It’s easy to reflect on past experiences while placing more emphasis on the good than the bad, even though the “bad” seemed horrific at the time. It’s why people who have been out of school for a few years long for their days as a carefree college student, forgetting that anxiety caused by exams and those annoyances that come along with sharing shoebox-sized dorm rooms with strangers. For adults with mortgages, car payments and families, the “stress” that was so excruciating during college seems like nothing compared to life in the real world.
The college years can be an incredibly fun time in your life, but students do have plenty of responsibilities that are easily forgotten after the fact. If you’re a high school student that’s looking forward to your freshman year of college or a working adult who is thinking about going back to school, take these real life college student responsibilities into consideration:
1. Attend class regularly. The main reason people go to college is to get an education, but far too many people assume they can skip classes whenever they want because most professors do not take attendance. The fact that you don’t have to raise your hand and say “Here!” like you did in high school doesn’t matter. You can’t benefit from your classes if you don’t show up.
2. Make your school schedule your top priority. Even students who go to class regularly have a tendency to occasionally schedule other activities when they’re supposed to be at school. Unless something extreme is happening, set up your non-emergency medical appointments, academic advising appointments, and interviews outside of class.
3. Stay current on reading and assignments. It’s easy to fall behind on reading, especially when you know that you won’t be quizzed on each chapter the way you were in high school. It’s also tempting to skip homework assignments because they won’t be graded or affect your final course grade. These habits will come back to haunt you—chapter five will seem like a foreign language if you didn’t read chapter four; many homework assignments simulate questions and problems that will be on upcoming (graded) exams.
4. Meet deadlines without reminders. It can be tough for recent high school graduates to realize that college instructors do not remind them about due dates as often as high school teachers did. Professors aren’t cruel, but they assume that students should keep track of the class syllabus that was handed out on day one. Sound crazy? Well, there was a big difference between elementary school and middle school, wasn’t there?
5. Pay attention to your health. It’s common for new college students to get sick because they aren’t used to living in close quarters with so many other people and their potentially unsanitary habits. They aren’t used to surviving without mom’s cooking or caretaking, either. Working adult students with children and families also have a tendency to run themselves ragged, going from home to work to class and back home. Make an effort to take care of yourself—if you get sick frequently, you’ll feel miserable and fall behind on your schoolwork.
6. Inform your professors of special circumstances or emergencies. If you get very sick, or a true emergency happens—breaking up with your boyfriend is not an emergency; the death of a loved one, or your child being admitted to the hospital is—inform your instructors and the Dean of Student Affairs that you will be out of class. Documenting the situation via email or telephone will be helpful if you need due date extensions or makeup exams.
7. Speak up when something is unclear or you need extra help. Professors aren’t mind readers. They won’t automatically know if you’re having trouble with a particular topic. Visit them during office hours or pull them aside before or after class to let them know you might need some assistance.
8. Check your official school email account. Even if you love Gmail or Yahoo, check your official school email account regularly to ensure you receive official announcements and other important emails. If it’s easier, forward your school account to your personal account to receive everything in one place. “I didn’t check my email!” isn’t an excuse.
9. Accept the consequences of your actions. Were you told that you couldn’t turn something in late because you missed the due date? Did you get a C instead of an A on a test you thought you aced? Deal with it, rather than argue with your professor.
10. Maintain a school-work-life balance. New and returning students are often urged to perfect their time management skills as a way to keep their lives in check without stressing about things at the last minute. It’s important to have fun, but a party-hearty lifestyle can easily get in the way of class. So can a full- or part-time job. If you have to work to support your family, it may be best to limit the number of classes you take per semester for your own peace of mind. If you work part-time for extra spending money, it may be best to limit your work hours so they don’t interfere with your studies.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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