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Besides showing up and participating, taking notes will be one of the most important things you do in the classroom.  Taking notes will help you pay attention, retain information, and serve as a helpful study tool.

Here are a few keys to successful note taking.

  1. Find the medium that works best for you. Do you prefer to handwrite notes, type on a tablet or laptop, or a combination of either while recording the lecture?  You will need to confirm if your professors have any restrictions on how notes can be taken.
  2. Do not write word for word. Find ways to shorten longer words, use abbreviations, and summarize bigger ideas.
  3. Ensure your notes are organized and are easy to understand.  Remember, you will refer to your notes in a few weeks (for a quiz or midterm) and possibly a few months (for a final).
  4. Compare notes with classmates. See if your classmate’s notes offer something different than your own notes.
  5. Review your notes often.  After class, before your next class, at the end of a chapter or section, and before tests. Reviewing your notes will allow the information to stay fresh and offer greater understanding of the information and build on new information being presented.

Learning to take notes early in your college career will not only be beneficial throughout your time in undergraduate school, it will also be helpful in graduate school, post graduate school, and later in your professional career.  Taking notes will help you take direction, review directives, and execute assignments. Although it will be time consuming, it will prove to be beneficial tool throughout your life.

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Have you ever heard the saying “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know?” Well that motto directly relates to networking. If you are not familiar with networking, this is something that you should start now as a student and take with you into the work force.  Networking is the exchange of information between people that could develop as your community of colleagues and may become your friends.

 

Networking is a very valuable tool as it allows you to connect and build relationships with others who may or may not be in your industry. Networking will allow you the opportunity to reach out to others and utilize them brainstorm ideas, determine benchmarks, develop mentor relationships, and of course for possible career opportunities.

 

You should see every interaction with people as an opportunity to network. Your very first exposure of networking may be in the form of family.  Career choices can be influenced by a family member or friend of the family.  These people will know you best and speak of your character.  They will be able to provide insight and advice on their career journey and it may have a positive impact on your journey.  When you need an internship, job shadowing experience, and professional interviews these will be your go to people.  Your relationship and performance may land you a career opportunity.

 

Your classmates will serve as the second source of networking opportunities. You will spend an immense amount of time with your classmates throughout your college career.  Be mindful of how you interact with others, how you make others feel, your work ethic, and overall relationship with them.  There may come a day when you may work with, work for, or rely on their opinion as it could impact your career.

 

The next group of people that serve as valuable networking tools, are your professors. Believe it or not, your professors are incredibly connected in the field.  They were in the field for years (and may still be in the field), they have friends in the field, and they may have access to a variety of professional opportunities.  Your professors will also be able to speak of your professional and academic skills.  You want to make sure you have a positive review from your professors by attending class and submitting assignments on time, working well with others, positively participating in the classroom, getting involved in your major’s professional organization, writing articles, attending conferences, participating in research opportunities, and volunteering whenever you can.  These things will shine a positive light on you and your professors will not hesitate to present professional opportunities to you.

 

The last source of networking that is available to you is the career development office on campus. If you have no idea where to start, not sure what events to attend, or how to approach potential networking opportunities the career center is the place to start.  This will allow you the opportunity to practice, get feedback, and obtain information about upcoming opportunities to network.  Stop by and see what services are available to you.  The services are free and you should utilize the career center every chance you get.

 

The most important part of networking is to connect with others, so you will want to have business cards or have your resume handy. If you don’t have either, add the person to your contacts in your phone and be sure to follow-up, so they also know how to contact you.

 

When it comes to networking, put your best foot forward, be yourself, and showcase your knowledge and skills.

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The campus visit is a really big deal, because it is most likely going to be the most influential part your college selection process.  The way the campus visit makes you feel, the people that you meet, and the more you can visualize yourself on campus will all play a role in the connection you develop with the university. Below we will explore the things you should do to prepare for the visit and things to consider while on your college tour.

