By: Shannon Humphrey
As a student who has been here for longer than the average bear, I feel I have a certain responsibility to share some tips and tricks that I wish someone would have shared with me to make my time here easier.
Don’t make it harder than it needs to be
Now I know this is our favorite task and struggling alone to navigate a system we aren’t yet familiar with seems like the “normal” thing to do but stop that right now! It doesn’t have to be this hard. One of the best things you can do for yourself to ensure the best possible educational experience is to know your resources and then actually use them. Which brings me to my next point.
You are not alone
There are a ton of resources both on and off campus to help support you throughout your time here. Make sure you know the available resources and use them to their fullest extent. Had I discovered these resources and supports earlier in my academic journey, my time here would have been a lot easier, and come to think of it, likely a lot shorter as well. For me the resources I wish I would have discovered earlier are Counselling Services, Accessibility Services, and my Student Health and Dental benefits. Here are some of the resources that are valuable resources you should be utilizing:
· My Wellness
· Accessibility Services
· Student Connect Centre
· Academic Advising
· Learning Strategies
· Peer Tutoring
· Student Food Bank
· Math Centre
· Writing Centre
· Academic Upgrading Tutor Centre
· Red Deer Polytechnic Website
· Students’ Association Website
You will always have options
“No education is bad education, and no time spent learning is wasted”
Someone once said to me, “no education is bad education, and no time spent learning is wasted.” This is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. This statement could not be more accurate. Academic credits not only transfer internally across programs but also externally across schools. In my academic journey, I spent 1 year at University of Lethbridge (U of L), and then 7 years at Red Deer College. Every single class I have ever taken still appears on my transcript and those classes I took at U of L, despite not finishing my program, fulfill several class requirements in my business degree and justice studies diploma. Many of my classes also act as pre-requisites allowing me to take higher level classes that are more specified and that I find much more engaging. While some of those classes may not fill any program requirements currently, they did in the past and remain of my transcript. These junior level credits have opened all sorts of doors to more interesting senior levels credits. So, even if you get into your program and decide that it’s not for you, it doesn’t mean you need to drop out of school. You will always have options no matter where life takes you. You can find out more information about your credits on your Loop account and checking your Grad Tracker, or by visiting Transfer Alberta.
Academic Planning is important!
It is in your best interest to understand how to academic plan. This will ultimately allow you more autonomy in the long run and enable you to choose your own adventure! Academic planning can be complicated and confusing at first, but it’s worth it. Here are a few things you need to know:
- Know where to find your academic advisor. They will be your greatest ally when it comes to academic planning. They can help you understand the academic planning process and what courses you need to take to fulfill your program requirements.
- Know where to find a program Planning Guide and your Grad Tracker. This helps you track what you have completed, what you still need to complete, and outlines your options. It gives you a real time overview of your progress and help guide you.
- Know what pre-requisites and anti-requisites are:
- Pre-requisites are courses required to be completed before you are eligible to take another course. For example, you must take PSYC 260 before taking any other PSYC courses.
- Anti-requisites are courses that are the same in the nature and fulfill the same requirements. More simply put, it courses are anti-requisites then it is useless to take them both because the content will be similar and only one will count toward your program. Make sure you are in the correct one for your program. In some cases, one may be a “higher level” course to fulfill a university transfer requirement, while the other will not fulfill the university transfer requirement.
- Know the difference between junior and senior level courses:
- In general, junior level courses are intro level courses and often act a pre-requisite to something else. Usually, these courses are taken in your first few years but can be taken at any time throughout your academic journey. These courses are usually your 100-200 level courses (“college”) or 1000-2000 (“university”) level courses. These often transfer from 100 to 1000 and 200 to 2000 level courses when transferring from a college to a university or vice versa.
- Take courses that actually interest you. Don’t take courses just because they fit into your schedule. You will always be more successful in a course if you find the content interesting. Set yourself up for success. Yes, sometimes this means hitting refresh at midnight until the new courses come available for registration. I promise it’s worth it.
- Play to your strengths. Your academic journey is not limited to just your program.
While I was doing my Justice Studies Diploma, I took a KNSS course that helped me get my NCCP Coaching Certification. This KNSS class both filled an open option in my diploma and served as a means of getting a coaching certification that I otherwise would have had to pay out of pocket for and would have had to take anyway in my role as a head coach. Use your time here to your advantage and pursue those extra little things that will help you out in your personal life and future endeavours whether they are career related or not.
Knowing your learning style will help you learn faster and retain what you learn. You can discover your learning style by taking either of these quizzes:
Once you have taken a few courses, identify the instructors that work for your learning style and those that do not. Knowing how you learn and what is effective in helping you retain knowledge will set you up for success.
- Never take an F – the better option is to WD.
- WD stands for withdraw. Withdrawals do not impact your GPA and show up on your transcript as WD.
- Students withdraw from a course after the last day to add or drop a course and before or on the last day of scheduled classes, as indicated in the Academic Schedule. A grade of WD is assigned to the course on the student’s transcript.
- The last day to withdraw from courses is on the last day of scheduled classes as indicated in the Academic Schedule or in the course outline for courses with alternative academic terms.
- Late Drop or Withdrawal: Students who miss the deadline to drop or withdraw from courses as a result of illness, domestic affliction, religious practices, or other compelling reasons may request the Registrar to consider approval of a late drop or withdrawal.
- Retaking courses does not always boost your GPA so make sure you speak with your advisor before doing so.
5. Accessibility Services are available to EVERYONE!
Accessibility Services advocates for an accessible learning environment for all students. This includes working with an Accessibility Coordinator, Learning Strategist, and/or Technology Strategist. Red Deer Polytechnic has a legal obligation to ensure that students with documented disabilities have equal access to post-secondary education through accommodations. Accommodations and resources are determined on an individual basis and are designed to provide students with equal access to the educational process by reducing barriers.
Prospective and current students with documented disabilities affecting mobility, learning, or physical or mental health can register to access resources and accommodations needed to achieve their learning outcomes. Examples of eligible disabilities include:
· Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
· Autism Spectrum Disorders
· Chronic Health Condition
· Deaf/Hard of Hearing
· Learning disabilities
· Mental Health disabilities
· Neurological conditions
· Physical disabilities
· Visually impaired
· A disability can be permanent or temporary, due to accident or illness.
Taking notes is an art.
Personally, I know that bringing a device to class is distracting so I use paper and pens. I find that using different colour pens helps me. Follow these links to assist with your note taking:
There are no weird questions, just weird people.
Dare to be different and ask weird questions. If you have a question, chances are so does everyone else. Ask those questions and be engaged in class. It also helps to sit front and centre. If you sit at the front of the classroom, it is much harder to get distracted by things that are not class related. It is also easier to engage in the classroom discussion and hold yourself accountable for asking questions and contributing to the conversation.
As a student, you have student rights and responsibilities.
You should know what they are. In a later blog, we will take a deep dive into this. Your rights and responsibilities can be found here: https://rdc.ab.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/documents/Student%20Rights%20and%20Responsibilities%20Policy_2016.pdf
This is a safe space to be your most authentic self.
Your time as a student will be chalked full of personal growth and experiences. It is important to remember that you will not be the same person you are now when you leave. During your time here you have a right to feel not only safe but celebrated and free to be your most authentic self.
Your voice matters.
We are here for you. As your elected representatives, it is our job to be the voice of the students. We encourage you to come share your experiences with us, good or bad. We encourage you to get involved in things like student groups, Student Council, Academic Council, School Council, or one of the many committees that exist. We need strong student voices at every level of decision making throughout the institution and student leadership to advocate for what matters to us most.