Friday, December 29, 2006

Lesson IV: Choosing Courses

At this point in the year (almost January) you should already have chosen and signed up for the courses you're going to be taking for next semester. But if your anything like some of my friends then you probably haven't even put a single thought into choosing classes yet and won't until the last possible minute. But fear not, this advice can help both the prepared student and the lazy procrastinator (for now and in the future.)

1. Review your course catalog.
First you should be looking at your college's course catalog for courses you're interested in and look for what courses you need for your major (this includes your prerequisites and gen. ed's.)

2. Speak with a councilor/advisor.
The entire purpose of an academic advisor is for them to help you find out what classes you need to take so you can get the education your looking for. Your college pays them so they can be there to help you when you need it; part of your tuition pays for their service. So why not use it? Call or walk into the admissions department and make an appointment to speak with a councilor. Even if you already know exactly what courses you need to take and what your doing for the rest of your year, it never hurts to have a talk with the councilor about your plans (they might have some helpful tips or information about your major that you haven't heard yet.)

3. When your choosing classes figure out why your taking them.
It seems like a simple enough concept but some students don't take the time to think about it. If you have to take a class for your major then there isn't much to think about (its just something your going to have to do) but if your considering taking a class just because your interested in the subject try to find out if you can have it can be credited as an elective credit for your major. If the course can't be counted as any sort of elective credit, try asking yourself if taking the class is worth the time, money and effort it will require (which is not to say that taking a class for fun isn't perfectly ok.)

4. Ask around about the course and professor.
Talk to your friends and ask around campus to find out what other students thought of a class and the professor who taught it. Was it so boring that the students were falling asleep during the lecture? Did they find the professor unapproachable for help? Its questions like that which are good to find out ahead of time. Keep in mind what your will be hearing are opinions and not necessarily facts so its just a small thing to take into consideration. Having trouble finding people who have taken a certain class or had a certain professor? With websites like Myspace and Rate My Professors that feature ratings and reviews on professors its easy for students to talk to each other about their experiences on a larger scale.

5. Do some searching.
Most college websites will provide links to or a directory of faculty websites. If you search through the directory of faculty and find the professors website who will be teaching the course you want to take, you may find that they have posted a syllabus or more detailed description of the class. You may find out that the class isn't exactly what you bargained for (before it's too late.)

6. Even if a class is full, don’t give up!
This is especially for the procrastinators out there who wait until the last minute to sign up for a class only to realize that every section is full. But fear not there is still a glimmer of hope. At many institutions the policy of course overrides are allowed. An override is if a professor is willing to sign a paper allowing an extra student into the class then the college will allow you to take the class and get credit for it. Keep in mind though that not all professors are more willing to sign an override for one reason or another (and excessive begging is not a good idea.) However, some professors are more willing to sign an override if some of the other students don’t show up on the first day (there’s usually at least a few of those people.) The best plan is to speak to the professor (or the department head) ahead of time and they might sign the override before class starts or they may ask you to show up to class the first day and they will do the best they can to squeeze you in. But as I have said this may work but don’t expect miracles, some professors make a policy of not writing overrides and some courses simply don’t have enough room or materials for more students then originally planned.

Although these are just a few tips they might be just what you need to help you find out what courses you need to take and help you to choose what courses you want to take.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Lesson III: Managing Your Finances (for Students)

Unless your an ivy league bound** trust fund baby with a few of Mommy and Daddy's credit cards on hand then your likely to have to watch your finances while in college and for the rest of your adult life. Or else you will end up with a perminant diet of ramen noodles and using empty milk crates as major furnature pieces (no offense to anyone who has a fondness for ramen and milk crates.) Rather then have me make this long post on managing your finances during college I will post a link to a post from another blog that I think sums it up nicely and I will put my own thoughts on it.

27 Money Tips for College Students

First let me say I think this is a really good post (well obviously because I wouldn't have linked it otherwise.) Props to J.D Roth for writing it. J.D breaks down his post of tips into the catagories of Money Management, Organizational and Planning, Campus Life, Personal Life, Decision Making and Money Making so thats how I will discuss them.

Money Managment
I completely agree with him on the tips that he says with the exception of "Don't get a credit card unless you need one."I know he's making that statement for a large amount of people who at this age really aren't ready to handle the responsibility of having a credit card. I personally have two credit cards and although I don't "need" them I am using them to build a solid credit history. I think the important thing to realize is that you are old enough at this point to know if you can handle a credit card, if you don't think you are able to handle it responbily then just don't get one. You have to realize that you can't spend more then you make and you have to keep on top of your payments or you will be royally skrewed and your credit history will be shot to hell. If you do get one (weither its because you need it or you want to establish a good credit history early on) make sure you shop around for the best plan for you, make sure you start off with a low credit limit and keep track of all the purchases you make with the card.