 

When planning your college visits keep these 5 things in mind:

  1. Seriously consider the school
    1. College visits can be fun, but you don’t want to take visits to schools that you are not seriously considering. It is okay to visit a school that you are open to, but you should narrow your list to 3-5 universities.
  2. Know where the school is located.
    1. It is not just about knowing the school’s city/state, but do you know how far the school is from transportation (local bus, the highway, the bus station, or the airport). Does the school make the city? When school is not in session, the town does not have a lot of life. Do you have liberal ideals, but the school is in a very conservative community?  Are you a city person in the middle of a rural community?
  3. Special characteristics.
    1. What attracted you to the community?  Is there a major that is only offered at the school?  Do they offer intramural sports?  Do they provide support to students in the form of a resource center, student organizations, or staffing?
  4. Consider the season
    1. Keep in mind the time of year you are visiting.  The campus will look different during the summer versus during the school year. The weather can have a major effect on the campus visit.  If it is raining or snowing you will not see much student activity on the quad.
  5. Number of people in attendance
    1. Take family and friends that will remain objective and provide additional insight. Taking your 5-year-old sister may not be able to assist you in the process.  You may also not want to take an entourage of 10 people.  Ask 1-2 people that will add value to the experience and allow them to be your sounding board. Â

 

What to expect while on your visit:

  1. Walking
    1. Expect to do lots of walking. Your tour will consist of a lot of walking, as your tour guide will take you to see the very best of the campus.  You will see the admissions office, residence halls, dining halls, and of course a classroom. There may be other stops along the way like the fitness center, the student union, and the building where many of your classes will be held.
  2. Meeting with someone from your major.
    1. Your tour will most likely involve speaking with someone from the department where you will complete many of your classes. Use this time to learn about the history of the department, opportunities for your professional development, and other information about the program, instructions. And course load.
  3. Interactions with other students.
    1. On your tour, get face-to-face with as many students as possible.  Ask them what they like about the school, what they don’t like about the institution, what they would change, and how their lives have been impacted since attending the school.
  4. A lot of information.
    1. The visit will provide a wealth of information and it will probably be a lot to take in.  Take notes and attempt to get as much information as possible.  Take notes, snap pictures, and gather handouts.  You can use all the information you gathered to later review and help in making your decision.
  5. The best sides of the university.
    1. You will only be exposed to the best aspects of the campus.  It is up to you uncover the bad and the ugly of the university. Do your research, ask questions, and gather as much information as you can.

The college visit is an exciting and scary time. Use this time to get to know the college, its people, and what it has to offer.  See if you are a good fit for the university, see if you can envision yourself on the quad, and interacting with the other students. Be sure to prepare a list of questions, address your concerns, and gather as much information as possible. Take the information from each visit and compare finding the right fit for you.

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There are approximately 15 weeks in a semester and right now you are in the final stretch of the year.  Now is the time to continue to push forward and finish strong. You will have a whirlwind last few weeks, filled with study groups, testing, papers, and presentations.  The final weeks of the semester require a lot of time, energy, and brain power.  You can successfully conquer the end of the semester if you follow these simple steps:

1.       Get some rest.  It may seem unachievable, but it is necessary for your brain and body to get a full 8 hours of sleep.  Getting enough rest will help to rejuvenate the mind and allow you to stay sharp.

2.       Eat.  Providing food to your body provides nourishment to the brain.  When studying, have snacks available to help your brain stay sharp and focused on the task.

3.       Align yourself with others.  Reach out to others in the class to study, ask questions, and gauge yourself against their knowledge and progress.  It is helpful to utilize others in the class to stay on track and to see if their understanding aligns with your understanding.  You may have notes or information that they need and you may need something as well.

4.       Start Early.  There is never too much studying and preparation: the more you do, the more you connect and retain the information. Cramming can work for short-term retention of information. You are not working to remember the information long-term, you are simply working to regurgitate the information in a short amount of time.

5.       Prepare for mistakes.  When something goes wrong, it will most definitely go wrong at the most inopportune time. For example, the Wi-Fi will go out, the printer will not work, someone in the group will get sick, you will have to work late, another paper or project will take more time to complete than what you projected.  Take time to plan in case of an interruption or emergency.  You will be grateful when things do not go according to plan and you have time to resolve, restructure, and execute another plan of action.

6.       Ask your professor.  Waiting until finals to talk to your professor is not the most ideal thing to do. Getting face-to-face with your professor as early as possible in the semester will help send a message to the professor that you are serious about your field and that you are an engaged student.  Waiting until the very end of the semester may send the message that you are a slacker.

7.       Check your syllabus.  Please sure to thoroughly review the syllabus.  This is extremely important, because the syllabus lists all requirements, due dates, and possible extra credit opportunities.  The syllabus is a good starting point for your assignment or to see possible topics on the exam.  You should become very familiar with the syllabus and what is being required of you each week.

