Thomas Edison State College Blog

9 Deadly Habits Every Student Should Avoid

April 15, 2014

While there are an infinite number of strategies and tactics that can drive a student’s success, there are only a handful of reasons that may lead a student to crash in failure. But those reasons are MAJOR. And, oftentimes, hard to avoid. But not impossible.

By understanding the pitfalls that often plague students, you can better prepare for your own college success. Whether you are just learning how to navigate a work/life balance, or searching for a reason why going back to college is so much harder than you thought it would be, kick these 9 habits to the curb and give yourself a degree tune-up:

1. Poor Time Management
Work is calling. The kids are crying. Dishes are piling up in the sink. You miss a course deadline… or two… or three… We get it. Life gets busy. You can’t plan for everything. But you can plan for something.

The Fix: Set aside a few hours each day to do school work, uninterrupted, that will allow for your total focus on the task at hand. By planning your day or week in advance, and writing it down in a notebook, planner or on a post-it stuck to the fridge, will help you visualize what needs to be accomplished. Then you can make adjustments and arrangements as needed.


2. Not Keeping Up
We’re all guilty of procrastination. Putting off tasks until another day is going to happen in some way, shape or form while you pursue your degree. Telling yourself that you will just “do it later” will only hurt you in the long run. Getting totally lost in a course is a problem that happens far too often.

The Fix: Set personal deadlines that come before your course deadlines so you can assure that the work gets done in a timely manner. You may need that extra day or two to polish your work, or recap something you read earlier on. By staying on pace with your courses, even studying will come much easier to you; cramming for your courses is one thing you can leave behind.


3. Not Getting Enough Sleep
Ah, sleep. We can’t get enough of it, literally. With the hustle and bustle of balancing work, school and family, where is sleep supposed to fit in? But not getting enough sleep can hurt your test taking, studying and writing performance.

The Fix: Getting a good night sleep can actually improve your grades over pulling an all-nighter, help you to retain more information and much more. Find the balance that works for you so you’re refreshed and recharged to take on the day ahead, the right way.


4. Not Discussing Your Plans or Questions With Your Advisor
Not discussing your degree plans with your advisor could adversely affect the courses you take; who knew you didn’t need to take that class again?! Your advisor certainly did! Your advisor is the one that can offer the guidance and advice you need to finish your degree on time and as efficiently as possible.

The Fix: Your advisor is an invaluable resource. When in doubt, ask. As a Thomas Edison State College student, when you are in doubt, you can make an advising appointment through myEdison® 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or, you can call the College’s Advisement Expressline to reach an academic advisor quickly without the need for a formal appointment, especially for questions that typically take less than 10 minutes for an advisor to answer. Remember, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Every question is important because it applies to you.


5. Not Having the Right Supplies, Materials or Equipment
You wouldn’t take a test without studying, right? And you really wouldn’t take that test if you didn’t even have the book to study from, right? It is crucial to obtain your course materials in a timely manner so you can engage properly at the very beginning.

The Fix: Plan to purchase your materials, test out your equipment and review the syllabus before the course begins so you can understand what’s required of you. And don’t forget to test out your technology; be sure to have a reliable computer with the programs you’ll need and a dependable Internet connection to actively participate in courses.


6. Using Google and Wikipedia as Credible Research Sources
Sure, Google can be a great resource to help you develop ideas, but it should never be the only source you use to look for information. And neither should Wikipedia. Simply put, these sites are not credible sources in an academic paper.

The Fix: Public libraries, online journal databases, and credible online websites (typically those whose web addresses that end in .org, .gov, .edu, etc.) are the most reliable places to gather research information. As a Thomas Edison State College student, you do have access to the New Jersey State Library and its special databases, articles, books, journals and more that can help you nail that next research paper.


7. Taking On More Than You Realize
“Biting off more than you can chew,” as they say, can be detrimental to your success in any course you take. When you begin as a new student, ready and eager to get started as quickly as possible, it may seem tempting to take two or three courses at a time, and underestimate the time commitment required. Falling behind then becomes all too easy.

The Fix: Speak to your advisor and get their insight into what they think may be an appropriate course load for your first term. Keep in mind any job, family or outside commitments, and consider how much time in a week you will be able to dedicate to school. This will help you assess the right amount of courses to take without sacrificing your grades.


8. Not Participating
In any course, class participation is key. Whether you are raising your hand in a traditional classroom, or posting a reply to a discussion thread, your presence is noted. And assessed. And graded. If you don’t participate as required, not only are you putting your grade in danger, but you won’t get the most out of your course. Which, at the end of the day, is the whole reason you’ve chosen to pursue your degree.

