Seven Ways to be a Better Student

I didn’t do so well the first semester of college my freshman year. In high school, I maintained A’s and B’s, and then college gave me my first C. The weird thing is that I knew I was completely capable of making straight A’s, but it’s true what everyone says: College is nothing like high school. Not to discredit the high school education I received because I went to a great high school with great teachers, it’s just that it’s nothing like college. Nothing will ever be like college, and it was especially hard to get used to the newfound freedom. If you’re reading this as an incoming freshman, please take the tips seriously and really consider it the next time your floor mate invites you to a Pretty Little Liars or a Pokemon (Guys still watch that, right?) marathon in their room. If you’re reading this as a returning student or it’s the middle of semester and your grades have gone to hell, don’t fret. When I was whining about my first semester grades to my high school teachers, they told me I was being baby because they “did waaaay worse” their first year of college, and that “C’s get degrees.” 

The struggle
Just thought you'd like to see my first "I'm studying for college finals" selfie.

Most of these tips are common sense, and you’ve probably heard it before, and you’ve probably said, “Okay, time to buckle down. I’m serious, me. I’m gonna go write in my planner things I need to do, and I’m going to go to class, and I’m going to study for my quiz tomorrow,” and the next thing you know you’re watching Season 3 of The Office with your floor mates at 2:14 in the morning, and you’re wondering, “When are Pam and Jim gonna get together??”  Anyway, I started to do things differently my second semester, and low and behold, I had straight A’s that semester.

Know what you have to do

I think this is one of the most important things to do.  Keep a calendar, a planner, a list, or whatever works for you. Take note of the most important projects, essays, assignments. Know exactly what you need to do to get all of the points you can for each assignment. Know what the objectives of the class are. The first semester, I remember I put in all the assignments from the syllabi (Plural for syllabus, sounds weird. I know, I hate it too.)  I received for 3 of my 5 classes in my planner. I didn’t put the other 2 classes because the professors didn’t post the syllabi until after we went to class the first day. I didn’t bother to put in the remaining assignments for the other 2 classes until after I forgot to turn in the first assignment for one of them. It’s also important to bring your planner to class in case your professor/instructor decides to have an extra credit assignment due the next class meeting. This way, you will never forget!

Attend class

Chances are, you will have a class where regular attendance is mandatory. I dreaded going to my Italian drill from Monday to Thursday at 10:10, but I still went because if I decided to sleep in one day, not only did I lose participation points, I was completely lost the next day. It’s common sense, but sometimes it takes you learning the hard way for you to drill it in your head: You. Must. Attend. Class. Not only to learn, but to show your professor you’re trying and that you care about your grade. Also, I missed a day where we formed groups and did a mini presentation the next day, and I was basically Steven Glansberg for half of the class. Just by myself.

The struggle
Someone please understand this Superbad reference.

I had one class where attendance was not necessary, and I’ll be honest and say I didn’t go to many classes. It’s just one of those things where I attended about half of the class sessions and I honestly told myself that I was better off reading the textbook. Looking back though, I should have attended class because if it weren’t for my friends who had the same class and told me about an extra assignment we had assigned, I would have never known.

I know, it’s hard. Bed is too warm. It’s too nice of a day out to go to class. It’s too hot/cold to walk to class. I have something to do. But it’s just a matter of priorities. You go to college for a reason: education.

Group projects

In regards to group projects, more than likely there will be someone who takes charge as leader for the group. In group projects, it’s easy to slack off because there will always be someone who doesn’t want a bad grade and is willing to do all the work, right? Well, you shouldn’t think like that. In fact, you’re cheating yourself out of a bad grade because what happens when everyone in your group is learning while doing this project, and you’re not doing or learning anything? How does that benefit you? Especially if you’re going to be graded individually or have quiz or test on it later? And anyway, if you don’t participate, your group members are just going to see you as a slacker, plain and simple. Moral of this section is: Participate.

Study with others

Rote memorization only does so much. It helps with quizzes and tests, but what about cumulative finals? As a sociology major, I understood the concepts better and easier when I studied with my floor mate. If I understood something and she didn’t, I’d explain it to her. If I didn’t understand, she’d explain it to me. Then you both can explain it to each other. The fact that you can explain a concept or idea to someone in your own words is the best way to learn.

*** If you need help with finite, calc or any other math, and studying with another student doesn’t help, I am honestly sorry for you and I don’t know what else to tell besides to talk to your professor or to look up some math help sessions at the library or some residence hall centers. May God bless you on your journey.

Take advantage of office hours & review sessions

So speaking of professors.. They tend to have office hours somewhere located on their syllabus. This is time where you are welcome to come in with questions, concerns, or just to talk and get to know your professor. This is especially great if you know you’re gonna need a recommendation letter for something sometime. I would say to take advantage of it, because it helps so much. I went into my instructor’s office during his hours to ask about a major assignment we had due. It was extremely helpful as I walked out with my head clear and I knew exactly what I had to do to get a good grade on my assignment. Not only that, but we got to discuss about the career of journalism and the different aspects of it, which had helped me in deciding what I wanted to do as a career. Although it’s a bit intimidating at first, you never know how beneficial it will be to you until you try.

Review sessions also help a bunch. Review sessions usually go over the questions that will be on your test or final and this helps you narrow down what you need to focus and study on.

Be around motivators.

I think the best part about living in the dorms first year is the people you meet on your floor. Although they can be bad influences on you, such as convincing you to watch The Notebook for the 22nd time on ABC Family with them, they can also be the best. You may have a few classes with them, and you can help each other study. They may make you go to the library with them, mostly because they don't want to go by themselves. Either way, you should make friends with those who are academically motivated and soon, you will be too.

The struggle
No seriously Beth, it's time to study.

A little fun thing my floor mates and I did during finals week was get candy, do push-ups, or have a music jam session during our study breaks. We'd also leave each other cute, little motivation notes in their study folders, notebooks and textbooks. (Mostly used lyrics from Drake's "Make Me Proud.")

The struggle
A couple things due, but we always got it done.

Most importantly, don’t compare yourself to others.

This is the most important. Going to a school with almost 50,000 kids is tough at times. Kids from all over the world choose to attend IU, and they have some pretty impressive resumes. You’ll have class with kids who were valedictorian of their graduation class, kids who had over a 4.0 GPA during high school, kids who did 100+ activities, kids who received full rides, kids who interned at a great, big company, kids who are already doing this and that at IU, etc.

The minute you start to compare yourself to others is the minute you start to lose confidence in yourself and what you’re capable of. It is the easiest and worst thing you can do for yourself. Instead, you should think of all the things you’ve done and could do. You go to Indiana University, one of the best universities in the nation. That’s saying something, right? So many kids every single year get rejected from IU, but you were accepted because Indiana University thought you were deserving and special enough to be a part of Indiana University. They think you can do great things here, and that’s the attitude you should have at all times.

About The Author
Catherine HuynhJournalism Major, Class of 2016

My name is Catherine Huynh, and I'm currently a junior at the greatest college in the nation -- Indiana University!

I'm currently pursuing degrees in both Journalism and Communication & Culture, along with a minor in Sociology. I am a Campus Representative Intern for VS PINK at Indiana University, serve as Director of Communications for the Public Relations Student Society of America - Beth Wood Chapter, a Student Ambassador for the Department of Journalism, and I'm also a proud student blogger here at We Are IU!

"The thing I remember best about successful people I've met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they're doing... and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they're doing, and they love it in front of others."  - Fred Rogers

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