Academic Horoscope

To all my students out there; new, old, beginning, veterans, non-traditional, on-line, commuter, university, community college, and everything in between I wish you a good start to the new year! What a glorious time – a fresh slate, new opportunities on the horizon, and a new season to celebrate. I hope your break, however you celebrated, was restful. Now shake off the cobwebs and let’s get to work.

I have some thoughts about how each of you (freshmen – seniors) can make the most of this spring. Is this rocket science? Absolutely not, but the answers and solutions we seek to success elude us all the same. And it’s funny how the path to success is found in the “basics.” Read all of this, as it can be a nice prep for some of you, or reminder for others. Consider this your Academic Horoscope for the first of the year:) If you have other ideas – send them my way and I’ll add them!:

Freshmen/New Students
Go to class – sound familiar? There is much to do in your academic career – and don’t think your first semester success entitles you to second semester success. Be vigilant about using the resources available to you (academic support, TRIO,  Writing Center, Academic Advisors, coaches, etc.) Go visit them now, not after you get in trouble. If you don’t have a peer support group by now (e.g., residence hall, student org, parental support group, intramural team, study group, etc.) get one. You will need them to get through this semester. You will also need them to compete with the thousands who will graduate from around the WORLD with a strong GPA. Simply being a good student isn’t enough to propel you to success post-graduation, it’s just a prerequisite. Start building your co-curricular, extra-curricular, and research portfolio now. You should also have at least 1-2 administrators or faculty you know by name and who can vouch for your talents, academic abilities, and character. If you don’t…find a few. I know one who’d love to get to know you (HINT: he wrote this.)

Go to class – yep, you too. This is the semester where you may think you have this college thing “down.” I mean you’ve completed 3 whole semesters! And guess what, you have several more to go – don’t let your own arrogance blind you to your limitations, or knock you out of your learners’ stance. Stay vigilant, redouble your study efforts. Consider finding a mentor if you haven’t already to start coaching you for your last two-three years. Also start thinking about what you are doing for the summer. I love me some fast-food (clearly), and going to the mall (again, clearly), but some of those jobs won’t prepare you for your inevitable CAREER. Focus your efforts on finding a job that adds value to your bank account and your experience. As you did when you were a Freshman, continue to build on your involvement and research agenda.

Go to class – yep, you heard me. Even more than before this is vital. At this point you can almost see the end of the road, and that can be extremely tempting. You can began to rest on your laurels and think the worse it behind you. It may be in some ways, and maybe not in others. Pay attention to what’s going on around you – and take on an active leadership role if you can in the coming months. Your final year is approaching, and people will expect you to step up and lead, showing others how to go out in style. Believe it or not people look up to you, and are going to take your lead on setting priorities for the student body, your discipline, or your organization. Think about prestigious scholarships that you may want to shoot for (Fulbright, Rhodes, Truman) or other powerful experiences (Foreign teaching, AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, or Teach for America). Get your references and resume tight, as you’ll need to use them big time in your last year. Don’t wait until August to start those things. Many deadlines for the top schools, scholarships, and programs are in the fall. Finally, you should have a really powerful experience lined up for the summer – hopefully one that builds on what you did last summer as a sophomore. A job, cultural immersion, or paid internship will give you a lot of leverage and valuable experience going into your final year(s).

Seniors/Final Year
Go to class – of course I was going to say that. This is not the year to mess up. This is the year to lock down those grades, secure your position in the graduate/professional school, post-graduate experience, or the job of your choice. Tighten up your resume, you never know when it will be needed. Consider service or study domestically or abroad, even if its short term (i.e., spring break, 4-5 fives days, etc.). This will help clarify your goals and ambitions as you move through your last year. Build strong relationships with professors and administrators, these are your future colleagues and friends; to not do so is foolhardy and lazy. Have fun – this is the last dance folks – make it count and then dance across the stage for graduation. Work on setting goals, managing your time, balancing your priorities, and thinking about the transition from an undergraduate student to a graduate student, or professional. A new setting requires new tools, attitudes, and behaviors. Start thinking about that now.

Super Seniors
Go to…the career center, haha. Graduation is imminent for you, and by now I don’t have to say go to class – in fact going to class and liking it so much may be why you’re still here! I took a victory lap in college as well folks, so no love lost here. I’m not judging, but my victory lap was PACKED WITH PURPOSE. That stellar work experience, world class cultural immersion/travel abroad experience, internship, intensive language training, senior leadership role on campus, or something else significant should be setting you apart from the rest. People should see the seasoning fall off of you – you are a veteran, act like one. Get good grades, to not do so is a joke. Mentor others to make sure they are doing what they are supposed to do, to not do so is selfish. Build strong relationships with professors and administrators, these are your future colleagues and friends; to not do so is foolish. As I said to the seniors, have fun – this is the last dance – make it count and then dance across the stage for graduation – you’ve paid your dues (plus some!).

To all of you, be a great student, not a good one – whether you have a part-time job or not…this is your priority. Do it well, or find another way to use your time. I’ve attached some other related articles for your edification:)


Published by Dr. Michael D. Anthony

I currently serve as the Vice President of Student Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, IL. I served as an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Louisville and Loyola University in Chicago, IL. In order to expand my life's work beyond my day-to-day job, I started my own consulting work in leadership and diversity in 2008. I completed my Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development at the University of Louisville, where I also earned my Master of Arts degree in Higher Education Administration. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing from North Carolina State University. A native of Charlotte, NC I am passionate about leadership development, organizational change, and the ability of effective leaders to transform their communities. During my professional career I have made it my personal goal to be a strong and vocal advocate for students, faculty, and staff, and have a life-long vision to empower others to affect positive change in their community. I live in Rochester, MN.

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