By Professor Paige C Davis
Whether you are fresh out of high school or a well-seasoned college student, the first week of classes can be overwhelming and complicated to say the least. But, it doesn’t have to be! Here are 5 tried and true, sure fire ways to start off your new semester smoothly. This is called being proactive:
1. Verify your enrollment status – Seriously! Just because you registered for classes before the break doesn’t necessarily mean that you are still in fact enrolled in your selected courses. Where there are humans, there are mistakes. I’ve known a ton of students who thought they made payment before the deadline, but did not, thus being purged from the course roster. Any number of issues could kink up your course schedule. So, double check your enrollment status now. You’ll have time to salvage some semblance of a semester if you catch it now.
2. Get the text book – Most schools have dedicated instructor websites that contain specific textbook requirements for the courses they teach. Contact the professor directly if you are unable to locate the information you need. FYI: Professors may or may not use the same texts for the same class. For example, just because Prof. Smith uses a certain text for COMM 101 doesn’t necessarily mean that Prof. Brown uses the same text for COMM 101. Check out your options for purchasing your textbook…the campus bookstore is likely the most convenient, and likely the most expensive. Check out additional online purchasing options and order early during the week to ensure you receive your book by the first day of class (second class session at the latest). Most of your professors won’t care why you don’t have your book in a timely manner. They’ll just expect you to have it. Of course, you can always pay top dollar at the campus bookstore, which is likely the most convenient route. But, if you prefer to stretch your text book dollar just a little more, here are some websites that my students recommend: Chegg.com, book.ly.com, abebooks.com, half.com & bigwords.com.
3. Know the lay of the land – Be sure you know the specifics in regards to the location of your face-to-face classes BEFORE the first day. Use the school’s website to verify the campus, building and classroom designation for each of your classes. It’s also a good idea to have a plan for parking (which lot is most convenient) and a sensible route for moving from class to class. FYI: There is no such thing as the “TBA” building…that’s right…it doesn’t exist. “TBA” stands for “To Be Announced,” which means you will be able to access this information on the first day. Updated room assignments are typically posted in several conspicuous locations around campus. When in doubt, find an administrative office and get help.
4. Get to know your professor – If a specific professor has been designated as your course instructor, seek out more information about said instructor. It’s always good to know a little bit about their background, teaching experience, academic pursuits, etc… You may be able to access their curriculum vita (resume’) on the college website. It probably isn’t a bad idea to check out their profile on ratemyprofessor.com, either. Just keep in mind that these ratings are highly subjective. However, some of the information may prove to be helpful. For example, if several ratings indicate one of your professors deducts point for tardies and/or absences (cringe), you better make double sure that you adhere to their attendance policy. Each professor has different expectations. If you’re smart, you do your very best to find out what those expectations are and then deliver nothing less. Dr. Yvonne Estes, who taught my “Becoming a Master Student” course at Austin Community College (100 years ago) said, “you find out what the professor wants, and then you give it to them.” She was right.
5. Make direct contact for special circumstances – Most professors are overwhelmed with meetings and course preparation tasks the week before classes start. They likely will not have the time to respond to 200+ “Hello, my name is…” e-mails and/or phone calls (but, do introduce yourself on the first day of class). However, you should contact them sooner rather than later under certain circumstances. For example, if you have accommodations through the Americans with Disabilities Act (section 504), it’s always a good idea to send your professors a friendly e-mail which also includes some information about your specific accommodations prior to the first class session. Successful accommodations happen when a partnership is established between the student and the professor. Help your professors know how to help you. You should also contact your professor directly before classes begin for other special circumstances such as a planned business trip during the semester, you have a baby due next week, you are serving active military duty, you are overseas (online students), etc… Here’s to a great semester! Make it happen!
Paige C. Davis is a wife, mother, and serves as Associate Professor of Communication Studies & Education at Lone Star College CyFair. She is also an author and student mentor at the Professor’s Academy, offering online college success programs and private mentoring for current and prospective college students. More information is available at www.professorspearls.com.