Good morning! I hope you took some time over the three-day weekend to relax and refuel. Before you know it, we’ll be watching the leaves turn, wondering where the warm weather went, and counting down the days til the end of fall term.
Although it seems like school has just started, some of our first-year students already feel like they might be in deeper water than they can handle. And even though you can tell them that the trimester current moves faster than the gentle drift of semesters, it doesn’t get real until the first wave hits them in the face. So week three is the perfect time to hammer home the behaviors that make first-year Augustana students successful.
Now that we have more than five years of data from first-year students that track their behaviors, experiences, and growth, we can start to make some pretty confident assertions about what successful students do. Based on repeated analyses that identify statistically significant relationships between specific student behaviors and outcomes like GPA, a sense of fitting in, and an increased sense of direction and purpose, successful first-year students do these three things.
- Successful first-year students build a healthy network of friends, guides, mentors, and resources.
This doesn’t mean that successful students have a larger network of friends, guides, and mentors than less successful students. The key factor is the healthy nature of that network. This means that a successful student’s friend network brings out the best in each person and stretches every member of that network to make their community a better place. Likewise, successful students find at least one guide or mentor who both believes in them and challenges them to grow, mature, and think in more complex terms. Finally, successful students seek out the campus resources that they might need before they actually need them, and use them to get better instead of waiting until trouble bubbles up.
- Successful first-year students dedicate themselves to study smart.
Successful Augustana students have dedicated themselves to four rules that define the way they study. Data from Augustana students repeatedly indicates that these behaviors impact everyone regardless of their pre-college academic preparation or ability.
- Religiously use a planner. Although important, it’s not just to keep track of what things need to get done. Really, it’s about organizing and logging when to do each thing on that list.
- Study during the day. Just like an 8 to 5 job, get up early and make every minute of the day count – especially the time between classes. The impact of this behavior on stress, sleep, and the quality of academic work turns out to be sort of amazing.
- Don’t study in the dorm room. Even though first year students might be used to studying in their rooms when they were in high school, the residence hall environment is pretty different from home in terms of visitor frequency, noise, and potential distractions. Similar to what happens to students who do most of their studying at night instead of during the day, studying in one’s dorm room invites a level of inefficiency that often make studying take longer and be less effective.
- Build a like-minded study group. Sometimes it is necessary to study alone, but other times it’s much more beneficial to study with a group. Successful students find like-minded students (not unlike the characteristics of a healthy network of friends) to study with when a group session might be particularly helpful.
If you want your students or your advisees to make the most of their first term at Augustana, tell them to grab hold of those four points and don’t let go.
- Successful Augustana students take charge of their own growth.
It’s hard to get through a single day without seeing or hearing an invitation or exhortation to get involved in a student club, activity, organization, or event. And we’ve all seen the student email signature that lists membership in more groups than there is time in the day. But the most successful Augustana students aren’t the ones who are involved in a lot of stuff. Instead, the most successful students are the ones who focus on experiences that specifically impact their growth in learning more about themselves and learning more about how they can better relate to others. This bit of advice can get lost if we don’t emphasize it to our students – don’t just get involved in stuff, get involved in the right stuff.
In addition to choosing the right combination of involvement in activities, organizations, and events, successful first year Augustana students connect with CORE right away. They recognize the importance of the relationship between the things they do right now and the person they want to be when they graduate. All the services that CORE provides help students embrace and develop a sense of purpose and fuel an increasing sense of momentum in that direction. As simple as it might sound, students who start building a resume or a grad school portfolio during their first year are more likely to have a job or graduate school place at graduation – regardless of their college GPA. This isn’t magic or assembly line educating – it’s just that these students start considering and articulating the connection between what they are doing now and where they want to be four years from now.
So if you want to drop some knowledge on your students that is virtually guaranteed to make a difference, hit them with these three golden nuggets.
Make it a good day,