By Adela Penagos, PhD, President
As I begin to experience the change of seasons and await the breathtaking change of color in New England’s fall foliage, I sit in my office to reflect on my experience teaching at a highly selective college, and wonder, why are my students not always prepared for class? Fortunately, for me, I have scheduled a 30-minute meeting with each of the young minds I have in my classroom and confirm my suspicion that transitioning into college is much more challenging that we are ready to admit. Who is helping these students with great potential avail themselves all opportunities in their new home? How can we set them on a path for success?
Before turning to some practical advice, I would like all of us to recall that change takes time and that a new environment calls us to adjust to a different way of thinking and living. When we arrive to a new setting, we seem to expect an instantaneous and seamless transition. We forget that building meaningful friendships, transitioning into a new community, and finding our sense of belonging take time and effort. While keeping a positive attitude and an open mind can help us during any change, I would like to offer 3 suggestions to make your transition to college much easier:
1. Develop a Plan:
Students who will make the most of their learning experience are those who do not know only how to study for the test, but take time every day to learn the material prior to showing up for class. Faculty with great syllabi will offer clear directions on how the student can achieve this goal. Others may expect the student to do much more of this independently. Regardless of method, it is important to figure out early on that coming to the classroom “cold turkey” will only harm your chances to succeed and lower your self-esteem. Make sure to prepare and your learning experience will be easier and much more enjoyable.
2. Meet Your Faculty:
The experts you need to succeed in a course are your teachers. Meet with your faculty during office hours to ask any questions you may have. If you are not available during the scheduled office hours make an appointment at a convenient time for you and your faculty member. You will be surprised about how much more comfortable you will feel in class, how much more likely you will be to succeed by understanding what is expected from you and by the long-lasting relationships resulting from this time investment. Like any other relationship in life, it takes commitment and work to develop a relationship with a teacher or a professor. Nonetheless, it is worth the effort.
3. Trade Social Media Time:
The students I advise on college planning and I do a time analysis exercise periodically. As I analyze the use of students’ time and see my students’ interactions, it is clear that students spend much more time surfing the net, answering texts, and checking WhatsApp than they do studying. Students have recorded on our time analysis exercise spending 18 hours a week on social media versus 4 hours of study time –even when taking more than 5 classes a day. While social media can be a good tool for learning and communicating, as anything in life, if used in excess, it can have negative repercussions. Hence, learn how to manage your social media accounts. Allocate 3 times a day when you check your gadgets for 30-45 minutes a piece as opposed to every 10 minutes and increase the time you invest in making face-to-face meetings with other humans and learning from those around you and your experiences. This will help you to better transition to college both socially and intellectually.
As you navigate your new surroundings keep a positive attitude, take care of yourself and avail yourself of those at your institution eager to help. All of us want to support you on your journey through college and want you to succeed. We are here for you!