Archive for the ‘college’ Category

I hate mathI’ve recently returned to college to work on a master’s degree. When I talked to my advisor, he said I should take a statistics class to prepare for a research methods class. I think my blood ran cold. Math is not my strong suite. I can make straight A’s in just about any other type of class, but my mind has a great difficulty processing math. I really did not want to do it, but I also recognized the value of good advice.

I signed up for the class, and tried to adjust my attitude to a positive one. I studied, I did my homework, and I spent a lot of time preparing for my first test. So, imagine my disappointment when I scored a low C on my first test. I got a little more organized, and I made some changes in how I was studying. I practiced the type of problems I thought I would see on the test, and I did a little better. But, I was still not happy with my grade. I teach students how to study for a living, so I needed to take a hard look at myself and my study habits, just like I would any other college student.

What was I missing? What was I not doing?

Pre-reading! I hadn’t been doing it, because my instructor was not telling us what she would cover in the next class. So, I decided to ask her. I sent her a message on Blackboard and asked what I should read before the next class. She was happy to tell me!

Guess what? It made a world of difference! I went to class knowing which concepts I understood, and what was causing me trouble. I went to class, prepared with questions I needed to ask, and I had the vocabulary I needed to understand more from the lecture. I also had notes from my reading, and I could just add to them in class, rather than frantically trying to write down every single word my instructor said. My experience in class was immensely different when I went to class prepared.

If you are a college student and haven’t been doing this, I would emphatically recommend it. Class is a totally different experience when you pre-read the text material, or material provided by your instructor. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your instructor questions. I have found that instructors are very accommodating and helpful. They like to know students are engaged and care about their class. Questions are welcomed and encouraged by most!

TRY IT! You will be glad you did.

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  1. Study at a DESK!You need to be comfortable, but you also need to be in a place that helps you stay alert and focused. Studying in a bed encourages sleep, not learning.
    2. Exercise helps.Studies have shown that mental function improves with exercise and results in better memory. Research also shows that listening to music while exercising boosts cognitive levels and verbal fluency skills.
    3. Your brain needs real food. Donuts and coffee don’t cut it. The neurotransmitters in your brain are made from amino acids, which are derived from the protein in your diet. So, you need to choose high-protein foods such as cheese, eggs, meats or nuts, rather than high-carbohydrate crackers, chips, cookies or juice.
    4. Drink lots of WATER! Did you know that dehydration can lead to fatigue and lack of ability to focus? Choose more water over coffee, and keep your water chilled for added alertness.
    5. Get to know your professors! Ask questions during, before or after class. Take advantage of office hours. Ask for clarification when you do not completely understand something. Ask for suggestion on supplemental materials. These things can make a difference between an “A” or a “B”!
    6. Buy the textbook. The textbook is not optional; I don’t care what anyone tells you. If you struggling with budget, see if an older addition of the text is available, or even a digital version. But, you MUST have a textbook in order to do what you need to do.
    7. Be realistic. If you know you will consistently sleep through an 8 am class, there is no reason to sign up for it. Make a schedule you can actually keep.
    8. Use all of the helps on campus. My campus has a writing lab, a walk-in math and science lab, peer tutoring, a speech lab, and many computer/printing centers throughout the campus. And, all of these services are FREE. Find out what your college offers and take advantage. A little bit of help can easily boost your grades.
    9. You must study if you want good grades. I know you may have cruised through high school, but college is different. Instructors expect you to do the majority of work outside of class, and classes move twice as fast. Multiply the number of credit hours you are taking by 1, 2 or 3, depending on the level of difficulty. That is how many hours you need to be studying a week for each class. No, I’m not kidding.
    10. Study Groups Help. One semester, I was in a particularly difficult medieval literature class, and I was pretty sure that class was going to jeopardize my 4.0 grade point average. I didn’t know anyone in the class, but I was able to form a study group by sending a group email to class members via Blackboard, and we ended up with 8-10 people in the group. I don’t think I would have made an “A” without that group. It is a great way to clarify your understanding, revise and add to your class notes, discuss topics is greater depth, and come closer to mastering the material.