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    Introduction To The College Experience
    Peggy Dereak  

I've been a college instructor for nearly four years. One of the classes that I teach on a regular basis is "Introduction to the College Experience."

In college, there are no bells to remind you to go to class. If you're late or miss class, the instructor probably won't say anything to you, your parents won't be called; basically, life goes on. However, you are responsible for any material you missed. This usually means copying a fellow class-mate's notes. Also make sure you don't miss a test or turn an assignment in late. Most instructors won't give you a second chance; they'll give you a zero. Or, as I tell my students, "You'd better have a note from God." "The dog ate it," or "I was sick," doesn't cut it. If you're sick, you'd better be bedridden, otherwise, drag yourself to class.

When an instructor gives you an assignment to do, pay particular attention to the format. Penalties for not following instructions can range from deducting points to not accepting the assignment at all.

All assignments or papers should be as perfect as possible. Always keep in mind that college is training for your career. Start forming good habits now and they'll stay with you after you graduate. Remember: Nobody likes a slob, except possibly another slob.

If you have access to a computer, use it as often as possible. If your typing skills are terrible, practice. Most instructors want their papers typed. If the instructor doesn't require the assignment to be typed, do it anyway. This is a great way to practice and get to know your computer's word-processing capabilities.

Typewriters seem so antiquated compared to computers, but if that's all you have, make do. Watch the White-Out! I hate getting a paper that looks like birds used it for target practice. It you must use corrective fluid, make a photo copy of your paper before turning it in. It makes a cleaner, more professional presentation.

Since most classes don't meet everyday, it's imperative you stay organized. I would recommend a separate folder and spiral notebook for each class and lots of looseleaf paper. That way you don't have to drag a giant folder and 5-Subject notebook to every class (lose the TrapperKeepers, they only complicate things). Also, bring extra pens, pencils and a calculator to math classes, and a highlighter.

Backpacks are big right now. They're an easy way to carry supplies, especially if you have to walk back and forth across campus.

Come prepared; come often. Make a concerted effort to have perfect attendance. This is something employers can and will check when you apply for a Job. If your attendance at school is poor, an employer will assume your attendance on the job will be poor also.

Finally, let's talk about grading. In high school, most teachers grade everything evenly. That is, all assignments, tests, etc., are assigned the same number of points. For instance, if you had 60 assignments and 8 tests during the year, the teacher would add up all of your scores and divide by 68. In college, however, most instructors weight things. I'll give you an example.

This is the grading breakdown for one of my classes:

  • 10% attendance
  • 10% magazine reports
  • 20% assignments
  • 30% tests/quizzes
  • 30% final project

What this all means is you can have perfect attendance, make A's and B's on all your reports, assignments, and tests, but if you fail your final project, you could end up with a C or less for the class.

Here's how the numbers fit in:

  • Perfect attendance would be: 100% X 1 (for 10%) = 100
  • "A" average on mag. reports: 90% X 1 (for 10%) = 90
  • "A" average on assignments: 90% X 2 (for 20%) = 180
  • "B" average on tests: 80% X 3 (for 30%) = 240
  • Failed final project: 50% X 3 (for 30%) = 150

Your final amount of points would be 760 which equals 76% or a C. So make sure you pay attention to how the instructor grades.

College is a lot of hard work but it can also be a wonderful experience if you let it. Try not to get too uptight about grades. Yes, good grades make a difference with employers, but as long as your grade point average is respectable, don't kill yourself trying to get that A in every class. And don't kill yourself if you don't get that A. There's more to life than a 4.0 GPA. Relax, try to enjoy school because this time in your life only comes around once.


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