Friday, September 11, 2015

How To Be Successful In College [Part 1/Academics]

As I started to write this post, I felt overwhelmed. How could I sum up tips for being successful in college into a brief blog post? The more I thought about it, the more I realized there are three main areas [in my opinion] to aim to be successful in: academics, wellness, and extracurricular. For part 1, I will follow solely on academics. In the following weeks, I will create a part 2 and part 3 to discuss the remaining topics. 


There are tons of resources out there that claim to provide the perfect tips to help you succeed in college. After testing out various tips throughout my undergraduate time and determining what worked for me, here is my advice: 

Focus: We all have things to do outside of school [work, friends, family, sports, clubs, etc.]. My best piece of advice is to focus when you are in class or studying. Put your phone away, stay off Facebook, and avoid chatting with friends. This is not to say avoid breaks--small breaks during studying are essential. I'm saying that your time spent studying should be time spent actually studying. I cannot tell you how many times I went to the library with friends to "study" in my first year. We spent the majority of the time gossiping, checking Facebook, going to get coffee--little time was actually spent studying and I wasn't focused whatsoever. Studying with friends or classmates can be great, just make sure you are staying on track with your conversations. You'll find that you get through the material and assignments much more quickly and don't have to spend as much time in your books. You'll appreciate your social time much more, I promise. 

Online Materials: Practice makes perfect. We've all heard that. It's completely true. Practice quizzes and flashcards are one of the most helpful resources. If your professor offers practice questions or quizzes, take them. If not, try searching online for materials for your class. Chances are someone else has used the same textbook or taken the same course. Often times you can find sample quizzes or term flashcards online. It will make all the difference when exam time comes around! 

Take Breaks: Going back to my first tip--take breaks. We can't focus for five hours straight. Research has shown that working for 50 minutes then taking a 10 minute break is the most effective when studying. Use that 10 minutes to do something fun or relaxing such as a brief walk, yoga, reading a magazine or calling a friend. 

Record Lectures: For my more difficult lectures I recorded them and listened to them again later. Make sure you ask your professor's permission ahead of them! I used this technique in my anatomy class and it helped immensely. My professor was brilliant AND talked a mile a minute. I could never catch everything she had to say in lecture. With her permission, I recorded her lectures and listened to them a few days later. If I missed a couple points here and there, I could fill in the blanks in my notes while re-listening. For those of you with a iPhone, you can recorded voice memos of your classes. I was able to fit about five hours worth onto my phone at a time. 

Don't Be Afraid Of Office Hours: In my first quarter, I was too timid to attend office hours for my first difficult course: chemistry. I was afraid my questions were dumb. Guess what? I ended up with a C. After that I got braver about going to office hours and realized something: a lot of students had the same questions as me. You are taking a class BECAUSE you don't know all the answers. If you knew everything there was to know about a subject, you wouldn't be in the class. Also attending office hours will allow the professor to get to know you and your name! This is always a good thing. 

Review Old Exams: When it comes time for the final, review your midterm and/or any quizzes. I had several professors who re-used exam questions on the final. If my professor didn't allow us to take home our old midterms, they generally let us look at them in their office hours. This made a huge difference in multiple classes. 

What are your tips for being successful in college?

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