Tips for Succeeding in College
The following are tips that can help you in how you approach your college academics and experience.
While you are a full-time student, consider your coursework and your commitment to getting an education as your full-time job. That means showing up to “work” on time, meeting deadlines (definition of “deadline”: a line which, if you go past it, you are “dead”), following the rules that everyone else has to follow, and being conscientious about doing a good job. Be serious about this. Let everything else (recreation, job, errands, etc.) come second. It is always too late to get concerned about grades in the last few weeks of the semester (and see #12 below).
Understand that the objective of an education is to train you to think for yourself. Getting good grades is part of that objective, but not the end. Before you can think for yourself properly there are certain facts you must master. Introductory level college courses are designed to present the basics in a field of study.
Spend time every day studying and reviewing outside of class. After class review your notes from that day; clarify in your notes anything that is not clear while you still remember the point that was made in class.
Prepare for class every day. Read everything you are assigned to read. Take notes on what you read. Highlight or underline important things, but do this discriminately. Develop good study habits early in your academic career and you will be repaid with good grades throughout; but even more, you will become an educated person.
If you do not understand something, ask questions. Do not ask “will this be on the test?” or “Is this important?” Instead, ask for clarification so that the point of what is presented is clear. Open-minded dialogue is part of the education process. You are not expected to agree with everything that is said (although you possibly will; but this is not a big issue in introductory level courses), but you are expected to be open to considering other views in order to refine your own. The professor’s job is not to brainwash you, but to give you a basic orientation to the subject of the course.
Related to #5 is the fact that, contrary to popular belief, not all opinions are equal. Some opinions are much more well-informed than others and thus better. Specifically, your instructors have typically spent many years studying, at advanced levels, the subjects they teach. They have read hundreds of books on the subject and spend much time every year keeping up with the latest research and scholarship. Their opinions, while not infallible, are better than yours. Respect them accordingly.
Take good notes in class.
- Good notes are not transcripts of what was said by the teacher in class. Do not get into the habit of writing down every word on a chart, but get the facts.
- Learn to write quickly.
- Good notes are concise and accurate.
- Get down the main points of everything that is said.
- Develop your own personal “shorthand” for taking notes — abbreviate words when possible. This will also enable you to write quickly.
- You will do much better on tests if you have taken good notes and if you use your own notes to study. While some instructors provide study guides for tests, they can be misused (and poor grades result).
Use a weekly planner to note deadlines and scheduled tests in all your courses.
Generally, it is not good to study for long periods without taking a short break once in a while.
“Cramming” before a test is, generally, not the best way to study for a test. It is no substitute for keeping up with daily review. You should study a minimum of 2 hours for a regular college-level test; more for mid-terms and finals. Test yourself on the material and learn to recognize the same facts when they are stated in different ways (that is, do not just memorize a line, but learn the facts). Some do better if they study with a friend.
Tips on test-taking:
- Use all the given time to take the test; don’t rush through it.
- Answer all questions (and check to make sure you have looked at all the questions).
- If you do not know the answer to a question, leave it and come back to it after you have answered all other questions.
- On true-false questions: make sure the statement is completely true before you mark it as “true.”
- On multiple choice questions: if more than one answer seems correct, pick the best or most accurate answer; eliminate choices that are obviously incorrect and choose the best answer among the remaining choices.
Do not ask the instructor for special considerations (extra absences, extra credit work, extra “curve” on a test score, etc.), because this would be unfair (and thus rude and inconsiderate) to your fellow students.
It is your responsibility to keep track of your progress in the course. Record your test scores and keep a total so you will know your standing in the course. At the end of the semester please do not ask the instructor “what grade to I need to get on the final exam to get a B in the course?” You should do your absolute best on every test.
Understand that grades are what you earn, not what the instructor gives you. The grade you get is up to you. Avoid the consumer mentality concerning education. Your tuition money does not buy you a passing grade. Your tuitition money buys you an opportunity to learn. What you do with that opportunity is up to you, but everyone who pays the tuition gets the same opportunity.
-David McClister, Professor of Biblical Studies