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How to Turn A large State School into YOur Dream Education

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Replies to: How to Turn A large State School into YOur Dream Education

  • Mr.BMr.B Registered User Posts: 1,914 Senior Member
    Form study groups within your major. Don't be annoyed just because your small group discussion is led by a TA, find out what the TA knows. TAs can be valuable sources of information on other classes taught in their department. Remember they used to be human once.

    Leave your shy self at home and become an outgoing person who is ready to meet others. Seek help early on..possibly before you need it.

    After the semester has started, but before the grades are causing some people problems...go visit the profs during their office hours introduce yourself and ask two or three reasonable questions. Reintroduce yourself a week or so later after class and ask intelligent questions about the class, the major or the department. Don't be a phony..develop questions based on real interests.
  • allenaallena Registered User Posts: 1,716 Senior Member
    I'm crossing my fingers that I get into UCLA, which is a big state university!
  • mikemacmikemac Registered User Posts: 10,369 Senior Member
    for what its worth, here is advice I posted last fall on the ucla forum. Only a few details are specific to ucla, so maybe there is something kids can find useful in it.


    ucla is a large school that can seem intimidating at first. At its best attending ucla can be an exhilarating experience in which you make close friends, get a great education, have lots of fun outside class (parties, clubs, and so on), and which prepares you for the working world and a killer entry job. At its worst you know few if any people, treat college as almost a "day job" in which you show up in the morning, punch the clock by attending large impersonal classes and taking tests, and are dumped out at the end as just another resume in a big stack of applicants (none of whom will even get to the interview stage). Most people would prefer the former, so I'm hoping this thread can be used to pass on tips for success at ucla.

    Here are some tips divided into 2 parts, near-term and big-picture.

    1) attend orientation. You get a much higher chance of getting the classes you want, you'll get tours of campus, and lots of information on the resources available at ucla. It will cover the stuff I have below and you'll have experienced students running the session who can answer your questions.

    2) buy your books early. For an extra $4 the student store will pull all the required books and have them waiting for you. Or if you want to save some money and buy used books get there early to get the best selection. "Early" means prior to the weekend before classes begin. The place is a zoo the weekend before classes start, and if you want until classes start some books will sell out.

    3) walk to all your classes before the term begins so you know where they are. New students often aren't sure where their buildings are, and the room numbering scheme can be confusing. You don't want to be rushing around and end up 10 minutes late for a class and end up sitting on the floor because all the seats are taken.

    4) learn to take good notes. Ideally for each class you'd have a grad student in that discipline attend class and take notes, then you'd compare notes with theirs. Guess what? You can do just that in many classes!! ASUCLA sells notes for the most popular lower-division and some upper-division classes. You will probably be surprised by the speed at which material is delivered. Eventually you want to be able to take those quality notes on your own so keep in mind what they are -- a learning tool, not a substitute for your own efforts.

    5) don't tape record lectures. Some profs allow this, but it's a bad crutch. First you're doing more work than the other people, listening to the same material twice. Second, as you move on to smaller classes far fewer profs will permit it. And in the working world you never see people taping meetings (except for maybe criminal investigators, and you don't want to be in those kind of meetings!).

    6) introduce yourself to lots of people. They're new, too, and they are probably just as anxious as you are. Just because someone looks calm and assured doesn't mean they feel that way inside; it may be just their "game" face. At the start of the year people are in the same boat, knowing few if any people and really willing to make new friends. The start of the year is not the time to immerse yourself in computer games or surfing the net, its the time to get to know fellow students.

    7) its natural to be nervous about college, so don't let yourself get intimidated by others who seem self-assured and act like ucla is going to be a breeze. I remember a chem class my very first quarter in which a few people who knew each other and were sitting near me were looking over the syllabus and loudly remarking how their chem class in HS had covered all the material, how this class was one for sure they'd ace, and so on. My HS was not that strong academically, and I just knew I was screwed. Although discouraged I tried hard and got an A on the first midterm and in the class. The guys sitting near me? Many of them dropped, and the rest got B's and C's.

    8) Learn to study better. There are 2 books I will recommend every student should own, and this first one you should buy now. Its called What Smart Students Know by Adam Robinson, written by one of the founders of the test prep service Princeton Review. I have never seen a better explanation of the steps you need to follow to really *learn* the material, and if you've learned it well you will have no trouble with grades. Many kids were never really challenged in HS. Now everyone is as smart as you. You will have to step it up a notch at ucla, and instead of learning it by trial-and-error why not read this book over the summer and come in prepared?

