Higher education on the horizon

For kids of all ages, this is a season of many changes

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Besides teaching at the college level for many years, I also, on occasion, filled in as an admissions advisor for incoming college students.

As in many cases for most teachers, I felt at times that I was learning far more than my students.

Here are a few tips that might serve students at any level – or even those who are enrolled in the ever unpredictable unofficial school of life.

Show up

I had a student many years ago who had somehow developed a side job by being in commercials and then television and film roles.

She told me that success in the film industry was based on two foundational principles; show up and follow directions.

That is not so different at work. Or school at any level.

From kindergarten to graduate school, if you miss a class, you will never know what you missed.

The best note-taker will often miss those subtle, and often crucial comments or suggestions – or warnings from the teacher.

College teachers may not always “take attendance” (at least in the same sense that a high school teacher might) but they will notice your presence – and absence.

The first and the last

Showing up for the semi-required session is not the best strategy – it’s the minimum.

If you want to know, or be known by, your teacher, show up a few minutes early. And stay until the end.

Most, if not all teachers have a few before-class reminders about expectations and processes.

And most teachers have end-of-the-class warnings and admonitions regarding upcoming assignments, suggestions or opportunities.

The geography of the classroom

There have been many studies of where (and why) students sit in a classroom.

True or not, students who sit toward the front are generally considered to be more serious and committed.

Those in the back, not so much.

Students on the extreme edges are, in most cases, on the teacher’s peripheral view.

In most cases this is deliberate.

And, a word to the wise (or perhaps not-so-wise); virtually every teacher at the front of the room can see what is going on at the far reaches of the classroom.

At a well known university I had a professor with some kind of visible eye problem. We students could never tell where he was looking.

He would face one direction and call on a student in the other direction.

It was unsettling to say the least.

Go beyond the classroom

Most college level teachers have office hours.

Make a point of dropping by their office at least once or twice a term.

These people will be your references, advocates, and possibly even friends or colleagues later in life; you want them to remember your name when the term is over.

And if your professor is giving a talk or performance, show up — and make sure he or she knows you did.

If your teacher recommends a book or movie, check it out – and let them know what you thought of it.

Be prepared

Know what is going on in the class. Refer to what was discussed in previous class sessions.

Come to class prepared enough to ask a perceptive question or make a useful comment.

Don’t dominate the classroom conversations.

Turn off any device – you are in class for a limited amount of time. Focus on what you are there to do.

Make connections

Check out the out-of-class activities the campus life has to offer — clubs, events, service trips, religious groups or almost anything.

This is where life-long friends are made.

Research shows that students who are affiliated with a campus group or who have a part-time job are less likely to drop out and more likely to make steady progress through college and graduate on time – or even early.

Use those resources

Career and professional advice; funding for internships, study abroad, or travel; opportunities to work with professors on research; mental health counseling and disability support services — these are all offered by most schools, but it is up to you to recognize your needs and make use of such resources.

Use those resources while you can. Once you leave you won’t have as much access to them.

Step out of your comfort zone

College is a time to grow up and make – and perhaps even suffer from the consequences of – your own decisions.

Keep your support system intact. Your friends and family have been there for you before and will be glad to be part of your life in the future. Call them when you need them, but don’t be afraid of loosening the ties.

Appreciate where you are

No matter where you are, or at what level, one dynamic will always be true – you won’t be there for long.

It might seem like it is stressful and will last forever – but it won’t last long and it is a time you look back on for the rest of your life.