How to do Well in College
Doing well in college may not be important to a lot of students, but I'm imagining that if you're here, reading this, it's probably crucial to you. You're probably imagining stellar grades, study parties, intellectual discussions with new friends and wondering how you can get all those things and more.
It may sound impossible, but fear not, future or current college student! I'm a perfect example of how to do well in college. Okay, I'm kidding there. I'm definitely not perfect, but I headed into college with the right mindset, and I ended my first semester of college with a 3.91 and 17 credits out of the way.
You don't have to be Superman or an amazing student to do well and make the most out of your college years. Just follow these tips below and be aware that if you're making yourself miserable and not enjoying life just to get good grades, it may be best for you to re-evaluate the way your spending your college years. They only come once (generally).
First things first: Pull out a sheet of paper and a pen (pens are so much more official than pencils) and let's work on some ground rules for you.
Ask yourself the following questions: Do I party a lot? How much sleep do I need? How much free time do I need? Are my roommates going to party a lot or stay up late? Do I need a quiet, clean place to study, or do I need music?
Questions like these can help you figure out the ground rules you need to start college with. These should be rules like:
- "Go to bed at 11:00 on weeknights."
- "Only party on Friday night."
- "Only study in the library."
I know, it sounds really lame. You're leaving for school and finally getting away from your parent's rules-- so why do you want to make a bunch of new rules for yourself?
Trust me on this. A semi-structured life with a few basic ground rules for survival will help you keep your head afloat in those first few hectic weeks of school. Figuring out what you need as a new college student can be difficult at first, so it's best to come in with a few perimeters to help guide you as you figure how to be successful.
Start with simple, basic rules to make sure you don't over-do the partying your first week at school, get too zealous and over-study, or stay up too late.
Hit the Ground Running
For new College Students:
Don't waste time! Get your school ID, get settled in your apartment or dorm and then head to campus to get your textbooks if you still need them. Spend some time getting aquainted with campus and where your classes will be. Wander around the library, student centers and buildings that catch your eye.
Find a few key places that seem quiet and out of the way (not too out of the way-- you don't want to be studying in a janitorial closet in the basement of an abandoned building or anything) and keep them in mind as potential studying areas.
Make sure you get a list of or get acquainted with campus clubs. This is important. Very important.
This Hub is called "How to do well in College", so why am I talking about getting involved in clubs and other activities? Wouldn't that take away from studying time?
Actually, studies show that the busier a person is (without have an INSANE amount of things going on), the more efficient they are. By getting involved with a club or an activity you're interested in, you'll meet new people, boost your mood and also learn how to efficiently and effectively prioritize your tasks. Getting your need to socialize out of the way in an after-school club or service activity will allow you to focus on homework and studying later.
If you find yourself feeling depressed and lonely at college, fear not. Those are common emotions for new students and old students alike. The solution is to do service. Sounds boring and church-y, right? Wrong.
Performing an act of service for another person or the community is selfless and requires you to focus your emotions and energy on something other than yourself, allowing you to turn self-destructive tendencies or moods into something productive and valuable. Call your student center or look up service opportunities in your area. Forget yourself for a while and see the world around you. There are people out there who have things worse off than you. Helping others is a great way to help yourself.
Okay. Let's get down to the real meaty stuff. Most colleges agree that for every hour in class you spend, you should spend two hours studying outside of class to get a good grade. This means that most of your learning should take place IN class. Follow these tips to get the most out of your in-class time, so you can spend less time studying outside of class:
- GO TO CLASS. It's been said over and over, but you WILL NOT do well if you don't go to class! It's simple and totally up to you.
- TAKE NOTES. I've written this Hub to help you hone your note-taking skills; refer to it for further guidance: http://shanna11.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Take-Good-Notes
- MEET PEOPLE IN CLASS. Get to know those around you. They will be invaluable to you as study partners and even just friends.
- MEET YOUR PROFESSOR. There's something about actually getting to know your professor that automatically makes you want to work harder.
- ASK QUESTIONS. Get over your fear of talking in front of other people. It's dumb, it's holding you back and there's no point to it. Who cares if you sound stupid? Everyone's stupid in some way or another. It's harsh, but it's what I had to tell myself to get over my fear of asking questions in crowded classes. Once I got over it, my grades rose.
- BE INVESTED IN LEARNING. Learn to enjoy what you're learning. Come into class with goals and learn as if you're going to teach someone after class.
After class, it's time to study. Like I said earlier: Two hours of study time outside of class for every hour spent in class.
For some, this may simple be unattainable, but it's not always necessary either. Some classes will require much more studying to get a good grade, but there are also a lot of classes that won't.
If you've reviewed your notes, worked out applicable problems, answered any questions you may have and completed homework in less time than needed, hooray for you! Make sure you don't have any upcoming tests or papers and move on to your next class.
Make sure you break up your studying time. 45-50 minutes of studying and then 10-15 minutes away from your desk. Spend your break standing up, stretching, moving briskly or getting a light snack. The point of a break is to re-invigorate yourself briefly so you can return to studying.
Study in a clean, clear space with adequate lighting. You should preferably study in the library. If you need music, bring your ipod. Some college libraries have special areas where they play music over the loudspeakers.
Meet with a study group once a week at minimum to discuss lectures, notes and questions.
Exams and Extra Credit
If you've followed all the steps so far, you should be well on your way to success in college. However, exams are usually where people start to falter.
Review in advance for exams. Cramming works well for some people, but your stress and retention levels will be more favorable if you begin three days in advance. Meet with a study group, attend TA led review sessions and talk to your professor if you have questions.
Stay calm and focused when taking tests and simply do your best. Make sure you review tests later if possible and every now and again, review your notes if the final will be comprehensive.
it also goes without saying that you need to take advantage of any and all extra credit.