Suzette Tyler has some advice for know-it-all freshmen - the best advice she could find from upperclassmen who have been there, done that.
A former college academic counselor and author of a bestselling guide for freshmen called "Been There, Should've Done That," Ms. Tyler says freshmen may lack experience, but need not lose out.
"Many students we talked to told us: 'I didn't see the big picture when first got there - there was so much wasted time and opportunities," she says. "Kids get so wrapped up creating a social existence, they forget that in the end they're going to be responsible for themselves."
To get the big picture and get going fast, start right away trying to strike up a rapport with a professor. Such friendships can lead to mentoring and change your life by giving you a different outlook. But professors can be elusive, especially at a big university where freshmen are in large lecture classes.
Tyler suggests a few tactics. First, don't be a shrinking violet. It matters where you sit in class. If you sit near the front, professors recognize it. Also, volunteer for projects he or she suggests. Stop by during office hours to introduce yourself. If you are too shy to do that, then send an e-mail message introducing yourself - and stop in later.
Even before new students get to class their first and second semesters, they should be aware of some subtle pitfalls that are avoidable, says Daniel Baer, a senior at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and co-author of "College Survival: A Crash Course for Students by Students" (Macmillan).
He cautions students to choose courses wisely. Nearly all freshmen initially tend to cling to "first friends" and often try to select classes based on what their new friends are taking.
"Don't submit to the temptation to take physics instead of French just because your totally cool neighbor is doing so," he warns.
Students should also be wise about buying books. After spending hundreds of dollars, it may be tempting to write your name in them. Don't do it, Baer says.
Books are often dropped from the syllabus or only have a chapter that's used. You can save money if you return them at the end of the semester.
Students often have the best advice. In Tyler's book, veterans offer more tips to help make the first-year a smooth one:
*"I couldn't wait to live in an apartment, but looking back, it was really more fun in the dorm. I met tons of people and there were more things to do ... plus, the bathrooms were cleaner."
*"Freshman orientation courses are totally worthwhile. I had a far better handle on what to do and where to find it than my friends who didn't take the course."
*"Be choosy. If a class or prof doesn't seem 'right,' change section or drop it immediately while you can still get another class."
*"Always go over a test after it's graded to make sure there aren't any errors and to see if you can 'milk' it for a few more points. Just don't overdo it. Profs get ticked."
*"Instructors will bend over backwards to help kids who are really trying. Make every effort to let them know you are."
*"Instructors take it personally if you cut a lot. Not having an attendance requirement doesn't mean they won't take it out on your grade."
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society