This post is the overview of every chapter from the textbook The Community College Experience (by Amy Baldwin) for a hybrid in class/online course I’m finishing up entitled Student Support Guidance. The book has 10 chapters that are grouped together into three subsections: Transitions, Integrations and Re-visions. Transition chapters relate to the very first few months of your very first college experience. Integration chapters provide tips for actual classroom study and Re-vision chapters discuss planning for you future in both career and life.
This course shed light on experiences and struggles that first year college students are currently having and gave advice on techniques that are helpful when addressing said struggles from an instructor’s point of view. Below is my interpretation of each chapter.
- Understanding College Culture and Your Campus
Welcome to college! Now what? How does everything work? Where do I start? The first chapter begins with explaining the change in level of commitment that will be expected of you and how much it will take to make you actually successful. College definitely ups the ante on grades and attendance compared to high school. You are there now to learn the basics of a future profession- and that takes time and commitment. But where do you start? At the on-campus administration office. There you will find people to send you in any direction you need help with including class schedules, degree planning, and financial aid just to get you started. I think it is EXTREMELY IMPAIRITIVE that I stress to ASK QUESTIONS. You may not be in the right building or talking to the right person, but you will find out where you are and what that building is for. Explore. Be brave. Learn your environment. There is also the option of the institution’s campus website. There you can search under the “campus resources” tab and find answers to almost any question a new student could have. Remember though- if you can’t find it online, speak to someone face to face to get pointed in the right direction.
- Setting Goals and Staying Motivated
This chapter is about looking inside yourself and finding out who you are, what you want, what you value, and how to us your college experience to achieve a life with satisfying those goals. Something I would like to mention to first year students is IT IS OKAY to not know exactly what you want out of life yet. Very few know exactly what their life’s ambition is at eighteen. Take it easy on yourself. You may start one degree and switch to another. Finding out who you are is a process that doesn’t need an exact answer at the ripe age of eighteen, twenty or even thirty. Having a degree WILL help you get hired faster with most companies in the short run and an Associate’s degree can usually be pumped out with general education classes in just a couple years. Start with knocking out your gen. eds. This will give you a taste of the college environment. You will have a better feel for what you are interested in after that first year which will make it easier on picking that specific degree that lands you that perfect job and result in you waking up smiling and happy to go to work every day. This chapter goes on to stress the importance of writing down goals, realistic ones, to help you stay on track to fulfilling life goals and your college degree.
Having stated all of the above, a college degree takes time, years in fact. There may be times when you feel like giving up or that you need a break. It is important that you have a good support system to help keep you motivated to follow it through to completion. You can do it! Stick with it! The payout is greater than the temporary lull in motivation!
- Managing Your Time and Energy
Chapter three enlightens us on how to actually get organized and schedule time blocks in your life to accomplish what you want combining education, pleasure, and work. It gets down to the hours of your day to ensure you are making time for every aspect of your life. I believe in the importance of making to do lists for your days so you can check off each item after completion. Making time for studying is something new students may not think they need to schedule time for, and is a rookie mistake. There is also a huge section on procrastination and how that is also a rookie mistake. My thoughts are the quality of your final assignment will not be as solid on a rushed and hurried timescale. Schedule time and stick to it to give yourself the best opportunity to produce an assignment you are proud to have your name on.
- Cultivating Relationships and Appreciating Diversity
This chapter speaks to all the diversity that surrounds you on a daily basis. Teachers, counselors, and other students- EVERYONE comes from a different background. Religious views, LGBQT, ageism, racism, ethnic clubs, and political forums- college is THE ultimate melting pot for all of these different beliefs to come crashing together. This is evident in age range alone with people from age 12 to 60+ attending college. As a new student it is important to understand that you are going to be in the midst of this potpourri of people and that not everyone will share your same outlook on life. In fact you will meet people with outlooks that you’ve never even dreamed of before which can be both a negative and a positive. It is important to keep an open mind in this environment and to know who to seek out if you ever felt you were put into an uncomfortable situation regarding any of these issues. Remember that. I will refer you back to the campus resources page for counselors whose specific job it is to assess concerns on any prejudice or discriminations that should arise.
- Reading, Listening, and Note Taking
A successful college student knows how to actively read, how to actively listen, and how to properly take notes. Active reading to me requires note taking while you are reading. You are actively invested into the material through two different inputs therefore actively learning and reading with a purpose. Active listening means you are actually engaged and focused on what you are listening to and are trying to REMEMBER it. This is the kind of listening that is very important when receiving directions and is sometimes hard to keep up in the 45 minute lecture classes. Note taking is an art and everyone has their own style of what works best for them. Some key points to note taking are to listen for the main ideas, leave plenty of “white space” for even more future notes, and rewrite your notes as soon as possible after class. Notes are what you will eventually be studying from so keep them simple and easy to ready. Don’t copy entire books/lectures verbatim- summarize. Actually take them so you have something to study, and if a teacher repeats something more than twice write it down!
