Plan For College

Sunday, December 23, 2012

6 Tips for Taking Next Semester (and the New Year) by Storm

1. Plan Bite-sized Study Sessions
When you have a big test or assignment looming in the distance, it can seem like an overwhelming task. By dividing your workload into small, manageable assignments, you will have more time to solve problems and overcome challenges. For example, prepare for an exam in advance by reviewing your notes once a day. You'll know immediately what part of the material poses a challenge, and you can bring it up during your next class or e-mail your professor right away. When preparing for a large project, make a list of all of the steps and activities you will first need to complete. Scheduling the appropriate amount of time for preparatory work will make the actual execution of the project much easier.

2. Focus on one Thing at a Time
Spend as much time offline as possible while studying and writing papers. It's tough advice to follow, especially because there are a million other things we would rather do while we're on our computers and mobile devices. If you have difficulty with self-control, you can add an extension to your browser or download an application that will limit your browsing activity for a certain amount of time.
Even study sessions that are held offline can be distracting. To limit the amount of interference in your memory banks, study only one subject at a time for about an hour-long period. The best approach is to space out the study periods over several days, but if you need to cram a large study session into a single day, take 15 minute breaks every hour to allow your mind to refuel. If you need to study different subjects in a single day, break up the sessions in distinctive ways such as moving to a different room or listening to a different type of music.

3. Clarify your Motivation
It's easy to get stressed out during college. New relationships, higher academic standards and various social events will all be vying for your attention and time. To navigate this new landscape, you need to be aware of the priorities and goals that inspired you to enroll. Sit down and reflect on what you wish to gain from your college experience. Be honest with yourself and include all of the things that are important to you, even things that aren't related to your education. These priorities may change over time, and that's okay. When you're feeling stressed or confused, reference your goals as an anchor point. Reminding yourself that there is a larger goal at the end of the road will help keep you grounded when you start to feel lost or unmotivated.

4. Plan Ahead
One of the most difficult transitions college students face is learning to manage their time wisely. Coming from the highly regimented and structured environment of high school, it's difficult for students to gauge how much time will be needed for studying and project planning. The first step to effective time management is to use a calendar. You don't need a fancy phone or even a computer. All you need is some type of organizer that will help you manage your assignments, exams and projects. It may seem like a pain at first, especially if you're not used to maintaining a schedule, but in the end, it will make your life easier.

5. Become a Master Note Taker
The other students will fawn over you. Professors will love you. Historians will write about you. Okay, so maybe you won't be that renowned, but the better your notes, the better able you will be to study. If you have a mobile device, start using it to take notes. The most popular application for note-taking is Evernote. It allows you to access your notes from a laptop or mobile device, and you can create notes by recording lectures, taking photos or entering text.

You can also use your laptop to type notes, but if you have difficulty staying offline in class, you may want to resort to pen and paper. Always label your notes with the class name and date. These basic reference points will allow you to help fellow students who can benefit from your notes, and it will make it easier for you to connect with professors when you're referencing troublesome material. If you want to cut down on your screen time, print your notes and place them in a binder – old school style.

6. Build your Network.
People help each other grow. In college, you have the opportunity to meet friends and fellow students who have similar ideologies, passions and goals as you. You will also meet people who have completely unrelated talents that are incredibly admirable. As you embark on your academic and professional journey, you will find that, at times, you will need to rely on other people. On the other side of that coin, you will find others relying on you as well. Choose friends who hold themselves accountable and value others, and you'll find yourself as part of a strong, supportive network.

Never forget your professors. They have dedicated their lives to education, and they can teach you even more about how to build successful habits. Take advantage of office hours; participate in class discussions; and send Thank You notes to those who serve as mentors and go the extra mile to help you. At the end of your academic career, you're going to need someone to connect you to your industry, and you'll also need a set of positive recommendations. Even if a professor can't help you with everything you need, chances are that he can connect you to someone who can.

Nadia Jones is an education blogger for She enjoys writing on topics of education reform, education news, and online learning platforms. Outside of the blogging world, Nadia volunteers her time at an after school program for a local middle school and plays pitcher for her adult softball team. She welcomes your comments and questions at nadia.jones5 [@]


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