6 Lessons From My First Quarter in College

A bit delayed, but it’s true, the fist quarter has been released into the summer months, and many of the college students have retreated back to their home towns for the warmer months, destined to return in the fall.

Not this student.

In just a few short days I return to school with new classes, though not drastically different. I’ll be taking Math 98 to proceed my Math 97, and English 102 – taught by the same professor as last quarter’s 101 class (ok, he kind of grew on me and I think I can expand my mind in interesting directions with him), and I’ll be filling my needed credit of a Communications class. I’m not looking forward to the latter as I have a sneaking suspicion it will involve speaking in front of people, which I’m not a fan of.

However, I go into the shorter summer quarter with nuggets of wisdom gain from the last quarter, and I certainly hope others will find this information helpful.

  1. It’s not always necessary to buy the text books.
    The book list got jumbled this quarter, and listed the wrong book for my English class (Then when I went to return it told me they weren’t buying that one back), and didn’t list any books for my Journalism class, which in fact required three books. I bought two of the three at Barns and Nobel (one of which the bookstore bought back for $3, the other one they weren’t interested in), and the third one, the one considered to be a proper text book, our teacher said she didn’t like, but was required to use it. I never bought that book, but instead went to the library whenever we were assigned a chapter out of it.
    After I injured my back from how heavy my backpack was, I couldn’t carry my math book to class. While we didn’t use it in class, I need to do my homework as soon as I’m out so that I can solidify and commit what we just learned to memory. I was able to check out the math book from the library for two hours, which was ample time to complete my home work.
    My English teacher corrected us on the books that we bought from the book list at the beginning of the quarter, but in the end made copies of all the passages he wanted us to read and gave them to us as packets, negating the need to have bought the text book.
    It’s a gamble, but some times you can get away without buying the books. Though I should note: one of the Journalism books I did buy was extremely necessary to have, so I am quite happy that I purchased it and had it at my disposal. Feel out your classes, or ask your teacher how they plan on using the text book.
  2. Talk to Your Teachers
    They are not scary people, most of the time. I found that by chatting with my professors regularly, they had more trust in me when I came to them with a problem, and I had a better understanding of where they were coming from. At the end of the quarter, I felt comfortable enough to send an email to my math teacher to tell her the best places around to go hiking (since she’s brand new to the area), I wanted to see if my Journalism teacher wanted to go get a drink simply because she’s a neat person to talk to, and I have a list of books I want to lend to my English teacher that I think he’ll dig.
    When you go through high school, there is definitely an “Us and Them” mentality – students/kids vs. teachers/adults. They are two different worlds with a difficult bridge to walk to close the gap. However, once you enter college, it’s as an adult, and a different understanding takes place. The professors are no longer the high and mighty teachers, but other adults that have some useful information.
    Being open and honest with your teachers regularly will help you out. I had one day that I was expecting a phone call from the Unemployment office during my math class. While it’s perfectly okay to step out of class without asking permission, I still let my math teacher know at the beginning of the class what was going on. It made her feel respected, and made me feel less guilty for accepting a phone call during class.
  3. Take advantage when teachers drop names
    This is a direct tip from my English teacher. He told us that the way to be outstanding in your professor’s eyes and get those good letters of recommendations to grad school or jobs, is to listen when they name bomb. If your teacher is talking about a philosopher the class has been reading, the briefly mentions another philosopher that you’re not covering, go and look up that philosopher, read the text that was mentioned, then go to your teacher during their office hours and discuss.
    Likewise, if your math teacher is talking geometry and mentions the book Flatland, go check it out, thumb through and try and meet up with your math teacher to discuss it, see how it’s applicable to what you’re learning in class, or find out what other related material would be a good read as well.
  4. Don’t be afraid of your classmates
    Me, personally, I’m afraid of people. I don’t interact with folks very well. However, in two out of my three classes, I made friends, and I hope to catch them in times outside of campus. even if you’re not working together on projects, talking to each other about the lesson is a good way of helping to understand the subject matter better.
    Our English teacher is a philosophy teacher disguised as an English teacher, and taught us some complicated concepts. Most of the time I didn’t get it the first time around. However, I found that when I talked to others in the class, that I gained a firmer grasp on the material, and by the end of the week I could confidently write a paper on it.
    In math, talking to other students about complications they were having with the lessons helped me to look at it a different way. While I understood the material, a friend of mine who was also in the class, always had questions for the rules that were being put into play (one of the downfalls of my math teacher was that she would give us the rules, but not always explain why they were such. I think part of that was down to the short amount of time we had allotted for the class). When she would question them, it would make me question them. I was able to figure out why the rules were as such, which gave me a strong hold on the lesson.
  5. Take advantage of the Resources at the College
    Since Whatcom Community College is the only College I’ve attended, I can’t speak for all of them. However, I have to say that they have an absolute wealth of resources to support their students. The librarians are very kind and helpful, they have a station with lockers that you can charge all your electronics in, their math and writing centers are welcoming, they were handing out free snacks and bottles of water during finals weeks – I even heard tell that there was a room for naps somewhere on campus.
    The college is there so that you can learn, and the staff are there to support you so that you can succeed. There is an information desk in the library that will help students write their papers, understand the concepts of what they’re reading, and find the resources they need to complete a paper. During finals week, they put out free coffee, fruit and cookies.
    When their students succeed, they succeed. There are a great many resources available at the colleges, and some aren’t advertised on the website. It’s helpful to ask around. If you’re struggling in one area, ask a staff, and they might be able to point you in the direction of a lesser known tool.
  6. Do your homework
    No, I’m not joking. Do your homework.
    Teachers aren’t assigning it because they think you have too much free time after class. It’s to commit what you’re learning to memory, to engage you in the lesson and help you learn to apply the lesson to every day living.
    College life will, ironically, be a lot simpler if you just do your homework.

I was worried about going back to college as an adult ten years past high school. Though the times we live in now, it’s very common to go back to school at any stage of your life, and it can be daunting. With the time I took to get my energy out, to calm my youth a bit, I also grew, and gained the maturity I lacked to do well in school and take it seriously.

I loved this quarter of school. My journalism class terrified me, but I got through it – with an A even! The intellectual challenges I found addicting, and I can’t wait for the next quarter to start.

Spring 2014

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