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Freshmen students in Kerry Kilburn's science classrooms this fall will get an initial assignment that could affect their grades in every course they take during their college careers.

The senior lecturer in Old Dominion University's Department of Biological Sciences directs incoming students to a Web site, "Dr. Mom's Guide to College," that she wrote a few years ago, back when her own daughter was preparing for college.

Thanks to Internet search engines and favorable mentions in publications such as the Washington Post, college students and their parents throughout the country have been exposed to Kilburn's wisdom and observations. "I hear from folks from all over," said Kilburn. "They like the advice, and that it's written with some humor."

The author drew upon her two decades as a college teacher and advisor to produce 13 sections of advice with titles ranging from "Documents Your Life Depends On" to "Expand Your Horizons (Not Your Belt Size)."

"This Web site is a distillation of the most important advice I can give from my perspective as a faculty member, advisor and parent," she writes in the guide's introduction.

She added in an interview that having a daughter poised to begin her college years "really caused me to focus on what my students were doing right and not doing right. Something would happen in class and I would go home and tell my daughter, 'Don't ever do this!' When I decided to write the guide, it only took me a week."

Specific points of her advice include:

·Maintain frequent eye contact with the professor. The impression of attentiveness (even when it's faked) will make the professor feel good.

·Introduce yourself to the students who sit next to you. Get the name, phone number and/or e-mail address of at least one other person in the class.

·Faculty office hours are arguable the most underused tool available to students. It's a good idea to round up some initial questions and queries (about the syllabus, about recommended ways to study, about "tips" for success in the course) and make a visit to cover those during the first week or so of classes. This will help the professor get to know you early, and can also help you feel more comfortable with her in case you wind up needing more serious help later in the semester.

·Questions you should never ask the professor: "Do I need to read the textbook? Do I need to know this for the test? How do I get an A in this class?

·Even though the Internet has wonderful things to offer, it is not your one-stop-research-shop, and a healthy dose of skepticism is an important tool for any college surfer. (Kilburn recommends sites helpful to students.)

·Get details about any protective escort service offered on your campus. Better yet, use a buddy system and don't wander around dark, deserted parts of campus alone or with a relative stranger.

·Every once in a while, remember to thank the folks who help make your college experience enjoyable. That includes secretaries, maintenance staff and the pizza delivery person, as well as the usual professors, fellow students and parents.

Kilburn, who received her Ph.D. in biology from the University of New Mexico in 1988, has been a member of the ODU faculty since 1995.

This article was posted on: August 29, 2005

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