Tips for First-Year Students
This page was reprinted with permission by the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center at Southern Methodist University.
Tip #1: Go To Class
New students often hear that in college," you can go to class anytime you want." NOT TRUE. Experienced students often say that the more time they spend in class, the less time they need to study outside of class.
Tip #2: Safeguard Your Physical And Mental Well-Being
When exhausted, rest. Eat well and know when to relax. Plan exercise into your schedule.
Tip #3: Learn The Campus
One campus tour seldom provides the geographical knowledge necessary to get around a major university. Become an explorer and spend time locating where major academic and service departments are located. Don't become a senior who is still trying to find the library.
Tip #4: Know The University Has Academic Rules
No one memorizes all the rules--know where to find answers. Familiarize yourself with the academic catalog and student handbook.
Tip #5: Budget Time
Have a social life, but plan your study time properly. Do not begin to study for a test or write a paper the night before either is due. Read syllabi early for dates and note them on a calendar. Remember, sleep is also necessary, so budget for that as well.
Tip #6: Accept Constructive Criticism
Keep in mind that when a professor critiques your work, he or she is doing you a favor. This is not personal; any work can be improved. The more "red lines"' you see on a paper, the more time that the professor took to point out ways for you to improve.
Tip #7: Realize That Being A Student Is A Full-Time Job
Look at university life as a full-time career. Focus on good academic habits, social skills, and balancing priorities. Now is the time to develop skills that will be expected after graduation in your selected career.
Tip #8: Develop An Appreciation For The Mastery Of Language
No matter what your major or discipline of interest, the single most important skill for life success is communication. Understand what language is acceptable and in what situations. How you communicate your skills and thoughts demonstrates the depth of your education.
Tip #9: Become Part Of University Life
Becoming part of the campus community is just as important as going to class, writing papers, and taking exams. Take advantage of the variety of university experiences.
Tip #10: Get To Know Your Professors Before You Graduate
Begin by targeting some faculty that you think are worth knowing before you graduate. Who are you likely to have in more than one course? These are the professors who will evaluate your work, supply references for future career options or graduate school, and help guide your intellectual development.
Tip #11: Have The Courage Of Your Confusions
In high school, a good student is supposed to know all the answers and get everything right. But in college, you take on more difficult challenges and more demanding material. It is no longer possible to have "all the answers." Beyond college, that kind of high school perfection isn't even remotely possible. Learn to be patient with others and with yourself.
Tip #12: Be Patient With Yourself
You will make errors or mistakes during your collegiate career. Please be assured that you are not DOOMED. When you realize, or even think, you have goofed, set out to correct it.
Tip #13: Make Your Own Decisions
Seeking advice is always nice. Trying to play it safe and avoid making decisions can lead to as many problems as making uninformed or risky choices. Weigh options and gather as much information as possible. Accept responsibility for your decisions.
Tip #14: Know Your Academic Situation Before The Withdraw Period
If you have a question or concern about how you are doing in a class, go to the professor and discuss it. Keep yourself informed and record all grades received for each assignment. Read each syllabus carefully, and pay attention to the weight of all assignments as they determine the final grade in each course. Keep all grades updated.
Tip #15: Learn To Communicate In The Classroom
There are no dumb questions concerning subject matter. If you don't know or don't understand something, chances are several of your classmates don't either. Learning to ask questions is a skill. Develop it!
Tip #19: It Does Not Help To Blame Others For Your Academic Problems
If you are not doing well academically, get help. Talk to your academic advisor and your professors. They want to help.
Tip #21: Keep in Touch
Don't forget to keep in touch with your family. Parents, siblings, grandparents -- they are cheering you on.
Tip #22: Unplug
Allow yourself time to enjoy the process. Breathe deeply. You can do this!