Starting Anew: Some Basic Rules

A new semester means a new beginning. Here are some tips that can lead you to success in your new endeavors:  

  • Start as you mean to finish. In other words, go to class. Buy your books.Start out with the assumption that you will work hard all semester. Some students let the first few weeks slide by and then are in a rush to catch up the rest of the term. If you start with consistency and persistence, you’ll have a much better semester.
  • Pay attention. If you are in class, pay attention while there. Don’t spend the lecture texting your friends or checking Facebook. If you are reading your text or working in your web course, don’t do it in front of the television. Research has proven that multi-tasking really doesn’t work, and folks have to switch attention from one thing to another. And let’s face it: For most of us, a post about a cute kitten will take our attention away from our professor or assignment. Just don’t go there. (BTW, almost all professors can tell when you’re not paying attention. You’re not fooling anyone.)
  • Ask questions. You don’t understand a part of a lecture. Raise your hand and ask a question. Ignore the guy behind you sighing in annoyance. He can use the time to check Facebook. But get your answer. If you’re doing homework or reading an assignment and you run into trouble, mark it and ask in class the next day or visit your professor’s office or go to the Learning Center. Do not persist in ignorance because you’re embarrassed.
  • Keep an eye out for trouble. Assignments and quizzes do not exist just to give you a grade. They also allow you to monitor your learning and see where things are going wrong. A teaching friend of mine once begged  her students not to stuff their essays in their notebooks after seeing the grade: “There are helpful comments written all over them!” she wailed. Look at those returned assignments and see where you can make improvements.
  • Make necessary modifications. So let’s say that you get a paper back and your grade isn’t great. Your instructor says you don’t use enough details to prove your thesis, and you need to organize your ideas. You’re not sure what any of that means, so when you write your next paper, you do all the stuff you did last time, except you make it longer. When your grade doesn’t improve, you’re sad because you worked so hard! But here’s the thing: Working harder and longer doing the wrong thing doesn’t make things better. To solve a problem, you have to see where you’ve gone wrong and then make changes. If you’re not sure what those changes should be, return to number 3 in this list. 

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but if you just did these five things, I’m willing to bet your semester would improve!

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