In order to help you ace your academic year, I’ve put together five tips that go beyond the usual, “DRINK ALL THE COFFEE IN THE WORLD!” idea.
1. Be organized
This has to start from the beginning. As the professor hands you their syllabus, mark down all the important dates and deadlines and start to plan accordingly. Plan your days by scheduling your classes, homework time and breaks. For instance, if you have a 10-page paper due in two weeks, you can write a page a day with some extra days in-between in case something else comes up or to have more time to edit and proofread your masterpiece.
And remember: Being organized is important beyond the classroom as well, so you might as well get used to it now!
No one really knows how to study “right”, but there are plenty of things to keep in mind. Firstly, find a routine. Do you study better at night or in the morning? With study buddies or solo? Then remember that you have to constantly evolve and adapt. Try out new techniques, re-evaluate what works and what doesn’t and then tweak your strategy accordingly. Try to get ahead of your readings and assignments when you have time. Be an active learner: take notes, ask questions and try to teach others what you learned. Need to memorize a huge chunk of information? Break it down into smaller chunks and don’t start a new one until you have the last one down.
3. Treat yourself
Take breaks! It’s impossible to study for eight hours straight and not lose focus. Try out the 45/15 rule: study for a solid 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute break. Make sure to get plenty of rest as well and take advantage of naps. Eat well and try to avoid the temptation of chocolates and energy drinks. Drink water. Caffeine might help you concentrate for a moment but it can cause you to crash unless you keep drinking. And get some exercise. Physical exercise has proven to reduce stress, help you sleep better and improve your alertness, concentration and memory.
And – last but not least – remember to breathe. Relaxation helps care for the body and mind.
4. Be friends with the right people
Be friends with both the professor and the students. When you’re friends with the professor, they will respect you more and be more willing to give you extra help. Remember, they are humans too. And don’t think of asking questions like, “Did I miss anything in class yesterday?” because that implies that they don’t give useful information every day, which, surprise! They do.
As for students, get involved in study groups but proceed with caution. Follow these general guidelines: Keep it focused. Create an agenda and a time limit and choose the right kind of people for the group. Everyone should contribute and if freeloaders try to sneak in, abandon ship. If groups aren’t your thing, find one person that will share notes with you and help you communicate out loud, which has been proven to help people retain information and will help you explain material that you don’t understand.
5. Balance your social life with academics
You should always go to class and never skip it unless you’re sick. You might be missing the answers that will be on an exam later. And although it’s really important to hang out with friends, do so in moderation. Remember: you’re a student first, party-animal second.