My advice: How to be successful in your undergrad years

How to be a successful English major

I’ve just finished my fifth semester in college with a full course load of thirteen credit hours, and I feel very accomplished. Granted, I did take a long break during this time; I finished my first year back in 2007. I’m an English Major and applying to transfer next fall. I broke up my sophomore English lit courses, and successfully finished one after the other this past spring and summer. I haven’t taken any writing courses since then, but with the fall semester finished, I’m done spending all my time studying for classes I struggle with, like math. I can get back to my true loves, reading and writing, and my purpose for this article. I have talked with a lot of students during my time in a community college. That “sentence” sounds like I was doing time in prison (hmm very similar). I am not always social, but I’ve always been interested in education; so I make it a point to have academic discussions with peers. This gives me a chance to compare myself to other students, and see what is working or is not for their classes. I found it necessary to compile this list of success tips after a discussion that I had today with a fellow student. I find most of this to be common sense, but there is always someone who misses the boat on at least a few of these. It will be helpful for anyone that is a type “A” personality, or for someone that just wants to be a better human being.

This female student (who shall remain anonymous) talked with me today about her experience in her British lit course. I found it very informative, not only because she has a similar interest–writing, but also that she was getting a “D” in the course. She expressed her frustration with her missed opportunity of doing well, and stated that she was mistaken in hearing her professor’s instructions about a paper being optional. I found this very sad, and the fact that she was accepting this low grade is something that could’ve easily been avoided. (This is a classic example of what not to do!) I can tell you why, and give you the five mistakes she made. When she told me that she did write the paper, but didn’t turn it in because she didn’t like the way it sounded, I said to myself right away, “that is her first mistake.” You can’t be a perfectionist with too much pride in college; it will get you into trouble. Accept that you are here to learn and that you will not impress your prof with a perfect paper, anyhow. Mistake number two, not talking with your professor to clarify their instructions. Number three, not making an effort to visit with your prof to see what you can do to get this grade up; instead, she took a zero. Number four; don’t miss your classes and opportunities to begin with. Five; why do you think it is ok to be absent five or more times and still do well? If you have a legitimate excuse, make it known right away!
If you have ever taken a semester, you would know at a community college, especially, they require a really annoying and crappy class called “College Success,” or something equally lame. I was forced into taking this my freshman year, and did well, but that isn’t why I am bringing this up. This class is pointless; I will be frank with you; if you can get around it in any way, do it. It’s a waste of time and money, and will not help you at all; not to mention, that it will not transfer as a class for most degrees, or give you any sort of valuable requirement. If its aim is to make you successful, it does not. People either have the IQ for college at the start, or they must be willing to put in their time and energy. If it were up to me, I would get rid of this class all together. I would then invest in some math readiness courses and a seminar that can help you determine your goals; and if there was enough money left over, real actual counselors that can help you get what you need; to get out of college with a degree. This leads me to my next topic of advice. The school counselors are full of it, and when I say full of it; I mean they don’t even know what they are doing, or how to get the right answers when they try.
My personal experience is this, if you want to do well, you are going to have to invest some time and energy, and do it on your own. No one is going to do this for you, and if you are lucky you will meet some gem people along the way that actually care to see you reach your goals. So, regarding counselors; they usually have the wrong information, won’t take responsibility, and do nothing in guiding decisions for the right classes. Academic counselors, in particular, do not understand degree requirements, and often, just cause more problems than I can count. For example, I have talked with numerous academic counselors; one in particular, led me to believe that my degree plan was offered at a University that I was interested in transferring to. Unfortunately, this was not the case, but after I did some research I was able to avoid this mistake.
I have not met other students exactly like me, or with the same interests and goals for that matter. I can guarantee, though, that there are similar people that experience difficulties, and have hard times outside of their academic life. This is a challenge, I too, have had, and I would like to give you some insights that have helped me in my successes in college up to this point. My hope is that these tips can help you, not only in your English courses, but any other dreaded courses you may have, too.
Here are the top tips that I can give you to do well in your semesters in college; they will make you very successful when you do them regularly. These are not tips that you can do once and be golden; these are repeated behaviors that will help you in the future.

I. Make a point of getting to know people; faculty, administration, financial aid, librarians and students—they will be the best help to you.
II. Try to figure out what you want to get out of college right away; if you don’t know what you like, at least don’t do something you hate for the sake of the money, or status. This almost always goes against you later on.
III. Get a degree plan, and if you can get someone to sign off on the courses you need to take, even better. Pick a degree and stick with it.
IV. Talk to your professors, they are actually paid to teach you. Wow! What innovation. I know many students that refuse to take advantage of office hours. This is vital in doing well in your courses. If you don’t speak up, ask questions, or utter a few words to your professor, why are they supposed to care about you come end of semester? And that letter of recommendation that you wanted—forget about it!
V. Wait to buy your book “new” until the first week of class, try other options first; and if you need to get it wholesale or used try ordering it ASAP.
VI. Take advantage of every opportunity, like seriously, what’s it hurt in asking if you can do a rewrite, or some extra credit to get your grade up? The worst that could happen is a prof says, “No,” and now you will never know, because you didn’t take that opportunity to ask.
VII. Turn in your papers and assignments on time. It doesn’t matter if they are “perfect.” If you turn in nothing, you will get a big fat “0” and this is much harder to recover from.
VIII. Don’t be late, just don’t. It’s rude and disrespectful. Plus, your prof. almost always knows.
IX. Which leads me to the next point of success, always show up prepared, and don’t miss excessive classes. If you do, you will probably only do average, or worse. Strive for an A, why not?
X. Keep your phone and other electronics off and put away. It pisses other students off who are trying to learn, and most professors find it offensive. I suggest taking your notes the old fashioned way, with notebook paper and a pencil, and if you must use a computer, ask first.
XI. Give up your life. No, seriously, this is like the only way that you will do well in college; especially if you are already like the other mediocre community college students. Give up your drug and alcohol habits; these will only hurt you in the long run. Give up your annoying bf that is distracting you from your goals. Give up excessive TV and internet use. Cut back your hours at work or just do less bad things.
XII. Last but not least, invest more time to study, and do important things like cultivating skills that you will actually use. If you want to write, spend more time writing. If you want to be good at math, do more problems. If you want to do something well, you should do it every day. And if you want to be successful, you will be. This is my overall tip for you. If you care, you can succeed at anything that you put your mind to. Most people have low self-esteem to begin with so you are making strives just by being in class and trying. But everything takes practice, and rarely does it come easy the first time around. My method is this, if it sucks the first time, try, try again. And if the writing sucks (which, it usually does), revise, revise, and then edit some more.


