December 10, 2012

From One Professor To All College Students, Present And Future

As the semester winds down, I find myself once again contemplating success in college. I have been a college professor, in one way or another, for ten years now. I started while in grad school as an adjunct/ graduate assistant (GA) professor and worked my way to a Tenured, Associate Professor of English. I have a lot of experience with college students and their successes, or lack thereof. So, why not share some advice with redOrbit’s readers about success in higher education.

First, students must be responsible for their actions and choices. Sometimes students are just irresponsible. This is, perhaps, one of the most frustrating things to watch. They just do not complete their work because they wanted to do something else. Okay, fine, but in some cases they then expect extensions or handouts. I have even had students who chose not to do their work and then blamed me (or another professor) for their grades. Students’ grades come from their work directly. If a student turns nothing in, then professors have only one grade choice: F. Believe me, I do not relish these experiences; there is nothing enjoyable for me about having to fail a student.

Beyond the students who are lazy or distracted, sometimes students have personal lives that completely overwhelm them. We all know that sometimes life interrupts our plans. We may have all the right intentions to complete our work, but then someone falls ill or is in an accident or, in the worst case scenario, someone does. Then we must make a choice, and often the right and best choice is not to do our school work. What we all must understand is that when we choose not to do our work because other life is more important ( and it truly is), we must take responsibility for that choice. Everyone has struggles. Everyone has complex choices to make. No one deserves special treatment, nor is it anyone else’s fault.

My advice for any college student is to take responsibility for their choices whether important or silly. They have control of their lives. They must own that. Their education belongs only to them, which means their choices affect them, positively and negatively.

My second bit of advice is to create a time management schedule. I know it sounds incredibly and overly organized to do this, but I promise it will help us to manage our work and responsibilities. We should set up a daily and weekly schedule indicating when we have class, when we have work, when we have other school responsibilities (i.e. athletics, clubs, other extracurricular activities), when we have homework (i.e. research, writing, or studying), when we have family time, social time, and personal time, and when we have free time.

I suggest at least one hour of homework per class per day. However, two or three would be best. My most successful students are those who commit to their studies for at least three to six hours a day. Setting up a schedule helps us to organize and prioritize, which both make our academic experiences more fulfilling, positive, and successful. Time management helps us learn more and enjoy college. I promise.

Managing our time is perhaps the hardest part of college. We have so much to do, yet seemingly so little time. A time management schedule will help us to see what we have to complete as well as help us figure out a plan to complete everything.

Ultimately, though, the best advice I can give to college students is this: go to class, read the books, and turn in the work. I promise, if they do this, they will pass each and every class. Every student who fails my classes fails because they did not attend or missed too much, did not read the assignments, and/or did not turn in completed work. They do not fail because of their work; rather, they fail because the did not work.

If students do those three tasks, they may not make an A, but they will pass, which leads to graduation, a job, and their futures. An A is reserved for only the most exemplary of work. They are not all A students, and that’s okay. And remember that grades are a reflection of the work, what students produce. They are not a result of how professors feel about their students personally, nor are grades given based on personality. Grades do not indicate personal worth. They are just a reflection of the work produced for the class.  Grades are not everything. The learning experience should be more important.

College should be fun. I mean, we read and discuss and write and learn about interesting ideas. And most of the classes pertain to subjects of interest to us, personally. College surrounds us with knowledge, with thoughtful discussion. It is a safe environment for developing what we know as well as what we believe.

What’s better than that?

Image Credit: Photos.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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