Organizational and Planning
These tips are really important be sure not to skip by these or take them too lightly.

Campus Life
I think that these tips are good because keeping yourself busy acamedically and socially will prevent you with making purchases out of boredom rather than neceddity. The only one that I have an issue with is "Live without a car." One again that's all well and good if you don't have a part time job or other commitments off campus and thats assuming you live on campus. I go to a community college at the moment and having a car is critical for me, I also have friends who live on campus at there schools but they have part time jobs and stuff off campus and only relying on public transportation simply isn't possible. If you can live without a car then by all means its a good idea but if you can't then you just can't.

Personal Life
All I can say is... Who would have thought that buying tons of pot, smoking ciggerettes and chugging beer by the keg could present some financial issues?

Decision Making
This stuff really is common sence and stuff you should be doing already weither your in college or not. But then again... not everyone uses common sence so if your one of those people you should re-read it and get it in your head now.

Making Money
I like it how the blogger mentioned about having a part-time job in this section. In my opinon I think that college students should have some form of a part time job while in school (weither its at the college, off campus or an intership.) I think that it helps balance out all the time in class, it gives you some money to work with and chances are you might be able to find one that has to do with your major. The only thing I would have added to the list was that while investing is important you should also be putting atleast a small portion of your weekly earnings into some form of an interest-earning savings account that you don't touch. This is incase of an emergency or to save up for a future large purchase (such as rent for an apartment or a car etc.)

Once again if you have comments or even more suggestions of things to add I'm all ears.

** I am in no way saying that anyone who is bound for an Ivy League college is rich or papered or some sort of trust fund baby. I know that if your there its most likely because you've worked your ass off and deserve to be there, not because your parents footed the bill for the new library or something.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lesson II: The "Freshman Fifteen"

First off let me say that I'm not referring to this Freshman 15 (this freshman fifteen is a talented male a cappella group I accidentally stumbled on.) If you've ever been to college or are planning to go to college then you have probably heard of the famed "Freshman Fifteen" a college myth/theory that has existed probably since your parents were in college (although they may have known it as the "Freshman Five" or "Freshman Ten".) There have been articles and even entire books devoted to the subject (many of which have some great ideas on how to prevent it.) But if your looking for some free basic information about it and tips on how to avoid the freshman fifteen then here's my rundown on it.

The freshman fifteen is the myth that while in your first year of college most students will gain fifteen pounds because of the increased calorie intake and decreased exercise levels. Now while the freshman fifteen is (for the most part) a myth it does contain some truth.

MYTH: Most college students gain 15 lbs. in their first year of school.
FACT: Many college students will gain some weight (although studies have differed on the exact average, the range seems to be from 4 - 8 lbs.) This can be attributed to many different reasons, most of which can be avoided or minimized with some minor changes in diet and activity levels.

MYTH: Only lazy students will gain weight during school.
FACT: Its possible for any student to gain weight while in college. Many students who were very athletic in high school but could not continue their rigorous routines may find their pants fitting a bit tighter if only because of there decreased activity levels.

MYTH: Everybody gains weight their first year it's just a part of the college experience.
FACT: Not everyone gains weight their first year. In fact, I have been read stories of some people who have lost some extra pounds while in college. With the right diet and exercise your weight might not change at all (or if your lucky you can lose some of those extra pounds you were hoping to get rid of.)

So now that you have an idea of what it is, the question is "How do I prevent it?"

1. Make a plan and allow yourself to fail.
The best offence is a good defense. If you go to school with a plan of how you want to eat and keep active then you are more likely to stick with it. When you think about your plan make sure to include time for breakfast, lunch, dinner and plenty of sleep (while you sleep you create a hormone called leptin which regulates fullness.) If you make your plan so rigid and unforgiving that you don't allow yourself some room to fail once in a while then you will ultimately give up on it. Allow yourself to be rewarded for your hard work when you stick to your plan and try not to be too hard on yourself if you stumble and fall once in a while. With the stress of a new environment and a tight schedule even the best of plans is bound to be tested.

2. If you have a meal plan then use it!
If your living at school with Room & Board then that means you have some form of a meal plan with the college's cafeteria. Why go out and spend money you probably can't afford to lose on fatty, unhealthy fast food when you have meals included in your room & board? Now I'm not gonna lie, there's plenty of stuff in that cafeteria that's not anywhere close to healthy (burger and fries anyone?) but there's always at least a few healthy choices (usually a salad bar and sandwich/wrap making section.) Just try to load up on the fresh fruits and veggies, drink plenty of water and remember the magic words "portion control".

3. Go easy on the booze and drugs.
While I don't condone it or think it is wise for your health, I know that a lot of people they feel that college is the time to drink and do drugs while their bodies are still young enough to handle it. Just keep in mind that besides packing on the extra pounds, excessive drinking and drug use will wreak havoc on your vital organs and most likely create some huge academic problems.

