By Jillian Terry
Getting a fresh start
The ripping of plastic from the covers of glossy hardcover textbooks, the smell of a fresh coat of paint in the tunnels, the long line of students paying for the semester at the Cashier’s Office all signs that it’s that time again.
A new academic year has arrived despite our many attempts to ignore its ominous presence, bringing with it many returning students to Memorial’s campuses myself included as well as a large contingent of eager freshmen, ready to start university life.
For the first Student View column of the semester, I thought it appropriate to impart some of the knowledge I’ve picked up in my first two years at university to other students, whether new or returning to school after a summer full of distraction from the rigours of academia. In an effort to avoid sounding like a high school teacher or parent, I’ve boiled things down to just a handful of simple tips on being a post-secondary student.
Firstly and perhaps most importantly, if you are reading this column to pass time while you are supposed to be in class, stop reading and actually go to class. As much as I appreciate the readership, attendance is one of the most crucial albeit often overlooked aspects of getting an education.
Merely sitting in the classroom not only greatly increases your chances of learning something by listening, it also shows the instructor that you are at least interested enough in the material to physically attend lectures. And there’s no need to use the overcrowding in large classes as an excuse not to go simply wait until the second week of the semester, and there will likely be enough room for you and several friends to sit with legs outstretched. As the novelty wears off, attendance rates especially for sections of large first-year courses tend to dwindle, leaving the regular attendees with a more comfortable and less intimidating class situation.
If, however, there are still more people in each of your classes than in your entire high school graduating class, you’ll need more than just attendance to do well.
Getting to know your professor is something that I have learned has a bigger impact on your academic performance than one would imagine. In a class of any size, making sure that the instructor has a face to put to the name seen at the top of the exam paper is a sure-fire way to help your success in the course. After all, professors are human beings too, and they appreciate a friendly hello in the hallway as much as the next person.
Just because your professor already has those letters after their name that you hope to someday have yourself definitely doesn’t mean that they aren’t open to casual conversation with students outside of lecture time. It’s possible that the subject of your professor’s doctoral dissertation just so happens to be the same as the area of study that you are most interested in.
Maintaining a good rapport with a professor can help when it comes to job hunting as well. Often, a professor with whom you have a good relationship will be more than willing to write a reference letter for an employment or scholarship opportunity that you may have, or may even hire you themselves through the MUCEP program as a research or manuscript assistant.
Aside from the important relationships that you build with your professors, and regular attendance of all your classes, there is another extremely important aspect of university life that many first-year students are often shocked by in the first few weeks of the semester. Frequently, time management is a skill that becomes tainted by bad habits during the junior high and high school years. Especially with the warm early fall weather, it’s frighteningly easy to let coursework slip to the wayside and instead socialize with new classmates, join new clubs on-campus, or simply forget that classes are in full swing.
If you’re spending a lot of time around campus, the library should become your new best friend. Have two hours between classes on Wednesday afternoons? Hit the reserve desk and get acquainted with the required readings for your classes, or complete a pre-lab in a study room. Avoiding the many temptations of the UC, from the delicious smell of Treats coffee to the tables of friends ready to do anything but study, will help in the long-run, despite the short-term angst it may cause.
While these three important factors won’t solve every problem thrown your way this semester, they should help serve as a guide back to the road that, whether you’ve walked down it before or not, eventually leads to academic success in the perennially hectic world of university life. And in the process, we may actually all learn something, too.