How to get your studies off to a flying start this college year
With the start of a new college year you’ll be eager to get your studies off to a flying start. You’re thinking along the right lines, because starting as you mean to go on is the key to success in any academic pursuit.
In this article I’m going to share with you how to make this your best year ever, as far as your studies are concerned.
1. Pick classes that you love
The best way to lose your motivation and go off track with your studies is to study subjects you don’t love. If you want to excel you need to stick to subjects that you’re passionate about and naturally want to learn more about. This is the quickest and least painful way to be successful at university or college.
2. Manage your time tightly
With classes, deadlines, clubs, sports and social activities coming out of your ears it’s often difficult to keep track of what you need to do and when. My advice is to get a tight grip on all of this right at the beginning of the first semester. Get a piece of paper, open up Excel or create a google doc which shows all the days of the week, and all 24 hours of the day. Then fill in this grid with all your regular commitments. If your commitments are irregular, you might need a grid for every week of the semester. (You can download a grid to help you with this here).
Once you’ve got all your commitments written in, add in your independent study times. When I was at Cambridge University in the UK, I managed my time by treating my studies like an office job. I studied from 9am to 6pm then had the evening for social engagements. I kept this arrangement until the final few weeks of my third year when I started to study in the evenings as well.
When you map out your time clearly like this you never have to feel guilty about having fun and you never have to feel like you’re missing out on the fun when you’re studying. You know you’ve got a balance of both and that you’re making the most of life at college.
3. Establish good study habits
It’s very easy to sit at your desk or in a library for hours not achieving very much. However, if you establish good habits you’ll get on much better and waste much less time. Habits that I’d encourage at college are:
- Reading through lecture notes at the end of every day to make sure you’ve understood them
- Keeping a clear record of your reading material so that you’re able to accurately reference it in your essays
- Sharing essays and other submitted work with your classmates so that you all get much more out of each assignment set
If you stick with your good habits they will serve you well throughout the college year.
4. Assess your own work
When you’ve written essays or assignments to be submitted, or you’re practicing for tests or exams, make sure you always critically evaluate your own work. This is explained in my blog post on the Revision Power Hour.
By taking the time to read and reflect on your own work you will ensure that you are learning from both what you’re doing well and what you can improve. If possible, reference mark schemes or work in collaboration with fellow students to give feedback on each other’s work and help each other to improve.
5. Be consistent
Success in education is all about consistency – not about leaving everything until the last minute. Make sure you set yourself up for success my being consistent throughout the college year.
I hope these tips will help you make the most of your time at college. Best of luck!
Lucy Parsons is an Academic Coach based in the UK and author of The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. She studied geography at Cambridge University. Check out her blog and podcast at www.lifemoreextraordinary.com or connect with her on twitter.