The Fix: Actively participate with quality responses, and be sure to answer emails promptly and efficiently. Sure, your mentor is watching, but your classmates are also hoping to learn from you, as you are from them.


9. Not Writing Down Due Dates and Assignments
If you don’t have a planner, get one, stat! It will be your fail-safe throughout your academic career. Notating your course assignments and deadlines is fundamental to your time management skills, and will help you plan your life accordingly to stay on track.

The Fix: Whether it be a planner, a Google Calendar or a mobile calendar and reminder app, find the planning tool that works for you. Include the due dates of all your assignments, exams and readings. Being able to quickly and easily reference your commitments is the easiest way to stay organized and on top of everything.

 

Are you guilty of any of these habits? How have you overcome them?
 

Tags: Going Back to College , New Jersey State Library , nontraditional students , online courses , online learning , Studying at Thomas Edison State College , tips and advice

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10 Signs You Have More College-Level Knowledge Than You Think

February 18, 2014

All too often, students think that only the courses taken sitting in a classroom will transfer as college credit. However, credit can be so much more than a list of courses on a transcript. Transfer credit can include professional licenses and certifications, military training and professional training. You can also earn credit through exams and portfolio assessment.

With so many options to earn transfer credit, students should really explore what works for them so they do not have to put their lives and careers on hold by taking courses that, chances are, they already know everything about. Your goal is our goal – to finish your college degree – and the more options you have, the quicker you’ll get there.

Here are 10 signs that you probably already have more college-level knowledge than you think. If at any point you stop and say, “hey, that’s me!” – just follow the links to learn how you can get earn those credits ASAP.

1. You brag about your professional license or certification.

You’ve already studied, taken a test and passed. If you possess a current and valid license and certification in one of more than 60 fields ranging from aviation to healthcare, law enforcement to business, you could earn college credit. The College’s Office for Assessment of Professional Workplace Learning, the American Council on Education (ACE) and the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS)
have already evaluated and approved several licenses and certifications for college credit. You can find them organized by topic, here.


2. You show off what you learned after completing a training program for your profession.

If you participated in any apprenticeships and courses taken at your workplace, be it through a corporation, government agency, professional association or union, or any specialized training program, your professional license and certification may have already been evaluated for college credit. You can create a transcript of your training, with appropriate documentation, to send to the Registrar for review.


3. You’ve become the “in-house expert” at your organization on something.

Are you the person who trains new recruits? Or are you always the go-to person whenever a colleague has a question? It can be anything, from project planning to editing, or budget balancing to problem solving. Obviously, your colleagues already recognize your extensive knowledge, and you can too by documenting and equating what you know with a college-level course through portfolio assessment.


4. You have military experience or attended a military service school.

If you have military experience, depending on the military training documented in the Joint Service Transcripts (JST), transcripts from the Community College of the Air Force and the Coast Guard Institute or, you are a service member who left the military before 1886, you may be able earn additional college credit. Learn how you can submit official transcripts and receive credit, here.


5. You have taught college-level courses, for college credit, at a regionally accredited college or university.

Were you the primary instructor? Or the person responsible for determining and submitting course grades? There are instances where a regionally accredited college or university may employ a faculty instructor who is without a completed baccalaureate degree. There is a certain level of expertise in teaching such courses, and you can earn Credit for Courses Taught.


6. You practically have a second job volunteering in your community.

Do you volunteer beyond the occasional bake sale? Does your community service work read like a resume? Your extensive real-world expertise in a specific subject or content area can equate to what you would learn in a college course. If this sounds like you, then you may be a good candidate for portfolio assessment.


7. You are passionate about a subject and can’t stop reading (or talking) about it.

Whether you are a Civil War buff, or you have read every how-to book on leadership ever published, the knowledge you developed from your independent study could help you pass an exam for credit instead of taking the course. Look through the College’s TECEP® offerings, its own credit-by exam program, and other exam programs, to find out if your passion can earn you college credit by simply taking a final exam.


8. You live for your art (or just really, really enjoy it).

If you are a writer, painter, actor, musician, photographer, performer, artisan, sculptor, dancer - essentially, the creative type - you probably have a portfolio of work that demonstrates your talent or skill. Your achievements, whether they are on CDs or DVDs, printed in playbills, painted on canvas or written as online reviews, are an excellent source that demonstrates your knowledge. Your latest project could be your ticket to earning college credit through portfolio assessment.


9. You are much sought-after master in your hobby field.

Are you a respected hobbyist in a specific field? Have you written published articles about your interests? If your recreational activities and knowledge have placed you in an esteemed position, or your peers are looking to learn from you, you probably already know what would be taught in a college course. The expertise and skills developed through your hobby are perfect for portfolio assessment.


