Saturday, January 4, 2014

List of Tips on How to Succeed in College from My Time at BYU

One of my New Year's resolutions is to more fully embrace "the paradox of giving." I am an avid note taker and record about anything I ever think, learn, or want to do in Evernote. Overtime, some of my notes take life and become a repository of knowledge gained over time.

As part of my resolution, I will periodically post these repositories from Evernote to this blog.

Below is a list of tips I recorded and kept throughout my time at BYU to remind myself of the best practices of being a student that I learned through experience and advice. I recognize that a lot of these are not entirely applicable to all people in all situations, but I hope there are a few relevant nuggets for everyone who reads this post. 

Advice and Tips on Scheduling and Planning
  • Be strategic about the number of credits you take and the difficulty of the load. When possible, begin your freshman year with a lighter load and classes that fit to your strengths. This will help you make a smoother transition to college
  • One of the most effective times to study a concept is right after the class in which you learned it--do not schedule classes back to back so that you can do this
  • Make sure you always do due diligence on your classes. Use, supplemented with personal advice from peers to decide on which classes to take and from which professors. Always try to get input from more than one source.
  • Never miss class--even when your friends do it. You shouldn't. Make it your policy. Remember that you're paying for this, and it's disrespectful to your professor and fellow classmates to miss class.
  • Within the first two weeks of school, before the semester really takes off, sit down with the syllabi from your classes and schedule every single test and assignment in your digital calendar (preferable Google Calendar). This allows you to see what's coming up in all your classes at the same time, and plan your weeks more effectively. You can also set notifications to remind you when it's due so that you never miss an assignment (e.g., one week - email, one day - email or text, one hour - pop up or text, 10 min - pop up)
Advice and Tips on Studying
  • Study in the library or on campus--avoid your apartment, especially your bed
  • Make study goals when preparing for tests
    • Make goals in terms of hours to study, content to cover, and practice tests / problems to do
    • Make your plan in a spreadsheet and log your time / progress against it, along with places to write down questions you have or things you need to do
  • Study in study groups whenever possible
    • Be selective about who you invite; invite those who will focus and be able to help you
    • Pre-commiting to meet with a group is a good control to help ensure that you will actually study 
  • Study immediately following class (see above)
  • Take brief, intermittent breaks during studying--there are limits on how much your brain can process and retain during a certain period of time. 25 min studying to a 5 min break is a good way to go.
  • Always make use of office hours both with the professors and the TAs. You might not need this if the class is easy, but it's best practice to always go once a week for at least the first month of class. Doing this helps ensure that the TA and the Professor know who you are. This is always a great thing so that if there is ever an issue, you will feel more comfortable asking for help, and your Professor / TA will be better able / willing to help you
  • Your professor is the one who writes tests and gives grades--when preparing for tests, always index your efforts on the material that s/he indicates what he will include in tests (past exams; homework assignments; slides and handouts; textbook)
Advice and Tips on Test Taking
  • Always have food with you during the test
  • Always get a decent bit of sleep the night before
  • Don’t tire your brain by over studying right before the test
  • Eat a meal at least a few hours before the test
  • If you're not sure on an answer, lightly fill in a dot in the bubble indicating your one or two best guesses. Go back through the scantron once you get through the test, and revisit the questions you weren't sure about. Your memory might have jogged by something later in the test.
  • Always double check answers
    • When double checking answers, do not change the answer away from your gut response unless you are able to clearly explain to yourself the reason why you were wrong the first time
    • If possible / relevant, gut check your quantitative answers (does this make sense intuitively)
    • See if it is consistent with other information in the test (this should not be possible, if it were a perfect test, but you're able to do this for a surprising number of tests)
Advice and Tips on Networking
  • Always make at least one new friend in every class so you will have someone to help you if you have to miss class
    • Try and find someone who is a better student than you (or at least has strengths that complement yours)
  • Always sit in the front row of the class and make sure that your teacher knows your name
  • Reach out to and befriend people of different “structural gaps” (i.e., social groups, majors, etc.)
  • Create a discussion group to discuss topics and things of interest with people from other majors
Misc Advice and Tips
  • Develop consistent, formalized organizational processes / routines (e.g., daily planning)
  • Define one of each type of tool in your college student toolbox; i.e.,
    • One calendar
    • One task list
    • One notebook / note taking platform (trust me, go digital whenever possible)
    • One address book