Sarah L. Mabrouk's Advice to Students.  Please left-click to go to the home page.

College is a wonderful time for learning as well as growing as a person.  But, at times, college work can be challenging or seem overwhelming.  Below is some advice to students: I hope that this will be helpful to you throughout college as well as into the future.

personal schedule | attending classes | your goals | your advisor | making friends
be respectful | course etiquette | remote meeting etiquette
staying healthy and in good spirits | homesick | phone, tablet, and laptop | class notes
course readings | practice exercises | assignments | questions | extra help | study groups
 academic honesty | your instructorsin-class conduct  |  social media

Make a personal schedule.  Start with your class schedule and add to that times for meals, studying, sleep, personal hygiene, doing laundry, cleaning your room, grocery shopping if you prepare your own meals, staying in touch with family and friends, attending campus events or club meetings, personal time (me-time), and a job or volunteer work (limit these hours as college is a full-time "job").  Following a personal schedule will provide stability especially if you are on your own for the first time.

Attend all classes.  It is your responsibility to attend classes. Each class meeting is important, and you must make up all work for classes which you do not attend.  If you miss a class, get class notes from another member of the class:  do not expect the instructor to provide you with class notes, and do not ask an instructor if you missed anything important because you did miss important course content.  By not attending classes, you jeopardize your course grade: you miss valuable course material and topic discussions, class and group problem solving, and examples, all of which affect your understanding of course material and affect your ability to do assignments as well as your performance on quizzes and/or examinations.  When you do not attend classes, you miss opportunities to participate in and contributed to course discussions and  this affects the course participation component of your grade.

Course Etiquette.  All electronic devices which are not being used as part of course work should be turned off and put away during course meetings. You should pay attention and participate during course meetings. You cannot do so when you are, for example, texting, monitoring social media, watching videos, playing games, surfing the web, or doing assignments for other courses: such activities should be done on your time, not during course meetings. You cannot concentrate on course material, make valuable contributions during course meetings, or learn when you are not paying attention.

Remote Meeting Etiquette.  Select a quiet place, devoid of interruptions and sans background noise, in which can participate during remote meetings so that you will not disturb others.  Join remote meetings at least five (5) minutes before the meeting start-time:  it is disrespectful to disrupt a virtual meeting by arriving late.  Use headphones or a headset rather than the speakers on your computer for sound; it is best to use headphones or a headset which includes a built-in microphone.  When you join a meeting, mute your microphone.  Unmute your microphone only when it is your turn to contribute, and do not talk-over or interrupt others.  When using your camera, make sure that meeting-members can see your face clearly; use proper lighting so that your image is appropriately illuminated and position your camera so that your whole face is displayed fully on the screen.  Pay attention and contribute relevant information.  Do not use with system tools or the chat feature in an inappropriate or distracting manner.  Use respectful language at all times:  use of profanity is unacceptable.  Keep in mind that remote meetings will be recorded so that those who cannot attend or those who want to review course meetings may do so later.

Keep your goals in sight.  You should have goals for the future as well as goals related to your courses:  keep your goals in sight and in mind.  Everything that you do is a step toward achieving your goals.  Selecting friends who have similar goals will help you to complete your work in a timely manner as well as provide a positive support system.  Do not let others sidetrack you from your goals:  true friends want you to succeed and true friends will never let play-time negatively affect your studies.

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Meet with your advisor.  Meet with your advisor at the beginning of the semester (rather than waiting for the mid-semester registration period) so that you can ask any questions that you have as well as to consult your advisor regarding course or program changes that you would like to make.  Discussing your career, course, and program interests with your advisor will help you to select a suitable major concentration and, if desired, a minor concentration appropriate for your intellectual and/or career interests; doing so will enable you to make a plan for completing your program of study in a timely manner as well.  Consulting your advisor regarding course problems will enable you to get appropriate help.  Your advisor can be your academic guide and advocate -- an encourager -- throughout college, if you let her/him.

