Encouragement for First Year Students

Dear first year students, this is a letter of encouragement to you. We are less than two weeks away from the final day of classes, and I can tell that many of you are tired. How can I tell? I can see it in many of your faces (especially in morning classes!), I’m getting more panicked 4am emails than usual, and there are a few missing from classes. I recognize that you are all busy and stressed, so here a couple pieces of advice for the final couple of weeks and the exam period:

  • Get your sleep! Sometimes it feels necessary to stay up late to work, but if it results in being sick or having to recover for the next few days, it puts you further behind. You think better rested.
  • Plan. What do you have left to do? When are you going to do it? Schedule some work times and stick to them. (Hint: You can’t say ‘I’ll do that next week’ anymore). Schedule some play times, and play. Exercise.
  • Go to your classes. With all of the busyness of assignments, don’t forget to go to class. I’m always amazed at how many people skip the final week of classes and exam review (especially in my classes where I usually give half or more of the exam questions so that students can properly prepare).
  • Remember why you are here. In many courses 50% or more of your final grade has yet to be determined. Many of you could end up with an ‘A’ or an ‘F’. You came here to study, so make the most of it. Grades aren’t everything about university, but they sure count for a lot. Treat university like an extended job interview. Your work now (even in the next couple weeks) might make the difference for the way a prof writes a reference letter or who a prof tells about a job opportunity.

For many, a first semester at university is often a reminder about the differences between high school and university. Here’s a couple things that (if you didn’t get them already) you should remember for next semester:

  • Think about the big picture of your classes. What are the big ideas that your classes and assignments are asking you to consider?
  • Reading would have been easier to do the week it was due
  • You don’t get the most out class without doing the reading
  • Follow the advice of your profs
  • It’s hard to do well if you leave it to the last minute
  • “I should have looked at the syllabus before every class like the prof said”
  • Despite living communally, this isn’t summer camp
  • Stop asking ‘is this on the exam?’ and instead engage the material trusting that if you do that you will do well on assignments.

I wish you all the best on your work over the next few weeks. And by the way, please hand in good assignments. It’s better for you, and so much more fun for me to grade well done papers!

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