Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Important Student Success Tips Worldwide

  • Attend New Student Orientation at the beginning of the Fall or Spring Semester.
  • GEN 101S, First Year Experience, provides excellent content and resources to be a successful student. It is likely that this class will be part of your first semester at Edison.
  • Be sure to attend all classes, and be on time.
  • To reduce distractions, sit near the front of the class.
  • Keep a copy of the syllabus for each class so that you will know what is going on, what you should be doing, and how soon you need to get it done.
  • Be a good listener. Focus and concentrate on main points.
  • Take good notes in class, and review your notes within 24 hours. Then, review your notes periodically to help you retain information. Index cards with key information are also a helpful way to review.
  • Study! To be a successful college student, study at least two hours a week for every hour you spend in class. This is a minimum.
  • Determine an ideal study space, and plan study time when you are at your best to retain information.
  • Maintain a student planner to keep track of important dates and projects.
  • Apply additional time management strategies, including planning, setting goals, and prioritizing schoolwork and your additional responsibilities.
  • Avoid marathon study periods. Instead, study for short intervals with a break in between. For example, study for 30 minutes, take a 3-minute break, come back and review, then repeat the process.
  • Get to know other students in your classes for added support and to study together when possible.
  • Participate in class, and ask your instructor questions when needed. Meet with them during office hours for additional support and guidance.
  • See your faculty advisor every semester to register for classes.
  • Make use of the Library and Learning Center for study help and free tutoring services.
  • Being a full-time student is your 40-hour-per-week job, and like many full-time employees, you probably will not finish the job in 40 hours.
  • Be sure to allow time for physical activity as well as class and study time. This will help you to focus on your studies. Locker rooms and a work-out room are available on campus.
  • (TAA only) Plan Ahead! When you have more than a 30 week-day break in classes you will not be paid unemployment.  Be sure to put aside money each week so you have money on the weeks you do not get paid.

Tips on Being a Successful Student

Chances are that if you are reading this, you are already a somewhat successful student. However, the higher up you go in the education hierarchy, the more strategies you will need to stay successful. Consider these tips:
  • Focus. This is the single most important strategy for success in both high school and college (and at work). Focus on what you want, on what you are doing, on where you are at the moment. If you are in college, focus on each and every class and assignment. If you are in Chem I, focus on that class, that assignment, that grade. Don’t let your attention be diluted with outside interests until your schoolwork is completed. You won’t do well in International Politics if you are fighting with your significant other or worrying about what to wear to the football game this weekend!
  • Prioritize. Education is your #1 priority at this time in your life. All decisions must be made around that priority. Sure, it would be fun to spend your time off at the beach, but not if you have to finish a term paper. And it would be fabulous to hang out with your sorority sisters until 4:00 in the morning, but not if you have a final exam on cell mitosis at 9:00 the next day.
  • Sleep. Get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet. This isn’t advice from Granny; it is a practical, stay-healthy-and-you-will-do better-in-school fact. Junk food, binge drinking, doing drugs, and staying up all night do not create a successful scholar. Take care of you. Your success depends on it.
  • Participate. Go to all classes all the time. Skipping class is the best way to fail. Attend every class and be a part of each one. Ask questions, visit your professors during office hours and discuss class material with other students. It’s your education…so be a part of it, and strive to be good at it!

6 Tips for Effective Studying

In order to excel in college, you must first learn how to study properly. Contrary to historical opinion, there are many effective ways to learn information; it is a question of figuring out what works for you. What type of studying best suits you? What time of day are you most efficient? What is the proper environment for you to study in? Before you can answer these questions, you have to do a little research. It takes an effort but the rewards are more than worth it.


When we first learn something, information is processed into the brain to form a neural trace. This trace first enters your sensory memory, and then, if you're paying attention, to your Short Term Memory, or STM. If you keep working to process the information and adapt it correctly it then moves to your Long Term Memory, or LTM. The information processed into your LTM is more or less permanent; with occasional reviewing you will not forget it. The trick is to adapt the information you really need into your LTM as quickly as possible. Your STM has a small capacity and a short duration; you may learn something very quickly, but in 24 hours you will lose 80% of that information. The STM is fast and easily accessed, the LTM is slower but larger.


The key to learning something well is repetition; the more times you go over the material the better chance you have of storing it permanently. Before you begin this process, however, it makes sense that you determine the type of learner you are. There are three basic types of learning: Visual, Auditory and Haptic. Most of us are, in fact, some combination of the three, but chances are one style will suit us more than the other two. Take some time to look over the types and figure out which category best describes your method of learning. Learning Types Visual Learners:

Visual learners study best when the material is graphic, ie. charts, tables, maps, etc. When in class, visual people should look at the professors when they are speaking, participate in class discussions and take detailed notes during lectures. When studying, study alone in a quiet place and try to transcribe your material on paper. When possible make drawings, graphs or tables of complex abstract ideas and work alone. Visual learners often have trouble working while having a dialogue, even if the dialogue directly pertains to the subject matter.