Making friends.  Be open to meeting new people:  make eye contact, smile, be friendly, and do not just look your phone, tablet, or laptop.  Remember that you are not alone as other students are interested in making friends as well.  Introduce yourself to those in your classes:  this will help you to form study groups as well as be helpful during in-class group work.  Introduce yourself to your neighbors in your dorm, and be open to joining someone who is sitting alone in the dining hall.  Do not do things that make your feel uncomfortable or that you know are unacceptable or wrong in order to fit in with others -- the consequences of such actions may be costly and change you more than you know.  Be true to yourself and to your values:  making friends never involves changing yourself in negative ways, and making friends never involves doing things of which you do not approved.   Anyone who says "You would do this if you were my friend." is NOT your friend as friendship does not impose conditions or ultimatums.  Do not be discouraged as making true friends takes time:  seek others who have similar values and goals as you can support and encourage each other.  Keep in mind that true friends want you to succeed:  true friends encourage you to do your work, to complete your assignments, and to study rather than expecting you to go-out-and-play or party with them.  Do not forget that having true friends means being a true friend to others as well.

Be respectful of others.  Everyone is unique.  It is uniqueness that makes every person special:  value individuality and learn from it.   Everyone learns in a different manner and at varied rates.  While one example may be sufficient for one person, someone else may need additional examples and/or alternate scenarios in order to understand how to apply concepts and methods.  Be patient when others ask questions or request additional examples as supplementary discussions, alternate explanations, and further illustrations are beneficial for everyone.  The occasions when you understand a topic but other students seem to have difficulty are opportunities for you to contribute to course discussions by providing explanations in your own words which may help others to gain understanding; these are openings for making new friends as well.  Have empathy for others when they have difficulty with concepts or methods as there may be topics with which you have difficulty too.  Remember that you are all learning together:  be considerate of everyone, encourage one another, and help each other to learn.  Doing so as well as valuing the differences and abilities of others are essential parts of respecting others.

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Staying healthy and in good spirits.  Eat well and do not become obsessed with college weight-gain -- it happens, accept it.  Get your sleep:  you mind functions best when you get your rest, and you learn better when you are well-rested.  Do you course work and study as this reduces stress:  putting off your course work causes stress.  During your weekly me-time, give yourself a treat -- watch a movie or a TV program that you enjoy, listen to music or enjoy some game-time (but do not let game-time get out of hand), work on some crafts or hobbies that you enjoy, read for pleasure, or just relax.  Join a club, an on-campus activity, and/or a volunteer effort as these are nice ways in which to be active, develop your interests, and make new friends.  Stay in touch with family and friends:  scheduling your calls to others will ensure that they are available and expecting your calls as well as give you something to which to look forward each week.

Homesick.  If you are homesick, take steps toward making the campus your home by making friends in your dorm as well as in your classes, join clubs and attend campus events, meet with other students for study sessions, and take a walk on campus (fresh air is nice and the walk will be relaxing).  Talk with others including your instructors and your advisor as they may have had similar experiences.  Consider your coursework as a welcome distraction as it is an avenue through which you can settle into college and your means for achieving your goals.  Consider your new situation as a part of the adventure which enables you to become the person that you want to be.

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Phone, Tablet, and Laptop.  Turn off your phone, tablet, and laptop during class:  you should be paying attention during class, contributing to class discussions and problem solving, and taking notes.  Texting, updating your social media status, checking the social media status of others, shopping, playing games, watching videos and/or using various phone apps should be done on your time, NOT during class time.  While you may believe that updating your Facebook status, texting a friend, playing games, or watching a video during class will not affect your grades, a study published on July 26, 2018 in Educational Psychology online and reported in Inside Higher Ed on July 27, 2018 found that divided attention during class negatively affects long-term retention of course material and reduces student performance on examinations.  If you want to do well in your classes then you must turn off the electronic distractions and be an active participant and contributor during your classes.

