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The Student Experience

Recognizing that the skills and previous educational experiences of students vary widely, faculty at Virginia Wesleyan are committed to guiding students and helping them advance their skills, from the time they enter the college until they graduate. To get the most from their college experience, students will need to possess the following general academic skills and personal qualities:

1.Organizational and time management skills. The 4x4 curriculum demands that students prioritize their academic work over jobs, sports, and other activities. The time commitment required for success is a major change for many students who are new to the college. The papers, independent projects, and other enhancements in many courses require students to devote significant time outside of class to course-related activities, working independently or in small groups. First-semester students need to recognize and adapt quickly to this increase in their academic responsibilities.

2. The ability to persist. The 4x4 curriculum requires that students enter the college with well-established study habits and the willingness to spend countless hours strengthening their academic skills to accomplish the intense intellectual work typical of the 4-semester hour courses. Writing an original research paper or completing a significant hands-on project requires students to tackle a series of complex problems over an extended period of time. They must be willing and able to work through multiple stages and multiple revisions, assisted by professors who provide mentoring and encouragement.

3. Effective communication with faculty, staff, and other students. Many of the course enhancements in the 4x4 curriculum require students to be proactive and articulate as they seek information and assistance from other students, faculty, librarians, and professionals at institutions and organizations outside the college. This is a change for many students, compared to their high school experience. They must be willing to seek out support and encouragement from faculty members and advisors as they learn to articulate their needs clearly and diplomatically.

4. The ability to read and respond to complex texts. The 4x4 curriculum requires entering students to possess strong general reading skills. During their years at the college, they will be expected to draw on a broad educational background to interpret texts according to their cultural and rhetorical contexts, and to recognize structural elements, analyze arguments, and detect implicit assumptions and agendas.

5. The ability to develop questions, synthesize and respond to ideas, and apply theory to practice. The 4x4 curriculum requires students to respond thoughtfully and critically to the ideas they encounter in their courses. It is designed to counteract the common assumption that learning means simply collecting information. It encourages students to grapple independently with ideas, questioning what they read and hear, and to develop their own interpretations, arguments, and applications, resulting in greater cognitive development and deeper insight than they would gain from a curriculum that requires only memorization and basic comprehension.

6. The ability to present their ideas effectively. The 4x4 curriculum demands strong writing and oral communication skills. Major papers and projects usually require students to articulate and support complex ideas, sustained over the course of many pages or in presentations with multiple components. Thus entering students should possess strong general language skills and be prepared to master the discipline-specific rhetorical and stylistic conventions appropriate for presenting their work to an academic community.

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