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Success in College

There are several keys to success in college. This document gives you some hints on how to succeed in college.

Time

Time is the critical element in success in college. If you use your time well, you will do better in classes. Taking college courses involves a great deal of time. The rule of thumb is that for every hour in class, it requires 2-3 hours outside of class per week. This time (6-9 hours per week plus 3 hours in class) does not include extra time for studying for tests or long-term projects. Some students may be able to succeed with less time but most students need this amount of time in order to do well and learn the material.

To manage your time, there are several things you can do. First, make a plan. In other words, map out your time. Create a schedule for each day. Sometimes it is helpful to monitor your time for a few days to see where you spend your time. Most of us have much more time than we think. We often waste time. When you create a schedule, make sure to leave yourself some relaxation time. However, when we are in school, we sometimes have to give up some social activities.

Make yourself both a weekly schedule as well as a long-term semester schedule. Your weekly schedule should study time as well as time to work on projects due down the road. Your semester long plan should include time for studying for tests and for working on long-term projects.

Some hints about scheduling:

-eliminate hours that are wasted or dead
-list your priorities and schedule according to those
-avoid too much detail - it's harder to follow a schedule
        that has 10 minute blocks
-know your sleep patterns - don't plan to study at 11 p.m.
        if that is not a good time for you
-plan blocks of time for studying - some studying can be
        done in small chunks (i.e. learning vocabulary word) but
        most requires longer blocks of at least 45 minutes.
-schedule time for sleep. Sleep is crucial if your brain
        cells are to recharge.
-start long-term jobs early. Most people underestimate the
        amount of time required for projects.
-prepare your materials to take advantage of unexpected
    blocks of time. Have notes to review on hand; make
    flashcards of vocabulary words. For some students
    recording the text chapters can be helpful.



Note-Taking

Note-taking is another skill that is crucial for success in college. You should look over the chapter on memory in an Introduction to Psychology text for some hints on studying. Remember that we need to transfer information from short-term memory to long-term memory if we are to retain it permanently.

There are two different types of notes: notes on the text and lecture notes. When you take lecture notes, there are several tactics.
*Sit up front where you can see and hear better.
*Attend all lectures - it keeps continuity.
*Come prepared with enough paper and working pens/pencils.
*Write in short phrases that are understandable to you. You
*Don't have to use complete sentences in your notes.
*Write legibly. If you can't read what you write then the
        notes are worthless.
*Try not to write down everything. Listen for main ideas and
        key points.
*Some key words and phrases to which you should pay
        particular attention include: for example, cause/effect
        words, emphasis words and repeat words.
*Review the previous day's notes and readings before coming
        to class in order to set context.
*Review your notes immediately after the lecture so that you
        can clarify what you meant and make legible anything that
        is unreadable. You can also expand on things that you did
        not have time to write out fully.
*Don't doodle - it's distracting. Pay attention to the lecture.

(While there are no lectures in online courses, you can use some of these hints while reading the chapters)


Notes on the text reading are different since you have more control over the total environment. There are several techniques that will enable you to do a better job of taking notes on the text. To begin with, you should read each chapter 3 time. Before a lecture, you should skim the appropriate chapters. If you have some familiarity with the topic, the lecture will make more sense. If you are taking an online course, skim the chapter the first time. It will familiarize you with both the content and layout and will make the second reading more fruitful. On the second reading, you will take notes and endeavor to fully understand the material. The third reading occurs before the test. On the third reading, you will review the content, especially the main ideas.

First: be cautious about how much you underline or highlight. Most students underline far too much. Highlighting is supposed to be for MAIN IDEAS, not the entire chapter. Before you begin, read the preface which will give you a road map to what the author is trying to do and what techniques the author will be using.

There are many methods for reading textbooks such as the SQ3R (study, question, read, recite, review). Here are my hints for reading a textbook.

Don't try to read and take notes on the entire chapter at one sitting. Most psychology texts have many logical breaks.

Read one section at a time. Then, think about what that section is saying. What questions come to mind? Can you generate potential test questions from the section? How is it related to previous material in the chapter?

Keep a dictionary handy so that you can check words that are not in the glossary.

Continually ask yourself if you understand the material.

Reflect on the material.
After you have read the section and thought about the material, go back and highlight the MAIN POINTS. Next do your notes our outline. You cannot outline effectively as you read the first time because you will not know what the main ideas are.

While this may take more time than your previous methods, it does produce more learning and remembering. It takes advantage of what we know about rehearsal and long-term storage.

Finally, look over the end-of-the-chapter material. Can you define the vocabulary words? Can you answer the questions? Completing the exercises in the Student Study Guide can also help you see where you need more review.


Test-Taking

Tests usually cause great anxiety for most students. There are some techniques for test taking that can help you ease that anxiety. First, realize that any test can only test a subsection of material. The key is to study that subsection of material. You may get hints about what an instructor considers important from study guide questions and from lectures. If you attend lectures, study the material as outlined above and review for the test, you should be in good shape and thus your anxiety should not be over-the-top.

Once you get to the test, there are several techniques to help you do better.

PUT YOUR NAME ON THE TEST.
           
Read over the entire test before beginning. That way you will be able to allocate time for each question. Look at the number of questions and the point values of each. Set times for each section and STICK TO THEM.
            Make sure your answers are legible.
            READ each question before answering.

For each type of question, there are also some guidelines.

True/False:

Watch for qualifiers such as always and none. These questions are usually (but not always false).

Check each part of the question if it has more than one part. If any part is false, the whole question is false.

Watch for negative prefixes and words. (i.e. im, not, ir, non, etc.)

Multiple Choice

Read the directions carefully. They may tell you if there is only one answer or several potential answers.

Read the question first - don't read the answers or distractors. See if you can answer the question before you look at the options.

Read ALL the options for answers.

If you can answer it, try to match your answer to one of the options.

If you don't know the answer, try to eliminate some of the options.

Follow the true/false rules as well.

Silly options are usually wrong.

Pay particular attention to "all of the above" and "none of the above."

Matching

Read the directions carefully. Again, is only one answer correct or can there be more than one answer?

Glance over the items to see how many items there are in each column.

Begin with the first item in the left column. Read all the items in the right column and find the best match for the first item. Fill in the item. If you are allowed, mark off the answer in the right column.

Make sure your answers are legible and distinct.

Essays

Read the directions to ascertain how many questions you are to answer. Look at the point value of the essay.
Pay attention to the required length of the answer.
Read the questions carefully, Answer the question asked.
Use specific examples and supports for your answer.

Pay attention to grammar and spelling, especially words connected to the question and names printed on the test itself.


While the hints will not guarantee you an "A", they will make you a better student and should help you to do better in the course and to learn the material better. Have a good semester.