Taking courses at “good times”: You indicated that your classes may not be scheduled at good times for you. For some students, they believe that their course schedule isn’t at “good times” for them because they have too many gaps between classes – use that time wisely! Review notes, join a club or study in the library. For some students, courses are not scheduled at their best times for learning. Scheduling your classes when you learn best is the ideal situation; however, you can be successful even if you are “not a morning person” and you have an 8 a.m. class. There are techniques you can use to ensure that you can grasp the information before you are fully awake – or in the late afternoon when your brain is on overload. Plan future schedules so that you are in class at your peak learning times.
Course interest or value: An important part of the college experience is learning about a variety of subjects. This means that you may take classes that you otherwise would not necessarily have selected on your own. You will learn about science even if you are an English major or take math courses even if you are an art major and music history even if you are a criminal justice major. Keep an open mind – you never know what courses you may enjoy and be able to use in life. A positive attitude will help you succeed!
Work conflicts: Working and being a college student mean you must learn to balance your time. Be sure to talk with your supervisor about needs related to your work schedule – especially during your busiest times at school (around exams). If possible, work on campus where your supervisor is often more flexible. Try to keep your work hours to a minimum because your full-time job should be going to school!
Family obligations: Whether you have to help with children or elders in your family, or your family simply expects you to be home for dinner every night, you need to figure out how you will manage these obligations. Helping your family understand your needs while being considerate of their expectations is not an easy task. If you are having a difficult time with this, the Counseling Center (www.fau.edu/student/counsel) is available to help you problem solve.
Health concerns: Whether it is your health or that of someone close to you, it is difficult to focus on academics when you don’t feel well (or are worried about someone else who is not feeling well). Be sure to talk to your professors about any extraordinary circumstances you may be experiencing and take advantage of the resources on campus that can provide you assistance and give you the extra support you may need (Student Health – www.shs.fau.edu, Office of Health and Wellness Education– http://www.fau.edu/wellness/, and the Counseling Center – www.fau.edu/counseling).
Commuting: Commuting in South Florida is a challenge! Be sure to plan for the unexpected – leave early so that traffic and busy parking lots won’t make you late for class. Also, try to find several alternate routes to campus and get your classmates’ phone numbers in case you just can’t make it.
Go to class! Students who attend all of their classes are more likely to earn good grades. When you miss a class, even if you get notes from someone else or online, you are just getting a summary of the information and may miss major concepts and/or important details. Also, the act of writing down the information is important in helping it “sink in.” And you never know when an instructor may give a pop quiz or other important information that you can’t get if you aren’t there. If we can give you the best advice, it is GO TO CLASS!
Attending every class (and arriving on time) : Class attendance really does correlate with your grade, more than any other single study skill behavior! As simple as it sounds, the more you go to class, the better you will do . Many times professors will never take attendance; therefore, it is your responsibility to attend. If you have to miss a class talk with the professor ahead of time, getting any assignments or notes in advance. And arrive on time for class - nothing frustrates and annoys a professor more than students walking in late and distracting both the professor and other students.
Study time: College courses require a lot more study time than high school courses. Many students are surprised by just how much time a college student needs to commit to academics outside the classroom. When planning your weekly schedule, make sure you set aside plenty of time for studying. Some weeks require more time for assignments and readings than others, but you should study for every class every week !
Studying every day: Research shows that if you simply read a chapter or listen to a lecture and don’t review the content within 24 hours, you will forget over 60% of the information ! This is why it is so important to study a little bit EVERY DAY. It is much less overwhelming to spend 30 minutes reviewing a subject after each class than to have to try to relearn all your lectures from the past several weeks right before the exam.
Complete readings BEFORE class : Reading assigned materials before class helps you focus on what the instructor plans to discuss. Many professors will expect that you have read the basic material and therefore he or she can start at a more advanced level. Don’t set yourself up for failure – be prepared for every class. This also will help your mind to focus on what is said and take better notes in class as you will already know the basic concept so the instructor will just be adding to your knowledge base. You will be able to focus on what questions you really need to ask. Need help with reading college texts? Visit http://wise.fau.edu/uas/faasreadingrecall.php.
