Advice for freshmen college students

Luke Parsnow is a senior at the State University of New York at Oswego with a dual major in Journalism and Creative Writing and minor in History, with a concentration in American History. He is the news editor of his campus newspaper, web editor of his campus television station, a web content writer for the Office of Public Affairs, and has interned at a newspaper and magazine. He is also a traveling multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter who plays with two bluegrass bands at venues throughout the Eastern Seaboard. Besides writing and music, Luke enjoys reading, politics, watching documentaries, camping, hiking, traveling, 1960s TV shows, and keeping up on the latest news on politics, business, and environmental and social issues.

When you walk into a college classroom on the first day of any given semester, there’s going to be one thing you’re thinking about more than where to sit, the books you had to buy, or how much work you’ll have to do. You’ll be thinking about the professor—how they will teach, how hard they will grade assignments, and what kind of character they will be.

Half way through my final year of college, I’ve had quite the armada of professors. Some were tough graders, some weren’t, some were extremely interesting, and some were awkward. But whoever they were, one thing was always certain—I learned something from every one of them.

Professors make the class. From the number of classes I’ve taken, I can honestly say that even if the class is a subject I don’t particularly care for, if the professor is clear, active, and passionate, it will make me be too.

My first semester, I was taking a class called “Introduction to Information Sciences,” a class about the construction and evolution of computers and growth of the Internet. The details of a computer’s interior like its memory capacity, circuit patterns, and how it displays objects on a screen might be riveting to a computer or information science student. To me, a creative writing major straight out of high school, it’s not the first thing I would be running to class for.

The professor turned out to be lively and helpful to anyone who needed it. She taught well, and that meant the material was interesting to me. I remembered this concept and it carried into every other professor I’ve had since then.

I’ve figured out that if you walk out of a class on the last day unchanged from the first day, you’re not only wasting your time and money, but you’re also not seeing the bigger picture. A professor’s job is not solely to teach you the material, but to make that material mean something, to apply it to your real life. That is what I have been able to do.

I’ve gone beyond that though. I’ve let my professors know that they have done their job adequately. When a certain professor has moved me in any given way, I will usually send them an email or write them a letter when the class is complete, reflecting on what I’ve gained from them and what they did that made a difference.

Professors like nothing better than knowing that what they do leaves an imprint on a student’s life. One of my professors once told me, “We don’t get these ‘thank yous’ very often, but honestly, they make my day — sometimes more than a day — a week, a semester… I love my job, but it’s not one that’s filled with gratitude by colleagues, students, administrators, or the general public.”

Once you realize what a professor does, you will go back to them. I still go see and visit with past professors, even though I’ve been out of their class for two years. I talk about college, life after college, or just what’s going on in my life that particular day. And they listen each time.
Despite that you may think they are out to get you, they truly care about your work and want you to do well. They aren’t just standing in front of you, babbling on about Ancient Mesopotamia or warm and cold fronts just for the heck of it. They will be your biggest assets in college and in some cases, may seem more like a professional friend, then merely an educator. They can help determine your future. They make a living teaching you what you need to know to make a living, after all.

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