“The only easy day was yesterday”

“So, first of all,let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
March 4, 1933

Having emerged from our Thanksgiving feast induced comas, we are faced with a harsh reality this week. Yes, it is the end of term. Looking out my window, I can almost seethe fear surrounding the students walking from the residence halls to central campus.

Fear is good. It is a powerful motivator. The trick is not becoming paralyzed by fear. You must overcome the fear of failure. Recognize the fear as a warning sign and use it to motivate you for what are admittedly two very difficult weeks. Every trick and tip I or anyone else has ever offered is now on the table. Your local barista is now your best friend. This is the championship of the academic world.

In two weeks, it will all seem anticlimactic. While the people on my side of the desk are still grading, you will have packed up your dorm room and headed home for the break and–hopefully – a halfway regular sleep schedule for a few weeks. In the end, your grades may not be what you wanted, but there is always next semester. Next Semester will be an almost clean slate. There is plenty of room for improvement then.

For now and the remainder of this semester, work diligently. Don’t panic. Keep a list of what you have to accomplish and mark things off when they are complete. Not only with this remind you of what you need to be doing, but it will also give you a sense of accomplishment as you move towards the end of finals. It is a great sense of fulfillment watching the check marks advance down the page.

Time management is more important now than ever. Don’t totally neglect sleep. You are not going to be able to even guess at the information on the test if you are sleeping on your desk. Don’t spend all your time working on your most difficult class. Stand Up from your desk and walk around for five minutes every hour or so. Remember to proof your assignments before you submit them. And finally, don’t forget to eat actual meals (and not just junk food) every now and then. Your body needs the nourishment.
Now, get to work.Just don’t forget to breathe.

Learning to be Prepared

“In moments of crisis, the initiative passes to those who are the best prepared.”
~ Morton C. Blackwell ~

That quote is one which is firmly engrained in my memory. As number forty-one in Blackwell’s Laws of the Public Policy Process, it is not only great advice for those working in politics, but also for everyday life. I know I have shared it repeatedly with my advisees over the past few weeks. I even have a framed copy propped on the windowsill in my office.

In everything, preparation is the key. In your classes, your grades will be substantially better if you actually studied before the exam. Your grades will likewise improve if you studied over the course of the preceding week instead of holding out for a last minute all-nighter in the library.

Preparation is planning. It is being informed. Every college student should have a notebook with a list of classes required to graduate, a list of classes they have already taken, and a list of classes which are still required. As the time for registration draws near, compare the list of needed classes to the classes being offered. You should already know what classes are needed well before registration opens – and for that matter, before you meet with your advisor.

You are in control of your education. You are no longer in high school. While advisors (or advisers?) and professors are here to help you, you must be proactive. We can point you in the right direction, but you must also do your part as well. The goal of college is not to get you – the student – to be able to repeat information on a test. The point of college is not even to get good grades.

Instead, the entire point of college is actually two-fold. First, we should teach you – not what to think – but HOW to think. Over your course of study, you should learn how to process information and make decisions from it; knowledge is much more than being able to recite the information presented in a lecture. Secondly, we are to teach you the skills necessary to be successful in your career. If you miss a deadline in college, it might affect your grade. If you miss a deadline in the professional world, it could very well cost your job. I would much rather teach my students and advisees the value of a preparation and organization now, rather than them having to learn it from an employer later.

Govern Yourselves


Note: This is being cross posted for Georgia College freshmen, so it includes links to some GC information. My apologies to those who are at other campuses, though I am sure there are similar programs at most college campuses.

In Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, “Government” was defined first not as an entity, but as the ability to manage yourself. It is to show control or restraint. The example which is given is “Men are apt to neglect the government of their temper and passions.” This “self-government” is one of the big differences when transferring from one level of education to another. When you’re in high school, you are constantly reminded to turn in your assignments. You are given time in study hall to complete you homework. Your schedule is mapped out for you. When you begin college, it is up to you to manage your schedule, manage your time, and manage your academics.

Part of maturity, and part of growing up, is becoming responsible for your own life. Your parents will no longer make sure you are awake on time to go to class. Your professors will not constantly remind you of due dates. If an assignment is on the syllabus, many times that is the only reminder you will receive. With the increased independence of college life, comes increased responsibility.

