The 6-Year Track
So confession. I’m what they (whoever they are) call a “super senior” in college.
I remember in my first semester at my University I had to take a “freshman seminar class”. I don’t actually remember WHAT the class was about, but I do remember the first class.
A woman from the financial aid office came into speak us. She talked about the model student, the one on the “four-year track”. Dismissively she mentioned the people on the “six-year track”. The people who took a little longer to finish their degree.
She talked about it like it was the most shameful thing in the world.
As someone who is painfully self-aware, the shame hit me especially hard. It was only my first day but I already knew that it would probably take me more than four years to graduate.
The whole school thing has always been hard for me. I love learning but… School? The constant pressures from family, teachers, and peers are overwhelming and exhausting.
Be smart but not too smart. Stand out, but not too much. Be yourself but fit in.
So long story short, it’s taken me just a wee bit longer to finish my bachelor’s degree than “ideal.”
But all that extra schooling has given me quite a grasp on how to master the college life. Fun bonus, these are all skills that translate really well into the “real world.”
That’s the point of college after all, right? Developing skills that will help you Excel in life. Below are my top tips to help you are the course and hopefully ace your life.
1. Showing up is half the battle!
Tip number one is the easiest one. It requires you to just show up to class. Groundbreaking stuff, I know. Bonus points if you arrive to class on time.
Let’s be honest, you probably don’t read at least some of your assigned readings. While you probably should, realistically you might not have enough time to read every single document thoroughly.
Recent studies suggest around 80% of college students are working. Add in time with friends, long hours of studying, and designated partY time, that doesn’t leave a ton of time for reading.
Unless they’re living under a rock, your professors are well aware of this. Usually, your teacher will discuss and explain the readings in class, and review the main points. Readings are often meant to be supplementary, so even if you are doing the readings it is important. Lectures are going to be where you really get the important stuff.
Honestly? If you’re not in a super technical, or medical field, you could probably skirt by on doing minimal reading if you go to every class, take notes, ask questions, etc. This is nothing something I recommend doing, by it a testament to the importance of just showing up.
2. Do all assigned work …and all optional work
I know…homework sucks. It seems like hours of time mulling over stuff you already learned.
For me the only thing worse than homework was essays. I hate essays. The idea of spending hours, mindlessly researching topics, of very little interest to me, and then trying to form interesting education opinions about those topics is nauseating. Genuinely nauseating.
But homework has a purpose. The human learning process involves a couple complex systems. We need to take in information, analyze it, and then apply it, in order for it to really sink in.
Often times professors will give optional readings or assignments. Just like your actual homework, these assignments serve as additional learning opportunities.
If you’re really not into the additional readings or even your actual reading assignments, try looking up youtube videos on the same or similar topics in order to get a better understanding of the material.
3. Start Early
One of my fatal flaws in that I procrastinate. A lot. It’s really bad.
We’re friends, right? So I can tell you that I have literally failed classes because I waited too long to start assignments.
I told you, it’s bad.
But step one is admitting you have a problem, right?
Something that’s really helped me to ease the burden of far off due dates is to start the assignment, as soon as its assigned. You don’t have have to write the entirety of your 15-page paper the day it’s assigned.
But do something. You could start jotting down ideas or make a rough outline. Even if that’s all you do, it’ll be helpful to you in the long run. When you finally do sit down to work on it, you won’t be starting from nothing. Studies have shown that even if you’re not actively working on a task if you have the requirements in the back of your mind you will produce better results.
Just because your paper is due sometime in the distant future, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be actively working on it. You could pull the most epic all-nighter of your life and smash that 15-20 page paper out the night before it’s due. But you could save yourself a literal headache by working on 2-3 pages every few days from the day it is assigned.
Writing 3 or more pages per day may be feasible for some people, and they could easily finish the paper in a week with time to spare. For others 1 page a day might be stretch, and they might need a full 2 or three weeks to knock out that assignment. Knowing your work ethic, your writing abilities, and your schedule is really important here.
4. Be and Stay Present.
Showing up to class is obviously tip number one, but in life sometimes just showing up is not enough. This is college. You’re investing your money, time, and in many ways your sanity into going to college,
Take it as seriously as you possibly can. Be present when you’re in class.
Pay attention. Ask Questions. Participate in class discussions.
Put away your phone. Turn it off if possible. Your friends can wait. The world can wait.
A class is not that long. Even if it’s a relatively dull or flat out boring class, the actual amount of time is very small. Unless you’re directly responsible for someone’s well being and need to have your phone in case of emergency, there’s probably nothing going on that can’t wait an hour or two.
I know you’re an adult, I get it. But I’ve seen a pattern that the people who are constantly not present, specifically those on their phones for most of the class, are the people who get their quiz and tests backs with a bad grade and honestly can’t understand why.
So many people go to college and leave without actually learning anything. Be better than that! At the very least, pay attention in classes that are relative to your major.
5. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professor
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that professors are just people.
They wake up, grab a coffee, sit in traffic, have husbands and wives, deal with life problems. Even in my case, when some of my professors are relatively close in age to me, they can still feel somehow inaccessible to me.
I know when you’re in high school, your told that professors won’t be sympathetic and that they flat out don’t care. Obviously, it depends on where you go to school, but 9.5/10 professors I’ve encountered, are super understanding. The other .5 probably didn’t have their coffee yet so maybe try to catch them at a different time. If you couldn’t meet a deadline or didn’t understand an assignment, talk to your professor honesty to try to find a solution. Don’t expect them to completely bend the rules for you, but there is usually something that can be done.
This is another reason starting assignments early is helpful. If you find there’s something you don’t quite understand, you can talk to your professor, and get feedback if necessary. If you wait until the day it’s due to tell them you understand the assignment, with nothing to show, they will probably laugh in your face. But if you can keep the lines of communication open, and they’ve seen that you’re working on the assignment and taking it seriously it will make a world of a difference if problems do arise.
When going into the professional field, remembering that at the end of the day, everyone is human will be important when dealing with bosses and superiors. It’s a something you want ingrained in your head as soon as possible.