4. Get Active!
One of the main causes for the "freshman fifteen" syndrome is because when a lot of students start college they put exercise and fitness on the back burner and weight gain follows. But fear not, one way or another there is a way for every student to be active whiling juggling a busy academic and social schedule.

For those who love sports and group activities -- Every college has some sort of athletic department and so there will be sports activities available. With all the sports that are played today you are likely to find a sport and a team for you. Many colleges will offer teams in different divisions for students with different athletic skill levels (so for those of us who aren't going into the big leagues can still have fun too.)

For those who love to workout alone or aren't into sports -- For every institution of higher learning that has an athletic department that department will also have a gym. Most will have at least your basics: free weights, a stretching room (maybe for yoga or pilates) and a plethora of machines just waiting for students and faculty to use them. Most schools will allows free (or largely discounted) memberships for their students, faculty and maybe family members of the faculty. The plus about going to the gym at your school is that it is likely to have more "student friendly" hours which allow you to come and go as you please and plenty of help/tips from the staff or fellow students.

For those who hate to play sports or workout -- You might the type of person who doesn't feel like setting out time every day/week for planned exercise. Or you could have an irrational fear of the gym and hate the idea of team sports. The best suggestions I could give is for you is to walk, run, bike or skate (if allowed) to anywhere you want to get around campus. With all the hiking back and forth from class to class, the dorms or anywhere else you need to go, burning calories shouldn't be a problem (as long as your following a reasonable diet.)

5. Don't skip meals or try any other crazy diet ideas.
Everyone knows that being in college means your going to have a busy schedule with plenty of late night studying (or other activities) so some people will forget to eat breakfast or skip a meal. Just don't do it. It’s a fact that skipping meals (especially breakfast) causes your metabolism to slow down and stops you from using the nutrients from your food effectively. College is also not a time to try crazy dieting ideas (skipping meals, taking pills, binging and purging, not eating at all etc.) If your having serious problems maintaining a healthy weight or have a negative self-image you should first consult a medical professional before trying any kind of change of diet or exercise. For some people the pressure of the college environment seems to be the perfect catalyst to develop certain psychological and medical conditions that can affect more then just your weight.

6. And finally... Try to prepare for the unexpected.
The joy of being in college is in all of those really late nights you will have to pull to finish term papers, the really early classes that are always on the opposite side of the campus and the countless number of hours you will be stuck in the library doing research. Chances are that eating right will probably be the last thing on your mind in situations like that. So its best thing to do is to be prepared for the unexpected by having a small but health snack and bottle of water with you when your on the go and be sure to take time out to eat.

Keep in mind that this information isn't meant to replace the instructions of your primary care provider or dietitian but only some common sense tips to try to help you stay healthy. If your looking for more advanced information on nutrition and how to eat sensibly while your in college I would suggest you start your search by reading some reviews on Amazon and looking at your local/campus library.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lesson I: First Impressions

So you've gone through the course catalog and picked your classes, then you put down a small fortune down for books and supplies and now it’s the first day of class. Whether your name is engraved on the top of the dean's list or "academic probation" is a phrase your pretty familiar with, most college students know that being on good terms with a professor can make your life a lot easier. Like any other relationship your starting, the first impression will be what you are judged by, a bad one is hard to shake but a good one can leave a lasting impression. So how to make a good first impression? Just entry on this blog won't do the topic of good first impressions any form of justice but here are some of the basics.

1. Show up and be on time.
It was Woody Allen who said "eighty percent of success is just showing up" and he was right. College classes require that you show up and more importantly that you show up on time. Most professors find nothing more annoying than being interrupted by someone walking into their class twenty minutes after its already started or being told "I wasn't here last week, can you tell me what I missed?" It’s disrespectful and shows signs of immaturity. If you have trouble waking up early in the morning when the alarm clock goes off How to properly handle being absent from class is for another lesson.

2. Find out what is expected of you (and what you can expect from your professor.)
On the very first day most professors will hand out a syllabus explaining all the basics or they will tell you and expect you to remember. If he/she doesn't give you a syllabus then taking some notes wouldn't be a bad idea. In your notes be sure to include:

+ Ways to contact the professor (such as an office telephone number and/or e-mail address) incase something comes up and you need to get a hold of him/her.
+ The professor's office hours (not all professors will offer them so its good to find out if they do.) If you have more than just a few questions about an assignment or need some extra help this would be the time to ask.
+ The grading policy. How many tests or quizzes will you have? Do you have take home assignments or essays? How much of your grade is each thing worth? Most of this should be explained but if it’s then not be sure to ask so you can keep track of your progress throughout the semester.
+ If there are any required readings or extra materials. Some professors may ask that in addition to your textbook you purchase additional books as required readings for the class (often the case for English and literature courses) or some additional supplies for laboratory/clinical courses (such is the case for many students in healthcare related majors.)

