As I watch the neighborhood kids push and shove at the bus stop each morning when they line up to board, I recall someone asking me, “How will they learn things like how to stand in line?” when I told her my children were home-educated. This memory still makes me chuckle. You see, my son, who attended school through second grade, actually needed to relearn the “standing in line” skill when we began homeschooling. At a museum event, I observed that he was expert at the jockeying and jostling that passes for lining up among most schoolchildren. “If you can’t find a spot without touching someone, move to the end of the line,” I said as I walked past the pile-up. Schooled children often believe that being last is a punishment, and he still had one foot in that world. I explained that it was not a punishment; it was almost a prize of sorts, a way to distinguish oneself, at the very least. “Trust me,” I told him. “They almost never pick a pusher or the shover to do the cool stuff.” He reluctantly moved to the back of the line.
When the coordinator was looking for a student to help with the animals later, he chose my son.
It wasn’t the last time I was spot on about something.
My daughters, who were home-educated until they enrolled at the local college this summer, learned to assess the jockeying and jostling and calmly move to the rear, too, but they also learned to line up for the stuff that matters in my favorite way: by arriving so early you’re nearly always first. Heh, heh, heh.
The Misses are fresh off a wildly successful fall semester at the local college. Over the last sixteen weeks, though, from the stories they’ve shared with me, I’ve learned that standing in line is not the only skill their same-age peers may have mislearned. If you know a student who is heading to a college classroom this spring, share the following with him. It can’t hurt.
Sit in the front row.
It is difficult to disengage or become distracted from this position.
Complete the reading before class.
It makes everything clearer.
Reread class notes before the day is out.
This improves retention.
Take advantage of any extra credit opportunity an instructor offers.
It can only help.
Remember: Strong performance throughout the semester is like an insurance policy taken out on the final exam.
Translated: It is rare that a subpar final will “ruin” a strong A or a strong B.
Show up, even if participation is not part of the grade.
What was the point of enrolling in a conventional course, otherwise?
Participate, even if participation is not part of the grade.
Engagement may improve retention.
Complete the homework, even when it is not part of the grade.
It is impossible to master the material without using it.
Go to bed early.
What a difference it makes!
Eat breakfast and bring a snack.
Again, what a difference it makes.
Know the syllabus.
It’s more than just a calendar of assignments.
Check the online gradebook and assignment system at least once daily and use its tools.
It is difficult to believe that students so devoted to technology must be told this, but apparently they do.
Inventory the backpack before heading to class.
Pen, pencils, paper, calculator, text, assignment? Good to go. Now throw in some change, a filled water bottle, a Kind bar, phone, and keys.
Do not talk during class. Do not use the phone. Do not nap.
It is hard to believe that college students would do these things, but they do. Don’t.
Do not cram the night before the exam.
Complete the reading before class. Show up, even if participation is not part of the grade. Do not talk during class. Do not use the phone. Do not nap. Reread class notes before the day is out. Complete the homework, even when it is not part of the grade. In the days before the exam, take the practice tests in the study guide (online or conventional). On the night before the exam, go to bed early.
Ask for help before it’s too late.
See the instructor during office hours. Get a “study buddy.” Visit the tutoring center. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. And blaming the professor is lame. Ask for help.
Learn about the college’s policies, deadlines, resources, etc.
They’re usually covered in the catalogue but are also on the website. Know the drop/add deadlines, for example. Know where the tutoring center is. How to reach campus security. The hours for the library. Etc.
If a course requires online quizzes or tests, familiarize yourself with the system before taking them.
Do not leave said online quizzes or tests until the eleventh hour. Ditto for assignments that must be submitted online.
What if there is a thunderstorm? Or the website is down for maintenance?
When entering major papers or projects into the planning calendar, choose a date at least one week before the actual due date.
Make this a habit now. It’s a scheduling insurance policy because emergencies and illnesses do happen, but they are really no excuse. Plan for them now.