Whether you plan to get all A’s this time, or you just want to do better than you did last semester, here are ten simple things you can do right now to make yourself a more successful college student:
1. Attend every class.
This sounds obvious, but a lot of people don’t do it! They get away from home, and without a parent to wake them up in the morning, they don’t get up, and they miss class. As a former teacher, I can tell you that if you miss classes, you miss important information, assignments and instruction. Then you get behind. Attending class consistently is a simple thing that will have very positive results. Just suit up and show up. Just being there, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Remember your goals; remember why you came to college. It’s easy to get distracted by extracurricular activities, socializing, and-probably most dangerous of all-romance. Don’t let this happen. Have fun, but remember you’re in college to study.
Most Asians I’ve met think of studying as their job. That’s why they usually don’t have part- time jobs while they’re in school. And that’s why they’re good at studying. Think of studying as your job, even if you have to make money too.
3. Set aside a particular time every day for studying.
One thing that’s difficult, when you go to college, is organizing your time. You’re not in classes all day long, and you have no one telling you what to do, so it’s now up to you to schedule your study time.
Once you know your schedule, set a time every day, a sacred time, when you will study, no matter what. If you’re a morning person, you might choose an early hour when no one else is awake and before things get going. Or you might decide on a time in the afternoon, or late at night. Whatever works for you personally is the right time. Just stick to it.
Then, decide how long your study time will be every day. I suggest one hour. If you tell yourself you have to study longer than that every day, you may rebel against your own rule! One hour is realistic. And also, knowing that you can quit after that time, you may find some days that you’re really into what you’re studying, and have no trouble keeping going for a longer time.
4. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in a class, get help as soon as possible!
Don’t wait until the problem has become a crisis. Go to the instructor and ask for help. Ask if the school has instructional support services such as note takers and tutors. Or maybe you just need a little more explanation. See your advisor if you want to change classes or your section, or even drop the class. Do this before the deadline, so you don’t get charged for the class.
5. Sit in the front of the classroom.
You have a better chance of paying attention and understanding important points if you are close to the instructor and can see and hear everything that is presented. Also, the temptation to text a friend or talk with a classmate will be greatly reduced.
Some students complain when instructors have foreign accents that they can’t understand. This is another excellent reason to sit in front, so you can see the instructor’s face and hear him/her clearly. If you pay attention, you will begin to understand that person’s pronunciation-that she uses the W sound for V, for example. It’s really not that hard.
6. Ask questions.
Teachers always encourage students to ask questions, but only a small percentage do. Even though we’ve all heard that “The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask,” we’re still afraid.
Try to make yourself ask questions once in a while. You’ll feel more a part of the class, and you’ll become more interested.
7. Have the materials you need, or find out where they’re available.
This sounds basic, and it is, but it’s important. Many students nowadays bring a laptop with them to college, but if you’re not one of them, find out where computers are available, and when they’re not all taken. Find out where and how you can print your work. Bring a flash drive so you can easily carry your work from computer to printer.
Moving down the technology scale, you’ll also need a binder with dividers for different subjects. A hole punch is also useful, so you can keep class handouts in your notebook, unfolded and in order. Always carry a pen too, preferably an erasable ball point–to my mind, one of the greatest inventions of this century!
Organizing your materials will help you organize your mind, and thus get better grades.
8. Find your own best ways to study.
You might be able to learn your Spanish vocabulary just by memorizing the list in the book-but it might be more helpful if you write your own list in a notebook, or on flash cards you can take with you and study while you’re waiting at the post office or the bank. Or maybe drawing and labeling pictures is a better way for you.
People are different in their learning styles. Some like to study with a partner; others do better alone. Do what works for you.
I was terrified when I had to take science classes in college. When I started the required botany class and my instructor began talking about photosynthesis, I panicked at first, but then I had an idea. I went to the public library and found a third-grade-level book that explained the process in a way that even I could understand.
Using children’s books for science gave me a good basic knowledge, and with that foundation I did well in the class-and enjoyed it! I also used the World Book encyclopedia from time to time; today you might take advantage of the variety of articles available online to help you understand difficult subjects.
9. Break it down.
When you have to study but you really don’t want to, sometimes it helps to break the material down into very small tasks: I’ll just study vocabulary today; that’s all I’ll do. Or, I don’t have to write the whole essay today; I’ll just jot down some ideas. Doing a little something is a lot better than doing nothing. And again, sometimes tricking yourself in this way results in your doing more work than you thought you’d do.
Along the same lines, begin to skim and scan if your reading assignment is too heavy. Read all headings, the first and last paragraph of the chapter, and the first sentence of each paragraph. Read your notes for important people, places, events and concepts, and find these in the text. Skimming and scanning are often more efficient than trying to keep yourself awake plowing through the whole text.
Don’t wait until the night before the final; review your notes regularly. Familiarizing yourself with what you’ve already learned will help you understand important points and how they fit into the big picture. It will help you remember what you’ve forgotten. It will also make you realize how much you’ve learned!
When I graduated from college, it occurred to me that I finally knew how to study! I’m not going back now; I just hope you can benefit from some of the things I learned. Get organized, go to class, and get good grades!