Category Archives: First year

Elevator Pitch

Transfer students, at new bachelor’s granting institutions, this blog is especially for you. It has value for all readers, but I write it with you in mind.

Since you started at your new college have you been referring to yourself as a transfer student? For example, when introducing yourself in class, or to others, have you been including the statement “I’m a transfer?” Or, when you are asked a question about the current college, do you find yourself saying “I just transferred here.” Or might you be including a transfer disclaimer in comments you make? I noticed this habit with the class of transfer students I am co-teaching. After the third week of the term, I reminded them they all are transfer students and they do not need to identify as such, in our class or other places.

Identifying as a transfer student is not bad, but it does not need to be used in all settings. I suggest students use it as an advantage, strategically. Here is an example.

Recently, the students I work with listened to, and asked questions of a faculty panel who were addressing how undergraduates get involved with research. Notice I used the word ‘undergraduates’ – this can be a useful identifier at a large research institution that has thousands of graduate students on campus. At the conclusion of this class session, I asked these students to write an elevator pitch they could potentially use during faculty office hours (or a meeting over coffee – *cough, last week’s blog) in which they would be asking for advice on how to get involved in research. This assignment was met with looks of stress. What will I write about? a few asked, to which I replied, “write about your greatness.” Greatness? Yes, what is special, unique, interesting and great about you? What are your skills, experiences and talents? Here is a place were you can emphasize all the benefits of being a transfer student.

Transfer students often arrive to the bachelor granting institution….
* having done significant research on their major and the faculty teaching in the discipline.
* with a clear vision of their future career and its pathway.
* with more advanced life experiences.
* with a unique perspective on higher education and its value.
* with research topics in mind, or somewhat developed research ambitions.
* having done research on the campus and its resources, and a plan to take advantage of them.

Many transfer students have moments of feeling like they are at a disadvantage, but honestly, all students have those feelings. There are plenty of third and fourth year students who started at this school still wandering around a bit lost. The quickest way to find your place is by developing a relationship with faculty in your major, and the best way to do that is through face-to-face conversations and confidence in yourself. Utilize your transfer student benefits and develop your elevator pitch; articulate your greatness clearly and be proud of who you are!

Are you getting involved?

As I noted a couple of blogs back, I’m a faculty freshman! I’ve been a faculty before but I am brand new to my current institution and situation. Sorta like many students out there — you’ve been students before, but maybe your institution and situation is new. The newness might be wearing off a bit — you have settled into a routine (of sorts) and the slumpy-ness might be creeping in; I am feeling it, too! One remedy for the slumps is: ENGAGEMENT and INVOLVEMENT.

Here is what happens to me: I get email invites to attend a conference, or a workshop, or a roundtable, or even a picnic! I might get invited to have a cup of coffee or lunch with a colleague. When these events come to me, I think “Oh! I’m so busy. I have a paper to write, a book or article to read, and I need to run to the supermarket for groceries. I just don’t have time!” But, after I think those thoughts, I remind myself: I’m new here; I still (S.T.I.L.L!) don’t recognize many of my co-workers faces or know their names. I NEED to get involved, get connected, make friends, and stay in the loop. YOU need to do this, too.

Getting connected is a key predictor of future student success. The way to become connected is to begin to get involved with your campus and your new institution. Your involvements do not have to be academic; they could be sport-related, club-activity related (how many clubs does your campus have?!), or organization related. It is important for your sense of belonging and attachment to your new place. It is important to stretch your mind beyond the classroom and interact with people in various environments. Campus activities of all sorts are a great place to become meet new people, make connections, and learn new things.

You do not have to join every club or organization — I do NOT say “yes” to every event or invitation. We all need to think about our priorities — school work should be one of your top priorities; but getting involved and connected needs to be up at the top, too. You will see, over time, that they can complement one another. And, you will probably have fun, too!

See you at the next workshop or foozball tournament!

PS: If you already feel you are connected and involved and still feel slumpy, go check out your campus counseling services. They are a great resource and typically included in student fees (thus you have pre-paid and they are just waiting to help.)

I’m a freshman (faculty freshman!)

Heidi has graciously been writing awesome blogs with helpful hints and ideas for a most excellent start to fall. During that time, Cindi has been moving! I have moved from a mid-sized comprehensive regional university to a large public university (with over 55,000 students)! It is like being a new student all over again, except I’m faculty. Over the next few blogs, I will be sharing with you the things I am doing and thinking about as I learn all about my new university, how to figure out where things are, and how to do things. I hope it resonates with some of you who are also new students — new to the institution or new to being a college student.

I was required to attend a new faculty orientation (sound familiar?! Yes, they even make faculty do that!). I had to wear a name tag, sit at a group table, talk to strangers, and listen to various speeches tell me about my new home. To be honest: I was a bit resistant. But, I found the people at my group table were just like me! They had just recently moved from somewhere else; they didn’t know much about what was happening and they were friendly! More importantly, we all shared stories about getting lost on campus. Apparently, totally and completely normal! By the end of the day, I had figured out how to sign up for health care, who some of my new hallway buddies were going to be (I met other newly hired people in my department), and felt more relaxed and confident about my new institution.