Complete all assignments on time : There is nothing more frustrating than a mediocre grade on a great paper because it was late. Even if an assignment isn’t going to be collected, completing it will give you a greater understanding of what the professor thinks is important and will help you focus on what you already know and what you need to clarify during class. The more work you do now, the less time you will need to spend studying before the big test!
Note taking : First, be a good listener - Clear, concise notes are more effective than writing down everything the professor says. Writing down everything is not listening. Actually hearing what the professor is saying and writing down main points in your own words is the key to really understanding the subject matter. Learn to abbreviate – and go back to your notes after class to fill in missing ideas.
Stress Management: All college students get stressed. Stress is a response to a demand that is placed upon you. Without some stress, people would not get a lot done. That extra burst of adrenaline that helps you finish your final paper, perform well in sports or meet any challenge is positive stress. But sometimes, too much stress can cause problems and affect your health, productivity, relationships and college success!
In order to keep stress at a manageable level, find the strategies that work for you. Managing stress is individual; what helps one person reduce his or her stress may not be that helpful for someone else. Some examples of stress relievers are working out, talking to a friend, deep breathing and meditation. For more help in finding ways to cope with stress, visit FAU’s Counseling Center above the Breezeway (SSB 229 or www.fau.edu/counseling).
Recognizing Problems and Seeking Help : Everyone has problems and needs help at one time or another. The key is being able to figure out when you are struggling (either with a particular class or in another aspect of your life) and asking for help. FAU has staff to help you with nearly any problem(s) you may be facing. Always feel comfortable in the knowledge that your academic advisor or SLS instructor is here to help you. Freshman Advising is located in SU 201 or at www.fau.edu/uas.
Predicting Exam Questions: Students who get the highest grades on exams aren’t always the smartest – they are the ones who studied the right information and were best prepared! Figuring out what theprofessor is going to ask on a test (and what the exam format will be) is half the battle. If you know what to expect you’re more able to determine how best to prepare, which eliminates some of the test anxiety you may feel. Anticipate what questions the instructor may ask and practice answering them using material from the lectures and/or your course texts.
Creating a regular and quiet study space: Studying in the same place each time helps you focus. As long as you ONLY use that place for studying, your brain is trained to go into study mode as soon as you sit down. Your study place should be quiet and provide access to everything you need for studying – get rid of clutter not related to your current project. Studying in a soft chair or bed may not be the best strategy, as you may be too relaxed or even fall asleep. Libraries, study lounges and private rooms are ideal. Turn off your cell phone, computer or any other distraction. You will learn more in a shorter amount of time if you focus on just your studies!
Identifying your Peak Learning Times : Everyone learns differently – and we each learn better at different times. It is important to know when your brain is best prepared to receive and process information, and to use those times to study. Don’t simply fit studying into your schedule as an afterthought; be very intentional about when you plan to study. For example, if you can read more effectively in the mornings, get up an hour earlier to read rather than trying to read late at night when you are over-tired.
FAU faculty and staff members are people too : Students who make connections with faculty and staff outside the classroom are more likely to be successful in college. Building connections and forming mentoring relationships with faculty and staff across the FAU campus is important to your growth as a college student. Making these connections enables you to explore your interests further and gets you even more connected to your major. Student-faculty informal interaction increases a student’s degree of academic and social integration is an institution, thereby improving his or her likelihood of remaining [at the institution] (Tinto, 1978).
Make new friends : Forming friendships is essential for your success in college. When attending FAU you are going to meet a wide variety of students who will be different than you. FAU is a very diverse campus and we suggest that you learn from this experience with the relationships you are going to be building. 40% of FAU students are considered minority or international, so you are going to meet someone who is different than you. Enjoy the diversity of FAU; learn from everyone you meet, even if their background, culture and ideas are different than yours. College is all about learning and learning from classmates who are different than you will make your college experience even better!