Special Guest Writer–Ellie Cahill: Wear Your Letters, Earn Your Grades: Balancing Greek Life and Academics

So you’ve made it. You moved in, said goodbye to your parents, joined an incredible Greek organization, and now you’ve survived your first few weeks of classes. While these first few weeks of school were new and exciting, reality will set in. You’re going to have homework, exams, chapter meetings, philanthropy events, social events, and not to mention meetings for other student organizations you want to be involved in. The number one fear we always hear from new freshman is that they are not sure if they can balance the obligations of Greek Life and their academics. What you don’t always realize, is that the number one priority of Greek Organizations is academics. We are all here to be college students first and members of our organizations second. These organizations exist to not only provide a sense of belonging here on campus, but to help you thrive in all aspects of your life. While managing all your obligations is difficult, here is some advice to help you learn important time management skills:

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1) Buy a planner! You can literally get one anywhere such as Target and Staples. I recommend finding one that has monthly calendars at the beginning and then breaks down into weekly agendas. In the monthly calendars, I like to write down major events like exams, important assignments, class projects, social functions, athletic games, philanthropy events, etc. This way I can see when all of my main events are happening in relation to one another. It is so important to know when you might have exams and important Greek events during the same week so you can plan your study time in advance. I then use the weekly agenda to write down all of my homework, such as notes or worksheets, and all of my minor weekly meetings. This allows me to understand what all I need to get done each day while also keeping in mind what I need done by the end of each week. Understanding what you need to get done and the time frame you have to do it, is essential to being successful. While it’s important to write all of this down, it is even more important that you actually use your planner every single day. Do not let it become just another notebook that takes up space in your backpack!

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2) Decide what is mandatory and what is optional. To quote my mom, “you have to do your have to dos, before you do your want to dos.” Look at all of your obligations each month and determine which are absolutely mandatory and what are things that you simply just want to do for fun. For example, weekly chapter meeting is mandatory, class is mandatory, your chapter’s philanthropy event is mandatory. Those are all of your “have to dos.” Going to a social event, grabbing lunch with a friend, or going to an athletic game are all of your “want to dos.” Realize that sometimes you are not going to be able to do it all. If there’s a social on a Thursday, but you have an exam on Friday morning, then you are going to have to miss out on the social. Saying no to the “want to dos” that conflict with those “have to dos” is totally ok. For every event you miss, there will always be another one.

3) Ask for help. One of the best parts of being in a Greek organization is that you are bound to have class with members of your chapter. Make study groups with them! It is a great way to meet and get to know other members in your chapter while still studying for your classes. Plus, you’ll never have to pull an all-nighter alone! Another great benefit with being in such a large organization is that there are older members who have been there and done that before you. There is bound to be at least one member (if not more) who has the same major or has taken the same classes as you. Use them! They are always willing to show you which classes and professors to take or how to take notes and study for the class.

4) Most importantly, use your chapter’s Academics Chair. This is usually a member who has high academic achievement and wants to help guide others to reach their own academic achievement. Their entire position is to help you be a better student! If you are struggling in a class, they will help you seek help whether that’s from someone in the chapter or from an on-campus tutoring place. If you are nervous to get help on campus, they will probably go with you! You are surrounded by opportunity to be academically successful, take advantage of it!

Your chapter wants you to be successful in all areas of your life, but especially in your academics. Chapters love to brag and boast about all of the incredible achievements in your life. Whether that’s getting an A on the exam you thought you failed or getting into the program you dreamed of, they love seeing you accomplish your goals and will help with anything in order to get you there. Yes, it will be hard, but college is hard for everyone. It isn’t supposed to be easy. Luckily in your chapter, you will be surrounded by people who will be there to help you through the hard times in order to make them easier and to celebrate with you during the good times to acknowledge how hard you worked.

Please note that the comments of Dr. Golding and the others who post on this blog express their own opinion and not that of the University of Kentucky.

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Special Guest Writer–Dr. Diane Snow: Combine and Conquer – Using Peer Groups to Achieve

This past Spring, I had the great fortune of traveling to China with numerous UK faculty colleagues. There were so many interesting, yet unfamiliar and daunting experiences.

I was awed and amazed by the Great Wall, and imagined what life must have been like when people roamed the endless steps and towers through their normal daily lives. There were places where the slope of the steps was negligible and climbing was easy. I barely had to pay attention to where or how I was walking, and discourse with others was relaxed. However, there were places where the steps were not adequately deep, forcing me to climb with only my toes to progress. In some cases, the rise of step after step was enormous, and I had to use of all four limbs and a lot of attention to the task to make the trek—truly demanding work.

