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Can you offer any study tips for student success?

Short answer:

The most important "tip" I can offer is to take responsibility for your education. No one can make you learn but you! All the other tips I show here are but footnotes to this primary rule.

Long answer:

In my years of teaching I have seen many students succeed and many students fail. The reasons for success and failure are not that varied, either, and most lie within full control of the student. I present the following "tips" to help students get the most out of their school experiences:

Take responsibility for your own education. This means not waiting for others to give you what you need, and not relying on others to make wise decisions for you. Be pro-active, not reactive. Here are some examples:

Budget your time. Determine how many hours you need each day to study and complete homework, and then arrange your schedule to ensure you have that time available. Remember, two to three hours of daily study minimum for each hour of presentation is customary for a college-level class. Many students require more time than this.

Never procrastinate. Leaving assignments undone until the day before they're due is a recipe for failure. I can't tell you how many times I've seen students ask others for help on an assignment that they can't possibly finish in time because they neglected to begin on it soon enough. When you suffer a low grade as a result of your own procrastination, refuse to pass the blame onto others, but take responsibility for your own poor planning and make sure it does not happen again.

Find or make your ideal study environment. Some people study best in silence. Others prefer a certain type of music, or a certain setting. Discover what works best for you, then make sure you are able to do your studying in such an environment whenever possible. Although many students consider school libraries to be "boring," they really are great places to get a lot of studying done, if for no other reason than the absence of distractions (telephones, television, radio, loud voices, food) to divert one's attention.

Associate with like-minded students. Don't let your "friends" distract you from your education. If they do, they really don't have your best interests in mind. Find classmates with similar learning styles, schedules, and personalities that you can study with. If appropriate, share phone numbers so that you can contact them (and visa-versa) for help. Healthy friendships provide valuable emotional support during times of challenge, and this includes schooling.

Never limit yourself to just one textbook per subject. Even the best-written textbook is unlikely to meet all your learning needs in any subject. It is tremendously helpful to read what other authors write about a subject, so stock up your own personal library with other books that meet your learning needs. You need not spend a lot of money, either. Check out used bookstores for good deals on textbooks -- you'll be amazed at what you can find!

Kill your television. American television is an incredible waste of time. Do yourself a big favor and get rid of it! You can get better news and current events information from radio (which you can listen to while commuting) and newspapers. If your television is a really nice one, you can sell it and use the proceeds to pay for those extra textbooks you told yourself you couldn't afford.

Learn to use the internet as a high-quality information source. Many libraries offer short seminars on internet usage: how to use search engines and academic databases, how to distinguish reliable information sources from "junk," how to bookmark and record data without printing on paper, etc. The internet is an incredible source for information on a wide variety of subjects, especially technical subjects. And most of it is free for the viewing and/or downloading!

Learn to say "no" when appropriate. Some people are so generous with their personal time that they cut themselves short of time needed to study when in school. And there seems to be no end of time-consuming activities presented to students: sports, student clubs, student government, church activities, charities, etc., etc. I'm not suggesting that such activities are bad for students, just bad for struggling students. If you are one of those people who needs more time to study, learn to say "no" when others ask you to donate your time to such things. If they protest, offer them a deal: you'll gladly give of your time, so long as they shoulder an equivalent amount of your workload (household chores, financial responsibilities, miscellaneous errands, and other consumers of time) so that your involvement isn't a burden to you. If they refuse (a near-certainty), then you know they're trying to get more out of you than they expect to return, and your refusal will be justified.

Carefully and thoughtfully balance work and school. Work is a fact of modern student life, but some jobs demand too much for students to handle. Don't automatically assume that work must take precedence over schooling, especially if the goal of your schooling is a better job! Keep the focus on your long-term goal. Investigate loans, grants, scholarships, and other means of support as alternatives to working (or at least working as much as you are now).

Apply for every scholarship you are eligible for. Students would be amazed to find out just how few people actually apply for the myriad of available scholarships. If money is a concern (and who doesn't need more money while they're a student?!), take the few minutes necessary to apply for every scholarship offered.

Manage your money wisely. Financial mistake number one for many students is overspending on credit cards. Financial mistake number two is purchasing a new car while still in school. You do not want to encumber any more financial burdens than absolutely necessary as a student!

Eat well and get regular exercise during schooling. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise impedes brain function, especially the assimilation of new information. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and other wholesome, energy-packed foods. And never, ever eat "junk food" before a test! Exercise doesn't have to be athlete-level to count, either. Just keep yourself reasonably active (walking, playing low-contact sports), and your learning will benefit. Don't have enough time to exercise? Sure you do! Consider these options:

Get adequate sleep each night. The human brain requires regular periods of sleep to efficiently consolidate new memories. Sleep deprivation severely curtails one's ability to learn, and doesn't do much good for the attitude either.

Eliminate unhealthy addictions from your life. Though it should go without saying, addictions are almost certain to bring an academic career to an unhappy end. Beyond drugs and alcohol, this includes gambling, sex, destructive relationships, or anything else that becomes all-consuming in your life. Unfortunately, the process of breaking an addiction can sometimes be as disruptive as the addiction itself, so try to take care of your problem before you enroll in college. The saddest moments of my teaching career have been witnessing students collapse under the crushing weight of addictions, knowing that their resultant failure in school will not be the only failure in their life unless the problems are rapidly corrected.

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