Student Success Strategy #76: Finals!

How do you study for finals?  Consider these four students:

Adam crams the night before a final exam, sometimes using energy drinks or coffee to stay up most of the night.  He hasn’t fallen asleep and missed any finals yet, but that’s one of his worries.  He keeps three alarm clocks set for an hour before the test so he can be sure to get to the classroom in time.

Bailey talks a lot about studying, but by the time the final comes, she reads a few notes and skims through her books, then figures that if she doesn’t know it by then, that nothing will help at that late time.  She goes into the final with an attitude of doing the best she can without good studying, and promising to do better next semester.

Cory sets aside time every day during finals week to focus just on one class.  He knows his friends are out having more fun than he is, but he spends at least three hours the day before his exam to prepare.  He feels good walking into the exam, but has a nagging feeling that he’s missed something important.

Dana spends one hour each week on each of her classes, beyond any assignments, to go over all her notes, improve them when she can, and write a few questions that would seem to be something that could show up on the final.  By the time finals week comes, she reads through her notes, spends about an hour a day on each class until that final is done, adding one extra hour sometimes for an especially stressful class, and thinks she is fairly well prepared.

Who gets the best finals grades?  Who feels the best during the break between semesters?

Which strategy do you use, or do you have something else that works for you?

Student Success Strategy #76:  Think of preparing for final exams as an obligation.  Pay a little at a time through the semester, or pay during finals week.  In either case, you pay.  But what you earn – and learn – from your payment is up to you.

Student Success Strategy #59: Dropping Classes

You may have already missed the deadline for adding a class, or swapping out one class for another, but it is not too late to drop a class you don’t need.   The deadline to drop a class is usually in the middle of the semester, although any refunds of tuition and fees for the class may be prorated beginning after the first week.

Before you drop any class, though, consider all the consequences.

1.  Is it too late to add a class in place of the one you are dropping?

2.  Will your semester hours be too low to maintain full-time status, if your scholarships or other student financial aid programs require you to be a full-time student?

3.  Is the class you are dropping a requirement for graduation?  A requirement for your major?

4.  If the class is a requirement, does it make sense to take it later rather than now?  Will the timing make it difficult to get any specific class sequences scheduled?  Could this result in a delayed graduation?

5.   Will dropping the class give you an opportunity to work during the semester, participate in school activities, or maintain a better grade point average among your difficult classes?

6.  SEE YOUR ADVISOR for answers to the above questions.  SEE YOUR ADVISOR even if you know the answers.  Your advisor can help you plan your future semesters to be more efficient and effective, and may be able to work around a few of the unwanted consequences.

Student Success Strategy #59:  Dropping Classes:  Is it a good move?  A bad move?  See your advisor to make it work for you.   

Student Success Strategy #57: Drop/Swap/Add

Help!  I hate the class I just attended.  I don’t want to take it, but I need something to fill in the hours to keep my scholarship.

Yes, you can drop classes.  If you find you are in a class you either don’t need or don’t want, you can replace it with one that’s better for you – at least in the first few days.  Schools have specific mechanisms for swapping out classes, or dropping and adding classes, but there are hard deadlines on adding to your schedule so you don’t miss too much of the semester.

When you add a class after the first class period, be sure you go to the next class early or plan to stay late to discuss the class syllabus with the professor.  The professor should have a copy for you, and should briefly go over the major points.

This is a wonderful opportunity to let the professor know that you are looking forward to the semester with her, and intend to be a great student.  It’s never too early (or too late) to make a good impression, and staying after class to be sure you have all the information you need gives you the excuse to plan your introduction for creating your recognition from among all the students.

Of course, you can do this even if you started the class on the first day.  Ask to go over the syllabus again after the second class, and have a question or two ready.  This plan gives you the chance to present yourself as a serious student and keeps you in the professor’s thoughts.

Student Success Strategy #57:  Drop/Swap/Add.  Remember that adding classes can only occur in the first few days.  Don’t miss deadlines!

Student Success Strategy #56: New Beginnings of Success

For many colleges and universities, today is the first day of the fall semester.  What does that mean to you?

In college, it often means that you find your classrooms, meet your professors, pick up a copy of the syllabus for each class, and buy your books.  Then you go back to your dorm, or back to your apartment, or back to your home, and do nothing toward your goal of graduation.