Oh, and, the President gave a speech which was quite inspiring and encouraging. He shared his vision of the university with us; and, it was a vision that made sense and seemed exciting. He ended his talk by reminding us why we were all there: because students matter. This was an idea I could easily embrace.

The orientation reacquainted me with people I had met a year prior when I had come to the campus for a tour. The orientation made it so much easier for me to go to work the following week, walk into the Department office and easily connect with the folks there.

This is exactly why the institution has orientations (for new faculty, new students, and new staff) — even though they can be uncomfortable and somewhat annoying at the outset, there really is a reason to them: but, we must be open to that reasoning.

Think back to your orientation if it already happened — don’t worry about the loads of information they gave you — you can always look that up online, call someone, or find someone to ask. But, try to recall the feeling of togetherness and of belonging to something new — that is what orientation is about. Try to recall the feeling of connectedness that was present. Embrace that feeling. Throw yourself into a spirit of being connected. It’ll make the coming months much easier.

More on connectedness next time.

Summer Homework: College Lingo

New first year college students – are you ready for the term to begin?! I know a few of you…
• have already started your first year (Summer over, school year is here – crazy!)
• are doing special Summer preparation/transition courses – great idea!
• enrolled in the college’s non-preparatory summer session courses – you are the over achievers!
Some of you are anxiously waiting for the year to begin, and others of you are loving freedom from academics so much, you wish summer would never end!

No matter where you are, in the above sequence, I am checking-in to find out if you have completed a little summer homework. If you attended your college’s orientation, hopefully you know the answers to the following questions:
1. What are the difference between the following types of courses (please define): lecture, discussion, lab and seminar.
2. Which term does your college use, unit or credit, to describe time in class?
3. Which term does your college use, semester or quarter, to describe your academic year?
4. How many units/credits, do you need to pass each semester/quarter, to graduate in four years?

If any of the above sound like a strange language – open your ‘On The Quad’ and refresh yourself on how to ‘Arrive, Survive and Thrive at College!’

For Students, By Students – Advice

New and continuing college students – are you tired of getting advice from  your parents, professors, advisors, and other authorities, who like to share from their experiences (or maybe just hear themselves talk)?

This week I will refrain from giving advice and recommend you read what your college peers are saying about college life. This articleAdvice for New Students From Those Who Know (Old Students)was recently published in the New York Times. More than 20 students, each from a different college/university, shared their thoughts on a variety of useful topics.

My favorite section is ‘Understand the System and Work It.’ (Read it!)


Do you have trust issues? Many people do. We each could probably make a long list of reasons we have issues trusting others, whether the ‘other’ is a person or a business. In the end, if you analyzed your reasons for a lack of trust, more than likely it will come to having been let down by someone when something important was transpiring.

Over the past few weeks, I have been talking on the phone, corresponding over email, and meeting students and parents face to face, who are not trusting the information I am giving them. I understand times of hesitation, and I understand the need to ask a lot of questions, but I do not understand resistance to well designed programs which have been thoroughly explained on how they benefit a first year student’s well-being. The case which keeps coming up for me is, the handful of students who want to be part of our Honors program, but do not want to live in the Honors residence hall (dorm).

All these resistant students are: 1) going to live on campus, 2) with a bunch of strangers, 3) in a building they have never lived in before, 4) and most of them, with a person they have never met in person! Why do they not want to live in the resident hall designated to the Honors program? I repeatedly explain they are not competing against their roommate, the person next door, or the person upstairs – college is not high school, there is NOT one best student. As a high achieving student, why not live with other academically minded, motivated students? Honors students are social; I hear they even party! They ARE regular first year students! They are you, you ARE one of them.

I think it may be challenging for some students to realize that college is a new identity; I understand this. In asking these students to trust me, I try to put into perspective the reality that they are leaving (the) high school (drama) behind and get to be the person they want to be. However, coming to a very large university is a bit scary, so why not start it by living in a supportive community?! I know I have an adult perspective on this – an adult perspective having worked with students for more than 15 years. Please, please, trust me!

Thank you, to the 160+ students, who have gladly and enthusiastically, set their housing preference to live in the Honors residence hall! And for the handful who have been resistant, thank you for another blog topic!

Are you applying to scholarships?!

How is summer treating you?  Are you gearing up for going to college in the fall?  Have you been doing a part time job?  Saving some money for books, a computer, parking pass, or coffee during fall semester?  Do not forget to apply for scholarships!  Every year, thousands of dollars go unawarded/unused because not enough people apply for monies that are ‘out there’ waiting to be awarded.


1.  Check your local county scholarship opportunities.  Often, your local county or city will have scholarships that are awarded for various reasons, not just grades or merit.  Your local library can be a great resource in helping you find these scholarships.  Also check local Rotary and/or Lions clubs, as they often fund education.

2.  Know your scholarship deadlines.  Check out these two different sources for scholarship information:  the first one gives examples of scholarship deadlines coming up in August.  The second one gives great hints about what to keep in mind when applying for scholarships; it also lists some ones to apply to.

