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50 Tips for Academic Success from a USA professor

50 Tips for Academic Success from a USA professor

by ednext
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Dr. Mir Zohair Husain, Contributing Writer

  1. Being a successful student is a full-time job. If you are taking a full load of classes, spend at least three to five hours each week doing your homework.  It is vitally important that you complete the reading assignments that will be covered in your next class meeting.
  2. Do not procrastinate! Prioritize and attend to tasks quickly—you will feel better about yourself.
  3. Maintain an appointment book or day planner to track and prioritize important dates, such as appointments, quizzes, exams, and papers.
  4. Minimize clutter in your room, especially where you study.
  5. Attend class regularly to gain knowledge and succeed on quizzes and exams. It also shows the professor that you are a committed student.
  6. Leave early for class so you will not arrive late.
  7. Sit at or near the front of the class. Sitting at the back could be distracting.
  8. Maintain contact with your instructors during and after your course. Don’t hesitate to ask for their help when you need it.
  9. Deep learning, which becomes a part of your long-term memory, comes from active participation. Therefore, ask pertinent questions and make insightful comments in class and you will gain the favor of your professors and classmates.
  10. Before class each day, complete the reading assignments required on the syllabus, so you can take better notes and more fully understand the material covered in the readings.
  11. Read actively by using a pencil to underline, sideline, and take notes in the margins of your textbook. This helps you remember the most important information without filling up your book with brightly-colored highlights, which can be distracting, and you may not remember why you highlighted the passage.
  12. When reading, ask if the author’s arguments are valid. How does the material correspond to previous readings and/or class lectures? What are the major concepts?  Read to understand the text.  Do not be obsessed with memorization.
  13. Take notes intelligently. Only jot down the most important points, using abbreviations and shorthand when possible. Avoid writing everything the speaker says. If the instructor writes something on the board, write it in your notes.  Instructors give many hints about which points are important and might appear in the examination.
  14. Review your notes the same day. This will allow you to expand them with additional points if you weren’t able to write everything down. Revise and expand your notes. This will help you remember what went on in class.
  15. Develop your oral and written communication skills. This will help you succeed in class and your future.
  16. If the instructor gives you a study guide, review it carefully and prepare answers to every essay question.
  17. Establish and utilize study groups for all of your classes with enthusiastic, smart, and diligent classmates. Study groups are effective for exam preparation, and they offer unique but focused learning.  Study groups with lackluster students or friends often lead to unproductive sessions that lean more towards socializing than learning.   
  18. Avoid non-serious students and/or those with destructive habits.      
  19. Do your homework at a table or desk in a well-lit, quiet room devoid of distractions, in order to improve your concentration.
  20. Break up difficult or time-consuming assignments (such as major term papers) into several phases: brainstorming, research, outline, rough draft, second draft, and final version.
  21. Take a 10-15-minute break for every hour of productive studying.
  22. Find out when you study best and, at that time, schedule your most important or challenging homework because they require more time, energy, and concentration.
  23. Learn to compose formal and appropriate e-mails. Avoid shorthand, slang, or emoticons/emojis, but use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Show respect to the person to whom you are writing.
  24. Write down unfamiliar terms and learn their meaning. Then, use these new terms in your conversations and papers.
  25. Meet with your academic advisor at least once a semester, honestly discussing your academic progress and future courses.
  26. Students should ask their instructors if they can deliver oral reports in class because it (a) assists instructors in getting to know their students, (b) engages several senses, making learning more active and memorable, (c) improves one’s research and writing skills, (d) helps overcome anxiety about public speaking, enhancing self-confidence, and (e) promotes an in-depth approach to learning and long-term retention through applying theoretical concepts to real world situations.
  27. Inquire whether your instructors will allow you to review some of their old exams. Ask friends if they have old quizzes and exams from the same course(s). Then, prepare and practice for these classes by answering the old examinations.
  28. Utilize index cards as a cheap, simple, and efficient method of studying.  Index cards are portable and can be used over and over again.
