Choosing a college, getting accepted for enrollment and moving into dorms are such all-consuming tasks that they can overshadow the true challenge of succeeding in higher education: passing classes! Most college professors expect more from their students than high school teachers do, so it takes hard work and discipline to keep up with homework and perform well on tests, especially if you don’t have parents around to keep you on task. Fortunately, Transitions instructor and grad student Priya Winston is here to share some of the strategies that helped her succeed in college. When the assignments and test dates start coming in, remember her tips for staying on top of things:
- Prioritize your assignments. This simply means that you should spend the most time and energy on the assignments that make up the greatest part of your grade. All assignments should be completed to the best of your ability, but if you have to make sacrifices, make sure to do so on assignments that count the least toward your final grade. Prioritizing assignments also includes striking a balance between working first on what is due soonest, but also not leaving seemingly distant projects until the last minute.
- Keep your work area neat and free of any distractions. Less clutter means finding things faster, which means working faster and more efficiently. Distractions are temptations you don’t need when a deadline is looming. The television should not be in your line of sight while you’re working on homework!
- Buy a calendar and put all your classes, due dates for major assignments and test dates on it. If you have an electronic calendar or a calendar on your phone, set reminders for the day before things are due so you remember what is coming up.
- Keep one binder with a different section for each class. Use transparent dividers with pockets to separate the sections. All the papers for each class should go into their respective section as soon as you get them and assignments you need to hand in should go in that section’s pocket. Go through your binder every week and take out what you don’t need anymore. It will take some work to keep this binder neat and well organized, but doing so will minimize your chances of losing important papers or forgetting assignments.
- Plan long-term assignments and projects by breaking them down into manageable chunks that you can realistically finish in a short timeframe. Take these step by step until the whole thing is done. Make sure you plan ahead to finish the project at least two days before the due date so you have time to proofread and review your work. Often you don’t know that something needs to change until you have it all laid out in front of you, and you don’t want to be surprised an hour before the due date by the realization that a key part of your project doesn’t work.
- Use alarms when you study or do homework. You might set an alarm for a pre-determined end time when you stop working, so you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You can also set alarms for when you should take breaks from studying. Taking regular breaks will actually increase your efficiency and help you think better. Just remember to set another alarm for when you need to get back to work, so your 15-minute break doesn’t turn into a whole evening lost on the Internet.
- Don’t make plans during the week of exams. Give yourself enough time for both studying and rest. But feel free to make fun plans after your last exam to celebrate and unwind!
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to a classmate for help with an assignment or studying. You are all in the same boat, so why not paddle together? You might even want to look into getting a tutor if you’re struggling, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. Anything that might improve your understanding of the subject is a thing worth trying! Your professor, too, should be available over email or during their office hours for general questions or concerns about assignments. They will be happy to help, as it is their job to get you through the class successfully, but they can’t do so if you never reach out.