This is my third semester being a TA for an introductory history course. I did a post last year around this time called “Advice from a TA” (read it here). I think a lot of these points are relevant a year later. I want to rehash these as well as add more that I have learned in the past year for all you college students who are maybe just starting out or still don’t quite have the hang of college just yet. Here are some of my words of wisdom.
- Show up to class- Realistically, the only person you are hurting when you don’t come is yourself. The professor I am working for this semester doesn’t take participation, but instead has weekly in-class activities. These count for participation points. In our first week of classes last week, she did one every single day. Some people didn’t show up every day, and they missed out on some points. For students who came to class (as long as they did the work), it was an easy 11 points. Coming to class is important.
- Take notes- Just as coming to class is important, so is taking notes. You aren’t going to remember everything if you don’t take notes. That doesn’t mean write down every single word your professor says. My philosophy is to summarize the main points and organize them in a way that makes sense to me.
- Talk to me or your TA- Our job is to literally be a resource for you. I had a student come in yesterday who asked me to review an assignment. Last semester, I had a student who would come every day to work with me. This is literally what we’re here for.
- Go to your professor’s office hours- If you’ve got questions or problems, talk to your professor. They genuinely want you to do well. It’s the second week of classes, and I have already been to office hours 4 times. I had a professor who made everyone schedule an appointment with him throughout the semester. If you get to know your professors, they have resources, answers, and are useful for writing letters of recommendations for scholarships or jobs.
- Make a friend in the class- This is so important. If you miss a day, you have someone you can get notes from. If you forget when an assignment is due, you can ask them. If you have a group project, easy pairing!
- Do the extra credit- Extra credit helps you a lot. The only thing it costs you is time. You never have to worry about failing an extra credit assignment.
- Ask questions as they arise- Whether it’s publicly in class, afterwards to your professor, or even to a TA, ask questions you have. Your teachers and TAs are happy to answer. We don’t want you to misunderstand. When I’m explaining things, I often ask “Does that make sense?” I don’t want to be misinterpreted or have you misinformed.
- Stay up to date on class happenings- You should check your email and your class site often. When professors would cancel class, part of my job as a TA would be to stand outside before class starts and inform people that it was cancelled. That’s kind of annoying for me honestly. If people were up to date, I wouldn’t have to do that.
- Be nice to your TAs and they’ll be nice to you- This kind of goes along with talking to your TA. I mentioned the student who came in yesterday. At the time, I told her her paper was fine, because to me it was. Later on, my professor emailed the TAs with the guidelines for grading. Turns out, I had missed a criteria in the student’s paper. I emailed her to let her know so that she can get full credit. Am I doing that for everyone? No. But this girl came to me looking for full credit, and I wanted to make sure she got it.
- Take advantages of opportunities- My past two semesters, I have hosted review sessions before exams. Tomorrow, I am helping host a note-taking session for students. If you are unsure about things or you have questions and your TA offers opportunities like that, take advantage of them! When hosting review sessions, I never force the students to stay the whole time. I always tell them “If all of your questions are asked and answered, you are free to go any time.” It’s not a mandatory thing. But I would definitely encourage you taking advantage of offered opportunities.
Hope these tips help you as a college student! Le me know if you have any questions you want me to answer, or you could always ask your own TA depending on the subject matter! They, like me, are here to help!!