Session 9: Doing School Work


Growing up I moved around a lot. Between that, being suspended or expelled, and skipping school, I had huge gaps in my education. When I entered college there was a lot that many of my peers had been exposed to that I never had been exposed to. I didn’t really know what to expect at all. As a first-generation college student, I didn’t even really have anyone discuss these things with me.

I started college, at Pierce, in 2008. At this time I was over five years removed from earning my GED and at least seven years removed from the last time I was an actual student in school. I pretty much had to learn as I went along. Math was without a doubt the greatest challenge for me and the one subject I actually dreaded taking. I did really bad on the math placement test so it took me several quarters and classes to finally reach college level math. I am so glad that I took classes such as Math 48 and Math 60 because the things I learned in those classes, such as the order of operations, are critical for anyone to know who ever plans on helping their kids with homework. I noticed that I didn’t learn until college what my children are learning in middle school. I still am not the greatest at math and I don’t love it but It provided a great sense of accomplishment to climb that ladder and make progress and eventually pass college level statistics.

One thing I never did struggle with was writing. On the GED test as well as the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), which is a test that you take before entering grad school, I tested at an elite level. I was in the 93rd percentile for writing on the GRE and somewhere in the 90s on that part of the GED. Despite my comfort with writing and despite testing into such a high percentile I still had a lot to learn. I realized that there are many different genres and levels of writing. I came in to college not knowing what a thesis sentence was. I had no idea that Wikipedia and much of what we find on Google are completely useless in terms of academic writing. One of the biggest things I picked up on over the years is that there is no one right way to write a paper. There are various different formats and expectations depending the professor and class. I have been caught off guard a couple times as I was first introduced to MLA, then APA and then Chicago style. I personally preferred the professors who let the student decide which one to use but that is very rare and they normally require students to stick to the style they are most familiar and comfortable with. For new students this can be challenging as in one class you might be required to use MLA and in another APA and while you are still learning the “do’s and don’ts” of each it is very easy to get them confused.

Over the years I have taken countless tests. In the academic world they call them exams and they can take many different forms. Many classes will have a mid-term exam which comes at the middle of the quarter and a final exam which for me was often either the last day of class or the week after instruction ended. My favorite type of exam to take has always been multiple choice exams. I really liked online exams as well. Other exams might require you to write long responses in paragraph form to only a couple questions. Some exams have taken me hours to complete, others only a few minutes. Learning how to prepare for each type of exam is critical because they are often a large percentage of your grade.

Group work can be a gift or a curse, depending on the situation. I never wanted to be the guy who wasn’t carrying his weight in group assignments. I personally don’t care for group work as it doesn’t quite fit my style of completing school work. The most common group assignment I had during my time in college was group presentations. Chances are, you will be experience this at some point. Always give it your best and don’t be afraid to ask for help!