There is no one particular strategy to do well in a college-level course. In fact, there are hundreds of tips out there for students worried about how they’re going to transition from high school to college. What should you pay attention to? We’ve narrowed it down, and come up with a list of 10 tips for passing college classes that we think are most important to consider.
Take classes you’re interested in.
Sure, there will be a number of classes you’re required to take, but you’ll have some flexibility even among those general education requirements. Do your research to find courses you know you’ll enjoy, or that at least will complement your chosen field of study. It’s much easier to do well in a course that you like than in a course you feel like you were forced to sign up for.
Be on time and pay attention.
Sometimes you can’t help but be a few minutes late to a class, whether you came across some unexpected traffic or set your alarm for p.m. instead of a.m. But you should still do your best arrive to class on time whenever possible. Professors notice students who are consistently late, and not in the good way. Once you’re there, do your best to pay attention, even when you’re operating on a half night’s sleep or have other things on your mind. Those simple efforts matter when you’re on the cusp of a higher mark come grading time.
Your instructor is there to help, so don’t be shy about asking questions in class. Chances are your peers will thank you, as a question you have may have been one they were thinking about as well. If you’re the shy type or have a question specific to your performance in the class, talk to your instructor. At the very least, send them an email. You won’t get the help you need if you don’t seek it out.
Come to class prepared. If there were readings assigned that day, arrive with talking points. The professor should know your name as early on in the course as possible, and you should be taking advantage of his or her office hours, not only to ask questions on material you may not have completely understood in class, but to show the professor that you’re interested in their course and willing to put in that extra effort.
Read the syllabus.
The syllabus for your class may be the most important document you receive from your professor, and it’ll include information like how to reach your instructor and the schedule of the course (when you’re expected to turn things in, prepare for tests, and, perhaps most importantly, when you’re not supposed to come to class). If you ask your instructor a question that could be answered with “It’s on the syllabus,” you may not be making the best impression.
Open those books.
Textbooks are typically overpriced, we know, but with the growing number of ways to find books free through the library or textbook scholarships, or at the very least, at half the price, there is no reason for you to do poorly in a class because you never purchased the required course materials. Once you have them, crack those books open on a regular basis. It’s simple. You won’t feel prepared for classes if you’re not preparing for them.
Establish a study routine, and stick with it.
Each course has a set amount of credit hours attached that you’ll be expected to fulfill in person or online. The general rule of thumb is that for each credit hour, you’re expected to put in two to three hours of independent work, completing assignments, studying, or preparing for the next class. That may seem like a lot, and only you know how much work you need to put in to excel in a course. But you should considering setting aside time each week for each class you’re in and keep to that routine through the course of the semester.
Find a study buddy in each class.
If you miss a class, the easiest way to catch up is to consult with someone who’s also in that class. Your professor or instructor may be too busy to reply to your email about what you missed, and it’ll show initiative if you figure it out on your own and come prepared the next time around. Find a reliable friend in each class you have that you can contact in the case of any missed classes. In fact, it may be wise to find two in each class, just in case that study buddy misses the same class you do.
But if you must, procrastinate the smart way. Know what to prioritize. If you have a huge paper to do that you’ve heard has taken other students weeks to finish, don’t wait until the day before it’s due to start a now impossible task. Try not to cram for tests, either. It’s inevitable that you’ll have some studying to do the night before an exam, but try not to plan to fit a semester’s worth of studying into one night.
Find the note-taking strategy that works for you.
Ask five different college students what the best way to take notes is, and you’ll probably get five different answers. You may already know what works for you, and you’ll carry the strategies you used in high school over to college. Or you may want to experiment with new techniques, like bringing your laptop to class to type up your notes or coming up with an outlining system. When it comes to taking notes, take some time to figure out what works for you and what makes you feel more confident when you’re sitting down to study for tests or complete your assignments.
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