One of the simplest things you can do as a student to improve your chances of success in college is to introduce yourself to your professors each semester. Believe it or not, most professors like being able to put a name to each of the faces in their classroom. There are numerous advantages to having a positive relationship with your professors. First, it is inevitable that at some point in the semester you will come across an assignment or a concept that you do not completely understand. Approaching your professor for help will seem much less daunting if they already know who you are. Second, the grading of assignments is an easier task for instructors when they know whose paper they are grading. By having an awareness of your background and natural thought processes professors are more able to understand the flow of your work and why you have made the connections that you have. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, professors are very valuable resources. They are able to direct you towards individuals and experiences that you may not knew existed in order to enhance your learning experience. They are also a leading source of reference letters, something they essentially cannot do if you approach them as a stranger. So do yourself a huge favor this semester and forge relationships with your professors. You will be glad you did.
As an advisor I have students of all different backgrounds enter my office. I meet students with vastly different career interests, personalities, and ethnicities. It is a joy to help these students with their academic and career pursuits. That being said, I have noticed that there are two attitudes that students enter their advising meeting with: engaged or passive. What do I mean by this? Here are some examples:
Engaged student: has several classes in mind, asks opinion on which one would be best.
Passive student: asks what classes to take without having done prior research.
Engaged student: has used multiple resources to obtain information prior to seeing their advisor, uses the meeting to confirm their plan.
Passive student: enters the meeting assuming their advisor knows everything about all majors and careers.
Engaged student: knows the pre-requisite courses for their major, wants to know best order to take them in.
Passive student: unaware of the pre-requisite courses for their major.
Engaged student: wants to know where to find out-of-classroom experiences.
Passive student: has not considered experience beyond the classroom.
Engaged student: leans forward in their seat when speaking with advisor.
Passive student: slumps in their seat, looks visibly disinterested.
University requires a great deal of time and financial resources to complete. Taking ownership of your studies will lead to the most satisfying academic experience possible. Florida State University places great value on the need to provide quality advising to all of its students. Are you getting the most out of your advising meeting? If not, get engaged!
Graduate Assistant, Advising First
Having advised many students over the past three months, I have had numerous conversations regarding how to improve performance in the classroom. Performance in any discipline, whether it be the arts, relationships, sports, or even academics, requires dedication and focus on the factors you can control. Improvement requires paying less attention to the assessment measure itself and more attention to the journey of preparation. That is, excellence is a process. How can you become more process-oriented in you studies? Here are some tips:
1) Go to class. 100% of the time.
This seems fairly obvious, but many students skip lectures or labs thinking that it will not impact their grades and that they will eventually catch up. Courses generally present concepts linearly. This means that you must understand A, B, and C before you have a chance of understanding D. Missing a class makes future material more difficult to comprehend. Class attendance is the best predictor of student grades.
2) Study regularly throughout the semester
This is where many students who breezed through high school struggle once they arrive in a university environment. A 10-hour cram study session may have worked before, but the depth of knowledge required to succeed in university courses requires a much more practical approach. Studying for even 5-10 minutes daily consolidates facts in your memory more effectively. Even better is you won’t need that cram session later, so you can go into exams well-rested, relaxed, and confident.
3) Know when and where to ask for help.
Students generally wait too long to seek help. As soon as you begin to get the feeling that you are not understanding the material, seek out your professor, teaching assistant, or study center for assistance. Do not wait to get a poor grade to confirm your suspicions.
Preparation and a focus on the process is the key to achieving excellence. Ask yourself, “am I using all of the available resources to maximize my odds of success?” If the answer is yes, that’s fantastic! If not, change your habits today by focusing on the process and experience the positive change in results that will inevitably come with them.
Graduate Assistant, Advising First
During the recent London Summer Olympics, Nike had a series of commercials around the theme of “Find Your Greatness.” These commercials struck me as we are all on that journey to find our personal greatness. As a faculty member at Florida State University, I am constantly reminded how this journey looks and feels different for everyone. Whether it is through your academic work, engagement in student organizations, or participation in athletics or intramurals; finding your greatness can be exciting and yet painful at times.
