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Things to know about college

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I may be a bit untraditional in my responses, but I’d like to think after 4 years of college, 4 years in a doctoral graduate program, and 6 years post-graduate training, I have some experience. 

 

1. Realize college is about learning inside and outside of the classroom. This is particularly true for people heading to college straight from high school. For the “traditional” college student, this is where you learn to be an adult. Learn to balance work and life. Learn to be social, but not too much.  Learn to explore. Learn to be politically correct when you need to, and to relax when you’re amongst friends. The degree and classes are important, but just like work after college, they are only part of life. 

 

2. Study what you like. This seems clear, but too often people get caught up on how “useful” a degree is after college. The reality is most jobs that want a college degree are looking for the experience and commitment it took to get the degree. I ultimately ended up with a medical degree and practice orthopaedics, but the pedantics of a “premed” curriculum drove me crazy. I enjoy building things (imagine that on this forum), so I studied mechanical engineering, went to medical school where I used none of that academic knowledge and now work somewhere in the middle as a hip and knee reconstructive surgeon. 

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As a person who actually works in a university and interacts with students every day, I'd like to offer this advice as well: for god's sake take your snout out of your cell phone and pay attention.

 

 

It's really baffling, not to mention sad, to see at least half the class not paying attention to the lecture, and instead effing around with a phone or laptop.  That's not why you're here.  You want to do that?  Stay at home and let your place be taken by someone who WANTS to learn.  What really gets me is how so many of the same children who waste their time are the first to whine how the course is too hard, the instructor is unfair, he never said we had to know this (oh, yes he did!  Twice!), he never covered this in class (oh, yes he did!  He actually did a test problem in the review session, and the exact same question showed up on the exam!  Too bad you were texting, eh?)

 

Wish I was kidding, but I'm not.  And the problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

 

Sigh.

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17 hours ago, FluffyK said:

As a person who actually works in a university and interacts with students every day, I'd like to offer this advice as well: for god's sake take your snout out of your cell phone and pay attention.

 

Wish I was kidding, but I'm not.  And the problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

 

I teach history courses, so I put their phones and laptops to good use.  When I suspect someone's using their device for reasons other than class-related activities, I start asking them to look things up, at intervals designed to crater their concentration.  Harassment & Interdiction Fire:  "Hey, Brad, since you've got the internet handy, tell us exactly when the U.S. Air Force was created?  Really?  Okay now tell us when Harry Truman ordered desegregation of the Armed Forces."  

 

...A few additional comments to the class, or getting other's students perspectives, just long enough to let Brad get settled in back at Youtube, and then:  "Hey, Brad, tell us when the draft is re-instituted?"  

 

...Just as he's trying to figure out where he was in that YouTube video: "What do you think, Brad?  What's the national security picture in the late '40s, for the United States?  Or what else might be shaping the changes in the U.S. Military at that point?"  

 

You're right, Brad. I'm messin' with you.  But on the up-side, you are going to learn to think historically, bro.   

 

Some professors ban laptops.  I don't.  That's not a realistic environment, given what they'll see and do in the working world.  They need to learn IT discipline.  Moreover, I'm left-handed, our handwriting is designed for right-handed people, and I much prefer a keyboard.  I wished I had a laptop in college, so I'm not going to tell students they can't have one in class.  

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6 hours ago, Fishwelding said:

 

I teach history courses, so I put their phones and laptops to good use.  When I suspect someone's using their device for reasons other than class-related activities, I start asking them to look things up, at intervals designed to crater their concentration.  Harassment & Interdiction Fire:  "Hey, Brad, since you've got the internet handy, tell us exactly when the U.S. Air Force was created?  Really?  Okay now tell us when Harry Truman ordered desegregation of the Armed Forces."  

 

...A few additional comments to the class, or getting other's students perspectives, just long enough to let Brad get settled in back at Youtube, and then:  "Hey, Brad, tell us when the draft is re-instituted?"  

 

...Just as he's trying to figure out where he was in that YouTube video: "What do you think, Brad?  What's the national security picture in the late '40s, for the United States?  Or what else might be shaping the changes in the U.S. Military at that point?"  

 

You're right, Brad. I'm messin' with you.  But on the up-side, you are going to learn to think historically, bro.   

 

Some professors ban laptops.  I don't.  That's not a realistic environment, given what they'll see and do in the working world.  They need to learn IT discipline.  Moreover, I'm left-handed, our handwriting is designed for right-handed people, and I much prefer a keyboard.  I wished I had a laptop in college, so I'm not going to tell students they can't have one in class.  

