Get With The Program And Here’s How! A Guide To Adjusting To Life In College

Congratulations. You’ve made into the college of your choice, and hopefully it won’t merely be an extension of your high school experience (hence the 13th grade). Challenge yourself for this is an opportunity for personal growth and enrichment.

I “walked in your shoes” many years ago when I graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn and was accepted to the Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York. I remember only a handful of professors who had their “game-on.” Even today, many professors seem clueless about their students other than what goes on in their classroom. If you do have an opportunity to meet a passionate, motivational educator, cherish the learning opportunity. A lot can be learned from reading student comments on “Rate My Professor.”

In many colleges, large lecture halls are taught by technical assistants and not the professor. It seems the focus is minimal interaction between teacher and student, not exactly like how I envision the higher education process. Wouldn’t you agree?

That’s why I will use this forum to address several important concepts for your consideration:

Stop whining about how tough college is

So what if gas is approaching $4 a gallon and textbooks cost over $100 each? Some of you spend quite a bit of money at concerts, restaurants and bars. And when I see students in my classes with an iPad, I know they are fortunate. Many of you have your own car too. Think about your peers who don’t. Heck when I was your age, I couldn’t afford a car and had to rely on public transportation or date a girl who had her own set of wheels.

Don’t bring your “helicopter” parents along for the ride

Recognize that expression? If not, let me explain. It refers to a parent who “hovers” around your every move; a parent who makes it difficult for you to mature and make your own decisions. Of course, parental input is important but you are at an age to take responsibility for your actions (or inactions).

Begin to think about your major

At age 18 or 19, you should have some idea of your future goals, but declaring a major can be a difficult decision. Many of you cannot determine what your plans are for a Friday or Saturday night date. Therefore, take classes that you find interesting. Think of this as a different type of dating—an intellectual one. Focus on those classes each semester. Your picture will become clearer as you progress.

Never fall asleep in class

I know many of you have evening jobs, others like to party with friends and some even study. But if you stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning, how can you expect to be attentive for an 8 a.m. class? Some professors may ignore a student who quietly dozes off—but I won’t. It’s embarrassing for you, the professor and your fellow classmates.

Cut your professors some slack

Believe it or not, we do have lives outside of the classroom. Some of us are married, others are divorced, some have children and others do not, just like in “real life.” I always try to bring a smile to class and personalize the setting; perhaps share a story or two with students. Some enjoy listening and some do not. I have learned that patience and tolerance is a virtue for both student and teacher.

Scout’s honor: Professors are not out to fail anyone

You have a simple job to do: study, come to class on time with your required assignments and complete your projects and/or exams with a serious effort. There’s no “magic” to grading. Most professors have a grading criteria to follow so let’s KISS (Keep it simple, student).

Professor Jack K. Mandel has taught marketing and public relations since 1978 at Nassau Community College. He is the recipient of both the prestigious Outstanding Teacher Award conferred by the New York State Association of two-year colleges and the NCC Dean of Instruction’s Faculty Distinguished Achievement Award.

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Jack K. Mandel
Jack K. Mandel is a professor at Nassau Community College.

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