Ways To Help a First-Year Student

According to English professor Cindy Soldan, the following are ten tips on how to best help your student succeed in the academic world:

  1. Get your student an alarm clock! Professors appreciate punctuality and frown on chronic tardiness since late arrivals can be disruptive to the class lecture. The key word here is chronic; everyone, even professors are late once in awhile; it's when lateness to class is more the rule rather than the exception that a student is at risk of jeopardizing the student-professor relationship.
  2. Encourage your student to participate in class. Professors welcome input from their students; some in fact even assign a portion of the grade to participation in class. The university student should strive to be an active rather than a passive learner and ask questions, particularly when a concept is not clear. But being an active learner doesn't mean a student should monopolize class discussions or worse yet, show antagonism towards contrary ideas or opinions expressed by the professors or by fellow students. In the university classroom, we should all strive to be respectful of each others views and right to learn, even when we don't agree.
  3. Encourage your student to become a good time manager. This can pay big dividends when it comes to the successful completions of assignments. Proper planning usually results in a better effort than a last-minute attempt. If a Professor allows, say, two weeks to complete an assignment, it's because they have determined consistent work within this time period to be necessary; a night-before- it's- due attempt increases the student's stress and can often result in a grade that reflects the hasty effort.
  4. Encourage your student to take pride in their academic work and submit completed assignments that reflect this. Most professors expect papers to be typed; all expect them to be as free as possible of typographical and spelling errors. Sloppy, careless submissions, heedless of scholarly format do not impress the professor to say the least. So, if your new student is pressing you for that computer to create these scholarly masterpieces, you might consider it --though you should know that students at Lakehead do have access to computers here on campus, though demand for them is very high.
  5. Remind your student that in taking pride in their work, they must ensure that it is their own work. Plagiarism occurs when a student uses information from a source and does not give credit to or acknowledge that the information is from another source (Other than their own brain.) Essentially, when students try, either willingly or unwillingly, to pass off someone else's ideas as their own, they are guilty of plagiarism and this is a very serious academic offense. It is cheating, plain and simple, and the penalties for plagiarism can be quite harsh.
  6. Remind your student that help is available when academics pose them problems. One of the greatest resources available to our students is the Learning Assistance Centre. Students are entitled to several hours of free tutoring at the Centre and can also attend open workshops geared to assisting with the preparation of assignments.
  7. Encourage your student to seek out the assistance of the professor. Notwithstanding help available at the Learning Assistance Centre, students should always feel comfortable to make an appointment with their professor should they have academic problems. At Lakehead University, our student/faculty ratio is such that availability of the professor for one-on-one consultation is assured. At the beginning of the academic year, professors usually provide information about their office hours; students should never be reluctant about approaching their professors during these times.
  8. Encourage your student to develop good study habits; this will increase academic success throughout the year but particularly at exam time. Cramming is a pastime that results in increased stress but not necessarily increased marks. Open workshops, providing tips on study skills and time management are offered by the Student Counselling Centre and professors, informed about these presentations, usually make announcements about them in class during the first few weeks.
  9. Encourage your student to strike a good balance between his or her academic life and his or her social life. University life is full of interesting options for the socially minded and participation in such activities is expected for a well-rounded learning experience at university. However, if a distinct imbalance results when too many social activities preclude necessary academic ones, students can find themselves treading in dangerous waters. I have witnessed very bright and capable students jeopardizing their academic success because they didn't strike a proper balance. Help your student to realize that being a university student is like having a job (Occupation: student) and they should give it the same responsible attention they would any other job. Having a mind set like this can help keep things balanced and increase academic success.
  10. Provide all these reminders and encouragements without turning into a nag. Your student is a young adult and though you should gently whisper these things from the wings, so to speak, you should foster self-responsibility in your student, too. That is because, the self-responsible student is the student who will derive the most from his or her education, and the one that any professor finds a true joy to teach.