How to excel academically

Tips for Academic Success

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Making the transition academically from high school to college requires students to realize that there are greater academic expectations at the college level.  Students in engineering often have to alter the amount of time they spend studying and the way they study in order to be academically successful.  The key to academic success in college is to learn and select new study strategies appropriate for the academic task, monitor your academic progress, and evaluate your learning process.  

General Academic Tips

  • Everyone needs extra help. If you’re having difficulty in a class, seek out the support you need EARLY!
  • Get to know your professors—go to your faculty member’s office hours at least twice during the semester.
  • Make an appointment to meet your advisor and get to know him or her.
  • Form study groups! Working on a team is a critical part of being an engineer and study groups help you perform better as you create a network of support. 
  • Get involved—balance is key in engineering and one of the biggest predictors of success is who you choose to surround yourself with.
  • Make sure that if you work, it’s no more than 15 hours per week.
  • Repeated exposure to the material you are learning is essential to retaining.  Review to remember and remember to review! 

Taking Notes

  • Go to class and take notes.
  • Make sure you label example problems, equations, theories etc.
  • Be sure to write down any explanatory remarks your professor makes about a problem (i.e. how do you get from one step to another or why a particular method was used with which particular conditions).
  • After class, read over your notes and either condense (humanities/social science classes) or expand (engineering classes) your notes in the left hand column of the paper.

Reading Assignments

  • Preview the chapter before you read the assignment.
  • Read the assignment BEFORE you go to class.
  • Take notes on your reading to keep you focused.
  • Review your reading notes.

Time Management

  • Prioritize your tasks.
  • Divide your study time into one-hour blocks and vary them throughout the week. Do your homework! Homework is usually 20 percent or more of your grade.
  • Remember the general guideline that for every credit hour of an engineering class, you should plan to spend three hours outside of class on that course during the week.  If you are taking 15 credits of engineering coursework this means you should prepare a seven-day schedule that allows for approximately 45 hours of non-classroom study.  
  • Start your homework early-don’t wait until the last minute.
  • Consider a meal plan with the residence halls.

Test Preparation

  • If available, work old exams.  The methods with which your engineering professors want you to demonstrate your understanding of the material is often radically different than high school.  Even if you’ve been exposed to material before, keep in mind that chemistry, calculus, and physics exams in college are different than chemistry, calculus, and physics exams in high school. 
  • Join a study group to learn information and solve problems covered in class.
  • Predict test areas & prepare for an exam at least one week prior to the exam.

Study Strategies

  • Annotation – writing notes in the margin of your textbook in your own words
  • Adapted Cornell Notetaking – taking the notes on the right side of the margin and condensing or expanding on the left hand side
  • Concept mapping – a variation on outlining in which you diagram main ideas and supporting details to learn concepts covered in class
  • Outlining – representing the ideas presented in the text by separating main ideas from supporting ideas using an outline structure
  • Practice test – a sample exam using predicted topics and the professor’s test format
  • Predicting test areas – reviewing notes and selecting topics for exams
  • Time-spaced learning – learning and reviewing course material in blocks of time that are varied throughout the week

How do you choose a strategy?

  • Talk to academic support resources about which methods may work for you.
  • What do you know about the subject?  (prior knowledge)
  • How well must you understand and remember?
  • How difficult is the textbook, manual, or article for you to read? 

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