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By Prof. Jack Mandel, MBA

Nassau County Community College

Congratulations!  You’ve made it into the college of your choice…and hopefully it’s not going to merely be an extension of your high school experience (hence, “13th grade”).

Challenge yourself (and I am NOT referring to getting a good parking spot) for this opportunity for personal growth and enrichment.

Having “walked in your shoes” many years ago when I graduated Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, I was accepted to The Bernard M. Baruch College of the City University of New York.  I remember only a handful of professors who had their “game-on”.  Even today, many professors seem clueless about their students other than what goes on in their classroom. If you do have an opportunity to meet a passionate, motivational educator, cherish the learning opportunity.  You can probably learn a lot from reading the “Rate My Professor” comments from students.

Fast–forward to 2011 and we see a whole new world of on-line registration, on-line courses in a “high-tech” mobile society.  In many colleges, large lecture halls are taught by technical assistants and not the professor.  It seems the focus is minimal interaction between teacher and student…not exactly how I envision the higher education process.  Wouldn’t you agree?

That’s why I will use this forum to address several important concepts for your consideration:

FIRST, STOP WHINING ABOUT HOW TOUGH COLLEGE IS…YOUR LIFE IS GREAT!   So what if gas is approaching $5.00 a gallon…so what if textbooks cost over $100 each? Some of you spend quite a lot of $$$  at a concert, restaurant or bar. And when I see students in my classes with a Blackberry or an iPad, I know they are fortunate.  Many of you have your own car too…think about your peers who don’t. Heck, when I was your age, I couldn’t afford a car and had to rely on public transportation or date a girl who had her own “set of wheels.”

SECOND, DON’T BRING YOUR “HELICOPTER” MOM OR DAD ALONG FOR THE RIDE. Recognize that expression?  If not, let me explain.  It refers to a parent who “hovers” around your every move…a parent who makes it difficult for you to mature and make your own decisions.  Of course, parental input is important, but you are at an age to take responsibility for your actions (or inactions).

THIRD, BEGIN TO THINK ABOUT YOUR MAJOR!  At 18 or 19 years of age, you should have some idea of your future goals, but declaring a major can be tough.  Many of you cannot determine what your plans are for a Friday or Saturday night date.  Therefore, take classes that you find interesting.  Think of this as a different type of dating…an “intellectual” one.  Take each semester and focus on those classes…your picture will be clearer as you progress.

FOURTH, NEVER FALL ASLEEP IN A CLASS!  I know many of you have evening jobs, others like to “party” with friends, and some even study.  But, if you stay up until 3 or 4 AM how can you expect to be attentive for an 8 or 8:30 AM class?  Some professors may ignore a student who quietly dozes off…but I won’t. It’s embarrassing for you, the professor, and your fellow classmates.

FIFTH, CUT YOUR PROFESSORS “SOME SLACK”…THEY DO THE SAME FOR YOU. Believe it or not, we do have lives outside of the classroom.  Some of us are married, others are divorced, some have children and others do not…just like in “real life.”  I always try to bring a smile to class and personalize the setting, perhaps share “a story or two” with students. Some enjoy listening and some do not.  I have learned that patience and tolerance is a virtue for both student and teacher.

SIXTH, SCOUT’S HONOR…PROFESSORS ARE NOT “OUT” TO FAIL ANYONE. Get With The Program! You have a simple job to do; study, come to class on time with your required assignments and complete your projects and/or exams with a serious effort. There’s no “magic” to grading.  Most professors have a grading criteria to follow so let’s KISS (keep it simple, student).

SEVENTH, AFTER COLLEGE, NOW WHAT? Now you will come to realize how much fun college really was (even if you didn’t know it at the time)…because as the saying goes… “Welcome to the real-grown-up world of life.” Things will never be quite the same…Start smiling… You’re an adult… like it or not!

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Professor Mandel has taught marketing and public relations since 1978 at Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y.  He is the recipient of the prestigious “Outstanding Teacher Award” conferred by the NYS Association of Two-Year Colleges.  He is also a “Best of Long Island Winner” for 2010 in the Teaching category from the Long Island Press.