8.       No cheating.  If you are thinking about cheating, do not it. Cheating can get you suspended from school and ruin your academic career.  Do not participate with friends who may plan to cheat. Do not utilize a previously written paper.  Do not plagiarize a paper. Take the time to truly research the information and present your own knowledge and ideas.  There are so many ways you can get caught cheating and most universities take a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to cheating.

9.       Get another set of eyes.  Reach out to friends, classmates, professors, or teaching assistants and ask them to provide feedback on your paper or presentation.  Having another set of eyes will help determine if you missed something, if you are clear in your thoughts, and if you need to tweak anything.  This will require a little planning as you will need to factor in time for you to write the paper or create the presentation, have someone review your materials, and revise it before submitting.  

10.   Relax.  Finals are a stressful time, but take time to relax and unwind throughout the process.  Find a healthy way to release stress;,like exercising, meditating, or listening to music.  Stress can lead to unhealthy anxiety and cause you to perform worse than you should.  Take time to encourage yourself and know that you’ve got things under control.  You went to class all semester, you took notes, you dedicated time to study and you know your stuff.  Tell yourself you got this and be confident in your abilities and knowledge.   

Finals are looming and now is the time to buckle down and end the semester strong. Look at your grades and make and fair assessment of where you stand in the course.  It is important to know how you will end the semester, there should not be very many surprises when you receive your final grades.  Your grades should reflect the work and dedication you have put in all semester. So if you slacked all semester, failed to regularly attend class, and never reviewed your notes you cannot expect to do very well in the class.  These final few weeks are important and should be used to solidify your grades in the class.

Be sure to talk to your professors, ask them about any missing assignments you may be able to make-up, extra credit opportunities, or one-on-one sessions for further assistance on a particular subject. Your professor is just one of the many resources available to you especially during finals.  Take time to talk to your peers and find others looking to study together.  Having a peer that is strong in an area you may not be and vice versa makes for a great partnership, as you can both help each other and benefit from the arrangement.  You also have tutors available to assist.  Tutors can be organized by the department, could be someone you find on your own, or former students that did well in the course.  Do not be ashamed to reach out and discuss the areas that pose a problem for you.  Open communication about where you need help will only benefit you.  Teaching Assistants (TA) is another added resource available for your benefit.  The TA unlike your professor have more availability to assist and may be able to explain in way that is easier to understand.

If you have not reviewed your notes, now poses a good time to review.  Take time to take a second (third or fourth) look at the material.  Be sure you have a clear understanding of the material.  Any cloudy concepts should be reviewed in more detail; write a list of questions you have, create a list of things that require more attention, or focus on the things that you are not confident about.  Besides your notes, see what other resources are available. Did (you) your professor tape lectures? Are there online materials available; PowerPoints, web classes, or supplemental readings are possible options.  Is there a study guide or a list of areas to study on the syllabus?

You are in the final stretch and now is the time for you to pull together all of the resources you have accumulated over the semester.  This will be a combination of notes, relationship building, and asking for assistance. Take this time to reach out and use every resource possible.  Your final grade should not be a surprise, because you have been planning for this all semester. Good Luck!ira finishline

The Spring semester is drawing near and now is the time when final assignments, take home exams, and the dreaded group projects are now due.  Working alone can be great, because you can do things on your own at your own pace and on your own time.  There is no one to discuss thoughts and preferences on the way things should be completed. You are not putting your grade in the hands of someone else.  Working alone is possibly the best case scenario. Or is it?

Working in groups is designed to help you grow in a variety of ways. Group assignments force you to interact with others.  The selection process can be great when you are given the opportunity to select your own group.  Friends, the kid next to you that aced every quiz, or even the crush you have had your eye on all semester.  However, the selection process can also be daunting if you are randomly selected or placed in pre-assigned groups. Instead of dreading this experience, think of it as an opportunity to grow and learn.  Group assignments allow the best parts of each person to shine.  Someone will naturally migrate into the role of leader.  Someone will be creative and find ways to add their gift to the project.  Someone will be organized and create a timeline and ensure the group stays on track.  Inevitably there will be someone who waits for a role in the group, and if no role is given they will float along throughout the project. The issues arise when expectations are not set, a non-leader takes on the leadership role, or when personalities clash.  Working together can be an enjoyable experience, but you have to tackle concerns from the beginning and do not wait until the last minute to achieve the goals of the group.

