Coping with your NIU education

Take a good look around you now. See that slack-jawed student in the back row who looks like he’s in some sort of catatonic state? How about the woman who walks in fifteen minutes late without books or attention span?

Congratulations, you’ve just spotted the average NIU student.

Sometimes it feels like the classroom is a morgue—a bunch of stiffs sitting around for what seems like eternity. Faculty members are only marginally responsible. How can you make plate tectonics and comma splices interesting? It’s difficult. But most faculty members do try to capture students’ attention. However, instructors and professors are not hired for their entertainment capacity (even though some may seem to be). It is up to the students, then, to pay attention and stay awake (see yesterday’s Weekender column).

What’s the point of falling asleep in class or staring robotically at the chalkboard? Unless you are a master of learning through osmosis, there is no point. You simply are wasting time and money.

For those students whose parents finance their college, I bet mom and dad would be pretty upset by your less-than-enthusiastic approach to higher education.

For those students paying their own way through NIU, wasting class time is wasting your hard-earned money. Do you enjoy paying for public nap time? Do you like paying tuition for academic probation?

Yet sleeping in class and skipping are not the only common academic blunders. Sometimes students who do show up really aren’t all there. Take a look around any classroom and you will find someone in another dimension. Yes, sometimes it is hard to pay attention for over an hour (and for the MTV generation, 50 minutes is quite the challenge). But since their academic careers are at stake, the very least students can do is go to class and pay attention.

Wait, there’s more. Try to be prepared for class, too. I realize this keeps getting more difficult, but I know you can do it. Bring your books and notebook. Pens are helpful, too.

If this all seems overwhelming, at least try to disguise your deviance tactfully. If you’re going to sleep in class, don’t snore, drool, or knock anything over. If you’re going to walk in late, don’t slam the door and step on the professor’s foot. If you oversleep and miss class, don’t tell the teacher your grandmother died for the fourth time this semester. At least bring your textbooks, even if you just use them to cover your love letter in progress.

It’s hard to be an undergraduate, especially in the age of PQP and budget constraints. But make the best of it. I survived the undergrad years mostly sane. Therefore, let me offer you a few more tips for survival at NIU, particularly on the Gen. Ed. front:

Don’t make up lame excuses for absences. Broken alarm clocks, mass family carnage (Grandma rolls the Bronco and everyone is killed), and alcohol-induced stupors are completely unacceptable. Also, try not to be sick on a weekly basis. Missing class for appendicitis and showing up the next day doesn’t fool anyone. Weather (“It was snowing”) complaints are not founded in the Midwest. It snows here. Accept it. (Thanks, toon man, for your input.)

Turn in the assignment, even if it isn’t complete or what was assigned. A “D” is always better than a “0.” Besides, your last-minute B.S. will give the instructor real entertainment.

In short, take your education seriously. You’d be surprised what you can learn if you apply yourself. Besides, everyone knows that NIU will be the best 10 years of your life.