In order to maximize your time as a student here at FSU, focus on finding YOUR greatness. First is to work on knowing yourself. Just as the Ancient Greek aphorism states “Know Thyself,” understanding what your greatness is the first step to taking full advantage of your time at FSU. Simple things like understanding what time of day you study best, or what foods give you energy, or even if you learn better sitting in the front of the classroom are essential in reaching your full potential. Start today in learning about yourself, as this is a lifelong process.
Creating deep, meaningful relationships is another tip for you to maximize your time at FSU. I know that I am a better person because of the people around me, who will not only support me in finding my greatness, but who will challenge me to do better. Every day I am thankful for the students, faculty and staff I work with because they inspire me to be a better person. Because of these relationships I think about how I can “show up” every day giving 110% to those around me. They give me a space which supports and yet challenges me to know myself better and live with purpose every day.
Getting rid of the fear of failure is my final tip in finding your greatness. We all have this fear that we are not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough. The list of “I’m not…” can go on forever. So, you may ask, “How can I do that?” Through knowing yourself and creating deep, meaningful relationships, you will know that you are enough. Having courage to take risks and looking at failure as the opportunity to learn is critical.
FSU is an incredible community of faculty, staff, and students who care. Be intentional about your time here. As one of the Nike “Find Your Greatness” commercial states, “Somehow we have come to believe that greatness is a gift, reserved for a chosen few… you can forget that. Greatness is not some rare DNA strand. It’s not some precious thing. Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We are all capable of it. All of us…”
So, get out there… find your personal greatness. Because you are great and our world needs you!
Kathy Guthrie, FSU School of Education
It’s the question you’ll first be asked when you are identified to someone as a college student:
“What’s your major?”
Thankfully, though many said naively, I’ve known what I wanted to do my whole life: international non-profit work. In fact, I was so sure that I really didn’t even care that Florida State didn’t have a related undergraduate course in what I wanted to study. I immediately settled into International Affairs and found my real home in Geography, adding it as a second major my junior year.
But when people ask me, “what’s your major?” I coyly say “Haiti”. Haiti is what I’ve learned about most in college, it’s what I’ve studied, what I’ve focused on, and what I talk about most often. I went on my first trip with my dad in July 2010 and found out about the FSU RSO “Noles for Haiti” that fall. With the club I’ve been able to help lead fundraisers at FSU and trips to the New Life Children’s Home orphanage, which we support, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
As I start my senior year at Florida State, I can confidently say that I have not found my exact future career. I adore Geography but have no plans to continue in the technical field. As I meandered through my incredibly interesting and informative classes, I realized that what I was doing with my free time was the thing actually shaping my college experience. My education? Learning that Haiti is a country we as Floridians and Americans should partner with; we both have a lot to offer each other. My joy? Taking fellow students to Haiti and seeing some of them renewed in their passions like medicine or education. Haiti has put my classes in context, and my semesters into a greater perspective. I realize I’m fortunate to have a future that won’t depend on my GPA, but my grades improved once I found that thing that made my heart beat. This was big, Haiti, and it impacted every aspect of my life.
Unlike many of my soon-to-be graduating peers, I don’t have that many concerns about my first job. It might not be what I want to do at first, it might not even have to do with Haiti, but I want to help people and I’m willing to humble myself to do it.
I highly recommend this attitude for students just starting off college. Maybe you don’t know what your major should be, and maybe you try out some that don’t fit you. Don’t make that your biggest goal, because as you discover your PASSIONS (take classes that catch your eye, be brave and join clubs that interest you) it’ll fall into place. Take the pressure off yourself and find the thing that you could talk forever about when someone says, “what are you interested in?”. I’m sure, eventually, that will line up with a major, you will graduate, and you’ll eventually do what you love. It takes patience, but for a senior majoring in trying to learn from people in a Caribbean country, it’s worth it.