10. You have trouble fitting all your experience, skills, knowledge and work into a 1- or 2-page resume.

Your extensive background is filled with significant responsibilities and accomplishments that may not fit into 1 or 2 pages, but will work great in a multi-page portfolio assessment. Identify your learning and experiences that best equate to a college course by utilizing the College’s PLA Course Description Database to earn credit for what you already know.


College-level knowledge doesn’t only come from a classroom. And neither does credit. Find out more ways you can earn college credit for what you already know, here.
 

Tags: Academic Credit , ACE , CLEP , credit-by-exam , DSST , Going Back to College , PLA , portfolio assessment , prior learning assessment , Prior Learning Assessment and Portfolio , Registrar , Studying at Thomas Edison State College , TECEP , tips and advice

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5 Powerful Pearls of Wisdom From Our Students for 2014

January 07, 2014

Juggling family and career responsibilities can be quite the balancing act. Add in the pursuit of a degree and it may seem overwhelming. But it is possible. Looking back upon this past year, we’ve seen students overcome insurmountable odds and brave new challenges to fulfill their educational goals and dreams.

With every New Year come new resolutions and new ambitions, and our students offer some of the most encouraging and invaluable suggestions to usher in 2014 as the year of accomplishments. Here are powerful quotes from our awe-inspiring past, present and future graduates on motivation, leadership, passion and everything in between.
 

Your dreams don’t have a time limit.

 

Explore your options.

 

Stay motivated.

 

Learn what you love and pursue it with a passion.

 

Organization and time management are half the battle.

Tags: online learning , Studying at Thomas Edison State College , tips and advice

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How to Ensure You’re Prepared for Your First Online Course

December 17, 2013

Did you choose your college?
That was a no-brainer.

Did you apply for admission?
Way ahead of you.

Did you enroll?
Easy peasy.

Did you register for your courses?
Ready to go, go, go!

Did you prepare for your first online course?
Wait – that’s a thing???

It is natural to be unsure about your first online course or unfamiliar with the expectations required of you. If you’ve only taken traditional classes in the past, the transformation to an online course can be challenging. While they are ideal interactive environments to learn if you are constrained by time and place, online courses do require time, effort and preparation to succeed.

Designed on a week-by-week timeline and guided by a detailed schedule, the number of assignments can vary depending on the course. Some may have a few long assignments while others have several short assignments. There may be textbooks and/or digital materials to read, videos to watch, as well as final projects, examinations and class discussions – all of which impact your final grade. While flexible schedules allow you to complete course work at your own pace, you can fall behind without strong time management and organizational skills. But, if you are realistic and self-disciplined, you can maximize the full learning potential of these vibrant and engaging classes, on your own terms. You can help ensure that your first online class will be a success by following these preparation tips:


Check your system requirements.
Familiarize yourself with all the technical components and software required in your course. Review your computer’s capabilities to guarantee that you will be able to access the required programs and documents without issue. This may include an updated Internet browser, proper document imaging programs, updated email information, an easily accessible Internet connection, and a webcam, microphone, or headset, if needed. Have a plan to address any technical difficulties should they arise so that you don’t fall behind in your courses.


Review the site and syllabus.
Much of the course content will be posted within a few days before an online course begins, or, if you are a Thomas Edison State College student, preview the course on the College’s website via the “Preview the Online Syllabus” link at the bottom of the course description’s page. This preview includes a view of the syllabus (which may be updated or revised when the actual online course begins), including course objectives and assignments, and shows you what books and other course materials are required.

As you review these materials, decide how you want to organize them. Create a binder or folder to hold course papers, the syllabus, notes, etc. for easy access when you need them.


Understand the course structure.
Acquaint yourself with the mentor’s expectations and review the submission schedule to get an idea of the reading and writing assignments and activities required of you to complete the course. Notate in a calendar all term due dates so you will know ahead of time if work or family commitments will impact the completion of your course work so you can adjust your schedule as necessary.

As most courses require textbooks or other course materials, purchase these items in advance so you do not miss any key readings or discussions.


Schedule your “class time.”
Designate a place in your home for your course work and materials, and make sure the environment will let you concentrate and focus. Map out a specific block of time, perhaps an hour before the kids wake up or an hour after dinner, to stay on track of your assignments. A common mistake students make in online courses is the perception that work can be done “anytime,” so they tend to not reserve any time at all. You may want to engage in informal discussions with classmates, which can provide real opportunities to exchange ideas and enhance the formal aspect of learning, or consult with mentors by email or phone. All of which spend unforeseen time and effort. But in developing a structured schedule for yourself, and sticking to it, you will be able to handle the workload and discover additional learning benefits along the way.


