Procrastination Is Not Your Friend.

Two years ago, I said that my next post would be about the evils of procrastination. Well, I guess I showed you! You’ve probably failed all of your classes without my help. Just kidding! Unfortunately, when senior year and jobs come along, blogs get tossed by the wayside, but I’m back! I graduated with my B.A. in English and maintained a 4.0 throughout! So, I must have done something right.

Seriously, procrastination is not a good thing when it comes to school. I’ve heard I don’t know how many times someone say, “Man, I’m so tired. I stayed up all night writing this paper.” Are. you. serious? Let’s go back to the blog about being ready for the first day of classes and having your syllabi printed out. If you paid attention to my advice there and wrote down all of the due dates, you should never be surprised by a paper that’s due the next day. Here are a few reasons why procrastination is not your friend.

You think your professors can’t tell when you wrote a paper in one night? Please. They’ve been doing this since before you were born. They can tell the difference between a well-researched and thought-out essay versus one that you threw together with the help of caffeine and energy drinks (which will probably end up killing you, just sayin’). Sure, you may get a B or C on that haphazard essay, but wouldn’t you rather get an A and know how hard you worked for it? Again, you want professors to remember you for good reasons, not bad. When you graduate and need references but don’t have any because you’ve never had a job, guess who have to be your references: PROFESSORS. And if you’ve been a good student, they will write you good references.

You know what else is bad about procrastination? The stress that comes along with it. Some people thrive on that stress, I guess it’s part of that whole “thrill seeker” mentality which I don’t have, but seriously, stress isn’t good for you. College students get admitted to the hospital for panic attacks that are school related. You don’t need that kind of drama in your life. Remember, this blog is about is College – Drama + Success.

So, what can you do to avoid procrastinating? Whip out that planner I told you to buy or use that calendar app and write down all of your quizzes, tests, papers, etc and actually look at the calendar. Use those post-it notes and remind yourself of what’s coming up in the week. Two papers due on the same day? Don’t panic! Plan ahead and write one early. I know, gasp! One time, I had three papers due on the same day, THREE. What did I do? I planned ahead. I wrote one a month early, the second three weeks early, and the third a week early. Maybe I’m just crazy, but I definitely wasn’t stressed out. I even turned them all in early, which impressed my professors, remember the importance of that. Another time, when I was writing my 15+ page paper for my senior seminar, I started writing it a month in advance and it took nearly the entire month to write it, rewrite it, edit it, edit it again, and then throw it at my professor. I’m serious. My friend has made facebook posts about me:

Friend: “I don’t know what it is about this semester. I’m just not motivated.”
Me: “Ugh I know. I’m starting to procrastinate so bad.”
Friend: “Oh whatever. Your procrastination is deciding to do something 2 months ahead instead of 5.” 
Me: “Valid.”

The sooner you get something out of the way, the sooner you will have time to enjoy your college experience. But the thing about college is that it’s COLLEGE. You are there to LEARN and get a DEGREE so that you can get a JOB and make MONEY. And in this economy, that’s hard enough. Don’t make it harder by procrastinating. Now, hopefully it won’t be another two years before I write another post. I’m thinking my next topic will be tips on how to study.

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Breathe, It’s Just the First Day of Class.

Okay, if you’ve been reading these posts, you know about going to orientation, getting your books, and not being afraid of your professors. Now you’re ready for the first day of class. Yay!

The first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the campus. If you went to orientation like you should have, then you’ve probably already been on a tour of campus. If not, you can sign up for one, or you can always get a friend who already goes there to show you the ropes. Print out your class schedule (and maybe a map), and go find your classes the day before. You can avoid looking like a freshman–no offense–if you can just walk straight into the building and to your class without a map. And this isn’t just something to do when you’re a freshman. Most campuses have several buildings, big buildings, and if you’ve never had class in there, it can be frustrating to try to find the classroom that’s all the way in the back corner and that you couldn’t find and ended up having to ask someone to point out to you.

If you live on campus, don’t think that necessarily makes getting to class any faster. Some dorms are at least 20 minutes from class, so if you’re planning on getting up ten minutes before class, this will be an issue. Know how long it will take you on a good day to get to class and give yourself even more time, especially if it’s raining or snowing.

If you are a commuter student, like yours truly, you have a whole other issue to deal with: parking (dun dun dunnn). Seriously, it can be that scary. Depending on your school’s size, parking can be a breeze or it can be a nightmare. If there are parking decks (yes, more than one), it may take you a week or two to determine which is the easiest to find a spot in. Get used to arriving on campus more than five minutes before class starts. Try at least 15 or maybe 30 minutes early. The earlier that you get there, the fewer competitors for a spot. There have been straight up fights in decks before, and I won’t lie, I’ve come pretty close to some myself. Respect the turn signal, people. If someone is clearly waiting on a spot, don’t try to be sneaky and get it before they do. You don’t want to come back and find that your car has been keyed or worse.

