College Success! Top Ten Tips For Back to School

For almost twenty years I’ve taught a wide variety of horticulture students at a 2 year technical school.  From 18 year olds fresh out of high school, to laid off factory workers to professional CPAs, nurses, and others looking for a career change; the following ten tips will help you succeed in school this fall and quite possibly into a fulfilling career.

1.  Attendance.  Come to class and be on time.  There is no greater indicator of student success than attending class every day.  Quizzes and important information happen during the first 15 minutes of class – don’t miss it! Plan to arrive in the classroom 5-10 minutes early and you will seldom be late. When employers contact me for a reference they seldom ask about a student’s grades, but what they always ask is, “how was their attendance” and “were they on time?”

2.  Email and Blackboard.  Make sure you link your personal email with your school assigned email address so your instructor can contact you and so you don’t miss improtant messages (field trip cancelled due to weather!) Make sure you’re comfortable using blackboard to view announcements, find and submit assignments and check your grades. Blackboard is a powerful learning tool but only if you use it.

Please note:   Im not ur bff! I am a professional contact. Send professional emails with a salutation, use complete sentences, correct grammar and include your name and the course you are taking

3.  Cell phones.  This is college – use them!  I fully expect you to use the calender feature and other apps on your phone during class.   Just don’t spend inordinate amounts of time playing with your phone during class.  If you think I don’t know you are texting under your desk, think again. If you don’t want to pay attention, that’s your problem, but it’s disrespectful and makes me feel bad, like I’m boring you or something.  This may very well be true, but learn to fake it (see paragraph on references above).  Its an important job skill!

4. Study. College is a big step up from high school. For every hour you are in class you are supposed to study 2 hours outside of class! No joke! Read the assigned text before class!  You will understand the lecture and remember facts so much better!

5. Plan For Problems – everyone has experienced that last minute problem – the printer won’t print, the powerpoint with no power, the traffic jam on the way to an interview. Allow extra time to complete assignments so you aren’t always coughing up excuses like a cat with hair balls!   This may have worked with mom but its lame in college. (see paragraph on references above).

6. Support. Every college has a tutoring center where students can get extra help. Maybe you weren’t the best student in high school or its been a long time since you were even in a classroom, get help early! From study skills and memorization, to test taking, paper editing and anxiety relief – you pay for this service with your student fees – get some use out of it! Make your precious study time more effective, more efficient. Don’t wait till the last week of class to realize you’re in trouble.

7.  Talk to Your Instructor – If you have a problem – your marriage exploded, a health problem attacked, your grandmother died (again!) – talk to your teacher.  Most of us are very understanding and want to help you complete class in spite of set backs.

8. Conflict.  Have a problem with your instructor?  Don’t like his/her teaching style, grading or assignments?  Give the instructor a chance to explain, change or improve before reporting your complaints to his/her supervisor.  If nothing changes then ‘take it upstairs’, just don’t start there.  Same thing goes with fellow students. If you have a problem with another student, talk with the offender first. 

9.  Expect To Be Challenged.  Tests will be hard, research papers long, final projects frustrating.  Hopefully you will be pushed to achieve and learn more than you ever thought possible.   True confidence and increased self esteem comes from achieving difficult goals. 

10.  Passion.  Whatever you study, make sure you are passionate about it.  Don’t let anyone talk you into studying something just to make money or get a job.  If you are over 30 consider how you can fit your old ‘job’ experience into your future passionate career move. Passion makes for a full life.  What the world needs now more than ever is passionate people living fullfilling lives.


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