By Tim Callahan
Student Mentor, College of Business
At WGU, each student is assigned a personal faculty member to work with them as a mentor throughout their time at WGU. Additionally, each course has its own course mentors, subject-matter experts who are available to help students get through course material. Advice from your mentors is invaluable as you make your way through your online degree program. But we also want you to benefit from the wisdom of mentors not necessarily assigned to you, so occasionally, The Night Owl features advice from WGU mentors in colleges throughout the university.
My name is Tim Callahan, and I have been a Student Mentor in the College of Business for 3½ years. I have been working in the education field for over 10 years. I have been at an online and physical-campus student, and believe me: I understand how hard it is to work and attend college at the same time. I work here at WGU because I believe it is truly one of the best online universities and has the student's best interest at heart.
As mentors, we have been where you are now. We were students once and had the same trials and challenges you experience as a student. This is why we can relate and help guide you through your program. To start, I want to say congratulations to all of you for taking that step to further your education by earning your bachelor's or master's degree. As you now know, this is not an easy undertaking. But embrace this challenge because it will empower you when you are done.
One of the great things about WGU is that you have the ability to spend more time on a more difficult course and less time on a course when you are already familiar with the material. The question is what you can do to increase your scholastic performance. It comes down to positive core student behaviors.
What are the behaviors that high-performing students tend to have in common?
- "Will do" vs. "try": When setting your goals with your mentor on what you would like to accomplish over the next week, don't say you will try to read five chapters if you have time. Instead, say you will read five chapters, and, if something comes up, you will find a way to get the reading done. If you say you will try to get it done, you are already giving yourself an excuse not to accomplish your goal.
- Be devoted to your study goal: How do you feel when you set your weekly study goals with your mentor? Do you feel like it would be nice to accomplish your goal but it will be OK if you don't? Or do you feel like this is a promise you are making to yourself so it must be done? Commit to your weekly goals and hold them as a promise to yourself. Students who meet their weekly goals are students who graduate!
- Complete courses by the end dates: High-performing students complete their courses by the end dates they set and feel that those end dates are set in stone. This is so important for you to stay on pace and not fall behind. Falling behind takes a toll on you, adding stress to your life and causing you to feel pressure from the impending end of term.
- Have good communication with your mentors: This means making all your appointments with your mentor and rescheduling when you need to miss an appointment. Send email updates to your mentor and brag about what you have done. We love to see those emails and are proud of you. Most importantly, don't miss a call with your mentor because you did not accomplish your study goal. That is when you need your mentor the most.
- Ask for help when needed: So many students are shy or embarrassed to ask for help. Please don't be. Reach out to your course mentors. They are here to help you. Some of my best students who graduated in an accelerated time needed a lot of help. When they realized they were stuck, they were quick to contact me or a course mentor. The end result was graduating faster than originally planned.
- Know your learning communities: Do you know if your class offers webinars or has a help line? That information is in your course learning community. Learning communities often contain recorded videos, study guides, task tip sheets, course mentor contact information, and so much more! Begin every course by going through your learning community in detail.
- Find the golden nugget in a course you dislike: You are not alone in disliking a course sometimes. But find something interesting about the course. I hated my statistics class when I was in school, but then I got into the forecasting part of it and I thought it was very useful to know that information as a business major. I saw the importance of it and that helped me get through the class.
I know these can sound like generalizations and simplistic, kind of like saying, "You can lose weight by eating better and exercise! It's that easy!" The reality is it is a little harder than that.
Ask yourself if you follow these basic behaviors. If you don't, do you feel like you are behind progress or are you doing fine? What is "doing fine" to you? Do you complete your 12 competency units and more?
Try talking to your mentor about these behaviors on your next call. This can open up a great discussion and shed some light on ways for you to improve your studies here.
Remember we are here to help and support you, and sometimes that means we will point out where you can improve. Accept that advice when it is given because it is not given lightly.
Good luck, and see you at graduation!