Auditory Learners:

Auditory people work best when they can hear the material. Read aloud, go over your notes and talk to yourself about the important points. Before reading, set a purpose and verbalize it, after you've finished be sure to summarize out loud what you just read. Speak your ideas into a tape machine as if you were having a conversation with someone, if you can, talk to your friends about the material. Because Auditory learners sometimes have trouble keeping columns aligned, try doing math computations by hand, on graph paper.

Haptic Learners:

Haptic learners are the most maligned division; they are the people that can't sit still. Haptics have to pace around the room, they must have music or a television playing in the background and are almost constantly finding themselves distracted. Despite what parents and teachers have been saying to the contrary, Haptic learning is just as effective as the other two, more traditional, types. Instead of fighting against your nature, adapt to it and find a method that really works. Make studying more physical; work at a standing desk, pace around the room, do reading while on an exercise bike, chew gum. Try to use color when you can; highlight your readings, read with a filtered light, put posters and bright colors around your desk. Haptic people should vary their activities, if you feel frustrated or 'clogged up' do something different for a few minutes. Try and keep a list of distractions as they come to you; once you write them down, they won't bother your concentration as much. If you want to, play music in the background at whatever volume you choose to. When reading, try skimming over the chapter to get a solid basic meaning before you really dig in. Try to visualize complex projects from start to finish before you begin them. Visualization is a useful tool for Haptic people, it helps you keep a positive, productive outlook on the task at hand.


The SQ3R method is the reading and studying system preferred by many educators. Reading research indicates that it is an extremely effective method for both comprehension and memory retention. It's effective because it is a system of active reader involvement.

Step 1. "S"= Survey Before you actually read a chapter, or go over a particular section of notes, take five minutes to survey the material. Briefly check headings and subheadings in order to understand the author's organizational pattern of ideas to be discussed. Scan all visual material. Read introductory and summary paragraphs. This preview will enable you to anticipate what the chapter is about.

Step 2. "Q"= Question Create interest in the material by asking: What are the main points of the chapter? As you read, keep the question in mind and figure out the most important points. It gives you a clearly defined purpose for reading, and helps you maintain interest in the material.

Step 3. "R"= Read Read the chapter actively for meaning. Go through the paragraph before underlining, then underline key words and phrases to help you recall the main points. Be selective, you don't want to highlight non-important points or miss anything that can help your comprehension. Summarize main concepts in your own words in the margins. The more active you are in the reading process, the more you will retain.

Step 4. "R"= Recite After every few pages, close your book and recite aloud the main points to the questions you posed in step 2. Try to recall basic details as to the author's intent by putting them in your own words. Verify your answer by checking the text. If you can't remember the text, read through it again. If you don't get it now, you won't remember it for a test. Take as much time as you need to answer your questions. Don't be frustrated, this takes more time but the information will be clearer in your mind.

Step 5. "R"= Review Finally, review the chapter every so often to fix the material in your mind. Keep rereading your margin notes and underlinings. Verbalize the sequence of main ideas and supporting facts to aid retention. Numerous reviews are a lot more effective than one cramming session the night before an exam. Review once right after you've finished reading and then every couple of days. The SQ3R is time consuming at first, expect it to take ten to fifteen percent longer to read a given chapter when you first begin. Research indicates a 70%% increase in retention after two months of using the system and, eventually, a reduction in time spent preparing for exams.

Note Taking Techniques

The most comprehensive note taking systems require attention on your part. You must be alert enough in class to take legible, meaningful notes. You can't rely on "writing everything down" because a lot of information in a given lecture won't help you actually learn the material. If you have problems determining the specific relevant points in a particular class, you can always ask the professor to clarify them for you. The 2-6 Method The 2-6 refers to the way you divide the space on your notepaper. Make two columns, using the red line on the left of the page as your border. Then, when you take notes in class, use the 6 column for the notes and the smaller 2 column on the left as a highlighting system. Write main headings and important points on the left, including material you think you will be tested on. When you're finished, you should have a comprehensive page of information that you can quickly scan for important points. Finally If you have any questions or need more help, stop by and talk to one of our counselors. Studying is 99%% perspiration; if you give it a real, concentrated effort over the course of a semester you will see an improvement. Your academic success is entirely up to you.

