Congratulations! You’ve officially survived the first two weeks of your first year of college (almost). At this point you can probably find your classes without peeking over a campus map, you know most of your instructors’ names, and you’ve figured out the cheapest lunch option in the cafeteria. So, you are without a doubt, now officiated into the higher education world. Being a college student goes beyond simply attending class and meeting your Tennessee Promise GPA requirement, though. Becoming a part of your institution’s community is key to your college transition. If you’re looking for advice on how to have a smooth and rewarding first semester of college or technical training, try the tips in our tnAchieves Beginner’s Guide to Higher Education below.
- Get to know your teachers
During the first few weeks of school, students and instructors alike are trying to become acquainted with their classes, and the names and faces in them. While you only have to remember four or five professors, your teachers have the nearly impossible task of remembering 100 or more students. With this in mind, it would be helpful to both you and your professor to make yourself stand out. The best way to do this is to be an active, attentive student in class. There are other methods to make yourself recognizable, such as making an effort to be polite, asking questions, and even taking time after class to personally introduce yourself to your professor. Introducing yourself is especially recommended if they are an instructor in a class related to your major, or a class you’re struggling in. Forming more personable, yet professional, relationships with your professors won’t only improve your time in college, but can provide networking and recommendation opportunities in the future.
- Find your ideal study spot
Now that you’ve located your classes, nearby bathrooms and a perfect parking lot, it’s time to explore a bit further. The next steps on your TN Promise semester checklist should be finding the places that will provide you with supplemental support: the tutoring center, the computer labs, and the library. Even though these places don’t sound like college hot-spots, one of these rooms will soon become your home away from home. Whether you need extra assistance in math or you’re looking for a quiet place to read your 80 page English assignment, knowing where to find your institution’s academic support centers is essential to your success. Besides, sometimes the library has pretty cozy chairs for a quick catnap, or so I’ve heard.
- Be present in class- physically and mentally
I know what you’re thinking, getting out of bed for an 8 a.m. class can be difficult enough, let alone being awake enough to pay attention. Actually attending your 8 a.m. might seem like you’ve got the job done for your Tennessee Promise scholarship, but being physically present in your classes is only half the battle. When you’re in your classes, make a conscious effort to be present mentally as well. Easy ways to avoid distractions and improve your focus include staying off your cell phone, only utilizing your computer for class-related purposes, taking notes, bringing snacks (if allowed) for mid-class hunger and brain food, and getting adequate sleep the night before.
- Get involved in on-campus extracurricular activities
One perk of attending community college, or a four-year institution, is quite literally the community. Before long, you’ll notice that the tight-knit environment of your college is eager to include you in a wide variety of on-campus activities. Both four-year universities and community colleges offer everything from academic clubs, intramural sports and even clubs for hackey-sack enthusiasts. Not only will joining a student organization help you better connect to your campus, but it will open the door to meeting people who can become both friends and helpful resources. You can browse the full list of clubs and organizations on your school’s website under “student life.”
- Complete your Tennessee Promise community service early
You’ve probably heard this a hundred times already from tnAchieves, your mentor and your mom, but you really should complete your Tennessee Promise community service as soon as possible. Even though December seems like a far way off, the community service deadline tends to sneak up on Tennessee Promise students. Not only will December 1 be here before you know it, but it will most likely coincide with cramming for finals and due dates for your 10 page papers. By beginning your community service now you’ll have additional time to find a community service opportunity you’ll enjoy and reduce that inevitable, end-of-the semester stress. You can browse tnAchieves’ full list of community service opportunities here.
- Remember your goals and motivations
Everyone who takes the next step in their education has days where they’re exhausted, discouraged and overwhelmed. Whether you have one of these days next week or a year from now, you might begin to think “what’s the point?” When this happens, remember which goals or people in your life encouraged you to become a Tennessee Promise scholar. You’ll become more motivated if you write your education and career goals down, making them visual targets. I would suggest putting your goals in your notebooks, on your laptop, on sticky notes that cover your bedroom or desk, and anywhere that might give you an extra push when you need a boost. Above all, remember that you have the entire tnAchieves team cheering you on.
Hopefully with these beginner tips to higher education, you’ll quickly become acclimated to your new school and feel more confident as a Tennessee Promise student. And remember, with a little determination and perseverance you can achieve anything!