I have one semester of classes left; seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is wonderful. Starting college is a lot like driving a car: You look forward to it at the beginning, but pretty quickly you look for reasons get out.
The freshmen who came to their first classes bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, are now feeling the grind of truth hitting them. The once brightly-highlighted planners and study goals have been replaced by frantic note taking and finals’ preparation. I wish I had happy encouraging words you could put on a poster with a sunset photo, but I don’t.
I’ve been doing full-time school and work for several years, and there are a few things I’ve learned to make the rest of your time easier.
1) Professors are people too
You’ve heard the horror stories of professors opening the semester saying, “Half of you will fail this class.” I’ve only had one professor like this. I felt that he was a jerk, since he would feel obligated to make a bunch of students fail. On the whole, professors are more than willing to help you learn, however. They’re generally passionate about their field and will accommodate your circumstances.
That being said, you must talk to them early and make an effort. Professors, just like the rest of us, want to work with people who are willing to do their part. Your part is communicating and working hard in the class. Don’t slouch in the back of the room, turn in half-done assignments and then complain when the professor was “too hard.” It’s kind of like a customer service job, with the same people every day. So be a good customer.
2) The bookstore is awful
You already know the textbook market is a racket. That paperback math textbook is not worth $120, and the fifteenth edition does not have different math than the fourteenth, or even the first for that matter. And buyback is a joke.
If you purchase all your textbooks at the on-campus bookstore, I assume one of three things: You haven’t thought about what you’re doing, someone else is paying for you, or your DeLorean broke down and you haven’t learned about Internet shopping.
There’s this amazing thing called Amazon.com. Use the bookmatch tool on UVLINK and then go find cheap books to buy or even rent. Get your books early and you’ll get them cheap.
3) Do homework early
This really seems like the most no-brainer advice, but hear me out. Nearly all your classes will give you a syllabus that outlines when projects, readings, and quizzes are due for the entire semester. I’m not saying you have to plan when you’re going to do everything; most of my reading is done the day before class. No, I’m talking about the big stuff.
If you have a fifteen-page paper due the week before finals, start as soon as you can. Your workload is almost always lighter at the beginning of the semester, and the hardest part of large projects is getting started. Talk to the professor about topics or ideas, then spend ten minutes every other day working. The best part is most professors will gladly go over a final project with you before it’s due. This gives you the best critique available and gets you in the prof’s good graces.
4) Take advantage of shortcuts
Let’s take the hypothetical scenario that I have ENGL 2010 this semester. I admit: I would rather sleep in than go to class. Normally, I’d just have to suck it up and get out of bed. But if you think ahead, you can get out of class a couple times each semester.
The professor is going to go over final homework stuff tomorrow, and I’ve already met with her about my paper. She doesn’t factor attendance into my grade, and we won’t be having a quiz, so guess who’s home free?
Little things, like figuring out how and when a professor just read slides or who in the group is really good at a certain task, make awful classes tolerable. Figure out your shortcuts, and then exploit them for survival.