Chuck Milam’s Seven Secrets of Academic Success at UW-Oshkosh

I wrote this shortly before I finally graduated from UW Oshkosh, and left it with my fraternity chapter.  Recently, Victor discovered it in his archives and sent it back to me.  It was fun to read this blast from the past, and I think most of this still holds true today.  I do come down on academic advisors pretty hard here, but at the time I had good reason to.  Looking back at it now, I will apply this disclaimer:  Not all academic advisors are horrible.  There was one advisor in the Liberal Studies department that really made all the difference for me in getting me credit for ALL my classes when I returned to school, and she got me on the track to graduation in the shortest time possible.  Some of the other advisors that were working at UWO at the time would have done well to have learned from her.

So without further explanation, I present:

Chuck Milam’s Seven Secrets of Academic Success at UW-Oshkosh

This was originally a presentation given in the fall of 1999 to my fraternity pledge class as part of the “Academics” component of The Journey. I speak from experience. I almost failed out of school in 1995, left school to take a job before they could kick me out, and then returned to complete my degree in 1998. Most of what is presented here was learned in my “second go around” from 1998-1999.

1. Go to class. Nothing is more important. No matter how hung over, sick, or just plain tired you are, go to class. Even if you are only semi-conscious, you can at least absorb enough through osmosis to pass the class. You cannot pass a class if you’re not there to learn the material or take the exams.

2. Your advisor is not going to help you. Contrary to popular belief, your advisor is not going to bend over backwards to help you plan your academic career and help you graduate on time. You advisor is most likely only concerned with getting you out of his office so he can get back to his game of computer golf or surfing to college-sluts.com. You are better off consulting with professors or fraternity brothers in your major. Which leads us to point #3:

3. Use your resources. Through the fraternity, you have access to brothers who have “been there” already. They know what professors to take, what professors to avoid and what classes are a guaranteed “GPA booster.” Make use of brothers in your major, especially–they’ll be happy to help you.

4. Don’t fall into the “GPA trap.” In many academic majors, if you drop below a certain minimum GPA, you won’t be able to take upper-level classes. If you can’t get into upper-level classes, you can’t graduate. So, you end up trapped in a vicious cycle, blowing tuition money, accruing useless course credits and not making any real progress toward graduation. If you’re following rule #1, above, this will not be a problem for you.

5. Don’t believe the “Academic Major/GPA Hype.” Since high school, you’ve been told that you have to have a “decent major” and a “decent GPA” (usually 3.0 or better) in order to have any hope of getting a job out of college. This is quite possibly the biggest lie told to students today. Major in something you really are interested in, not something that you think will get you a good job. After you have your degree, an employer isn’t going to care if you majored in business or art. He’s not going to care what your GPA was. All that matters is that you get that degree. After all, it’s why you’re here, right? Right.

6. Everything can be appealed and/or waived. Don’t let academic advisors convince you that you cannot get into the upper-level courses because you are missing one or two classes. (College of Business advisors are notorious for this.) Remember step #2, above? Your advisor could care less if you have to take an extra semester to meet some silly prerequisite requirement. These kinds of things can be waived. Ask for a waiver or an appeal. If you’re not happy with the answers you’re getting from your advisor, go to the department chair, to the dean of the college, the provost, whatever it takes to get what you need done. It is your right as a student (paying customer) to make steady academic progress and graduate on time.

7. Demand the same level of performance from your professors that they demand of you. Don’t tolerate professors who don’t show up for office hours or class, who don’t clearly explain their grading criteria, or who don’t grade consistently. Remember, everyone answers to someone. You can take your complaints to the department chair, to the dean of the college, right on up the chain, just as in step #6, above. Some professors are beyond hope. Avoid them by making sure you consult with others on who to avoid. See #3, above.

Remember these seven simple steps, and you’ll be on the road to graduate “on schedule.”

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