3 tips for graduate students

I. Things to do early

  • You need to find a topic. Decide what general area of your discipline or subject-area interests you the most, then jot down some ideas about possible specific topics. You can talk to your fellow students and bounce ideas off them and also talk to your possible supervisor, or any staff member who will agree. If you have a strong interest or hobby in your non-academic life, at least consider if you can get a topic that relates in someway, however obscure. This can give you a stronger motivation, while your experience in the area can help you develop ideas and avoid making silly mistakes.
  • You will probably have coursework to do as part of your Ph.D. program; in the USA this is a normal part of the process. Some topics will be required, others might well be optional. For the optional ones, your general area of interest, and any inklings you might have of a specific topic, determine what particular courses will be the most useful to you.
  • In some countries, notably the United Kingdom, there may be no requirement to undertake courses, but your advisor (USA) or supervisor (UK, Australia, and other countries) is likely to suggest some courses that would be useful. Take the person's advice. If they do not volunteer such information, ask them what courses they would recommend. You might write them a short note in advance of a meeting, to allow them time to think about the alternatives and consider which courses might be most useful in your particular case. Your particular academic background and area of research will be important factors in their decision.
  • You will probably need to find a supervisor unless you came to the university by arrangement with someone to supervise you. You can ask:
    • Any of the staff members you know, as to who might be suitable.
    • The staff in the departmental office, about who is an expert in what area/discipline
    • Your ex-personal tutor, if you had one as an undergraduate, about whom s/he can recommend.
  • When you find someone who says that they might be prepared to supervise you, arrange to see them to discuss possibilities. Take any notes you have made about the areas that interest you and possible topics with you.
  • At some universities, your advisor will be allocated to you. In my view this is undesirable, but if your university is like this, there is little you can do.
  • In the USA, most universities have a dissertation committee. This can help you to formulate your topic and the exact questions you will be tackling. If you have the option to select your committee (rather than having one allocated to you), ask around about people. Other postgraduates who are further down the track than you may be able to advise you about the staff. If you can, go for people with experience, as well as in your area of interest. Personal chemistry can come into it; if you detest your advisor, it clearly will not help you to do well.
  • You will normally have to prepare a formal research proposal in order to get accepted into the graduate school and then be allowed to proceed to do the research. This should be carefully written and laid out in order to impress. Sloppy writing, poor grammar, misspellings, and vague waffle will damage your cause and could easily result in rejection.
  • You might divide it into clear sections, in a logical way. Perhaps something like:
    • A statement of the area of research and why you are interested in it
    • Why this is an important topic to be researched; what contribution to knowledge it will make
    • A listing of several questions that you would like to answer
    • Possibly one or more hypotheses that you wish to test
    • A brief review of what other work has already been published in this area
    • The sort of methodology you think might be appropriate
  • There are no rules about the length, but a dozen pages or so would not be too many, but it rather depends on your topic and how you lay out your proposal. Fifty pages on the other hand would definitely be too long!
  • Do not be dogmatic or assertive at this stage of your proposal; you do not wish to alienate someone with power who might hold a strong but opposite view to yours!
  • It is normal to start your research with a fairly wide coverage of interest and narrow it down as time passes and your research progresses. In some universities this is accepted as normal and approved virtually automatically. In others, you may have to go through a formal process of changing your dissertation title. 
II. Things you find useful

  • A small notebook to carry at all times and note down any sudden ideas you get about your research topic, possible questions, possible sources, anything at all…! Ideas can come when you least expect them. Make sure you have pen and paper by your bed, as you might wake up with a brilliant thought. Always write any ideas down at once: that way you can relax and get back to sleep if it happens to be 3 in the morning.
  • You must have access to a computer - preferably your own - with a word processing program. You will need a printer too, but your university probably has a computer room that allows you to print up stuff. Notebook computers are convenient and fun, but expensive for what they are. They are also more likely to be stolen, or else bumped and banged into oblivion, when compared with a desktop model. Unless you are wealthy, or have generous wealthy parents, a sturdy desk model is best.
  • Your own computer is really useful: you do not have to wait for set times when you are allowed to use a computer room, or hang about in the room waiting for someone to get up and leave. Nor will you have to stop suddenly and leave if the room has been booked for a classroom teaching session. And you can work at 11 at night on your own computer, should you wish, whereas the university ones may be closed.
  • You do not need the latest, fastest, greatest computer that just became available yesterday. Anything that will run your basic software will do. If you know someone who insists on upgrading and replacing all the time, that person can be a great source of a cheap computer. Buying anything secondhand can be tricky, but if you know the person is a genuine geek, and they will demonstrate it for you, then you can save an awful lot over buying new. The price of used computers tend to drop like a stone, as technology advances so quickly.
  • You will probably find access to the internet essential. There is much information out there. But Murphy's Law insists that you have to do a lot of searching among mountains of dross to find a valuable nugget. The internet can easily start to use up a lot of your valuable time. You can collaborate with others working in your area by email, as well as search for materials of value.
  • You will need pens, pencils, liquid paper, a ruler, a small notebook and a larger notepad, unless you write directly onto a computer.
  • Get hold of a copy of the rules and regulations that apply to your research, and notice things such as what length of thesis is specified, how many years you have, and what sort of layout is expected. I know they are boring, but you will have to follow those rules eventually.
  • Early on, it is a good idea to chose a Working Title and then draft out a Contents Page for your thesis. Don't worry about sticking to it - you will find it alters as your research proceeds but you need an outline to try to work to. Otherwise you can waste months, even years, reading too widely and without discipline or direction. I know - I did this, under a poor supervisor, when I started!
  • Have a look at a few theses in your university library and see how they are laid out and organised. When you have read the summary and contents pages of four or five theses you will probably start to observe there is something of a standard pattern. Universities and disciplines vary, but generally you might expect to find somewhere between 5 and 9 chapters is normal, with perhaps 6-7 being typical.
  • Check your library's holdings of Ph.D. and MA theses that might be relevant to your topic and glance over them to see if they contain information that you can use. You might get some ideas about organization from them too.
  • Make a list of all the journals that may contain articles that will be relevant to your needs. A computer search is a good idea, but first talk to the library staff and pick their brains about how best to search, where to search, and which search engines or journals in your particular library will allow you free access and free printing up of relevant articles.
  • Many university libraries have CD Roms of reference material. Again talk to the librarians and see what they have that you can use.
  • Do a literature search for all articles and books that refer to your topic. Usually, the books you find will cover more general issues, but the articles will be more specifically devoted to a smaller and more specific part of what you seek.
  • You also need to consider methodology, which means how you intend to tackle the issue and what approach you will adopt. If you have no training in this, read a book about scientific method; notice that we try to refute not confirm ideas, and consider for yourself what constitutes a valid test, and what kind of statistical tests may be available for your discipline and the particular topic you are researching. 
III. Things you should know

