Monday, September 9, 2013

Some tips for fall term courses

First year trips are concluding, and orientation is about to begin. Some first year students (17s) have already met with me to talk about doing well at Dartmouth. Seems obvious, but a good start to your academic career begins with, besides being ready to use active learning strategies (notetaking, reading, time management), is choosing your first three courses carefully.

If you have been placed into Writing 5 or Writing 2 fall term, then you need to choose two other courses.

Whether you need to choose two or three courses, you might pay attention to the following guidelines:

1. Choose courses that you are interested in or think you'll be interested in. Interest will help sustain your focus throughout the term. Avoid choosing courses based on major (unless you have a really clear desire to be an engineer, for example). Many first year students who think they are interested in a discipline will graduate in a (very) different discipline or field of study.

2. Don't worry about fulfilling your distributive requirement. You have four years to complete it, and many courses that you might choose through interest will satisfy some distributive requirement. Too many students choose fall term courses to "get it out of the way."

3. Do be mindful of the foreign language requirement, though you have until the end of sophomore year to complete it. There are several ways to do that, so be sure to go to open houses, talk to your UGA and upperclass students, and discuss it with your faculty adviser.

4. Choose to take a math course fall term because you enjoy math or it's a pre-req for a course you intend to take winter or spring term. You do not need to take a math course to graduate from Dartmouth College, but there is a QDS requirement that can be fulfilled by taking math or a number of other courses in other disciplines.

5. As much as is possible, vary your courses in terms of size, discipline, and type of work.
Try for a mix of seminar style courses (e.g. Writing 5) and larger lecture courses (e.g. Psychology 1).
Avoid, if you can, three reading or writing intensive courses. Limit science courses to one, especially if it's a lab course.

Again, these are guidelines. You'll make good choices if you give it the time it deserves and to talk it out with your faculty adviser, undergraduate dean, UGA, and so on.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

6 P's

As I have pointed out in earlier blog posts, I learn a lot from the students I present to or teach or meet with individually.

This summer, a serious minded student shared what his father, a businessman, tells him regularly.

Pay attention to the 6 P's:


Other than the mildly off color expression, this is good advice, simply put. What tends to be missing in many students' way of studying is the going back over notes, readings, and other assignments and materials. Going back is when you learn and retain, whether it's academic information or athletics or music or theatre or a hobby.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Saying "yes" to yourself

While this applies to many students, I think first year students are particularly susceptible to placing an emphasis on being accepted and needed. Which is fine because a significant part of being a college student is having friends and helping them out.

But some students find that that desire becomes their top priority. And if some of their friends are quite needy (personally or with their campus involvements), students can find that much of their time is devoted to helping other students and, as a consequence, not working on their studies and their own co-curricular activities.

Students who have struggled with this challenge have found different ways to deal with it. One student who needed to strike a balance between helping other students and making sure she was getting her work done and achieving her own goals, was helped by her mother, who told her, "saying 'no' to someone else is saying 'yes' to yourself."

This, of course, is not always easy, and it takes a certain amount of maturity, self confidence, and clarity about what your personal goals are. And you'll have to problem solve around when you really do need to help someone else or when you can negotiate with your friend: "I can't help you this afternoon, but I can meet with you after dinner."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


When I speak to students about the importance of getting enough and good quality sleep, they almost always ask about naps: are they good? I think they want my permission to take naps because they are unsure or guilty about taking naps.

A nap, almost by definition, is short, and it's not (in American culture) a daily event.

When I ask students how long their naps are, the answer is almost always at least two hours.

That's not a nap; that's a evidence of sleep deprivation. The body is calling out for more rest than what it's being given at night.

And your body, brain, and spirit need enough and good quality sleep on a  regular basis. Your ability to think better and in a more sustained fashion will be improved. Sleep will help you be and stay healthy. And sleep helps you maintain a positive mood. Students who get or start getting better sleep tell me that they feel better about themselves.

Back to naps, if you are getting enough and good quality sleep, a short nap (20-30 minutes) can (according to the Weill Cornell Medical Center) also improve alertness and learning, as well as not interfere with your evening sleep. "Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, find that a[longer nap] clears the brain's short-term memory storage center and makes room for new information. Snoozing for 20 minutes improves alertness and performance without leaving you feeling groggy." (AARP Bulletin, Jan-Feb 2013, pgs 12, 14.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Yes and No

If students are social and like to be with ("hang out") and/or help friends, they can have a lot of their time consumed by those activities. As a consequence, there may be less time to dedicate to their studies.

By all means, achieving a balance of studies and friends/social life is important. If you aren't sure if your time is balanced, track it for a day or two by keeping an account or calendar of how you are spending your time. You may be surprised at how much time is spent on your social life.

Simply put (and I heard this from a student the other day), too much social time is essentially saying "yes" to your friends and "no" to yourself.

You can flip that by 1) reminding yourself of your academic priorities and goals and 2) saying "no" to your friends. While that may seem anti-social and not fun, what you are saying is: by saying "no" to others you are saying "yes" to yourself.

Again, it's a matter of balance. An active social life is a very important part of your college and learning (learning from your peers) experience, but too much time spent with friends may negatively impact your academic learning and performance.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


A student recently shared with me her elegantly simple formula for doing well academically: KRP.
Keep up, review, and practice.