Letter to the Editor: How to graduate from Mines

Dear Editor,

I read an article in the Oredigger recently called, “Underclassmen are Whiners? No Kidding!”  written by an “Anonymous PO’ed Mines Student,” (his words not mine,) and he brought up an interesting point that I felt was worth a response.
In the article, he said that he understands where upperclassmen are coming from when we criticize underclassmen for whining, but at the same time feels that upperclassmen should do more to encourage underclassmen who are not yet familiar with the demands of CSM.

As a Mines alumni and a current graduate student, I would like to respond to this request and offer my insight into keys that will help you succeed at Mines. By following these rules (or at least attempting to follow them), I was able to graduate with a respectable 3.4 GPA.

I am offering seven pieces advice, not seven absolute truths. Some may disagree with them, and some may viscously disagree with them. This is ok, however respect the fact that no matter how you feel about these guidelines, they enabled me to graduate and can likely help others to do the same.

1) Do Your Homework—All of It
This one is huge. Professors do not assign homework because they enjoy torturing you. They do not collect homework because they enjoy grading. They assign homework because they feel that it is information you must know.

If you want to succeed at Mines, you must do assigned homework—all of it. There is no such thing as “optional homework,” or “suggested reading.” Homework is optional in the same sense that eating is optional. If you are OK with an early death, then you can choose to stop eating. In the same way, if you are OK with dropping out of Mines, then you can choose not to do your homework. It’s your call.

2) Do Your Homework When It is Assigned, not When It is Due
This one is also huge because it involves your stress level. Everyone will have questions on homework, and trying to find the answer to a question the night before an assignment is due is stressful. Turning in an assignment that has been completed and sitting in a folder for a week is not stressful. You will find plenty of sources of stress at Mines—don’t let homework become one of them.

3) Take Practice Tests Seriously
If you are lucky enough to get your hands on a practice test, then take it seriously. If you will have 50 minutes to complete the real test, then set aside exactly 50 minutes to do the practice test. Only give yourself the resources you will have during the real test (no notes, no books, no equation sheets, etc.). After you are done with the practice test, grade yourself. If you missed a problem on the practice test (even if it was a small mistake), that means you need to practice that concept more. If you got it right on the practice test, move on. Don’t study what you already know.

4) Go to Class
You need to discover what it is that you don’t know. Even if you think you understand the material, go to class. If you don’t know everything that was covered in class, then you will not know what to study for on the test. Go to class.

5) Take Notes in Class
Always take notes. Notes are about keeping your mind focused on what you are trying to learn. Some people reread their notes, some people don’t. I never reread my notes, but I always got a better grade when I took notes.

Also remember that while you are taking notes, if a professor says something twice, put a star next to it—when a professor repeats something, it means it will be on the next test. Professors (I am sorry to say), do not get paid enough to repeat themselves for fun. They repeat themselves because it is important, and that means it will be on the next test.

6) Take Notes on Paper
I’ve tried taking notes on a laptop before—it doesn’t work. A laptop is a $1000 distraction and will cause your grade to suffer (no matter what the class).

Now I know that there are some of you out there with fancy tablet PC’s saying that you take notes on your laptop. It just so happens that I also have a very nice tablet PC and I tried taking notes on it. It didn’t make a lick of difference. Nothing keeps you focused better than taking notes on paper.

7) Don’t let Hobbies take the Place of Priorities
The last piece of advice that I have is probably the hardest to swallow. The truth of the matter is that you must keep hobbies in their place (this includes video games). If your hobby is taking a significant amount of your time, you need to realize that that hobby will be the reason you don’t graduate. Keep your hobby on a schedule. If you are unable to stick to a schedule, give the hobby up.
I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with hobbies—they will help you keep your sanity and help define who you are. What I am saying is that if your hobby consumes you, then it will stop you from graduating. Keep it under control if you wish to graduate.

At the end of the day, Mines is tough. It will take a significant amount of effort and will define you for the next 4 to 5 years of your life. Just remember that no matter what happens to you, the trail to graduation is well traveled and the goal is very achievable for those who are willing to work for it.

Ricky Walker

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