Earlier this week I pulled up interview photos of freshmen who had just taken their last final of the year. Looking at the faces of their younger selves reminded them of how much they had changed. Working in and studying Student Affairs, you learn about Arthur Chickering's Seven Vectors that theorize the "tasks" that students must go through while developing their identity. While I know that the students were taken aback by seeing their younger faces and remembering the day of the interview, I'm sure they did not think about third of Chickereing's vectors, movement through autonomy toward interdependence.
For traditional students, and even some non-traditional, college is as a sequence of developmental tasks and stages when biology and psychology converge. It qualitatively changes thinking, feeling, behaving, valuing, and relating to others and oneself (http://students.berkeley.edu/committees/bc/SAStudentDev.doc).
First Vector: Developing Competence.
The three types of competence that college students develop:
So let's talk about the first competency of the first vector...
If you're in college, moving through these vectors, wanting to develop and grow intellectually, you want to know:
What do the smart kids do?
Some think they are smart because of something deep inside of them called "intelligence" or "IQ" but people do not have "intelligence" stuffed somewhere inside their head making it easy for them to learn things. For most people, the difference between excelling and failing is almost entirely determined by what world you live in, and how you act in that world.
Most smart kids are smart because they live in a world where being smart works and being dumb doesn't. If you want to be smart too, you should spend as much time as possible in that sort of world. Be surrounded by the right kind of people and avoid the wrong kind of distractions, and you will start to reflect the world you are part of.
Here are five important behaviors characteristic of smart kids:
2) They do not attend class as tourists.
Smart kids don't just sit in class; they interact in class, even in lectures. If they cannot interact with their professors, then they interact with their peers or they interact with themselves — guessing what the professor might say next, trying to tie points together, trying to make connections with other things they know and other experiences they have had. Sometimes it is a struggle to pay attention in a class,. Find ways to keep paying attention to things, even if the speaker is not going out of his or her way to engage you, you need to put in the effort to engage. You have no idea how important this skill can be for the rest of your life.
3) When they study, they just study (most of the time).
Smart kids study by not doing other things. Let's say you have five classes, and that each class requires two hours of real studying out of class, per week, to do well (probably a good bet for your freshman classes, but a bad bet for your senior-year classes). That's only 10 hours of studying a week... no problem, right? But now let’s say that while you study you text, and watch TV. Now only 1/4 of your effort is going towards studying, and you need 40 hours. That is not going to happen. Ditch the distractions.
4) They talk to their friends and family about what they are learning in school.
If you do not want to spend some of your free time talking about school, you are doing something wrong. How is it that smart kids get in so many hours of studying? Some lock themselves in their room, true. But many just have friends who like to talk about school. In college you have new-found freedom to learn about things you want. Join a club that has to do with your major. Approach professors after class. Find ways to talk about the stuff you are learning in class with other people who are trying to learn the same thing.
5) They understand that different courses require different types of studying.
Smart kids know every course isn't the same. In college, you will need to adjust to many different professors who have different ways of running their class and different ways of evaluating your accomplishment. This is just like in real life! (Except substitute "boss" for "professor.") You should try to determine how class is run, and how you will be graded, and plan your studying accordingly. Ask other Terry Scholars. Learn about faculty before you can sign up for classes.
There were classes where I never read the book and classes where I always read before class - and I was an English major! The type of studying that lets you have a meaningful in class discussion and write a good essay is different than the type of studying that lets you fill out a factual multiple choice test. And by the way, if you are in a class that grades with essays... don't expect to do well if you were not keeping up with the discussions.
Your Part of the Deal
Don't be another student who expects class time to be wasted doing what you should be doing outside of class. It is your responsibility to become part of the wider campus community. It is your responsibility to be actively present in class. It is your responsibility to arrange your life so you can get out-of-class work done. It is your responsibility to bounce ideas and thoughts off of those around you. It is your responsibility to study and show up to class prepared, whatever that is in each class.
by Tyler Seale
Ask for a letter from someone you know: it’s hard enough to write a recommendation letter for someone you know well, let alone someone you don’t know. If you need a LoR, ask someone you feel knows you well enough to be able to not only say you’re a good fit for what you’re applying for, but how and why you would be and their experience with you that proves that. And make sure you’re in good standing with them. If you’ve been a “surly idle-headed lout” (I used a Shakesperean insult generator. You’re welcome) then they probably won’t want to help you out.
Ask them if they would be comfortable writing a good recommendation letter for you. Literally. The words “Would you be so kind as to consider writing a good recommendation letter for me? I’m applying to/for ___ and would truly appreciate a letter of recommendation coming from you!” should come out of your mouth. Flattery never hurts.
Also, make sure the person you ask knows you in the field you’re applying for. For example, if it’s a job, a former employer is usually a good bet because they know how well (or not well but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt) you work. If it’s for an academic program or research position, then a professor is probably the way to go. But in the end it’s who you think can write you the best letter. I ended up asking a professor for a letter of recommendation for a university job (that I THOUGHT I needed but actually didn’t. oops.) and it was stellar. I wanted to cry after I read it… but I didn’t because the only time it is appropriate to cry is “funerals and the Grand Canyon” (Ron Swanson).
Be involved, both with the recommender and outside of their realm of influence. They want to see that you are an active member of orgs and a leader in what you do. They also want to see you involved in the classroom and outside of it. Go to office hours if you want to ask a professor, make sure they know who you are and that you are not doing hoodrat things with your friends in their classroom.
Now, since you’re an accomplished Terry or potential Terry, I will assume you are absolutely perfect and have impeccable time management skills. But just in case you don’t, or you are me, then here is another helpful tip: Start early. Give your recommender about 3 weeks to write the letter. Four at the most, but never less than two. Personally, I find three is long enough for the letter to be the bomb diggity but not so long that they forget and wait until the last minute. Unfortunately, everyone cannot be a time management professional. Most people that you would want a LoR from are probably pretty busy individuals, and you probably aren’t the only person to come around asking for one. Be nice and give them plenty of time to write it—that may be the difference between an average and excellent recommendation, therefore the difference between getting the position and not, therefore the difference between being homeless or employed, therefore the difference between freezing to death under a bridge or living your life. Moral of the story: time = not dying under a bridge.
If you are like me and all the people you vibe with (you can vibe with a prof, just don’t tell them that to their face) are also procrastinators, consider telling them it is due earlier than it is actually due. A white lie never hurt anyone. OR tell them that you will get it from them a week or at a certain time before the deadline. Its also a good idea to check in with them either by email or in person about a week before you want the letter to make sure “you have all the information you need, professor X!” which is code for “yo ya done?” but nicer and more collegey.
You can also ask them to email you when they send it in just so you know.
As interesting as you think you are, the recommender probably doesn’t know enough about your involvement to write your letter of the top of their head. There is some basic information you should send them in order for them to know what to tailor the letter to:
About the position/program/scholarship/etc.*
• About you*
*The information you provide should be correct, complete, up‐to‐date, and free from typos, misspellings, etc… Duh Sherlock.
A recommendation letter is a gift second only to giving someone your first born child and a chalice of blood. Be nice and send your recommender a thank you email or note (preferably note) for being nice and liking you enough to do this for you. Also, let them know whether you get the position or not!
Make Ron Swanson proud, and don’t be literal garbage. Be someone people want to write a recommendation letter for.