Dear New College Student, It’s your moment. Get the most out of it. (And keep HOPE.)

Atlanta journalist H.M. Cauley teaches college classes as part of her doctoral program.

Here is a letter she is adding to her class syllabus. Pass it onto newly minted college students. It’s worth their time.

By H.M. Cauley

Dear Incoming College Student:

downey0429As one of your future instructors, I congratulate you on becoming a college student. You are now part of what is becoming a select group. A 2014 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed only 66 percent of graduating high school seniors went onto college, and that number is declining. Recognize the distinction you have earned, and honor it. Here are a few pointers to make that possible.

Along with the distinction of being a college student comes a new set of standards. No longer will your professors follow up to make sure you’re working on that research paper or comprehending the assigned sociology chapter. The onus of inquiry now shifts to your shoulders; the responsibility to ferret out the information you lack or to acquire clarification rests on you.

One of the best ways to get the help you need to succeed is to meet with your professors, all of whom are required to maintain office hours for student consultations. Make regular use of this open-door policy. It’s an excellent way to discover the answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask, and to develop mentor relationships that might come in handy when you need a reference later.

Recognize the difference between “earning” and “being awarded.” Professors “award” grades based on the accomplishments that have earned them. Also note that “earning” is an activity, while “being awarded” is a passive event. Actively earn good grades by attending and being prepared for class, completing assignments on time, asking questions and engaging in class conversation.

Admittedly, at some point in your academic career, you may encounter the one evil Voldemort on the faculty, but in reality, the vast majority of professors has students’ best interests at heart and will work with them to further their development and growth. But professors aren’t mind-readers; tell them you need help before you flunk the first quiz.

Read and refer often to the course syllabus that sets out the expectations and guidelines. These are not the mice-type agreements attached to your cell phone contract that can be ignored; they are explicit instructions that explain all aspects of the course and what it takes to earn a passing grade. After reading the syllabus, you may decide the course is not for you, and it’s perfectly acceptable to drop it and add another.

But by staying in the class, you agree to abide by the terms the professor has laid out, and, just like a driver’s manual that spells out the rules of the road, the rules of a syllabus will be enforced.

If you have earned a HOPE Scholarship, then congratulations are due. Now your job is to keep that scholarship alive by earning a B average. This may have been easy in high school, but in college, a C is a passing grade for acceptable work. Earning a B requires above average work if you don’t want to be one of the seven of 10 students who loses HOPE after the first year.

And HOPE is worth keeping: This may be the only time in your life when a government agency pays you to study, research, explore and develop both as an individual and a scholar. Make keeping HOPE your job; it pays better than working 20 hours a week for 15 weeks at $10 an hour. And it adds more cachet to your resume than dishing up fast-food. Being a four-year HOPE scholar is an accomplishment you can brag about on job and graduate school applications.

But if you find yourself in desperate need of a part-time gig, start looking around the campus where you already are. Chances are good there are opportunities for on-site employment that you may not have considered, and your employer may be more sympathetic than most if you need to change your schedule during finals week.

College is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that invites you to explore, experiment and broaden your horizons. So stop streaming Netflix in your dorm room and discover the excitement happening around you. And along the way, use that student ID for every discount you can get, from free Amazon Prime to cheap air fares. It’s an exclusive perk of your position, and one you’ll likely wish you had again after graduation.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

74 comments
Title1Educator
Title1Educator

Some of the advice seems apt, but I question the academic prowess of a college instructor who misinterprets data. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows college enrollment increasing by 2.5% over the last year, not decreasing. It makes me wonder if the error was sloppy research, poor data analysis skills or planned miscommunication aligned to a sociopolitical bias.

"Of the 2.9 million youth age 16 to 24 who graduated from high school between January and October 2014, about 2.0 million (68.4 percent) were enrolled in college in October. The college enrollment rate of recent high school graduates in October 2014 was little different from the rate in October 2013 (65.9 percent). For 2014 graduates, the college enrollment rate was 72.7 percent for young women and 64.0 percent for young men. The college enrollment rate of Asians (86.1 percent) was higher than for recent black (70.9 percent), white (67.3 percent), and Hispanic (65.2 percent) graduates. (See table 1.)"
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/hsgec.nr0.htm

popacorn
popacorn

@Title1Educator

Some of these 'professors' are notorious for misrepresenting quotes, statistics etc. Just read this blog. 

PJ25
PJ25

Reasonable advice except it misses the part about the kiss butts who sit in front of the professor and hang around after class to kiss more rear end, all in hopes of getting that grade curved to the next letter up at the end of the semester.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Outer Marker 

Believe me, professors are quite good at spotting this motivation, for this behavior usually appears in students who are mediocre otherwise.

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf

Glad you speak for all professors, many of whom I have found to be quite gullible. 

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Outer Marker Or, they might be actually INTERESTED in the class and anxious to get an education.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Sounds like sage advice to me.  Too bad she didn't do what one of my college professors did.