Another big tip for the first day is to have your syllabi printed and ready to go. Many, if not all, colleges have an online system that consists of email, discussion boards, and a page where professors can post content, such as syllabi (yes, that is the plural of syllabus). If you have the advantage of a website of this kind, make sure to familiarize yourself with it and check it daily for updates. Many professors will post the class syllabus before class. If so, print it out. It shows that you’re ready to pay attention, and since most professors go over the syllabus and ask if there are any questions, it’s good to have it in front of you. If this entire paragraph completely confused you because you don’t know what a syllabus is, here’s a quick definition: all of the class assignments, due dates, grading scale, professor contact info, and school policies are found in a syllabus. If you want to stay on track, you must keep up with the syllabus.

Buy a calendar. Or a planner. And preferably one that is Weekly/Monthly (meaning that it has a page of the whole month and also week by week. It’s awesome). My favorite brand is Blue Sky (seriously, how cute is this? http://www.blueskyimg.com/1/Detail/2012EggPressBurstsWeeklyMonthlyPlanner3625x6125). Guys, you need a planner, too, and don’t worry, Blue Sky also makes a plain black planner. If you have a calendar that is worth while on your phone, use that. That way you can set up reminders for due dates and assignments. Whichever you prefer, just have a planner. Write down everything on the schedule part of the syllabus. Highlighters and post-its are awesome for extra reminders. Post-it even makes highlighter and sticky tab combos, which are a must-have (http://www.post-it.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/Post_It/Global/Products/Writing_tools/?PC_7_RJH9U5230OT440II987MUE3CE2000000_nid=4QQ8HM90LBgs9ZSTS4TDPRglFX175T4VDPbl). Make a habit of writing a to do list so that you can check it off as you go. Just stay organized and you’ll stay on track.

That’s all for now! Check back soon for a post on the evils of procrastination.

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Professors: They’re Not As Scary As You Think

One of the first things people will tell you when you’re choosing your classes is to watch out for Prof. ____ because “S/He is super hard and hates everybody!” I admit that sometimes these statements are true, but more often than not, it’s just your fellow students whining about professors who actually want you to learn because you’re paying for this thing you may have heard of called college. So, what do you do? Do you believe your source? Here are some suggestions.

There’s a website called http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ which can be helpful if you know how to filter through the whiny-wants-to-make-an-A-without-doing-any-work students. Most of the time, if the professor has great reviews, then the professor is probably a very good teacher. Does this mean the class will be easy? It depends on what people think of when they say “good professor.” For me, a good professor is one who actually teaches me something and makes me work to earn my grade, not one who just hands out A’s. I know that for a lot of people, though, the latter is what makes one a “good professor.”

So, when it comes to trusting the reviews, don’t just assume that when a professor has 20 bad reviews, s/he is actually a bad professor. Look at what the reviews say. Why did the student give a bad rating? Is there complaining of having to attend class (at which point I always say, “Really? Grow up.”), or lots of assignments and tests? Or is it more about how boring and confusing the professor is? If the complaints are geared toward having to actually do work, then ignore them. Those people will not succeed in life anyway, so why should you listen to them? For example, freshman year, my college algebra professor had all bad reviews, but he was one of the best professors I’ve ever had, and I. Don’t. Even. Like. Math. See? So, if the complaints are more about the professor’s organization skills, then you might want to pay a tad bit more attention. As an organized person, I get easily frustrated when a class is unorganized.

Another concern is often how to approach the professor if you’re concerned about your grade or confused about something mentioned in class. The best thing to do is just ask. Believe it or not, most professors LOVE it when you ask them questions. I have had professors tell me this! Being there to help you and answer your questions is part of their job, you know. Don’t want to ask in person? Send an e-mail! But going up to them after class or setting up a time to go to their office is even better. It’s important to remember that most people who are teachers are so because they love to teach, to help others learn. So, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Another good thing about asking questions is that it makes you memorable, which is good, really good. Sit near the front of the class. First row too intimidating? Try the second. And try to sit directly in front of the professor. Having you in their line of sight means that they’ll remember your face. You want to be memorable for good reasons, like being a good student who pays attention and asks questions, instead of being remembered for bad reasons, like turning assignments in late, or missing class. You never know, you may need a professor to write you a letter of recommendation for something like a scholarship, grad school, an internship, or a job. You don’t want to be in a situation where you ask for a favor and they look at you and say, “Who are you?” Be memorable.

