Student Success Stories: Patrick B.
Patrick B.'s Academic Success Story
I definitely made some major changes to my study habits between high school and college.
First, any reading required in high school for homework was covered thoroughly the next day in class, whereas in college the lectures may compliment the reading, but do not directly reference anything from the text. Thus, while in high school I could avoid reading multiple days in a row and not fall behind, it became increasingly impossible in college to do this. Therefore, I became diligent in my reading, making sure that whenever possible, I would be where I needed to be.
Second, the use of outside resources other than the texts required for class have become increasingly important. I have spent many hours using online databases, library resources, etc. in completing assignments, while in high school I could simply rely upon the sources given to me by my teacher.
Third, studying for an exam is not necessarily something left to the night before the test. I now spend a substantial amount of time preparing for an exam before the night preceding the test. When studying for a test in high school, I spent almost all of my time reading the text. Now, while I do that, I spend even more time pouring over notes and using the CD-ROM's that accompany the textbook, which gives me Power Point presentations and short quizzes to test my knowledge. By studying using different methods, my comprehension of the material has grown considerably.
My time management secret: I am much more actively involved in activities and my classes than I was in high school. As a result, I have had to learn to deal with managing my time more effectively. One of the things I found was that with an increased amount of things biding for my time, I tend to forget a lot of them unless I write them down. When I was in high school, I refused to use a planner and could remember all my homework assignments. Now, with more things to remember, if I don't write down what I need to do, I almost certainly forget. Thus, owning and using a planner is probably the best way to manage one's time.
I have also found that there are just too many things at college you could possibly do to be able to do everything. Therefore, it is important to be able to say "no," and not over-commit yourself. Remembering that studying is the first priority, and sticking to making school work higher on the "to-do" list than all the fun things you could be doing instead is extremely difficult, especially with the new-found freedom you enjoy being a college student and away from home. However, making school the centerpiece of your schedule and structuring other activities around that will almost inevitably equate to a higher GPA, more success, and a richer, more rewarding time in college. Of course, you should always plan free-time, and make sure you do have fun, but always remember that you are at college first to learn, second to have fun.
How I've overcome an initial bad grade: It is a fact of life that we are all inevitably going to do worse on something than we thought at one point or another in our lives. How to deal with this is important, and knowing what to expect can help. In high school, a bad grade usually means you beg the teacher for extra credit, or give you the higher grade if you're on the borderline. However, in college, professors rarely give out extra credit, and if they do, it usually isn't enough to really affect your grade. Knowing this, it doesn't make sense to complain to the teacher; instead, you first need to take responsibility for the disappointing grade. Placing blame on the professors is counter-productive because by doing so you fail to recognize how you could do better in the future. Instead, you should find ways you could improve your studying habits, look for clues within the test to see what kinds of things the professor is grading you on, ask for clarification, examine whether your participation in class adequately reflected the grade you got on your test (and whether more participation is required), etc. There are many ways to deal with a bad grade, the best, however, is to resolve yourself to put in more effort or study differently, and strive even harder the next time for the grade you feel you deserve.
Here are my final words of wisdom for students who want to get better grades in college:
Read, read, read everything you are required, and do it on time. Nothing sets you back further and keeps you up later than having to read all the stuff you didn't over the past month.
Actively participate in class. Constantly searching for questions to ask the professor is the best way to make sure you are paying attention. Obviously, some classes are more engaging than others, but getting through the hard/slow ones is just as important as doing well in the classes you actually want to take.
Know your priorities and make sure your actions are aligned with them. If you are going to college to learn and do well, your actions should reflect that. If you are going to party, well then your actions almost certainly will reflect that. Understanding what you want to get out of your experience in college will help guide the rest of what you do.
Never be afraid to ask questions, and not just of your teachers. Your peers are theoretically as smart as you are, so be sure to not underestimate them and their ability to help you. Don't be afraid to ask someone if they want to study in a group, if that is how you learn better. Ask questions of the librarians, they can help much more than you might think. Also, be sure to ask questions and listen to your advisor; he/she is there to guide you through your academic career, so make sure they are doing their job!
While studying, make sure you have plenty of small breaks. Get your mind off of the schoolwork even for just five minutes, and going back to it will be easier.
Contrary to the cliche that college students get no sleep, I recommend you get as much as possible. Staying out late during the week may be fun, especially because mom and dad aren't around to yell at you, but it can greatly affect your performance on tests. Sleep, as a professor of mine says, should always be the number one priority.
Finally, better grades almost always come from happier people. Therefore, you need to make sure you take advantage of all the opportunities your school has to offer. Don't be afraid to join clubs, take on new and exciting responsibilities, join a fraternity or sorority, go on excursions, explore the surrounding area, etc. If you make the most out of the free time you do have, you will generally be in a better mood, thus making studying less painful.
Return to more Student Success Stories.