Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to be a Hermione Granger at Westminster

You're a bright student and you know you want to make the most out of your freshman year. Be a Hermione Granger, you'll be glad you put the effort in now because you'll have good habits for college from the beginning. 

Hermione is killin' it in class today.
According to my research, Hermione earned 11 O.W.L.s: She received 10 "Outstandings" (Care of Magical Creatures, Transfiguration, Potions, Charms, Herbology, Astronomy, History of Magic, Arithmancy, Ancient Runes and one unknown class), and an "Exceeds Expectations" in Defense Against the Dark Arts (HBP5). Hermione missed her seventh year at Hogwarts (DH), but she went back to school the whole following year and took her N.E.W.T.s so she could graduate properly (PC/JKR1). She received the award "Perfect for Gryffindor" her 5th and 6th years. Organizations? She was a member of Dumbledore's Army and S.P.E.W.

You don't have to wait at Westminster until you're an upperclassman to earn recognition for your academics or skills. There are plenty of opportunities for you to shine in your field of choice. Just ask your professor or advisor how to challenge yourself and what they think you could participate in. But before you have stars in your eyes dreaming of awards, you're going to have to put extra effort to stay on top of your tasks to get there. Below are tactics to help you stay organized and keep you ahead: 

Save these phone numbers.
Westminster Main Number: 801.484.7651

(Call the main desk for anyone!)
Westminster Campus Patrol: 801.832.2525 
(If you're scared to walk to your dorm at night, Patrol can escort you there's not weird)
Westminster Emergency: 801.832.3000

(The number that will call you for snow days, bad weather, or any other emergency)

Always have your student ID, license, wallet, keys, phone, and a little notebook.
You'll probably need your ID for most campus activities. Your license is just good to have in case you need another form of ID. You'll probably need your wallet if you want to buy anything extra on campus like those scrumptious girls scout cookies when they come on campus. I have an 'idea' notebook I carry sometimes but it's just been nice when you need a random piece of paper to write a note in. You need your keys - self-explanatory. Your phone? It's probably already always with you.

Forward your emails to an inbox you check regularly. If you haven't already, set up a professional personal email. By that, I mean or won't be acceptable either. You probably already knew that. Although you'll have a new Westminster email, you will still want a professional personal email. Just use your name and maybe the year you were born if your name by itself isn't available. It's nice to have because you never know when a job opportunity will come and they might ask for your email to send you more information. Set up your Westminster email to forward those emails to your personal account. Set it up on your phone too. If you need help, call IT/Support.

Start looking now for on-campus jobs, clubs, sports, and other organizations.
I have no doubt you could get an off-campus job but on-campus jobs are more flexible with your school schedule, they're convenient, and sometimes you get to work with your friends or make new friends. If you stick with it, you won't have to go job hunting until you graduate. If you were actively involved in a club in high school, it's probably part of your livelihood so don't give it up! Look for something similar - just ask ASWC (student government) what clubs are available, or check their website. Again, keep up with your sport of choice. Try out for the team! There are multiple other organizations you can be a part of. Honestly, there's always opportunities at Westminster if you ask questions and put yourself out there.

Create a printed/electronic schedule. 
Make a calendar in Word and put your school and work schedule into it. Print it out for yourself. Save that document to your phone too! I have mine on my iPhone as an image I can refer to quickly. It's just useful to look at when you're making other plans if you can't remember everything in your schedule. In addition, I have imported my schedule into my iCal so it's synced on my laptop and my phone. 

Set alarms for different things you need to do.
It might seem a little dorky but setting alarms for things like homework, work, gym time, laundry, calling your parents, actually go a long way. You won't forget and you'll start to create a schedule for yourself that becomes second nature. If you have a smart phone, I'm sure you can use the alarms on your phone or download an application for it.

Pick the major you want to do - not the one your parents want you to do.
You'll thank me for this one day! My father told me I absolutely had to do marketing, so I did, didn't succeed, and then ended up changing my major anyway to communication which was way more my style - I like to write, design, create things and collaborate with others. Communication and marketing work closely together so I was able to cheerfully study something more in tune with what I knew I would excel at. Although I'm not far behind, I could have been ahead if I just started with what I wanted to do. If you don't like your major now, it'll just get harder and harder.

Buy/rent your books way before class. Skim through the books.
The bookstore at Westminster usually always carries the books you need but the line is long if you wait until the last minute. You can get them cheaper online - anywhere. Try,, or check this article out for more information.

Participate in class; you'll remember the lesson more.
I know it might be scary to speak up in your first day of a college class but I promise, Westminster doesn't bite. Speak up because it's your grade that's on the line. You don't have to raise your hand every single time you know the answer but participating a little is better than none at all.

Take superb notes and make study cards ahead of time.
  • By now you should know, you have to take good notes. For good notes, you need a working pen or pencil. Definitely don't be that kid in college without a pen or pencil - we're all judging you, a little. A lot of my classmates still take notes with pen and paper and they say that although it sucks, they retain the information a lot better. I take notes on my laptop but sometimes I use an application called OmmWriter that's a blank room just for writing. Then I'm not distracted. Notes are great for when you write papers because it helps you remember what the core ideas are. If you don't feel like taking notes that day because you're too tired or just want to relax, record the lecture and take your notes later. It'll go buy even faster!
  • Make your flash cards in advance and look at them whenever you have free time, maybe when you don't have homework for that class - review your flash cards! You'll know more than everyone else in class and you'll start to remember the information. An easy way to do this is to use my FAVORITE studying application ever - it's called Study Blue. I study from my phone now (thanks Devin!). It's easy to use, it grades you, it takes seconds to create, and you can put diagrams and photos on it. I just gave you all my most powerful study secret.
Organize your computer for your college documents.
  • Create a folder called Westminster. Put your class and/or work schedule, resume, and any other official documents you need for college. In addition, create a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior folder. Within your Freshman folder, create folders for all your first semester classes. You get the idea - repeat that for your sophomore, junior, and senior year.
  • You'll have to make an e-portfolio. Why not create a folder of your "Best Work" so it's easier to pick out pieces and upload when you're ready? Divide it by category: academic papers, design, presentations, proposals (just some examples).

Embrace your Hermione-ness; we like the smart kids in college! If you have any questions about how else to prepare for your first semester, feel free to ask your admissions counselor, call the start center, or tweet to me @SkhanStudio! I'm more than happy to give advice to new Griffins or find the right person to answer your questions.

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