  • Research into anything is like putting out to sea without a chart or compass, and only a vague idea of where you wish to go. This means that what you initially selected as an area of interest or topic to examine may start to appear less interesting or relevant and your topic may start to change. Even data availability, or lack thereof, can alter your direction of research. This is normal and should not be a cause for worry. If the change seems to be major, you should discuss it with your advisor before making radical changes of direction. There are bits of paper on file that specify what you are doing and if you do something else, problems may arise, especially for you!
  • Your aim is not to write the world's greatest thesis on your chosen topic, but to prepare one that is good enough to pass and which does not offer any loose ends that examiners can seize on to fail you, or refer it for rewriting and resubmission. The world's greatest doctoral thesis in your area might take you ten years, but one decent enough to allow you to pass might take only three years. After getting your doctorate, you can always use the seven years that you have saved to develop the thesis into a great book. In the meantime you are "Doctor X", and are qualified to get better jobs and start to earn real money!
  • Many grad students find loneliness a problem. The undergraduates have heaps of friends from the courses they are taking, but research can be a solitary pursuit. There may be few other graduate students around working on things that interest you. In a small university there may be few postgrads of any description. In addition, many universities have structures in place that take care of undergrads and other structures to take care of staff, but have relatively little organized ways of looking after the interests of postgraduates. Sadly, they often fall in between.

If you feel lonely, do not get depressed. Get out and try to make friends, and maybe join a society or two. Join the post graduate society if there is one. If there isn't, perhaps you could consider setting one up to look after the interests of these important but often overlooked members of the university. There may be sports clubs and the like where you can at least find a human being to talk to, after spending hours cooped up in a lab or hunched over a computer. You might well need to seek out human contact.
  • Liaise closely with your advisor. Different advisors have different preferences. Taking my own experience as an example, as a rule of thumb, you can expect to see him or her perhaps once or twice a month in your early days and also towards the end when you are writing up. In the middle period, when you are engaged in gathering data and materials, you may find that you barely need to see your advisor at all.
  • If you are working away from your own university, perhaps in order to gather data, a letter or lengthy Email message from you every month is a good idea: you keep in touch, and s/he remembers you (faculty staff have plenty to do and often several graduate students to supervise - it is easy for them to overlook you should you go off for a year!)
  • Your relationship with your advisor is important. Mostly it works out fine, but if you find that can never get to see your advisor, or s/he is persistently unhelpful, you might have to consider finding a different one. This is not something to undertake lightly, as it can be difficult finding someone else suitable to take you on. An additional issue is that your name might become known and you develop a reputation as a troublesome person. If this happens, it may become hard to find anyone willing to take you on. However, if things really are not working out between the pair of you, then at least try talking to another staff member and investigate the possibility of a switch.
  • Joint supervision, where you have two or more supervisors, can involve specific difficulties. If they are in totally separate disciplines, then you may have few if any problems, e.g., I once happily supervised the economics side of an energy dissertation along with a scientist who did the physics side and we got along famously with the student and each other. If, however, you have two political scientists you will probably find they have three opinions and if they disagree with one another about what you should be doing, or how you should be tackling an issue, then you will be in a no-win situation. Whatever you do will displease one of them.