3.  Finally, check out these scholarships with fast approaching deadlines.  Be sure to look at the one titled “Wholesale Halloween Costumes” – you could be the next recipient!

Be sure to read the rules of the scholarships carefully; abide by the rules (that is half of the battle, trust me); use your best essay skills (have a friend read what you write); and apply, apply, apply.  Good luck!

Advice: get advised!

A few weeks ago, I started working at a different university. I am very excited to be on this campus, and for the opportunity to work with a specialized student population! In the short time I have been here, I have interacted with numerous students engaging in research and analysis both locally and abroad, students working with external clients through their coursework, and student leaders who have been, and are, delivering support services (scheduling assistance) and appreciation events (graduation celebration) for their peers.

This week, our institution hosted an advising conference for the more than 200 advisors across the campus. The campus leadership recognizes the importance of advising and support services, so greatly, advising initiatives were addressed in three of four recommendations for campus growth and change, in a internal report conducted three years ago.

The keynote speaker at this conference was Charlie Nutt Ed.D., the Executive Director of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). I had the opportunity to engage with Charlie during a small group question and answer session, and hear his keynote address! During both, he both spoke about the importance of advisor-advisee relationships for all students. He referenced the research done by Richard Light, of Harvard (2001), which came to the same conclusion: students need positive, directive, supportive advising throughout their college career in order to persist and feel personal worth. (Dr. Light’s research and NACADA resources were both utilized in ‘On the Quad.’)

Students and parents in the high school stage, please know, college relationships with academic advisors/counselors, is much different than the high school model. Meeting with them should be done frequently, and never viewed as an inconvenience or a punishment.

Students and parents in the college stage, please know, no matter what year you are (your student is) in, find at least one advisor, staff or faculty, who has the time to get to know you, who provides you a listening ear and reflective, helpful guidance, who motivates you, keeps you accountable, and helps you grow and succeed!

Advising Advice

On our campus it is the season of registration.  In early May, registration begins — people with priority registration go first.  The folks who get this great date include veterans and athletes among some other select groups (for example, our Honors Program students get priority registration).  Currently — in the second week of May — many sophomores are having the chance to register.  Students learn their registration date in early to mid April — almost a month in advance; and, the knowledge of when registration will begin is posted in various places, so it does not sneak up on anyone (who is paying attention).

But, this week, I’ve had 7 desperate emails from students who need advising RIGHT NOW.  They send me emails that say things like “Hi, my registration date is in three hours and I was hoping to come by your office hours and get some ideas about what classes I should take.”  Or:  “Hi, do you have time tomorrow at 8:30 AM to advise me about which classes to take in Fall?  My registration date is tomorrow at 9:30 AM.”

This is too late.  This is way too late.  Moreover, this is not a strategy for success.  You can not expect your professor (or advisor) to be available on demand (like Netflix!).  Professors and advisors have schedules, meetings, and lives.  All of these things get in the way of doing “advising on demand.”  This means that you, dear student, must plan.  You must put into your calendar (on your phone or the paper one) the day that registration begins.  Then, 2 weeks prior to that you make an appointment with your advisor.  This is plenty of time to be able to reasonably get advice for the following semester.  And, the advising session won’t be rushed or hectic.  It will be a student support and success advising session; not a student in a panic advising session.

Make plans.  Implement them.  Do well.

Failure Stories

Whose failure story do you know? Yes, a story of failure – one that might not have a happy/successful ending. Do you know more than one person’s failure story? Someone who is not in your family or not super famous? Probably not, Americans choose to talk about success rather failure. But failure is what we learn from, correct?

Recently, I facilitated small-group advising sessions with Chemistry students, co-presenting with the Chemistry Department Chair. She told the students, when she started college she wasn’t committed to being a science student, earned ‘D’ grades in her major courses, and was on Academic Probation. At our university Chemistry is a popular major, and if students are not successful at their first attempt in Chemistry 1A (entry level course) they might not be able to take it a second time until a year later, which then automatically leads to an additional year, or two, to their length of time in college. However, she also informed the students she went to talk to professors about her struggles in their courses and they provided her with “how to study effectively” advice which helped significantly in her academics, and ultimately motivate her through her Bachelor’s degree.

I believe most of us realize that success isn’t usually achieved on the first try, but how many specific stories of failure are you familiar with? Many of us know Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were college drop-outs, but we know their stories of success – what about their failures? Failure stories aren’t popular, but I believe only being familiar with stories of success gives students a false sense of reality.  The famous college drop-outs we’re familiar with are famous because they worked really hard, over long periods of time, to do something significant. They didn’t drop-out and then spend a few hours a week pursuing their passion and then suddenly they were found and became famous; it doesn’t happen that way.

Success is achieved by giving 100%, and we shouldn’t only give 100% to things we’re passionate about – we all should give 100% to everything we do. That is when we find success! Seek out stories of failure, contemplate and learn from them, use them to motivate you through your failures, whether the fail is academic, personal or social. Then, learn from yourself and keep trying!

Here are a few stories to help you find your motivation/keep you motivated!