This year, make it better.

Read through that syllabus for each class.  Mark all the due dates for assignments and all the quiz and test dates and put them on a single, highly visible calendar.  Immediately you can see whether there are pockets of time where you will need to clear your other activities, and openings where you’ll have some time to relax.

Don’t forget to write in final exam dates and times, as they may be at times different from when you actually attend classes.

Now, mark in other important dates – birthdays you will actually celebrate with an event, weekends away, concerts you’ll attend, homecoming activities, and any other major time commitments or minor but important events.

Are there any conflicts?

Sort out your priorities now, when you are not caught up in the excitement of a friend urging you to ignore your long term goals in favor of an unplanned distraction.

By planning ahead and following through with an organized study plan, you can say “yes” to friends for some of those unplanned events – just not all of them.  And by creating this new beginning for yourself, YOU are in charge of your goals.

Student Success Strategy #56:  New Beginnings.  Take advantage of the beginning of the semester to make it successful.

Student Success Strategy #45: Time Management Part IV: Location Lists

You have three dozen things to do, classes to attend, errands to run, library research to conduct, reading to complete, laundry to wash, and three phone calls to make.

A to-do list is great, but there are ways to organize it that may be more efficient than a simple list.

Index cards or electronic note cards are great for organizing based on location.  What?  How do you organize your tasks, and more important, why?

If you organize by location, and you have some waiting time, you can go to the card that corresponds to where you are to see what can be done.

Stuck on campus with two hours between classes?  Pull out the card that says “campus” and find that you can make your phone calls, visit the library rather than doing everything online, or complete your reading.  Visit a campus office for information, or simply make an appointment with your advisor.

Are you on the way home and your roommate tells  you to stay away for another hour?  Do you have groceries to buy, phone calls to make, or notes to rewrite?

What if you are at home and your next class has been canceled?  Get that laundry done while you make phone calls or rewrite notes.

If you are not always settled into one place, organizing your to-do list by location that tasks may be completed is one way to help use those moments of free time between your scheduled events.

Student Success Strategy #45:  Location lists can be useful for filling in time you “find” during the day.

Student Success Strategy #25: Summer School

What does the summer semester mean for students?

1.  Vacation!  Time to relax and enjoy myself.

2.  Work!  Time to make some money.

3.  Sleep!  I need to make up all those hours I missed throughout the year.

4.  School!  A chance to take a class or two.

Summer school provides a chance to graduate early, and with less debt.   In the present economy, many colleges are increasing tuition every year.  Even one summer might lower overall costs.

Summer school may allow you to ease your schedule through the year and take advantage of other activities on campus.  Think about taking only four instead of five classes in the fall, when so many clubs and events are promoted.  Fewer classes should mean less study time.  What could you get involved with?

Remember that academics are central but not the only learning experience at college.  Consider leadership experiences, volunteering, service, musical or theater performance, or even more hours at a paying job.

Summer school allows you to experience a different atmosphere on campus.  If you begin your college career in the summer, you can learn your way around without fighting traffic, either pedestrian or vehicular.  If finding a parking space is important, the summer allows you to learn your way around before dealing with the crowds.

While some summer schedules are compressed and hectic, and some faculty members are not on campus at all, there are usually the same number of staff members throughout the entire year.  You can meet with your advisor without delay, or talk with financial aid workers at your convenience.

Student Success Strategy #25:  Summer school is an opportunity to get ahead, stay ahead, or participate ahead of the students who wait until fall.

Student Success Strategy #21: Time Management Part III

Reverse scheduling is a time management tool for assignments, tests, and any task that will take more than a few days to complete.

Begin by using a calendar or planner, and putting in the final due date.

Then think very critically about the tasks needed to get the job done.  Put them in order and determine how long each one will take.  Be generous in planning the time.  If you think it will take two days, give yourself three.  Unexpected snags should actually be expected, as ironic as that seems.

Then, beginning from the next to the final task, put the due date for completing that into your calendar.  Back up more and put the third final task in with its due date.  Mark your calendar backwards to show when each part of this project should be completed, and you’ll see exactly how much you need to complete and when.

If you follow this reverse scheduling, you will be able to check off each part of the project as you do it, have enough time to ask for help if you need it, and possibly even finish early!

Student Success Strategy #21:  Reverse scheduling works to keep you on track for your future assignments.