I knew a student like this in England who was eventually institutionalized for mental problems, which I personally believe had been intensified by the conflicting advice of two supervisors. There was no way he could satisfy both, and I still recall his depression after he had spent several weeks following a certain path that supervisor A suggested, only to be told by supervisor B that it was a total waste of time even to think about that avenue. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I suggest you go and talk to someone in power, like the head of department or dean of faculty, and seek their advice on changing one of your supervisors. Prepare your case carefully, for s/he will not automatically enjoy hearing two members of their staff being criticized. Be cautious also in the way you present your criticisms - make them, but do it as nicely as you can.
  • When you are searching journals or newspapers, say 1990-99, you should start with the latest year and read that; then work backwards to 1998 and read through it. Never start with the earliest year and work forward, as this will waste a lot of your valuable time. It can cause you follow too many threads that lead nowhere; you can spend too much time on details that later turn out not to be needed; and a later article may render out of date an earlier one. It is sensible within a year to work forwards, as the mind seems to prefer this.
  • Start to write really early! Writing improves with practice, so the earlier you start, the better you will get. More importantly, after you have accumulated information on one section of a chapter, it helps to write up what you think the information means, including its significance, its weaknesses, questions it raises but does not answer, and implications for other ideas or theories. Later, when you come to start writing your draft chapters, it will help you a lot if you have earlier written something about the material you have gathered. It is a bad thing to keep reading, taking notes and accumulating more and more facts and details, then filing them away. Several drawers of a filing cabinet full of undigested notes are very off-putting!!
  • Your career as a graduate student tends to fall into three sections.
    • The first section is the beginning, when you find a working title and supervisor, get an idea of what you will be looking for, how you will tackle the subject, do your literature survey and decide on the methodology you will adopt. It varies, but for Ph.D. a minimum of two and a maximum of six months should suffice for section one. The MA degree will usually require less time.
    • Section two is when you go and find the information and data you need. This might involve using the library and Internet, running experiments in your university laboratory, or perhaps doing something like going to live in a new area or abroad to study the local flora and fauna. For a Ph.D., this whole section might take a year or more.
    • Section three is when you analyse the data and write up. I suggest above that you analyse and start writing as your data comes in (i.e. in section two) and not wait until you have a mountain of stuff on paper or in computer files. In section three, you write a draft of each chapter and submit it to your supervisor for comments and approval. It is usually best to do this chapter at a time unless your supervisor asks for something different. Section three will take longer than you expect! Some Ph.D. students think it will be a six month job, but my experience indicates a year or more is common. If you have six chapters to write and must prepare a draft of each, then a final version, and if you take only a month a chapter, you need a year. And for many students, a month is not long for a draft chapter. MA these might be written up in six months.
  • What might your chapter organization look like? Theses vary in the way the chapters are laid out. Much depends on your discipline, actual topic, and approach selected, but in some disciplines a sensible chapter layout might look like this:
    • Chapter 1: Introduction, justification for the title and thesis, why the subject is important, how little is known about it and so on.
    • Chapter 2: Methodology and literature search results.
    • Chapters 3 -5 or more: "the meat" part - what you have discovered. This must be presented in fashion which is logical for your discipline and thesis title. For example, in a history thesis it might be Chapter 3, The arguments for and against the issue; Chapter 4, The early years and policy introductions; Chapter 5, the later years and policy changes in response to experience and any emerging problems, followed by the results. Your knowledge of your discipline, and the example of other theses already written about similar topics, should help you.
    • Chapter 6: Conclusions and recommendations. This is usually a relatively short chapter, that sums up your findings.
  • It is a good idea to try to keep the length of your chapters roughly similar. If you find chapter 5 is three times the length of any other chapter, then it cries out to be split up into two or maybe three chapters, rather than left as one. Naturally, your introductory chapter is often shorter than the others, and the literature/methodology chapter might also be a little shorter, but this is by no means always the case.
  • Write your chapters in a sensible order, which is not necessarily 1, 2,….7. For many students the best chapter to start with is the first "meat" one, followed by the other "meat" ones in sensible order, then the literature search/methodology one, and finally the first and last chapters. Generally it pays to write the draft first chapter and final chapter last, to ensure that they do not contradict, and you clearly demonstrate that you have done what you set out to do. Whatever you feel comfortable with is probably good for you. Just remember that you do not have to write the chapters in the order of the final thesis.
  • Many advisors prefer to see your draft chapters one at a time, then hand them back with comments. You then rewrite the chapter. After that you put in another draft chapter and the process continues. In this case, your advisor may wish to see all the final drafts together, i.e. your thesis as a whole for a last look over.
  • Other advisors may prefer to see your thesis as a complete draft, and hand it back with comments for you to write the final version. You are better off following the preferences of your advisor. You do not wish to annoy him or her, you have to work together, and at the end you may need a reference from the person.
  • As a graduate student, you will almost certainly have more free time at your disposal than you will ever have in the rest of your working life. Try to use this time sensibly, profitably, and enjoyably! And good luck with that research!

