Making the transition from high school to college can be a bit of a struggle, and many students wonder, “What should I do?” Or more importantly, “What should I not do?” I confess, as a student, I have made a few mistakes in that respect, most of them regarding staying organized. I could write an article from personal experience, but I would rather ask an expert: a college professor, and not just any college professor, but an education professor who has a doctorate in the sciences of learning and teaching. So I interviewed Dr. Forbes of Gannon’s School of Education.


After initially asking Forbes about the “not to do’s” in college, she referenced calling professors by their first name.

“One of the first things that comes to mind is calling professors by their first name, or by some nickname,” Forbes said. “This happens a lot in high school and you would not say to Dr. Merritt, ‘Hey! Merritt!’ This does not show respect, so I recommend calling the professor what they are: a professor, followed by their last name. Because you do not know if he or she has a doctorate until they tell you what they want to be called.”

Well, we know what to call professors to avoid getting on their bad side, but what else can we do to communicate with professors?

I would say when you send an email, use a subject line,” Forbes said. “A lot of students forget to do that. Make sure you put your name at the end of the message.”

Forbes also recommends that all college students communicate often and always use a positive tone.

 “You may have a complaint, but present it gently,” Forbes said. Forbes advises against using email as the only form of communication, but instead using email to set appointments and meet them in person.

“Go see them in person,” Forbes said. “It is important that they associate a face with your name since they will give you tips and writing your letters of recommendation.” 

Forbes also has sound advice regarding studying and homework.

“We [professors] expect you to do the reading,” Forbes said. “The most pain-free way to do this is to use an active reading strategy. Ask yourself questions  and take notes so it is easier to process.”

When it comes to studying, organization tends to be an issue for many students. Forbes recommended that students invest in a planner and include all information regarding studying in the planner. Actually, it is a good idea to use the planner for everything you do as time management is important. But organization is not the root of all studying difficulties, so Forbes also recommends that anyone who has difficulty studying should go to the Student Success Center because they can help with study skills.

Going back to organizational issues, Forbes has advice for many disorganized students like myself.

“At the University, we expect you to know how to take notes, use a planner, and all of the organizational strategies grade school teachers taught you,” said Forbes. “It is important you take control of organizing yourself.”

Her advice is this: Get a planner. Use it for everything. Write everything down. Take notes. Highlight your notes. Use binders for your classes and fieldwork. Organize everything into sections with dividers. Get a hole punch and put everything into the right sections. Correctly label the sections. Then you will know where everything is located and you won’t lose stuff like I might have done at some point in my college career.

And that’s about it: the official “what not to do’s” in college and some tips on how not to do those things from someone with a doctorate in Education.