Below are 10 things to keep in mind when working in a group.

  1. Identify the goal of the group. Is it to a PowerPoint, a skit,  a debate, a movie, etc.? Refer back to the actual assignment and make sure everyone understands what the professor wants. Ensure you identify this early on and that everyone knows what the overall objective of the group.  Making sure everyone is on the same page from the beginning will eliminate a lot of frustration, confusion, ad last minute scrambling.
  2. Develop and a game plan and identify roles.  Each person will have their own strengths.  Allow people to identify their areas of strength and competence. However, the assignment is an opportunity to grow, so do not allow everyone to shy away from the “hard” or “difficult portion of the assignment.  Everyone will have to step out of their comfort zone at some point in the project. Someone will emerge as the leader of the group.  This will come naturally to someone or  someone may have to be appointed. Do not allow this position to become a dictatorship, the process from beginning should be a democracy and a collaborative effort to ensure all voices in the group are heard.
  3. Set-up a timeline. Identify the due date and work backwards from that date to identify milestones for the project.  You      should have a minimum of 2 meetings before your final meeting to ensure everyone is on target and playing their role.  Having at least three meetings will allow you to identify weak links, gaps in the presentation, ensure each person is on target with their portion. When you discuss progress you will be able to see early on if someone is not completing their task.
  4. Be open to new ideas.  People will do things and interpret things differently, different does not mean wrong, just means different.  Allow yourself to try new things and be open to a different way of processing the project.  Everyone will see things in a different way.  The only way the project will be successful is if everyone has the opportunity to infuse a piece of  themselves into the final edition. No one should shut down ideas or not consider how an idea could positively impact the final project.
  5. Bring a positive attitude.  From the very beginning, have a positive attitude.  Do not show your disgust for group work.  Do not let previous experiences negatively impact how you approach this new experience.  Do not allow your personally feelings towards individuals affect how you work. Do not allow your distaste for the subject or topic overshadow your      contributions to the group.  When someone else greets you with negativity respond with positivity.
  6. Do your part. Nothing is more frustrating than working with a group and someone does not do their part of the project.  Ensure you are available to meet.  Make sure you are on time when there is      a meeting.  Bring something to discuss when the meeting takes place.  No one wants to hear your excuses about why you cannot meet, why you are late, or how you are struggling to complete your portion.  Come prepared and prove to be a strong link.
  7. Do not take things personal.  Group assignments can bring out the best and worst in others. There may come a time when tensions are high and unkind words may be      spoken.  In these moments, focus on the project and not the person. Focus on the needs of the group and not the person.  Do not feed into the tensions, stay focused on the goal.
  8. Do not involve the professor.  The professor does not want “babysit” your group and how you work together.  As young adults, you and your peers should be able to work together to achieve the goal at hand.  If problems arise you should try everything among the group to resolve your issues without involving the professor. Meeting a minimum of three times will allow you to catch issues early before they can impact the entire project. If you need to involve the professor, it should be related to the goal and expectations not personal conflicts. If there are personal conflicts that cannot be resolved then you should approach the professor with the issues, the strategies you have implemented, and how the group thinks the problem should be resolved.  This will show      the professor that you are not tattle telling and that there was an attempt to resolve the issues.
  9.  Do  a dry run.  At some point before the final presentation, the group should complete a run-through of the presentation from beginning to end.  Each person in the group should have a copy of the presentation and know the role that each plays and should have an understanding of ALL of the information in the presentation.  Focusing on just your area will not give you all of the information about the topic.  Emergencies happen, people oversleep, someone could get stage freight; you should be able to      present on the topic in the event you are the ONLY person available the day of the presentation.  The “show” must go on even if you are the only person there to present.
  10. Take it seriously. From the moment you receive the topic to the moment you begin the presentation, take it seriously.  The entire semester may boil down to this one moment. Your failure to plan and thoroughly think things out could result in a failing grade on the project.  A failing grade on the project could result in a failing grade in the class. Do whatever you can to show your professor that you are taking the assignment seriously and want to achieve. Little things like professional attire, a portfolio cover, or a well scripted presentation could go a long way.  Taking things to a creative level, involving the audience, or tying things into today’s popular culture can also win major bonus points with the professor.