Student Success Stories: Morgan S.
Morgan S.'s Academic Success Story
I do not think I ever really sat down and studied really hard in high school. I did not have to; it was that easy, and tests were not worth a lot because we were given so much busy work. When I started college I soon realized that skimming a chapter and paying attention in class was not sufficient enough to pass a test. I started taking excellent notes, and by excellent I mean not simply writing down the text definition of a word as the teacher says it out loud, but by writing down the discussion and real meaning of the word as discussed by the teacher during class. I found that as I read through the book and saw the text definition, I sometimes needed more clarification as to what that word really meant. This is where my notes come in. Most of the time my teacher would explain a situation or example that would help students better understand that vocabulary word and I would write down a "reminder phrase" about that story. When reviewing my notes I would remember the story and thus have a better understanding of the word and how it is used in context. I learned that in order to pass tests in college you must not only know the text definition of specific vocabulary words, but the teacher's personal definition as well. Remember: it is the teacher that is writing the exam, not the textbook publishers.
My overall study method: I like to keep up in class by taking notes and reading the chapter right before class starts, so that it is fresh in my mind. I try to review my notes before or after class as well so that new concepts stick in my mind. Reviewing notes daily also helps because you are not trying to cram as much information into your head the night before a test, instead you are simply jogging your memory with a "review."
In terms of test study strategies, if the test is an essay format test, like for philosophy or English, I like to read the subject matter (be it a specific book or text) a few times before the actual test. If there are parts to me that seem unclear (like a metaphor that is a little ambiguous), I like to go online and read reviews or other articles written about that text. Philosophy was a difficult class for me because I had a hard time understanding certain concepts and applying then to an essay question. After reading other essays and articles that addressed similar issues I realized that my entire writing strategy was all wrong for the class. I was trying to write in a research paper format for what my professor wanted to be an opinion type essay. I would say that the best thing to do is think about your professor and what they would expect you to write for the test based on class discussions and previous tests that they have given.
For multiple choice tests I try to study more vocabulary words and overall concepts. Multiple choice tests are fairly easy because you can almost always eliminate two choices right off the bat. I always try to think about what the teacher would ask us on the test and then study that particular concept the most. It is all about listening during class and understanding what your teacher would want you to know. Ask your professor during class what specific parts he or she thinks are most important in that chapter. More than likely, those same parts will be the main focus of the test.
My time management secret: I have to be realistic about the time it takes me to do everything. I am a procrastinator but college has helped me become better at shying away from putting things off to the last minute. I usually sit down and figure out exactly how much time I will need to complete an assignment, and then add on an hour just in case. Since I usually work about twenty five to thirty five hours a week, (and during my sophomore year I worked 45 hours a week!), and take 15 credit hours, I try to do my homework at night and in the mornings. If I have time between classes I spend it in the computer lab working on homework. My secret is to get into a schedule and keep it consistent all semester. Once you do this your mind adapts and you will find yourself ready to study after class because that is what you do every week at that time. Finding your rhythm is the key.Since my weekends are spent working I tell myself that I will do all my assignments for next week during the current week. This can get difficult because it is hard to sit down and work on homework after sitting through three classes back to back. I recommend that students take healthy study breaks and try to eat nutritional foods to stay healthy. Missing class is the worst way to fall behind and more importantly than that, if I am going to miss a class and be behind on my assignments, it should be for a fun day at the beach; not a sick day in bed.
How I deal with multiple projects/tests: I juggle multiple exams by studying a little bit each day for both exams to help alleviate the study load the day before the test. As for projectsc -- these are usually assigned early in the semester. Starting early is always a good idea but for most people it never happens. The best thing to do if you are in a bind is to figure out which project will require the most effort and time and then do that project immediately. Prioritizing projects and tests by the amount of time they will take and their weight in the class (choose studying for an exam over a 10pt. quiz) will help you when you are working down to the wire.
How I've overcome an initial bad grade: Every paper is a learning experience. The first paper or test of the semester is a way to figure out how the professor grades and what his or her tests are like. I will go to my professors and ask why they chose to give me a certain grade, but I never try to argue for extra points. Look toward doing your best on the next assignment and learning from your mistakes to increase your grade average. This will help you earn the respect of your professor because most teachers find it annoying when students try to fight for extra points. Unless something is really wrong with the grading of your assignment I recommend learning from your mistakes and working towards improvement for your next assignment. You should not be making the same mistakes on every paper, especially if your professor has corrected you on those mistakes on previous assignments.
My strategies for written assignments: My best advice for handling written assignments is to plan. That may sound like simple advice but that is the way I got through my written assignments successfully. A lot of times students have a choice of the topic they are going to be writing on. Take time to come up with a topic you really want to learn more about or think would be interesting. Don't just pick a topic for the sake of meeting the due date. My other piece of advice when it comes to writing papers is to write an outline first. It was usually harder for me to sit down and start writing without knowing where my paper was going. My outline was a roadmap and I could anticipate the end of the paper.
My greatest academic success is with Spanish. I spent four years of high school taking Spanish honors and AP courses, only to fail my AP Spanish test. I studied the words and knew all of their definitions, and I could sit down and conjugate all of the verbs on paper. I thought I would pass the test with flying colors. Unfortunately when it came to using the words in sentences or listening to Spanish conversation I blanked.
I had not prepared to listen to a recording of questions in Spanish and then answer them back onto a cassette tape (with only 10 seconds given per response!). It took me the entire ten seconds just to comprehend what they were saying! I was disappointed, but I still wanted to be fluent in the language. I decided to take a vacation to Costa Rica and stay in an accredited school that taught Spanish instead of doing summer courses at my university.
I can honestly say I learned more Spanish in that month than the entire four years in high school. I had four hours of Spanish class five days a week, with only one other person in my class, and about five people in my lab. The professor started the class by asking me in Spanish what I did the night before and what I planned on doing today. I was not allowed to speak in English. Diego, my instructor, simply listened to me and wrote down everything I said wrong. At the end of our conversation he went over my mistakes and then he talked to me about his day and what he wanted to do in Spanish. I got used to listening to Spanish words (and hearing a thick Spanish accent), as well as speaking back. I was actually forming sentences and using the words that I had spent four years memorizing but not applying.
After one week I was having conversations with the locals and understanding them! I was speaking quickly and able to respond using the proper verb tenses and adjectives. Spanish had become easier to me and I did not even have a text book! During our two hour lab class we watched movies in Spanish, went to a marketplace and bartered for fruits and vegetables, and learned about the Costa Rican culture. On my two hour ride to the airport my taxi driver could hardly speak English, yet we were able to communicate the entire time and hold great conversations.
For anyone that is serious about learning another language, I highly recommend staying in another country and practicing your conversation skills. Being able to conjugate verbs on paper means nothing if you cannot speak or use them properly in sentences, and being able to listen to someone.
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