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Get What You Deserve Out of College

These suggestions can help you get the most out of your college academic experience.

Get What You Deserve Out of College

"Take the first semester seriously. Some students do not and find it difficult to then rebound their academic readiness as well as GPAs during subsequent semesters."
– Associate Director, Office of Admissions, Purdue University

"If I hadn't gone to all of my Shakespeare lectures – even though some of them were a bit dull – I would have never known that the prof was obsessed with us quoting the texts in our term papers."
– Recent Grad, Wesleyan University

You're here to learn something. And while you'll learn a tremendous amount from just being on your own and interacting with all sorts of interesting people, you also want to get as much as you can out of your classes. You deserve it. You've worked to get here and it would be a shame if you spent hours a day in class without getting much out of it. (Plus, think of how much moola you and your family are paying for your education!) Regardless of how brilliant your professors might be or how fascinating you find the class material, you'll need to put in some effort to get what you deserve – both in terms of your learning and your grades. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Go to class. You can always find an excuse not to go: Your professor is boring, you can't understand his English, the material puts you to sleep, you're tired from partying late the night before, and so on. While it's certainly more than okay to skip class a few times – when you're sick, or have to get another life-or-death assignment in – try to not give in to the temptation too often. You'll learn more, meet more people, and have a chance to really get involved in the material.

    There are also a few practical reasons to go to class. Some professors like to mark down attendance and take revenge against those who skip their class by grading them more strictly. Many professors talk about their exams and paper assignments in class, and mention what you'll need to study. You don't want to miss out on this info because it can really make a difference. Professors don't often come out and say exactly what you should study and exactly what your paper should be like, but if you pay attention, you'll learn a lot about each professor's preferences. We all have our quirks and they do, too.

    Big introductory lectures have a tendency to be really boring. Hang in there and try to get what you can out of the class. You'll get a good overview of the particular academic discipline, which will make your choice of major easier later on. Also, these large classes are a good way to meet new people by forming a study group or griping about the boring lectures.

  • Study. Find class material that is interesting and bite into it. This sounds like we're your parents or your teachers, but it's not bad advice. You're paying so much money for your education that it's a shame to just do the bare minimum and not get much out of your classes. And part of what we all do in college is figure out what interests us and what we might want to do after graduation – you never know if reading a really interesting psychology chapter might peak your interest in becoming a psychologist.

  • Find great profs. Remember that amazing teacher who made your senior year statistics class the most exciting part of your year? Maybe not, but think of your favorite high school classes and, more likely than not, it was your teacher who made them that way. It's no different in college. Search out great profs and try to take a class with them. If your professor is engaging, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about teaching, you'll learn a ton, even if the subject matter itself isn't particularly interesting.
"My professors are absolutely brilliant. They really motivate you to learn, and the amount of information that they can pass on is incredible – it's like they hold thirty books on one subject in their head."
– Freshman, Emory University

Word of mouth is a great way to learn about various professors and their teaching styles. Talk to some upperclassmen and see whom they recommend. Your resident advisor (RA) is another great resource.

  • Get to know your professors and help them to know you. This can really take your college experience from okay to great, and we just wish that we figured that out during freshman year and not much later. Despite the obvious benefits of interacting with smart people – you can learn a tremendous amount and be inspired – knowing your professors can have positive practical results. Profs like students who care about the class and take the time to talk to them about it. If your professor likes you, he or she will be more inclined to give you higher grades.

    If you plan on going on to grad school or applying to internships, you'll need recommendations from your professors. They can't write one unless they know you, so take the time and make the effort. Forming a friendship with a professor is really one of the best things about your college education. Great profs make all the difference.

    Stay and chat after class. Go to a professor's office hours and talk about more than just the class or the assignments. Ask the professor about his or her areas of interest and what he or she is working on outside of class. Usually, professors are involved in research and writing academic articles, and they love to talk about themselves and their work.

Navigating Your Freshman Year From Navigating Your Freshman Year by Students Helping Students®. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

If you'd like to buy this book, click here or on the book cover. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FEPARENT.

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