Contemplate how you take notes:  while many consider taking notes to be simply recording information, how you take notes -- writing by-hand or typing -- affects learning and how you process (synthesize and summarize content) and remember information ("The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking", Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer, Psychological Science, Vol. 25, Issue 6, April 23, 2014, pp. 1159 - 1168).  Cindi May summarizes the Mueller and Oppenheimer study in her June 3, 2014 article "A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop" for Scientific American stating "students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more" and "those who wrote out their notes by hand had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who used took notes with their laptops." So, while those who take notes using a laptop may have more verbatim notes, those who take notes longhand "listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information." The study found that "high verbatim note content was associated with lower retention of the lecture material", and May states that "It appears that students who use laptops can take notes in a fairly mindless, rote fashion, with little analysis or synthesis by the brain." as well as "This kind of shallow transcription fails to promote a meaningful understanding or application of the information."  An interesting outcome of the study is that even with delayed assessment, "those who took longhand notes outperformed laptop participants." Mueller and Oppenheimer theorized that this is "because longhand notes contain students’ own words and handwriting" which "may serve as more effective memory cues by recreating the context (e.g., thought processes, emotions, conclusions) as well as content (e.g., individual facts) from the original learning session." 

Carefully consider what you are are doing and what is turned-on around you while you are studying as multitasking negatively impacts learning.  Annie Murphy Paul's May 3, 2013 article "How Does Multitasking Change the Way Kids Learn?" on Mind/Shift on KQED News summarizes research on "media multitasking while learning". Paul states that "evidence from psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience suggests that when students multitask while doing schoolwork, their learning is far spottier and shallower than if the work had their full attention" and that "they understand and remember less, and they have greater difficulty transferring their learning to new contexts."   Paul mentions Rosen's study ("Facebook and texting made me do it: Media-induced task-switching while studying", Larry D. Rosen, L. Mark Carrier, and Nancy A. Cheever, Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 29, 2013, pp 948 - 958) for which "students who used Facebook during the 15-minute observation period had lower grade-point averages than those who didn’t go on the site" and recent studies by Reynol Junco which "found that texting and using Facebook—in class and while doing homework—were negatively correlated with college students’ GPAs." Paul goes on to quote Reynol Junco and Shelia R. Cotten ("No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic performance", Reynol Junco and Shelia R. Cotten, Computers & Education, Volume 59, Issue 2, September 2012, pp 505-514) as saying “Engaging in Facebook use or texting while trying to complete schoolwork may tax students’ capacity for cognitive processing and preclude deeper learning.” So, think about turning off all unnecessary devices while studying so that your learning will not be interrupted. You can schedule technology breaks during which to catch up with social media and to satisfy your desire for electronic communication.

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Review and revise your class notes.  Review your class notes after each course meeting rather than waiting until the night before a quiz or an examination to read them.  Supplement your class notes with comments related to the assigned course readings and practice exercises:  make connections between in-class discussions and course readings as well as between in-class examples and the practice exercises on which you work.  As you review and supplement your course notes, you are studying the course material:  this will be beneficial as you work on assignments and study for quizzes and examinations as it eliminates the need for cramming and reduces your stress level.

Course readings.  You are expected to do the assigned readings and practice exercises. You cannot learn course material by skimming pages searching for highlighted text, formula boxes, dates or quotes.  Skimming worked examples, novels, poems, and reference materials limits your view and your understanding. You can only learn and understand how to apply various concepts and methods of analysis by exploring and investigating scenarios, being involved in making of connections among ideas, and determining of solutions to associated problems.  You must carefully read and summarize the material presented in the course readings:  make careful notes on the how-to’s, when-applicable’s, and the what-makes-sense’s for all topics in addition to when and how various techniques, methods, and concepts can be applied.

