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February 6, 2013 / NextStepU

First Year Study Habits—Knocking Freshman Year Out of the Park

You just landed a spot in the college of your dreams. You know you’re about to conquer the world. You go to orientation weekend, meet your roommate, and then…

…the work starts.

College can be a stressful time for many students. Some students take it in stride, really coming out of their academic shells to explore new areas of interest, go above and beyond, learn advanced skills in their field, and network. For others, the temptation to stray in the absence of structure is far too great.

Some students, who led sheltered lives in high schools, overindulge in the social experience in their first year, only to find that their $30K report cards are not very impressive.

After twelve years of primary and secondary school providing structure, how do you, a first-year college student, develop those time management habits to knock it out of the park?

Try these five easy steps, and you will be well on your way to success.

1.     Come with the proper mindset.  You are attending college to learn, broaden your horizons, and ultimately prepare for a career.  If the activities in which you are engaged are not promoting one of those things, you are wasting time.

2.     It is easy to find the party crowd. Avoid them.  You don’t have to hang out in the library and join a Division One Math Team, but if you engage with people who are serious about their academics, chances are this positive peer pressure will help to sustain you.  You will still have fun, but you will do so with people also bent on success.

3.     Use your professors as resources. One thing I’m embarrassed to say is that as an undergraduate, I was not sophisticated enough to know that the professors under which I was privileged to study were the tops in their respective fields.  The guy who probably knew that I watched the movie of Anna Karenina because I worked too much and didn’t read the book, was world famous.  I’ve since called, written to, or emailed every one of them with my apology.  In many cases, I even reread the materials on the syllabus first.

I didn’t make that mistake in graduate school. I came prepared.

If you come to college with the idea that you are honored to meet the top people in your field, and engage in dialogue with those experts, taking every possible opportunity to learn directly from them, you will have a decided advantage over an average student.

4.     Realize that the library is your friend.  Again, this was another lesson I wish I knew earlier.  As an undergrad, the library was somewhere I went to when forced, or if I needed to take a nap.  Today, they are full of resources, from old-school books to technology and databases.  Even if you prefer to let Google be your librarian, you should learn to use the “reference librarian” who is a professional researcher, and will help you take your research and analysis to the next level.

5.     Schedule your time. Time management is one of the top indicators of success. When it’s time to work, work. If you find you have difficulty focusing, set a time each day to study when you know you won’t be tempted to join in an intramural floor hockey game.  Then, turn off your alerts and distractions.  Always schedule backwards from your deadlines allowing an extra day or two for research, technical glitches, or revisions.

If you commit to using some of these strategies, you will be disciplining yourself to take full advantage of your first year at college. College should be fun, engaging, and rewarding.  If you dedicate yourself to maximizing your learning during your first year, you will be well on your way to career success.

For more information, please visit my Tips for A Successful First Year board on Learnist with even more strategy tips for having a great first year of college.

About the author:
Dawn Casey Rowe

I teach Social Studies at the William M. Davies Career & Technical High School in Rhode Island. My passions include research, writing, history, sustainability, fitness and social justice. I’d love to see tech innovations to level the playing field in education. I’m a big fan of our local farmers, sustainable agriculture, and all things natural and tasty. I blog and run in my spare time.

From Learnist: organizing all of the wisdom of mankind in text, images, video and audio, curated by fellow humans. Follow on Twitter and Facebook to discover the future of learning. 

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