Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Connect with Your Professors

One key to doing well in college is this: connect with your professors.

What Connecting Means

What do I mean by that? I mean, get to know them, and make sure they get to know you. Engage with them in class, yes, but also talk to them before class starts or after it ends. Find out if they have a teaching assistant (TA) for the next semester, or the semester after that.

This is especially important for the professors who teach in your major. For me, that's psychology. So, as things stand now, I'm scheduled to TA for one professor next semester, and I have agreed to TA for another one the following two semesters. I even got a request from another to TA for him.

The professor I had for Intro to Psychology agreed to be my faculty mentor, which is a good thing to have. She's helped me figure out what I need to do to prepare myself to apply to graduate school. Because of her, I put myself into the running for Vice President of the Kennesaw State University Psychology Club, and as a result I am the incoming VP for the Fall semester.

I don't think Freud was ever the Vice President of his school's Psychology Club. So there.

By Max Halberstadt[1] (1882-1940) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Be Sincere

It only makes sense to connect with professors if you sincerely believe in them and want to learn from them. If so, such a connection will prove invaluable. This is where being an older student can come in handy, too, because it'll be easier for you to relate to your professors than it was when you were in your early twenties.

When you find a professor that you do connect with, schedule a time to discuss your goals so they know the direction you want to go, and you may be surprised by how much they can help you. But please respect their time and position, and don't become a pain the tuches.

Don't just pick one professor and latch onto him or her, either. Make sure they all know you for all the right reasons by adhering to the advice in this blog: sitting in the front row, participating in class, never missing a class, etc.

In college, you want to be the teacher's pet. Just the other day I had a teacher tell our class that if a student's grade was on the cusp between two grades, a 'C' and a 'B' for example, if she knew who the student was by name, that student was likely to get the 'B.' If not, that student would get the 'C.' 

In other words, to her knowing a student's name, especially in a class of 150, meant that student was trying hard to do well. Is it fair? I guess it depends on who's asking the question, but in college professors can do that.

Next: Time management and prioritizing.

Attitude, Attitude, Attitude

We all have an attitude. Is yours good, or bad? That, to paraphrase a certain play, is the question.

It's easy to have a bad attitude.

One advantage of being all grown up and in college is that it becomes easier to control your attitude. Attitude is a key component of motivation. If you have a bad attitude about something, your motivation for doing well in that something will be minimal at best. 

In my experiences as an adult learner, I've learned to manage my own attitude. However, if I am being honest with myself (and with you, dear reader) I have to admit that my attitude in the past is one of the reasons I am still trying to get my four-year degree in my forties.

What I mean by "bad attitude."

In my first semester at Kennesaw State University I had to take a World Literature class as a prerequisite to some writing classes I needed in order to get a Minor in Professional Writing. I was slightly annoyed at having to take, and pay for, a class that I felt should have been covered by transfer credits. But I decided that since the university decided I needed the class I might as well enjoy it.

I overheard other students of the younger, more traditional variety, complaining loudly about the class and how it was "useless" and "pointless" and "stupid." They argued they would never need to know anything about Homer or Shakespeare or Madam Bovary.

Mr. Pointless Himself
By It may be by a painter called John Taylor who was an important member of the Painter-Stainers' Company.[1] (Official gallery link) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Why every class is important (on some level).

Talking to some other students before class one day, I mentioned what I'd overheard. The other students admitted to thinking the same thing (especially the business and science majors). I pointed out that knowing a thing or two about World Literature could come in handy in any endeavor.

For example, I said, imagine you're in a meeting at your new job, and someone mentions that the current situation with a contractor and the customer is like being between Scylla and Charybdis. Everyone laughs when someone adds, "Maybe we should all put wax in our ears." Wouldn't it be nice to know what that means and why it might get a laugh?

The point is that every class adds to your knowledge, which had either a direct relation to your chosen field, or adds to your cultural literacy.

It's easy to have a good attitude, too.

This is almost a secret. Almost. But think about it. It really is easy to have a good attitude once you decide to do so. This relates to something called mindfulness, which is a hot topic in psychology these days.

Meditation is an important tool that can help you maintain mindfulness and deal with the stress of being back in school. It doesn't make all your problems go away, but it does help you deal with them. Even if you don't meditate, though, you can practice mindfulness. It's simply a matter of realizing that you can control your emotions and how you react to things.


You don't have to meditate long enough to grow a beard.
By Wise Droid (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

All you have to do is remind yourself that it's just as easy to have a good attitude as it is to have a bad attitude. 

Next: Don't just make friends. Make connections.