Tips for Learning Outside the Classroom

Attending a university in the heart of Atlanta has many benefits if you have the right resources. The Atlanta/Campus community provides a wealth of opportunities from internships, job opportunities, to professionals in your related field of study.
In this video, students discuss the benefits of learning in such a unique environment as downtown Atlanta, and talk about some of the ways their classes and professors and they personally have taken advantage of the learning opportunities Atlanta provides.
The following material has been excerpted and edited from Cuseo, J. B, Fecas, V. S., & Thompson, A. (2007). Thriving in College & Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic Success and Personal Development. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.
Studies consistently show that students who become socially integrated or “connected” with other people in the college community are more likely to remain in college and complete their degree. Below is a list of “top ten” tips for making important interpersonal connections in college. We encourage you to start making these connections right now, so that you can begin constructing a base of social support that can strengthen your performance during your first term and serve as a solid foundation for your future success in college.
  1. Connect with a favorite peer or student development professional that you may have met during orientation.
  2. Connect with peers who live in your student residence or who commute to school from the same community in which you live. If your schedules are similar, consider carpooling together.
  3. Join a college club, student organization, campus committee, intramural team, or volunteer-service group whose activities match your personal or career interests.
  4. Connect with a peer leader who has been trained to assist new students (e.g., peer tutor, peer mentor, or peer counselor), or with a trusted peer who has more college experience than you (e.g., sophomore, junior, or senior).
  5. Look for and connect with a motivated classmate in each of your classes and try working together as a team to take notes, complete reading assignments, and study for exams. (Look especially to team-up with any peer who may be in more than one class with you.)
  6. Connect with your favorite faculty in fields that you may be interested in majoring by visiting them during office hours, conversing briefly with them after class, or communicating with them via e-mail.
  7. Connect with an academic support professional in your college’s learning resource centers to receive personalized academic assistance or tutoring for any course in which you want to improve your performance.
  8. Connect with an academic adviser to discuss and develop your future educational plans. Find your adviser.
  9. Connect with a college librarian to get early assistance and a head start on any major research project(s) that you have been assigned.
  10. Connect with a personal counselor at your college to discuss any difficult college-adjustment or personal-life issues that you may be experiencing.

Tips for How to Be a Good Student

The typical college campus is a friendly place; but it is also a competitive environment. The education you receive there, and the attitudes you develop, will guide you for the rest of your life. Your grades will be especially important in landing your first job, or when applying to graduate school. To be a successful student requires certain skills; but, these are skills that can be learned.
The Basics of Being a Good Student
  • Prioritize your life: Doing well in school should be your top priority.
  • Study: There is no substitute.
  • Always attend class.
  • Do all of the homework and assigned reading.
  • Develop self-discipline.
  • Manage your time.
Self-Discipline Made Easy
Human beings are creatures of habit. Therefore, form a habit of doing what you reason you should do. Is it not foolish for your behavior to contradict your own reasoning? And what could be more harmonious than finding yourself wanting to do what you know you should?
Train yourself so there is an immediate reaction-mechanism within you:
You reason that you should do something, and thus you do it.
Other people who seem to have less difficulty with self-discipline probably have simply had more practice at it, thereby making it less difficult; because, practice is what it takes.
Time Management
No matter how you slice it, there are only 24 hours in a day. Good time-management requires:
  1. Note taking on more than you can handle.
  2. Reasonably estimating the time required to perform each of the tasks at hand.
  3. Actually doing what needs to be done.
Only you can do these things. A couple of thoughts, though, that may help spur you on:
  • A minute now is as precious as a minute later. You can't put time back on the clock.
  • If you're not ahead of schedule, then you're behind schedule. Because, if you try to remain right on schedule, then any mishap or misjudgment will cause you to fall behind---perhaps right at the deadline, when no recovery is possible.

  • Understand, and be honest with, yourself. All else follows from this.
  • Be both athlete and coach: Keep one eye on what you are doing, and one eye on yourself.
  • Take command of, and responsibility for, yourself.
  • Face your insecurities head-on. Some common signs of insecurity: Asking a question to which you already know the answer; being artificially social with instructors or other students, when the real reason is to temporarily kill the pain.
  • Form a positive self-image: Those students who are first entering college will probably have doubts about how well they will do. Try to do well immediately to instill an expectation of continuing to do well. Settle for nothing less. Nevertheless, try not be restricted by your past performance and experiences, good or bad. Learn from the past, but don't be bound by it. Seek out your weaknesses and attack them. Be realistic about your limitations; but, don't let this lead to becoming satisfied with them.
Taking a Course
Each student's attitude is some mixture of the following:
  • He/She wants to learn the material.
  • He/She wants to get a good grade.
  • He/She doesn't care.
Each instructor's attitude is some mixture of the following:
  • He/She wants students to learn the material.
  • He/She wants grading to be fair and reflect students' knowledge and abilities.
  • He/She doesn't care.
In order to do well in a course, it is up to you (the student) to do two things:
  1. Learn the material.
  2. Learn the instructor.
As for the latter, pay attention in class to the instructor's patterns, to what he/she emphasizes, etc. Gather information about the instructor from other students. A good instructor, however, will present their course in such a way that it will be of little benefit for the student to try to learn him/her, thereby forcing their students to learn the material.

