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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Spilling the tea on undergraduate success

Somehow, it’s already my sixth first day of school here at UF, my second first day of law school, and yet I still have no idea what I’m supposed to write about. My editor kindly suggested I write something using my experience from these four years of undergraduate and one year of law school to help new UF undergraduate students be successful. As I have zero experience being a “successful” undergraduate student, (no seriously, I was the worst, just ask my stressed-out parents how excited they were when they got my degree in the mail), I thought I’d share a few things that got me over the finish line during the many times I thought I wasn’t going to graduate. 

Set yourself up for success. Do some introspection and be honest with yourself about your dedication to your studies and your major. If you are taking Calc 1 and Chem 1 because you are a dedicated student who developed good study habits in high school and are sure you want to go into a field that requires those weed-out classes, that’s great. I’m happy you’ve got yourself together. I definitely didn’t. Everyone else, here’s the tea: drop it ASAP. Only once have I seen someone substantially reinvent themselves academically, and that was in law school - not undergraduate. Most people I’ve known can make moderate changes to themselves over time. “But Preston,” you insist, “I’m different and will be a better student than I was in high school. I’ll work diligently to do my Chem & Calc homework.” Okay, I believe you. Just in case, though, make sure you know how to drop the class, or better yet, how to withdraw from the semester. You’ll probably need it. Weed-out classes have left behind thousands of victims (students) over the years who would have had significantly better GPAs if they just had realized one semester earlier that they didn’t actually want to do engineering or if they figured out a little bit sooner that pre-med wasn’t their thing. You shouldn’t push yourself so far that you need to do poorly in a class to figure out that that major isn’t for you. Take some time to reflect, and figure it out before you fail. 

Get in front of your problems. This is a skill that I actually got better at as the years went on. If you have something going on in your life that has gotten in the way of your studies, email your professor and let them know. Professors are people, too. It’s also much better if this isn’t the first time you’ve interacted with your professor. Although it isn’t true in all cases, as I once heard it put, “It’s a lot harder for your professor to fail you if they know you.” Getting in front of your problems also includes knowing what campus resources are available when you need help. U Matter, We Care; the Counseling & Wellness Center; the Disability Resource Center; the Broward Teaching Center; and the Office of the Ombuds are waiting for you when you have a problem. However, like most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Emailing your professor right before the exam to tell them you haven’t understood anything all semester is a great way to end up with a failing grade. 

Overall, investing more time during the drop/add period into figuring out what you actually want to take this semester will benefit you a lot more than drinking the Claw and trying to sneak into the bars in Mid. But who am I to judge? My fridge currently contains more White Claw than I care to admit.

Preston Jones is a UF second year law student.

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