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3 (Simple) Tips for Doing Well in College

By Edited Nov 15, 2015 0 0

A System for Conquering College

Simple But Not Easy

Many students, when they reach the university level of academia, work incredibly hard in order to maintain good grades. Many more do not work hard enough, and their grades suffer as a result. But if you budget your time effectively and learn to study in the proper efficient manner, doing well in college can be a rewarding and painless experience. If you do not develop these skills, college can be a nightmare. But one thing is true in either case, which is that ultimately, the only person who has control over this decision is you.

Professors are not babysitters, and they will not hesitate to flunk students who do not study and do not attend class, but that is about as far as their responsibility to the situation goes. On a personal level, they simply do not care if you skip classes or blow off work. For that matter, most people besides you won't care. And that is why it is up to you to take responsibility for your actions and make sure you have a successful college experience.

Once you have decided to take personal responsibility, and you are absolutely focused on your goal of graduating from college, how do you do it? There are three big tips you can use to do well in any college course you sign up for, and those tips are: read the textbook material ahead of the class lecture, stay ahead in your reading throughout the term, and always be present in class itself. Now, let us go into a little more detail on each of these steps...

1. Reading Textbook Material Ahead of the Class Lecture

Using Both Short-Term Memory and Long-Term Memory

A simple mistake many students make when it comes to studying is to wait until the absolute last minute to do it, resulting in cram sessions to learn as much as humanly possible in the shortest amount of time. The problem with that, obviously, is that you are not likely to retain all the information you need for a midterm or final exam if you try to learn everything in one sitting. It is much more effective to space out your reading and studying, thus taking advantage of the concept of reinforcement.

Reinforcement of ideas and concepts while studying is what allows that information to move from your short-term memory to your long-term memory, where you will be able to recall it when needed. And in order to get a head start on that reinforcement, you should take a look at your textbook as soon as you purchase it (which should be before the beginning of the term, natch).

Once you have your textbook, read through the table of contents. Skim a few paragraphs as you skip around randomly in the book. Begin to get a feel for the material, with the understanding that you will not know everything in the book already. What you are doing is gauging exactly how much you do not know.

Before the first day of class, read the first chapter of your textbook, which in most cases will be some sort of introductory lesson. This may not be strictly necessary, but remember, you are setting effective study habits for yourself now that will pay dividends later. When your professor has given you the syllabus, make a note of what lectures cover what chapter in the textbook. Then, before every one of those lectures, read the corresponding chapter ahead of class. Again, you should not expect yourself to understand everything you read. You are simply building a foundation for the lecture to build on and to reinforce.

2. Stay Ahead in Your Reading

But Not Too Far Ahead

Now that you have begun to create a habit for your reading and studying, it is helpful to reinforce (there's that concept again) that habit throughout the term. This means continuing to stay ahead in your reading of the textbook and class material.

But just as being too far behind is dangerous for your academic career, so can being too far ahead. If you are reading the entire textbook before the first lecture has even occurred, you are not priming yourself for effective reinforcement, and much of the information you are learning will likely get jumbled up or outright discarded, never making it to your long-term memory.

Maintain a comfortable lead time in your reading, by staying about a week to two weeks ahead of scheduled class lectures. And remember, when those lectures come around, you should definitely...

Attend Every Class

The Easiest Part-Time Job You Will Ever Have

Most students who attend college full-time take between 12-18 hours of class credit. This means that a student who has 15 class hours is scheduled to be in class for 15 actual hours each week. Considering that most part-time jobs will run about 20-25 hours a week, and a full-time job will take up at least 40 hours a week, 15 hours does not sound like a whole lot.

But even that minimal amount of time seems like too much for many college students, and attendance is often low in classes that do not have mandatory attendance policies (which is going to be most of them, especially in 1000 or 2000-level introductory courses). However, there are two big reasons why you should not skip class. The first, like we have already mentioned, is reinforcement of the textbook material.

And the second, maybe even more important reason, is earning your professor's trust. Simply put, a professor will simply trust that a student who is attending class regularly and making meaningful contributions to the discussion (even if those contributions are mostly confused questions) is deserving of a better grade than a student who does not do those things. This doesn't mean that you can turn a failing grade into an A+ simply be showing up and raising your hand regularly. But it can mean that a professor will change a score on a paper or test from a B+ to an A- if he or she believes you are learning something in the class.

Achieve Your Goals

Make Your Education a Priority

Remember, you are the person who is ultimately responsible for your success in college. If you want to make your education a top priority, and pursue a college degree as a central goal, then keep these tips in mind (and maybe find out other ways to ensure your survival) and you will be a graduate before you know it!



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  1. Howard Scott Warshaw Conquering College: The Most Fun You Can Have Learning the Things You Need to Know. San Jose, CA: Eduquest, 1992.

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