Even if you were at the top of your class in high school, you might be in for a shock after your first college exam. At the university level, there are fewer assignments, so every grade counts. But by following a few pointers, you can smoothly make the transition to college-level work.
For starters, create a schedule that sets you up for success. That means that if you’re not a morning person, avoid those 8 a.m. classes. It also means striking a balance between work- or reading-intensive courses and lighter, less time-consuming ones. Also consider taking an elective for a grade—anything from canoeing to belly dancing. In addition to being fun, these classes will “cushion” your GPA.
2. Go to class
Go to class. Every day. It sounds like common sense, but when mom’s not there to wake you up, and the professor doesn’t bother taking attendance (many don’t), the temptation to skip class is great. But showing up enables you to make sense of the material and to learn what your professor considers most important. Take thorough notes, and also identify a reliable classmate whose notes you can copy in case you’re ever absent.
Also, going to class makes your life much easier in the end. Students who consistently attend courses can get away with studying much less for exams. Students who don’t show up much put in many hours of studying to get the same or lesser grades. In addition, if you are lost in class and go see the professor for help, they will identify you as a regular attendee or a class skipper. The regular attendee is always going to get a lot more help. Why should a professor put time into helping a student who doesn’t make the effort to attend class?
So remember: Go. To. Class.
3. Get to know your fellow students
You don’t have to be best friends with everyone in your courses, but a simple greeting each day does wonders. You never know when you are going to feel lost, and the person sitting next to you seems to understand the material that flusters you. Wouldn’t it be great if they liked you enough to explain something to you after class? Or even meet you at the library to help you out? Often, good students must miss class for valid reasons (illness, death in the family, etc.). A professor cannot repeat lectures for these students – and it’s great if they have a buddy in class to catch them up. Professors may sometimes require activities in pairs or groups to give students a chance to meet each other. Take advantages of these opportunities to introduce yourself to a few students who are usually in class and seem on top of things.
4. Get to know a few professors
You will not mesh with every professor you have, but it’s worth the effort to get to know a few. Why? Your professors can serve as great references for you. They will often write letters of recommendation, and it shouldn’t be surprising that the best letters are on behalf of students with which a professor has developed more of a relationship. Also, professors get notification of opportunities for students on and off campus. If they know what you are interested in, they can pass that along to you. Typically, college professors have office hours. Don’t hesitate to stop by and ask questions – or just to visit.
5. Take a study skills course
Most colleges offer a course that focuses on academic skills. Some even have very specific courses on topics such as how to take notes or how to avoid test anxiety. Students often hesitate to take these courses their freshmen year because they think they don’t have time. However, taking a course that focuses on study skills will make you much more efficient and save you time and effort in the future. Even if you got all A’s in high school, discovering how to learn more efficiently is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a college freshmen. In fact, sometimes students who got all A’s in high school need this help the most because school has always come easy for them and they’ve never had to study.
6. Get help
Help for what? Anything and everything. In college, everything is right there at your fingertips. There is a person on campus to help with just about every difficulty a person could have. Anxiety, depression, loneliness? Call the student counseling center. Need to work on a resume to get that job? Call the career center. Can’t quite polish up that paper? Call the writing center. The key is to figure out where the help you need is located, and your resident assistant (if you live in the dorms) is a great resource for that. Ask around. There’s probably someone there to support you.
- Elaine Henninger, Yahoo! Contributor Network