BECOME THE MOST SUCCESSFUL STUDENT YOU CAN BE
Guidelines and Thoughts for Academic Success
Successful students exhibit a combination of successful attitudes and
behaviors as well as intellectual capacity.
Successful students . . .
1) . . . are responsible and active.
Successful students get involved in their studies, accept responsibility
for their own education, and are active participants in it!
Responsibility means control. It's the difference between leading and
being led. Your own efforts control your grade, you earn the glory or
deserve the blame, you make the choice. Active classroom participation
improves grades without increasing study time. You can sit there, act bored,
daydream, or sleep. Or, you can actively listen, think, question, and take
notes like someone in charge of their learning experience. Either option costs
one class period. However, the former method will require a large degree of
additional work outside of class to achieve the same degree of learning the
latter provides at one sitting. The choice is yours.
2) . . . have educational goals.
Successful students have legitimate goals and are motivated by what they
represent in terms of career aspirations and life's desires.
Ask yourself these questions: What am I doing here? Why have I chosen to
be sitting here now? Is there some better place I could be? What does my
presence here mean to me? Answers to these questions represent your "Hot
Buttons" and are, without a doubt, the most important factors in your success
as a college student. If your educational goals are truly yours, not someone
else's, they will motivate a vital and positive academic attitude. If you are
familiar with what these hot buttons represent and refer to them often,
especially when you tire of being a student, nothing can stop you; if you
aren't and don't, everything can, and will!
3) . . . ask questions.
Successful students ask questions to provide the quickest route between
ignorance and knowledge.
In addition to securing knowledge you seek, asking questions has at least
two other extremely important benefits. The process helps you pay attention to
your professor and helps your professor pay attention to you! Think about it.
If you want something, go after it. Get the answer now, or fail a question
later. There are no foolish questions, only foolish silence. It's your
4) . . . learn that a student and a professor make a team.
Most instructors want exactly what you want -- they would like for you to
learn the material in their respective classes and earn a good grade.
Successful students reflect well on the efforts of any teacher; if you
have learned your material, the instructor takes some justifiable pride in
teaching. Join forces with your instructor, they are not an enemy, you share
the same interests, the same goals - in short, you're teammates. Get to know
your professor. You're the most valuable players on the same team. Your jobs
are to work together for mutual success. Neither wishes to chalk up a losing
season. Be a team player!
5) . . . don't sit in the back.
Successful students minimize classroom distractions that interfere
Students want the best seat available for their entertainment dollars, but
willingly seek the worst seat for their educational dollars. Students who sit
in the back cannot possibly be their professor's teammate (see no. 4). Why do
they expose themselves to the temptations of inactive classroom experiences
and distractions of all the people between them and their instructor?
It is a sure bet to assume they chose the back of the classroom because they
seek invisibility or anonymity, both of which are antithetical to efficient
and effective learning. If such students are trying not to be part of the
class, why, then, are they wasting their time? If you find yourself in this
situation, ask yourself if there something else you should be doing with your
Successful students take notes that are understandable and organized,
and review them often.
Why put something into your notes you don't understand? Ask the questions
now that are necessary to make your notes meaningful at some later time. A
short review of your notes while the material is still fresh on your mind
helps your learn more. The more you learn then, the less you'll have to learn
later and the less time it will take because you won't have to include some
deciphering time, also. The whole purpose of taking notes is to use them, and
use them often. The more you use them, the more they improve.
7) . . . understand that actions affect learning.
Successful students know their personal behavior affect their
feelings and emotions which in turn can affect learning.
If you act in a certain way that normally produces particular feelings,
you will begin to experience those feelings. Act like you're bored, and you'll
become bored. Act like you're disinterested, and you'll become disinterested.
So the next time you have trouble concentrating in the classroom, "act" like
an interested person: lean forward, place your feet flat on the floor,
maintain eye contact with the professor, nod occasionally, take notes, and ask
questions. Not only will you benefit directly from your actions, your
classmates and professor may also get more excited and enthusiastic.
8) . . . talk about what they're learning.
Successful students get to know something well enough that they can
put it into words.
Talking about something, with friends or classmates, is not only good for
checking whether or not you know something, its a proven learning tool.
Transferring ideas into words provides the most direct path for moving
knowledge from short-term to long-term memory. You really don't "know"
material until you can put it into words. So, next time you study, don't do
it silently. Talk about notes, problems, readings, etc. with friends, recite
to a chair, organize an oral study group, pretend you're teaching your peers.
"Talk-learning" produces a whole host of memory traces that result in more
9) . . . don't cram for exams.
Successful students know that divided periods of study are more
effective than cram sessions, and they practice it.
If there is one thing that study skills specialists agree on, it is that
distributed study is better than massed, late-night, last-ditch efforts known
as cramming. You'll learn more, remember more, and earn a higher grade by
studying in four, one hour-a-night sessions for Friday's exam than studying
for four hours straight on Thursday night. Short, concentrated preparatory
efforts are more efficient and rewarding than wasteful, inattentive, last
moment marathons. Yet, so many students fail to learn this lesson and end up
repeating it over and over again until it becomes a wasteful habit.
10) . . . are good time managers.
Successful students do not procrastinate. They have learned that
time control is life control and have consciously chosen to be in control of
An elemental truth: you will either control time or be controlled by it!
It's your choice: you can lead or be led, establish control or relinquish
control, steer your own course or follow others. Failure to take control of
their own time is probably the no.1 study skills problem for college students.
It ultimately causes many students to become non-students! Procrastinators are
good excuse-makers. Don't make academics harder on yourself than it has to be.
Paraphrased from an article by Larry Ludewig called Ten Commandments for Effective Study Skills which appeared in The Teaching Professor, December 1992.
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