New first year students often ask me how to be successful as an adult learner. Adults learn quickly due to their maturity and they learn selectively because of personal interests. To help first year students take advantage of these characteristics, I usually reply to the question of success in the classroom with three words:  Drive, Respect, and Responsibility.

 

Drive: Think deeply about why you are choosing to pay to go to school for four more years. What do you want for your life? How do you see yourself contributing to the campus community now and to society when you finish your degree? Find your motivation, work to harness it, direct it to your advantage each and every day. Use it to help you get up in the morning and make that 8 a.m. class. Use it to help you push through that two page essay. Use it to pull back from Minecraft -- or whatever your favorite video game might be -- and spend a couple hours on homework and reading.

 

Respect: Remember that you are part of a learning community. The ideas of others should be heard, analyzed, and used by you to form your own interpretation of the material you are learning. Respect the classroom environment by participating full and engaging in dialogue through questioning and discussion. Respect your classmates by practicing active listening, by turning off distracting electronics, by engaging with them in teamwork and collaboration. Remember that your classmates personal interests are guiding their learning and even if you don't find a topic particularly interesting it may be fascinating to others participating in the discussion. Respect your instructor as the mentor in your apprenticeship.

 

Responsibility: Take charge of your life. Balance study, work, and play. Learn to schedule your day so that you maximize your potential for academic success as well as social happiness. Start long-term projects early. Complete practice problems even if they aren't collected for grading. Read textbooks and supplementary reading. Review returned quizzes and exams and identify areas for improvement. Submit high quality work to your instructor each and every time -- think of your instructor like a manager at your job; would you want to read what you submitted? Find stress relievers to keep your body and mind fit -- your responsibility extends to your health as well. Go to the gym, play music, paint, watch movies, go for a walk, dance, hang out with your friends. Just remember to come back to your academics.

 

As another academic year begins at MSOE, I hope that these three words can help all students maximize their potential. Good luck this year -- and see you in class!