Graduate and Professional Studies

Student Success: Can I Do It?

If you're like most busy adults returning to the classroom, you're probably a little nervous about juggling coursework with all your other home, office, and community responsibilities.  Here are a few tips for success:

Establish a place and time of study.  Some folks go to a park for lunch and take their books with them, while others close themselves off in the den after the kids go to bed.  Just make sure your friends, co-workers, and family members understand that this quiet time is important to you.

Tell a friend.  Having a support system is important for anyone attempting to reach a goal.  Be accountable.  Share your dreams with someone who will encourage you.

Delegate.  Even the younger children can help fold towels, so allow your family members to spread their wings as well and learn new responsibilities.  Give yourself more time and practice saying “no” to the unnecessary obligations we all can so easily be “guilted” into doing or can assume by default.

Fast, purge, and plan.  That's right, give it up for a while, whether it be the mundane tv shows that we find ourselves mindlessly watching or whether it's phone or computer time with a pal.  Take your textbook with you while waiting in the doctor's office or while the kids are practicing before the game.  Turn off the phone.  When we monitor our time, we all are surprised by how much of it we waste.  Use it to read that chapter or write that paper.

Eat the elephant.  Even the largest tasks can be completed one little bite at a time.  Begin immediately and don't find excuses.  Procrastination often stems from perfectionism.  Don't be afraid to take the first step, to make mistakes.

Don't cram; review often; have a system.  Researchers have proven that we typically remember the first and last information from our study periods.  Therefore, you can remember the first and last of only one long cram session, or you can remember MORE from the first and last of several shorter study periods.  Review your notes immediately after class, while information is still fresh and you can still unscramble or add to your scribbles.  Use your own “short-hand” symbols and abbreviations to speed your note-taking.  Utilize a particular method of organization, such as an outline, the Corel method, a mind map, etc.

Be creative.  Remember how you learned your ABC's, the Great Lakes names, the months that have 30 days?  Use mnemonic devices to help you retain information. Sing a song, write a poem, make an acronym.  And think about whether you're a physical, visual, audio learner, etc.  Highlight important words, use flash cards, read your texts aloud, whatever gives you an individual edge in your learning.

Become an active reader.  Scan through the material to see how headings, subheadings, graphics and captions can give you an overview of what's ahead.  What questions do you think will be answered as you read?  You're not in grade school anymore, so give yourself permission to deface the textbook, your investment.  Write in the margins, underline, highlight, draw diagrams.  If you are concerned about selling it back, think how glad the next person will be to have all those study helps already in place!  Read any chapter questions to see whether you can answer them, and review, review, review.

Write like a pro.  Consider the purpose of your writing.  Are you supposed to be explaining, describing, persuading, or what?  Outline your thoughts, beginning with a thesis statement for your introductory paragraph and using organized information for secondary and supportive points.  Close with a summary of your conclusions.

Stay balanced.  Get enough sleep.  Eat a healthy diet.  Be active.  The brain won't work properly if other systems are in trouble.  Be good to your body.

Get help.  If you need someone to proof your work, use available resources.  If you don't understand something, talk to your instructor.  If you have other health, habit, financial, or relationship issues weighing on your mind and distracting you from your studies, seek professional advice.  Be healthy, stay safe, take the initiative.

Communicate.  Everyone appreciates a good rapport, so get to know others around you.  The happiest and most successful students are those who feel plugged in to the network.  Have a study buddy's phone number for those times when you miss something.  Arrange a group discussion or study session with classmates.  If you have a question or schedule conflict, or if an emergency arises, let your instructor know as soon as possible.  Your instructors will appreciate your keeping them informed.  Stay in touch with the available campus resources. 

These are just a few tips that can make a big difference, but even more information is available.  For specifics on things like learning styles, note-taking methods, and campus/community resources, etc., contact Milligan's Student Success Office.