Nora Villarreal, Instructor of English
Honors Program Director
Writing Center Director


Illinois Valley Community College

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Tips for Success at Illinois Valley Community College

Congratulations on your choice of Illinois Valley Community College! We are pleased to welcome you to our dynamic and exciting campus. Succeeding in college can be tough and takes hard work and dedication. Drawing both from my own experiences as a college student (at IVCC, Illinois State University, and Northern Illinois University) and as a professional educator, I am happy to offer a list of tips that should help you achieve your goals during your time here.


Realize that success takes time and dedication.

Any college course you take will be challenging and rigorous.  Although we all lead busy lives, you must be willing to commit significant amounts of time to course work. Instructors certainly realize that many students have jobs, children, and other responsibilities outside of their course work, but these do not excuse any student from dedicating the necessary time. Carefully plan and manage your schedule in such a way that it is not too burdensome. As a general rule, one hour of class time results in two hours of outside work. Be prepared to commit to this rigorous schedule.

Get to know your instructors and keep in contact with them.

In each course, take note of how to contact your instructor and where his or her office is located. This information can often be found on the course outline or on the instructor’s webpage. You can also locate any instructor through the directory on the IVCC website. It is crucial that you stay in touch with your instructor about any problems or concerns you may have. Visit office hours for extra help or to discuss any issues you may be having.

Attend class regularly.

One of the most frequent ways students fall short of success is simply through failure to show up. Regular attendance is crucial to your success. Disappearing from class, sporadic attendance, or frequent tardiness will negatively affect your grade and could result in withdrawal or failure for the course. Even if you are trying to stay caught up, you will surely miss important information if you do not attend class. Most instructors have a clear attendance policy of which you should be aware. Keep track of your absences and remember that with few exceptions, there is no such thing as an excused absence in a college course.

Be prepared for class.

You will be expected to complete every reading and assignment in a timely manner. Come prepared to discuss readings, assignments, projects, etc. You should do more than simply complete the assigned readings; you should re-read, comprehend, question, challenge, and evaluate each reading assignment. Have a dictionary close at hand for reference. Take notes, highlight, and/or annotate your text to help enhance your critical interpretation of it. Bring your required materials and an open mind to each class meeting.

Use technology to your advantage.

You will be given a username name and password for logging onto campus computers. It is imperative that you know your username and password and are able to access technology while on campus. If you experience any problems, visit the Student Help Desk in the Learning Commons (D201).

Also, be sure to save all the work you complete for classes in multiple locations. While your U drive is useful for saving and accessing work, no system is failsafe. Therefore, it is a great idea to save work in more than one place. Many students have had the awful experience of losing a flash drive or having a computer crash, resulting in a loss of important work. If you save in more than one place, you can avoid this problem.

Furthermore, each student at IVCC has an email account through the school that should be checked regularly (at least once a day). Instructors often contact students through this email, so you may miss important information if you neglect your account.

Similarly, you should become very familiar with Blackboard, WebAdvisor, and other technologies used on campus. If you are experiencing a problem, contact your instructor or the Student Help Desk as soon as possible.

Finally, if you are not comfortable with technology, you should seek help. Often, students who return to school after time away feel at a loss when faced with technology. However, there are many resources on campus to assist you with any problems you may be having. Speak to your instructor or visit the Student Help Desk for more information.  

Participate meaningfully. 

Since many courses frequently use discussion, you will be expected to contribute significantly during each class. Successful students are willing and able to talk about the matters at hand in a meaningful way. An unwillingness to participate in class can be equated with an unwillingness to succeed and may be detrimental to your grade. Come to class prepared with ideas and questions about the readings and assignments.

Respect yourself, your classmates, your classroom, and your instructor.

Our campus is diverse and welcomes students from all walks of life. Therefore, it is important that you treat yourself and your peers with respect. Our classrooms and campus are a source of pride and should be treated accordingly. Instructors are here to facilitate your success and will treat you with respect—be sure to return the sentiment.

Follow IVCC’s core values: responsibility, caring, honesty, fairness, and respect.

These five attributes can help you find success in any aspect of your life, but are especially important at IVCC.


Give instructors poor excuses for missing class.

If you feel the need to justify an absence, realize that instructors do not appreciate hearing poor excuses such as “My alarm didn’t go off” or “I had to complete an essay for another class.” Also, please avoid over-sharing with your instructor; the details of your personal life are your business alone.

Ask if you missed “anything important.”

Asking if you missed anything in class implies that there is a possibility that the class just sat and stared at the floor on the day you were absent. You should always assume that you missed something and find out what it was. Ask a classmate for notes or contact your instructor for information.

Use your cell phone in any way during class time.

Turn off your cell phone during class (this means all the way off, not set to “vibrate”). If you forget and your phone rings, apologize and silence it immediately. Make it a habit to double-check your ringer before entering the classroom. Your phone should be out of sight during class time.

Also, please realize that texting during class is never acceptable. Even if you hold your phone under the desk, your instructor can still see what you are doing. This level of inattention is improper in a college classroom.

Visit social networking sites or other sites unrelated to class work during class time.

There is never a time during any class when it would be appropriate to check your Facebook or visit non-class related sites. When using computers for class work, stay focused on that work. Never work on assignments for other classes during class time. All of the teacher’s computer stations have technology available that allows them to view your computer screen on their computer, so even if your computer screen is not facing the instructor, he or she can still keep an eye on what you are doing.

Disappear from class.

If you do not show up for a few classes in a row, you run the risk of being dropped or failing the course. Stay in touch with your instructor.


Waiting until the last moment to complete an assignment is irresponsible and will be detrimental to your grade. Begin working on assignments several days before they are due. You will avoid a lot of stress if you wisely manage your time.

Sabotage yourself with a negative attitude.

When faced with a difficult task, some students develop a fatalistic attitude: “I’ll never be able to write a 10 page paper!” If you believe you will fail, you certainly will fail. However, if you maintain a positive attitude, your road to success will be much smoother. This is especially important for nontraditional and returning students. Everyone has the right to a quality education and everyone belongs equally at IVCC. Never feel the need to apologize because you may not fit the stereotypical college student mold. Take pride in your decision to pursue your education! Approach your coursework with a positive attitude and you can go as far as you can dream.

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