A 4.0 semester doesn’t happen by accident. Successful students plan to do well in classes from the first day, by using a variety of strategies and campus resources throughout the entire sixteen weeks. Earning top grades in all classes takes hard work and persistence, but having a strong academic career provides scholarship opportunities and can open the door to competitive internships and cooperative education experiences.
Review the syllabus on the first day of class for each course.
The syllabus provides important information about the course, required textbooks and supplemental reading, major assignments, exam dates, and grading policies. Becoming familiar with the syllabus lets you know what to expect from the class and the instructor.
Use a planner that fits your learning and lifestyle, and use it consistently.
Some students swear by paper planners that they carry all the time, while others use electronic calendars and set reminders via email or text. Some students use both, and part of their organization strategy involves taking the time to make sure both match up. Choose the strategy and solution that best meets your needs, but make sure that you learn how to use the tools properly. For example, if you choose to use the calendar with your email, learn how to set reminders for assignments and include links to key information in the event information
Use a note-taking strategy for each course that fits the class and your learning style.
Attending class, taking notes, and keeping up with assigned readings is a good start to a great semester, but students who earn top grades modify their note-taking strategies to meet the needs of each class and instructor. If you’re not sure how to change up the way that you take notes or you’ve never really learned how to take good lecture notes, attend one of the Academic Resource Workshops offered by the ASC or meet with an ASC staff member to see what you can do to improve.
Make review a regular habit, not just something to do before the exam.
Some students make the mistake of waiting until they get a study guide or an exam date to begin studying for tests. Instead, review notes and homework every few days to keep the material fresh in your mind. That way, studying for the exam doesn’t involve relearning material but understanding the relationships and applications within the material.
Use instructors’ office hours and email to ask questions and get additional help
Instructors post office hours and provide email addresses so that students can find them outside of the classroom. Successful students use those resources to ask questions and clarify homework, rather than wait until the end of a busy class. Additionally, students can ask instructors about practice problems or supplemental readings.
Tutoring and study groups are part of good academic habits
Successful students don’t work alone; instead, they seek out fellow classmates for study group opportunities. Peer tutoring allows them to work with someone who has more experience with the subject matter, but who can better relate to them as a student. Having a regular study group for particularly difficult courses helps to hold everyone accountable for notes and practice problems.
Do more than the bare minimum
The difference between a mediocre student and an excellent student is often demonstrated by the ability to go above and beyond what is required. A mediocre student will do the minimum number of homework problems and skim the reading material; an excellent student does practice problems, engages with reading material, and works to connect lecture material to homework. A mediocre student reviews before the exam; an excellent student works with peers and classmates in small study groups to create summaries and quiz each other well in advance of the test. A mediocre student shows up to class; an excellent student attends class with the intent to be an engaged participant and active listener.