Freshman Year – Any Year:
Ten Ways to Make This Year Great
1. Get off to a great year with your roommate.
Besides getting to know each other, it’s important to set some clear guidelines at the beginning of the year. These girls seem to be best friends already. They still need to talk about seting guidelines.
Discuss what time you want to get to sleep – when the lights will go out. The other person can study in a nearby lounge or with a friend who studies late. When is OK for music, and when do you need it to be quiet. The roommate can certainly get some tunes with an iPod or headphones.
What things can be borrowed or used. Is it OK to use what’s on your desk – stapler, three-hole punch, pens, paper clips, etc, but not what’s in the drawers. Is it OK for your roommate to wear your clothes? if so should they be washed and returned right away? Most people prefer not to share clothes but might make an exceptions once in a while. This doesn’t mean borrowing your roommates underwear because you forgot to do your laundry.
Discuss how you will keep the room clean. List the chores and plan who does what and when. Make it clear that each washes their own dirty dishes and those of their friends, and that each person keeps their part of the room reasonably neat. Discuss what reasonable means to you.
You might even need to set guidelines about when, and for how long one person can have some privacy with their date. I certainly wouldn’t recommend agreeing to sleep somewhere else when your roommate has his girlfriend spend the night. It’s easier to discuss this situaion now rather than when it becomes a problem.
2. Set your goals.
Set goals for your life. Set goals for your college years including the kind of education you want. Set goals for the semester. Set goals for each class. Write your goals and post them on your bulletin board or somewhere you can see them daily. If you aren’t sure how to do this read Set Challenging but Realistic Goals.
3. Organize your Time.
Older students will often say that the one thing they wish they had done better – or the one thing that helped them most – was Time Management. Read more about creating a schedule and then stick with it. It’s not that hard. You followed an all day schedule in high school. You can certainly do it in college. This is the one thing that has the greatest effect on your grades. For more information, read about flexible Time Management.
4. Get Enough Sleep.
The biggest mistake I made my first semester was not getting enough sleep. Without enough sleep you can concentrate in lectures. You can’t concentrate when you read or write or do anything else. When you get enough sleep, you learn more in less time.
5. Get Regular Exercise.
Sure, exercise is good for your health but this blog is about learning. When you exercise, the blood is pumped faster to your brain, carrying the oxygen and nutrients your brain needs. When you get enough exercise, you learn more in less time.
6. Organize your Materials
You need a filing system. You can buy one of those accordion-pleated files and not need folders. Use one space per class. I like using a plastic crate meant for hanging files. You could even use a cardboard box and file folders. Label a folder for each course. Be sure to put the syllabus or course outline in each file. Later add returned tests, handouts, and perhaps your study notes for each subject. Later when you are looking for something, you’ll be glad you were organized.
7. Avoid the system of MINDLESS Highlighting when you read.
If you highlight anything that might be important, you’ll are likely to get through a chapter without learning anything and you’ll have too much material highlighted to be helpful. It is important to be sure you understand a paragraph or short section well first. Think carefully about th main ideas. I prefer to take notes on the main ideas and MOST important facts. You can certainly use your highlighter instead – but NEVER highlight anything you don’t understand.
Mindless highlighting leads to needing to waste time reading the chapter again – and with the wrong material highlighted, it slows you down instead of helping you.
8. Get to Know Your Professors Early.
You probably have their office location and office hours on your syllabus. Stop by to say hello. You might share with them what’s been most interesting so far or what you are having most trouble understanding. It’s always nice to start with something nice to say. After you have gotten to know each other, you can greet your professor when you see him or her on campus. Professors are nearly always very pleased to get to know their students.
9. Get to Know Your Library Early.
If you wait until you need to use the library, perhaps doing research for a paper, you’ll be in too much of a hurry to really find your way around the library. Ask a librarian about the different ways of finding information. Ask about what kind of data based they have access and if they can be accessed on your own computer. If so, find out how to do it. Don’t know what a data base is? Ask them and be prepared to be amazed. Doing research this way is really incredible.
10. Keep Up-To-Date in All of Your Classes.
If you put off some of your reading one week, you’ll have that much more to do the next week. Put it off another week – thinking you should have fun the first several weeks – and you’ll begin to feel overwhelmed by all the work you need to do to get caught up.
If you are already behind, make a schedule. Try to double your study time for a few weeks until you are caught up. When possible, get ahead. When you need to spend a lot of time on essays and research papers, you’ll be glad you have some extra time.