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It occurs to me now these steps could be seen as a metaphor for the transition from high school to college—an unpredictable and variable journey. Having been a “big fish in a small pond” in my high school, I found the workload unremarkable, and my effort was commensurate. Getting an A in each class did not make me winded. But all of a sudden, there appeared in college a much steeper climb. Courses no longer required just the reading of a chapter by the end of the week, but the reading of a book and a reflective paper in that same span. There was no longer an emphasis on introduction, but a focus on depth, breadth and integration.

While I found this challenge exhilarating, and stepped up my game, this new world view was daunting and presented a paradigm shift. Although early college days are long in my rearview mirror, I still remember the way I coped with this trial of increased volume and demand—networking and team-building. I intentionally reached out and met new people, studied with them, and learned with them. We tested the new waters as a team. We divided up the work, talked about each of our contributions, learned from one another, and solved problems together. We helped each other during triumphs and “face plants” as well, and somehow, we all made it—together. The task felt more manageable when others were facing the same challenges, had the same vision, and agreed to work through it step by step in a unified effort. Likewise, the accomplishments, when they came, were a shared victory and an award that made us stronger and more capable for the next challenge.

So as you’re climbing your Great Wall, don’t feel you need to be a weathered and independent traveler just yet. After all, in a tourist spot like that, there are thousands of friendships just waiting to be made, and so many worthy journeys to take!

Special Guest Writer–Dr. Jerry Hauselt (Southern CT State University): Faculty Expectations

Professors expect that college students will act differently than high school students. Why? Because college is voluntary and expensive. Therefore, it is expected that students will take their education seriously and take responsibility for maximizing their investment of time and money. Professors expect that students will act like scholars, and come to class ready to engage with the material. You need to have the same attitude towards studying as you’d have toward training: success comes only after sustained hard work. One of my colleagues explains this to her students by telling them that they should come to class prepared to prove that they are the smartest person in the room. Students with this attitude succeed not because they impress her, but because they know the material.

Many students enter college without realizing that THE RULES HAVE CHANGED and they need to change their attitude towards academics. In high school, studying and doing well may not be popular, but in college, it’s why you’re here.

I try to convey to my students that rules have changed with the following elements from one of my syllabi:

Electronics/Facebook Free Zone. TURN OFF YOUR PHONE! NOW! Texts can wait. Also, TEXTING KILLS GRADES. If you want a poor grade, keep texting. Are you paying tuition so that you can text friends in a crowded room? Are you paying tuition to have a comfortable seat in which to make Mark Zuckerberg rich? Please note that your friend’s latest tweet or Facebook post or last night’s basketball scores WILL NOT be on the exam. Put your phone away for an hour. It won’t hurt. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Respect, Please. We are here to learn about psychology. We are not here to chat, text, or engage in other behavior that will negatively impact another person’s ability to learn. You are not as quiet as you think when you text or comment to your neighbor. If you must sit and talk to your neighbor, do it outside this class. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Another important element of respect for others is remaining in your seat during class. It is disruptive and rude to those around you to leave in the middle of class and return. Please take care of what you need to take care of before or after class. If you find this unfair or foolish, DROP THIS CLASS!

Electronic Access. We will be using the internet and email. It is your responsibility to gain access to both (available free in campus computer labs) and be familiar with how to use them. YOU SHOULD ALSO PLAN BACK-UP ACCESS. Learn where there are other computers you can use if yours fails.

What are your thoughts on Dr. Hauselt’s pointers?

Special Guest Writer–Jake Bailey: Starting College

So you’ve begin your freshman year. By now, you’ve read over your syllabi (hopefully), settled into your dorm, and have some kind of routine you follow every day. Class is already starting to pick up, and it may start seeming a little scary. I know when I was in your shoes, I was not doing so hot. Specifically on an emotional level. Everyone would give me all of these tips on time management and campus resources. They helped tons don’t get me wrong, but there are a few tips I’d like to pass down to all of you that you do not hear as often. In addition to the usual academic advice you hear a lot of, this advice is important to heed.

The first piece of advice is rather simple, but makes a significant difference: keep yourself healthy. In my first year of college, I didn’t do a great job of taking care of myself. I put 100% of my energy into my classes, and almost none into myself. I wasn’t getting enough sleep, eating right, etc. I didn’t even look like myself and my grades suffered. I know money is tight in college, but try to eat decent food even if it is a few bucks more. You’re also going to run into situations where staying up all night to finish a paper seems absolutely necessary. I don’t know about y’all, but I need my beauty sleep. Complete as much of that paper as you can, then PLEASE get some sleep. Humans aren’t meant to stay up all night. Get your hair cut. Exercise if you want. Shave regularly (not trying to sound like your parents). All of those seemingly small things really do help, and you will feel 100% better.