  29. Do not rush through quizzes and exams because, as the popular saying goes: “haste makes waste!” A quiz or exam is not a sprint; pace yourself!
  30. When you respond to short answer questions on an exam or write an essay, always assume the reader knows nothing about the subject.
  31. If an instructor gives your class the opportunity to do extra credit, always do it. In fact, take the initiative and ask your instructor if you can do extra credit work.
  32. Go to the college/university library frequently and establish a rapport with the librarians. They can prove very helpful when you are working on a term paper.
  33. Complete your core requirements in the general college curriculum during your first two years, but also take a few classes early in your major, in order to effectively gauge your interest and commitment to your chosen field.
  34. Actively participate in student organizations, particularly those pertaining to your major or minor. Try to become an officer in at least one student organization and participate in the University’s Student Government Association; even attempt to become an office holder in it. This will look impressive on your résumé/curriculum vitae and set you apart from others applying for the same job, because it displays leadership qualities.
  35. Read The Vanguard student newspaper regularly, because it is an invaluable source of information regarding campus life.
  36. Carefully proofread every document and correspondence that you write.
  37. Print out and read your papers aloud at least once before submitting them. It helps to step away from your writing; then, return and read it aloud again. In fact, it would be good if you could sleep on the thoughts expressed in your paper and return with a rested mind and fresh eyes the next day.
  38. Make a concerted effort to improve your writing because it will (a) help you organize, integrate, and crystallize your thoughts while improving your vocabulary and grammar, (b) help you retain information as you process what you have read, heard, or learned, (c) provides a basis upon which your work, learning, and intellect will be judged, (d) serve to ease inner turmoil and is often cathartic, and (e) give you the communication and critical thinking skills to participate effectively in democracy.
  39. Have a family member or friend read your paper, and insist that they give you their honest opinion.
  40. Seek out academic help when you need it. South provides tutoring in several subjects through JagPALs and a University Writing Center on campus to assist you with your written work. All of these services are free and conveniently located in the Academic Services Center.
  41. Utilize USA Career Services for all your job needs. Career Services offers help building your résumé and cover letter, and mock interviews that will prepare you for even the most competitive position. You can find full-time, part-time, on-campus, internships and co-op job opportunities through Jaguar Job Link. Additionally, Career Services sponsors career fairs, provides online testimonials from successful executives, and provides individualized career advice.
  42. While at college, gain real-world experience by working at least 10 hours a week at a part-time job. Work will provide a different set of experiences, contributing to your skill set and wisdom.
  43. Study abroad for at least one semester. It will not only be a memorable educational experience, but will also build valuable skills and significantly improve your prospects of getting a job and/or into a graduate program. You will also earn college credit hours and learn about another country, its people, and its culture. Furthermore, you will learn many new things about yourself, while adding a noteworthy feature to your résumé.
  44. Intern in the field you plan to work. For example, shadow a doctor, work at an engineering firm, clerk for a law firm, join a radio and/or a television station, or volunteer for a political campaign. Interning will also help in the following ways: clarifying if you have chosen the right career, giving you insights beyond your textbook/class and strengthening your résumé. Sometimes it will result in a full-time job because the management has gotten to know and like you. If it does not result in full-time employment, you will at least have a strong recommendation from someone in the field.
  45. Develop your résumé and a general cover letter shortly after entering college. You will need them to get scholarships, internships, and jobs. Always keep your résumé updated. No matter the situation, a professional résumé and cover letter can make all the difference.
  46. Always be on time. Being on time shows people counting on you that you care, and it shows professors and supervisors that you can be trusted.
  47. Improve yourself professionally and personally every day.
  48. Volunteer to work for your church, a hospital, an assisted living facility, Boys and Girls Club, Ronald McDonald House, etc. You will learn the value of helping others, and it will also reflect positively on your résumé.
  49. In order to succeed in today’s highly competitive world, it is imperative to achieve a higher competency level in a field that is both enjoyable and applicable to your skill set.
  50. Be persistent, learn from your mistakes, and never give up.
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