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10 Things You Ought to Know About Going Back to School

From Carlette Jackson Hardin's "100 Things Every Adult Student Ought to Know"


When you go back to school as an adult, it seems everyone is full of advice. Some of it is common sense (and some of us need more common sense!), some just doesn't apply to our life situation, and some of it is right on the mark.

We chose 10 things in Carlette Jackson Hardin's book, "100 Things Every Adult College Student Ought to Know," that we think are right on the mark. You might find more. If our 10 turn you on, add Hardin's book to your own library.

This is the second edition of the book. Hardin is Professor of Education at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, TN.

1. No. 22: Understand How Students Are Classified

It's a good idea to know how students are classified at your school.

Hardin says, "Classification indicates the level of progress you have made toward your degree. Typically, undergraduate students are classified as freshman until they have earned 24 hours."

You become a sophomore between 25 and 59 hours, a junior when you have earned 60 hours, and, usually, a senior at 85 hours.

You will remain a senior, Hardin says, until graduation. "Check specific classifications at your college."

Good advice.

2. No. 25: Know How Your Grade Point Average Is Calculated

We hear about GPAs all the time, but what is it and how is it calculate? Good question.

GPA stands for grade point average. Hardin explains:

"The GPA is a numerical index of overall student academic performance. It is calculated by first multiplying the number of credits earned in each completed course by the numerical value of the student's grade in that course."

Generally, A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, and F=0.

Your grade points for each class completed are added and the total is divided by the total number of credits involved.

Hardin says some grades are not counted in the calculation of the GPA. Check in the counselor's office at your school so you understand how your GPA is calculated.

3. No. 45: Know the Important Dates in the Semester

Every semester includes important dates, and Hardin advises knowing these dates and marking them in your calendar.

"Such dates are the days for advisement, registration, dropping courses, adding courses, mid-terms, and exams."

She suggests checking the university's website for these dates. You might also look in the student handbook or check with your advisor.

A great planner is a must for college students, no matter your age. Choose one that fits your style, and fits in your bag. Keep it with you. Having everything in one place will make your life easier.

4. No. 46: Make Copies of Everything

Whether you choose to make hard copies or prefer electronic records, it's a good idea to save your paperwork. Hardin suggests keeping copies of the following:

  • All papers turned into offices on campus
  • All major papers turned into instructors
  • Course syllabi

When you consider the numbers of students on campus and the volume of paperwork involved, it's easy to see how papers might get lost. Producing a copy of a lost document can save a lot of headaches, for everyone, regardless of who is at fault.

Hardin suggests that copies of syllabi can show material covered in a particular course, making it easier to transfer credits to another school, if desired.

5. No. 62: Take Your Family on a Tour

If you have family members who seem a little uncomfortable about your return to school, (Mom's a student?!?), it might help to invite them on a tour of your campus.

"Show them the buildings and classrooms you will be using," Hardin writes. "Allow your family to have a mental picture of where you will spend your days and/or evenings."

She suggests that touring with your family is an excellent opportunity to find out how long it takes to walk from class to class, and your family will have the bonus of picturing you on campus during the day.

"Determine where the bathrooms, elevators, and stairs are in each building," Hardin writes.

This is good advice. You'll feel much better about your first day back in school when you know what to expect.

6. No. 63: Get Your Family Involved

Not only is it a good idea to take your family on a campus tour, it's also smart to involve them in campus activities like picnics, on-campus community events, and the performing arts.

"If your family feels a part of your academic experience," Hardin writes, "they will have less resentment about the time you spend away from them."

She suggests that this also prepares children for future college experiences.

7. No. 69: Take Class with a Partner or Friend

"Even if the person you love has a degree," Hardin writes, "he/she can probably find a 'fun' course to take."

This is a nice idea. If you can find courses at the same time, it might be fun to drive together, study together, share the experience, whether your "partner" is a lover or a friend. If you're interested in the same class, what could be better?

"A quiet dinner before or after class will add to the 'date,'" Hardin suggests.

And remember that a "date" can be a girlfriend getaway via class.

Many universities allow adult students to audit classes for free. Check it out. Lifleong learning keeps us young and vibrant.

8. No. 80: Use Transition Time Effectively

Nobody likes waiting, but when you're a student, 10 minutes waiting for a doctor's appointment or a hair cut can be enough time to scan the next chapter in your textbook or review lecture notes.

"Always have material to study with you," writes Hardin. "Lunch periods at work are great. An apple and a sandwich can help you get 30-45 minutes of reading or review done. In five days, that adds up."

Having a book bag helps with this. If you're a woman who likes large bags, you've got this covered. Pop a book or notebook in your bag and you won't ever be waiting for anything. You'll be studying.

9. No. 82: Know How to Manage Big Projects

Procrastination is famous for ruining many dreams. Don't let it ruin any of yours. It's easy to cave to procrastination when a project is huge. Hardin suggests you'll never find a block of time long enough to tackle the entire project, so break it into smaller, more manageable pieces.

"For example," Hardin writes, "the first step in doing a research paper might be to go to the library to determine what references are available. Instead of "work on research paper" on your to-do list, write "check on references in library."

Make SMAART goals and you'll be more successful than you've ever imagined.

10. No. 83: Tour the Library

Libraries have changed with the times. Yes, they still have books, but they also have lots of other resources that just might amaze you.

Ask for a tour of your university's library, and emphasize the availability of technical resources like computer labs and online books.

"Many library resources can be accessed from your home," Hardin writes. "Because of global connections, students are able to pull data from libraries from all over the world."

She also stresses the importance of remembering that librarians are fantastic resources themselves. Need help? Ask a librarian.

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