My second tip: find a hobby. Find something you can do with others or by yourself that relaxes you. A lot of you probably did some kind of extracurricular activity in high school. Sports, marching band, student government, volunteering, whatever it is–it’s not as easy to do in college. Luckily for you, there are tons of clubs you can join on campus. Even if you for some reason can’t find a club you like, there are many other things to do. I played club dodgeball for a couple of years and loved it. Now I’m taking boxing classes. Just find something you really like. It keeps you in a rhythm and keeps your head clear.

The last thing is a little harder than it sounds. Talk to people. I know, just starting a conversation with a complete stranger out of nowhere seems tough. But guess what? It isn’t. Crack a joke about something that just happened to the person standing in line in front of you. Get to know the people in your classes. You never know what could come out of it. You could be talking to your best friend.

I hope this helps everyone. Don’t spend too much time worrying about the future. I promise if you just buckle down in class, make friends, and do what you love, everything else will fall into place.

Special Guest Writer–Luisa Kickler (Student): First Day of Classes is Finally Here!

The moment you’ve been waiting for all summer is finally here and guess what? You are actually freaking out. Don’t panic! With a little help, your first day of college will be a success. I know that campus seems to be equivalent to a small town (even bigger depending on where you’re from) and it can be quite intimidating if you are not familiar with it. But stay strong, there is this magic thing called map that will guide you right through it. A campus map can be found at the front desk of your dorm, online, or you can probably download an app on your phone. Read the map, study the map, love the map, be the map. No shame in your map game. It is also helpful to figure out where your classes are before they start, so go on a little adventure and look for the buildings that will become your second home. If you’re still nervous about it, there will be information tents all over campus for the first week of classes. After a couple weeks you’ll know campus like the back of your hand and I promise it will get smaller with time.

Now that you got the campus part down, let’s move on to classes. Pack your notebooks, planner (you will need one), pencils, pens, maybe some deodorant? Believe me, you’ll be glad you did. Make sure you leave 15 minutes early, just in case you get lost. When you get to class (like a champ), choose your seat wisely, wherever you’re comfortable but not too comfortable. Pay attention to what your professors have to say, you don’t want to look like an idiot by asking something he/she already repeated 3 times. Try to make at least one friend in each class, in case you need help, notes, or whatever later on. If you feel comfortable, introduce yourself to your professors after class, it is very important to establish a relationship with them. If you are a little reluctant about it, wait a few days and stay after class to ask a question. That way your professors will know who you are and they will know that you are interested in what they are teaching. Super smooth.

After you’re done with classes, organize your syllabi and highlight important dates, you definitely don’t want to miss those. Now all you have to do is sit back and relax, because just like that your first day is over and you didn’t even call your parents crying! College is not so bad after all… Your first day might be over, but you still have 4 more years ahead of you, so make sure you make the most of it. Manage your time responsibly, go to class, do your homework, don’t wait until the last minute, make friends, and last but not least, have fun! College truly is the time of your life, so enjoy!

Expect a Challenge

Are you ready for college? For most of you who are starting college as freshman or are in college already you have probably heard this question countless times. Although you may be sick of it, this question holds a lot of weight. I would argue that no one is really 100% ready for college, especially those just starting out as freshmen. The reason for this is that college involves a lot more than going to class, studying, and taking exams. You might be ready to do the three things I just said (although we are pretty sure there is still some uncertainty), but there is so much more you need to deal with in college. In fact, it is hard to imagine that anyone knows everything about being a college student.

Part of the problem for students in college is that many students do not think about college as a challenge. Like all challenges, college requires a set of special skills in order to overcome the difficulties that college can present. Moreover, it is important to state right from the start that it is really the case that college is not “13th Grade”. There are a number of reasons high school is not the same as college, but let’s touch on two of these right now.

First, of course, part of the difference between high school and college is that not everyone from your high will be attending your college. There will likely be students from all across the state your college is located, as well as students from across the United States and from a number of foreign countries.

Second, there is the subject matter you will be dealing with in your courses. Although there may be a few exceptions, in general your college courses will be qualitatively different from those you had in high school. The exception might be a specific Advanced Placement (AP) course you had in high school. But, even with these AP courses what you will learn in college often is pretty different than your high school courses. A lot of this difference is typically related to the emphasis on research in all of your college courses compared to your high school courses. That is, in high school you typically learn a lot of content, but in college there is a premium on discussing the process of discovery.

Get yourself ready for the challenge—you’ll soon find that being prepared will lead to an amazing college experience!