- What were your accomplishments? No matter how challenging your semester was, how exhausting your personal life was, how difficult the last six weeks were, you accomplished things. Write that list down and give yourself some major kudos. Accomplishments do not have to be awards or publications or anything else "big." Accomplishments might be paying your bills in spite of hardships; leaving the house regularly for a walk and staying stable during incredibly challenging times; realizing that you volunteered and helped others get through this time...
- What will you adjust, moving forward? No matter how much of a success my semester was, there are always areas where I think I could improve. In that spirit, I like to leave myself notes for the next semester. Small things I want to change about the classes I teach, the writing I do, or the way I approach my home routines.
- What are your goals? As I close out one academic semester, I like to think about my future goals - both big and small. Setting attainable short and long term goals is an extremely important driver in feeling motivated and working with purpose. If you know your goals, then you can begin to map out a path for getting to those things. These goals should fall into 3 categories: short, medium, and long term. I like to start with the long term goals, then work my way backwards. This allows you to think strategically about where you want to go and how to get there.
- 3 month goals: What are your goals for the summer / next academic semester? These goals center on things like grades, exercise, applications for jobs or graduate school, internships, etc.
- 1 year goals: This still falls into the "short term goals" category, and they are basically the same as above, but with a slightly longer time horizon.
- 5 year goals: These goals have to do with more major aspects of life and career. Where do you envision yourself being in 5 years? What would you like to be doing? These goals might center on career, home life, finances, or personal relationships. But they should give you an idea of some of the bigger things you are working toward in your life. These goals help us find purpose to motivate the short term goals.
- 10 year goals: These are big, long term goals. These goals are often more vague, and they might change over time. That's okay. Very few people (no one) really knows what their life will be like in 10 years. But, it's a good idea to have a general idea of where you see yourself going and what you might want to do to get there.
I haven't written many blog posts recently because, like many of you, I've just been trying to keep my head above water and get through the end of the semester. But here it is, we've made it through. Whether you passed or failed, are exhausted or invigorated, you are here. At the end of every semester, no matter the circumstances, I like to spend a few minutes taking stock of the last 4 months.
Did you know you can nominate yourself for things? You can nominate yourself for awards, scholarships, fellowships, grants, etc. When it comes to scholarships in particular, you can, and should, actively seek out options and apply. Awards can be a little more specific. There are some university awards, for instance, that require a faculty member to nominate a student. You can ask a faculty member to nominate you for these. Your professors may absolutely love you and think that you deserve every award in existence, but perhaps the specific awards or deadlines aren't on their radar. It does no harm to bring it up with them. That being said, let's talk about how to ask a professor for a recommendation or nomination.
I got really behind over the last two weeks, it doesn't matter why. The point is, this week I needed to dos some damage control and get back on track. There are two types of recovery that you may need to do when you get really off track or behind. The first type is the practical recovery of re-focusing and getting back on track. This involves many of the same steps as we've discussed previously regarding goal management.
If professors were brave enough to get forehead tattoos, just about every single one of us would choose to have "read the syllabus" emblazoned across our faces. But, I'm not sure that everyone knows exactly what we mean by read the syllabus. Are we just asking that students look over the syllabus at the beginning of the semester? No.
"Read the syllabus" involves much more than just glancing through in August / January, and you'll find that there are significant benefits to having the syllabus available throughout the course of the semester. For most professors, the syllabus functions as both a class calendar, and as a kind of contract. The syllabus contains most of the information that you will need to be successful for the class. Every professor writes their syllabus a little different, but almost all syllabi share some common components. Here's what to look for.
Getting started on writing an essay for class, or anything else for that matter, can be incredibly challenging. Having the confidence to share your writing or knowing that it is ready to submit is even harder. Below are just a few resources that can make the process just a little less intimidating.
The first week of classes is coming up. Are you ready? Have you thought about your academic and personal goals? There are a few concrete steps you can take to have a really successful first week back on campus.
So that's it - a few quick and easy ways to get yourself ready for the semester. Is there anything I've forgotten? What are the ways you get ready for the semester?
After getting not one, but TWO, emails in the last 48 hours addressed to Ms. Clare Brock, I decided it might be time for a new blog post. This time answering the question: how should you address your professor? The short answer is that it is always acceptable to say "professor last-name." The long answer is that if they have a PhD, then they can be addressed as "Dr. last-name" or as "Professor last-name," but if they do not have a PhD then "Professor last-name" is still appropriate. You should not, however, address your professor as "Mrs. / Ms. /Miss" or "Mr."
Who cares? Why does it matter? The answer has everything to do with respect. First, your professor worked very hard for their degree, and in doing so, built up a wealth of expertise. Addressing your professor by their appropriate title shows acknowledgement of that effort and expertise. Second, for women, people of color, queer or LBGTQIA folks, and other marginalized people in the academy, their fight has often been an uphill battle in institutions that are not built for them or for people like them. These faculty members often face discrimination and bias that follows them throughout their careers and works against their promotion and tenure (see literature on bias in student evals, for instance, here). Referring to these faculty members appropriately acknowledges their place in the academy and their hard-won position of (again) expertise. And if you're not sure about your professors degree, then "professor last-name," is always a good choice.
As an undergraduate, you might feel uncomfortable or unsure about "office hours." What are they? What are you supposed to do or say when you go to them? Office hours are the time that your professors specifically designated to meet with students, answer questions, help with homework or essays, and so on. This doesn't mean they won't meet with you other times as well, by appointment. But office hours are YOUR time.
What should you say? You might go to office hours with a specific question in mind. Maybe you missed a piece of the lecture or felt confused, or maybe you had trouble with a homework assignment or want to talk about an essay prompt. But, you don't HAVE to have a question about course materials. You can go, introduce yourself, and discuss college more broadly or just get to know your professor a little bit (and let them get to know you). Here are some suggestions for discussion prompts:
Why should you go talk to your professors? If you're planning to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation, it's very important that they know who you are. It is very difficult for your professor, who likely has hundreds of students each semester, to write a strong letter for someone they've never met. Visiting your professor early in the semester also helps break the ice, that way later in the semester if you find yourself struggling, you feel comfortable asking them for help, and they know who you are. Finally, your professors LIKE students (at least, most of them do). They want to meet you, hear from you, and help you! Hearing from you helps us do our jobs better.
Since this is a political science blog, let's talk about politics and the holidays. The cliche is families that fight about politics over turkey. If you're not sure how politics will be received at home, take this quiz: Should you talk about politics over the holidays? Let me suggest, however, that instead of getting into a fight you might consider switching the topic to Food Politics! Need some ideas?
Finals are rapidly approaching, and crunch time is here. Take a deep breath, remember to have perspective (this is not life or death), and get ready to dive in to studying. For those students who feel desperately behind or overwhelmed, also bear in mind that you are not alone and the best thing to do is meet with your professor and make a plan. Having a plan will feel much better than avoidance.
Once you have a plan (or if you had one all along) then the next thing to think about is how to maximize your studying time. Effective studying will look different for every student, but here are some of the techniques that you might find useful. I recommend trying several, then narrowing down on just a few that you find most helpful.