The daughter of a friend started her freshman year at a state university two weeks ago. She came home this weekend and told her dad:
"College is hard. They don't give you study guides and you can't get extra credit. You take three tests and that's your grade."
My friend called and asked if I had any advice for her. Long story short, I wrote down a few suggestions and sent them to him in an e-mail. Over the years I have thought about how people tell students to "study hard" and "make good grades," but no one ever tells them how to do that. Thinking these suggestions might be useful to someone, I decided to share them:
Treat school like a job: allow at least 40 hours/week.
(rule of thumb: 2-hrs outside class for each hour of class time)
- Read material before class, take notes/highlight/list questions.
- Go to class to get questions answered.
- Take notes.
- Read/review material after class.
- Do homework with the text closed.
- Get Cliffs Notes/study aids when available (may find in library).
- Use the internet to find study aids.
- Check the university teaching/learning center for help.
Establish a routine for studying.
Work steady, i.e., 5 1-hr. study sessions is better than 1 5-hr. study session.
Study away from distractions (noise/people/etc) - use earplugs if needed.
Study when you feel good (not tired/sleepy/hungry/etc).
Don't "memorize," learn concepts.
Join/make a study group.
Ask other students about classes/instructors:
-what does the instructor think is important (concepts or details)?
-does instructor use essay/multiple choice/short answer/etc. on tests?
-does instructor test on concepts or details?
-does instructor allow references (cheat sheets)?
Get copies of old homework/tests for instructors.
(This is not cheating, it is learning what the instructor thinks is important)
Check http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ for student evaluations.
Don't 'cram' for tests, if you have been studying it should be a review.
Get a good night's sleep before tests.
Take extra pencils/batteries/etc to tests.
Take a sweater/aspirin/earplugs to tests.
Know time limits on tests.
Ask the instructor/assistant for help:
-tell them what you have done so far.
-be specific about what the problem is.
-ask for suggestions about what is important.
I'm sure others here have "tricks" that help them learn. If anyone has anything to add, please do so in the comments.