3. Act like you care (even if you don't.)
When you’re in class you should look like you want to be there (even if you don't want to) and show the professor some basic respect. Just try to imagine that you’re the one who has to stand up and teach the entire class. If the students aren't looking at you and are talking to each other while your speaking or are on their cell phones then you would consider it pretty rude right? Well that's exactly how your professor feels. Basically, you should turn off your cell phone (or put it on vibrate) and keep it in your pocket, look at the professor and don't talk unless you've been called on and finally pull out a notebook and at least pretend to be taking some notes. Whether you want to pay attention is your business (although I would since your paying to be there) but this way your not disrupting the rest of the class and your not being openly rude to the professor.

4. Be prepared.
It’s a simple enough concept. If your supposed to have read a selection before class to be able to discuss a the topic during class then do it. If have an essay due in two weeks, then you better make sure you have it ready in two weeks. Not being prepared for class only makes you appear immature and it can also make it difficult to understand what the professor is talking about when they move on to more difficult concepts. Not to mention you will look pretty stupid if you’re called on to answer a question on something you should know but have no clue about.

5. If your interested in the subject then show it!
Its just a fact that your not going to enjoy every class that you take, so for some your just going to have to do the work and hope it goes by quickly. But hopefully there should be at least a few of the classes you take that you will enjoy and are interested in taking. If you are interested in the subject or the way the professor teaches it then you should show it. Participate in discussions (if there are any), do some extra research on a topic and ask questions that promote further discussion and thought (just don't ask questions that have already been answered or aren't relevant to the topic.)

6. Make yourself stand out
Unless you have a professor who only teaches one class (which sometimes happens) then your professors are likely to have a lot of students (especially if your in a lecture hall with hundreds of students each class.) Its a fact that not every professor will notice you, many of them probably won't know you as anything more then a student ID number and that's the best your going to get out of them. But if your lucky enough to be in a small class then you have a good chance you will be known by name (or nickname.) If you are usually the first one to class, the last one to leave or one of those people who asks really good questions it will be a lot easier to be remembered. Just make sure your not remembered for the wrong reasons.

7. Don't be annoying.
Don't become the person that your classmates (and secretly the professor too) peg as an annoying person. Annoying people tend to be easier students to remember than the not annoying ones (and that's not a good thing.) Try not to become one of these "types" of annoying students:

The "Know-It-All" -- This person may do any of the following things: Asking questions that they end up answering themselves, contradicting the professor whenever they have the chance, answering every question asked before anyone else has a chance.

The "Well this one time..." Person -- This person feels that every discussion warrants a long, personal story from their life (most of the time it will have little to do with what's actually being discussed and wastes a lot of time.)

The "Yup/Nope" Person -- This person needs to constantly confirm what the professor is saying by adding "Yup", "Yea", "Nope" or "No" as if to say that their personal approval will somehow add to the lesson.

The "Will This Be Graded?" Person -- This person will constantly ask any of the following questions: "Is this being graded?", "Will this affect my GPA?", "Is there any extra credit?", "Is this on the exam?" or "Will you point out what will be on the exam?"

The Drama Queen -- This person makes it their priority to be overly vocal about their opinion on everything (even when no one else asks for it) and to ensure that everybody else realizes their presence. The "drama queen" may also have some of the same characteristics as the other annoying personalities.

Those are the basic rules to making a good first impression with a professor. If you can think of anything else that should be added to this list by all means make a comment or send me an e-mail and I will put it up.

Monday, December 11, 2006

How It All Started...

Let me take the time to introduce myself and tell you why I started this. My name is Chris. I am 19 years old and in my second year at my local community college studying to get my ADN (Associates Degree in Nursing.) One night while I was thinking about the things I've learned since I've been in college and all of the stuff my friends have told me about their college experiences. I wondered why I wasn't ready for some of the experiences and situations that I've had to deal with and how helpful it would have been if there was something that I could have read (like a guide) that told me what I was really in for. I have bought a library's worth of books and read as many online articles as I could find about "the college experience" and how to best be prepared for it. Don't get me wrong, most of the books and articles I've found have been really helpful but the problem is that the information isn't all in one place and some of the same issues are being written and rewritten about and others aren't mentioned at all. Now I'm sure your thinking "What makes you such an authority on college and what could you possibly tell me that I haven't heard before?" The honest answer is that I'm by no means an authority and there are tons of things I haven’t experienced yet and what I have to say might not help you at all, but my hope is that by starting this blog I can tell you what I know, you can tell me what you know by sending in some feedback and contributions and this could be something worth reading.

How I plan to do this is each post is a "how-to" on something each in the form of a "lesson". Some of the lessons will include links to articles I have found on the topic and additions or comments on the article that I've found helpful. If you have found any websties or articles you have found helpful be sure to send them to me and I can post them on here too.