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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Prescott College Survival Tips

After being a student at Prescott College for three consecutive years now, I find myself experiencing an array of emotions. I’m ecstatic to have found a school that serves my needs, excited to be nearing my graduation, and baffled that I made it through three years of college without suffering a nervous breakdown. It’s not that I didn’t think I would make it as a college student, but looking back, I find it refreshing to have not had to pull an “all-nighter” on 42 cups of coffee studying for a midterm I was unprepared for. It’s refreshing to b e aware of the fact that I have never been uncomfortable asking for help from a peer, instructor, teaching assistant, or advisor. I have never failed a class at Prescott College.

That being said, I think it’s important to explain that I, too, have had my fair share of stress in college. This blog isn’t for the purpose of bragging about my wonderful, easy, bliss-tastic experience at college, but rather, for sharing with you all some important tools that will be important for your success at Prescott College.

1) ATTITUDE: Having a good attitude can make or break your college career. It is, in my opinion, one of the most important tools for success that anyone can carry with them throughout their life. Your attitude can affect both your personal learning and studying habits, as well as the way you, as a student, are treated by both your peers and your instructors. No one wants to listen to someone who has a bad attitude about their classes. AND if you continue to put out a negative vibe, people will stop taking you seriously, after all, if you don’t think you can do something, other people will start to believe you. The better your attitude is about your work, the better you will feel about the end result, and the happier people will be to work with you.

2) TIME MANAGEMENT: If there is one thing college students never seem to have enough of, it’s time. Time management becomes important fast, especially when deadlines are approaching. That’s why it is crucial to develop a system of managing your time that works for you. Not everyone is going to manage their time in the same way. I’m not going to tell you how to manage your time or how to avoid procrastinating because, like I said, my methods might not work for you. I would, however, advise people to keep some kind of daily list or planner that can keep track of important dates and times of events, as well as class assignments and tests. It can even be helpful to make not of the day they were assigned so as to best see the time you have between the two dates to complete it. A work load for a college student can feel pretty intense at times and sometimes can feel like a lot to tackle at once. Don’t be afraid to take a break for mental clarity. Pour yourself some tea, have a snack, take a shower, do whatever it is that clears your head before returning to your work.

3) COMMUNICATION: To succeed at Prescott College, communication is key. If you are having a crisis, don’t understand an assignment, or are just incredibly pinched for time, TALK TO YOUR INSTRUCTORS ABOUT IT. Class sizes are small for a reason. You get to know your instructors very well in a small class and if you communicate with them about whatever is going on, chances are, they will be understanding if the issue. I am not telling you that they hand out extensions like Halloween candy, but if you have a legitimate issue and are struggling, be sure to get in touch with them early on…there is usually something that you can work out.

4) PICK THE RIGHT ADVISOR—AND DON’T BE AFRAID TO SWITCH: When you get to Prescott College, you will need to choose an advisor. They are someone who will assist you in your success at Prescott College. They’ll help you choose classes, design your degree plan, and organize your senior project so you can graduate on time. If you realize that you and your advisor aren’t the best fit, don’t be afraid to switch to another one. Many advisors are also instructors. They can be out on field courses for months and not be available to students who aren’t in their classes. They want you to succeed just as much as you do! They won’t be hurt if you choose an advisor that you work better with. It is quite common to change your advisor, especially if you change your major—dance instructors probably won’t be the best advisors for geology majors, and visa versa. Do what is right for you.

5) START YOUR DEGREE PLAN EARLY: So this is some personal advice. Technically, your degree plan isn’t due until 18 months before your intended graduation date, but it never hurts to start early. Basically, your degree plan is a list of classes that you have taken/plan to take in order to count towards your competency (major) and breadth (minor). Curriculum plans and advising documents are available to download on the college website and can tell you what classes are needed in order to graduate with a specific competence (advising document) and when they are offered (curriculum plan). Take a look at these forms early on. Even if you don’t already know what you might like to major in, familiarizing yourself with the courses offered might give you a good idea of what you might like to focus your interests on. And if you are settled into a specific area of study, you can start to plan for the classes you still need to take, note when they are offered and start to think about which classes need prerequisites.

6) KNOW YOUR RESOURCES: Familiarize yourself with the resources available to you on campus. It is important to know your way around the library and writing center as they are both valuable resources available to students. Meet your librarians and research technicians. They are here to help you if you need it. Go to Student Union Board meetings to find out what is happening on campus. Participate in clubs and student-run organizations. Even if you have a job and a class overload, find out what is happening on campus so you are aware of any changes. I would recommend getting involved with a campus-run group like Student Union Board so you are always in the know.

7) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: Make sure you are getting your sleep and feeding yourself. You’d be surprised how susceptible you are to illness when you aren’t taking proper care of yourself. Adding stress into the mix doesn’t help. If you find yourself nodding off during a cram session, take a nap. Set your alarm and start up again after you wake up. Sometimes it helps to take another look with a freshly rested pair of eyes. Pulling an “all-nighter” might seem logical when you have an important assignment due, but trust me, a well rested individual performs better than one who is lethargic.

8) DON’T FREAK OUT, HAVE FUN!: College is supposed to be both engaging and challenging, enjoy it! Make sure you are allotting yourself time to socialize and relax. It’s important to have fun!