The academic transition from high school to college is different for everyone, because everyone comes from different high schools and different past experiences. For some, college is a breeze, and for others (and I’d say, most), college is an extremely big jump from what they were used to in high school. It can also be overwhelming; having so much work for multiple different classes, as well as the other commitments that a typical college student is involved in. One of our student office assistants, Mackenzie, would like to share some tips as well as strategies that she uses to help her succeed in her classes.
1. Take thorough notes; even when you don’t feel like it!
There are going to be days when you are so exhausted, or maybe so unmotivated to show up to class. Still take those thorough, detailed, and complete notes. These will help you immensely for upcoming exams and quizzes. Also, the more thorough the notes you take, your exhaustion and anti-motivation will most likely decrease. You’ll regret not taking notes/taking insufficient notes when you get to reviewing. Trust me — this has happened to me before! No matter what the class, having days where you took insufficient notes will create lapses in your sequence of review.
2. Ask questions when needed!
If you have the question, somebody else most likely does too. Ask it, especially if it has to do with course content. If your question is left unanswered, you will become even more lost, which could lead to poor performance in the class. This doesn’t just apply to questions you may have for your professors; it’s anybody! Friends, upperclassmen, advisors, you name it. They’re all here to help you in this transition, so ask whatever you may need to.
3. Attend office hours
You will probably hear this more times than I can even count. Professors, upperclassmen, and even parents will be telling you to attend office hours. I know some people who would go to all of their professor’s office hours just to introduce themselves and talk about random topics. This wasn’t really my thing, but if it’s yours, than certainly do it! You will definitely have that one (or maybe more) class that you either connect really well with the professor or need help in, and office hours are great for both of these things. I’ve only gone through two semesters, and still have already used multiple faculty for reference letters and such. You don’t need to be best pals with all of your professors, but if there are one or two that you can maintain professional relationships with, do so!
4. Use a planner
I don’t see how you can successfully get through college without one of these. They are academically life changing! Not only can you write in when exams and assignments are due, but you can also make personal notes for yourself. For example, in my history class first semester, we had a paper we had to write on a book. It was a longer book, so a few weeks before the paper was due, I went through and divided up how many pages of the book I needed to read a day so that the reading load was manageable on top of my other work. I was able to make these notes in my planner, too. Lastly (and then I promise I’ll stop bragging about the benefits of using a planner), I was able to make note of when I had work, or other outside obligations for my classes (such as extra credit presentations, group study sessions, etc.). Even if you skated through high school without using one, I would highly recommend getting one for college.
5. Be aware of your work load
I think we all would love to just come back from class and watch Netflix, play video games, or hang out with friends. There will be plenty of that in college, but make sure to know when you need to buckle down and focus on schoolwork. There will be stretches where you may have a ton of work to do, and other stretches that will be a little lighter in work. Be aware of these lighter and heavier weeks, so that you are able to plan around them in scheduling down/fun time!
6. Utilize your peers
I’m not sure if it was an issue at the time or just something they wanted us to be aware of, but something that was reiterated from my workshop leader to my classmates and I over and over was that we are in this with our peers, not against our peers. There are multiple good grades to be given out if you earn it; you aren’t “fighting” for that A against your peers. Utilize group study sessions. I found these to be extremely beneficial. You may feel like you have all of the material down and memorized, but you never know what beneficial information you could receive from someone else’s point of view. It can also work as a “give and take” kind of process; you help your friend with a topic that they are unsure about, and they might help you with a topic you have some questions on. Attend these sessions — I’m sure you will find them incredibly beneficial like I do!
7. Drop by the SARC (Shepherd Academic Resource Center)
I can’t say I did this probably as much as I should’ve, but the SARC is a great academic resource whether you need a tutor, are struggling in a class, or just need someone to review an assignment. I utilized the Writing Center in the SARC a few times to review some papers that I wrote, and they were extremely helpful! The student that helped me sat down with me and had me read each paragraph aloud. After each paragraph, we would talk through together what we thought could be done better and what was done well. This was so helpful to have someone to take the time the walk through my paper, step-by-step with me. I recommend you stop by at least once to utilize one of their services!
8. Take advantage of extra credit opportunities
I know it isn’t always possible, due to other class, work, and extracurricular obligations, but try your best to always attend these opportunities. Typically for my classes, it would be presentations that were going on on-campus, maybe for a club or holiday, that we could attend and write a paper on to receive extra credit. It is a simple, and for the most part, relatively quick way to receive a few extra points for the course. Even if you feel like you are doing just fine in the course, I would still recommend completing the extra credit opportunity because it’ll give you that extra “cushion,” especially for the final exam.
9. Participate in class
I know this isn’t always the most comfortable thing (coming from myself), but do your best to raise your hand, answer and ask questions, and stay involved in discussions and topics during lecture. It’ll not only help you create those relationships with your professors that I talked about earlier, but it’ll help you absorb the course material as well. There will be some classes that you will be more apt to participate in because you are more interested in. For example, I participated more in my chemistry class than my philosophy class because I just naturally was more interested in chemistry. This is okay; find those classes that you have a genuine passion for and get involved!
10. Take care of yourself
I’ve spent a lot of time discussing your interactions with faculty, peers, and parents, but not a lot about yourself. Succeeding in classes starts with you, and none of those other things that I talked about can happen if you don’t start with yourself. Continue doing the things you enjoy doing, even in the crazy business that school throws at you. Get enough sleep, eat right, and hang out with your friends! Doing these things is crucial in success in the classroom.
11. This one’s cheesy…but have a good attitude 😊
You’re here in college to learn and gain valuable knowledge and skills (both academic and non-academic) that will help you in your future career, as well as life. You chose (or if undeclared, are going to choose) a path that you are interested and want to pursue a career in. Be excited about that! Sure, classes get tough and sometimes boring, but try to stay engaged in what’s going on and keep a positive attitude. I hate to be cliche when I say this, but you truly get in what you put out. You’re likely to be more engaged if you go in with the right mindset!