Spring into Success!

Tips for a successful Spring semester

Mia Rossi,

It's tough to navigate the college experience when you're juggling so much outside of the classroom. Balancing work and family as well as participation in athletics and activities through the college can be challenging. Here are some tips for having a highly successful spring semester if you find yourself in the following common situations. Regardless of your circumstances, these tips from faculty and staff will help to ensure your semester is smooth sailing!

Free Tutoring 

The Learning Center is a useful tool for every student on campus!

1.  Learn your syllabi. You know those syllabi you get from your professors, outlining your courses that you quickly browse through? Spend some extra time reading them carefully and you'll reap the benefits all semester long! Take note of lecture topics, readings, assignment due dates, and grading breakdown. If you understand your professor's expectations, your chances of academic success in that course are greatly enhanced.

2.  Plan your semester. Take some time to organize your most important tool - your time! After you have read each syllabus, create a semester-long assignment plan. Use the calendar provided in your Student Handbook to record each quiz, test, and graded project for the upcoming semester. By recording each graded assignment, you can identify when your schedule may be overburdened weeks in advance. For example, is there a week where you have two exams and a paper due? You might want to consider writing the paper early so you can concentrate on the two exams for that week.

3.  Plan your week. While you're planning, keep in mind that scheduling in college is significantly different than high school. You may have two or three hours between classes. You might have entire days where you have only one course. Building some structure into these unstructured days is essential for academic success. Consider using these time gaps to study in the library or to receive free tutoring or help with projects and assignments in the Learning Center.

Getting Involved with Campus Activities 

If you're someone who likes to get involved with clubs or activities, here's some advice from Miranda Baker, student life and leadership development administrator, and Kristen Corcoran, director of student life and leadership development.

1.  Students who are involved with campus activities tend to be more successful upon graduating because time management skills, leadership skills and communication skills have been developed. However, don't over extend yourself with activities. Have a set schedule and look at when you're in class, when you have dedicated study time, work time, and then, ask yourself, "can I fit a club in there?" Don't lack on your studies or skip something to be in a club. It's all about setting priorities.

2.  Just say "no." Some staff or fellow club members, for instance, may ask for your participation on a committee, sit on a search for someone to run a club, volunteer time to run an event and more. Students shouldn't feel pressured to over extend themselves to help. Everyone needs to say "no" to some things.

3.  Utilize the staff in Student Life. They can discuss what your goals are in and out of the classroom at NCC and how educational programming and clubs can get you there. One club may be fun but another club may assist with transferring and honing skills for a chosen major. For example, CHARTS, NCC's Radiography Club may help a student with transferrable skills. Plus it looks great on your resume to be involved in a club directly related to your major! And, Student Life also has educational programming to develop a student's life skills. For example, this spring, a workshop on how to do your taxes will be presented in partnership with the accounting faculty at NCC. "It's not always easy to navigate college and everything else in a student's life whether you're 19 or 35. We're here to help you succeed." notes Corcoran.

Balancing School with Family and Work

What about if you have a family at home, work to consider, or both? Dr. Eric Rosenthal, dean of student success, has some words of wisdom for you.

1.  Create a weekly schedule that allows for balance. Scheduling and finding a balance is something everyone seems to stress. Hour by hour, it's a good idea to keep track of what you do in a typical day to see how long your weekly tasks take. Especially if you have a family, you can include work, school and home life and color code each part of your life represented on this schedule. This will help in making a schedule that you can stick to throughout the day. Build in un-predictable time or flex time for things you may not plan for that come up. If not, you'll over stretch yourself and not accomplish all the tasks you wished to in that day. It's not an exact science but it'll help.

2.  Pay attention to self-care. Get good sleep, eat right and exercise. "Some people feel like if they're doing things for themselves that prevents them from doing things for their family. But, it's actually the opposite. You must take care of yourself to take care of others to the best of your ability." Many of us have heard the airplane safety announcement on a flight. As a part of that, the flight attendants always tell you to put on your own oxygen mask in case of an emergency before helping others to secure their own. Just like that, you will not be able to help others if you're not focused, your energy is low or you're inhibited.

3.  Show your family or loved ones what being a student is like. Share your syllabus with them so they can see what's expected of you. Let them help you with homework or participate with you. Have them come observe a class if it's allowed. They can support you and be able to understand when you have to devote your time to your studies because it will be something tangible. They won't feel like a low priority, and instead they will form empathy. It will make it easier for family to share in your achievements because they were present for what it took to accomplish them. 

Talk to a counselor or visit the Counseling page for more help with balancing personal life with academia.

Especially for Student Athletes

If you're a student athlete, Adrian Yaguez, associate athletic director, and Brennan McCarthy, assistant athletic director, have tips on how to keep yourself on track.

1.   Don't let your academics slip. Even if you want to participate in athletics at another college, you need to concentrate on academics just as much as you pursue your athletic endeavors. Northampton Athletics helps to develop academics and athletics simultaneously in order so you can move on and be recruited at a four-year college or university. "Remember the effective students ahead of you, and if you want what they have, this is what you do," Yaguez says.

2.  First year students may struggle with how to handle college work. "We can help with how to study or expectations that can help transition you from high school to college study habits," said Yaguez.  Athletics does a lecture series for student athletes that discusses tools for writing papers, studying for finals, academic advising and coaching skill sessions in partnership with the Learning Center.

3.  Students can't focus on school work when they are stressed in other areas of their lives. Athletics offers workshops, much like Student Life, for students and coaches such as Healthy Living and Financial Literacy. Workshops like these help students become well-rounded and develop skills to make their life easier. These workshops help students balance their lives in and out of the classroom so that they can concentrate on studying, school work and be present, active listeners in class. "We get to know our students and take the time to understand their circumstances. We're an extension of their parents/guardians when they're on campus and can really connect by helping them be successful on the academic side." Yaguez says as one of the many faculty and staff helping NCC students with their journey to completing a successful semester. 

Visit the NCC Athletics site for more information on the Spartans. 

Advice from the Dean of Student Success

Dr. Eric Rosenthal, dean of student success, says that regardless of your circumstances outside of the classroom you should, "Build in rewards for yourself as you achieve goals small and large, like passing a test, studying for a final, finishing the semester, graduating and more. Tell yourself you'll go a movie after you write a paper." This is important for students to keep motivation strong throughout the semester. Keep this and all of the tips here in mind as you go through the spring semester, and remember the Learning Center is always there to assist you. Good luck!