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Monday, December 28, 2009

Is There a Such Thing As a "Stupid Question?"

My apologies, but there’s no clever introduction to this one. I have to jump right into the answer to the question of the day…YES, YES, YES, there is a such thing as a “stupid question.” So, the real question is, how do I make sure I’m not the one, asking all of the stupid questions. Well, the best way to make sure you never ask a stupid question is by, well, by simply paying attention. There is nothing more embarrassing – and by embarrassing, I mean people laughing at you – there is nothing more embarrassing than someone who asks a question that was asked and answered just 30 seconds ago. Oh, wait, it’s also pretty darn embarrassing when people ask question and the answer can be found in (1) last night’s readings, (2) the syllabus, or (3) in the PowerPoint slide that’s pulled up right now.

If the Prof says, “Homework assignment #5 is due next Tuesday at the beginning of class,” and you ask five minutes late, “When is #5 due?” Stupid question. Questions like, “When are your office hours?” (likely found on the syllabus), “When is the final paper due?” (on the syllabus), “Why do we have to do this?” (just flat out too stupid to put on the syllabus), or anything similar to these, well, these qualify as “stupid questions.” Please don’t waste your classmates; or the Prof’s time by subliminally telling the entire room, “I don’t take this course seriously. Actually, I don’t take my education seriously and I certainly don’t care if you do because I enjoy being annoying.” Yeah, that’s the subtext of any stupid question.

Word to the wise: Prepare for each class meeting. And if you don’t have the time to do so, or you don’t care to – because there will be days like this – well, don’t say anything. Just sit in the back of the class and nod your head. Don’t interrupt others’ learning. Period. Please remember that college is designed for you to actually learn (believe it or not); and if you can’t respect that, then you’re in the wrong place. All questions should be reserved for advancing your knowledge and increasing your level of understanding of the information. So, reserve questions for just that and please, please, please don’t hesitate to ask questions that help you build knowledge. There’s no more to add. Prepare yourself. Take each class meeting seriously (you’re paying for it). And, don’t interrupt others students who are trying to learn because you don’t care. Next question.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Junior College vs 4-Year University Pt. II

So, you’re seriously considering starting off your collegiate career at a two year junior college, huh? Well, this very well may be the most responsible decision you’ve made in your life. Now, I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. I’m sure that the successful person you become, that person, that debt-free person appreciates this decision. DISCLAIMER: The Dean of Sistahs University does not argue that one route is better than the other. Again, if your parents, you yourself, the University, or maybe our wonderful government have agreed to pay for you to attend a four-year institution and this won’t leave you in debt, go for it! Those who don’t have the same options are those who I’m talking to in this post.

Okay, now that we’re on the same page, let’s get back to it!

Here are just a few quick tips and little reasoning for each.
1. Take this seriously!
a. Junior college is not a joke; so, if you’re serious about making it to
the next level, please don’t think about junior college as the red-headed step-child of a “real” college. Buckle up, because ju-co’s are very, very real! And, they’re not a piece of cake. Classes will be smaller, but they won’t necessarily be easier. So, take advantage of the smaller classes and the one-on-one attention; but stay on your toes, because you’ll have to work hard.

2. Set a deadline for graduation. (READ: Don't be the seven-year senior)
a. Granted, this might make a few people angry, but procrastination does not rule this nation. Don’t fool yourself, many people go into two year institutions and take seven years to finish or they never finish at all! Yes, there are different obstacles that can prevent folks from finishing. People lose parents, run into financial problems, and some take time off to do some soul searching. Others are, well, just lazy. In any case, life doesn’t stop. You still have to work to survive; so, why not push through the hard times, push through the classes and the coursework, and push through to success. Get ‘er done and finish in 2, 2 ½ years.

3. Be prepared for the extra, more difficult work.
a. If you assume that junior colleges aren’t “real” colleges and the work will be a piece of cake, you’re sadly mistaken. Many of the Professors at Ju-co’s are tenured Profs or doctoral students at the four-year institution up the street. So, you’re getting their expertise at a discounted price. But, they don’t kick their expectations into a lower gear because they’re on a different campus. They’re going to push you. So, yes, Junior colleges are still “real” colleges and you’ll be doing more work and putting in more hours cranking out more homework than you did in high school. Consider yourself warned (gives motherly, squinted eye, I’m looking at you look).

4. Meet with an advisor early and often. (This is the most important thing you do once you get on campus.)
a. The first thing you MUST do is find out if your credits will transfer to four-year institutions. Sometimes, classes only count toward your ju-co Associate’s degree and do not carry over. There is no need in taking classes over again. Don’t waste your life. An easily way to save time once you get to the four-year, find out if your classes can transfer. In order to know this, you also need to start thinking about what college/university you want to transfer to once you finish. Then, you need to start doing your research to find out (1) if they have the program you want, (2) how many students before you successfully transferred to this institution. A lot of ju-co’s have really good relationships and programs that help you progress from the ju-co to the four-year. Ask your advisor about them! Now! In your first year!

5. Keep your grades up! Good grades are a necessity to transfer.
a. No explanation. Keep your grades up! Period. Move on.

6. Get involved on campus.
a. Attend meetings. Take on a leadership position. Volunteer. Start an organization. Walk on to an athletic team. Join the student council. You can’t just have good grades anymore; you have to couple a solid GPA with hours logged in around campus. These things will set you apart from your colleagues and other applicants.

Alright, class is dismissed! Take this advice. Run with it. Share it. Embrace it. Live it! Peace.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Junior College vs. Four-Year University

Wondering if you should start off in the minors or go right to the big leagues? More and more people are choosing to start their collegiate careers at 2-year junior/community colleges instead of jumping right into the much more expensive alternative – mega-Universities. With the economy still recovering from the Rega-Bushanomic hangover, it’s just silly to jump into a 4 – 7 year commitment with a University you don’t even know that well! (Are you sensing the relationship metaphor?) Before you put a ring on it, shop around!

Let me be crystal clear; that perfect diamond that Jay put on Bey’s finger kind of clear. Your first two years at the University are spent taking basic courses like English 101, Effective Public Speaking, Biology 102, Business 103, and so on. Honey, you don’t have to pay 12,000 large for these classes. Trust! If it’s not being paid for by a trust fund, a scholarship, or financial aid, you do NOT have to force yourself to attend a University. Who cares what others think? Who cares where other people are going? If you worry about what other people think about you attending a junior college, you ought to think about your future bank account and how it will feel about paying back $30k - $100k in student loans. Um, yeah.

First of all, most people don’t even make it through their first year. Some don’t even make it through the first semester. So, why throw away tens of thousands of dollars for one year of English 101? It ain’t that exciting! Trust, the government and major companies who hand out loans like hot cakes won’t care that college just wasn’t for you, or that you had to go home to help out your mom, or that it took you a while to adjust and you ended up on academic probation. They don’t care, they want their money as soon as you drop out, give or take 6 months – shout out to Sallie Mae! WHOMP.

In part I of this post, I say go for it! Regardless of what your parents think, where your best friend is going, or what your pride is telling you, really consider your options – ALL of your options. I have great friends who started off at 2-year junior colleges and then transferred to the same University I started my journey in. Guess what, we ended up having the same degree from the same University at the same time, and I can almost guarantee that they have less than ¼ of the debt I have. (Sticks tongue out at them.) In part II of this post, I’ll cover how we can make junior college work for you!