Sol writes: Welcome back, welcome in

All right, so we’ve had a summer. No one did as much as they wanted, no one got enough sleep, all of us are overworked and underpatient, and here we are again! Let’s talk getting ready for school. You registered for classes, – what, you didn’t yet?

There’s still time. You can use the course search option to find the classes you need, and make sure that the times don’t conflict. Registration will be open right into the beginning of classes, but you won’t have a lot of time after the classes start, and if the one you want fills up fast, you may find yourself waitlisted. So if there’s something you know you need and this is the semester you want to take it, sign up now.

All right, so you’ve picked your class, you’ve signed up, you got your syllabus printed. You bought a notebook, two pens, and a set of highlighters because you brought your old ones to work and they’re still there. You even cleared your desk off a little (right? You did plan a study space?)

You’ve got a few weeks left to get ready, so here’s a few more things to do:

  • To save money, find out if last year’s textbook edition will be acceptable in your current class. It’s usually cheaper, and if it’s acceptable, that means the important info is all there.
  • Consider buying a second-hand textbook, but make sure it’s in good condition. It doesn’t do you any good if the questions are filled in- especially if the filled in answers are wrong.
  • Don’t just buy the book: LOOK AT IT. Open it up, look at the table of contents and your syllabus to get an idea of what you’re getting into. If the class requires a paper every two weeks, you’re going to have to plan time for that. Get a feel for how much you’ll have to do per week just to keep up.
  • Go outside! Summer is still here, there are a lot of last-minute field trips and activities still going on  so you can get a little fun in before we settle down to serious hard work again. (Yes, there will be field trips later. But now is a good time for a gentle last hurrah.)
  • Take a look around campus where your class is, if you’re not doing it by distance. Sometimes classes are in obscure spots (I’m looking at you, Vanserg) and it’s good to know in advance at least one route to get there.
  • Set up your folder for the class. Yep, just like last year- a plastic folder, with four pockets. One for handouts, one for finished homework, one for unfinished, and one for everything else. Keeping it organized makes a difference.
  • Check out some of the local restaurants. Restaurant week is coming up! No, really, it’s previewing, right? We have a scientifically valid reason for checking out the hamburgers here. It’s all in the name of science!
  • If you’re taking math, make sure your calculator works before class. I can attest to this one myself.
  • If you’re taking a foreign language or something like biological sciences, get your index cards while they’re on sale. You’ll need them. A lot.
  • Check if your class has a dropbox option for homework. If it does, it’s not hard to use, but be sure you understand the concept- you have to upload your file, not email it in. Some classes will not take homework handed in by other than the specified means, so check before you start.
  • Make sure that the straps on your backpack are in good shape. Things are on sale now; if it needs replacing, it’s better to get the replacement now than in two months, when they aren’t on sale any more and you’re carrying two classes’ worth of homework on one arm.

If you’re new to the Extension School, welcome aboard! There are lots of resources available to you as a student, so don’t forget to talk to your advisor, and if you’re an enrolled degree student, sign up for your FAS webmail account. For example, I can be reached at grey@fas.harvard.edu.

I’m excited about getting back into things. I’ll be taking abnormal psychology, by online option mostly… I am VERY excited about it. I know a therapist who took the extension school’s abnormal psych class and speaks very highly of it. There will be a few nights I make it to the classroom, and I look forward to meeting my fellow students. That’s always the best part of the class, for me.

Between life and work, I’m somehow surprised to see it already August. I did get to Walden pond a few times. I’m moving my baby sister (I’m 33, she’s 19) into Mt. Holyoke this September 1st, and we’re so proud of each other’s school careers that it’s ridiculous. (I should point out that we took a summer course together at the extension school, and it weighed well in her college admissions process.) Sometimes I feel strange as an adult student, but I never feel wrong. I’m glad I’m doing this.

Welcome back, folks, and if you’re new, welcome in. You’ll love it here, and I’m sure we will love you. It may seem like an alienating idea, this going to school at night, but I promise- once you meet the rest of us, you’ll feel like part of the club. It’s not like having a graduating class by year; it’s more like being committed to lifelong learning, in a group of your actual peers, the ones who understand just how much that means. You never really leave the extension school- graduating means you get degrees and keep learning in the world.

Please feel free to comment below, and tell me what you did with your summer! Mine was spent weeding like mad in my front yard garden. I’ve got basil and oregano to show for it, and even a couple of watermelons, though every one I picked thus far has been unripe. Clearly, I need to learn more about these fruits. (Om nom nom.) The green beans didn’t yield much, the garlic died, but the cabbages are glorious and the shallots did well. I’m coming to understand the rocky, silty Massachusetts dirt. It takes getting used to, and a lot of compost.

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