Sunday, August 21, 2016

3 Keys to Academic Success

This week most college students return to the classroom for the fall semester. At this point, everyone starts at the same place; no one is failing in a class and no one is getting an A in a class. What a person chooses to do at this point will determine how the rest of the semester will go. So, I thought I would give 3 tips that will ensure a person can have a chance at being successful. They may seem very much like common sense, but you would amazed how uncommon that sense is. 

1. Always attend class. This seems like a "duh" thing, but because many professors don't take role regularly, classes are large, and some professors don't count attendance in their grading, some feel they can skip class when they feel like it and still succeed. Two problems with this. First, class is where a professor will go beyond what is in the text, elaborate on it, and often what they share is on the final exam, which you will have no way of knowing because you did not attend class. Second, professors are more likely to help someone who is ill if they have regularly attended class, which I know first hand. I was ill for a number of weeks, but because I attended class when I was well my professors were willing to help me when I was ill, and I was able to get in A in all my classes.

2. Be engaged in class. Merely showing up to class will not be sufficient to success, interacting with the professor and diligently taking notes is required also. If you have a question, ask it when you have it because it is likely you will forget. Pay attention to what the professor is saying like your life depends on it, because your final grade very well might.

3. Avoid electronic devices during class. As my friend and philosophy professor Shannon Mussett puts it "Class time is for class." I admit that I am a social media junkie, and that I like to look at sports related things while in class from time to time. But, this is a very unnecessary distraction that can cost you. Neuroscience studies have shown that the brain is very myopic and tends to only focus one thing at a time while shutting others out. For this reason, use paper and pencils to take notes and don't bring laptops to class (or keep them in your backpack until you go to the library or study hall) and have your cell phone turned off. Doing so will allow you to focus, and focus in and of itself makes an astounding difference in performance.

There are more tips than these to be successful in school, and entire books have been written on the subject; I would recommend How to Win at College by Cal Newport to anyone interested in it. But these 3 steps will put a person on the right path to academic success.

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