The nine tricks to success
Your most important resource is your professor and your access to this
individual is well defined by scheduled class time and office hours. You can
become an efficient user of this resource by following the simple tips and
tricks I outline below. Once you do you will find that you are studying less
and getting better grades. Here are the nine tricks to success.
Trick number 1: Sit in the front row
In more than twelve years of teaching here at SSU I have found that the
average grade of the first row exceeds that of the last by about two grade
points. Of course we must not fall into the trap of assumed causality here.
Does sitting in the front "cause" good grades or do good students tend to sit in
the front? Who knows? But why take a chance? The tuition is the same. So go
ahead and sit upfront. Think of it as first class for the price of economy. Not
everyone can sit in the front row, of course, but not everyone is reading this
document and you are.
Trick number 2: Listen to the lecture
I often find while lecturing that students are so busy taking notes they
haven't the faintest idea what I am saying. Please listen to the lecture. It is
easy to do and it will give your grade a power boost you will not believe.
Remember that you are not a secretary taking dictation. Your primary
objective is to listen and learn. Of course you must also try to take notes but
if you can't do both just listen and then jot down what you can remember right
Trick number 3: Don't defer learning
Have you ever found yourself in a classroom situation where you don't really
understand what is being presented but you'd rather just figure it out later at
home? These moments are the poison pills that will destroy your GPA and eat
up your life with hours of study and frustration. Don't let it happen to you.
Take the time and make the effort to understand it right now and right here
before you leave class. Even if you feel that you are not well prepared and it
is your fault, just go ahead and grab the moment and don't let go until you
Trick number 4: Ask questions
Make it a point to always ask at least one question in every class. If you are
not used to doing this or if you are introverted you may suffer from a form of
stage fright. Your pulse may go up, you might break out in a sweat, or your
ears may feel hot. These symptoms are normal but once you break the ice they
will go away and it will get easier and easier. Asking questions should become
a natural part of your classroom experience. Once that happens a magical
transformation will begin to occur in your grades because you will have
become an active listener and a critical thinker. Your participation will
increase the effectiveness of the lecture and you will get so much more
learning done during class you won't have to study as hard at home.
Trick number 5: Don't miss class
If you are ever tempted to cut a class just remind yourself that for each hour
of sweet freedom you enjoy during scheduled class time you commit four to
five hours of study and aggravation outside of class to break even. It's a lousy
deal and one you should never accept.
Trick number 6: Make use of office hours
Make it a point to visit each professor once a week during office hours
starting from week #1. Make up questions to ask. If you can't come up with a
question you like, then simply go over your lecture notes together. Think of
office hours as an extension of the lecture. Five minutes a week with your
professor can save an hour of painful cramming. If the posted office hours
are not feasible for you let your professor know and set up an alternate
"standing appointment" for a weekly visit.
Trick number 7: Make up your own test
The best way to prepare for a test is to make up your own test. Take your own
test on the clock with the same time constraint as the real test. Then go over it
with your professor during office hours. This simple little device will
automatically boost your test scores without any further effort on your part.
Trick number 8: Read backwards
When you read a story you start at the beginning and work your way to the
end where you get to find out "who done it". For a textbook, reverse the
process. First read the questions at the end of the chapter. They indicate what
the author thinks is important. Then read the summary of the chapter and see
if you can answer any of the questions. Next, look over all pictures, tables,
and figures and make another attempt to answer the questions. Finally, look
through the text to answer the remaining questions. This technique will reduce
the time you spend reading textbooks by an order of magnitude. For marketing
purposes textbooks have to be of a certain size and format and these may
actually get in the way of learning. If you start at the beginning of the
chapter you may never get to the important parts.
Trick number 9: Neutralize the professor from hell
Avoid acrimony and personal battles with instructors you don't like. If you cannot drop the course
devise a strategy to learn what you can and to pass the course. You must detach yourself
emotionally from the situation and develop a strictly professional and business-like
relationship with this person even though he or she is an asshole or an idiot.
You have to be the adult in this relationship. It helps to adopt a surfer-dude mentality.