We all do it – we think we’re starting out strong, charging out of the gate, on the fast track to that A, followed quickly by fame, fortune, and a cherry red Lamborghini in the garage.
And maybe for the first couple of classes, or even weeks, you’re engaged, interested, on top of it…
Sorority or fraternity duties fire up big time. Class becomes less interesting. Class gets hard. Football (and tailgate) season starts. You meet someone. You break up with someone. Someone breaks up with you.
Ah, the subtle and persistent drudgeries of life. Welcome to adulting, young ones. Learn to like doing things you don’t feel like doing — studying, doing your taxes, paying the mortgage.
What can help you overcome the tedium of class as the semester grinds on are habitual behaviors – little activities that you will miss if you don’t do them.
Ever get out of the house and realize you didn’t brush your teeth? You’re all weird and self conscious all day, and it bugs you. (Probably bugs everyone around you, too, with your scorching halitosis.) It’s because you missed that habit.
The more you can make your school routine habitual, the less likely you are to start slacking off…which leads to cramming, which leads to increased stress, which promotes unhealthy coping mechanisms, which yields poor performance results, which equates to some guilt, shame, self-loathing and parental wrath…
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Hey, idea! Let’s not do that!
Here are some habits – five, to be exact – that, if you can establish them early on in the semester (something along the lines of oh, say, the first week) – they will lead not only to increased chances of a successful school term, but make school easier, less stressful, and much more enjoyable.
1. Go to class
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is. Simple…but not easy. If it was easy, and everyone did it, TutorPUG wouldn’t exist, and I wouldn’t have a job.
I’m begging you, put me out of work. Make it a personal academic policy to never miss a class.
Pull out a piece of paper, and jot down some of your own personal policies – we all have them. I make it a policy to never drive by a lemonade stand without supporting my local neighborhood entrepreneurs. I have a policy to brush my teeth and make sure all of my relevant bits are covered before I leave the house. I have a policy to not kick puppies, and to never make students feel like they’ve asked a “dumb” question.
What are your policies? Make a list, from the ridiculous to the sublime, of your policies. Now add “go to class” to that list. And stick to it.
2. Worship your syllabus
Your instructors have one way to communicate all of the relevant course information for the entire semester with everyone in class, and that’s the syllabus.
Yes, I know it’s online. Yes, I know you can “get to it whenever you need to.” Yes, I know you think you don’t need it.
Well, you do need it, and for some reason, when you need it, they become mystically impossible to find online. Go print that thing off – one for every class – and put it in your dedicated notebook for that class.
Don’t have a dedicated notebook? That’s a separate post – written just for you.
3. Meet your teacher
You don’t have to marry him or her. This isn’t a round of speed dating meets 90 Day Fiance. Just go look your instructor in the eye, shake his/her hand, introduce yourself (don’t mumble), share where you’re from, and say one thing you’re looking forward to about that class.
This sounds tiny, but it makes an enormous difference from the instructor’s perspective. Trust me. As a former college professor, I remembered the ones who took the time to introduce themselves.
Usually I remembered them when it was time to record grades. And I usually rounded them up.
4. Establish your agenda
By the Friday of the first week of school, you should have a hard copy agenda/calendar, and it should be filled out with all of the hard dates of the semester for the whole term.
Start with the important stuff, like football games and when all the breaks are.
Then enter in the dates of all the major assignments and tests/exams. (Where can you find this information? In the syllabus!)
Now, carry this agenda with you all the time. It is your new Bible. And read my post on the “do versus due” way to plan out your stress-free semester.
5. Prep for tomorrow today
I learned about this study tip my freshman year of college. Since I knew everything, I ignored it. Undergrad turned out to be a struggle.
When I got to graduate school, I decided to try this tip, and – no kidding – it was Four Point City.
Spoiler alert – it will require your syllabus.
The night before class meets, pull out that syllabus. Look at the class schedule and see what lecture material will be covered in the next class.
Now here’s the hard part – find some resource that covers that topic, and read it. Your best bet will be the textbook. Maybe the course packet. Perhaps some PowerPoint slides or outline notes the instructor has put online. You might have to really branch out and Google something if you’re in a rare class that has neither text nor course packet (they do exist).
But somehow, expose yourself to the material before your instructor presents it in class.
Even if it makes no sense.
Even if you just feel like you’re staring at math formulas.
Never let class be the first time you’re introduced to a concept. At the very least, class should be the second time you’re exposed, and ideally the third or fourth.
The point of all of this is that learning is an activity. It takes input on your part. Not always fun input, but you’re going to have to make some effort.
It is college, after all.