MONMOUTH, Ill. — It’s an exciting new world for thousands of students entering college for the first time this fall. But without the proper mindset, the transition from high school to college can also be a rude awakening leading to academic failure.
Veteran professors, who have seen virtually every misstep a freshman can make, are eager to offer advice to those willing to listen. History professor Stacy Cordery, who has taught an introductory course for freshmen at Monmouth College since 1994, says the first few week s of a student’s college career are critical to forming habits that can ultimately lead to a diploma and a rewarding career.
So what are the professorial secrets to college success? Cordery and six of her faculty colleagues compiled their thoughts on how to avoid freshman-year pitfalls. Among those offering advice is the Monmouth’s longest-tenured faculty member, Bill Urban, who is preparing to start his 47th year at Monmouth. President Mauri Ditzler, a former chemistry professor, also offers his thoughts.
Here are the Top Ten Secrets to College Success, According to Monmouth College Faculty:
1. Remain open to new ideas, new thoughts, new interpretations, new people, new situations and new perspectives. If you complete your first year of college feeling and thinking just as you did when you entered, then you have failed, regardless of your GPA. – Stacy Cordery, professor of history
2. Start with showing up. The rest will come if you want them to. Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of life was showing up. He got the percentage wrong, but the principle right. Showing up prepared is more important, then staying awake, thinking about what you heard or read, then knowing how to explain your ideas orally and in writing. – Bill Urban, Lee L. Morgan Professor of History and International Studies
3. Study harder than you think is necessary. If your grades turn out to be too good, you can always cut back. – Mauri Ditzler, Monmouth College president
4. Get eight hours of sleep every night, try not to do EVERYTHING, and listen to your professor's advice – they really do want you to succeed; they aren't just trying to make your life difficult. – Ken Cramer, professor of biology
5. Raise your hand and answer a question even if you think you may be wrong. It still counts toward participation and will make you stand out among your class. Read assignments before coming to class and take notes and write down any questions you may have, visit your professor during office hours for help or to talk about papers, projects and classwork.” – Carina Olaru, assistant professor of modern foreign languages
6. Social life, sleep and grades … choose two: If you get good grades and plenty of sleep, you will not have a social life. If you have an active social life and good grades, you will be sleep deprived. If you get plenty of sleep and have a good social life, your grades will suffer. The take-home message is all decisions have an impact. – Brad Sturgeon, assistant professor of chemistry
7. Schedule your time, even when you are planning to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. I always give my ILA students a piece of paper that is marked with the days of the week and the hours between 6 a.m. and 12 midnight. I then ask them to write in their class schedule, any other co-curricular commitments that they have made, and the times at which they will eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. After this, they are able to see how much time there is in the day to not only do their work but to also have some time to relax. I encourage them to then schedule in study time and relaxation time. It is very important for freshmen to be aware of the time that exists in the day so that they use it properly. This exercise often relaxes those that are nervous about the amount of work that is required by college professors. – Audra Sostarecz, associate professor of chemistry
8. Participate in off-campus study. Whether you go to an English or foreign language destination, stay in the U.S. or go abroad, studying off campus gives you a broader educational experience. International study develops independence, maturity and experience with diversity. It sets you apart from all other applicants for a job or grad school. Better yet, develop fluency in a second language! Students have said it is ‘amazing’ and ‘life-changing’ and ‘the best semester of their life.’ – Kristin Larson, associate professor of psychology, licensed clinical psychologist
9. Start with the end in mind. By your senior year, you will want to have participated in academic and service activities that build your resume and demonstrate your engagement in your education. You will also want to have some work experience through research, volunteering and internships. Lastly, build relationships with your professors by visiting office hours and participating in events that they sponsor. They need to know you in order to write letters of recommendation. – Kristin Larson
10. Challenge yourself. This is a relatively low-stress environment to make mistakes, but when you do, take responsibility for them. Then get up and challenge yourself again! – Stacy Cordery