classes

Big Girl Pants: Not Taking On Too Much

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Club fairs, internship offers, classes and part-time jobs are all beginning.

It’s easy to sign your name to a bunch of club newsletter lists, but eventually, you’ll have to make some choices as to what you want to follow through on and which you don’t.

I am a perfect example of taking on too much. I always knew I didn’t want to regret not doing something. I played collegiate field hockey, pledged a sorority, worked at the study abroad office, actually studied abroad, lived in a sustainable living facility and kept up with multiple internships and part-time jobs.

Looking back, there is nothing I wish I did, aside from maybe relaxing a bit more.

Half way through your college experience, you might feel as though your responsibilities and commitments are gobbling you up. I am not condoning running from responsibility, but one way I started over was through the National Student Exchange. I realized I had a lot of commitments and I no longer was too happy. I realized as a 20 year old, I didn’t need that much stress.

I made some phone calls and prepared a trip with the National Student Exchange. I figured out that a school 3,000 miles away had the courses I needed and was cheaper for me to go to. I got to relive some study abroad moments (packing for four months in two bags, meeting new people from all over the world, exploring a new area). I am a proud alumna of all of the organizations I was apart of while at my home school back in New Jersey. Now, when I have a few hours in between classes and internship work, I get to explore California with new friends. I scheduled courses into my schedule that make sense to my academic career that I wouldn’t be able to have done otherwise.

If half way through your college years, you feel as though your life is more stressful than you can manage, go over to your school’s study abroad office and check out if they participate in the National Student Exchange.

If you don’t have this as an option or traveling isn’t for you, be honest with yourself and with others about how much you can take on. Exploit your opportunities; go out there and do stuff; but be sure to take some time for yourself too.

Big Girl Rants: Why can’t there be a BYE in college classes?

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Although some school policy forbids professors to mark a student down for attendance, some of those professors have found a loophole in requiring in-class participation and smaller classwork assignments. Other schools, mainly small ones, let professors keep attendance as a percentage of the student’s overall grade.

I am all for going to class and doing what I have to do to get this degree, but at some point, it seems like college is holding people back. Throughout my academic career, I have taken courses at Ramapo College, Florence University of the Arts and California State University of Monterey Bay. As I graduate from Ramapo, I ensure my courses relate to courses I would have taken there, but I seem to be repeating a lot of material.

A prime example is taking a course this semester that is a student newspaper workshop course. I am all for working on the student newspaper, interviewing faculty and writing up articles, because no matter how much writing experience you have, you can always have more and writing for different platforms, for different audiences is something I have made it a point to expand. The problem is the lectures. I understand if a student has no journalism experience they need some explanation, but if I understand the material and continue to make deadline, why can’t I leave?

I mean don’t get me wrong, I don’t think of myself as high and mighty and I’ll reiterate the fact that I enjoy working on the paper, but why can’t college classes have a BYE just like sports?

We had to take AP tests to have our high school AP classes count for college credit. Why can’t that logic follow into college? Shouldn’t we be able to take a test before the course or do the classwork and pass the midterm and final for a grade? It gets frustrating to know that I am taking four hours out of my week on top of the time spent writing the articles to listen to a lecture I have heard before. Instead, I could be working on my other internships.

Anyone else feel like this? Sometimes getting to the end of a degree, you realize more and more how ready you are for the next step, a step into your Big Girl Pants.

Should I Stay or Should I Drop?

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Deciding whether to stay in or drop a class can be challenging. Sometimes it’s tempting to drop just based on the professor alone, the class time or the work load. But before making a hasty decision, you need to weigh the pros and cons and determine if staying might be better for your future courses after all.

When considering dropping a class, you should first consider why you want to drop it in the first place. Do you just want to take the class with a different professor? Do you feel bad about your friends all being in a different section? Is it just too hard to wake up for 9:30 am? If you only have one reason to drop—and not a very good one—you should stick it out for the semester. One early class won’t kill you, and might actually make you more productive later on. Being without buddies is a good way to make new ones…or just make your way through the class being the quiet observer that doesn’t annoy the professor. If your desire to drop the class is more than superficial reasoning, you have some more consideration to do.

If you have an overloaded schedule (and by that, I mean more than 15 credits), lots of upper level classes and just overall lots of work, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to drop that killer class that is so not going to be a GPA booster. If you just want to drop one class because you’re taking too many, you should also consider how dropping your hardest class will affect your schedule the next time around. Would saving it for later mean an even harder semester? Sometimes letting go of the fun elective is the better decision when you have to create a sequence or have to take classes in a certain order for your major.

So, before you even think about hitting that drop class button, you need to do some planning ahead. If the course is a prerequisite for another class you have to take, say no to the temptation. If it’s a course required for your major that you can take at any time…well, consider how hard the class will really be (sometimes the profs scare you on the first day wit their syllabus and grading policies, but they turn out to be super lenient and get off track almost immediately) before deciding whether or not you should put it off. If it’s a prerequisite for classes that you really want to take, then it’s up to you whether or not you want to stick it out; sometimes you can replace it with another class or change up a sequence to still get into the ones you want to take and avoid the classes you could care less about.

