This ends the study skills initiative series. At this point, you know that I am no believer in shortcuts to academic success. Nothing beats the following:
- read and mark the texts
- go to class
- take notes
- review on a regular basis
- manage your time so that you don’t have to rush to complete assignments
Those have all been covered, so I’m going to end with a whimper rather than a bang by just listing some miscellaneous tips that have worked for me over the years:
- If you don’t understand, ask a question. Sure, there may be others in the class who huff and sigh because they want to get out of class early. Ignore them. Their opinion of you won’t help your grade in the class one way or the other. Ask your question so that you can understand the material. If other people can’t sit patiently through a question, then they have larger problems than you’ll ever be able to help solve. So forget them.
- Seek help in various places. Your professor is one source, but not the only one. There are often tutors whose services are free for students. There are YouTube videos on almost every subject. (One of my library colleagues used those religiously to help her in a self-paced math class.) Ask other students in your class for help.
- Make learning as mobile as possible. Nursing students are famous for their little notecards that they can pull out in the middle of a Starbucks line or a traffic jam. Use the same approach. Your phone or a tablet can be a great tool in having your notes available to you whenever you have a few minutes to spare. (And a service like Dropbox means the right and most up-to-date notes are always where you need them to be.)
- Let me admit that I have been a lifelong procrastinator and have somehow gotten by. But as a procrastinator, let me assure you that life is much easier and more effective when you’re not putting things off! So get started early and get things done.
- Whether you use a paper or online calendar, take your syllabi and write down the dates for all tests and papers the first week of the semester. Having them written in one place will allow you to see when you have tough weeks coming up and can prepare for them. (Believe me, there’s nothing like realizing on a Sunday night that you have three tests and paper due in the next five days to make your blood run cold!)
- Keep progressing towards your goal. As often as possible take a full load each semesters, including summers. By seeing the deadline, it’s easier to arrange your life around your academic career.
- Simplify as many things in your life as possible so that you can give your classes a top priority. I know someone who bought loads of cheap underwear so that she would only have to go to the laundromat every three weeks when she was in graduate school. (Okay, that might have been me.) Make meals on Sundays so that you can quickly warm up dinners the rest of the week. Don’t worry about a spotless house.
- Believe you can do this. Students often feel overwhelmed and give up way too early. College can seem like a pitch-black road on a stormy night at times, especially if you are the first person in your family to be here. But what E. L. Doctorow said about writing is also true of college: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
And the nice thing about college is that there are lots of people on the side of the road ready to give directions and help when you need it!