To adapt to these new responsibilities, you have to have a plan. Create some sort of time management system. It can be your phone or online calendar, or a hard copy calendar. Just keep something so you know where you are supposed to be at what time. Keep a list of all your assignments for the quarter for every class. That way, you will be able to tell at a glance what is due in the next five days.

But, the biggest issue in time management is oftentimes prioritization of certain activities. When you are creating your plan, there are some things that MUST be included (attending class, sleep, eating) but many times, there are vital things which are overlooked. Most people are awake between 16-18 hours a day. Of that, about 3 hours is typically spent in the classroom and (nominally) 6 hours is spent studying. What should be done with the other 7 hours a day?

Well, quite frankly, that is where you get the education you don’t receive in the classroom. You may work a part time job, perform community service projects, be involved in student activities, or just hang out with friends. All of these things are vital to the college experience. You just have to govern how you approach them. My first two years of college, I was in no less six student organizations at any given time, plus worked several part time jobs. While that time period is an impressive block on my resume, I ended up leaving most of them off the document. Why? Because most of them really didn’t mean anything five years down the road (aka, when I graduate and started looking for my first professional job).

It is much better to be involved in one or two groups, perform your duties well, and be promoted through the ranks than it is to be in everything which remotely interests you and become spread too thin. Plus, excelling in a few things which demonstrate leadership ability will prove invaluable in your future job search.

To wrap things up, as you are planning and following your schedule, focus on academics. But, remember to include personal time and time for extracurricular activities. They are all important and none should be neglected. You just have to find the balance which is right for you.

Link Roundup:
A Crash Course in Student Time Management by Cal Newport
An older post, but it is a collection of links to different time management systems.
One of this week’s posts from Hack College. Provides good information for the start of an academic term (even though we are a few weeks ahead of schedule here at Georgia College).
Focused more towards upperclassmen and grad students, this Grad Hacker post sheds some light on the dreaded Lit Review (which I addressed here and here).

One week down, 14 more to go…

As the first week of classes draws to a close (at least for my school), it is amazing to see all the different perspectives running around campus. Some students are already fully immersed in the college experience. More than a few of them are still walking around campus with eyes wide with panic. The first week of classes is over. You have (hopefully) already been to all your classes at least once, received your syllabi, and have a pretty good idea of what needs to happen over the course of the semester. So, as you’re sitting at your tiny desk with stacks of new (or at least new to you) textbooks framing your computer screen, a sudden thought hits you. You are REALLY in college. Okay, hotshot, now what?

I have never seen anyone for whom the college experience is the same as high school. Indeed, that is the way it is supposed to be. We do not LEARN anything as long as the status quo is maintained. We are here to better ourselves, right? Well, that will involve some growing pains from time to time.

What can you do now to improve your college experience? Well, first, get a notebook or folder. There is a lot of important information you need to track. You can do this either electronically or with paper copies, but it needs to be done. Keep copies of all your syllabi in one place. That way, you know where they are at all times. Next, get a clean sheet of paper. Write down the contact information (Office location, phone number, email address, and office hours at the very least) of every professor and teaching assistant. Also include the information for your advisor. If you need to get in touch with people in a hurry, the last thing you need is to be running around in a panic trying to find contact information.

The next thing you need to do is get planner and write out your classes for each week. You can use one online (Georgia College students have one through their Google Apps powered Bobcat email) or keep a paper copy. It doesn’t matter HOW you track everything. It just matters that you DO track it. Also, go through your syllabi and make a list of every major assignment that is due, which class it requires it, and the date it is due. A spreadsheet program works great for this. Sort by due date and print it off.  Actually, print several copies. Keep one in your main notebook. Keep one at your desk. Keep one in your book bag. As you complete each assignment, mark it off. It will give you a great sense of accomplishment, I assure you. Finally, go on the school’s website and write down all the important dates for the term. When is the last day to drop a class? When does registration for the next semester begin? Are there any holidays during the term?

Organization is key for education regardless of the level. A wonderfully written paper is no good to anyone if you forget to submit it. With a proper perspective and time management, you will be able to maintain your wellbeing academically, socially, and emotionally.