Successful college students typically have two things in common: they are well organized and they manage their time effectively.
Use an academic plannerBuy and academic planner. Write your name and phone number in your planner in case of loss and offer a $10 reward for its return. Check it and revise it often. Your cell phone or online calendar are also fine as long as you use them. Don’t rely on your memory; write everything down.
Here are some items you need to record and keep updated:
- Class times, professors’ office hours, study/extra help sessions
- Assignment due dates and test schedules
- Course registration dates and withdrawal deadlines
- Payment deadlines for tuition, housing, meal plans, parking passes, and car registrations
- Application deadlines for summer internships, study abroad programs, student employment, scholarships, grants and loans
Make efficient use of your time
Create “to do” lists. Determine which tasks are the most pressing and which can be put off until later.
Look for ways to streamline and combine tasks. Study while you’re doing your laundry or get your exercise jogging to the library. Look for “chunks of time” that are wasted and figure out how to use these times more effectively.
Make a practice of studying, reading, doing research and completing assignments during “dead hours” between classes.Learn to say no. In college, there’s so much to do and so much going on that it’s easy to get sidetracked. Know what you need to do, and don’t let anything get in the way of your academic success.
Archive important messages
Create an email folder of all messages you receive regarding academic issues. Don’t delete them- file them away for future references. If you get a lot of such messages, create subfiles for each department, professor academic advisor, department chair, career counselor etc.
Back up computer filesTo avoid every student’s nightmare of lost or corrupted assignments, papers, and projects, create a backup system. Use an external hard-drive, email yourself important documents, or pay a few dollars a month for an online back-up system such as Mozy or Carbonite.
It’s easy to lose flash drives and memory sticks, and desktop and laptop computers may be stolen. This is why online backup of important documents is so importantSucceed in the ClassroomAfter four years of college you will have occupied a classroom, lab or lecture hall for approximately 2,000 hours. Here are some recommendations to help you gain the most benefit from those 2,000 hours.
Attend every class
When you miss or arrive late for a class, you miss material, assignments, and information about upcoming exams. Grades may also be partially based on attendance. Don’t expect a professor to cut you any slack with grading if you’re a chronic no-show.
Sit up front to avoid distractions
Arrive early on the first day of class and sit on one of the first three rows. That may become your permanent seat. Front row students seldom talk to one another, send text messages, or doze off. It will be easier to see what is written or displayed, you’ll hear better, and you’ll send a positive message to your professor.
Come prepared and participate
When you come to class prepared, the material makes sense and you are able to answer questions. In contrast to just passively being there, active participation will make the material more interesting, time will pass more quickly and your professors will get to know you.
Have a contact in each class
If you miss a class you need to contact one or two classmates to find out what you missed, get a copy of handouts, and learn of any new assignments. If an assignment is due on a day you can’t attend class, check to see if it can be emailed to the professor or delivered by a classmate.
Success in the classroom requires excellent study skills, studying “smart,” and navigating your classes wisely and efficiently.
Study in your own “quiet place”
Locate an isolated, well-lit space where all you can do is study. Avoid friends, cell phones, Facebook, music, beds, etc. By eliminating all distractions, you force yourself to do only one thing - study. Locate a quiet section of the library, a residence hall study lounge, or an unoccupied classroom. Also consider off-campus locations such as bookstores, coffee shops, or public libraries. The worst place to study is in your dorm room.
Complete Assignments Early
When possible, complete your assignments early. By completing assignments several days prior to the due date, you allow time for editing and improvements. If you are uncertain whether you did an assignment correctly, there’s time to discuss it with your professor. If asked, a professor teaching assistant may also be willing to review a first draft.
If you’re assigned a classroom presentation, volunteer to present as early as possible in the semester. You’ll get it out of the way and won’t stress out watching all the presentations that precede yours.
Treat a difficult course as if it were two courses
Take a lighter course load during a semester you’re taking a particularly difficult or time-consuming class, and plan to devote twice the normal study time to this class. Avoid taking two very difficult classes in the same semester. If you’re concerned about falling behind because of the lightened course load, take a summer or winter intersession course to catch up.
Study between classes
Time is your most precious commodity, so make use of the time between classes to study, review material, or do research. This will free up evening and weekend time.Study the “worst first” Students naturally avoid that which they find unpleasant, so they often study their least favorite topic last (if at all). This is a mistake. The end of a study session is when you are most fatigued, and if you wait until the last minute, you may be rushed or run out of study time.Space your studyingA good rule is 30-45 minutes of study followed by a 5-10 minute break. During your study sessions, don’t do anything else. If you can stay focused, you will be able to get a great deal accomplished.Study according to your bodily clockAre you a morning or night person? You want to study during your body’s most alert state.
Turn off cell phone and Instant Messenger
Disable Instant Messenger while working on your computer so you won’t be tempted to IM every time a message pops up. Enter an “away message” and check your messages later. The same applies for cell phone- turn it off.
Don’t study at the last minute
Cramming doesn’t work. You’re much better off spacing six hours of studying over the course of three days than jamming it all into a single, exhausting six hour study marathon the day before the exam.Review old testsCheck on the availability of old tests at the library or from students who previously took the course. Although you can’t assume the items will be identical, you will gain some insight into the way in which questions are asked and the subject matter of interest to the professor.
Seek tutoring and visit the Writing/Study Center
Many schools have centers that help with written assignments. They also teach skills in note taking, essay writing, exam strategies and more. And don’t be shy about seeking tutoring. Check with the Center or ask your academic department about tutoring services.