Practice exercises.  Use in-class examples worked in groups or together as a class unit as well as the examples provided in the textbooks to guide you as you work on practice exercises on your own. Observe the differences and similarities in examples and exercises as well as the ideas, words, and statements used in explanations and solutions since this will enable you to work on additional exercises, enable you to apply what you have learned to new situations, and help you to communicate your analysis to others.  Doing practice exercises helps you to learn and apply course material:  you gain understanding of course material and the ability to recognize when to use various concepts and methods by working on new problems, and practicing increases your comfort level with and the speed with which your can apply course ideas and techniques.

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Assignments.  Start working on assignments when you receive them -- do not procrastinate and do not expect extensions of deadlines.  The I-can-do-that-tomorrow point of view will NOT help you to complete assignments in a timely manner as "tomorrow" will come sooner than you think.  Instructors plan assignments so that you will have sufficient time to begin the assignment, ask questions, do research (if necessary), revise your work, and put your work into final form for submission.  Starting assignments shortly before the due-date reduces the quality of your work and increases your stress level.

Questions  Questions are important, and asking questions helps you to learn.  There is no such thing as a stupid question!  All questions are important. 

Extra help.  Having questions is a natural part of the learning process.  If you have questions or you need additional help, you should work with others -- your instructor, the SI (Supplemental Instruction) leader for the course, other students, or tutors.  Take advantage of your instructor's office hours or  make appointments with your instructor during which to work on topics which may seem challenging or to expand on course discussions.   If there is an SI leader for your course, meet with the SI leader to ask questions and to work on course topics; an SI leader is a student who has previously done well in the course and who attends all class lectures, meets with faculty, and serves as a model for students.  Tutoring is available through the Center for Academic Success and Achievement (CASA).  Information about getting help from professional tutors in mathematics or writing as well as tutoring in areas such as accounting, biology, chemistry, computer science, earth science and physics, food and nutrition, business and economics, geography, history, logic, philosophy, research methods/SPSS for sociology and psychology, and Spanish can be accessed on the Math, Writing and Subject Tutors page.  Finally, online tutoring is available to all Framingham State University students through a collaborative relationship with ThinkingStorm.  Information about ThinkingStorm can be found in the ThinkingStorm section of CASA's Math, Writing, and Subject Tutoring page, and the ThinkingStorm Online Tutoring Platform can be accessed on Canvas.

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Study groups.  Consider forming study groups or having a study-buddy. Discussing course material as you work on practice exercises will help you to gain understanding of how to apply concepts, techniques, and methods and enable you to become more comfortable with problem solving, in general.  Discussing your work will help you to learn how to present your analysis to others and help you to learn how to write explanations and comparisons of concepts and methods for assignments, quizzes, and examinations.  Having at least two (2) study-buddies will enable you to get class notes and assignment information for classes which you do not attend and enable you to confirm details about assignments with others.  Be careful not to work with anyone even members of your study group or your study-buddies on assignments (or take-home components, if any, of quizzes or examinations) which you have been instructed to work on your own:  giving/receiving help on assignments (as well as take-home components, if any, of quizzes or examinations) on which you have been directed to work on your own is an example of an infraction of the University Policy Regarding Academic Honesty.

Academic honesty.  Be honorable and honest.  Read the sections of the Framingham State University Undergraduate Catalog that describe the University Policy Regarding Academic Honesty and the Procedures for Handling Cases of Alleged Infractions of Academic Honesty

Meet with your instructors.  Your instructors are there to help you to learn.  Ask questions and seek advice.  When you have difficulty working on practice problems  or assignments, meet with your instructors:  show them your work on practice problems or assignments, ask relevant questions, and request guidance, but do not expect your instructors to solve problems for you or tell you what to do.  Your instructors can provide feedback about your work and direction for making corrections, but they are not there to do your work for you.

