Thursday, October 23, 2014

Sorting Things Out

So it's late October and you're still trying to sort all of this college stuff out.  You like Nassau okay and you're happy for the most part with your classes and professors, but you have lots of questions: about your major, your career, your identity, your life--serious business all around.  In the short term, you know that registration is coming up in November but you really don't know what to take. You feel it would be good if you could talk to someone about school (and maybe a few other things going on), but you don't know where to go or whom to see or even how to start.  It's all pretty confusing . . . .

Any of this sound familiar?  It should.  LOTS of students feel this way midway through their first semester, give or take a few weeks.  The newness of college has worn off, work is piling up, pressures of all kinds are mounting, and school and life sometimes seem like that pathless wood in Robert Frost's "Birches" (good poem if you haven't read it).

Moments like this are made for a network.  I'm not talking about computers or television here, but instead about people--a network of professors, advisors, counselors, tutors, and others on campus whom you can call upon for help, information, ideas, or even just a sympathetic ear. 

Nassau has plenty of people who care about students and who are willing to listen and talk.  Chances are you already know some: that professor who seems friendly and approachable; the academic advisor who helped you pick fall classes and who told you to come back if you had questions; the faculty member or dean who spoke to your group at orientation (and who may have even given out a business card); your NCC 101 instructor, always a helpful resource--and somebody you see every week.

But you have to get over your awkwardness and take that first step.  For some people, knocking on somebody's door or scheduling an appointment is a challenge.  If you didn't talk much to teachers and counselors in high school, you may feel weird doing so now.  Part of you may also think that you're wasting people's time with your questions or concerns and that you should figure out all of this school and life stuff on your own. 

Problem is, the "I'll-go-it-alone" approach doesn't work all that well: everybody--no exceptions--needs some help/advice/reassurances now and then.  And the sooner you realize that and connect with people who can help you make sense of things, the more manageable college will seem and the more content you'll be.  Meeting with an advisor or counselor or chatting with a friendly professor probably won't answer all of your questions on the spot, but it will help.  It will also make starting the next conversation that much easier.

Students who network--who talk with professors, advisors, counselors, and others--learn the value of such relationships early on. They know that going to class, keeping up, and taking their education seriously is still their responsibility--no substitute for that--but they also know that no matter what their concern, help and advice are available.  

If you have questions or need to talk with someone, no time to waste.  Time to begin, also, to build that network of people whose offices you can visit when the moment calls for it.  Like the rest of life, college can be confusing and stressful at times.  But know that you're not in this alone.      

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Dollars and Sense of Class Attendance

Meet "Mike," a Nassau student who every so often opens his wallet, takes out $10 or $20 bills (sometimes several at a time), and throws them away.

Over the course of a typical semester, he may toss a hundred dollars--maybe more. It's money Mike will never see again, no matter how hard he may (later) wish he had the bucks back.

Is Mike crazy?  Dumb?  Oblivious to the value of money?  Not at all.  He's simply behaving like countless other college students (including some at NCC) who cut class--and in the process throw dollars down the drain.

Missing classes has more serious consequences than lost benjamins, of course.  It goes without saying that the more you're in class (no matter what the course), the more you're likely to learn.  And the more you know, the more successful you'll be--in college, in your career, probably in your life. While a good attendance record in itself won't guarantee straight A's and a bright future, you can't go wrong by attending class regularly.

But apart from all of these very important outcomes, class attendance is also a matter of dollars and cents. When you pay your tuition every semester, you're paying to be taught by your professors. Just as you would pay for a doctor's or dentist's services, you're paying for a professor's expertise, in the form of instruction, in college.  And when you miss class, even now and then, you're missing out on that instruction--and wasting money.

How much does a missed class cost? Let's use round numbers to figure it out.

Suppose, for instance, you're taking fifteen credits--five three-credit courses--this semester.  And suppose each course meets twice a week for fifteen weeks (the length of a semester) for a total of thirty class sessions. Multiplied by five, that's 150 class meetings in all (thirty class sessions x five courses).

Now let's divide a typical student's tuition at Nassau--$2117--by 150. The answer: $14.11--fourteen if you want to round it off.  So EACH class session costs roughly $14, money you've paid at the door, so to speak, prior to the start of the semester.

Money you waste by not going to class.

While this computation may not be the same for every person (lots of factors influence the tuition students actually pay), there's no denying the fact that missing class, even occasionally, costs money.  While you might argue that $14 isn't anything to sweat over, think about the long term costs of missing, say, ten class meetings (all classes together) a semester.  Or twenty or thirty over the course of a year.  Being absent regularly can be expensive.

Adults--parents, teachers, advisers, counselors, and everyone else (including bloggers!) in the mix--are forever going on about the importance of regular class attendance.  And as noted earlier, with good reason: showing up to class is an essential part of becoming an educated--and successful--human being (the reason most students attend college).

But on a different level, class attendance also has a financial dimension.  When you don't get to class, you miss out on instruction you've already paid for.  And if you miss enough classes, you wind up like Mike, opening and emptying your wallet for nothing.

There may be some reasons to be like Mike, but this clearly isn't one of them.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Click the Link

I've never been one for making predictions, but today I'll make an exception: Come the end of this semester, someone reading this post will be in academic trouble--seriously behind in a class, hopelessly confused by a course's content, and overwhelmed by readings and papers assigned back when the weather was warm.

Here's another prediction: The student who'll be agonizing over these problems in December knows about them RIGHT NOW.  The signs are already there: a bad first test grade, a lab that's not making sense, a textbook that grows more intimidating each time it's opened, papers and assignments that are already late (and maybe haven't been started).

Sound familiar?  Hope not.  But if the person in these "predictions" is you, it's time you did something to avert a disaster.  Simply hoping things will turn out okay on their own probably won't work.  In fact, a manageable problem in early October is likely to become a monstrous one later on--unless you act.

What can you do?

If you attended Orientation or are enrolled in NCC 101, you've probably heard that there's no shortage of academic services at Nassau.  A writing center, several math help services, tutoring in a range of academic subjects (Biology, Accounting, Marketing, Nursing, Foreign Languages, Physical Sciences, and so on)--they're all available.  So are your professors, who can offer help or make suggestions that will increase your chances of getting a handle on that troublesome class.

But you have to take that first step and ask for help. You're the one who has to visit that writing or math center (or other academic service) and explain what you don't understand.  If you think a conference  with a professor would help, it's up to you to schedule that appointment.  And if you're behind in readings or assignments, you need to push yourself to catch up, even if it means changing your routine a bit.

Notice all of the references to "You" in the previous paragraph? That's because you're the key player here, the one who has to decide what's going to happen in your classes this semester and what--ultimately--your December is going to be like. Such  decisions are all yours, no one else's.

And contrary to what you may have heard somewhere along the way, the decision to get extra help in a class isn't at all a sign of personal weakness or deficiency.  Just the opposite, really: the smartest, wisest, and most savvy students on campus get help when they need it.  They take full advantage of what's available.  

If your courses are going well this semester, awesome!  But if something in one of your classes doesn't feel right--or if a class is getting away from you--time to act.  Information about NCC's many free academic services is a simple click away: 

If you think I'm kidding, click the link and see for yourself.  Bet there's a service on campus that's just what you need and that will make the semester seem all right again. 

So go ahead: click the link.  Now.  No time to waste.  December's coming.