As a high school teacher, I believe education isn't about just stuffing information into people's heads. I also know my classes can't be disconnected from the rest of life. In fact, I try to teach in a way that helps my students succeed in the real world. As for those students who will be heading off to college soon, I know that I'm preparing them for the next step in their educations. To help with this preparation, I've come up with seven principles that I always pass on to my own college-bound students. I believe you'll find these principles helpful as you prepare for your own transition to campus life.
1) Find the Balance
A lot of college students get caught up in all that college has to offer, like Abby, a highly motivated sophomore enrolled at The Master's College in Santa Clarita, California. At the beginning of her first semester, Abby committed to a schedule without one free evening. As the semester wore on, the pressure mounted. Finally, exhausted from her obligations, Abby says, "I called my parents to help me straighten out the mess I'd created. It was embarrassing, but I had to back up and figure out what was really important."
When it comes to college life, you'll want to stay focused, work hard, and still find time to hang out with friends. That means you'll have to choose what's more important at the moment. Yes, a spur-of-the-moment trip to the bowling alley might be appealing, but you'll be stressed later when you remember you probably should have caught up on your chemistry reading. This really isn't anything new; it's about setting the right priorities for yourself. Deciding what's important to you nowor as soon as you get on campus will make your first semester much easier.
2) Follow Your Road Map
During the first hour of each course you take, you'll get a handout that explains the professors' classroom expectations, grading policies and semester plan. It's called a syllabus, and it usually lists the dates of any major projects, research papers or exams.
Save it. Read it. Use it. This is important because, as Garry Morgan, associate professor at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, says, "Few professors are willing to let you turn in an assignment late because you say, 'I didn't look at the syllabus.'"
Your syllabi (that's the plural) will form a "roadmap" to guide you through the semester. What you'll need to do is take out a calendar and write down all those important and even those seemingly unimportant dates from each syllabus.
As you check out your calendar, you'll be able to predict where your "crunch times" will happen. Those are the times when you'll be bogged down with deadlines and test dates. But you'll be ready because you'll have worked ahead on required reading or research papersanything you can do to lighten the load for when it really matters.
3) Plan Ahead
As you use your "roadmap," you'll be able to set smaller, daily goals. This only works, though, if you keep a few basics in mind:
Know where and when to study. When are you most awake and able to focus? What kind of environment helps you study? Is it a quiet place away from the dorm and without distractions? Is it a study lounge surrounded by people? Dan, a junior at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, hits the nearest Starbucks. "It has a fun atmosphere," says Dan, "but I can still focus."
Get into a routine. You'll actually spend less time if you make your studies a daily habit.
Pace yourself. Don't burn out by pulling all-night cram fests, which leave you on a major low after the caffeine and sugar wear off. Instead, break a big project into smaller steps, and plan your study schedule so you do a little each day.
Don't overschedule. College life doesn't have to be all about studying. Careful planning should include some chunks of open time when you can just relax or hang out with friends.