 

Our classes run from a minimum of 70 to well over 200 students.  We just can't spare the time to chase down individuals.  It would be far too costly, since we have a helluva lot of material to cover. 

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To play devil’s advocate, college is about learning to learn. If a professor can’t hold your attention and you choose to be on your phone, it’s a free world and you can. Just remember you have to prove you have the knowledge at some point. I had physics classes I didn’t go to a single class. I learned the material on my own and proved it on the midterm and final. Professors who took attendance or got on a high horse about no phones/laptops to pay attention got on my nerves. The onus is on you to hold our attention. As long as we learn the material, it shouldn’t matter how. 

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Someone said to me that all that crap of term papers and tests were to see if you

could do the work, not just be book smart but put up with all the rules and tests.

They told me that's what employers or firms wanted, not only intelligent people but

those who could go by the rules and do the paper work. Hmmmmmm guess I was

misled.---John

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On 4/22/2018 at 8:31 PM, ESzczesniak said:

 The onus is on you to hold our attention. As long as we learn the material, it shouldn’t matter how. 

 

 

No.  The onus is on the student to come prepared to class, which includes paying attention.  We're not here to try and compete with Snapchat.  This isn't entertainment, it's education.  If they find it boring, maybe they're in the wrong major.

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Posted (edited)

Learning does not require lecture attendance. Everyone is free to learn however they learn best. A college professor trying to “educate” should, of all people, understand that it’s about the process to acquire knowledge, not the knowledge itself.

 

Many people do not learn well in a lecture format. It is smart and efficient to learn however you learn best and not waste time where you don’t learn. 

 

If snapchat is too big a distraction, then it’ll show on their papers, reports, and exams. And then they prove they just don’t have the dedication to learn. But if they have the knowledge, it doesn’t matter how they got to that point. 

 

I can tell you for sure that as much as I love some of the things I studied, there is no way to make a lecture on something like differential equations or heat transfer interesting. They are necessary tools to an end, but tools can only be so interesting when they’re being looked at on a shelf rather than applied. 

Edited by ESzczesniak

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Never EVER choose a degree/major with the word "Studies" in it.  Ask me how I know.

 

Sort of hand-in-hand with that, get your Bachelor's degree.  It shows potential employers that you know how to navigate your way through bureacracy and that you can finish what you start.  Next, after getting your Bachelor's, never stop learning.  Go back and attend a tech school so you can learn all the stuff a 4-year university never taught you.  In the process, you'll learn how the real world works and you'll pick up some practical job and life skills.

 

Eric

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Also, as part of a good resume - certs, certs and more certs.   You can never have enough certs.   Same applies for licenses. And once you have a license, never let it lapse.   

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This is all great info/advice...in case I ever decide to get a degree.

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Don’t need a degree to succeed but for more and more companies, you can’t even get a menial job without a BS.   Thankfully my company is an exception to this.   Personally, in most roles I’d rather hire a person with no degree but who has spent time “in the trenches”.   

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8 hours ago, FluffyK said:

No.  The onus is on the student to come prepared to class, which includes paying attention.  We're not here to try and compete with Snapchat.  This isn't entertainment, it's education.  If they find it boring, maybe they're in the wrong major.

Or maybe they should be out working.

 

Learning in college is about READING. You need to do all the assigned reading, homework, labs, papers, &etc. Don't ever even think about whining to the prof that they didn't cover some test problem in class or didn't say it would be on the test. 

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The issue of whether or not students or professors are responsible for learning is too big to be profitably argued on the internet.  I run somewhere in the middle, because I take very seriously my responsibility to provide for "active learning" in the classroom, while yes, lecturing on topics wherein there simply isn't a better way available for several reasons.  (And it's often forgotten in these debates that there are students who prefer lecture.  No kidding.)  On the other hand, there are students who need to figure out why they are in college and, if necessary, get out (which might mean go to another school that's better suited to their goals.)  That said, universities are under spectacular pressure these days from parents to hound their kids like military schools do.  Often what parents think they pay tuition for is precisely someone to chase after their son or daughter and badger them to do the work.  Frankly, they don't want their kids treated like adults.  I've seen breathtaking examples of aggressive parent intervention in the last two years.

