Here are Logan’s tips for university success.
I do have some tips that might help some people just starting out in university. I hope this doesn’t come across as me telling you how to do university because my method is far from perfect, but most of these habits I learned in the latter part of my degree when I should have been refining these strategies and not learning them for the first time. I feel like most of this you have probably heard before, but I have tried to explain them from a student’s perspective rather than a professor’s. Don’t you hate it when your profs are right?
Tips for any time in the term & work ethic
Meet your teachers and ask questions: If you have questions, ask them. If you are shy, go to office hours or realize that it’s not that bad to speak in front of a class. Chances are someone in the class will have the same question as you. Even if you do ask questions, think of more, explore the material. Professors will always be able to give one-on-one insight that they will not have given in class.
Even if you don’t have that much to say, talk to them anyway, show interest in their research — they are your most valuable resource. University is competitive and so is life afterwards. Making those connections is important. I honestly can’t stress this enough: most of the jobs I have ever gotten, all of them until this year, in and out of university, I got just by talking to people. In fact, some of the best outcomes from university have arisen simply by talking with professors and people from whom I can learn. Don’t worry, teachers will respond positively to a personal connection and be reassured that their teaching is really reaching someone.
Pay attention to your lectures: I only started doing this recently to be honest but studying for tests is so much easier if you are not trying to learn the material for the first time strung out on coffee at 4 AM.
Turn off Facebook, take notes by hand if you can. Only use electronics if you really have to; the temptation is just too great. Paying attention also makes you feel better about your learning and enjoy it more so you are not dazed and confused until you start studying. Enjoyment of your classes is actually really important; a positive mindset will really help you.
Treat it like a job: Okay, I have never heard of a job that pays you in student loan debt but hear me out. You are an adult, start treating yourself like one. Professionals work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week or much more in general; that’s the way we are headed if we want to put our degree to use. Putting in 8 hours a day at school will help you, in particular if you are quite ambitious and highly value your education. You can feel proud of yourself and it will reduce your stress so much.
In the past, I would neglect work for a few days then work for 16+ hours a day for a day or two before an exam or a paper was due. That sucks and it’s hard on your mind and body, especially when you realize that you actually don’t have enough waking hours to do your stuff and start cutting into your sleep. I have done way more “all-nighters” than I am willing to admit and I probably will do more, but I know that my work is superior and I feel much better when I give myself enough time to complete a task and I space it out more appropriately. It’s actually harder to be lazy.
Plan your paper: This will help focus your thoughts, channel your research and give you a convenient structure into which you can add rough ideas that you come up with on the fly.
Write rough drafts: Just bang out a paper to start with. I used to craft my sentences one-by-one which would take a long time and I would lose my train of thought. I would end up having to re-read the paper over and over just to continue writing. Spew thoughts on the page and refine it later.
This brings me to editing. Take most of your time editing and adding thoughts to your rough draft. The hardest part is putting down your thoughts. Editing takes longer but usually takes less effort. You will be surprised that usually the first draft isn’t actually that bad.
I would also recommend keeping a document or something on the side to jot down random ideas you think of as you write, rather than disrupting your train of thought and adding them right away. What I also do now is just add in comments (under the review tab in Word) and use the hotkeys for “track changes” (ctrl Shift E) to point out certain parts of the paper with which I have a problem for my future self to deal with. This makes editing a lot easier as well.
Get someone else to read your paper: You are not your own audience. You might think you are a good writer because your writing makes perfect sense to you, but it could be very unclear to someone else. I am not saying to get someone to edit your paper, but it is completely fine to get someone to read your paper and tell you what needs to be clarified.
Pay attention to your grammar, spelling and tone: This kind of sucks. I really thought my English teachers in High School were windbags for stressing this (if you can, go back in time and listen to those teachers again — they were probably annoyingly right) but in reality, it does matter in particular for liberal arts papers.
Start early: Even if you are just skimming the material for 2 hours a few days before starting to study, it gets you thinking about stuff you know and stuff you don’t and makes studying and time management easier later.
Understand: Even for something that is reputed to be a “memorization” discipline, it is impossible to simply memorize the material for each individual point. Everything will be relatable to something else you know. It is so much easier to remember material that makes sense to you, and it gives you the added tool that you can reason out and make predictions/educated guesses when you can’t remember them on a test.
Make a cheat sheet: Some courses allow you to take a sheet into the exam but even then I find you don’t even really need it after spending so much time creating that sheet. The point is that it really helps you remember when you make a cheat sheet.
Do the things you know first: Exams are a mental battle with yourself. It helps to give yourself some confidence and make up some time with easy questions so you are in the right mindset and you have the time to answer those more challenging questions.
STAY: I see so many people leave way earlier than is reasonable and I would say 90% of those people are not the ones who aced the test. If you are a genius, well that’s a different story; throw out everything I have said so far.
For the rest of us, unless you are 100% sure that you can’t improve your answers in any way, why leave an hour or two early? How important is that extra time to you after all this work you have put in? The test is the final push. Those few hours in the test is some of the most valuable time you will have in your degree: use it!
Do things you like and make you feel good about yourself: Hint, Netflix doesn’t count. I am guilty of this. I get immersed in school so much and start hating it because I don’t take the time to do things that matter to me other than school. There is so much to do in Victoria even if you don’t have a vehicle; join clubs and gain some interests that you didn’t have before, there are so many on campus.
In any case I hope you can find something that will help you in here and I hope you can learn from my mistakes,