Starting Your First Term The Right Way: Academic Advice
When I was thinking about what I should write for my second blog post, I wasn't sure whether it would be best to talk about my social or academic adjustment to college. I settled on academics because that's what should always come first: after all, I and all of my classmates are here because we are excited about studying topics that perhaps we were unable to study in high school. So, I guess I'll start with some of the tips and tricks I've picked during my first two weeks as a Dartmouth student. (And don't worry - I'll include some pictures from my ongoing outdoor explorations!)
My section of the required first-year writing class deals with social media - but don't let that description fool you. This class does not consist solely of Facebook and Twitter feeds. As is the case with nearly all classes in the humanities, there are plenty of readings that are assigned outside of class. Personally, I enjoy annotating papers and essays with a physical pen, but I'll admit that I haven't always had the time to do that. That said, I still make time to read whatever my instructor has assigned. (These readings form the basis of our in-class discussions and are the building blocks for our success on exams and written assignments.) Speed reading, while not a true substitute for thoughtful engagement with a text, is way better than not doing any reading! My first tip can be boiled down to this: if a professor asks you to read a text outside of class, they are asking you to read it for a reason.
This is where I get to transition to blogging about something that is much more fun: exploring the outdoors! Dartmouth has a unique connection to outdoor recreation because of its location in the rural Upper Valley of Vermont & New Hampshire. That means that students can go for walks around Occom Pond, paddle down the Connecticut River, and hike the Appalachian Trail - either individually or as part of group trips with a leader - on weekends or in between classes. Getting fresh air is also a great way to improve your academic performance. You can socialize safely in small groups or just lounge out on The Green as you study for your first midterm. See some pictures from where I've been recently!
Now for some more advice: even if you are taking STEM (i.e., less writing-intensive) classes, be sure to always consult your syllabus for a correlation between the topics that are covered in lecture and chapters in the textbook. In my math class, I've found skimming the textbook to be a great way of solidifying my understanding of what the professor has already discussed. (Also works great if you - like me - learn more by reading than by taking notes from class-based discussions!) You'd be surprised at how even a class like introductory physics, which is a math-heavy course, tries to weave in material from the conceptual side of physics (while even addressing the history of our understanding of classical/modern physics). Takeaway: no class at Dartmouth can be labeled as 'reading required' or 'reading optional.'
This next paragraph will cover something that seems like it should just be common sense, but I think it needs to be highlighted anyway. You cannot do well in your classes if your physical or mental health is suffering. By that I mean, if you are not getting enough sleep each night or if you are always anxious about an upcoming assignment, you won't be performing at your peak level academically. So set aside at least eight hours to sleep every day; reach out to professors if you are worried about meeting certain deadlines. And don't be reluctant to reach out to the folks at ASC (Academic Skills Center) if you want to improve your time management skills. You have nothing to lose by prioritizing your physical and mental well-being!
I think this is a fairly good summary of what I've learned so far about how to balance the stressors of college life with the reason I'm here: to receive a quality education and grow academically and socially.
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