As the semester winds down, I couldn’t let too much time pass without sharing some of the tips and tricks I picked up as an older student returning to school after a 2 year break. Whether you’re considering going back to school, or are still in the thick of your undergraduate time here are some lessons I learned to survive being in school full time. And for a light laugh make sure you also check out 7 Things I Learned from going back to school (at age 26).
GLEAN [from the smartest]
It’s easy to tell after a couple of weeks, who’s excelling in class and who’s just not that serious. It may be the way a student sits in class, constantly answers/asks questions, generally has that ‘no-nonsense‘ demeanor, and even spends a lot of time in the library. There will be classes in which forming study groups is the only means for survival; if you have to be the one to organize the group– by all means, take the initiative. Seek out these exceptional students, and glean from them. In a group setting, glean whatever strategies/methods they use to study, and don’t be afraid to ask them how they prepare for exams or take notes in class.
ANNOTATE [your readings]
There’s nothing more pointless than spending hours reading pages of information you’ll forget the second you’re done with the chapter. Highlighting information you intend to go back and re-read is not real efficient either, because realistically, how often do you re-read text? If you’re going to read, be active about it, and highlighting is not it. Annotation is the name of the game, and it’s basically paraphrasing in your own words what you have read. If you own the book, write it in the margins, if not– use sticky notes or a separate sheet of paper to pull out definitions, theories, or ideas you think are central to the readings. Make sure you mark what page numbers you got the information from, for easy reference. (Source: College Rules! By Nist and Holschuh)
STAND OUT [from the crowd]
I understand you’re shy and you don’t want to ask a stupid question, but you want to be more than a name on a piece of paper– you want to be a face to remember. This is especially crucial for classes in which professors won’t bother learning each student’s name– and they might even tell you this the first day of class. If your professor likes the sounds of their own voice so much they take up all of class time, wait until after class to introduce yourself and ask a question. And keep asking questions or making comments, let them know you’re paying attention.
ME TIME [in moderation]
Understand and be clear about what your down time activities refer to. Is it and hour on Facebook, a social club event, or an evening bowling? Know what your rewards are, and treat them as such– delaying gratification is well worth it because you are learning how to enhance the pleasure by grueling through the painful mud first. After you’ve put in hard work completing important assignments, writing papers, and putting in a decent amount of time studying…that reward will be that much sweeter.
STUDY [without distractions]
Being in the library for 6 hours at a time does not constitute ‘productivity.’ I am learning this the hard way. I study while maintaining a full-blown text conversation. I also freelance study; I get tired with one subject, and move on to another. There is a pattern forming here showing me I’m lacking long-term concentration. Surely my texting is affecting the way I relate to the subject matters on my plate. I will soon come to see what strategies work for one class, and what I need to change in order to call what I do at the library real ‘studying.’ I cannot tell you how you must study (surely every class is different) but I will say that you should monitor what you’re actually learning during these sessions by quizzing yourself, talking out loud to yourself about what you have learned, and other rehearsal strategies. The big show (exams) will not be too far ahead… how will you score?
Best wishes for finals,