Welcome back to campus!
I hope you had a good summer and are ready to get started on the academic year.
Having been at Auburn University for a good number of years, and having served as the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies since 2011, I have had the opportunity to observe a lot of Auburn students, so I would like to share some tips that I hope will help you get the most out of your academic experience here.
When you have questions, ask for help.
Auburn University is a big place.
We have 11 colleges offering more than 130 undergraduate majors.
These programs often must comply not only with Auburn’s rules about course requirements, but with professional accreditation requirements as well.
Navigating your academic plan of study can get complicated. To make sure that you stay on track, use DegreeWorks at least once a semester and meet with your academic adviser before you register for the next semester’s classes even if you feel confident that you know what courses to take.
Ask the right people for help.
Too often students take the wrong courses because they relied on their roommates’ or parents’ recommendations.
Roommates and parents can provide great advice on many subjects, but please let your academic adviser — an individual who is knowledgeable about and trained in the intricacies and specific requirements of your major — guide your course registration decisions.
If you ever feel that you are not getting good advice from your academic adviser, go see your college’s director of student services (if your college has one) or the associate dean for academics and explain your concerns.
We want to make sure you receive the best advice possible.
In fact, Auburn has increased the number of academic advisers on campus and strengthened professional development for academic advisers during the past three years to make it easier for students to meet with well-informed advisers.
If your questions are about a class you are taking, ask your instructor for help.
If you need more assistance, use the academic resources on campus.
Your professors keep office hours for a reason — they want to answer your questions.
Go see them as soon as you have a question. Don’t wait until the day before an exam.
Remember that the Miller Writing Center and the Study Partners program, both located in the Learning Commons of the Library, can provide tutoring help if you need more assistance.
If a course offers supplemental instruction sessions, take advantage of them.
The Academic Support Office website (http://academicsupport.auburn.edu/ ) provides information on many of the tutoring and academic coaching resources provided on campus.
If you don’t know whom to ask, ask your academic advisor. Professional academic advisors don’t know everything, but they know everybody. They can direct you to the right office to address most problems that might arise, whether those problems are academic, roommate-related, financial, medical, or personal. They will be able to tell you whom to go see. They may be able to help you make an appointment with the person who can address your concern. Sometimes they will even walk you to that person’s office.
Read your email, especially email from your advisor, your dean, and your professors. These folks try to limit the emails they send to only essential information. Please don’t treat them like spam. If you miss deadlines because you didn’t read your email, you will only have yourself to blame.
Read and keep all your course syllabi. They may be given to you on paper or they may be shared through Canvas or another means. Regardless, you are responsible for knowing the policies that govern each of your classes and following the policies and deadlines the syllabi contain. Record major project and test deadlines in a planner so you aren’t caught off guard later in the semester. If you don’t understand something on a syllabus, talk with you professor after class or during office hours.
Follow directions. If you get an email telling you that you need to submit a form or piece of information by a specific deadline, do it. There will probably be consequences you won’t like if you don’t, and there will be no one to blame but yourself. When a course syllabus provides directions on how to complete an assignment, follow them.
Be familiar with the policies that govern your education at Auburn. The Student Policy eHandbook (http://www.auburn.edu/student_info/student_policies/ ) and AU Bulletin (http://bulletin.auburn.edu// ) contain the rules governing your academic curriculum and graduation requirements, as well as important academic policies like the university’s Attendance Policy, Academic Honesty Policy, and Student Academic Grievance Policy. Take a moment to scan over those documents.
Remember that all the rules apply to you. Honestly, it is true. No matter your major, how high your GPA, how nice you are, or how unique you feel you are, all of Auburn’s academic policies, all of the rules on the syllabi you receive, all of the deadlines posted in the Bulletin or in emails you receive apply to all Auburn students.
Don’t assume that a faculty member or administrator will do something for you unless they have specifically said that they would. This is especially important where course enrollments and money are involved. The wise student will confirm by in-person office visit, phone, or email that someone is going to register them for a class, apply a refund to an ebill, or change a registration PIN. And once the wise student has confirmed it is going to be done, they will wait a day or two and then check (by reviewing their account or their schedule or registration status) to see that the desired action has occurred. No Auburn staff member would intentionally fail to follow through, but it is smart to make sure for yourself. Don’t try to make your parents do it. It’s time for you to take on that adult responsibility.
If you are receiving federal loans or VA benefits, be sure you know the policies governing the award of those funds. (Contact the AU Veterans Resource Center or the Financial Aid Office if you have questions.) If you are receiving scholarships from the University or a college (scholarships may be awarded at the University, College or departmental level), read the emails you will receive explaining the policies governing them. If you have questions, contact the individual who sent the email to resolve the issue. Generally students must be enrolled in 12 semester hours (the federal full-time student definition) each term that they are receiving the scholarships or federal loans. Most scholarships require that recipients be full-time students in order to help make sure that the university’s limited academic scholarship funds are directed toward the students who need them the most.
If you have a problem, start at the lowest administrative level to try to solve it. It is usually easiest to solve a problem directly. For instance, if you don’t understand a grade earned on an assignment you submitted, ask the professor to discuss it with you promptly after receiving the grade. If you continue to believe the grade was inappropriate after your discussion with the faculty member, then contact their department chair, and then the dean. Trying to bypass the chain of command (by contacting President Gogue as soon as you receive the grade, for example) will just slow down the process of achieving resolution and may well antagonize the folks whose heads you went over.
Listen to and learn from the wide range of individuals on our campus. One advantage of choosing to attend a large, public, land-grant research university is the diversity of kinds of people you have the opportunity to meet. Regardless of your race, gender, sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs, socioeconomic background, or hometown, there are individuals on campus whose background and perspectives are the complete opposite of yours. (There are even people on our campus who don’t like football!) Take the time to talk with students, faculty, and staff who are different from you. Attend public lectures or meetings about subjects outside your comfort zone and experience. We have a lot to learn from each other.
Above all else, remember to take care of yourself and be kind.
Constance C. Relihan
Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies
Director of University College
Professor of English