My school days are behind me. And that is a really good thing.
Studying to do well on tests in not currently on my radar. And that is also a good thing.
When I was into getting good grades in university, I did, and I was a mom of two young children to boot. If I can do it, you can, too.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted my top 10 tips for getting good grades in university, and today, I’d like to share a 13 more nuggets of wisdom.
1. Find a comfy place to study.
If it’s the library, great. If not, that’s cool too.
Minimize your distractions (avoid TVs and the internet), look for good light to help keep your energy levels up and minimize eye strain, use earbuds/headphones or earplugs to cancel out the noise of people around you.
2. Get comfortable with feeling tired.
There will be certain times in the term when you will be exhausted. Be prepared for it and know that it won’t last forever.
3. Build in downtime.
You can have fun and enjoy the “college experience.” Hang out with your friends, go see movies, workout, practice yoga, and get outside. Also try to eat healthy meals. Keep in mind, though, that you (or your parents) are paying your school to learn from them, so take it seriously. You will have time for fun after you graduate, too.
4. Cut back on TV (and video games and mindless surfing).
You really don’t need to watch 10 different TV series every week and gaming isn’t going to help your average, either. A little screen time is fine, but set a timer so you don’t get carried away.
5. Choose treats as rewards.
Sometimes you need a little extra motivation. Reward yourself if you meet your study goals. Put in three solid hours of studying? Go buy a magazine and chill out for 30 minutes. Got that paper written on time? Treat yourself to Starbucks. Whatever floats your boat.
6. Treat it like a job, and be a workaholic.
Start work in the morning, take a lunch break, work in the afternoon, eat some supper. It was important that I was successful in this, so I studied every evening, too, which gave me more time with my family on the weekends (though I did work on the weekends, too).
7. Decide what your goals are.
Mine were to get into dental school, so I was shooting for a 90% average and geared everything toward that. It worked.
Maybe yours are to explore different subjects, and that’s cool, too. If you’re there just to be there, you’re probably not going to get that much out of the experience, and that’s a pretty expensive waste of time.
8. Memorization is fine.
I’ve heard lots of people say “memorization isn’t learning.” Whatever. Memorization is a way to hold stuff in your brain as you learn it. if after you take a class you can’t recall the info in 5 years because you memorized it, no big deal. You probably didn’t need that info anyway or now have the background skills and knowledge to look it up and refresh yourself, anyway. And the people who insisted they “learned” it rather than memorizing it probably don’t recall the information, either. The point is that some stuff you simply have to memorize in an effort to develop a foundation in a subject.
Look up mnemonics and memorization strategies online. They can be helpful when you’re writing an exam and make it easier to recall the info so that you can focus on getting out what you know about the subject and get an awesome grade on the test. This frees up time for the stuff you really have to think about.
9. Understand that university is not the same as high school.
If you want to do well, you will need to study.
You will fail if you don’t do the work or don’t do it well enough.
You are driving the bus and can choose your path: studying and good grades or fun and mediocre ones. It’s unlikely that the small amount of effort you put into getting good grades in high school will result in the same grades in university.
When you’re 20, four years seems like a long time. I can assure you it’s not. You can, and will, have fun later, too.
10. Find like-minded study companions.
Sometimes you might be sick and have to miss class, or your grandma might die and you have to miss school to go to her funeral. Whatever happens, it’s good to have someone you can count on for notes. That means someone like you, who is paying attention in class. Look to the front rows for people who are actively listening, taking notes, and maybe even asking questions and then sit next to those people and introduce yourself. It’s easier, too, if they look friendly and possibly your age (I was a mature student, so I tried to choose people who were also older).
The same people also might have study tips they’ve gleaned from other people they know who have taken the course or might have caught something you missed in lecture. This will help you learn and get a better grade.
11. Organize your notes by date.
This means writing the date on the top of your notes. It’s a simple step that can make a huge difference in keeping track of your information.
I liked to my notes into a binder once a week, but would sometimes get behind and catch up when studying for an exam, and that’s okay. If you don’t do this regularly, the risk is that you’ll lose your papers or they’ll get crumpled and unintelligible.
I liked to use loose leaf and a clipboard, because I wouldn’t have to carry separate notebooks around for each subject. I would just have replenish my loose leaf stock periodically. This meant my bag would be lighter and my back happier.
12. If you think a prof missed a point in your exam or paper, bring it to her attention.
Don’t be a dick and demand a higher grade.
Instead, go and ask for clarification. “Dr. So-and-So, I wanted to ask you about question 3 from the exam. When you went over the exam answers, you said xxxx, and I wrote yyyy, which I thought was the same thing/the proper response. Could you clarify for me what I could have written to make my position clearer?” Even if you don’t get a bump in your grade, you’ll learn something about what the instructor is looking for. Also, sometimes the instructor is more flexible in what she is looking for than what her TA was grading for, so consider that, too. I had more than one instance when my answer was correct but the TA was looking for very specific wording (or maybe wasn’t particularly knowledgeable), so I didn’t get the marks, but when I talked to the prof, she saw that my answer was correct and so my mark went up.
13. If you need good grades to get into a particular program, you can talk to the prof about what you can do to get a higher grade in his class.
This typically works best after you’ve gotten to know your instructor a little. I feel like I may have gotten slightly higher marks in a couple of classes from sympathetic instructors because they knew I was doing my best in their classes and they were a little more generous with those percentages.
What’s your number one tip for doing well in university?