There’s no magic formula for being successful in college (or in life, for that matter). But there’s lots of good advice out there that can set you on the right path. We asked the five deans at St. Edward’s — tried-and-tested professionals in their respective fields and professors with years of experience — to give us the advice they most often share with their students.
Be prepared, and always take one extra step. —David Altounian, Dean of The Bill Munday School of Business
Dean David Altounian: It’s not enough to show up to class on the first day with your books ready to learn. Smart students get their books early and skim the entire thing, highlighting what they don’t understand so they can be sure to focus on that during class time. If you go through the materials early, you can create a mental picture of what the class is about and what areas you need help understanding. You’ll also ask a lot of smart questions (and possibly annoy other students, but they’ll be glad you asked the question in the long run!). Once you’re in the work force, the same rules apply: Do your homework, and don’t waste others’ time. Come to meetings fully prepared with an agenda or having done the research to respond to potential questions around your items.
As for taking an extra step, most people won’t do the basic work, much less anything extra, so be the exception. Before finishing any project or assignment, I always ask myself: Have I done everything? Is there one more thing I should do? One last check to make sure I haven’t missed anything? If you’re turning in a paper, review one last time before submitting it. Don’t hit “send” on that email until you’re sure you’ve cc’d all the right people. It’s like that carnival game where you’re aiming a water gun at a horse to win a race — consistency counts. You may not see results immediately, but over time you will win.
Talk to your professors, and get involved. —Sharon Nell, Dean of the School of Arts & Humanities
Dean Sharon Nell: The fundamental thing I say is to always, always, always talk to your professor. If you’re having any kind of issue, if you don’t understand the homework or if you performed poorly on a test, go talk to the professor and ask for help. We have seen students lose confidence or shut down over one failure, but by talking with their professor, they can learn from their mistakes and grow their confidence.
In the broader context, I also encourage students to take full advantage of everything St. Edward’s has to offer to help students succeed. Get involved and participate!
Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you, and always keep learning. —Glenda Ballard, Dean of the School of Human Development & Education
Dean Glenda Ballard: My grandfather wasn’t an overtly religious man, but he taught me the Golden Rule at a very young age. I try to emulate that in everything that I do, and it is the advice that I most often share with others. If you don’t understand the differences or the approach that people bring to a situation, ask yourself how you would want to be treated, and you won’t go wrong. Nine times out of 10, you will be able to show someone the respect you would want yourself.
The other thing I tell students is to never stop learning — be open and willing and curious. Our world today has gotten so much more sophisticated in my lifetime, and it staggers my mind to think what it will look like in the next 50 years. You can’t rest on your laurels. To remain relevant, you must keep learning.
Stay open to possibility. —Gary Morris, Dean of the School of Natural Sciences
Dean Gary Morris: I have a standard presentation I’ve given many times with observations from my own research career path. One of the biggest things I have learned is that if you don’t share your results with the larger scientific community, if you don’t publish, it’s as if your research never existed. Second, you discover the most interesting things when life — or research — doesn’t go as planned. Write your proposal, have the likely end results in mind and your justification for why you think that is the expected outcome, but stay open to possibility. In my career, the most interesting things that I’ve found were not the things I thought I would find in the proposal. They were things that came up through the process of doing the research
Ask the question. —Brenda Vallance, Dean of the School of Behavioral & Social Sciences
Dean Brenda Vallance: If you’re concerned about whether this major is for you, if you’re concerned about this assignment, or you don’t understand, ask the question. Although we are trying to give you as much information as we can, sometimes even that can be overwhelming. Help us understand what it is you need. Ask the question. Sometimes we receive so much information, but it’s not the information we really need. That’s when asking the right questions can really help.