New Year's offers everyone—college students included—a brand-new start. And just in case some of you are still in the market for New Year's resolutions, we'd like to respectfully recommend that you make 2010 the year in which you resolve not to be a:
1. College tourist. Some students think they'll show up for class only when the spirit moves them. And when they do deign to appear, these students wind up zoning out anyway, never bothering to take a single note and even dozing off here and there. Being a tourist might be great in Europe, but when you miss 20 percent of the classes and all the info and hints the professor drops about papers and tests, your trip in college isn't going to be the yellow brick road.
2. 24-7 partyer. For some students, the weekend starts on Thursday and finally winds down on Monday. That is, unless there's ladies night at the bar on Tuesday or half-price margaritas on Wednesdays. Sure, nothing wrong with a bit of fun now and then, but you're at college to learn, right?
3. Grade grubber. Some students are focused, like a laser beam, only on the grade. They go to the prof to argue after losing half a point on a short-answer test and dispute like a mad dog when a friend who didn't work nearly as hard scored 3 points higher on a paper. But being so obsessed with grades robs you of any enjoyment at college and can backfire when you irritate your professor into nit-picking your grade downward.
4. Constant complainer. For some students, everything is 100 percent wrong, 100 percent of the time. The classes are too big, the professors too boring, that material too irrelevant, the social scene too lame ... (the problems are limited only by the whiner's imagination). Yes, college can have all of these problems, but you only make it worse by putting your energies into being negative instead of taking action to make things better. Since it's a new year, you might consider changing your major (yours for the price of an administrative form), joining a new team or club (how about the intramural luge team or the middle-of-the-road Democrats against healthcare), or making a new friend or finding a new partner (you know how to do that).
5. Procrastinator. That's someone who does no job before its time and always puts off today what can be done tomorrow. Inevitably, at some point in the semester (usually right at test time), the procrastinator morphs into the cramster: the student who has only one night to study 15 weeks' worth of material or to write a 20-page term paper that was assigned eons ago. Funny how that usually doesn't turn out so well.
6. Corner cutter. Some students always try to get by with the minimum amount of work needed, or sometimes even less than the minimum. There's a four- to six-page paper assignment? Maybe three pages would do the trick, with two words trailing onto the top of Page 4. Two hundred pages of reading? Only if it's guaranteed to be on the test. A 15-minute seminar presentation? Maybe I could prepare 8 minutes' worth and just talk slowly. But think about it for a second. When you cut corners, you're only cheating yourself, especially since you're paying full cost for an education that will end up being worth about 20 cents on the dollar after all the corners have been cut.
7. Parasite. Some students are always leaching off someone else. If they're not on the iPhone five times a day to their parents or E-mailing papers home for proofreading, they're depending on their study group to help them solve every math problem. Or in the worst case, they're getting their smartest friend to do the Spanish homework for them. Look, there's nothing wrong with using a lifeline once in a while, but if you're always transferring the responsibility—and the work—to someone else, you're defeating the whole point of college, which is to be in charge of your own learning and do your own work.
8. A- - kisser. Here's one you know: someone who always relies on charm to get ahead. While everyone else is rushing for the exits after class, this person is rushing to the front of the class to gush about how great the lecture was. Come the test, he or she is putting smiley faces at the end of the paper with the inscription "I just LOVE this class!!!" And barely an office hour will go by without this student coming by with loads of questions, all designed to show how engaged in the class he or she is. Sure, professors enjoy kind words, but there's a thin line between complimenting and laying it on too thick.
9. Going rogue-er. Some students feel compelled to say whatever's on their mind (student to teacher: "When will this class get better?") and to do whatever they want, even if that means completely disregarding the prof's instructions, not bothering to read the comments when the paper is returned, or taking whatever courses they want regardless of the requirements. Unfortunately (for the rogue), college is a pretty organized and rule-governed sort of place. Don't follow the instructions? Get a C plus. Ignore the comments? Another C plus. Lacking requirements? No degree on time. You get the idea.
10. Superhero. Some students are always "supersizing," as a result either of their own bravado ("I'm Zeus, I can do anything") or because of their own indecisiveness ("I can't choose one, so I'll do all"). Such folk sign up for 21 hours of credits when 15 is the norm. They take not one but three majors and sometimes a minor to boot, all while working full time. Maybe you know one person who can actually handle all this. After all, someone does win the lottery. But it's not likely to be you.
Most important of all, resolve not to be a:
Put-yourself-down-er. It's easy to fall into frequent self-criticism:
"I can't do this."
"I'm not as smart as my bro (or sis or dad or mom)."
"I'll never get better than a 2.7 grade-point average."
"Now that I think of it, I'm not really cut out for college, at all."
But look, it's a new year, a new semester. Start this one out with a better, more positive attitude, and you're sure to see better results.
Best wishes for a happy and successful New Year from Lynn and Jeremy! Write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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