Friday, August 21, 2009

Advice for College Freshmen (Part 5)

(Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4)

Finally, we talk about one of the main parts of college: the academic work.

Plan Carefully
When you get your syllabuses at the beginning of each class, take the time while you still have fairly little homework to look over the course outline. Make note of big assignments and tests, and take the time to write them down now so that you don't forget! I compiled all of my assignments from each class into a chart, having a column for each subject and a row for each day, so that I could see at a glance what I needed to have done or turn in on each upcoming day.

My daily planner was also invaluable, to make sure that I got things done and got to things at the right time. At the beginning of each week I would write down all of the classes, appointments, and big tests/assignments I had due on each of their days. That way, I could see the night before what I had to plan for the next day, and I could keep track of things through the day. The planning helped a lot - I never missed a class or meeting, except for those rare planned ones, like going home for my sister's wedding!

I also really enjoy checking things off, so that was a motivation for me to get things done on my daily to-do list. For the assignment chart, I colored in the boxes as I completed the assignments, using a different color for each subject to make a rainbow. It's the little things that brighten your day, after all! =)

Experiment and come up with a plan and method of organizing that works for you. Everyone's different, so find one that you enjoy!

Work Ahead
Make it your goal to have all of your assignments done a day or two in advance. That way, if something unexpected comes up, you will have time to do it without stressing over things due the next day.

This is even more important for tests. It's really not helpful to wait until the night before to start studying. That's when you begin to lose sleep, and it's hard to catch up once you get into this cycle. I would try to start studying for each test a week before, or at least a few days before. That way, I could do a little review each day, and by the time the test rolled around I usually knew the material pretty confidently. There were still times I was studying up until the moment of, but the consistent review helped me really remember what I had to know. Also, by using long instead of short-term memory, you at least remembered some of the material after the test was over instead of forgetting it all! That, in turn, helps when finals rolled around.

Papers were another thing that I couldn't understand how others could wait to write until the night before they were due. I tried to get the first draft completed at least a few days before, so that I would have time to proofread and approach it from a different perspective on a new day. I also tried to have enough time set aside to really get into the writing, so I would often use weekends to write papers that were due the next week.

There will be a lot to do, but with consistent work, it doesn't have to be stressful! I actually found college schoolwork easier than that in high school...

Know Your Learning Style
There are quizzes you can take to help you determine whether you are more visual, auditory, or kinesthetic in the way you learn. Find out which one you are, and study in ways that help you remember best.

I'm a strong visual learner with a little bit of kinesthetic thrown in, so it helps me to write organized notes, make flash cards (and walk around while I review them - getting the movement in), or use the computer program my brother made. I study best in a quiet place where I can focus, but others who are more auditory may learn better in a group. Be careful of doing all of your studying in groups, however. I've found that often more talking gets down than actual studying, but it can be a fun time to spend with friends and get some work done as well. Just realize that you'll still have to get some intensive time in on your own.

Interact with Teachers
Your instructors are there to do the best job that they can to help you learn what you need to know. Don't be afraid of them - they often love to get to know you and help in whatever way they can! Ask questions when you don't understand something; they're usually long for interested students to ask questions instead of responding with blank stares. If you're confused, they can quickly help you figure things out instead of you trying to stress through it on their own.

Depending on where you are, teachers may even have you over to their house or interact via email or Facebook. They usually enjoy getting to know their students, so although it can be weird at first, enjoy your interactions with them.

Not every teacher will be your favorite, but don't spend time with friends complaining about how much you don't like certain ones. This seems to be a favorite pastime at times, and I am ashamed to say that I joined in a few times. If people start complaining about a certain teacher, try to turn the conversation around to point out that teacher's strengths or what you enjoy about the material.

Be Thankful!
You are at college to learn as much as you can. Be thankful for the opportunities that you have. It will make your outlook so much better if you commit to being thankful instead of complaining about the amount of homework you have.

Thank the teachers as well. They have to spend time not only teaching you in class but also preparing notes and lectures before hand, answering questions, and grading papers and tests. Thank them for their time - even if they weren't necessarily your favorite teacher - and consider writing quick thank-you notes to them at the end of the semester. You will be surprised at how much this encourages them!

I hope you've enjoyed this series and gotten some good ideas! Many of these suggestions are pretty basic, but hopefully they started you thinking. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it helps you start on the right path. As always, I welcome comments and further advice from others.

Enjoy this first semester!


Brooke said...

Thank you SO much for this series! What a blessing! I will definitely keep these in mind as I start college very soon. :)

Thank you again,


An Ethereal Forest of Stars said...


I have been in college for a couple of years (almost done). What has helped immensely was to look over the syllabi first thing in the beginning of the semesters, and keep a planner/agenda. You write down ALL the due dates for the readings, tests, quizzes, papers, and any other assignment listed.

For the readings, what I did then was divide the time of the reading for each day: Say if I had to read 100 pages in one class by the end of a week, I'd read like 20 a day at least, and thus write down each amount of pages (ie: 20) I had to read in each day. And if there were to be an exam or big assignment, I'd make sure to read even more days in advance, for more time on the assignments/reviewing the studying for tests. This really helped me read and study on a daily basis, in advance, so I wouldn't get stressed out and so I could stay on top of things!

Thanks for the tips :).

Godsgalnj said...

Thanks soo much...

I needed to read this for my first semester in college (on the third - five days away..ahhhh!). I'm having those pre-college jitters - you know, the type where I don't know if I should be or shouldn't be looking forward to it. *sigh*

God will be with me =)

Thanks again for the advice - do you mind if I save it in a document on my computer?

Anna Naomi said...

Godsgalnj: Glad it helped you! I don't mind a bit if you save these in a document on your computer. I just ask that you save the link to Maidens of Worth and my name with them, so that you know who to attribute the writing to. =)

Becky said...


I just wanted to let you know that your posts on college advice are downright brilliant! You should have these lists published :)

You and Miriam are both wise beyond your years. I wish I had read your college series before I went away years ago.

Thanks again and God bless.