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Your in-class conduct can affect your future.  You may not have thought about this but how you conduct yourself during class can affect the opportunities which you have during college as well as affect graduate school applications and job opportunities in the future.  At some point, you will need letters of recommendation.  These letters of recommendation could be for a scholarship, a position of responsibility for which you would like to apply such as Resident Assistant (RA), the Emerging Leaders Program, the University Leadership Academy, Black & Gold Orientation Leader, or Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader, graduate school, or a job.  Many of you will request letters of recommendation from course instructors.  The manner in which you conduct yourself during class and the way in which you approach and complete coursework will influence how each instructor perceives you as well as the instructor's willingness to write a letter of recommendation for you.  Be respectful of every member of the class -- the students and the instructor.  Be prepared for class -- do the assigned readings so that your contributions to course discussions will be relevant and appropriate, and do practice exercises so that your contributions to course problem solving will be meaningful and correct.  Show interest in course lectures, discussions, and problem solving -- take notes, participate and contribute, do not distract others by starting conversations, and do not inappropriately use a phone, tablet, or laptop.  Submit assignments on time -- do not request extensions due to your procrastination.  Be a good group member -- do your share of group work, help others within the group, meet group deadlines, help the members of the group to be their best and to contribute their best work to group endeavors. Be open to correction -- everyone makes mistakes, and personal growth and learning are an outcome of change in response to missteps.  Be open to learning, be friendly, and have a positive attitude.  All these combined provide an instructor information about your level of maturity, seriousness about and interest in your work and your studies, respect and value for others, ability to work with others, sense of responsibility, dependability, ability to meet deadlines, capacity for change and personal growth, potential, and ability to make valuable contributions -- most recommendation forms include questions related to each of these.

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What you post on social media can affect your future.  You enjoy sharing pictures and discussing your experiences on social media but what you post can affect your future as employers and organizations monitor social media.  For example, in June 2017, Harvard University rescinded the acceptance of several students based on messages that they posted on a Facebook chat and, in August 2009, a high school English teacher in Georgia was give the choice to resign or be suspended based on an anonymous email sent to the superintendent by someone claiming to be a parent of a student regarding a picture of her "holding a glass of wine and a mug of beer" and "a reference to a local trivia contest with a profanity in its title" posted on her Facebook page.  The article “Facebook Fired”: Legal Standards for Social Media–Based Terminations of K-12 Public School Teachers by Kimberly W. O'Connor and Gordon B. Schmidt published in the March 12, 2015 issue of SAGE Open provides additional examples and "examines the current case law related to social media–based terminations within ... K-12 public school teachers".  Lauren Salm's June 15, 2017 article "70% of employers are snooping candidates’ social media profiles" summarizes the results of a Harris Poll survey of 2,380 hiring managers and human resource professionals in the private sector conducted for CAREERBUILDER between February 16, 2017 and March 9, 2017.  Salm states that "3 in 10 employers have someone dedicated to solely getting the scoop on your online persona" and that employers use multiple search engines to search social networking sites for information that supports a candidate's job qualifications and information about the candidate's professional online persona as well as what others post about a candidate.  In addition, she states that more than half of employers find content on social media that causes them not to hire a candidate.  John Hollon's similar June 15, 2017 Recruiting Daily article "Survey: Social Media Screening of Candidates Hits an All-Time High" quotes Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources Officer at CAREERBUILDER as stating that "Most workers have some sort of online presence today – and more than half of employers won’t hire those without one."  Hollon's concluding thought, "you are what your social media profile says you are" provides valuable food for thought.  The lesson in all this is that, when you post on social networking sites, you should create a positive professional online persona which showcases your professional qualifications, communication skills, creativity and uniqueness, maturity, dependability, honesty, and respect for others as these are qualities which employers and organizations value.

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Feel free to contact me if there are any points that you would like me to add to this page.

This stie was created and is maintained by Sarah L. Mabrouk.  Click to send email to Sarah Mabrouk about her Advice to Students page.
This site was created and is maintained by Sarah L. Mabrouk, Mathematics Department, Framingham State University.  If you notice any broken hyperlinks, please feel free to send email.