In a class of about 30, he had about 7 students stand up and explained that this was the number of students who wouldn't come to class and would eventually drop.   Another 5 students were asked to stand up and he explained this was the number who wouldn't come to class  and were too stupid to drop before the deadline.  They would fail.  He continued on this way through all the grades.


Today, he would probably be disciplined for "hurting someone's feelings."

altantamom
altantamom

I agree, this is excellent advice.

But.........I disagree with this being a "select" group when it represents 66% of graduating seniors. 2 out of 3 is simply not exceptional.     That in and of itself  explains the 7 out of 10 students losing Hope after the first year.   If you can only pull a 3.0 in HS, how are you going to do that in college?

Area Man
Area Man

It seems like reasonable advice.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

Hear, hear! I couldn't agree more with the author. Some students seem to think they should receive an A for simply completing the assignment, regardless of whether or not they completed it correctly, on time, and without mistakes. 

In my 11+ years of teaching college, I haven't had any parents argue about their child's grades, but I have experienced parents complaining to administration that a class their child needed wasn't offered the semester the child wanted to take it. 

And yes, RateMyProfessor is a joke and is often used by disgruntled students. (Why don't the students who were happy with the A they earned ever post?). Any website that allows you to rate your instructor's 'hotness' should be regarded as suspect, at the very least. 



redweather
redweather

@atln8tiv I always encourage my students to give their female professors a pepper.  Just seems like a nice thing to do.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@atln8tiv 

Worse, RateMyProfessor has no checks on who responds. Nothing to see if the respondent even is a student at the professor's college, let alone to see if the student is actually taking the class being rated. Could be a snarky rival professor.

atln8tiv
atln8tiv

@popacorn Whenever I read your posts, I wonder if you comment while m*****b**ing in front of your computer screen. It would make sense, since you seem to be here only for your own amusement.

popacorn
popacorn

@atln8tiv

Wow.Look where your head is. Didn't you have a required background check?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

I couldn't "Like" or "Reply" below to redweather, but I agree with his/her post that is the first one here. HM Cauley is clearly a seasoned college Instructor who has learned that students really do need this sort of advice, for too often they have high-school expectations of what college demands. (Btw, Honkey4Herman, very often Instructors only use their initials for their first name to avoid indicating gender. And no-one that I knew--I am retired now--paraded their degree after their name. That is really tacky.)

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@OriginalProf In fact, it is custom to assume that everyone has a doctoral degree, so you don't bother to mention it!


(Wascatlady, PhD, UGa, 1995)

popacorn
popacorn

@Wascatlady @OriginalProf

Sounds like the ol' PhD in certain fields (Education, Psychology etc) means about as much as a present day HS diploma. Everyone gets 'em. Pollution by dilution. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Wascatlady @OriginalProf 

I agree with you, but I think you mean that one assumes that everyone who is teaching at the college level has a doctoral degree. Popacorn may have misunderstood you.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@popacorn @Wascatlady @OriginalProf 

I don't know about the Education degree. What really matters there is the caliber of the institution granting it.  But I do know that Psychology is a demanding Ph.D. to get, like all of the other STEM doctorates.  (No, mine isn't in either field.) 

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

Is this the best the AJC can come up with?  Who did she know to get this gig?  Definitely didn't get it from her writing skills.  By the way, not every student would be taking your class, H.M., especially if they are smart.  "As one of YOUR future instructors.."  If you really want to toot your horn that badly, it should read "As a future college instructor..."  What is your name? Do you hide behind the H.M. as a way to prepare the way for your title of "doctor"?  By the way, I am not a Ph.D. candidate and have no interest in teaching at the college level.  But I do know how to write and can recognize when someone else does not.

ScienceTeacher671
ScienceTeacher671

@Honky4Herman


You may be able to write, but apparently you have trouble with reading comprehension.


Instructor Cauley is currently teaching college classes, so she IS a college instructor, not a future instructor.


Since she is attaching this letter to her class syllabus, by definition it is going to students who are taking her class, unless they decide from reading the letter and syllabus to drop her class and take another.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@ScienceTeacher671 @Honky4Herman She is writing to a wide audience and using the term "future instructor" broadly, not literally.

She is writing to students who will be in her class in the future. 

Many journalists use initials. I am not sure why that bothers you. H.M. Cauley is a longtime Atlanta journalist so this is not an attempt at concealment. 

It is a good piece with good advice.



Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

@ScienceTeacher671 @Honky4Herman I have trouble understanding those who are incoherent. She is adding this letter to her syllabus.  It would be a document her students would read, which would make her their INSTRUCTOR, not their FUTURE INSTRUCTOR.  

ErnestB
ErnestB

@Honky4Herman


Anyone can negatively criticize - it is the cheapest of all comment because it requires not a modicum of the effort that suggestion requires.


Chuck Jones



OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Honky4Herman @ScienceTeacher671 

Ah, but syllabi are distributed at the beginning of classes as a plan for the rest of the course, so the students haven't yet taken the course. So she is their future instructor.

