University is an exciting place to be. There are hundreds of interesting new people to meet, thousands of challenging academic concepts to comprehend and, well, countless ruinous alcoholic concoctions to ingest – heck, somewhere in amongst this heady mix, there’s even an education to be had.
The problem is: with so many external social factors and the relentless pressure of studying, college life can sometimes become overwhelming – and this can start leading to failure.
So, what can be done to stay on top of things and ensure your time at uni is a success? Well, the truth is each student is different, and what might work for someone else might not work for you. But there are several helpful tips that are applicable to student life in general, and they can make all the difference to a successful education.
So, if you’ve ever wanted to be a model student, this is what you should be doing…
1. Write – Don’t Type!
It can be tempting to make notes in lectures on a laptop; after all, it’s quicker and easier to type and you’ll have more information to look through later on. According to a recent study, though, students who write out their notes actually learn more.
This is because writing and typing require different cognitive processes. When you take down information by hand, the slower, cumbersome nature of writing means that you are more inclined to actually listen to and comprehend what you are being told. As a result, what you write is a succinct summary of what your brain has just understood. Typing, on the other hand, can easily become a mindless listen-and-repeat activity.
2. Surround Yourself with the Right People
It’s highly unlikely that you will be in the top third of your class if you share a dorm or a house with the modern-day equivalent of John Belushi. Make sure you are living in an environment that allows you to study without distractions when you need to.
Ideally, share a room or house with students who are even more bookish than you. Recent research by Dartmouth College found that the studious habits of more serious scholars had a positive impact on the grades of their less academically-inclined house-mates.
3. Find Your Phone’s ‘Off’ Button
Procrastination is a huge issue for many students. You sit yourself down, ready to finally take on that looming midterm when, suddenly, you’re embroiled in three different WhatsApp conversations and an episode of Friends. All before the end of the first paragraph.
Of course, it’s understandable. Most people get distracted easily; I’ve checked Facebook twice already while writing this. But being able to focus yourself is an important skill to master and, unless you do, you’ll struggle to get anything done. Start by removing the most immediate distractions, such as your phone, and make sure your mind is on only one thing: your work. When you’re free of distractions, you’ll be far more productive.
4. Eat Well
It’s been proven countless times that our brains don’t function at their full potential when we neglect to eat properly. Aside from being expensive, living off takeaways and half-eaten KFCs will impair your cognitive ability – and it won’t do much for your physical health, either.
Try to ensure your diet contains a healthy balance – vegetables, in particular, are good for memory retention – and that you are eating three meals a day.
5. Sleep Well
The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated, especially when you’re trying to juggle several essay deadlines and an upcoming exam. While it’s good to blow off some steam once in a while, don’t spend all night every night out on the town – your grades, body and bank balance will all suffer as a result.
Conversely, if you’re up all night trying to get an essay finished, then this suggests you need to look at developing your time management and organisational skills. What’s the point of attending lectures if you’re too tired to learn anything?
6. Stay Active
As well as plenty of sleep and a good diet, you should try to stay active, too. This is because being physically fit creates a sense of positivity and self-worth that you can transfer to your approach to studying; exercise is also proven to boost cognition at a neural level.
If this means walking or cycling to campus every day instead of taking the bus, then great; many gyms also offer cheaper student memberships. Even better: consider joining one of your school’s sports teams – as well as partaking in physical activity, you will also form friendships, develop your extracurricular portfolio and essential team-building skills.
7. Get a Part-Time Job
Aside from the obvious financial benefits of working while you study, being employed boosts your self-esteem, improves your time management skills and makes you more responsible, in general. It can also make you more productive: when you don’t have as much free time any more, you learn how to use the time you do have more wisely.
8. Raise the Stakes
If you’ve got a part-time job and, therefore, a little more money, resist the temptation to raid Amazon every payday; instead, try to pay off some of your tuition fees. This might sound crazy (‘Isn’t that what student loans are for?!’) but students who pay their own way have more at stake if they fail. When it’s your own money, you’ll take everything more seriously and appreciate it more.
9. Ask Questions (Lots of Them)
At most universities, faculty staff are leaders in their fields of research, with many professors and lecturers having dedicated their entire professional lives to the study of their chosen subject. Why not take advantage of this? Ask them as many questions as you can – the amount of students that sit passively in lectures and don’t take the opportunity to pick their professor’s minds is incredible.
Not only will you learn more but you’ll benefit in other ways, too. When you ask questions and incite debate, you become much more engaged in the subject matter; chances are, you’ll then start to view it differently, too, and understand it in a completely new way.
10. Have a Positive Mindset
Approaching anything in life with the attitude that ‘it’s too hard’ and that you’re going to fail before you’ve even started will only ever result in one thing: failure. To be a good student, you have to adjust your mindset and be positive – everyone is capable of doing things they didn’t think they could.
Of course, positivity alone isn’t enough; you still have to match it with hard work and commitment. But if you constantly tell yourself you’re not going to pass advanced organic chemistry, for example, then you’ll start to believe it and you won’t put the required effort in to pass. Higher education is meant to be hard – but it’s not meant to be impossible.
Apply this mentality to setbacks, too. Failing one paper isn’t the end of the world – learn from your mistakes, work hard and don’t fall into the trap of deeming yourself a failure. Remember, many of the world’s most successful people didn’t get it right the first time round; don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, either.
11. ALWAYS Ask for Help
Many people dislike asking for help, equating it to admitting defeat. But this is absolute nonsense; asking for help is a sign that you are determined to succeed. If you are having trouble understanding a particular topic or concept, ask your tutor for help before things get more advanced and you really start to struggle – after all, that’s why they are there.
Also, if the pressure of exams and/or life in general is starting to take its toll, it’s even more important that you reach out to someone, whether it’s a friend, family member or someone on the faculty. Being stressed is completely normal, and nobody will think any less of you for it. The only thing worse than admitting to someone that you’re struggling is keeping it to yourself; the odds are you’re not the only one feeling anxious, anyway.
Sometimes, it can seem as though the best students just naturally excel, but academic success is often based on nothing more than hard work and implementing the kind of advice in this article. The time you spend at university should be one of the most interesting periods of your life, so engage with it and give it your full commitment; the tips listed here could be a good place to start.
Do you have any other tips or tricks to share? Let us know in the comments…