Back to School and Out of Practice? Here are a Few Tips to Help you Transition and Succeed

Jul 8, 2011 by University Communications

Going back to school after taking a significant amount of time off can be a challenge. Most of our students are professionals with years of career experience who decide to enroll at CalSouthern for reasons of professional or personal growth. Once you have made the decision to take courses online, received your books in the mail, and transformed your kitchen table into a work station, what else can you do to help ensure your success?

The place where most students start is to concentrate on the bigger picture when it comes to enrolling in school. We physically organize our homes so that we have a proper study area, we schedule time to read and work on assignments in the evenings and on weekends, and we get the support of our families who assist us most by allowing us the free time to get it all done. Now we are ready to be students. We open our books, begin reading, then anxiously plow into our first writing assignment. For most students it has been years since they did any formal essay writing, possibly even decades! Here are a few tips on how to make this transition to academic life a little easier:

  • Put your name on your paper. The simplicity of this is what causes us to overlook it. Can’t you just hear your elementary school teachers now? With the advent of online paper submissions, it is now easier than ever to forget this simple step.
  • Properly format your paper. Writing style, cover pages, footnotes, double-spacing, to indent or not to indent, and the option to use references or bibliography are all formatting techniques that can differ based on the curriculum you are pursuing. Before beginning your first semester, familiarize yourself with the APA style manual if you are enrolled in the School of Behavioral Sciences, School of Business, or the Master of Science in Law. For enrollees of the Juris Doctor program, you will want to follow the Bluebook system of citation to help your writing go smoothly. A variety of useful resources are also available in the online library.
  • Make sure to use and reference the assigned textbook in your assignments. This may seem even more obvious than putting your name on your paper, but students have written essays and never referred to the course textbooks. Using these materials on all of your assignments will give you a better grade every time.

Meet the assigned page requirements. Page parameters for assignments are set so that students learn to articulate their thoughts clearly and concisely within a maximum number of pages, while at the same time incorporating all the concepts necessary to fully present an argument within a minimum number of pages. Meeting the page requirement is part of the assignment’s instructions and is as important as the actual content of the essay itself.

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