Exams!

Mid-term and final exam weeks can take a toll on any student.  However, for the first generation college student exams taking exams for the first time may seem to be an insurmountable task if they have not been sufficiently challenged in high school.

Exams are given in multiple forms.  They can be held in class or given as a take home assignment.  Some exams are in essay form, others multiple choice, and still others consist of a final paper to be turned in during exam week.

Official Scantron Answer Sheet

Official Scantron Answer Sheet

Each exam style is meant to test that you have retained the information you have learned, and often they are also intended to test if you have learned to critically think and reason.  Pay attention in the early weeks of your courses to cues your professors or teaching assistants may give you about what they expect during exam week.  Be sure to ask questions if you do not understand the format of the impending exam.

Studying for exam week will certainly be easier if you attended class regularly.  You will then have an idea of what the professor deems important, and you won’t miss some small key point that he or she only mentions once.  In addition to attendance, be sure that you have read the requisite texts for your classes, and in some cases, the footnotes in those texts.  Create flashcards to help you review your formulas.  Understanding basic mathematical and scientific formulas now will only ease your load when you take future classes in those areas.  If you get it right the first time then you won’t have to restudy the same material plus new work.

On exam day do not forget your essential supplies!  Essay and short answer exams usually require a special book of lined paper called a “blue book” that has to be purchased from your bookstore.

Roaring Spring Blank Book Company Blue Book


Rather than a blue book, some institutions use a “green book” which is exactly the same book of lined paper but it is all recycled.  You will mostly use blue books in humanities classes such as English and history.

Math and science classes may allow you to bring in a scientific or graphing calculator.  Other essentials include several number two pencils, a big eraser, and a good night’s rest.

All Classes Count

Obtaining hard skills that will advance a specific career certainly advisable in college.  However, there is reason you have to take a full curriculum of classes in order to graduate with a degree.  The critical reading and thinking skills you learn in your general education classes will provide the soft skills necessary to solve problems and communicate effectively in your chosen profession..

The Humanities

The ability to write well and speak in front of groups are skills that you may learn in first-year English and speech courses.  If you are studying to become an engineer then it may not be readily apparently as to how you will use these skills, but as engineers who are now managers can tell you, not having this skill can impede your career advancement.

With this in mind you will want to be sure to excel in all of your classes and not just the ones that count toward your major.  Although the value may not be immediately clear, you may find that a soft skill, like repetition that you learned in your foreign language class, will help you figure out how to solve a problem in your engineering courses.  Every class counts toward your overall grade point average, and you do not want to hamper your future dreams by not performing as well as possible.

Commit to an Institution that is Committed to You

The federal government is committed to helping student obtain a formal education.  To this end the feds have made borrowing much easier for many.  Many institutions know that students have guaranteed federal dollars backing their education, and will recruit you as a full-tuition paying student.

Before making a decision to attend an instutition investigate its programs for first-generation students.  Some colleges and universities have special summer courses to help students acclimate themselves to collegiate life.  Other institutions have special residence halls or special orientations for their students.  One of the most valuable tools institutions can provide to is a “first-year experience” program.

First-year experience programs teach students how to access faculty, how to study, choosing a major, and learning to plan your future.  Your first year experience program coordinator  should have continual contact with you throughout your year.

Before agreeing to attend an institution try to meet not only with admissions officers, but also student affairs and faculty.  Discuss with the institution how much scholarship money is available after enrollment.

No one can decide for you which institution is best for you, but asking the above questions can aid you in not regretting your final decision.

Earned not Given

Most professors take grading very seriously.  They may go over your work multiple times before posting the final number or letter at the top of your essay, homework, or test.  The advantage of having smaller classes is that your professor most likely knows what you are capable of, and your past performance, and will remember that when grading your work.  However, you must give your professors the tools to get to know you.

Missing class signals to your professors that you are irresponsible and do not care about your course.  Your professors spend time before each semester, and before each class ensuring that they have well prepared for his or her lecture.  Furthermore, once the lecture is over they fully expect to move on to the new material.   If you miss class you will still be responsible for the material covered in class.  If you are ill or have a legitimate reason to be absent then it is important to communicate with your professors in advance.   Those who find they cannot keep up with their course for personal reasons may find it best to drop the class, and then try again at a later date rather than simply disappearing.

In the end your final grade is a reflection of what you earn when you put your best effort forward.  Do not let simple things like not attending class and turning in work late take away from the points you could have earned and the final grade you deserve.