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

@OriginalProf @Honky4Herman @ScienceTeacher671 I don't ever remember getting a syllabus from someone who was not my instructor.  Syllabus is given out on the FIRST DAY of class, from the student's INSTRUCTOR.  When REGISTERING for the class, a general description of the course would include the FUTURE INSTRUCTOR's (or, more correctly POTENTIAL INSTRUCTOR's) name.  If you are in the class, receiving the syllabus, it means you already signed up for the class, making the person handing out the syllabus your INSTRUCTOR.  Now, if she hands out syllabusses (what is the plural of syllabus?) to any student on the street, she might be a future instructor.

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

@AvgGeorgian @ErnestB @Honky4Herman Haven't heard him in years.  Handle is from his run for president in 2012 before all the mystery women showed up with bogus accusations, then all disappeared when he dropped out of the race.  Don't know what he talks about these days.

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

I can't help but notice that the word "learn" doesn't appear anywhere.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@RichardKPE @redweather Grades are a reflection of the level of learning, just like test scores.  While you may have an issue with how "reflective" it is, it is the only measure of the learning that takes place. A "C" grade should mean you learned the minimum amount.  Higher grades indicate a more complete mastery of the subject matter.

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

@class80olddog @RichardKPE @redweather Maybe, but not necessarily true.  Some students have incredible short term memory and can get an A on a test.  But ask them later to apply that knowledge and they give you the deer-in-the-headlights look.  I hosted an exchange student who was a whiz at math in an asian country- never made a B in any math class.  Asked her to help my daughter with middle school math.  She couldn't.  She had been doing geometry and trigonometry in the 9th grade, but couldn't remember some simple algebra problems she probably learned a few years before. This girl knew how to study and knew how to take tests.  But she didn't actually LEARN anything.  Unfortunately, in a academic setting, grades are really the only way to assess a student's knowledge of the material.  But a mediocre grade does not always mean an inferior knowledge of the material. Maybe only a mediocre skill at taking tests?

class80olddog
class80olddog

This is great advice!  I especially like the part about earning versus being awarded.  She might have added that a lot of you students are used to "being awarded" good grades in high school, but now that you are in college, you will be expected to "earn" your grades.  No wonder 7 out of ten incoming college students lose HOPE.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog Unfortunately, there are college professors who "award" grades rather than make their students earn them.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@redweather @class80olddog 

They're known among the students as "easy graders," and very often do it to get high student evaluations (used in promotion and tenure evaluations).

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I might add: Don't expect Mommy and Daddy to be able to step in and complain their way for you to get that B you need, or that A you expect!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @Wascatlady 

Not really, I don't think. In 30+ years of college teaching, I was never once approached by a student's parent. Nor was my department chair, the usual procedure of complaint in high school, I have heard.


OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@class80olddog @MiltonMan @Wascatlady 

I checked out this source. "College Parents of America" is a group comprised only of "current and future college parents," with an annual membership fee of $99. No date given for this essay. If there are no educators involved, how do they know their advice is accurate?  Sounds like a waste of $99 to me.

popacorn
popacorn

@OriginalProf @class80olddog @Wascatlady

Kids of helicopter parents will affect everyone, if only indirectly. These kids can't really do anything by themselves, and this filters down to the colleges and everything else. They can't all be educators. 

redweather
redweather

@popacorn @redweather @class80olddog @Wascatlady You have a knack for reading selectively in order to criticize.  Not all of the negative comments are posted by wacko-birds, but some of the comments are so off-the-wall and arguably unhinged that I lump them under that heading.

redweather
redweather

@class80olddog @Wascatlady I have met with one parent inadvertently--didn't know she would accompany her daughter. Mother was very upset that daughter earned, and I want to emphasize the word EARNED, a D in my class.  Nothing I said in response to her many questions and claims would persuade her that a D is what her daughter deserved.  She eventually left in a huff, promising all sorts of retribution which never materialized.  Although she may be one of those wacko-birds who have crucified me at RateMyProfessor.    

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

@popacorn @redweather @class80olddog @Wascatlady Whenever I read reviews of products, services, hotels, etc, I read all the negative ones first, then actually go read some of the other reviews of those who leave negative feedback.  This usually distinguishes the' wacko-birds' from the sane, but genuinely displeased.  The number of stars does not tell the whole picture.

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

@redweather @popacorn @class80olddog @Wascatlady Leave it to a "professional" university professor to start calling names.  Usually when someone gets on the losing end of an argument, name calling is all they have left.  Good show, professor!  Glad I already graduated.  I'll now await your childish response about my education.....

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

@popacorn @redweather @class80olddog @Wascatlady Not a whole lot more dangerous things for a college student than an uncaring tenured professor who holds your grades, scholarship, and, possibly, future in his/her hands.  Kudos to all you professors who actually care, including you, redweather.  I had many like you.  Also had several who didn't give a rip whether I was successful or not.  Makes one wonder why they chose that profession in the first place.

Honky4Herman
Honky4Herman

@redweather @Honky4Herman @popacorn @class80olddog @Wascatlady I guess my writing credentials are a result of having good teachers, professors, and parents who challenged me to think critically and communicate effectively, something the author of the article lacks. Critical thinking without good communication skills is like a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver without a fast car.  I don't feel the need to publish anything.