Heading off to college? In many cases, you’ll be expected to function like a seasoned student from the beginning, even if you aren’t quite sure what that means yet. In a new series of posts, we offer advice for college students to succeed in the classroom and particularly in English courses.
Class isn’t really optional, even if the instructor does not take attendance.
Some instructors save time by not marking absent or tardy students because they know that a student who misses class is only hurting their grades in the long run. Don’t feel tempted to sleep in regularly or skip class to do work for a different class. Your overall grade will likely be lower than if would have had you shown up to class and done the work.
Your club, fraternity, or sorority does not take precedence over your schoolwork.
You may feel overwhelmed your first year by all the stuff you “have” to do. But you don’t really need to attend every meeting of anime club and, if your sorority has an event during your class time, you should go to class, not the event. Your academic success is ultimately measured by your schoolwork. Your instructors are the ones who will write you letters of recommendation, not the president of chess club. And your financial package may require you to maintain a certain GPA for you to continue receiving money to attend school. Don’t make the mistake of throwing away your college career in favor of your extra-curriculars. In the end, an employer probably doesn’t care if you were in choir, anyway.
Your instructor will not tell you when you missed a test or an assignment.
They have too many students to email them all about missed work. It’s your job to figure out what you missed and to contact the instructor about how to make it up.
You have to write down your own homework or find it on the syllabus.
The days when your teacher wrote the homework on the board, checked your planners, wrote the homework online, and then maybe even texted your parents before a test are gone. You have to keep track of your own work. Even if the instructor does not say in class a reading or an essay is due on a certain day, if the syllabus says something is due, you have to do it. If in doubt, ask for clarification about the assignment.
You are expected to treat your instructors respectfully, even if they seem cool or ask you to call them by their first names.
Don’t start your emails to your instructors with something like “Hey” and don’t talk to them the way you talk to your friends. Even if they ask to be called by their first names so to create an atmosphere of equality in the classroom, they mean that you are professional equals with valuable contributions to make to the class, not that you’re buddies.
You should dress nicely for class.
Always present yourself in class the way you want to be remembered should you ever need the instructor to write you a letter of recommendation. You don’t need to be in business casual. You just need to look like you’ve showered recently and didn’t sleep in the clothes you’re wearing to class. It may not be fair, but people do judge other people based on their presentation. You should try to use that your advantage.
Your workload will increase.
Maybe you always got “A’s” in high school without even trying, but this may not be the case in college. You will be expected to work at a higher level in a shorter amount of time. Are you accustomed to churning out a research paper the night before? In college, you don’t write research papers. You write original arguments based on evidence–and this takes a lot more time to do well than rearranging sources does.
You will be expected to educate yourself.
Your instructors may expect you to know how to write an proper academic essay or a lab report even though no one ever taught you how. And the conventions for papers in each field will vary, though many colleges don’t offer classes that focus on writing in specific disciplines. You may also be expected to figure out what types of comments are considered valid or useful in an English or philosophy course just by listening to what other people say. You may even be assigned readings that the instructor never talks about in class. You should still read them, even if you think it’s a waste of time because no one’s giving you a grade for it.
Your grades don’t determine your value.
You may not always get the grade you want in a course, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t smart or don’t have anything to offer the world. Pick yourself up and try again next time. You are valuable even if you don’t have your desired GPA.