Straight from the graders; tips for new college students

Tips for college word cloud

Welcome to Fresno State! 

Since deciding to attend college, undoubtedly many have reflected on their college days and offered you advice. You probably also heard some of the myths out there (I’m looking at you “attendance is optional”).

To cut through all of the noise, we went directly to the people who will be instructing and grading you over the next few years — our faculty — and asked them: “What is your biggest tip for new college students?” then followed up with, “any other tips?” Here are their answers:


Do not hesitate to visit and get to know your professors!  Talk to them about your life and your goals for the course–even those courses that are not in your major.  You have no idea how much interpersonal connection helps both student and professor.

Consider the classroom YOUR classroom space!  You have a say in the climate and if peers are rude, inconsiderate and irresponsible call them out–do not rely on or wait for the instructor to do it.

Dr. Katherine Adams 
Professor Emerita of Communication
Chair Emerita of Communication


Make yourself a master school calendar. Include all university-level deadlines, registration, add/drop, etc. and all assignments, quizzes/exams for all your classes. Then write out a plan as to how you will accomplish it all. Old, but true: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Prof. Craig VonBerg
Lecturer in Music
Pop Music: Jazz & Rock
Applied Jazz Subjects


If you go to class and make your best attempt at all assignments, you will likely do well or at the very least pass the class.

Your professors are very happy to meet with you privately to help keep you from falling behind as long as you are fairly regular at going to class. Take advantage of their office hours. Most of them will be very impressed if you come to them for help.

Gary P. Gilroy, D.M.A.
Director of Bands
Professor of Music


Make and keep copies of forms submitted to campus offices.

Joan K. Sharma, Professor
Department of Art and Design


Read the syllabus and understand the attendance and grading policies. Freshmen often have an erroneous idea that ‘this is college. I come to class whenever I want, and the professors don’t care.’ That is not the case for most classes, and there are rules for excused and unexcused absences, which often affect the final grade.

Ask your professor for help.  We have office hours for a reason. Students often ask me if I can recommend a tutor for help.  I tell them, ‘why not come to office hours for free?’ I do send them to the tutoring and writing center for additional help, but the professor is a good place to start.

Natalie Muñoz, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of French
Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures


Make the most out of your time in college, as there is no other time in your life quite like it when you will have the opportunity to discuss ideas on an extended basis, for the sheer sake of learning. Do this even in the classes that you don’t think that you like, as they are still opportunities to learn about new topics and diverse viewpoints.

Kevin J. Macy-Ayotte, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair, Department of Communication


Buy the course materials that your professor has indicated!  Too many times, students think they can get by without purchasing the required materials and rely on their peers to borrow items.  In my discipline (Music Education), they will use these materials in multiple courses, so they are vital.

Ask for help at the first sign of confusion!  Your professors want to help you and are more than willing to meet with you.

Emily Mason, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor in Music Education
Department of Music


Be confident. You’re a student at the university because you earned the right to be here. You can succeed. Instructors are your allies; the vast majority of them will be helpful and understanding.”   

Don’t miss class unless you have a very good reason to do so. Students who show up regularly give themselves a great chance to pass the class and even do very well.

Dr. Amine Tais
Department of Philosophy


College allows everyone to set their own pace. Work hard, but don’t overwork. Everyone falls behind from time to time, but you just have to keep at it, and you will get it. Remember to take care of yourself and just keep working. You’ll end up fine.

Dr. James Rocha
Department of Philosophy


Always back up your files. Use Google Drive, a flash drive or external hard drive, and/or email files to yourself. When you are writing a paper, save often.

Communicate often and early with your professors. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you are having trouble making it to class on time because you have only ten minutes to get from the Lyles Center to North Gym, let your professor know during the first week of class. Don’t wait until you have an F for attendance. We really want you to succeed, but we can’t help you if we don’t know what’s happening.

Take control of the parking situation. Instead of cruising for a parking space for 30 minutes and showing up late for class, get to school an hour early, find a good parking spot, and relax over a cup of your favorite beverage.

Faith M Sidlow
Department of Media, Communication and Journalism


Take your professors’ guidelines for success in their courses seriously  (regarding active reading, attendance, proofreading, etc.).

Keep in mind that the time and energy you devote to your college classes is an investment in yourself, your academic growth, and your future success.

Mariana Anagnostopoulos
Department of Philosophy


Go to class regularly (go to every class meeting if possible).”

Make use of the professor’s office hours.

Study with a classmate(s).

Manage your time.

Brian Agbayani
Department of Linguistics


Visit your professors during office hours. Introduce yourself and ask them what they would do if they were you and were wanting to earn an A in their class.

Prof. Betsy Hays
Media, Communications and Journalism department chair


Check your department’s road maps and verify that your are taking foundational classes that are prerequisites for moving forward in your chosen degree program.

Get involved! Join a club or talk to a faculty member about student research opportunities.

Dr. Laura Huisinga, MFA, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Graphic Design Area Coordinator 


If you can’t register for the class you want because the system says it’s full, email the professor anyway. It can’t hurt. Sometimes there are extra seats or the system is inaccurate.”

Rusty Robison
Art and Design


Professors and advisors love students that show they care. Emailing your professors and or advisors regarding homework, meeting times, general class information, or your major/minor advisement can go a long way in them knowing you by name and recognizing that you’re serious about your classwork.

Kenneth Balint
Music Department


Go to office hours. At least once in the first month of school. Go meet your professors one-on-one briefly. Discuss something you’re studying in class that you are a bit more curious about and help them put your name and face together. Lay a positive foundation in case you need something later — even years later, like a recommendation letter.” 

Take charge of your own education. Read the syllabus and know what is expected of you in each class. Then if you have concerns, don’t simply ask permission from professors, it’s your education, negotiate what you can do to fulfill the expectations within some reasonable accommodation given whatever particular need you have  (making up a missed quiz for a job interview or attending a student organization event, etc).  

Carolyn Cusick, PhD 
Associate Professor, Philosophy


A couple of staff members also had tips for new students:

Learn to say ‘No.’ Students get overwhelmed by all the activities, ensembles, events, and freedom to do as they wish.  Keep your eye on the prize and manage your time. There will always be another opportunity to get involved, know your limits so you don’t fail behind in your classes.  It’s mature, you’ll be better respected by your instructors, and you’ll have plenty of time for a fun college life. Take it in, be involved just not overwhelmed.

Sindi McGuire
Fresno State Music
Administrative Support Coordinator


Know your department staff and chair.

Show up for class.” 

Be humble and grateful, do not take advantage.

Audrey Rodriguez
Music Department

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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