The Rest of Your First Year
Now that you've been at Cornell for a block, you're probably getting a sense of how the campus works on a day-to-day basis. Hopefully, you have a system established that works for you and you are getting your homework done on time and have had a chance to make a friend or two.
So, now it is time to assess the areas in which you still need work and to build upon the areas you have already started successfully.
1. Have you been completing all the reading assignments?
If yes - then move on to making sure you are getting as much out of the reading as possible. Check out the pages on reading skills.
If no- then work a bit more on time management to allow adequate time for reading. You should multiply the pages assigned by five minutes to give yourself enough time. Then divide that amount of minutes into chunks that can be spread throughout your day. You might easily find yourself needing 4-6 hours for longer readings. If you are still stuck, then see the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising to work on tweaking your time management or your reading skills to make the most out of your time with the book.
2. Have you been getting all of your writing assignments in on time and have you followed the instructions?
If yes- then consider taking your papers or projects to the next level. Make sure you are visiting the Writing Studio in the The Center for Teaching and Learning to improve your writing technique or work on presentation materials.
If no - then make sure you are asking the professor questions about the assignment during or after class and getting started on it right away. If you don't even know where to start, consider discussing this with your professor, your advisor, the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising, or the consulting librarians at the library.
3. Are you getting passing scores on the tests you take?
If yes - then how about seeing if you can get even more understanding of the material? Make sure you are participating fully in class discussion and asking the questions you need to ask to move to that next level. Try being a tutor for the subject or explaining it to your mom, friend, or sibling over the phone--teaching something always reinforces and improves your own knowledge of the material. Don't be afraid to share your goals with your professor and ask how you can improve your test scores; maybe you just need to give more complete answers or follow instructions slightly better.
If no - then don't sit back and wait for understanding to come to you.
If you are dealing with anxiety about test-taking, consider seeing a counselor at the counseling center to work on this issue or discuss it with the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising.
If you just don't know the material well enough, then come to Cole 309 and sign up for a tutor right away. These are free to you and can meet with you a few times a week to review material or answer questions you might have. Some departments on campus even have their own tutor and will list that person's name in the syllabus or on the board. Always attend help sessions scheduled with this student tutor or with the professor.
Ask questions--if you are unsure about something ask the professor during class or during office hours.
Consider starting a study group with classmates. Quizzing each other or "teaching" material to each other verbally can be a great way to reinforce the studying you are doing individually.
Make sure you are taking good notes so that you have good materials to study for the exam; this starts with good reading skills.
4. Are you getting along well in the residence hall?
If yes- then consider taking it to a new level; do you have any interest in volunteering to help with programming in the hall, applying to be a P.A. or R.A. next year? Talk to your hall staff.
If no - If you are finding yourself getting into conduct situations in the residence hall, you might need to think carefully about why you are in college. You can live much cheaper and party, if that is what you want, if you are not in college. You are choosing to pay a lot of money for a college education and it isn't going to happen by itself. So, think carefully about how to use your time while you are here. If you feel you started off with bad habits and aren't sure how to change them now, talk to your hall staff such as the R.A. on your floor or the professional Residence Life staff associated with your hall.
If you are not getting along with your roommate ,it may be time to revisit the roommate contract. Have the R.A. sit down with you both and negotiate some changes in behavior so you can get along. If you really can't resolve the problems so that you can live successfully with your roommate, you can ask about a room change. Space is usually tight on campus but you might find a new room available and you could move over block break.
If you are just a tad lonely and haven't found your niche yet...be patient. See the staff in the Thomas Commons for ideas about getting involved with volunteerism or a student organization. Make sure that you are putting yourself in a situation to meet people; leave your room, attend programs on the OC, join an organization, start conversations with people in your class.
5. Are you making the best use of your advisor?
You have been assigned an advisor who can really help you think through a good balance of courses to take to explore academic interests. They can also be a great resource about time management or study skills. If you haven't gotten to know your advisor, consider stopping by their office for a chat before registration time rolls around. Ask about their hobbies or research. Tell them your goals in college and beyond. If you don't feel you have a good rapport with your advisor, you can get a new advisor. See the Coordinator of Academic Support and Advising in Cole 309 to discuss changing advisors.
Be proud of yourself that you have started down the path of a liberal arts education. You will get as much out of college as you put into it. Your time, effort and attention paid to your academic life will be well worth it when you step out into the real world in four years! Don't sit back and let it happen to you--get on the field, take charge and play the game!