Plan for midterm or final exams.
While the start date of your course term is very important, and midterm and final exams may seem like a long way off, they often have a way of sneaking up on you. Some courses have a final paper or project in lieu of a final exam, while others utilize paper examinations or online, proctored assessments that typically require registration for a test appointment. Understand how your course exams work, and keep up with any readings, to plan and organize effectively. Be conscious of these far-off dates so you can avoid last minute cramming or late-night writing. Anything you can do in advance will only help you later as commitments pile up.

 

The key to excelling in an online course is commitment – to your assignments, examinations, projects, online discussions – and most importantly, to yourself. No one is going to tell you how and when to complete your assignments, or remind you of due dates and deadlines. Online classes are only what you make of them and by using the tools provided above, you can drive your classes towards success.
 

Tags: Going Back to College , online courses , online learning , Studying at Thomas Edison State College , Term Start Date , tips and advice

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Going Back to College: How to Get Maximum Transfer Credit Towards Your Degree

October 03, 2013

Think long and hard on how you would answer this question:

Would you take the same course twice, if you didn’t have to?

Hopefully, you answered no. Or, even better, answered no way!

Then why not get maximum transfer credit towards your degree by applying a little extra effort?

There are several ways to ensure that you get the optimal amount of previously earned credit to fit into your curriculum so that you can quickly finish your college degree. As an invaluable planning tool, you’ll want your customized academic evaluation to be accurate the first time around to effectively assess which courses you have left to take. Education is never wasted, so here are some smart ways to get college credit for your hard-earned past efforts:

  1. Send official transcripts from every institution you have attended.
    Whether you attended a regionally accredited community college or a four-year institution, or multiple institutions, send all official, sealed transcripts of your past college credits for evaluation. Even if you attended five or 25 years ago, earning a grade of C or better. If you feel unsure how the credits might apply, send the transcripts regardless. They may be better suited to a specific course objective, or a different degree program should you change your mind. Credits don’t expire.
  2. Submit official, notarized copies of all licenses and certifications.
    You may already possess specialized licenses and certifications for your workplace, and not only will you be able to earn college credit for them, but some degree programs actually require them. The complete list is extensive; it includes everything from pilot’s licenses to real estate licenses, nuclear regulatory certifications to testing certifications, and more. The list of licenses and certifications reviewed by ACE (American Council on Education) and NCCRS (National College Credit Recommendation Service) are continuously being updated, and yours can end up saving you lots of time.
  3. Submit official transcripts or documentation of any professional training, programs and courses.
    Any apprenticeships or courses taken in your workplace, through your company, government agencies, professional associations or unions, are also evaluated for college credit. Many of these specialized training programs, like military or EMT training, or online course programs like Straighterline, have already been reviewed by ACE and NCCRS, and through Thomas Edison State College’s Office for Assessment of Professional and Workplace Learning. These credit-awarding organizations, particularly branches of the military, require individual transcripts and documentation, so make sure you submit the proper paperwork to guarantee your efforts didn’t go to waste.
  4. Submit all official examination or credit-by-exam scores.
    If you took CLEP exams, the College’s own TECEP program, or another accredited testing option, make sure your final scores are recognized. The content reflected in the tests demonstrate that you have the knowledge and skills equivalent to that of students who learn the material in a college classroom, thereby earning you credit towards your degree.
  5. Determine how your knowledge acquired outside the classroom can apply toward your degree program.
    Prior Learning Assessment, including portfolio assessment, demonstrates that what you already know is equivalent to the course objectives that would have been learned in an equivalent course. Your past work, independent reading and study, training programs or in-service courses, volunteer service, cultural or artistic pursuits, hobbies and recreational pastimes, community or religious activities, organizational memberships, adult education, non-credit courses, study abroad, military training not evaluated for credit by ACE, or other experiences enables you to develop a portfolio for this knowledge, and potentially earn credit for it.

Ultimately, your goal is to leverage all that you bring to this endeavor, which validates the work you have completed and the expertise you have developed. Understanding how to transfer the maximum amount of credit can be a key to success.

Want to learn more about the many ways to earn credit for knowledge obtained in noncollegiate settings? Check out our Methods of Learning and Earning Credit section.
 

Tags: Academic Credit , ACE , CLEP , credit-by-exam , Going Back to College , military , prior learning assessment , Studying at Thomas Edison State College , TECEP , tips and advice

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