December 1, 2014

10 Days & Counting to Finals: The Top 10 Things to Do Now!



Welcome back from Thanksgiving Break! We trust you ate your fill and have arrived back on campus, feeling well-rested and ready for the FINAL TEN CLASS DAYS OF THE SEMESTER. 

What’s that, you say? Ten days? Why, yes, here we are on December 1, exactly 10 days from the last day of classes for the Fall 2014 semester, Wednesday, Dec. 10. 

To stem your rising panic, Dean Frosh is here to offer the Top 10 Things you should be doing NOW to help you prepare for the end of the semester:

1. Log in to finalexams.rutgers.edu immediately to review your final exam schedule, look for conflicts, and note them on your calendar in BOLD or Sharpie marker. If you discover an exam conflict or three exams on one calendar day, immediately contact your professors to request a makeup exam; be prepared to share a copy of your exam schedule.

2. Sit down to a calendar of the next three weeks and map out a study schedule. Here’s a Finals Prep packet that Dean Frosh loves. Include all of your commitments. Carve out times to eat and sleep since you’ll get nowhere fast if you’re running on empty. Exams are a marathon, not a sprint. 

3. Stock up on healthy snacks OR drop an obvious hint to the people at home that LOTS of healthy snacks will help you get through finals.

4. Discover which of your classes offer Review Sessions. Check your syllabus or talk with TAs or Professors to see if a Review Session is planned, put it on your calendar (see #2), and BE THERE!

5. Take a deep breath and look at your current grades. Really, look at them. Review the professor’s grading criteria. Be realistic and consider what effort you need to make in each class to get the outcome you want. What grade do you need? A D may satisfy college requirements, but you may need a C or better for major/minor. Review the SAS academic standards for Dean’s List, Warning and Probation.  

6. Pencil in Midnight Breakfast, Sunday, December 14! Don’t pull an all-nighter the night before exams begin, but some good food and company studying can motivate you.

7. Exercise. It’s getting colder out, but looming finals make it even more important to get out and get moving for stress relief. There’s still time to register for the Big Chill 5K this weekend for exercise and a good cause!

8. Tweak your study skills at the Rutgers Learning Center program, SimplifyingExams on Wed., Dec. 3, and check out the drop-in Academic Coaching dates. Add them to your calendar (see #2).

9. Take advantage of Cyber Monday sales to shop for Rutgers Swag for the people at home, especially if you anticipate difficult conversations over Winter Break about your grades or academic plans. 

10. Relax and breathe. Try a little Mindfulness Meditation, offered each day from 12-1 at various Rutgers locations through December; see the Rutgers Calendar of Events for daily details.

November 14, 2014

Weigh the Opinions, Ditch the Trolls and Find the Facts




Dean Frosh recommends doing your research and using all reasonable tools available to make good decisions about your academic plans. For many students, the first stop in this research is ratemyprofessor.com (RMP). We don’t necessarily endorse the use of that tool, but since we know many students rely on it, we hope this post will give you some tips on how to be an educated user of that resource. 

We also want to tell you about another great tool, the Rutgers Student Instructional Rating Survey (SIRS). As you’ll find out in a few weeks, Rutgers students complete an online survey for each of their classes at the end of each semester. Think of it as an institution-specific version of RMP that focuses on topics of “teaching effectiveness” and instructional methods.  Instructors get your feedback (don’t worry, it’s anonymous AND available only after grades are submitted). Students can view the results. Comments are not included in the SIRS ratings, so Dean Frosh recommends that you use SIRS and other, ahem, online resources that provide more context for ratings.
 
Thanks to the Wired Science Blogs for Image
Any assessment (RMP or SIRS) is almost useless if you look only at the composite score. Like everything else about college, you need to actually read and think critically for this info to be useful to you. To that end, here are some thoughts on using RMP and SIRS effectively:
Know thyself. One of the best things culled from reviews may be information about the course format and assignments. Do you prefer classes with writing assessments, multiple choice, group projects, exams? Course reviews will key you in to whether attendance and discussion are mandatory and graded. Are you willing to fulfill the obligations of this course?

