2017 survival guide: taking classes

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Peoplesoft-03“I’m generally pretty good with computers, but PeopleSoft is super confusing. How do I navigate the technological maze?”
Before you’ve even set foot on campus, you should have already come face to face with the beast that is PeopleSoft. Sure, it might look big, scary and complicated at first glance, but it’s actually a very helpful tool once you get the hang of using it properly. Once you log into your account through MyTU, you’ll usually want to click “Self Service” and “Student Center” for most of the things you’ll be using PeopleSoft for. On your Student Center page, you’ll see various sections. The “Academics” section is where you’ll search/add/drop/swap/plan classes and check your progress on completing your academic requirements. At Towson, you must earn at least 120 credits (32 of which must be in upper level courses), complete a course in each of the 14 Cores, and fulfill the requirements for your major to earn a Bachelor’s degree in your chosen field. As a freshman, your Freshman Year Experience (FYE) adviser will help you stay on track with those requirements. After your freshman year and once you declare your major, your major-specific adviser will be the one assisting you. If you ever have any general academic advising questions, you can stop in at the Academic Advising Center in the Lecture Hall building above Freedom Square. The Student Academic Advising office takes walk-ins Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can also call the office or speak with a Student Academic Adviser (SAA) on the online chat. PeopleSoft also shows you important details about your finances (account balance, financial aid, etc.), academic holds, class enrollment date and time, your adviser, and so much more information.

“I feel like I might struggle in one of my Core classes this semester, but I don’t want to ruin my GPA. I’ve heard of a pass/fail option for classes. How do I do that?”
First, make sure you really want to. If a class is required for your major, minor or teacher certification program you need special permission from the program administrator in order to change the grading option–people who look at your transcript when considering you for a job or a position in their program will take note and wonder why you didn’t want a letter grade on a math class when you’re going into accounting. The most common reason people change their grading option to pass/fail is because they need credit for a core class that doesn’t apply to their major but does require a grade of “C” or higher. As long as you get a grade of 2.00 or higher you’ll get “PS” (pass) on your transcript and that Core class won’t ruin your GPA. Anything lower than a 2.00 in the class will result in the letter grade you earned–usually “D” or “F” — and you can only put 13 PS credits towards your undergraduate degree, so be smart about this. If you really do want to change your grading option, you must submit a change of schedule form (found on the Towson website) to the Office of the Registrar in the Enrollment Services building, Room 223 before the semester’s withdrawal deadline, which is November 6 for full semester courses.

“I’m feeling stuck — I really don’t know what major to choose, and it’s really frustrating. Do you have any advice for someone who has no idea what to study?”
Our first piece of advice is that it’s totally okay not to know what you want to study. Plenty of freshmen enter college undecided; it’s totally normal! And, you have until the end of your sophomore year to pick your major, which is plenty of time to decide. That being said though, we recommend that you take your freshman year to explore different subjects that pique your interest to knock out some of your Core Curriculum requirements. Wanna take a theater class to fulfill Core 4? Go for it! How about a women’s studies class for Core 13? Absolutely! By giving yourself time to dip your toes in various fields, you can get a feel for a bunch of different majors, without committing yourself to them entirely. Our second piece of advice is to utilize your advisor. They’re there to help you, and they’ll be happy to help you figure out what direction to take. You can find out who your advisor is by logging into your PeopleSoft account. And, if you don’t like your major, it’s okay! You can change it using the online Change of Major/Minor Form, but make sure you keep your advisor in the loop.

WritingCenter-03“I really think I’m going to struggle a bit with some of my writing this semester. Is there anywhere I can go to get some help with it?”
Yes, there is! What you’re looking for is The Writing Center, located in the back corner of  the fifth floor of the College of Liberal Arts building. It’s a great place to go for all of your writing needs. The Writing Center employs peer writing assistants from a variety of disciplines and majors, so that any student can have their writing needs met. They work with undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff at any point of their writing process, from brainstorming to organization to citations, and anything else you can think of. You can call to schedule an appointment at (410) 704-3426, or you can email towsonwritingcenter@gmail.com. You can also stop by the front desk to schedule an appointment in person. The Writing Center does take walk-in appointments, but they fill up really quickly during midterms and finals. Especially during these times, it’s probably best to schedule in advance.

“Now that I’m in college, I really want to switch up my studying habits. How can I find a study routine that works for me?”
This whole “college” thing is super exciting until you realize how much you’re going to have to study. While you may resort to studying in your room, or in your residence hall’s quiet lounge, those places can oftentimes be anything but quiet, making it pretty hard to focus if you need a calmer space. Luckily for you, there’s no shortage of options when it comes to finding the perfect place to study on campus. Some popular spots includeAcedStudying-03 Freedom Square, the third floor of West Village Commons, the fifth floor of the College of Liberal Arts building and any of the little nooks in Cook Library. These places fill up really quickly, especially around midterms and finals, so make sure you snag your spot early. As far as study techniques go, we’ve found that it generally depends on what class you’re taking. Flashcards and outlines may do the trick for some classes, but group study and rehearsal may work for others. It’s all about testing the waters and finding out what works best for you. However, if you’re still stuck after a little while and need some extra help, try the Academic Achievement Center on the fifth floor of Cook Library, which offers tutoring sessions, study groups, academic coaching and other services.

“I’d really like to get better at time management, but my schedule is so busy! What’s the best way to plan my time so I’m not stressed out?”
We’re not gonna lie to you. Time management in college is hard, and it takes a bit of practice to develop a routine that works for you. We think that it’s a good idea to keep a calendar, where you can write everything down…and we mean everything. Do you have an exam coming up next Monday? Write it down. Do you have tickets to that concert downtown on Friday? Write it down. If you have everything in a place where you can easily see your schedule, you won’t accidentally take on too much at any given time. Sleep is another super important aspect of college, and it’s one that’s easy to overlook. Not getting enough sleep will affect every other aspect of your college career, especially your studies. And speaking of studies, make an effort to go to class. Professors notice when you skip, and you’ll only waste your unexcused absences and pile even more work onto your plate. Figure out how long it’ll take to get ready and walk to class, and make sure you stick to it. Set multiple alarms if you have to, but make sure you get up. Also, we can’t stress how important it is to find space in your schedule to focus on yourself, away from classes, work or even your friends. Take some time to read a book, go for a run, take a nap, or whatever you need to do to recharge. Finally, set boundaries for yourself, and don’t be afraid to admit that you’re overscheduled. Decide what your priorities are, and make an effort to focus on them, while taking care of yourself at the same time. In short, take care of yourself, and the rest will follow if you’re willing to practice your time management skills.

“I’m excited for my classes, but the cost of all my textbooks are really bumming me out. Is there a way to get textbooks for cheaper prices?”
Rest assured, there is a way to find textbooks for a reasonable price. I once was faced with the impending burden of paying a large sum of money for textbooks that I’d only use for a few months, but I’ve learned some tricks along the way to cut down the cost. Renting textbooks from the U-Store is a pretty good option for textbook purchases, especially if you’ll only be using the textbook for one semester. Oftentimes, the price of renting a textbook is significantly lower than buying it; however, it can still be pretty pricey. We also recommend our local Bookholders, which houses textbooks at much cheaper costs than the U-Store, or the online class Facebook groups, where students will sometimes sell their old textbooks from previous semesters. Another great option is Chegg, an online textbook rental company that’s easy to navigate and pretty user-friendly. Chegg is offering free shipping on all orders of physical textbooks over $50 until the end of September, so heed these words while you can.

 

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