Expectations in college or university differ from those in high school; students can use this knowledge to plan for success in college.
College survival The Not-the-13th-Grade Page
A FREE Online Guide to College Success
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Professor of Geography
Bridgewater State University
Revised: July 9, 2013

In promoting universal higher education, former President Bill Clinton suggested that college should be thought of as the "thirteenth grade." His desire to be inclusive is admirable, but unfortunately his phrasing perpetuates a view of education that is at odds with the mission of higher education.

Educators: Please see note below.

Don't Be That Guy
Learn about Distracted Learning

I was looking for a degree and I walked away with a life.
~~ Lauren Carter
BSC Class of 2004

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
~~ William Butler Yeats
This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
this ain't no fooling around
~~ The Talking Heads ("Life During Wartime ")

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.

~~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Percentage of U.S. employers who say that a high-school graduate "has at least learned the basics:"  39
Percentage of middle- and high-school students who say this: 77

~~ Harper's, September 2001

A student at another school once asked me what benefits one gains from college. Here is my reply:
The Essentials
All of my students must read these!
Hidden Gems This NPR story explains why "it doesn't matter where you go to college, only what you do there." My students need to read this because it puts the responsibility for college success squarely where it belongs -- not on the choice of schools, but on the work and attitude of learners.
Detailed discussion of how to read assignments, study for exams, and locate on-campus resources for help.
This page details 40 things I expect of students.
General discussion of how to become a more effective writer and detailed discussion of how to correct common writing mistakes. Read the peeves section of this page to avoid writing all your papers twice!
This page explains what I mean by "A," "B," and so on.
How to find or contact professor Hayes-Bohanan. When I was late to a computer class once, students Asked Jeeves where I was, and this page gave them a pretty good idea!
In this page, I describe in detail some of what makes the college experience qualitatively different from high school. (Includes new material about the training of professors.)
Student face severe penalties for plagiarism, often because they do not know what it is. This site from Indiana University explains exactly how to stay out of this kind of trouble. One related problem that is NOT explained on the IU site is that of a student submitting essentially the same paper to fulfill requirements in two different courses. As a student of mine once learned from unhappy experience, this is only acceptable by prior arrangement with both professors.
Campus Events
Extra Credit

Colleges present many opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. Bridgewater State University is increasingly committed to bringing a diversity of lectures, plays, and other learning opportunities to campus, presentations by nationally and internationally known artists and scholars. Students in my classes can earn extra credit by attending such events and notifying me that they have done so, using the form on this page.
Extra Credit
When I began this web site, it was a single page that I could maintain easily. Because of varied interests, I have expanded the site to several hundred pages and several thousands of links. In order to maintain the accuracy of these pages, I encourage students and other visitors to notify me of any problems and to suggest any new items. Students who do so may be eligible for extra credit. Non-students who do so will earn my sincere gratitude!
Almost Essential
More ideas about college success and education in general
Foreign Language Study Why Study Foreign
International Programs
Studying abroad is not a requirement at Bridgewater State University, but it should be. As the world becomes ever-more interconnected, those who study only in their own comfort zone are not really getting a complete education. At Bridgewater, there is no excuse to do all of your coursework in the United States.

The barriers to studying abroad are language learning, family resistance, time, short-term job commitments, fear. I have helped students overcome each of these obstacles, and I have had the honor of being with abroad with students in Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Cape Verde, and Brazil.
See my international page for stories and photos. My BSC colleagues have taken or sent students to Japan, China, India, Morocco, Italy, Peru, Jordan, and many other locations.

Planning ahead can help to overcome many of the obstacles: take foreign language courses as soon and as often as you can, and look into financial aid, loans, and grants. Get to know international students and local students who have been abroad. Have a meal at an ethnic restaurant. Try asking Grandma for $50 toward a trip instead of another sweater for your birthday.
Geography Geographyis a great way to learn about the world and it is excellent preparation for general business, public service, and teaching as well as specialized work in the environment, planning, or a host of other fields.
Simple-living guru Pamela Hayes-Bohanan, has prepared a simple guide to success in college. I highly recommend it!

