you might be surprised at the sense of control that comes from articulating a problem and exploring potential solutions.

Time management. Challenge yourself. Embrace your opportunities.  Chances are, you've heard all this before.  And chances are, you'll make a good faith effort, and you'll act on it, and you'll have every right to celebrate your accomplishments. 

And chances are, about three or four weeks from now, when the first major assignments are due in all your classes, you just might say, "Woah, how did all this work creep up on me?"  Chances are, in about seven weeks, you'll have a 36-hour span in which you do an all-nighter to finish a late paper for one class, take an exam for a second class, then give an oral presentation in a third class, and then face your regular duties as an athlete or musician or caregiver or breadwinner.  And, chances are, that'll be the day your pet or maybe your face will break out, your favorite musical group or your romantic relationship will break up, and your car or maybe your roommate will break down. 

And as if that weren't enough, on that very day, I'll probably assign you yet another 200-word paragraph, and chances are, all hell -- or maybe the intellectual creativity you never knew you possessed -- will break loose.

And chances are, you'll go on, armed with your new experiences -- the raw material of confidence and wisdom.  And you'll be well-prepared for what comes next.

As your professor, I feel privileged to be here, for this part of your college journey. (Contact me.)


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