Tuesday, May 16, 2017

college advice from a graduate



As you saw in my last post, I graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and a concentration in marketing. I graduated early so I spent three school years in college and I commuted every year so my experience wasn't necessarily like every other college student's. I learned a lot in those three years and graduated with honors so today, I wanted to share my top tips and things I learned throughout my college experience.

Use the ConquerCollege Amazing Grade calculator

What a lifesaver. When the semester is about to end and you want to know what grade you need on the final to get an A in the class, this website never let me down. I started using the website my very first semester of college after a friend came across it on Google and I used it every single semester. While it can't really change your ability to study, it's nice to have an idea of where you need to be to get that A. The website can even break grades down into A+, A, A-, etc. so you know exactly how your grade will turn out. It never let me down. 

There's nothing wrong with 8 a.m. classes

Disclaimer: Take them M/W or T/Th but I do not recommend taking them every day of the week. 
I had a class at 8 or 8:30 every semester except for freshman year spring semester. I grew to love them and I never hated them, even from the beginning. It's actually really nice to get your day started and even better if you can end your classes early. This might just be because I was commuting but I would much rather start early and get home in the afternoon than go home in the evening. My worst scheduling was when I had a class that ended at 5:30 pm. All of my early morning classes were productive and I actually paid more attention in those than my late ones when I was focused on going home.

Sitting in the front row and going to office hours really does help

I read this a lot before starting college and I was so skeptical but I was surprised to see how it impacted my college experience. I always sat in the first three rows of a class, participated in class discussions when they happened, and went to office hours if I had the slightest need. When the professor actually recognizes you and is familiar with you, you will see the benefits of that. Sometimes they round grades up if they know you actively participated. Sometimes you need a favor or a recommendation and they're there. I had a professor two semesters in a row and sat in the front row of a 200+ person class so we were familiar with each other. I needed to take the final at an earlier time than it was being offered for my section and when I asked him about it, he didn't even question my reasons, he scheduled me with a different group. Building that relationship is huge.

4 day weeks are amazing and totally possible

I had a five day week once in college, my first semester in the business school after transferring from the First Year College program. It was not fun, especially after experiencing a 4 day week. At my school, most classes were offered MW or TTh. Classes that take place two days a week are an hour and 15 minutes while MWF classes tend to be 50 minute classes. It does not make that much of a difference but having a 3 day weekend does. Try to plan your schedule around timing, not professors. Be flexible with your schedule - take a class online or if it's only offered MWF, try to take it over summer at your community college. If you want a 4 day week, it's definitely attainable. 

RateMyProfessor isn't everything

I'm guilty of looking at RateMyProfessor before the start of each semester and sometimes even during registration. It's okay to look and get an idea of what you'll be up against, but I don't recommend making your decision based off those ratings. People have very different experiences and just because someone didn't have a good one, that doesn't mean you shouldn't take your chance. I have read plenty of terrible reviews for professors before the semester and ended up getting A's in those classes and having no problem with the professor. Literally any professor at your school is going to be okay or they wouldn't still have a job - you just might have to work differently.

A C will have a big effect on your GPA

You probably know this but I feel the need to emphasize it. I'm completely open and honest so I'll tell you that I got a C- in chemistry my first semester of college. My GPA was around a 3.2 for a while and it's up to a 3.5 my senior year after basically making all As for two semesters. I made lots of Bs in math and science courses so it wasn't like I made all A's and that one C just killed my GPA. I'm just saying you'll notice it in your GPA and fortunately, mine was during my first semester so I was able to work hard and get my GPA up. For this reason, I think it's important to take your required math and science classes like chemistry and calculus during your first year so they're over and done and you have time to correct any blemishes on your transcript.

Keep receipts from all communication 

I don't mean saving screenshots from texts. I mean keep your emails until you're 100% sure you won't need them again, take screenshots of your grades and degree progress, save any document given to you by a professor or advisor. If there is ever a situation where you need to dispute something, you better have the proof and evidence. Even if this situation doesn't come up, it's better to have them than to be questioning anything. I held onto my foreign language placement test documents, my transfer course documents, and emails about advising, transcript receipts, and updated screenshots of my degree audit until I graduated. 

Send a thank you email to a professor or TA at the end of the semester

If a professor or TA really went out of their way to help you throughout the semester, let them know how much you appreciated it. I was in a communications class online my first semester of college and after receiving a lower grade than I expected on my first paper, I talked to the TA and ended up emailing her every paper to read over before I turned it in. She was the one grading it so she knew what she wanted. I got an A in the class. I emailed her to let her know how much I appreciated that since she didn't have to do it and wished her a happy holiday. She sent back the sweetest email saying "that was incredibly kind of you" and I still have that email saved almost 3 years later. 

Social media can be a résumé supplement

Everyone loves to talk about how social media can negatively impact your ability to get a job but fails to mention how much it can help. If you're actually using your social media presence for good, creating a brand/business, and reaching out to a significant following - that's going to be impressive to recruiters. Of course, we aren't at the point where social media can replace résumés but they can be great additional evidence of your skills. Use social media to your advantage and don't let anyone tell you it's a waste of time because it's a powerful platform that can be whatever you make it.

College classes are tough but you're tougher

There wasn't a semester of college I started that I didn't look at the syllabus and think there's no way I can do this. Sometimes, it was so daunting that dropping out crossed my mind. Seeing four months of work presented to you on day one is never okay but it always happens. You may start out knowing nothing about the subject but, by the end of the semester, you'll have it down. You can get through anything if you just show up. At my freshman orientation a speaker said 80% of life is just showing up and that resonated with me all throughout college. Show up to class, show up to problem sessions, show up to exams and even show up to office hours. Put in the effort because four months goes by so fast and four years will go by even faster.