In an anti-intellectual age, standardized testing increases, in the guise of "accountability." High-stakes tests are known to perpetuate discrimination. More importantly, high-stakes testing skews curricula as frightened educators cave in to political pressures and "teach to the test." This harms both K-12 and higher education, but the mis-named No Child Left Behind Act ensures that the damage will continue, at least until sensible people get organized!

The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally beneficial.

The 'copters This article from the Washington Post helps faculty members, students, and parents understand a new cultural collision: that among millenium-generation students, their parents, and college faculty members. Parents who think they are "just helping" combine with students who are used to being "taken care of" and bump up against a very different culture in higher education, in which professors expect students to be much more independent.

The article refers to a meeting in Phoenix that I happened to attend! I have tried to incorporate those lessons in my teaching and advising, the mentoring of my peers, and -- most especially -- my parenting. After all, I don't want some professor calling me a "helicopter parent" ten years from now!

Book Cover The subtitle of this engaging book is 40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You're Not a Straight-A Student. Author Loren Pope describes innovative approaches to higher education that are as varied as they are successful. This is the best book I know of for exploring the purposes of a liberal-arts education. Students, faculty, and administrators in any institution will be challenged by the ideas presented here.
Costly Cars Writing for Cars.com, Renee Krejci advises students of the costs and hassles of keeping cars on campus. Of course cars are needed by some students, but it is also easy for students to get caught in a cycle of working to support a car, rather than having a car to support their work. It is worth doing some careful calculation to see if a campus-bound lifestyle is more practical. I recall that during my freshman year, I spent two months without going more than a mile from my dorm -- for work, school, parties, everything. College campuses have a lot to offer, and although finding a job on campus might be difficult, without a car to support, a student might be able to
Dr. Mom What would your mom tell you as you went off to college, if your mom were a college professor. Visit Dr. Mom's Guide to College to find out. A biology professor has created this site, building on the advice she gave her own daughter when it was that time in her life. She confirms much of what I offer on this site, and adds many things I had not thought of. Please have a look!
On this page, I draw on an oft-repeated joke about higher education to make some serious points about the value of a liberal-arts degree.
Media thrive on sensational stories, and one of the most common is the story about skyrocketing college costs. The result of irresponsible reporting on this subject is that most families overestimate the cost of college, perhaps giving up on the idea even though help could have been available. The FinAid site explains financial aid programs and provides online calculators to estimate costs and available aid. Of course, it is also important to contact the financial aid offices of colleges in which you are interested. They often have campus-specific sources of aid!
The Environmental & Resource Studies Program at Trent University in Canada has prepared this fantastic set of resources for its students. It goes far beyond my Not-the-13th-Grade site to provide specific guidance that can make students in any discipline more effective learners. If you are paying tens of thousands of dollars on learning, it is a good idea to do so as effectively as possible. This site could change your life!
Almost every human civilization has figured out how to ferment something pretty soon after figuring out how to eat. In other words, alcohol is part of most human cultures. Norms and laws about its use vary widely, even within a single society. Unfortunately, a lot of confusion, lawlessness, stupidity and even death surround alcohol use in college settings. I created this page after a former student of mine was killed by a drunk fellow student, and I updated it when more than 100 college presidents endorsed the idea of renewed debate on this important topic.

