Life Skills for New College Students- Part II

Here are some other important skills for a successful college student. From what I’ve noticed, many students have not yet mastered these important skills. How do we go about teaching this sort of stuff? Should the freshman advisors provide some how-to? As you advise your students at the beginning of the fall term, please consider the following:

° Crafting emails to faculty or persons of authority. It’s important to begin your email with a greeting like, “Dear Professor X.” Emails that begin, “Hey, Kate,” or “Yo” or that have no greeting tend to make us middle-aged professors a bit annoyed. Chances are that if your professor hasn’t told you to be on a first-name basis, you’re not. The email should be organized much like a short letter and should be spell-checked and grammatically correct. Rambling multi-page tirades should be avoided. The email should end with your name (it’s probably too much to ask for a phrase like “Sincerely.”). Remember that most of your professors are in fact professionals and should be treated respectfully even in email notes. [I would argue that we professors could use a little email etiquette refresher course as well!]

° Class etiquette. Arriving to class on time is very important. If you are going to waltz in late, carrying your latte and bagel slathered with cream cheese and you don’t have enough to share with everyone, do not bother coming to class.  Also, it is not good manners to text, take cell phone calls, or use social media during class. I shouldn’t have to explain why here.

° How to study for exams. Introductory biology students (really all college students) probably need some help figuring out new study strategies for college level work. The technique of re-reading the text with a yellow highlighter in hand or of re-writing one’s class notes probably are no longer adequate. I think that we as professors should spend a little time teaching new study strategies.

° How to be motivated to learn. Motivation is a key factor in being successful academically and it’s an aspect of learning and teaching that rarely gets mentioned. We tend to hear about motivation when we are on a sports team. Learning is a lot like a sport for the brain. It takes motivation, drive, practice and TIME. What motivates our students? A desire to get good grades is one of the biggest motivators. Others include progress towards a desired degree or career or personal interest in a subject matter. How do we keep our students motivated throughout the semester? How can we help them develop their “motivation engine”?

° How to prioritize conflicting draws on time. This is a biggie! Prioritizing academics over personal activities like sports teams, parties, relationships is something many of us are not good at, even after college. How do you know when academics get the first priority, when family/friends get the first priority? Is prioritization a life skill that can be taught in college? I think it is. I spend much of my time as an advisor discussing strategies for prioritizing, for figuring out how to balance academics with the rest of life at college.

As you begin developing your course syllabi and getting ready to meet your advisees, think about how you might help your students learn these crucial skills.


One thought on “Life Skills for New College Students- Part II

  1. Thanks for giving the advice on emails! This is a very important issue. I think folks think that the same telegraphic and informal approach they bring to a text message can be applied to email. But you are right: us middle-aged professors think of an email as a more formal letter, with salutations and other courtesies required.

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