 

The alleged gap between academics, even in the arcane humanities fields like Classics or Philosophy, and the "real world" starts to disappear the more you realize that leadership, including good military leadership, does things that look remarkably similar to writing good history, philosophy, or even "studies" papers: come up with relevant questions to ask in a particular situation, subject, or problem.  Assess sources of information as to quality, intent, and relevance.  Assemble information into a coherent understanding of a situation, while realizing the limits of your understanding - that's called knowledge.  Make a case: be able to communicate that understanding to others efficiently, argue in favor it, and possible courses of action that follow from it.  And, the brass ring, the mark of a master: be able to intelligently evaluate other people's arguments concerning a matter.  Oh, and I almost forgot: all of this completed within deadlines.   If you are not a leader, and don't plan to be one then no, these aren't relevant skills.  In any event, these skills pretty reliably beat such folk remedies as "follow the money" and "go with your gut," especially when there are lives or money on the line.    

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4 hours ago, 11bee said:

Don’t need a degree to succeed but for more and more companies, you can’t even get a menial job without a BS.   Thankfully my company is an exception to this.   Personally, in most roles I’d rather hire a person with no degree but who has spent time “in the trenches”.   

 

Interesting comment... I recently applied for a job as a vehicle inspector and being that I was a former GM certified tech with 20+ years in, I figured I was well qualified for the job. I could take a car apart, sans internals on the transmission, put it back together and make it run.  I was detailed oriented enough to spot hidden body damage and repaint jobs so figured I would get the position. I got passed over for a younger recent college grad with a degree but had little to no vehicle experience. That was pretty obvious when I interacted with the kid about 2 months later when I was looking a car the place had on their wholesale lot.

 

So yeah in that case that piece of paper trumps 20+ experience.

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On 4/24/2018 at 8:45 AM, ESzczesniak said:

 

Many people do not learn well in a lecture format. It is smart and efficient to learn however you learn best and not waste time where you don’t learn. 

 

I’m sure that works great in college.   In most companies though, there are no provisions for “alternative” learning methods to cater to individuals with those difficulties.   

 

If you can’t / won’t learn in a formal lecture or business meeting setting, you are going to be in for a rude awakening once you are in the real world.   

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5 hours ago, 11bee said:

I’m sure that works great in college.   In most companies though, there are no provisions for “alternative” learning methods to cater to individuals with those difficulties.   

 

If you can’t / won’t learn in a formal lecture or business meeting setting, you are going to be in for a rude awakening once you are in the real world.   

 

These are not “difficulties “.  And all the real world really cares about is that you get stuff done. It’s been over a decade since I’ve been in college, so I’m far from inexperienced in the work world. 

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It's probably true that there's too much lecturing in college and students learn better when it's broken up by other activities.  But it's fashionable among education experts to make lecture sound like a war-crime needlessly inflicted on hapless students, and that's exaggeration.   "Death-by-PowerPoint" is what you can expect later in many professions, so college faculty are probably preparing you for the working world, anyway. Plus, think of popular TV documentaries about history, such as Ken Burns' series: basically it's pan-and-zoom historical images, video where available, narration, and historians talking at you.  That's not much different from a lecture where a professor has some charisma and really meaningful imagery, except in a good classroom lecture can mingle with conversation, as students and the professor pose questions.  There's even businesses that package and sell audio or video lectures by professors, so lectures are not as universally hated as critics claim. 

 

Here's me, in fact, hard at work in the classroom: 

 

In history classes the most common alternative to lecture is having students read sources beforehand, and discuss them as a group in class.  But these days even better college students seemingly struggle with lengthy reading.  Who's to blame? The Internet and phones?  Parents who failed to instill a work ethic?  Students who work full-time, not to cover the cost of school but to own material things like newish iPhones or cars?  This is the stuff of endless internet-bloating debate.  I've gotten more students to take reading seriously by explaining to them why long-form text - books and articles, paper or digital - will still matter in the next thirty years, at least for knowledge workers who might become leaders.  I do this because I don't think it's obvious even to intelligent, diligent teenagers who didn't receive expensive college prep education that lengthy reading is still valuable.  

 

What's more, there isn't always a good source on a topic that practically fits into a class schedule, and even to willing students there's only so much reading I can practically assign. In explaining the strategic dilemma the U.S. had created for itself in the Philippines prior to World War II, I could have them read an entire book on the topic, but frankly I'd rather have them read something better on another topic (perhaps a lengthy soldier's diary set during World War II or the Vietnamese civil war) and just explain the "War Plan Orange" situation myself. 

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