ATLANTA—If your idea of doing well in college means pulling all-nighters or keeping your nose in a book every second of the day, think again. Timothy Brown, math professor at Georgia State University's Perimeter College, links student success to dialing down distractions, knowing what’s expected of you and, yes, making time for fun and relaxation, among other key strategies that are good to know.
Below, Brown gives more detail in his “Top Five Tips” for starting and finishing strong this semester.
- Read your syllabus. “It’s your roadmap to everything that will take place in the course,” Brown says. The syllabus will explain how your grade is calculated, what types of assignments to expect (projects, papers, exams) and important deadlines. It’s extremely important to know what’s up the road in your classes. In your previous academic setting, you may have been allowed to ‘make up’ work, retake tests or turn in assignments late. It may surprise you that those options are not so liberally available in college. If you blow off a lab, the instructors are not going to pull everything back out of the supply closet to set it up again for just you. If you want to skip a test because you don’t feel you are ready, instead of taking a makeup exam later on, you’ll instead receive a zero.”
- Log your study and class schedules. “Using your syllabus as a guide, chart your study and class schedule with consideration for multiple aspects of your life, such as work, family and other obligations. Be realistic about the amount of time you will need to read, study and complete class projects. Use apps like ToDoist and Google Calendar to enter your instructor’s office hours, due dates for major projects, midterms and the final exam. Do it now, so you don’t have to look for them later. Motivation is high at the beginning of the semester, and life demands are low; this will invert during the semester. A semester is a marathon not a sprint.”
- Understand the difference between studying and reading. “We read novels, yet we have to study textbooks,” Brown emphasizes. “How often have you seen a novel with highlighter marks in it or notes in the margin? Probably not much. Comparatively, when studying from a textbook, this happens frequently. When using your textbook, don’t be afraid to tab certain pages that you’ll need to refer to later. Also, keep in mind that, when studying, you sometimes will need to re-read the same section a few times to really parse some complicated ideas or vocabulary. Remember, the definition of a word is one right click or an Alexa prompt away, so use technology to help you study better."
- Create distraction-free zones. “In today’s connected world, it seems almost alien to disconnect from it, but you will need to. Not only do you need to carve out blocks of time in your schedule to study, these blocks need to be solid, ‘distraction-free’ periods of time. It should be obvious that having your phone nearby is a no-no. It is perfectly OK to turn it off so that visual, audible and physical notifications do not draw you away from the task at hand — studying. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a real stressor, but after a few trials of disconnecting, hopefully you will see it can be overcome.”
- Build time in your schedule for recreation and sleep. “It’s easy to get caught up in the class/study schedule and neglect other areas of your life, like resting, sleeping and having fun. Don’t neglect these areas. Make sure you’re carving out time to refresh and rejuvenate through proper rest and pursuing any interests, like intramural sports and hobbies. And keep in mind, it may be more beneficial to go to bed early and wake up earlier to study than trying to pull an all-nighter.”
Perimeter students also are encouraged to tap resources available at the college. Here are four that focus on helping students succeed: