Strategies for Academic Success

The strategies for academic success are probably some of the most important readings that you will do between now and the first day of class. Here are a few tips, but there is a wealth of information available at the College through faculty, staff, the computer resource center, the college learning center, and in our college library about how best to prepare for classes with the goal of helping students to succeed.

Prepared by Lindsay Adams, Counselor/SSS/Instructor, Westmoreland, July 2012

Tips for First-Semester Success

1) Attend the first day of class!

You may have heard that the first day of class really isn’t important but that is a myth! The first day of class is one of the most important classes; this is when you review the syllabus of the course. A syllabus contains information about what you can expect, what the instructor expects of you and the “rules” for the class. Make sure to keep the syllabus for each class in an easy to access spot so you can reference it frequently.

2) Be prepared!

To be prepared for classes, you should come armed with your textbook(s) in hand, a notebook, folder and something to write with but that’s not all! It isn’t enough to just show up to class physically; you must also be mentally prepared for class. This means getting enough rest, exercise and good nutrition. In addition, you should always read the class assignments ahead of time and be prepared to participate in class!

3) Textbooks

Make sure you have your textbooks for the first day of class. If you purchase your books from the Westmoreland bookstore, keep your receipt and do not remove any shrink-wrapping until you have confirmed that you purchased the correct book. If you purchase your books elsewhere, make sure to do so well in advance of the semester so you are ready to go the first day of class.

4) Know your instructor’s class policies

Make sure you fully understand each instructor’s class policies. Specifically, be aware of policies such as:

  • Attendance and missed assignments: does your instructor allow you to make up work? What is the proper procedure for making up work? How should you inform your instructor when you cannot attend class? Don’t just assume that you will be allowed to make up work that you miss when absent. Attendance is critical to success in college. Unlike high school your instructors are not required to allow you to make up work that you miss, regardless of the reason that you miss class.
  • Due dates: does your instructor have specific due dates for assignments? What is the penalty for turning work in late? Are there special circumstances where late work is permitted?
  • Cell phones: does your instructor allow you to have your phone out during class? Does it need to be turned off or is vibrate ok? What should you do if your phone accidentally rings during class?

5) Class attendance

As a college student, you have the right and responsibility to control your class attendance. Of course, to be a successful student, attendance is key! If you must miss class, consider these tips:

  • Let your instructor know ahead of time, if possible.
  • Use the syllabus/course schedule to help you stay on track.
  • Don’t assume a doctor’s excuse will excuse you from missed work. Make sure you fully understand each instructor’s policy for missing class.

6) Changing your schedule

Be aware of timeframes for adjusting your class schedule, if needed. The Westmoreland college catalog details the time period when you are still allowed to drop or add classes. Remember, there is a big difference between dropping a class and withdrawing from one.

Dropping a class occurs early in the semester (for most classes, during the first two weeks). This is a process that involves either filling out an add/drop form or dropping the class online. When you drop a class, it does not show up on your academic record. You may also be able to receive a refund for all or part of the tuition paid for the class when it is dropped.

Withdrawing from a class occurs later in the semester. This is a process that involves filling out a withdrawal request form and presenting it to the instructor (in person or leaving it in their mailbox). Withdraws show up on your transcript but do not have a negative impact on your GPA. Depending on when you initiate a withdrawal, your instructor has the ability to assign either a grade of W or a grade of F. Withdrawing from classes can negatively impact financial aid, insurance coverage, and progress toward graduation. It is always a good idea to discuss withdrawing, whether from one class or every class, with a counselor or advisor.

7) Ask, ask, ask

As a new college student, you are not expected to know everything! That’s why there are professional administrators, faculty and staff available to help you find your way. Anytime you have a question, just ask! When you don’t ask for help when you are unsure of something, the only person you hurt is yourself!