Ask anyone that knows me well and they’ll tell you the truth about me: I’m the thriftiest person they ever met, even if they’ve met the likes of Jeremy Piven. I love a bargain, I hate overpaying and it took serious effort to make me a better tipper over the years. I’m glad I got that off my chest. Now, I’ll bet none of you reading this blog have ever wondered exactly where your dollars go when you pay your tuition. Where the heck does all your money (business-dentistry-law students I feel for you) go?
The funny thing is… I don’t know either.
But I will tell you where they should go: To all the great graduate student instructors and academic advisors. I, my friends, have found that very often a GSI will teach you more than any professor or textbook ever will. A friendly and experienced academic advisor will help you back on your feet no matter what the setback was. Michigan employs plenty of fine professors, but even the best are often too busy, smart, careless, or sick to explain things a second time, and some text books are nothing more than scribbles of ink randomly scattered on a very expensive piece of plain white paper. Don’t believe me? How much did you pay for textbook this semester and how many typos in that seventh edition you’re holding?
On the other hand, it is unfair to pool all professors together and call them bad teachers – effectively attacking their capacity to perform their job, just because I couldn’t stand some of them (hey who can, right?). Most of them are very serious and accomplished individuals that aim and succeed in passing along their knowledge to us students, and do a good job at it. The same goes for text books: I love studying and I wouldn’t give it up for the world, whether it’s from a text book, online or using my handy Kindle. My point here is that solid GSIs make a big difference, no matter what you study or what your weaknesses are; chances are, if you want to learn and do well, and the GSI is knowledgeable and cares enough about what he does, you will pass the class with flying colors.
I must confess that this is what has made the Michigan experience different for me. Professors, books, notes, libraries and classrooms exist all over the world. Yet I find myself constantly surprised when GSIs offer extra help and go the extra mile to make sure I have understood everything as well as I possibly can. The same goes for academic advisors that truly want you to succeed and do their very best to help you choose your classes and answer any question you may possibly have. I understand they do not do it for free, but I am sad to see students underuse the help they are given. College is less about solving differential equations and reciting famous battles, and more about becoming a stronger, better qualified person.
So keep this in mind: a sharp, friendly person that is not much older than you are, with a sincere willingness to help you improve will help you attain levels of understanding that no professor can in fifty minutes of class time, in a classroom full of students, or any 900 pager will over the course of a weekend. No matter how far I get in life, I will never forget my favorite professors, the most diligent GSIs and the most caring academic advisors. Special thanks to professor Guy Meadows, Arjun Krishnan and Angela Farrehi.
N.B. The opinions presented in this blog are expressed by the author alone. He is a big fan of Mr. Gold, he’s finally over the fact that Entourage is over forever, and found himself flabbergasted at the fact that Mr. Piven is a less than perfect tipper.
About the Author
John Moulopoulos, Master’s Student, Financial Engineering
Published in: Student Voices