- Learning, Memory, and Studying for Tests
Learning, “the process is simple: the more you do something… the more you create connections in the brain that not only help you remember how to do something, but also help you get better at whatever it is you are learning to do” (Baldwin, 2016). It is all about repetition and being actively engaged in whatever new skill or subject you are trying to master. Active learning leads to deeper understanding. College is literally the breeding ground for learning. The tricky part is memory. There are many little memory tricks to help you get through some of those difficult classes that ask you formulas and lists type information. You can try: mnemonic devices, the Roman Room technique, rhyming, teaching others, acronyms, the Loci method, and cramming (which should be the last resort). Some study strategies include: having a dedicated space for studying, having a study place with minimal distractions, summarizing your notes to even shorter notes, active studying, and creating cheat sheets.
- Writing, Researching, and Information Literacy:
Writing essays and delivering some kind of presentation is a part of the college experience, no matter what degree you are tackling. There’s no getting around it. In regards to writing, it is important to understand what exactly your writing assignment is, what audience is it directed at, and how long is it expected to be. It is useful to have someone proof read to pick up any grammatical errors and make sure you are flowing in the direction you want. Tutors are available on all campuses for writing tips. *It is important to note here that plagiarism in college is a big no-no. Most papers will also need a degree of research. With speeches and presentations it is important to speak clearly and slowly, don’t fidget, dress appropriately, enunciate your words, and to act natural. Some advice: do your research for any presentation you are asked to give. It is a dead giveaway in the first three minutes if you are b-s-ing your way through a presentation. Get a good night’s rest and make sure you are well prepared. Once you start talking, you nerves will die down after those first few minutes if you are confident on the subject you are presenting.
- Making Healthy Choices: Understanding stress and stress management, healthy life
College can definitely be a stressful environment. You might be trying to balance school, work, a family and a social life all at the same time. Some signs of stress could be headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness, crankiness, cold like symptoms, high blood pressure- the list goes on. It is important to be in tune with your body. Take care of yourself! If you are starting to feel stressed out there are a few things to try: breathing in and out deeply a couple times, work out, drink water, and taking a time out. That last one might seem like giving up but trust me, the problem will still be there for you when you come back but maybe the time you spent in time out will give you a little bit clearer head space to revisit a problem or assignment. College is a lot to handle- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!! Eat well, get good sleep, work out, and surround yourself with good positive relationships and REACH OUT FOR HELP when things seem overwhelming. That is sooooo important.
- Planning for next semester
So you’ve made it through your first semester. Congratulations! Now- is college the right thing for you? Where will the money come from for the next semester? Are you pursuing the degree you want? All these questions can stress you out- but you will figure it out. Knowing what you want in life, what your values are and staying true to them will help you pick your path. There will always be money somewhere in some form. Whether that be student loans, scholarships, parent’s savings- you will find a way. Take your time- think about what you want out of life and remember this is temporary. It takes time and commitment and YOU CAN DO IT! You can also take a time out from college and pick it up again when you are ready.
- Preparing for a Career and a life: Career exploration, job preparation, finances, creating a life
Fast forward a couple years and you are about to graduate. Now what? Think about what you want to do next. Is more school for another degree? Time for a career? What do you want out of life? If you want more schooling- congrats! You already know how to work the system! If you are joining the work force- get started on a fantastic resume and get ready for interviews. I suggest a resume building workshop which will also give you pointers for interviews. Dress smartly and be confident. As for life- it is what you make of it. Learn how to create a budget that works for you and stay true to the values and goals that helped you get through college!
***My personal disclosure on college*** Take your time- make sure it is the right thing for you. If it is- commit. MAKE time for studying outside of class. That means committing to balancing your personal life, work, and school time. The money will come. There are many many different avenues to get it from you will just need to work for it- and a great first stop is your college’s financial aid resource department. Have fun! College is a melting pot of diversity these days- explore new possibilities, be open to new people and new adventures! Concerning stress- it’s normal. Seek help from a counselor, family members, friends, nature- to help balance out the stress factor of college life.
You can get a degree and be happy doing it. Be honest with yourself and choose a path that will make YOU happy in the long run. Trust your instincts!
And do not think you are a failure if you are not digging college right away. I know everyone will tell you don’t quit no matter what- but there IS something to be said for trade schools that can get you into the work force with higher pay as well. I joined the military after my first attempt at college and gained multiple country life experiences. So I just want to repeat the part that you can return to school at any time- age is just a number.
Good luck out there!