We need to get serious about this problem.
Non-traditional Students In my experience, students who return to college a few years -- or decades -- after the traditional 18-22 age bracket have a lot to gain from college and a lot to offer in and out of the classroom. This Pagewise document provides some help for those entering this sometimes scary realm.
Expand your possibilities by learning more about the world around you and beyond. This site will soon have a special portal for college students. Meanwhile, the main site is an excellent way for students to find out about organizations that share their vision for change. This is also a great place to explore careers in the area of social or environmental activism.
Satirical guide to college success, posted by my colleague Prof. Robert Sutherland.
Everything and nothing. If you miss class and ask this question, consider Tom Wayman's poem the answer.
PLEASE NOTE: Some version of this poem circulates among faculty throughout the country. I am posting it here so that students can have an idea what professors are thinking when we hear this question.
No Sympathy
Professor Steve Dutch's page goes beyond Tom Wayman's single question, to answer a range of questions professors hear far too often. If answers like these seem harsh, it is time for the student to think more seriously about the reasons they are in college. It turns out that most professors share Assumption #4 on my Assumptions page (listed above).
To be fair, this page details what I expect of myself! My colleague Ted Fischer of Vanderbilt University once told an audience of international educators, "Society pays us to make a difference." College professors are paid moderately well and enjoy the ability to spend a lifetime in the world of ideas, paid for by society as a whole through a combination of tuition, fees, taxes, and foundation money. Fischer argued that society does not do this for US. Rather, society does this in exchange for what we do in the lives of other people.
For those intending to have a professional life after college, the standards and expectations in Dr. Vernon Domingo's senior seminar are a valuable reality check. (Dr. Sandra Clark has emphasized the same themes in her offering of the seminar in 2002!) Picture yourself in just a few months or years in a professional setting, and the standards he has set will make a lot of sense.
Guidelines for rating language and math skills from the U.S. Department of Labor.
This page presents some of Edward Tufte's ideas for giving excellent presentations. This is useful advice for professors, other professionals, and students who need to give presentations.
I want students to know that I know what it is like to work through college (ask around: most of your other professors worked through school, too!) I therefore prepared this unofficial resume, which includes all of the jobs I can remember having.
From Ann Landers comes this list of ten rules of life that are not taught in school.
Danica McKellarActess Danica McKellar has two messages for girls (and women): You can do math, and smart is sexy!

We bought her second book for our daughter, to help counteract all the stupid messages our culture sends about smart girls (and women). She loves the book!

You can listen to McKellar's interview with Scott Simon on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. (This link provides links to additional NPR stories on math and learning.)

You can also learn more at her web site or buy her books: Math Doesn't Suck and Kiss My Math: Showing Pre-Algebra Who's Boss. The Amazon link for the second book includes video in which McKellar explains how she came to write the books.

This article considers the purposes of higher education in an age of increasing pressure to provide vocational training in the academy.
Beloit College in Wisconsin releases an annual list of cultural touchstones that differentiate freshmen/women from older people, such as professors. I recommend this list both to professors -- so they can know what NOT to assume about their younger students -- and to students -- so they can know what kinds of things professors may taking for granted if they have not read the list. If you think of New Kids on the Block as new, you need this list!
Educating yourself may be a subversive act. In his essay "School Bells," Lewis H. Lapham argues that mainstream politicians pay only lipservice to improving education.
Read what one experienced educator has to say on the pros and cons of using computers in higher education.
From "keep an open mind" to "you can't know everything" to "don't follow the crowd, lead the crowd," journalist Leonard Boasberg offers a lot of wisdom about learning in a three-minute essay he presented on Morning Edition, March 25, 2002 .
One of the goals of higher education is to make better citizens. This is particularly true for students in the U.S., who are citizens of the world's only superpower, but are not generally taught to think of themselves in such terms. I created the Pax Mundo site to help U.S. citizens understand how we are perceived by those in the rest of the world.
Eighty-eight tips on how you can take advantage of all that college has to offer.
Note to educators: Thanks to all of you who have commented on this site. I am glad you have found it useful for your students. Please feel free to refer your students to it in whatever way you deem appropriate. The Not-the-13th-Grade icon is easy to add to your own web page, should you so choose.
All Visitors:
Guestbook by GuestWorld
Visitors since November 28, 2001: 87,562
Visitors since  January 24, 2007:

Search this site:
About this site

Return to top Not-the-13th-Grade page.
Any questions? Contact me at jhayesboh@bridgew.edu .
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.

Bridgewater State University
Department of Geography