“In the end, it is worth it if you're interested in [subject redacted] and are a driven student. If not, this is not the class for you.”[1]

Consider the high school teachers that you still remember well. What factors helped you establish rapport? Do you prefer snarky or soft deliveries? While your professor’s personality should not be a major factor in your learning, we all know that interpersonal issues play a role in how we receive information and what we think about a class.

“keeps lectures interesting and fun with wacky comments that make you laff in yor seat. really makes u work though, i suppose not everyone can be easy.”

 Experts in a subject area are not always experts in teaching. Look for assessments of how the professor teaches hard concepts and how receptive he/she is to student questions and discussion.

“Attendence isn't really required but you don't want to miss his/guest speakers lectures because they will be on the exam. Literally you have to study movies, articles, the book, and the powerpoints.... EVERYTHING! Overall good teacher just study hard”

Read between the lines. Be careful of reviews about professors whose ratings are really polarized – loved by some, hated by others. Focus on the why of the love or hate. The psychosocial classroom environment can affect your learning and motivation. You don’t have to love all of your professors, but it is important to be prepared to spend an entire semester with this individual.

“You can send [the final paper] to him a million times to edit. he is so nice and answers all questions and he is fast with email.”

Overall, focus on helpfulness and clarity ratings and NOT easiness – remember that easy is in the eye of the beholder AND it’s not the reason you’re in college. And chili pepper rating? We’ll leave the importance of that factor up to you.

“It's almost distracting how gorgeous he is but his lectures are so enthralling that it balances out.”


[1] Quotes are actual excerpts. Spelling and grammar mistakes have been left intact for authenticity.

November 13, 2014

Course Schedule Planner: How to Ride the Unicorn



Now that we’ve covered the when and the what of registration, we’d like you to turn your attention to the how. It may seem intuitive, but there’s danger in assuming that you know exactly how to use our online tools – danger that can cause frustration and delay on registration night.

Dean Frosh has seen the registration process at Rutgers grow from an in-person process with hours-long lines, to registration by telephone (the ones with cords attached to walls), to the dawn of a new age with an online system (Web Registration) and partner site to create possible schedules (Course Schedule Planner). A program that does all the work of registration for you sounds a bit like a technological unicorn, right? Well, it is.

You, our current students, have more information available to you than any previous generation of Rutgers scholar. And yet, it is still possible to make uninformed choices or get stuck in common registration blunders. We’re here to minimize those chances!

The Course Schedule Planner (or CSP) can be accessed via the Academics tab on MyRutgers, or directly at sims.rutgers.edu/CSP.

Once you’re in the system, the search for classes begins!


 
But not so fast! Before moving forward to the next tab, make sure you have the prerequisite(s) to take the course! The CSP won’t check this for you and it will let you select classes you’re not actually able to take

Now that you have a list of courses that total between 12 and 16 credits, it’s time to look more closely at your options. On the Select Sections tab, you have three levels of work to do, and level two is especially critical to your registration success!

Level One: preference setting

 

  Level Two: section eligibility review





The CSP does not check your college affiliation, class year, or other identifiers.


Therefore, it is your responsibility to research the sections for each course that you intend to take. If there are sections for which you are ineligible, de-select them to avoid frustration when your “perfect schedule” turns out to be unattainable! Trust Dean Frosh, these scheduling blunders are disappointing if discovered early, but can truly feel soul-crushing when discovered at 10:05 on registration night!

Level Three: section theme/topic review


Special note about Byrne Seminars (090:101)


Now that you’ve done your research and tidied up your section selections, it’s time to browse the different schedule possibilities!


On your evening to register, go to your Saved Schedule tab; find your first choice schedule, likely named something like, “THIS ONE!”



Keep in mind that the five-digit index number (NOT the course number/title/etc.) is the code that the computer uses to register you.
Course availability shifts quickly on registration night. You’ll want to have fast access to the index numbers from your other ranked schedules in the case something closes quickly and you need another option. Remaining flexible, having a general sense of your backup plans, and thinking quickly (rather than wallowing) are the keys to a productive first registration night.

Remember, this is a weeks-long process for everyone. We want you to be in at least 12 workable (if not ideal) credits within 24 hours. However the shape and content of that initial schedule may change throughout December and January as students’ academic plans change, final grades are reported, and space becomes available.

#RUPrepared - You’re one step closer to answering yes!