Joseph T. Parsons is The Metropolitan’s outgoing Web Editor. In his final article, he offers some suggestions for how students can best succeed in the coursework.
Love every class you take
If there is one basic key to success, it’s to be passionate about every class you take.
And this is quite easy with electives and generals! Until you begin your major’s coursework, you have a variety of class options to fulfill your degree requirements. If you don’t like biology, don’t take it!
On the other hand, there are mandatory classes you can’t avoid. And as hard as it may be, the best way to be successful in those classes is to love them too. I’ve tricked myself into loving classes. Try fooling yourself into loving a class for four months; I think you will find you have a much easier time passing it.
Know your limits and plan ahead
The biggest mistake students can make is doing too much and failing all of it. As early as possible, find a balance that works for you. If you think you can only take three classes a semester, map that out. See which courses are offered each semester and how long it would take to complete your degree. Adjust your course plan accordingly.
Metro State’s summer classes can be helpful here, too. It took me two years to learn that I can only take three classes and still give it my all. But by taking two courses each summer semester, I had enough credits to graduate on schedule.
Planning is really important to avoid surprises that prevent you from graduating on time. Many majors have particular prerequisites that you may not know about. For example, if you’re planning on majoring in Computer Science, make sure you know which courses to take before you can begin the major. Normally, you’ll want to take these courses in your first two years of studies.
Ask for help and make yourself available
If you are struggling, it is really important to ask for help. Most professors will make themselves available, but if they don’t, try asking other students. More often than not, someone in the class is just there for an easy A and will share their wisdom.
On the flip side, if you aren’t struggling, make yourself available to those who are. Helping others is a great skill to learn early (there’s a good chance you’ll be doing it your whole life), and a few semesters down the line the students you’ve helped may be available to help you in turn.
Go beyond the classroom
Once you’ve decided on a major, one of the most important things you can do is to study that major independently. If you have a major in mind, now is the time to start acting like you’ve already graduated.
Exactly what that means will depend on a lot on your major. Computer Science majors should try coding in their free time. For students of the humanities, I suggest reading websites, journals, or books related to your interests or field of study. Exploring your own projects outside school is both a boon to your resume and a great way to prepare yourself for upcoming classes.
Even watching YouTube videos related to your career choice can be a valuable way of gleaning knowledge about it. (I highly recommend computerphile and numberphile to Computer Science and Mathematics students respectively). As long as your thinking is stimulated, you are preparing yourself for the future.