If you have a job or internship over the course of the semester, its workload shouldn’t be taken lightly when added to all your school work. If you need a lot of work hours and it’s hard to fit into your schedule with an extra class, then maybe dropping will help your work opportunities. If all you do at work is sit at a desk and do homework while occasionally helping someone on a project, I think you can handle having one more class in your schedule.

At the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for your sanity. Figure out what you can handle—there’s no reason to completely stress yourself out if the course is unnecessary or can wait to be taken later. Consider your work load, the time needed to put into the class, if not taking the class will mess up your schedule for the rest of your college career and whether or not the class is actually needed. Don’t automatically drop if you don’t like the professor—having a good relationship with them is important, but one bad teacher for a class you really need to take isn’t too much to handle now and then.

Good luck and happy studies!

Graduation Bucket List: How Your Final Year in College SHOULD Be

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You’ve made it this far.  You’re one year away from graduation, and aside from feeling anxious and excited, you’ve also got that bittersweet feeling that won’t go away.  Where will your friends be next year?  Where will you be?

Well, don’t think about that right now.  Make your senior year something memorable, something you will value for years to come.  You don’t want to remember your senior year as the year you worried about everything coming after it.  Consider these three points to make your final year the best it can be:

1.     Commit a moderate amount of time to studying

Whether you’re under-loading on classes your final semesters, writing a thesis, or taking a normal class load, you still can’t forget that your last set of grades are just as important as the rest.  Spend a considerable amount of time making sure you get your work in by your deadlines (no Senioritis, thank you!), and if you happen to slip up a couple times, just don’t make a habit of it.  It’s important to keep up your grades and sense of commitment to your courses.  After all, you’re going to need that same type of discipline after you graduate.

2.     Be sure to get out and have fun

Sometimes people focus too much on work, and don’t get out with their friends to have a good time once in a while.  Don’t overdo it (partying all nights of the weekend every weekend is a bit excessive for any year of college).  Find a good balance between work and play.  That is true for your college experience in general.  By senior year you should have a good grasp of that—however, most seniors are newly 21 and might go out more often than before due to less drinking restrictions.  Just have good sense and judgment.  You know how much work has been required in your last three years.  Be sure to go off of that so you can gauge how much time you’ll need to commit to everything else.

3.     Stay in your extracurricular activities

If you start to feel burnt out of everything you’re involved in after class, think hard about what you still want to be involved in.  Being in a club or other campus organization for multiple years is a great way to gain experience in that field and also looks good on a resume.  But don’t stay just for the resume boost.  Unless you realize the groups you’re involved with are no longer of interest to you, I highly recommend retaining your level of commitment to them.  Don’t get too lazy your senior year, otherwise you could end up quite bored.  It’s all about maintaining a sense of consistency across your four years.

You want your senior year to stand out, but you also don’t.  Find that equilibrium.  Be sure to study hard, but also to play hard, and graduate from your school with a bang.  Your last year should be the pinnacle, representative of the most recent and lasting memories you have of your undergraduate career.  Make this one count!

Course Evaluations

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After months of tortuous papers and projects, hours of mind-numbing lectures, disputes over grades, not-so-patiently waiting for your professor to email you back or handing out grades, filling out course evaluations seem to be a student’s revengeful saving grace.  Some students capitalize on this opportunity to express their true feelings.  Others complain about their professor all semester and as they feel relief that the course is coming to a close, they quickly circle all of the highest scores for their professor and run out of class, disregarding their opportunity to voice any concerns.

Through casual conversation with various students who attend colleges and universities throughout the country, it seems as though students simply do not believe that taking the time to fill out course evaluations holds any weight in terms of improving teaching departments.

Taking course evaluations seriously does impact professor’s teaching styles.  Evaluations keep standards high.  If a professor needs improvement but only receives positive feedback, they will have no reason to believe they need to make changes, aside from being simply passionate teachers.  Honest course evaluations can break the chain of overlooked poor quality teaching.  On a greater scale, when a professor receives negative feedback from a majority of students, a career may be in jeopardy.  Taking evaluations seriously can significantly impact how and if professors will be teaching next semester.

One thing about course evaluations to remember is that you are evaluating the professor, not the course.  Especially when taking general education courses, you may be facing a course that is not your expertise, a course you did not enjoy by any means.  Be sure to judge your professor fairly in this respect.  Was your teacher un-supportive, or did you really just not like the material and thus paid less attention?  Did you not like the teacher’s pace working through course materials, or was it that you weren’t attentive in that Friday 8am Econ class?

While you are in the midst of presentations, finals, papers, course evaluations are probably the last thing you will be giving any brain power to, but making sure that you fill them all out truthfully and honestly can keep the standards of the faculty high and give you that satisfying feeling that your voice has been heard.

-TravelBug

I’m reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down