Kylie Foley, Senior – International Affairs and Geography
Director, Noles for Haiti
In the movie series Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow has a compass that others think is broken because it doesn’t point North. In the second of the four movies, Dead Man’s Chest, Captain Jack reveals the true power of the compass. He explains that it doesn’t point North, it points to “the thing you want most in this world.” Hold the compass, think of the thing you want most, and the compass will point to it. As you start or continue your FSU career, I’d like you to pause for a few moments and think about what you want most in this world. More specifically, what do you want most from your time at FSU? Where does your compass point? For a sailor, a compass is a vital tool to determine direction and keep a ship on course. A compass can be a vital tool for a student too.
During my years teaching Economics at FSU, I’ve seen nearly 20,000 students walk through my classes. Drawing upon some of their experiences, and remembering some of my own, I’d like to suggest three goals you ought to have. First, get knowledge and graduate. Your primary purpose for attending college is to learn new skills, sharpen existing skills, get exposed to new people and ideas, and graduate. In Economics jargon, this is called investing in human capital. That is, the time, energy and resources you devote to getting an education is an investment. An investment in yourself. Just like investing in the stock market, you want the biggest return possible. Making smart, consistent choices about going to class, preparing for assignments, and finishing tasks will result in bigger returns.
Second, form meaningful, mutually-encouraging relationships with other students. Don’t be a Lone Ranger. You will need help at various times as you navigate through this period of your life. Chances are, the friends you make in college will be your closest friends for life. Twenty years from now, you will likely still be in touch with your college friends and much less likely to be in touch with your high school friends. For some parts of your life, you will learn more outside the classroom than inside. Your friends will help you learn those valuable lessons. In addition, remember the old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” Your college friends will help you find jobs, dates, and business leads after college. Form those relationships now so you can call those people later.
Third, form relationships with at least three faculty members, and probably at least one staff or administrator, before you leave FSU. And the earlier, the better. I can nearly guarantee that you will need a reference, a letter or recommendation, or some other helpful gesture from several of these people. I usually politely decline requests for letters of recommendation more than I accept them. I don’t like to decline, but it is really in the student’s best interest if I do. The purpose of a letter is to inform the reader of something that can’t be obtained in the application packet. A letter shouldn’t repeat information on a transcript or resume. A letter should tell the reader more about what the student did in class and say something personal about the student. If I don’t know a student, I obviously can’t write anything personal. That will come across loud and clear in a letter and potentially make the student look bad if I did write a letter.
In addition to these three goals, I’d like to offer a challenge to you. FSU has been offering classes since 1857 and expects to offer classes and education for many more years. In other words, FSU has been here for a long time before you arrived and will probably be here a long time after you’ve graduated. My challenge to you is this: Make a difference. How are you going to make FSU a better place when you graduate than when you arrived? Are you going to make a physical improvement? Are you going to touch somebody’s life in a positive, meaningful way? What legacy are you going to leave? Make your time at FSU more than just about you.
Joe Calhoun, Department of Economics
Welcome back to Florida State University for the start of a new academic year. Whether it is your first semester here or your last we, Advising First, hope that you maximize your time at FSU by taking advantage of all the unique opportunities that college has to offer.
I am a graduate student in the School of Communications. I also completed my Bachelor’s at FSU. My time at FSU has afforded me the opportunity to be a part of many different efforts and causes. From involvement with groups such as the FSU Wesley Foundation, the Women’s Tennis team, and now Advising First, I have had the privilege to interact with many great people at FSU, both students and faculty. These interactions, along with my classes, have made a tremendous impact on me and transformed me into who I am today.
It is my hope that you are getting involved with campus groups and meeting some of the fascinating people that are involved with this school. If you are not, I encourage you to do so. In the meantime, we hope to give you a sampling of these tremendous people this semester with our new blog series, “Advice for Maximizing Your FSU Experience.” The blog is a personal initiative of mine and will be a collection of entries by some of the amazing people associated with our great university. If there is anyone specifically you would like to hear from, I invite suggestions. It is my sincere hope that you will take advantage of the wisdom they have to offer and that you begin to leave your own legacy on this campus.
Advising First, Social Media Intern