  • Keep in mind that your work is being graded by a human being. Thus:
    • Write legibly, orderly, and coherently.
    • Supply any commentary necessary to make it clear what you are attempting to do.
    Making the grader's job easier will more likely lead to you getting the benefit of doubt when it occurs.
  • Don't think that getting the right answer to a homework problem implies that you have mastered the corresponding material. All you have done is solve one particular problem; that does not mean you have necessarily learned how to solve all such problems (such as the ones to appear on your exams). It's up to you to view the homework problems from this wider perspective.
  • If available, always go over the solutions provided by the instructor, even if you did well on the assignment. He/She may demonstrate methods (perhaps more efficient) or provide useful information that you hadn't thought of.

  • Preparation:
    • Roughly prioritize material as to its importance (primary, secondary, tertiary), and concentrate your studying on the most significant topics. Remember, the instructor only has a limited amount of time to test what you know and can do. Thus, keep in mind when preparing for an exam that the problems cannot be too complicated if they are to fit within the allotted time.
    • Study in ways that are suited to you.
      • Study with a group or alone based upon which is really best for you.
      • Do your most strenuous and important work during those times of the day that you work best.
    • Summarize or outline the course or text material in your own words. Writing a summary not only forces you to examine the subject matter in detail, but provides a compendium to review just prior to the exam.
    • Play it safe: Memorize somewhat more than what the instructor says is required. Bring a calculator even if it's not suggested. Etc.
    • Study old exams if the instructor is known to give similar exams. But, don't be fooled into thinking that since you were able to work through an old exam, it means you understand all the course material in general, and can perform in a test situation.
    • Bring your own paper and a watch.
    • Fighting exam anxiety: Convince yourself that all you can do is all you can do; but, don't let that lead you to become complacent. Just be determined to be "on" for the duration of the exam. (Give yourself a pep-talk to this effect prior to each exam.)
  • Starting the exam:
    • Read the instructions thoroughly and carefully.
    • Skim over the entire exam prior to beginning work.
    • Don't necessarily do the problems in order. Instead, get those problems out of the way you feel confident you can do quickly and well. Observe how the problems are weighted, and direct your efforts to where you believe you can pick up points most easily. This does not necessarily mean attempting the most heavily weighted problem first; rather, it means first doing the problem for which you can accumulate points at the fastest rate. Indeed, there is a good chance that this is not the most heavily weighted problem, since many instructors dislike giving any one problem significantly greater or fewer points than the average, thereby underweighting the harder problems and overweighting the easier ones.
    • Before writing on any given problem, think. A small investment in time at the beginning can save time overall (for you might thereby choose a more efficient method of solving the problem).
    • Do precisely what is requested. In particular, don't waste time doing things that will not receive credit. For example, unless explicitly required, do not rewrite the exam problems on your paper.
  • Pace yourself through the exam. Example: On a 50-minute exam worth a 100 points, you should be accumulating 2 points per minute; thus, a 26-point problem should be completed in 13 minutes. Do this calculation at the start of the exam if the problem weights are given.
  • If only for psychological reasons, most graders use nonlinear grading by which the early points of a problem are easier to get:
    Therefore, always write something (meaningful) down for every problem, if only a little. At the other end, even with linear grading, there are diminishing returns in terms of points-per-effort in trying to squeeze every last point out of a given problem; if time is low, it may be better to move on.
  • Communicate with the grader. In particular, if you are running out of time, state the steps you would perform if you were to continue the problem.
  • Show your work and make clear your reasoning in order to have a chance to receive partial credit.
  • As with homework, and even more importantly, neatness counts.
  • In courses on subjective material (e.g., humanities), just regurgitate the material from class and the text(s). Supplying you own opinions may sound good in theory, but it has the risk of running counter to the opinions of the instructor or grader. Conversely, restatements of the class/text material are easy for the grader to recognize as something deserving credit. Remember: Unless the exam is multiple-choice, then a human being---who typically wants to grade the many exams in front of him/her as quickly and painlessly as possible---is doing the grading.
  • Always check over your answers if you have time.
Further Suggestions

