I was a student 15-20 years ago, I’ve been an instructor at MSU and at OTC, and I’m a student again.
Talked with your professors more, especially if you’re having a tough time, I wish I had. Most of them are willing to help you if you don’t understand all the concepts taught. They are there to help. It can also be helpful to let them know if you’re feeling overwhelmed or are having issues. You don’t need to tell them every little detail of your lives, but I believe that most professors and instructors are willing to give you some slack if they know some of what you’re going through.
College classes can require a lot more self-direction. You don’t always have weekly or daily homework assignments. You will have to go over things on your own. Do a little bit at a time. Take notes. Study with other people in class to help reinforce concepts. If you wait too long, things start piling up, anxiety can get higher, and you end up not getting everything done. A college class is a big meal, but if you take small bites throughout the semester, you’ll get it all finished comfortably.
Ask questions in class and answer questions when the professor asks, if you can. If you don’t understand something, someone else may have the same question and be too embarrassed to ask it. I’ve asked things I knew the answer to, just because I thought someone else might be wondering the right answer. I tend to work better if I understand why I’m doing a task. Consider asking the instructor what they want you to get out of this assignment. I’ll bet a lot of people haven’t really thought about it and it might spark some interesting conversations and a new way of looking at things.
Professors are people too. They have a lot of knowledge in specialized fields, and that can make them seem intimidating. But while working here, I’ve gotten to know some cool profs. They may make mistakes or misspeak in class. They may be into some of the same hobbies as you. Engage them.
In most jobs, you will have to talk to other people at some point. Classes assign oral presentations to help you get used to talking in front of people, not to torture you. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Try new things. You may not get some of these chances again.
(Jeff Brown, Environmental Management Technician, Environmental Management – Missouri State University)