1870 Mag

How To Be A Class Act

From A Freshman Who Failed

We were all good high school students, and if you weren’t, you wouldn’t be here. Ohio State isn’t an easy university to get into and it’s getting harder every year. You got the right grades, the high ACT score, and killer recommendation letters, but so did everyone else in your incoming class. It’s time to learn how to shift from being a stellar high school student to just a good college student, because they are two different games. Take it from me, an all-star high school student who got her first failing grade three weeks into her time here at Ohio State. This list is everything I wish someone would have told me, and everything that helped me go from a failure freshman to a successful senior.

Go To Class

This seems like a no-brainer, but it really is easy to opt out of class and rely on posted lecture notes when you realize there’s no immediate consequence for not attending. However, your instructors spent years studying what they are presenting to you; reading three bullet points isn’t going to translate all the lecture’s significance that a professor’s 25-minute analysis will. You never know when a helpful hint is going to be dropped or extra credit will be given out for attendance. So, get out of your lofted dorm bed. It’s definitely not a comfy enough excuse to miss that 8 a.m.

Read Closely, Read Often

Read the textbook before class. Read your notes after class. Read that optional piece your lecturer posted about. Read, read, read! Browsing the textbook before class will give you a preview of what’s going to be discussed and an opportunity to generate questions. Reviewing and polishing up your notes after class is a great way to identify what you need to focus more time on later. Don’t think you’re smart enough to just go to class and pass the test, almost everything makes sense when an expert is explaining it, so make sure it still makes sense when you’re on your own. Even if you don’t really understand what you’re reading, it’s better to be confused before lecture than 10 minutes into instruction.

Write Your Notes By Hand

There are countless studies about the benefits of writing notes by hand rather than typing them. It forces you to slow down, not just blindly type words exactly as they come out of your instructor’s mouth. Along with the cognitive benefit of taking notes by hand it also forces you to stay off the internet while you’re in class, and stay engaged in the current topic of discussion. It’s all too easy to click the Twitter tab that’s open next to your class notes and drown out the lecture. Taking your notes on paper takes away the distraction. After all, you’re taking your exam on paper, not on your laptop.

Use Your Phone Wisely

A lot of professors are trying to integrate more technology into their lectures. That being said, participating in an in-class survey and scrolling through Instagram are two very different things, and only one of them is going to help you pass calculus. Tuck your phone into your backpack while you’re in class; lecture may not be as exciting as the tea your roommate just spilled on finsta, but it still will be after class.

Office Hours Are Not For Your Professor, They’re For You

Office hours are the perfect space to get questions answered, murky concepts cleared up, and extra practice on difficult problems. Even if you think you don’t have questions, just go and listen to what your classmates are asking. You’d be shocked at the amount of information you’re not aware of. Additionally, office hours provide the perfect opportunity for you to lay the groundwork to ask for that rec letter applying for internships and grad school later on. Building relationships with professors can be hard since their free time is extremely limited, but office hours are time they have built into their days for students. Seize that opportunity!

Be Friends With Your Advisor

Academic advisors are the unsung heroes on college campuses. They keep you updated on events within your major and college, they can help you schedule classes, and they keep you on pace to graduate. Your advisor can help plan with you based on how you’ve done in similar classes, and even point out courses you didn’t know the university offered. Make a habit out of making an appointment with them at least once a semester, instead of just sending them a panicked email five minutes into your scheduling window.

Learn How To Study

There are a lot of great resources at Ohio State to help you study and learn what methods of studying work best for you. Start by seeking out the free tutoring options offered around campus (the Younkin Success Center and the Writing Center are two good places to start), join a study group for your class, or find a study methods analysis online. No matter how you figure it out, find what’s effective for you and roll with it. Knowing how you study best saves you time and energy, both of which are precious resources.

Actually Study

After you find the best way for you to study, actually use it. It’s not enough to go to class and do the homework; there has to be a real focused effort on learning and understanding material on your own time. The golden study rule is for every hour you spend in class you should be spending two hours studying. Semesters are a marathon, not a sprint; putting in time all semester to train your brain and learn will help you avoid all- nighters and cram sessions come finals season.

Check Carmen Frequently

A good rule of thumb: if it was posted on Carmen, it is fair game for class discussion, homework, quizzes, and exams. Lecture time is precious and your professor is going to try to fill every minute with class material, so they might skip some administrative reminders you’re used to getting in a high school setting. Carmen is where all of these more tedious pieces of information can be found: assignments, due dates, instructions for registering for homework systems, and class announcements. There’s nothing worse than dropping from an A to a B+ just because you never bothered to post on the class discussion board. The small stuff can be make- or-break, so make sure you’re on top of it.

It’s On You

No one is going to call your mom if you don’t show up to class. Instructors aren’t going to pull you aside and encourage you to do the homework to help your grade. There is no detention to keep you on the straight and narrow. If you fail, there is no one to blame but yourself. Although, when you do succeed, it feels so much better knowing that you’re the one who made it happen for yourself, by yourself. Welcome to adulthood! You can do this.

Header picture courtesy of Shutterstock

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