But today, I want to focus on the soon-to-be college Freshmen who are busy making friends on Facebook with their new roommates, and putting together packing lists. A lot of you probably already know this, but Bed, Bath and Beyond will let you pick stuff out here, and pick it up at your destination. What you might not know though, is that Bed, Bath and Beyond will let you use numerous coupons, even expired ones, for your purchases. It is genius marketing, they get the college students hooked, and then they keep purchasing from BB&B all through their young adult years.
More important than bedding though, are the decisions that students will be making about courses. Some of you have already decided on your first semester classes. And the rest of you will be signing up for those classes soon. This weekend I’ve been reading a terrific book, “The Thinking Student’s Guide to College – 75 Tips for Getting a Better Education”, by Andrew Roberts. The author is a professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and he has excellent suggestions for how to get the most out of your college experience.
My favorite tip was on how to choose classes. Most universities have distribution requirements; in order to graduate, students need to take a few courses in natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, etc. Students often start the process of choosing classes by trying to satisfy these requirements. They want to “get them out of the way”. A typical freshman first semester might include Calculus 101, Psych 101, Bio 101 and a Freshman Seminar. There is only one problem, those introductory courses are often the least interesting courses available. They are more likely to be lecture based and less interactive.
Andrews suggests turning this process upside down. Instead of starting out by trying to fulfill requirements, why not start out by trying to find interesting classes, taught by the best professors? He suggests identifying the best professors, then making a list of their classes. Which ones look interesting, or are in new subjects that you haven’t explored before?
You will probably take between 32 and 36 classes during your four years in college; you don’t want to waste them. Of course, you will still need to take some introductory courses, but there is no need to cram them all into your first year. A better first semester schedule might include Calculus 101 or Bio 101, a Freshman seminar and two of the interesting classes that you have identified.
If the class is taught by one of the best professors, you are very likely to have a good experience and studies have shown that when students like their professors, they tend to get better grades. That sounds like a win-win to me!