The Good Dinosaur: Anything But; Disney and Pixar’s Missed Mark

The Good Dinosaur: Anything But; Disney and Pixar’s Missed MarkGood Dinosaur Image

Apparently there is no escaping fear and terror, even in a children’s cartoon. I am not a conservative parent by any stretch. I would not consider myself over protective or a religious fanatic either. I am overwhelming moderate and have very liberal views when it comes to the media, television and movie content. However, I am deeply upset and irritated after watching The Good Dinosaur, by Disney and Pixar, and feel justified in my frustration. I will not trust the rating system moving forward, or go to a movie that Disney has made, and think that it will automatically be “PG”. This is the first movie I have seen that truly upset me and caused unnecessary fear for my children. I am angry because of the market schemes that this company uses and their misrepresentations of movies; this one in particular. Disney and Pixar know that children relate to and love animals, and dinosaurs in general are of high interest to little boys. After watching the movie trailer, a parent could assume this would be a happy movie about a “Good Dinosaur” that is going on an adventure and meets a little cave boy critter along the way. Nothing would warn the viewer of the terror and fear The Good Dinosaur creates. For my family, in particular, we were severely traumatized. Parents beware. There is a market for this movie, but it is not appropriate for young children, nor is it an emotionally satisfying film. The only lesson that it teaches, is to beware of wrong movie ratings, and to do your research before going to a “PG” film.

I have a son and daughter, who are both under five years of age. I do understand that there are dark movies that Disney puts out, like The Pirates of the Caribbean, for example. But this movie, in particular, missed the mark, and their target audience. Looking at the title, the average movie goer would assume a gentle and friendly dinosaur movie. This was not the case, and it had scenes of gratuitous violence at every turn. I was not expecting Disney to deceive viewers and market this movie as “A Land Before Time” type. They used every opportunity to penetrate violence into the film. Growing up I watched a lot of Disney movies, and there is always a conflict with “bad animals” like the hyenas in the Lion King. There is also death in Bambi, when his mother dies at the beginning. This is not the issue. The issue I have with The Good Dinosaur is this; a children’s movie is supposed to have conflict, resolution, and redeeming social value. The Good Dinosaur does not, and uses excessive violence to show conflict. Disney misrepresented this movie. The plot themes have so much going on; it created terror instead of entertainment. What level of violence is needed to entertain nowadays? This is ridiculous, and needs to be addressed, and I will bring attention to it.

It’s a sorry depiction of,” kindness can change everything,” it’s more like “fear can change everything.”

Disney Pixar missed the mark in these areas; after watching the video trailer, the editing, song choice, and catch phrases come across as light-hearted fun; it seems like a movie that would be comparable to “Ice age” but it is nothing like this. For example one of the catch phrases that was used, was, “Kindness can change everything,” it’s more like, “fear can change everything.” This “kindness” was nowhere in the movie. The only themes in this movie were fear, death, terror, and how to be an orphaned dinosaur in the wilderness. If Disney thinks its ok to make a trailer with a happy family of Apatosaurus and then play a Monsters and Men song, “Crystals,” they need get real; be realistic and honest with what you are really putting out, sadness and destruction.

Some examples of terror include; the violent forces of nature, and the destruction the storm causes. The violent river scene in which Arlow’s father gets swept away and drowned—a double manipulation of death and violence. Arlow is scared of the lightening throughout the movie and the climbing of the mountain out in the wilderness; he endures injuries under the rock. The death and loss theme was also present, as I pointed out, with the father’s death and with the orphan cave boy critter, Spot. This was another unnecessary emotional upset. Continuing with violence, if these examples aren’t enough, Disney pushed it further, with talk of blood spill and killing from the cowboy hick, Buck, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, in the campfire scene. The creepy freak, Triceratops, says words out of the blue like; killer, murderer, and critter, when describing “Spot.” This was after the scary encounter with the red cobra snake. Then, there are the evil, pterodactyls that Arlow meets on the mountain after the storm. One eats a freed raccoon alive after Arlow saves it from under a tree. To top it off, they drown in the river when Arlow fights to save his critter friend, Spot from the rapids. Let’s wrap all this up with the strange and weird scene with the hallucinations, when Arlow and Spot eat red berries, more like “shrooms.”

I wanted to go see a family friendly movie for the holidays, and this movie was nothing but terror and fear. I ended up having to console my daughter four times during the film, and made her cover her eyes.  If you want a violent film in every aspect of killing, nature, and death, this is the movie for you, and a market you should invent. The mother in me says that this is not appropriate for a PG audience.  Parents, avoid this “Good Dinosaur,” and go see The Peanuts Movie this holiday season instead.