8 ways to mess up at college right now
By Larry Buhl, special to CareerBuilder
Fall classes are underway, and so are perennially bad student habits. If you’ve just started a degree program, you’ll want to avoid these common pitfalls that can not only derail your education but negatively affect your career as well.
Plagiarize. You weren’t expecting that one, were you? No matter what your major is, you’ll likely have to write at least one paper sometime. But if you’re not careful about citing your sources you could end up in big trouble.
“The generation starting college now believes anything online is fair use, and they don’t have to cite it,” says Jon B. Gould, a professor at American University and author of “How to Succeed in College (While Really Trying).” Gould warns that if a professor suspects that a student is guilty of plagiarism, she must report it to the dean of students, and that could lead to a hearing and even a notation of an honor violation on the transcript.
Don’t do the reading. Showing up in class isn’t enough to do well in the course. Make time to do all the readings, and don’t skim. If the books are too expensive, consider used books or even book sharing if a friend is willing to do it.
Skip classes. The flip side of not doing the reading is thinking that doing the reading is enough to get by. Professor Gould says that students miss out on a lot of valuable information from lectures. When the professor asks for questions, and you have one, ask.
Don’t manage your time. Spending all weekend partying instead of writing that paper that’s due Monday will lead to a Sunday night panic attack and likely a bad grade. If you think the professor or teacher’s assistant can’t tell that you’ve crammed two weeks’ worth of research into one frantic session the night before, think again. They see it all the time.
Ignore finances. According to a recent study by the think tank Education Sector, 29 percent of all college students that take out student loans drop out of school, a percentage that has increased 25 percent over the past decade. Money troubles are one of the top reasons students don’t complete their degree programs. College costs have been rising fast, and using only loans can increase debt anxiety, but many students don’t take advantage of every possible source of financial help, including some “free money.” Whatever you do, don’t ignore the money issue. Work with the financial office at your school to learn what you can do to make education more affordable. And, of course, wherever you can cut costs and still have a life, do so.
Blow off office hours. In just about every institution and every course, the instructor sets aside time for students to meet and discuss the course and their progress. Don’t waste this valuable opportunity. Make an appointment and go.
“Not only will you be able to double check your understanding of the material and see where you’re struggling, office hours give you a chance to be remembered positively by the instructor,” Gould says. “And in a very large class, that’s your best chance for personalized attention. You will be getting your money’s worth from your tuition.”