If Only ...
By Marcy Kraus, dean of freshmen and director of the College Center for Advising Services
How did your student spend his or her winter break? After fall semester grades are posted, many first-year students will spend some time in self-reflection. Maybe there was one grade that was disappointing. Perhaps finals week was almost unmanageably stressful. Was there a course that didn’t live up to expectations? Following the first semester of college, students often spend some amount of time creating and reviewing a fall semester “If Only” list:
- If only I talked to my professor or TA as soon as I saw my first mid term grades
- If only I finished my homework before doing anything else
- If only I read the syllabus carefully
- If only I had planned ahead a little better
- If only I had considered my course choices more carefully
Students who thoughtfully articulate their “If Only” lists can then construct an action plan for the upcoming semester; students with action plans will be more successful than those who decide that they will just try harder. Consider the following action plans:
- Ask for help at the first sign of course-related concerns rather than waiting (and waiting and waiting) until it is too late to fix the situation. In addition to professors and TAs, resources are available through the College Center for Advising Services and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.
- Finding time to study won’t happen by chance. Once the semester is underway, strategic students will create a weekly schedule that allots ample time to fulfill their course commitments. Finding time for fun and taking care of oneself is also an important part of this plan.
- Don’t be the student who asks the guy down the hall whether calculus recitations are optional. This can lead to very bad outcomes. Keeping a micro and macro planner will help students know what is coming tomorrow and what is coming next week and next month.
- One of the most significant tasks during the college years is the development of self-identity. Through the intellectual demands of their coursework, relationships with others and opportunity to practice responsible decision-making, students begin to formulate an understanding of who they are and who they want to become. Developing a successful academic plan relies on an individual student’s ability to set appropriate and realistic goals. This process of becoming self-authored and self-aware is challenged by the expectations and perceptions of self and others; students who seek guidance and support from family, advisers, counselors, and mentors will benefit by creating their own path to follow rather than leaving that path to chance.
Winter break offers time to reflect and recharge, to develop action plans and to take advantage of the fresh start of the spring semester. And while plans don’t always work out the way one predicts, the process of planning is an important part of learning and discovery.