Thursday, August 28, 2014

First Week Success: Professors

Throughout the semester there may be times that you are struggling with a paper, confused by the subject material or happened to miss the last class period but was confused by something in the classmate’s notes that you borrowed. During times like these you should talk with the professor. After all, they are the one teaching the course and know what they are looking for you to do. Here are some tips to help you say the right thing when looking for help:

1.     Don’t say: “I’m so lost!” 

Say: “I am confused about our upcoming paper. Here is what I’ve done: I read over the assignment sheet. I reviewed your examples. I am stuck on the transitions and two of my sources. Can you help with that?”

Here’s why: Instead of conveying blanket lost-ness, be specific. Don’t make your professor tease out where you’re stuck, which wastes time. Show that you’ve attempted to help yourself and you’ll get more focused assistance.

2.      Don’t Say: “Will this be on the test?” 

Say: “I used my notes and textbook and downloaded your lectures and PowerPoints to create a study guide for our upcoming exam. Would you look and see if I’ve missed any major areas?”

Here’s why: No need to mine for test gold and lose credibility. Show your professor you think all content is worthwhile. You won’t have questions handed to you, but you may get an assist if you’ve skipped a critical study area.

3.      Don’t Say: “I’ve missed four classes, but can I still pass?” 

Say: “I missed the last four classes, which was unavoidable. I do not plan to be absent again. I’ve reviewed the attendance and late-work policy on the syllabus. I calculated my lost points. Here is what I propose to catch myself up (submit your proposal), based on your policies. Have I missed anything in my calculations? I believe I can still pass if we agree on the dates I will submit this work, according to your policy and penalties.”

Here’s why: Your professor may have zero tolerance for absences. Still, a well-thought-out proposal has a chance. Asking your professor to save you likely doesn’t.

4.      Don’t Say: “Can I leave early? Will we be doing anything important?” 

Say: “I need to leave class early today. I noticed on the schedule that you are going over chapter six. I read chapter six and started on the assignment. I will have it done on time and will be prepared for the next class meeting.”

Here’s why: First, don’t ask for exit permission — your professor can’t fairly give it. Just go, be responsible for the consequences and don’t make early departure a habit. Second, your professor has a plan for class days, regardless how the schedule appears. You may be going over a test, building community through class discussion or having an unexpected guest speaker. Every class day is a day committed by you and your professor, and is important to your professor. It should be important to you, as well. Conveying otherwise? Not professional.

Use these tips when speaking with your professor and you’ll do great! Just remember, check the syllabus before asking questions about due dates as your class calendar should be in there along with any policies they have regarding attendance and grades. Confused about something? Just ask!
Extracted from article by Ellen Bremen, M.A.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Week Success: Note Taking Tips

Today marks the second period of a class for most students. This usually means it is the day Professors start lecturing and you will need to start taking notes. To get you started off on the right foot, here are some tips for you:

  • Write the date at the top of your new page of notes each day of class. This makes it easier to separate each day so that you are able to find what you are looking for when you look back in your notes.
  • Try to add titles and subtitles to make it clear what the overall topic is for that section of notes.
  • Write down any new terminology the professor uses and the definition that they provide. This goes for names too!
  •  If your professor repeats something, definitely write it down! This means it is important and is likely to be on the test.
  • Don’t write down every word the professor says. You will spend more time frantically writing than actually listening to what the professor is saying.
  • Try to keep all of your notes for the class in the same place. This could be in the same notebook, binder or in the same folder on your computer.

Some tips that upperclassmen have found helpful:

  • After writing your notes in class, go back and read the notes that same day when you get back to your room.
  • When you get to your computer next, type up all of the notes for the course. This makes you review the notes again and makes it easier to format. This can also be helpful when completing a study guide. You already have the information typed so you can simply copy and paste it into the study guide.
  • You should always read the notes regularly to help prepare for the tests. This will benefit you more than waiting until the night before the test to review everything.
  • Meet someone from your class and study the notes with them!

The most beneficial thing that you can do for yourself is take the time to figure out what note-taking style works best for you. Everyone is different and needs to view the information differently. Try new ways of note-taking until you find the one for you!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Week Success: The Anatomy of a Syllabus

Your syllabus is the most vital document you will receive all semester. It is a contact sheet, schedule, guide, course preview and contract. In order to have a successful semester, you have to understand the anatomy of your syllabus! Below, we've broken the syllabus down into it's key parts with some helpful tips.

1. Instructor Name & Contact Information: It is extremely important that you know your professor's name, office location and office hours. How can you ask for help from someone you can't name or locate?

2. Course Description: This brief introduction of the course outlines the scope, purpose and relevance of material. The description offers a foundation for understanding how the professor is approaching the class topics and how he or she will conduct the class.

3. Required Materials: Your syllabus will include citations for required texts including auther, title and publisher. Additional materials may also be required such as notecards, course packets or lab equipment.

4. Assignment & Test Descriptions: Assignments and test descriptions are important because they explain what each requires and how you can complete them successfully. They answer questions like: What will my test cover? What types of questions might it include? How many pages should my paper be? What format? How many sources do I include? Do I need to prepare a presentation for my project? Should I include handouts for my peers? Understanding the information in this section is the first step to completing graded material well.

5. Grading Policy: Most syllabi contain some description of the grading policy, whether it be a points or percentage system. Understanding which your professor uses will help you figure out your standing in the class at any given moment. Calculating your grade throughout the semester will be a valuable indicator to how you have been doing and what more needs to be done to ensure a good grade. 

6. Attendance Policy: All professors expect you to be in class, but they will vary in terms of reprimanding you for absences. Not understanding the attendance policy can be the easiest way to lose points in a course. You will find that many professors will take away points for missing sessions and these deductions can add up over the semester. Be sure to understand the policy before it's too late!

7. Course Calendar: The course calendar outlines exactly when assignments are due and when readings should be completed. If you want to avoid a chaotic semester, it is crucial to review the course calendar and transfer the information into the planner or schedule you will look at on a regular basis. Professors won't likely give you daily reminders about assignments, tests and readings so take responsibility and know this section.

Before asking you instructors about expectations, policies or responsibilities, consult your syllabus!