The start of a new school year is always exciting; from meeting new people, beginning new experiences, maybe a few new clothes, backpacks, pens and paper. But, it can also come with great anxiety and stress. For some of you, maybe this is the first time in a (long) while that you’ve been in school. For some, you’ve just finished high school and are now beginning your journey as a college student. Some of you have left your home in another country, and are beginning your studies in a very new place, perhaps with an environment that is very different from what you’re accustomed to. And some of you might be the first in your family to pursue a college education. Whatever your reasons for being a new student at CPCC, all of us (staff, faculty and yes, your fellow students!) want to offer you our congratulations and support! It’s going to be great.
Every new (and not so new) student needs a few words of wisdom for their first week. We promise that if you carry these 10 easy tips with you, you’ll be off to a great start. It’ll be graduation before you know it.
1. Go to class.
This might seem obvious, but it’s really important. College is like running a marathon, and every class is a mile-marker. You can’t do all the things you need to do as a successful student if you’re not in class and plugged into what’s happening. College classes often have fewer assignments and tests, and the material can be more complex. Being in class is important, not only because your teacher will have an attendance policy, but because if you’re not there you’re limiting your own success.
2. Get to know your teachers.
Guess what? Community college teachers really like students. For many of them, that’s why they choose to teach here, versus other colleges and universities. I promise you – if you go up to your teacher before class starts, offer them a handshake, a smile, and your name – you’ll be off to a great start. It’s likely that your teacher teaches at least one other class (or as many as five others), so if you can offer up a nice first-impression that can carry you a long way. Letting your teachers know that you’re going to be committed to their class is often an investment in their commitment to you.
3. Ask for help.
No one likes to admit that they’re not good at something, or that they don’t understand something, or that they aren’t sure they can make it through the end of the semester. However, it happens to every single one of us. Every student that there ever was – at some point in their educational journey – had a tough time in a class or in life outside of school. As tough as it might be, asking for help can come with great relief. But don’t wait until the stress is too much. Ask early on. Before you find yourself inundated with confusion. Before the next exam or assignment is due. Who can you ask? Lots of people. Your teacher. A counselor at the college. The Academic Learning Center. A classmate. A lab instructor. You’ve got lots of options. Use them!
4. Get to know someone in every class.
You’re going to be sitting next to the same people, every week, for as many as 16 weeks. Some of these people are definitely worth knowing. Why? Maybe you missed a class and need lecture notes. Maybe you aren’t sure of when the next assignment is due. Maybe they made a great score on the last quiz, and you didn’t do so well. Maybe they know a great study spot on campus. College is a great opportunity for you to make new connections and practice networking skills that will be important in your future life after college. Start practicing now!
5. Get to know your campus.
Some of you will be at a really big campus, with multiple buildings and entrances. Some of you might be at smaller campuses with one way in and out. Either way, every campus has resources and services that will help you be a successful student. Knowing locations of places like the library, counseling and advising, financial aid, the bookstore, vending machines, student activities, security, and computer labs will be helpful for you as you make your way through the semester.
6. Do more than just go to class.
It might seem like your life is just too busy to fit one more thing in. It might also seem like some things just “aren’t for you.” I’m going to challenge you to consider that the previous two statements are wrong. Think about joining a student organization. Consider attending a special event on campus, like a festival, a special speaker, a service project, or an arts event. Some people think that you can’t have a “real” college experience at a community college, but really, those people don’t know what they’re talking about. There are plenty of opportunities for you to meet other students, gain leadership experience, have fun, and connect with others at the college and in the community. (Oh, and one added benefit? Participating in these things often results in academic success as well.)
7. Plan ahead.
So, assuming you’re taking me up on these helpful tips, you’re going to be a busy student! Managing classes, assignments, exams, study groups, student events, and your life outside of school is going to be a challenge. If you think it won’t be, you’re wrong. But, you can start planning now. Arrange for your children to be cared for while you’re in class. Begin looking ahead to the next semester. What might you need to take next? When is it time to think about an internship? When can you register for the next semester? When should you begin applying to transfer or for graduation?
8. Get a calendar. Use it.
So while you’re planning ahead, you need a way to organize these plans! Whether you’re someone who loves using your iPhone calendar app or a regular paper planner, find the method that works best for you. Gather all your syllabi for the entire semester, and jot down assignments, tests, and other important deadlines. (And don’t forget breaks and days off! Those are great to look forward to!) Practicing good time management skills helps you plan and set aside study time and can help you come in to class prepared. These are great skills to take with you into the workforce!
9. Get to know your advisor.
One important relationship is with your academic, transfer and/or faculty advisor. These individuals can help you talk about your future plans here at CPCC, but can also help you look forward to the next semester, the next college, or your future career plans. They’re also really connected on campus, and can help recommend you to other helpful resources like Career Services, the Academic Learning Center, or other good places.
10. Have fun.
Overwhelmed yet? Doing something you like to do can also be an important part of being a successful student. Going to college is stressful. And busy. Time consuming. Sleep depriving, even. Make time to do something you enjoy – spending time with family or friends, exercising, going to the movies, cooking, reading, listening to music. Whatever you enjoy, make time to take a break from the books, connect with others, and relax. School/Life balance is a tricky thing, and lots of college students get caught in one or the other. Do your best to enjoy a healthy moderation of both. You deserve it.
Associate Dean of Student Life