November 20, 2013

Strategies for success…or what I learned from Candy Crush Saga

Hi, my name is Dean Frosh, and I’m addicted to Candy Crush Saga.
Phew, it feels better just saying it out loud! I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve been playing a lot of Candy Crush Saga (CCS) lately. I know, you’ve moved on to something new, but hear me out, because CCS actually has a lot to do with your life at Rutgers.

As I was playing the other night, desperately trying to beat a level I’ve been stuck on for weeks, I realized that my struggles with the game are a lot like the issues you face as you wrap up your first semester:

Developing a strong support system is key to your success
To advance in CCS, you need “tickets” from your FB friends, who can also send you extra moves and extra lives to get you through challenging levels. Just like the gaming world, your college experience relies on your ability to identify supporters and forge alliances. Networks of people – family, friends from home, new college friends – create a web of allies who can give you a boost when you most need it.

If you live on campus, your roommate, neighbors, and Resident Assistant are go-to people for support.  If you’re a commuter, the Off-Campus Students’ Association (OCSA) and the commuter lounges on campus can be your home-away-from-home and the foundation of your Rutgers network.  Rutgers has a vibrant community of student groups, so hopefully you’re already getting involved in something you’re passionate about to help you connect with peers with similar interests.

Help may come from surprising places
Some of the friends helping me crush candy are people I haven’t seen in years! Of course I get help from my close friends and family, but it’s nice to know that there are a lot of people out there to help me and who I help in return. In short, college is a time to broaden your network of support. Here are some ways to do so:

Ask for help from your instructor if you don’t understand the material. Visit office hours. Consider taking the lead and forming a study group to share knowledge and prep for exams. Again and again, research shows that working in groups enhances understanding of a subject!

We also hope you’re connecting with advisers. At SAS, we want you to work with a general adviser to discuss academic plans and eventually have advisers in your major and minor departments. If your plans include law or medical school, you’ll also work with a Pre-law adviser or a Health Professions Office adviser.

Remember to acknowledge your whole person when thinking about your needs and support system. Clergy from a variety of faiths are available for counseling and support.  The Deans of Students can help if you have any personal, medical, financial, or other concerns. Questioning your sexuality or sexual identity? Reach out to the staff at the Center for Social Justice or any of the LGBTQA liaisons on campus. Also keep in mind that all students have access to free counseling through Counseling and Psychological Services.

Please remember the help you get and pay it forward and help a fellow student when you can!

You may be able to get by through sheer luck, but that won’t work for long
The first few levels of CCS are easy – I just had to match candies and earn a lot of points.
But then: a dreaded time limit.
Then:  I had to crush through jelly and frosting.
Then: Chocolate covered the board and I had to crush candy before pieces disappeared.
Then: I had to create special candies through a series of moves.

You get the idea… each new challenge built on my skills from the one before it.

At first, I was able to advance by sheer luck. But now, I realize that the levels each prepared me for ever-more difficult challenges. And if I didn’t really master the skills, I struggled in the next level.

Sounds a little like Calc, huh?

This is the same premise as having to complete courses in sequence or managing cumulative exams. You need to create a strong foundation on which to build the next level. And at the next level, you need to synthesize what you’ve learned in the past. You need a solid foundation before you build the rest of the house.

With only a few more weeks in the semester, you may need to really scrutinize your foundation. If you need help building or repairing, the Rutgers Learning Centers offer free group and individual tutoring and academic coaching.

There are ways to cheat, but they’re expensive

There are tons of websites and YouTube videos on how to beat levels in CCS. Yet all of these cheats come with a literal and figurative price: I had pay for boosters, or I moved ahead when I wasn’t ready. This leads to a vicious cycle of having to keep paying or cheating, since I’m not prepared for the next level.

Looming finals create stress and stress can add desperation to decision-making. Now we all know there are various forms of cheating (buying a term paper, having someone else do your work, copying answers) that feel easy and seem to fix the immediate problem. These are questionable academic decisions and also obvious violations of the Academic Integrity Policy.

For example, if your instructor posts the PowerPoint slides and doesn’t take attendance, do you really have to attend every class? (The answer: YES! Thanks for playing!)

At some point, every college student feels pressure to take the easy way out. Doing so can short-change you and jeopardize the future of your education. Beyond the obvious problems that come from an Academic Integrity violation (failure in the course, suspension, expulsion), remember that you are building an academic foundation and a weak foundation cannot hold up the house (see above). What’s the point of spending time and money on a degree that doesn’t have any substance behind it? Your diploma is just a really expensive piece of paper if it doesn’t represent sincere investment on your part.  

If you’re feeling desperate or tempted to take a short cut, please reach out to your support system. Talk with friends, family, and professional support staff on campus. Discuss your concerns with your faculty, advisers and friends and get help if you need it. Making good decisions will help you wrap up the semester well and keep you from running out of moves before you win the game.

Now, if you excuse me, I have some candy to crush…