Start Your Semester Off Right

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Jevette Brown, Staff Writer

The fall semester has officially commenced, and faculty, staff and students at Mason are encouraging newcomers to start strong.  

Mason’s Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Mark Ginsberg encourages students to “take the inclination to be organized and successful, in whatever manner best suits a student’s personality and lifestyle.

“Every one of us knows ourselves best,” Ginsberg said. “So if a student is a visual person, maybe a color coded planner is the way to go, and if a student is more of a techie, implement mobile apps or the calendar on computer may work best for them; whatever system a student wants to use to keep up with all of the due dates and events that will be coming at you from every direction.”

Good grades aren’t just necessary for landing a job down the road or graduating with honors though. Christian Reid, a junior at Mason, advises students to keep their academic performance a priority in order to stay involved on campus. “College is a blast, especially freshman year, but you can’t do anything if you don’t have a good GPA,” Reid said.

As a current Resident Advisor and a former Patriot Leader, Reid can attest to the importance of maintaining good marks since many jobs at Mason require students to hold and maintain a 3.0 GPA.

It’s especially beneficial for students to take academics seriously from the beginning of the semester, according to junior psychology major Keandra Diamond. “It makes it easier later in the semester when your foundation is strong,” she says. “Midterms and final exams aren’t as difficult when you’ve been working diligently all along.”

Hard work means more than simply completing homework assignments and passing tests, however. Class participation is often essential to success in a course.  

Mason senior Jose Aguimatang suggests students work to become active learners. “There’s no such thing as a ‘teacher’s pet’ in college, only students who care and who don’t,” Aguimatang points out.

Professors appreciate effort, Aguimatang adds, so students struggling to master a concept or seeking clarity on a concept should consider attending office hours.

Mason faculty and staff agree.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Ginsberg said. “Show motivation, interact by being active in your classes. Professors are there to help, not to judge.

While academics are undoubtedly important, they are not the only element of a strong college education. GMU has over 300 on-campus organizations, making it easy for students to select a club or society they enjoy.

“There’s something for everyone. Many of students’ opportunities come from networking through involvement and serving as an active member of the Mason community,” Diamond said.   

The beginning of the semester is an excellent time for students to explore, with events like ‘Get Connected 2 Mason,’ which is held during Welcome Week, happening across campus.

Reid recommends students “find their thing and really stick with it.” Personal experience has taught him “it’s better to find one club and do it really well than just be on the email list for like 30 clubs.”

Students should not be afraid to explore different options and go for what they love. Since there are over 21,000 undergraduate students at Mason, the chances of finding another Harry Potter aficionado, calculus lover or a cappella enthusiast are fairly high.

Reid reminds everyone that “college, especially Mason, is what you make of it. People can spend four years not doing anything, or they can spend four years doing a ton, but everyone’s experience will be different.”

There are a few other things to keep in mind as the semester heats up.  Those of us at Fourth Estate have our own advice for new students: For starters, students should schedule classes at times that work for them. Students who work best at night and like to avoid early mornings should avoid 7:30 lectures, while early risers should avoid late night classes.

Students should also consider planning their classes close together. If students have enough time to go back to their dorms between classes, they may be less inclined to attend the next class.

It’s important to eat breakfast every morning and keep snacks in your bag for those three-hour lectures when your stomach starts to growl. Laptop and phone chargers are also nice to have on hand.

But the most imperative piece of advice to remember is to stay calm through the chaos and to let yourself take chances. College is about more than obtaining a 4.0 and graduating with five internships under your belt. It’s also about making new friends, forging connections with your favorite professors, and trying new things.