    9) hit the ground running in your classes. The pace on the quarter system is quick, and you'll be having miderms before you know it. You simply can't afford to fall behind. The usual expectation for a college class is that for every hour in class you'll spend 3 hours outside of class with studying and homework, so plan your time accordingly. Those "week-at-a-glance" planners can be very useful. Also keep in mind the lectures are intended to explain material you've already been studying, not present it for the first time. That's why they pass out the syllabus the first day of class; you are expected to do the reading for each lecture *before* class.

    10) Optionally, read other books about preparing for college, such as The Everything College Survival Book. Books such as these will give you tips on dealing with money, roomates, social life, and so on.

    11) discuss "ground rules" up front with your new roomates. Your RA will probably talk about this in a floor meeting, and its a good idea. Most people aren't used to sharing their room at home with someone else, let alone 1 or 2 strangers. Talking up front about various situations such as parties, drinking, having a date sleep over, etc. may feel awkward but its better than just remaining silent and hoping things will work out. You don't need to etch rules in stone but be able to discuss things. And keep in mind you don't have to be best friends with your roomates. What is important is that you all treat each other with respect.
  • mikemacmikemac Registered User Posts: 10,369 Senior Member
    Big-picture items -- this is about taking the larger view of getting the most out of your ucla years instead of the day-to-day mechanics

    1) Take charge of your life. ucla can be a large impersonal school, so you need to get involved to make it an enjoyable place. There are an almost uncountable number of options for you to do. Whether you participate in the greek system, student government, join some clubs, write for the Daily Bruin, work as a tutor or volunteer, go with friends to concerts or to watch teams compete, there are just so many ways to be active. But there is one key thing. Nobody is going to call you and ask/beg you to join their group. If you're the person who waits for someone else to make the first move you might want to consider changing this approach, because it just won't work for you at ucla. The opportunities are there galore, but you have to take the first step to discover them.

    2) For better or worse, you are attending a large state college. You just aren't going to get the personal attention and focus that comes without effort to those at a small LAC. There are resources out there that can help (profs, counselors, tutors, advisors, etc) but you're going to have to go to them. People care, really they do, but they don't go around stopping people at random on bruin walk and asking how they can help. You have to go to them. You don't have to be obnoxious (this isn't NYC!), but you do have to be persistent and a self-starter. If you have questions, figure out who can help you answer them and then go see that person. If you don't know who can help you answer them, start by finding *that* answer. Your RA is a good source of advice on pointing you in the right direction.

    3) get to know some of your profs. For one thing you may need recs for grad school or an employer, and they mean more if the person actually knows you. Once again, profs aren't going to invite you to stop by for a chat or to come over to dinner the way they might at a LAC. But they hold office hours, and you'd be surprised how many people *never* attend one except to argue about the grading on a midterm. And a prof who's seen students come and go can be a good source of advice in choosing a major, preparing for a career, etc.

    4) its never too early to start thinking about what you'll do after ucla. Sure, plenty of people *think* they know what they want. But stats show that only about 1/2 of the people who enter as engineers, for example, end up getting an engineering degree. Most students who enter college with the idea of being a pre-med don't go to med school. And sometimes people who enter a field not understanding it well end up regretting it; for example Forbes reported that 38% of the lawyers they surveyed regretted their career choice. So if you think you know what you want to do start testing that idea right away to make sure its a good fit for you. You can take career testing, talk with alums in the field, get a part-time job or volunteer, do an internship. ucla has lots of resources to help you do all of this, but (have you heard this before?) you're going to have to make the effort to investigate.

    5) get an internship. This is probably the single most important thing you can do to prepare yourself for a job after college! Internships leap out at companies reviewing resumes because it shows you have real-world experience in the area and know what you're getting into. Even in the tightest job market, a company that is hiring at all will almost always extend offers to those who have worked as interns. In a tight job market you'd probably have better luck finding a job with a 3.2GPA and an internship than a 3.7 with nothing on your resume but a list of classes. This brings me to the 2nd book everyone should own; its called Major in Success by Patrick Combs. Written in a casual tone, it offers example after example of how students parlayed internships and volunteer work into great jobs.

    6) approach school (and life) with an optimistic attitude. Studies have shown that the best predictor of success in so many fields is attitude. This is based on the work by Seligman and others, names you will learn in psych classes. Want to predict which new salespeople will do best? Which 1st-year students at the US Army Military Academy will survive plebe year? An optimistic attitude is the key, and the good news is you can change yours if it isn't one of optimism. See, for example, http://www.ihhp.com/positive_think.htm At a large school like ucla you're going to have the same disappoinments at college students anywhere, but without the tight-knit community you might find at a smaller college. Help is out there if you look for it, but you can do a lot yourself by monitoring how you handle bad (and good) news.
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