  • Unify and simplify your knowledge: A textbook presents the subject in a particular form, as does an instructor. By their very natures, however, textbooks and lectures tend to present subjects sequentially. Take the extra step of understanding the material in your terms, which may involve recognizing relationships that could not be conveniently expressed in the order presented in the text(s) and lectures.
  • Remember, almost every logically consistent topic is simple at its foundation. Try to recognize the simple underlying relationships in the subject at hand; these are often left unstated by instructors and textbooks.
  • Try to learn general principles and methods. Learning by examples (putting the new in terms of the familiar) can only take you so far.
  • Learn as many methods of problem-solving as you can. This is especially helpful for exams, when time is of the essence.
  • Ask yourself questions. Why didn't the instructor or text(s) do this or that? Explore your own ideas. Try to understand the course material in detail.
  • It is often said that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Do you know the subject matter well enough to explain it clearly and completely to someone else?
  • Learn by observing others. Notice what works for them and consider incorporating those methods into yourself. Ask yourself "Why didn't I think of that?", and try to develop the related ability.
  • Attempt to be methodical, neat, legible, deliberate, precise, knowledgeable, and reliable on the one hand, and creative, spontaneous, imaginative, smart, clever, articulate, and flexible on the other. The first mentality thrives on order, and inherently tries to do well what it already knows how to do; the second mentality thrives on disorder, and inherently tries to expand upon its abilities. Adopt the best of these two mentalities. Remember, every tool is a potential crutch. The first mentality may rely too heavily on already-mastered skills; but, the second mentality may fail to carefully apply those same skills.
  • Think about and question everything, even the statements appearing here (and, yourself!). But, realize that it is equally foolish to be different merely for the sake of being different, as it is to mindlessly conform to the norm.
  • For maximum efficiency, have several projects going at once. Then, if you get tired, frustrated, or bored working on one item, you can easily move onto something else, thereby staying productive as well as giving pending problems a chance to work themselves out subconsciously.
  • Anticipate. For example, you may need to ask the instructor about the present assignment, but he/she is only guaranteed to be available at certain times; therefore, you should look over the assignment early.
  • Forget pulling "all-nighters". These merely amount to borrowing from tomorrow, at which time you will find yourself considerably less functional. All-nighters are really an indication of not having properly planned your activities.
  • If possible, bring your textbook(s) to class.
  • Take your lecture notes in pencil, since any modifications can then be made quickly and neatly.
Overall, there is one basic trait that distinguishes successful students from those that are not:
Successful students force themselves to understand.
They do not merely go through the motions of attending class, reading the text(s), and doing the homework, expecting these actions to necessarily suffice. Rather, they are continually asking, "Do I really understand what's going on here?" They ask this question of themselves honestly, applying an internal barometer formed from experience to detect the slightest lack of understanding, be it ignorance or confusion. And, if the answer is "No", then the situation is viewed as unacceptable, and more effort is the response.

Best Student Success Tips

Work to Your Strengths
Research has shown that people who use their natural talents and gifts are happier and more successful than people who are trying to overcome a weakness. For example, if you are a math wizard, but hate writing essays, a career in journalism might be a stretch for your skill set. It sounds like a no-brainier, but you’d be surprised how often students let other people in their life (parents, spouses, friends, family members) unduly influence their career choice. Remember, it’s your life and you’ll be the one living with the positive and negative consequences of your decision. Haven’t identified your strengths yet? Visit the career center at your college for a variety of services at no charge. In addition, visit DCCCD’s Student Success Tools page at
Develop a Strong Work Ethic
Pursuing a degree is work that will pay off for years to come, but, make no mistake, it is work. There will be times when you want to put off an assignment, intentionally turn in less than your best work or maybe even drop out. Make a commitment to yourself to work hard, do your best work and finish what you’ve started.
Successful students persevere – especially when they feel like quitting. Everyone has those feelings at one time or another. But successful students find the help they need to get through tough times. You may need to get extra help from your professor or a tutor, or you may need to ask a friend or colleague to be your cheerleader throughout your journey to success. Do what it takes to get the job done.
Plan Ahead
Don’t wait until the last minute to do things (for example, apply for admissions and/or financial aid, register for classes, complete your assignments or head out to class). By starting tasks early, you will ensure that you have time to take care of any unforeseen obstacles that might cause delays. If you know that it takes 15 minutes to get to class in good traffic, give yourself an extra 15 minutes in case there is a traffic jam. If you have a major project that counts for two test grades, don’t wait until the night before it is due to start. You might have problems finding the information you need; your computer might break or your printer might run out of ink.
Make Connections
According to the 2009 Community College Survey of Student Engagement, students who have personal relationships with other students, college faculty and employees are more likely to succeed and accomplish their educational goals. Why? As mentioned above, there will be times in your college career (and your life) when you feel like giving up. When you do, it helps tremendously to have others around you who care enough to encourage you to persevere and who can offer strategies and alternatives that you may not have known or considered before.
Visit the following sections on to help you make connections with others in DCCCD:
Clubs and Organizations
Learning Communities
Study Groups
Service Learning
Take Care of Your Body, Mind and Spirit
Successful students know that their body, mind and spirit are interconnected. You won’t do your best work in college if you have physical, mental or emotional challenges. How do you take care of yourself?
Eat healthy foods
Get at least eight hours of sleep each night
Avoid self-medicating with alcohol and/or illegal drugs
Maintain healthy relationships and personal support systems
Be as kind to yourself as you are to your friends