Just for Good Measure

Well, it’s finally come; the end of the winter semester. In mere days, all those meddlesome assignments, running from building to building, up and down stairs, all of that will be a thing of the past. Some of you will be heading to the universities next year; many more of you will be back with us. In any case, many of you have now given up your personal lives to do final assignments. Worse yet, there are probably some of you doing assignments at the last minute that were asked of you back in fall. It happens. Either way, here are a couple of things for you to chew on, just a few pointers that could, and should, help you out, especially if your final or last minute assignment is an English, literature, or some sort of a research paper. Just keep some of these tips in mind. Any one of these—or a couple of them, for that matter—could be a lifesaver.

Find time to do all of your assignments – There’s a motivator on the wall in the financial aid office; I’m sure you’ve seen it. Its big message is “do the important things first- because where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going.” True, but try explaining that to the teacher whose assignment you didn’t complete because it wasn’t one of the “high priority” classes or assignments. Do what you can, if you can, to make time for all of your assignments. All of them; not just the high priority assignments, not just the ones for the classes you like or for the classes you’re sure you’re passing. If you can’t and you know this, tell your teachers. Believe it or not, they will understand. They’re not like the teachers on television who run their classes with an iron fist. Oh yeah, by the way, fast doesn’t have to mean sloppy. Look over your assignments before you turn them in. In fact...

Have someone look at your work – The purpose of peer review is that there are certain things you may not see right away that maybe someone else will. You have no idea how many times I’ve written an article, thought I did a good job, and then read it and dissected my own article six ways from Sunday, looking at how else I could have written it, different words I could have used, etc. If you have time to have someone proofread your paper, do it. And they don’t have to be a literary genius. Don’t worry about not knowing any English majors; more than likely, your friends are more than smart enough to tell you if you missed something, if you’ve made something confusing, even if you’ve misspelled something or missed a punctuation mark (trust me, when you’re typing three- to five-page papers, syntax tends to fall to the bottom of your priorities list.) And I know what some of you are thinking: spell-check doesn’t count as proofreading. Speaking from experience, computers will miss blatant errors, and in the same paper mark perfectly good passages as containing errors, errors which you call yourself fixing, and as a result, making an error the computer considers okay. Trust me, humans are more reliable.

Get a head start on your work – If you have a syllabus, use it. Stay one step ahead; start on assignments before the teacher plans them, unless they say specifically that they want you to do them when they say so. Why? Because every year, it’s the same thing. Every teacher you have will wait until the end of the year to ask you for an assignment: a research paper, a presentation, something that you know you’re gonna be frustrated with, especially since your other teachers are doing the same thing. By doing work now, you’re decreasing your workload later, which gives you more time to, well, not worry about work.

Leave out early! – I learned that the hard way this year. If you have a morning class, especially if you use public transportation, always try to leave about an hour before you think you’ll need to get to class. I can’t stress how important this one thing is for several reasons. For starters, winter has officially come. Solstice isn’t until December 21, but there is already snow on the ground; and where there’s snow, there’s ice. You don’t want to be rushing in that kind of weather, whether you have a car, or take the bus, or get dropped off. Rushing in this weather is dangerous, period. Furthermore, if you neglected Tip 1, especially if this is a short, easy, “do it later” assignment, there’s no time to finish it, like in the library before your class stars. The reason for this is in the worst case scenario—that you spend more time working on it than you planned—there’s no need to panic because you’re already at the school. Finally, even if your assignments are ready and the weather is calm, if you take the bus, odds are, there’s some reason it’s going to not run like clockwork. Maybe a train or road work forces another route, maybe the bus breaks down, maybe the bus runs fast and you miss it, or slow and you’re waiting forever for it to come. Either way, if you’re going through this a few minutes before class, you will miss it, especially if you have to wait twenty-odd minutes for the next one.

Remember these tips, they will help you. Not just because they’re in the news paper, but because they’re honestly not the most discussed things on campus. You take a lot of classes and they teach you how to use CLARA, they tell you where everything is, so on and so forth. But unless you take an English class, you’re missing out on these basic, but vital, tips and techniques. I’m not saying teachers don’t talk about this stuff, but things like peer review are not stressed as much as they should be. And more than likely, there aren’t a lot of advisers or aides on campus telling you to leave out early, even in good weather. Keep these in mind, you’ll thank yourself later.