College – A Look at How to Start Your New Journey!
So you’ve finished your contract after years of dedicated service and you are thinking about going back-to-school? Or perhaps you are active duty and looking to get a head start on college, now. You may even be the first individual in your family to attend college. What a daunting and somewhat unnerving experience this may be! You are probably feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start.
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When it comes to going back-to-school and in all your future endeavors make sure you ask questions! Questions get you information, information gives you knowledge, and knowledge gets you success. Although, while you are still figuring out what questions to ask, here are a few tips to help put you on the right track for success now:
- Do your research. Don’t just choose a school just because it’s convenient or close to home. Find one that has an area of study that you will enjoy, thrive in, and want to go to class regularly. Perhaps explore an area that utilizes some of the knowledge you learned while serving. Also, look into the options of pursuing an online education versus attending class in person. Explore the differences between the benefits of a small or large classroom of students.
- Know the deadlines. Don’t put off meeting the admission requirements/deadlines. Universities are strict on keeping these deadlines, missing the date can delay you 3-6 months. Tip: Have a letter of recommendation ready even if it is not required for admission. This is a tool that can be useful during your path to success. A favorite teacher, mentor, or commanding officer can write a letter of recommendation.
- Picking your classes. Your advisor is going to be a great resource for making a schedule that works for you. Your advisor knows the best path to get you through all the classes you need, plus their help is free. Another helpful resource is www.Ratemyprofessor.com, which offers reviews from students; no one wants to take a class with a professor who doesn’t enjoy teaching! Don’t base your whole decision off of this website, but it might be a helpful tool if more than one professor teaches a class you plan to enroll in.
- Buying your books. Check to see if the book needed is available for purchase through your tablet or eReading device. By having an electronic copy of your book you can still highlight, make notes, print pages, AND search the whole book. You also don’t have to lug heavy books around and you can access it on all of your devices. Other options to look into are renting through the bookstore, buying used books, and loaning your books from the library? All of these are great options and your choice depends on your personal preferences.
- Technology for School. As for devices, don’t forget to utilize military discounts on your technology needs. www.dell.com/military is great resource for active duty, veterans, retired military, and their families. Get a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer, as well as other electronics, accessories, and software…all from one place while receiving your military discount.
- Don’t be a recluse. Make friends with others in your class! Having a person to study with, ask questions, and quiz each other is important. Also, don’t forget to network. Join clubs, intermural teams, and ultimately stay involved. Being outgoing and involved will allow you to have resources for exams, contacts when job searching in the future, and allow you time to relax from the everyday stressors of college life.
- Make an all-inclusive syllabus/schedule. Combine all of your assignments and due dates from all of your classes for that quarter/semester into one syllabus/calendar. This way you can easily see when you have multiple exams or projects overlapping and you can plan ahead for those moments and how to execute those weeks best.
- Keep your inbox clean. A professor once told me a clean inbox leads to a stress free life. So every day delete spam emails or emails that you no longer need, only keeping the most important and relevant emails. If you find that emails from certain senders are becoming too much, scroll to the bottom of those emails and look for the unsubscribe link. Getting rid of unnecessary mail is half the battle. If you find that it is difficult to delete messages, make sure you use the storage folders available through most email accounts. These will help you stay productive and focused on the tasks at hand.
- Utilize Military Services. Reach out to the education center affiliated with your branch of service to access more resources concerning the educational benefits you qualify for, receiving course credits for your active duty service, or any other questions or concerns you may have about your education. You also have resources on campus, such as Veteran’s Affairs.
Remember to always seek answers! Furthering your education will be challenging, but a rewarding stepping stone to your future. There will be days when you are overwhelmed with papers, exams, and countless other tasks, but even in the midst of chaos don’t forget why you placed value in obtaining higher education. Congratulations and good luck in your endeavors!
Nina M. Fletcher is a Marine Corps spouse with a B.S. in Behavioral Neuroscience Psychology from Purdue University and is pursuing a Masters in Military Psychology from Adler University.