Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About College, but Were Afraid to Ask

College can be daunting. (For one thing, your librarian uses words like “daunting,” but you can always look up the definition.) It can be daunting whether you are coming directly from high school, or returning after a long time. In some ways college is like high school- you have classes, classmates, teachers, and homework, but in many ways it is different. You have much more control over your schedule, which is a double-edged sword. You should come to class, but nobody will tell your parents if you don’t. You control what classes you take, and to some extent which professors you have. You pick your major. Having so much freedom can be wonderful, but can also feel overwhelming, so we have answers to common questions.


Question:
Do all classes start on the same date?
Answer:
They don’t, which can lead to confusion. The majority of classes are 16 weeks, but they can also be 8, 12, or 14 weeks. The course’s listing will show the start and end date.


Question:
Are my classes on campus?
Answer:
Your classes might be in person, online, or both, which is called a hybrid class. The class’s name and code can give you some hints. If you are not sure if you will be meeting on campus, email your instructor.

For example, this one has a lecture on Tuesdays and it meets for 16 weeks from 8/24 to 12/14.

This one has meets for 14 weeks from 9/17 to 12/16.

This one is only online.


Question:
How should I contact my instructors?
Answer:
You should always use your PSC (Prairie State College) student email when contacting staff or instructors at the college. Important information is sent to your email regularly, so be sure to check it at least once a day.


Question:
How do I access my student email?
Answer:
You should have received an email to your personal account with login information. If you did not, please email helpdesk@prairiestate.edu for assistance.


Question:
How do I find my schedule?
Answer:
If you know how to log in to your PSC email, you can log in to WebAdvisor on the PSC homepage. Your schedule will be under the link “My Class Schedule.” Choose “FA21” for the Fall 2021 term.


Question:
How do I access my online courses?
Answer:
Your courses will live on a platform called Desire 2 Learn, or D2L for short. If you know how to log in to your PSC email, you can log in to D2L on the PSC homepage using the same login. You should see all your courses there. Click on the course you want.


Question:
What if my course’s time and date has TBD?
Answer:
This means the course doesn’t meet at a scheduled time, or put another way- is fully asynchronous. You can work on your courses at any time that is convenient for you as long as you meet the instructor’s deadlines. You will need to log in to Desire to Learn (D2L) for your courses. You can check this in your schedule on WebAdvisor. Even if the course is asynchronous, your instructor might also hold optional course meetings, which are usually recorded for students who can’t attend.


Question:
What is a meeting pattern?
Answer:
Meeting Pattern (or MP) will be in the course section number for classes that are online and require attendance at a certain time on a certain day, just like an in-person course. These are called synchronous classes. Your D2L shell should have information about how to join class meetings. (For example, Col 101-INMPF will have a virtual class meeting on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8:30-9:20a). You can check this in your schedule on WebAdvisor.

Question:
Where can I buy my textbooks?
Answer:
Once you have access to D2L, look for the syllabus for your course. It will have information about textbooks. In some cases, faculty might be using an open-source web-based textbook. (You might hear these called open access as well, or OA for short, but all three mean the same thing.) These are scholarly ebooks that are freely available on the web.

Others you may have to purchase or rent through either PSC’s bookstore or other textbook sellers. The library won’t have copies of textbooks.

Question:
What are books on reserve?
Answer:
In the above answer, we said that the library won’t have copies of your textbooks. This is true, but sometimes your professor will leave a book, model, or something else on reserve at the library’s circulation desk. You can check it out for two hours at a time and need to keep it in the library. Ask your instructor if your course materials are on reserve—and if they’re not, ask them to consider it.

Question:
How do I find out about financial aid?
Answer:
If you know how to log in to your PSC email, you can log in to WebAdvisor on the PSC homepage. Click Students and look for the link on the left side of the screen that says “Financial Aid Checklist, Awards & Status”. The Financial Aid office will help answer your questions about the process.


Question:
How do I drop/change/add a class?
Answer:
Contact your advisor. (If you do not know who this is, email Lee Helbert at lhelbert@prairiestate.edu.) Before dropping a class, it’s always a good idea to talk to your instructor first.

Question:
What if all my courses are not in D2L yet?
Answer:
Check your course start dates. Not all classes start at the same time. The start dates can be found in your schedule on WebAdvisor. If the class has already started and is not on D2L, email your instructor to check in.


Question:
Where can I get a student ID?
Answer:
The Office of Enrollment Services ID Center issues identification cards to all students, faculty, and staff. Apply in Room 1101, ID Center. There is no charge for the first card and replacements are available for $5.

Question:
What are office hours?
Answer:
Think about office hours as student hours! Office hours are times professors set aside for you to ask questions, troubleshoot problems, get feedback on an assignment, prepare for a quiz, talk about majoring in the discipline, or just say hi. These can often be done in person, or over Google Meet. PSC professors really enjoy meeting with students during office hours. If you can’t attend at the time they identified, ask if you can meet another time.

Question:
Why do I need to read the syllabus?
Answer:
The syllabus is your key to success!  It includes all kinds of useful information, like your assignments, due dates, how to seek accommodations for students with disabilities, policies on late work- and more. You’ll get a broad overview of the class by reading this document. Your class syllabus will be on D2L, and possibly handed out on the first day of class.

Question:
How much time should I expect to spend on classwork each week?
Answer:
That depends, but there are some useful guides to help you. Most instructors suggest spending about 2-3 hours outside of class per credit hour. For an in-person 3-credit hour class you’re really skilled at, that might be 6 hours a week. For an online class you find more challenging, it can be more like 12 hours a week. It also depends on how long your term is (16, 14, 12, or 8 weeks)—8 week classes require double the amount of time per week! Rice University has a coursework calculator to help you figure out how much time you will need to set aside to complete different kinds of assignments. This template schedule is from Professor Nastal, and can help you to find time to dedicate to your schoolwork.

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