College Success Tips

Professor Davis Schneiderman, head of the English Department at Lake Forest College, joins us on Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm with counter-intuitive tips that parents can give their college kids as they start the new year. 

5 Startling Academic Success Tips for Your First Year of College

  1. Write in Books: You may have been taught that books should be read and replaced on the shelf, but your most powerful note-taking weapon is to mark your textbooks with notes, questions, highlights, and underlines. Students who learn to be active readers will most easily conquer difficult material. Instead of trying to sell back these books in pristine condition at the end of the semester, look for places that buy back used textbooks. Better, yet, keep them. Compared to your tuition costs, this makes smart financial sense too.
  2. Copy from your friends: Your high school teachers may have reinforced the idea that “this should be your own work,” but the successful student will learn at least as much from your peers as from your teacher. In many cases, you'll learn more. Look for courses and professors that embrace group work, sharing, and collaboration on homework assignments. If you are stuck with a professor from the Stone Age, you can still form study groups and swap class notes with the smartest student in the room. Before long, that will be you.
  3. Don't read your notes (sometimes): If your note-taking or handwriting skills seem more like cave painting than the elegant summaries of a high school valedictorian, take heart. The act of writing things down, for some students, may be enough to fuse that material into you memory. Don't let a past habit of never looking at your notes stop you from taking notes. Some things do not need to be reviewed again and again. For many students, being an active listener and taking notes in the moment will give you an outstanding edge. No note paper handy? See tip #1… and write directly in your book.
  4. Read Wikipedia: You have probably heard that Wikipedia is not a reliable source, but that does not mean it's useless. Reading the most easily available information on a topic breaks down the immediate boundaries between you and new subject matter, and with a few hyperlink clicks within Wikipedia, you can determine at least the blurry outlines of your topic. As long as you transfer the doctrine of “don't believe everything you read” to the online world, you will discover astounding new galaxies of information taking form and shape in your mind. Plus, you may soon be correcting errors on that Lady Gaga Wikipedia page.
  5. Don't listen to your parents: So many students have career ideas influenced primarily by their parents' goals and desires. This can sync with your desires, of course, but are you sure? Sometimes a student wants to major in, say, Business, because their parents insist (and sometimes make this a condition of funding college.) The first year of college is the time to explore, take courses in things you know nothing about, and step outside your comfort zone. If these new experiences reinforce your desire to major in Business, great. If not, well, it's time to sit your parents down for “the talk.” In that case, assure them that you will still brush your teeth. They were certainly right about that.

For more on Professor Davis Schneiderman, visit the links below.