□ Check your school email. It’s really surprising how many students almost never check their email! For most colleges and universities, email is the primary form of communication with students. This is why the majority of schools give their students an email account. It’s good to check your email once or twice per day. Email is also the most efficient way for professors to get ahold of their students. Your instructors might email you that class was canceled, or that you’re are meeting in a different classroom. The school might email you that your tuition hasn’t been paid, or the day that you are allowed to register for classes.
□ Have the contact information of at least one of your peers in each of your classes. It’s nice to have a classmate you can contact if you can’t remember (or forgot to write down) the problem set or page numbers. It is also nice to have someone’s number or email if you really get stuck on a problem, or want to have a study partner.
□ Use a planner of some kind. Be it on your computer, phone, or a calender that you physically write in, have some sort of planner that works for you. A college student and their planner should be like a cowboy and his horse. You should feel lost without your planner. First, put in your reoccurring commitments (such as class), then write in meetings and appointments. At the beginning of the semester, put in all due dates of major assignments and test dates. It’s also nice to write in assignments for the week, and include details such as page or problem numbers. It’s highly recommendable that in addition to your planner, you use a whiteboard/ wall/ desk calendar where you can see the whole month laid out so you can see what is coming up.
□ Have an organizational system for your class materials. Don’t be the student who pulls out a crumpled up class handout from their book bag, or a stack of disorganized papers that they must shuffle through to find what they are looking for. First of all, that’s embarrassing. Second, how your physical space is organized is often a reflection of your mental state. Effective organization of class notes, handouts, syllabi, etc can lead to better grades. Here is a system that I have found to work:
~ use a spiral notebook for each class to take lecture and reading notes in (you can combine classes in spiral notebooks if you buy multi-subject notebooks)
~ use a plastic, accordion-style file folder that has label tabs at the top of each section. Label each tab the name of one of you classes. If there are extra tabs, use those sections for extracurriculars such as clubs or a job. Keep all your class handouts and loose papers in the plastic file folder.
□ Carry around something you can work on. Sometimes a college student’s schedule contains a lot of breaks or “down time”. You might have 25 minutes between a class, or finish an in class quiz with ten minutes to spare. It’s advisable to carry around one extra book, flashcards, or assignment you are working on to get the most use of these awkward “in between” times. This is part of good time management.
□ Have a study spot and routine. This can be tricky. You might be tempted to study with a friend in the student union building, but this might be too distracting of an environment for you. Also, dorm rooms aren’t always the best study spot because that may be where your brain associates sleeping or hanging out with roommates. It might take some trial and error, and some exploring of the campus, but it’s good to find a spot that is “yours.” This spot is where you feel alert and has the perfect level of noise and activity. Go to this spot at the same time every day. You don’t always have to stay for the same amount of time, but the habit is important.
□ Sleep. Some people seem to function just fine the next day after staying up until 2 am studying. Odds are you are not one of these people. Sleep is important for our brains to retain what we have processed during the day. So, you don’t feel like you must pull an all-nighter to be the best student because not getting enough sleep is actually counter productive to learning. On the flip side, it is so tempting to go back to your dorm room after morning class and take an epic 3 hour nap until your next class. Don’t do it! You will feel groggy after, and it’s not the best use of your time. Hold your self to a 15-20 minute nap, and you will feel refreshed after.
□ Have goof off time. College is stressful! You need study breaks and night off now and then. When you reach a certain point of stress, you are actually not going to be able to learn as well. Take a break, and play ping-pong with your roommate. Pull a prank (a harmless one) on the co-eds down the hall. Work on a puzzle. It’s healthy!
□ Have a 4-year plan. While you don’t have to pick a major right away, you really should have an idea of what you want to work towards. It can be helpful to meet with an advisor who can give your sample schedules of different majors. No matter what your area of study is, you should know what classes you need to take each semester. You don’t want to get a month away from graduation only to realize you missed a required class.
□ Keep your syllabi… with you at all times! Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration, but it is really illustrating the point that syllabi are immensely important, and you want to be aware of what they contain. A good professor should include on a syllabus:
~ their policies for attendance
~ their policies for grading
~ a schedule with major assignment’s due dates
~ dates for tests
~ their email, office location, and office hours
~ what textbooks and other materials are required
□ Communicate with your professors. This can be scary. Students are often intimidated by professors, and as a result often avoid asking professors for help or clarification. Remember, professors are just people, and their job is to hep you learn. At the beginning of the semester, approach your professors and say, “Hello Professor, I am So-and-So. I was wondering if I have a question or need to get a hold of you, what is the best way to contact you?”
□ Use campus resources. Tuition is going towards a lot more than just your classes! Colleges have a ton of resources accessible students, so take advantage of them. Most schools have:
~ career counseling center
~ libraries with helpful librarians that can help you find material for your research projects
~ counseling center for personal issues
~ work out facilities
~ health centers
~ peer tutoring
~ computer labs
~ volunteer opportunities in the local community