So, these posts have all lead up to how to prepare for the first day, what with orientation, textbooks, and now professors. My next post will be about how to get ahead on the first day of class, so check back soon!

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How to Avoid Textbook Drama

Ok, folks, this post is all about textbooks and has some helpful tips for those who are just starting college and those who’ve been at it for a while. Let’s begin.

Colleges are really big on getting you to buy all of your textbooks on campus or at the off-campus-somewhat-cheaper bookstore down the road. They will entice you with sayings like “Buy here and your money stays on campus,” or “If you buy it used then sell it back, you REALLY only paid (insert price).” Here’s the catch, even if you buy a book used at the bookstore, it’s still being marked-up.

So, what do you do? Let me introduce you to your (and your parents’ if they’re paying) new best friend: renting. There are all kinds of websites created just for renting textbooks. And the cool part is, most of them include free shipping if you spend $60 or more–which is on the low-end of textbook pricing–and free return shipping. My personal favorite is http://www.ecampus.com/. So far, they have been reliable, my shipments have been delivered on time, and they typically have the best prices. There are others, such as http://www.bookrenter.com/ and http://www.chegg.com/, but in my experience, ecampus is the best.

In addition to renting, you can buy books for dirt cheap at http://www.abebooks.com/. Not only do they sometimes have textbooks, but they have all kinds of those books that are deemed “literary.” For English Majors, like myself, this site is a great place to get used books that range in condition based on your preference. And, of course, there is the almighty http://www.amazon.com/. You can find anything on Amazon, anything, including textbooks. And don’t just assume that the price listed is the best; click on the used button right underneath. On occasion, the Amazon price will be better, but the used prices are usually pretty tough to beat.

By now you’re probably thinking, “When do I buy my books?” Here is my advice: if you are going to order them, do so at least two weeks in advance. If you’re ordering from Amazon, you can get some things within two days, especially if you sign-up for their Student Prime, which is free for the first year. “But what if I don’t like my classes and want to drop?” Get over it! Most of the time, you take a class because you have to, classes like Gen Eds and those required for your major. Sure, you may have electives, but you did elect (choose) to take them, after all. When you go around dropping classes, it can not only get you off track, but also mess with your financial aid if you’re lucky enough to have any in the first place. A good rule of thumb is to not sign-up for classes that you’re likely to want to skip, either, such as that 8:00am class when you don’t roll out of bed ’til 10:00, or that 6:00pm class when you’re tired of being on campus all day.

The good thing about having your books on the first day of class is that if there is reading assigned for the next class, you already have your books, and that will impress your professor.

Check back soon for a post on ways to make sure your professors remember your name and for a good reason!

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Keep Calm and Go to Orientation

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into college! But now that you’ve received your letter (or the less personal email that’s common nowadays), what can you do to get ready? First step, go to orientation. I repeat, go to orientation. You know that email you’ve been ignoring about attending orientation? Open it and sign-up for the first available date. Make sure that your parents sign-up for parent orientation if they’ve never been to one before, they’re going to need it and here’s why. In college, you are considered an adult capable of making your own decisions. Is this actually true? Probably not, but that doesn’t matter. If you’re eighteen, then it’s time for you to step up to the responsibility plate and learn a few things about college life.

Before going to orientation, you should receive a username to be able to view the course schedule for the coming semester. Take advantage of this. If you play around with the site as much as you play around with facebook, you can find a lot of helpful information. Find the list of classes that are called “General Education Requirements,” aka Gen Eds, and print it out. You’re going to need it over the next four years. Use the list to decide which classes you’re going to take your first semester and write down a few schedule options. By the time you actually register, some of the classes you wanted might be full, so have back-ups. And make sure to write down the CRN (course reference number) for each class. Did you get that? Write down the CRN. I was finished with registration in less than five minutes because someone had told me to write down the CRN.

Still panicking? It’s okay. Nerves are part of life. There’s a saying that goes “the day I’m not nervous is the day I quit.” These are words to live by. But don’t let being nervous stop you. Talk to people at orientation. You’ll be stuck in a group for a few hours, don’t spend those hours in silence. Who knows? The person you talk to might just become your new best friend. Okay, maybe not best, but you get the point. Be outgoing. The days of not talking to strangers are over.

Remember, this isn’t high school anymore. A whole new set of rules apply. So go to orientation, register for your classes, and check back soon for a new post on getting your textbooks!

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