This is a partial list of
my advice to students. To read what some former students want to tell
my current students about taking a course from me, click
As with all advice, you are free to take it or leave it.
- Do not hesitate to ask questions or seek
clarification. The sooner you ask, the sooner you will know the answer!
- Avoid the appearance of impropriety. Never
give a gift to an instructor, and never accept one from an instructor.
A verbal or written acknowledgment of thanks is sufficient.
- Different instructors have different ideas
about academic honesty. Be sure you understand your instructor’s
expectations. I personally have a zero-tolerance policy for academic
misconduct and I am very good at catching incidents. Remember that even
unintentional breaches of the UWB Academic Integrity policy will result in sanctions. You alone are responsible
for understanding the rules.
- Different instructors have different
attitudes toward assignment deadlines. I personally am a stickler, for
two reasons: (1) in the interest of fairness, I want all students to
have the same amount of time; and (2) my own schedule forces me to be
very careful about time management (just as you must be), so late
assignments throw me off. To reduce the potential effects of unforeseen
problems, try to finish assignments a little early.
- If you think you ever might want a letter
of recommendation from an instructor, make sure he or she knows you and
remembers you. Click here for my own policy regarding letters of recommendation.
- When you look at the assignments listed on
a syllabus, try to determine which are the "heaviest" weeks and get a
head start on those assignments. For example, if you have to read an
entire book for one class meeting, you probably need to start reading a
week or two in advance.
- You will feel overwhelmed at times during
your university career. That is normal, and you are not the only one
who feels anxious. Learn some relaxation techniques and some study
strategies now, before you need them. The Counseling Center
is a good place to start.
- Some instructors are comfortable knowing a
lot about your personal life; others would rather maintain a strictly
professional relationship. If, for instance, you need an extension on
an assignment because of a personal problem or health problem, err on
the side of reticence first. If you want to, you can offer to provide
more details if the instructor wants them, but do not volunteer the
details unless both of you are comfortable with that. With me,
tend toward reticence unless I ask for more details.
- Academic work is graded on results, not
effort. Claiming that you worked hard on an assignment does not help
you get a higher grade on it. Keep in mind, though, that your grade on
an assignment almost certainly would be lower without hard work, so be
glad you did work hard.
- Although the taxpayers of Washington are
paying most of the cost of your education, you are paying more than
your fellow students at WSU or the community
colleges because the UW is what is
known as a Research I university. Your higher tuition gets you two main
premiums: (1) access to world-class academic resources such as the vast
holdings of the UW library system; and (2) access to scholars who
contribute regularly to their fields. Borrow lots of things from the libraries. (You will miss having access to almost three
million items when you graduate.) Also, talk to your professors about
their research. Many of them do cool things. You might even be able to
work with them on a research project, which is excellent experience for
job or grad school applications. (If you want to see what I'm working
on, check out my curriculum vitae,
which is an academic résumé.)
- Two things that are worth more than money:
time and happiness. You cannot always enjoy everything you do, but you
can plan your life so you will spend more time doing what you like. A
decent income can help sometimes, but do not be seduced by a
high-paying career that you will not enjoy. I know many rich, miserable
- Re-read assignment instructions just
before printing your final version to make sure you are doing
everything properly and completely.
- Professors like it when students take
responsibility for their actions (or inactions) rather than present
excuses, no matter how legitimate the excuses might be. Besides, you
will find it empowering when you accept responsibility.
- Computers, printers, and diskettes can
sense your fear and anxiety, and will fail exactly when you most need
them to work. Save your work often (every five or ten minutes) and keep
one or two backups--on different diskettes--when you are working on an
important document. Allow extra time for unforeseeable disasters.
- Most instructors are open to your comments
and suggestions. If you think the workload in a course is unfairly
heavy, tell the instructor. If you do not see the point of a particular
assignment, ask for a clarification of its goals. On the other hand, be
sure to tell your instructor when you find an assignment particularly
helpful or interesting, so he or she will use it again for other
classes. Do not wait until course evaluations to provide feedback.
Although most of us teachers read every evaluation and care about what
students say, we would prefer to make changes during the course
rather than afterward, if possible.
- Visualize graduation. Whenever you feel
discouraged, imagine how you will feel when you pick up your diploma.
- Only a fourth of Americans will get a
college education. Only one one-hundredth of the world’s population
will get a college education. You are privileged. You also bear a lot
of responsibility for the fate of the country and the world.
- Some students dislike group assignments
because they end up doing more than their fair share of the work. This
sentiment is justified and understandable. Remember two points, though:
(1) you can learn more from one another than you think, even if the
work is unfairly divided; and (2) dealing with underperforming peers is
excellent preparation for your career.
- Turn off your television set and leave it
off, completely and forever. You will be amazed how much more time you
have, how much less materialistic you will be, and how much better you
will feel. If you are too tired to read or study in your newly-found
time, use it to write a letter, call a friend or family member, go for
a walk, or listen to music with your eyes closed. Cancel your cable
service and put the savings toward your retirement, give it to charity,
or buy a gift for yourself or someone else.
- It takes an average of seven years after
a bachelor’s degree to get a Ph.D., which means your instructors
have a ridiculous amount of experience as students. Not only have they
experienced many of the same problems and frustrations that you are
experiencing, but they managed to graduate despite those obstacles.
They therefore might be good sources for advice.
- Complain only to someone who can change
things. If you think there is a better way to do something at UWB,
present it to your official spokespersons: the Associated
Students of UWB. Your representatives
meet regularly with the faculty, staff, and administration and are your
advocates. If you think there is a better way to do something
specifically in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Program,
contact the Director.
- Be considerate of your instructors and
classmates. Please turn off cell phones, pagers, and watch alarms
before entering a classroom. Also, be aware that entering a classroom
after class has started distracts your instructor and your classmates.
If you must do it, please try to enter through a back door, if
possible. That probably will distract your instructor (for which you
should later apologize), but at least it will reduce the disruption you
cause your classmates.
- Take chances and grow! Make the most of
your limited time in college. Take responsibility for learning, and
Last updated October 5, 2005.