Only a few days into my freshman year at St. Paul's University of Northwestern, I discovered that college demanded a whole new way of studying. If I was going to survive even that first year, I knew I needed to make some big and small changes in my study habits. And you will, too. To help you prepare for the big transition to the world of college studies, I'd like to offer 10 suggestionsall drawn from my own mistakes and small day-to-day victories.
1) Adjust your attitude toward studying
When I was in high school, I was the smart girl. And it was never that cool to be smart. So, although I never really slacked off, I kind of hid my successes. I never really got all that excited. I mean, who wants to brag about a 100 percent on a math test? I would have been labeled The Ultimate Nerd. But at college, I discovered that learning wasn't uncool anymore!
Embrace college as an opportunity to learn about the things you're passionate about. Love math? Then do it with great joy. If you're an art major, get psyched about throwing pottery and learning how to develop photos in a darkroom. If you're into science, you'll discover the world of the clown fish via the marine ecosystem in your classroom lab. What's cooler than all that?
2) Realize profs expect more
College professors aren't going to be as lenient as your high school teachers. Not that they're hard-nosed and mean, but they will now treat you as an adult. They won't necessarily give you extra credit to pull up your grade at the end of the semester. They won't give you step-by-step instructions on how to do all your assignments. And they won't always tell you exactly what is going to be on a test.
They want you to take the initiative in your education, seeing college as a place where you can become an independent thinker. You're paying a lot of money to be at college, so they're assuming you want to be there and will put in the work to do a good job.
3) Get organized
You will need two things in order to get organized: your syllabi and your planner.
In college, your professors let you in on what they plan to teach you for the entire semester. Each of them do this through something called a syllabus (the plural is syllabi), which is usually handed out on the first day of classes. It is basically all the expectations and guidelines your professor has for the semester, plus an outline of all your assignments.
Many colleges have an assignment planner with all the school breaks and activities already printed on the calendar. If it doesn't show up in an orientation packet, look for it in the college bookstore.
So, now you have your planner and your syllabi. Don't let them sit there and collect dust. Begin mapping out your semester in your planner. Write all your due dates into your calendar. This might be a bit overwhelming at first, but once things start to pick up pace, you'll be glad you know when each assignment is due.
Some professors assume you'll keep track of assignments by regularly looking at the syllabus. That's right, they often don't remind you of what's due. Why? Because it's on the syllabus. Again, it's all about the prof's expectations of you as a responsible adult. They won't hold your hand through the semester. They expect you to keep up on your own by following what's assigned on your syllabus. And you can do this by taking those important due dates and jotting them down in your planner.
4) Start working ahead
Let's look forward a bit and imagine you've already filled out your planner. Now try to work ahead in your planner.
That's right. Do Wednesday's homework, even though it's only Monday. Make it a goal to stay slightly ahead of yourself. For instance, you have to do a book report on Les Miserables. Since this is a really long book, you will want to spread out the reading. If you wait too long, you'll get no sleep on the day before the assignment is dueand still only get halfway through the book! So be sure and spread out your reading in fairly manageable chunks.